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.
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.
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.