Should I Do Industry? A Checklist

JMoravia 2019-01-05

Illustration by Redline XIII

Industry in EVE Online is a weird way of making money.

The first reason is that in a game about internet spaceships, industry takes place almost entirely inside of space stations. There was one period earlier this year when the volleyball team I coach was playing three to four games a week, and I don’t think I undocked at all for two months straight. I just built stuff.

The second reason is that most ways of making money in EVE have very simple answers to the basic questions.

For example, “What’s the best way to get started ratting?” Here’s the ship you need, here’s the fit, here are the skills you need to train, here are the combat sites you should run, here’s exactly how much ISK per hour you can expect to make, and off you go.

“How can I make the most money mining?” Here’s the ship you need, here’s the fit, here’s a website that shows you the current Jita price of all the minerals, here’s exactly how much ISK per hour you should expect to make, and off you go.

“What’s the best way to make money in industry?”  Whoa there, tiger. I’m not telling you what products make me the most money, because if I do, you’ll probably start competing against me. The most basic questions about industry are met with resistance and obfuscation.

Most of EVE is an open book, but industry is a pretty tightly lidded secret. In spite of that – or perhaps because of that – industry ignites a curiosity in people, maybe more so than any other area of the game. I haven’t done a formal poll, but I bet there’s a big overlap between people who play EVE and people who love LEGOs, who built model planes as a kid, who like watching model train sets. We like building things; it’s written into our DNA.

A Checklist

Maybe you’ve been thinking about getting started in industry, or maybe you made a halfhearted attempt a few years ago to build a few things. If you make it to the end of this checklist and you’re still interested, you probably have what it takes to make a career out of building things. If not…well, at least you learned from an INN article instead of from hard experience, right?

Here’s the checklist of things you’ll need to get started.

1) A heaping pile of skills.

Everything you build will begin its life as ore, which you will have to refine into minerals, out of which you will build modules and ships and space stations. Here’s the catch: the efficiency with which you can turn ore into usable minerals is determined – heavily – by skills. Oh yeah, and each type of ore has its own reprocessing efficiency skill. Without bothering to list them all here, in order to get just Gneiss and Spodumain (the two most common ores you’ll use in building things) to their maximum efficiency, you’re looking at approximately 90 days of training. You can technically start before then, but refining at less than maximum efficiency cuts into your profit margin and literally costs you money. Also, you should be aware that most of those reprocessing skills are Omega-only; you can’t do much industry as an Alpha.

There are other skills, too. You want the skill that lets you run more than one industry job at a time, don’t you? Getting up to the maximum of 10 jobs will cost you another month. You want the skill that lets you start industry jobs from other places in your alliance’s home region, don’t you? And the skill that lets you manipulate your sell orders from several systems away? If you don’t have those then you’re stuck in your home space station the whole time, and that’s no fun. Add on a couple more months of training, then.

2) A heaping pile of ISK to buy ore.

I need to emphasize that this must be ISK that you can afford to lose. You will not be getting this money back anytime soon. You’re going to use this ISK to buy ore and BPCs as well as to pay industry taxes. Here’s the catch, though: you’re never going to buy exactly the amount of ore you need to build your stuff. You will always, as long as you do industry, have piles of leftover building materials in your hangar. As of this writing, the value of the refined minerals and the various ship-building parts I have in my hangar is greater than the amount of money I have my in wallet. To get started from scratch, you literally need about 2 billion ISK that you can set aside for industry, forget about it, and be content not seeing a return on it for several months.

3) A willingness to play the long game.

The Goonfleet forum, in listing how much money you can make from each stream of income within EVE, says you can expect a return of 1% to 10% from industry.  That is, to be extremely blunt, not very much. Consider that you can buy a fitted VNI right this second for around 110 million ISK, earn that much ISK back in about three hours of ratting (as an Alpha!), and make 40 million-per-hour pure profit forever until you get ganked, and then consider that you’d have to invest somewhere between three and six months worth of skills just to begin doing industry, and you can see that industry is not for people who need immediate gratification. During the first few months I did industry, I sat down with a calculator several times a week, because I felt like I wasn’t getting any money back and I felt like I must have done something wrong, must have found some way to lose money in industry. It did start coming in the end, but at least in my own experience, it’s a better way to make your second 10 billion ISK than to make your first 10 billion ISK.

4) A solid idea of what to build.

Ah, yes, here’s the hangup. What can I build that’s actually going to earn me money? There are two basic directions you can go: high volume for low profit, or low volume for high profit.

A good example of “high volume for low profit” is building your alliance’s doctrine ships. If you’re in Goonswarm, for instance, you should know that KarmaFleet recommends a Myrmidon battlecruiser for people who are just starting out at ratting. In fact, they even give out free Myrms to new bees. Those ships will be lost regularly, either to ganks or to inexperienced pilots doing stupid things in them, which means there will always be a demand. Build those and you’ll never be short of customers.

The catch, though, is that lots of people build doctrine ships precisely because they’re popular. You’re competing against other industry tycoons, many of whom (if you’re just starting out) will have better skills than you, and can thus afford to sell the ships for cheaper because they don’t lose as much money to refining. You may need to look another direction.

The alternative, “low volume and high profit,” means to find something that doesn’t sell as often. If you check the market, there may only be ten to twenty of them currently for sale – but that gives you more of a cushion. This means you may be sitting on the item for a while after you build it, but then, we’ve already mentioned that industry is only for those who play the long game. How do you find these items? Well, watch your corporation and alliance chat to see who’s selling what. Check every ship and every module on the market and on contracts to see how many are for sale, and try to figure out how much it would cost you to make one. With trial and error, you’ll get there.

5) The ability to sniff the winds.

We talk about “supply” and “demand” a lot, and here’s a concrete example of what I mean. Shortly before the Imperium recently went to war against pretty much everyone who had ever screwed us over (except TEST, so make of that what you will), the price of Bhaalgorn and Megathron battleships – the backbones of the Imperium’s subcapital DPS fleets – spiked way up.  We talked in the previous paragraph about the wisdom of building doctrine ships.

At that point the difference between the cost of a Bhaalgorn BPC and the cost of the hull was as high as 180 million ISK. As long you could build a ship for less than 180 million ISK worth of minerals, you could make a profit on it. Now, the difference between BPC and hull price is approximately 105 million. Depending on your reprocessing efficiency skills, you might not be able to build the ship for less than 105 million ISK worth of minerals – you might not even be able to break even. Megathrons were the same way; immediately after the war ended, the price dropped by 40 million ISK from its wartime high to a point below what I personally calculated was my cost to produce them, so I would actually have been selling them at a loss. I even sold my Megathron BPO because I didn’t anticipate using it anymore.

I don’t have hard numbers to back it up, but I would bet the price of ratting ships, like Vexor Navy Issues and carriers, and even mining ships like Rorquals, went way up as people returned from deployment and went back to making money.

This is what I mean when I say you have to sniff the winds. What is going on in the bigger world of EVE that might affect the things you build and sell? If you want to do industry, you have to keep up with that stuff. You have to read INN more than ever before, in order to keep up with the big developments. If I didn’t know there was a war on and that it had ended – although it was nearly impossible not to know – I would have been utterly befuddled by the way my favorite income stream suddenly dried up.

6) The ability to pivot quickly.

So, dear reader, place yourself in my shoes.  It’s August of 2018; you’ve invested 1.5 billion ISK in a Megathron BPO, and have been comfortably making Megathrons for several months. War is good for business, after all. In a heartbeat the price of a Megathron hull drops by 40 million ISK, and you can’t make enough money from them to break even, never mind justifying all that cash you dropped on a costly BPO (and the money you spent researching the time and material efficiency on it). What do you do?

I’ll give another real-life example.  There’s one thing I build, which I won’t name at the moment because I’m hoping the situation resolves itself, that has made me billions of ISK in profit over the past few months. However, recently the price of the BPC in Jita has spiked at the same time that the price of the finished item in Delve has plummeted, such that for the past week I haven’t built a single one because I would merely be breaking even on them. What do you do?

If you’re in industry, you always have to have your eye on a pivot, something else you can start producing if your current favorite builds get screwed over. Remember, you’re the middleman. You are helpless, because your income depends entirely on (1) the people who sell ore, and (2) the people who buy your stuff. If the price of ore goes up, your profits disappear. If the price of the item goes down or people stop buying it, your profits disappear. That’s another way industry is unique among EVE’s income streams. No other form of ISK-making is so thoroughly dependent on other people. Ratting isn’t; the combat sites respawn as soon as they’re cleared. Mining isn’t; the belts respawn every downtime. Missions aren’t; you can run the same mission as many times as the NPC will give it to you. Only in industry are you at the mercy of other players.

Because of that, you always have to be ready to switch production on a whim if the wants or needs of your fellow players change. This will leave you with millions, possibly billions, in unsold minerals, hulls, modules, or whatever sitting in your hangar. That’s fine. I already told you that you weren’t getting that money back in a hurry. I already said you were playing the long game. That’s just how industry goes.

Conclusion

Believe me, my appetite for talking about industry is far greater than your appetite for reading about it, but I believe I’ve given you enough for an informed decision. If you’re reading all of this and thinking to yourself, “That sounds like a horrible waste of time and money,” then you’re probably right, and you can rest easily tonight knowing that you’ve learned the facts and decided industry isn’t for you. But if the part of your brain that is supposed to make wise decisions has been irreversibly damaged, if you’ve somehow managed to read this article and conclude that industry sounds like something that is fun and a good use of your time, then welcome to the insanity, and I look forward to cursing at you under my breath when we’re both trying to sell the same item and you undercut my sell order.

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Comments

  • Do Little

    I’ve been an Eve industrialist for close to 5 years now, including a couple of years in Providence, and will argue that the barrier to entry really isn’t that high if you go about it the right way.

    I started building T1 rigs using salvage harvested from the missions I was running at the time. It didn’t take long to outgrow that but there is lots of cheap salvage available in mission hubs for a beginner. By the time my business had grown to the point where I needed to bulk buy from aggregators in Jita I knew the market – what to build and where to sell it. Very little skill or investment is required for a T1 rig business and, with the amount of ratting in Delve, salvage should be plentiful and cheap!

    I expanded my business to include Mobile Depots and MTUs. Not a lot of additional skill required, high demand and, at the time, very profitable. By this time I had some characters doing PI and mining so I was able to supply some of the material and improve my margins.

    When the time came to move into T2, I chose drones. I only needed 2 science skills for invention and switching my PI to robotics and guidance systems had a spectacular impact on my margins. I’ve since added capital BPC kits – there is no reason why my characters can’t be manufacturing, doing PI and copying blueprints at the same time.

    You need to know your products and your markets – this comes from experience acquired over time – you can’t inject it! You need to decide which links of the value chain to participate in. Some will improve your margins more than others and all will take time. I play Eve for the economic simulation with a little PVE on the side. I don’t begrudge the time it takes to do my industry. If you are primarily a PVP player here for the combat simulation, managing markets, PI, etc… probably isn’t high on your priority list.

    I won’t sell a product unless the margin (including invention) is at least 33%. That’s my “floor”; if the market dips below that – I simply wait until it bounces back. I do business in 3 of the small trade hubs – they are always at different points in the market cycle so I can usually sell my product profitably in one of them. If not – I wait. Commodity markets are cyclical – you want to buy in the bottom half of the cycle and sell in the top half – that’s probably the most important lesson a new industrialist needs to learn. Don’t chase the market – let it come to you.

    January 5, 2019 at 10:41 am
  • Rammel Kas

    With reprocessing don’t forget the beancounter plug. Helps a lot earlier than all the skills training.

    Also if you have access to a few private moons or even the belt products you can get by with just training the lowsec ores. Probably cheaper for you if you self-build. But as you said in your piece it will cut into your profits if that’s what your goal is.

    All that being said it is possible in Delve with modest skills to build your own super and PLEX with in game income. As with anything it depends on what you are prepared to put into it.

    January 5, 2019 at 11:45 am
  • Building stuff is fun: it can also be done as a hobby if you’ve got other income streams. I’ve been playing since 2006 and try to undertake a variety of activities in order to keep the game interesting. I ended up training lots of industry skills on one character (they can produce pretty much anything short of a supercap or T2 BS IIRC), and the basic skills required to build stuff and do research/copying on three others. I can’t say I’ve really used these SP extensively, but sometimes it’s fun to build a few things here and there for kicks. I’ve built a couple of capitals, transport ships, etc. Probably my favorite thing to do, though, is occasionally build small stocks of newbee-friendly ships and mods to throw on a local market: Ventures, t1 industrials / barges, salvage destroyers and Noctii, cyno frigates and modules, etc. That stuff is shockingly low-effort to build, and it feels good to keep systems outside the traditional trade hubs stocked with handy stuff.

    January 6, 2019 at 8:53 pm
    • Alaric Faelen Ganthrithor

      I was about to make this exact post. I have minimal indy skills and I build a pitiful amount of things. Poorly at that. But I value content over cash and dabbling in industry just sort of ‘completes’ the cycle of ratting where I get my main income. I can only rat for a few ticks before I am desperately bored, so scooping the broken bits to melt down into something shiny to sell is just engaging in more of the game. Whether it induces seizures to the spreadsheet guys or not, I put my meager offerings up at the Delve flea market for fun.

      For the hobbyist, I think rigs are a solid option to build. By far the most common rigs I see used in PvP ships (the kind that need replacing frequently) are tanking rigs, followed by fitting rigs, then astronautic rigs, then everything else.
      After that, common PvP modules like webs, scrams, target painters ,etc sell quickly. Those are also good stepping stones into T2 production if you get serious about industry.

      The one thing about having poor indy skills is that you are limited in how many jobs and sell orders you can run. So selling stuff quickly is important. When your ‘store’ in the equivalent of selling stuff out of the trunk of your car- shelf space is at a premium.

      January 9, 2019 at 6:45 pm
  • Jack Jim Jones

    Interesting article and pretty much spot on. When I was building things my general approach was never to build anything “new” as though it looked attractive the price was sure to crash and never to build anything with less than 15% margin, because the price could easily swing 15% over a few days leaving me holding inventory. Oh and holding inventory is a risk, don’t do it.

    January 10, 2019 at 4:42 pm
  • Eli

    I build mostly tech2 modules and some ships in Delve. I’m even building myself a spare rorqual, as a back up. I’m finding the markets during peacetime are absolutely saturated. I’ve a few specialist products I make that don’t have many makers and that kind of keeps me going. I’ve been dying to get into tech3 production since I started Eve and I’m almost there. My biggest roadblock with most of this is (besides turning a profit), is finding the necessary materials without paying an absolute fortune for them. Moon goo prices are over the top right now. Tech 3 materials are very hard to come by (although I have plans). Even fighters, where I used to make a lot of dosh, are now not worth making (including tech2). Manufacturing is becoming a lot tougher to find your niche in.

    I think you’re right, there are big differences during peacetime and wartime in manufacturing. I guess I’ll need to switch gears again. Happy Building!

    November 11, 2019 at 9:14 am