When I was first introduced to EVE Online back in 2004, a big part of the attraction for me was the promise of a huge player-run economy in which the only real laws were those of supply and demand. With only a handful of tech 1 ships and modules available to build and everything made out of the same basic minerals, science and industry were pretty easy for new players to figure out. Over the years, more complexity has slowly been added to industry via features like Starbases, Salvaging, Capital Ships, Tech 2 Invention, Planetary Interaction and Tech 3 Reverse Engineering. Today's industrialists have to contend with hundreds of different items that are often arranged in sprawling component manufacturing chains, which can make it hard to figure out exactly how to make a profit.
The recent industry revamp attempted to solve this problem with a full user interface overhaul and a revamp of material costs and manufacturing prices. All of the relevant information for using a blueprint was packed into a slick new combined Industry UI, allowing new players to find the info they're looking for in-game rather than through websites or opening dozens of item info windows. It's now been almost two months since the industry revamp went live, and while the market for many items is still going to take several months to fully stabilise, the dust has finally begun to settle. So what's the verdict? Has the industry revamp worked?
In this edition of EVE Evolved, I consider whether the industry revamp has been successful, how easy it is to make a profit in the new system, and whether it's worth setting up your own industrial starbase.
Making industry clearer
One of the main goals of the revamp was to make industry a lot easier to figure out by placing all the information needed for any type of science and industry job on a single user interface. You can take any blueprint in the game, plug it into the Industry interface, and immediately discover what you can do with it, what materials it will require, and how much it'll cost to do it. You can modify the number of production runs you want to install and see the effect on the materials required, job install cost, and production time in realtime. In the case of items that are made from components, you can even click on each component to see what it's made from and what blueprint is required.
EVE Online has well and truly earned its reputation as the world's largest online spreadsheet, but the new industry interface is a massive step forward from that. Every element is accompanied by tooltips that explain what everything means and shows relevant skill levels and estimated prices of items. A full breakdown of the costs involved makes it very easy to determine if there's profit in something, which should help stop new players from building items at a financial loss without realising it. My only gripe is that the material costs are estimates that don't update frequently and so don't always match up with the actual prices in Jita. The new interface makes it very easy to test the waters and get a feel for industry, but players aiming to make a consistent profit will still need to break out a calculator or spreadsheet.
Is there profit to be had?
In his recent foray into the newly revamped industry system, blogger Mat Westhorpe described the experience as "bankruptcy in a thousand tiny slices" and "a bottomless pit of hidden charges." As Mat discovered, making profit in industry today relies on shaving as much off the various fees and charges as possible. Trade skills like Accounting and Broker Relations will decrease the cost of buying your materials, and setting up buy orders for materials can further help to keep build costs down. Investing the time to research your blueprint's Material Efficiency level to 10 will decrease build cost by 10%, and you can shave about another 2-5% off by hiring an NPC Team with the relevant bonuses.
A significant part of the cost of manufacturing now lies in the job install cost, which varies depending on a system-wide cost index. The more manufacturing that happens in a star system, the higher the system's manufacturing index will be and the more it will cost you to build there. The variation in install price is so huge that setting up shop in an underused system can mean the difference between making a sizeable profit or a nasty financial loss. A single Dominix battleship built in Jita will cost almost 14 million ISK to install, while the same ship built in a relatively empty lowsec system will cost under a million ISK. NPC stations have an additional tax of 10% of the install cost, but that's almost negligible if you pick the right system. If you're smart about cutting down costs and are able to move your operations to low-security space, there's definitely some nice profit to be had.
Is it worth running a starbase?
Before the Crius patch landed, I urged players to consider locations to build their own starbases for research and manufacturing in. At the cost of 100-200 million ISK for a small control tower and some factories and labs, you can have access to your own private production lines that bypass the 10% tax for performing industry in an NPC-run station. Starbase factories also benefit from 25% increased production speed and a 2% reduction in material costs, which can translate into pure profit. The down side is that running even a small starbase will cost you about 4 million ISK per day in fuel, so you'll need to be building enough for the 2% material reduction to outweigh the fuel cost.
As long as you're producing over 200 million ISK per day in items that make a profit, it's likely to be more profitable to build in a starbase than in an NPC station. It's also advantageous to share a single starbase factory between multiple industrial characters if possible, as there's no limit to the number of people who can use a factory at once. Upgrading to a medium or large starbase isn't recommended unless you want to load your base up with defensive weapons, as larger starbases use more fuel and there's no financial benefit to using more than one factory structure. The previously announced stacking bonuses for adding multiple factories or labs to one starbase were removed amidst fears that rich players with huge industrial starbases would make it impossible for new players to make any ISK in industry.
When EVE was young and had only a few items to build and sell, the barrier to entry for industry was as low as in any new MMO. Anyone with a calculator and a few minutes per day could figure out what's worth building and make some profit while they were offline. Today's EVE economy has a lot more features and moving parts, and the calculators have made way for complex spreadsheets, calculator websites and custom software.
The recent industry revamp has lifted that impenetrable veil, exposing the complexities of modern industry in a way that even new players should have no problem figuring out. The new user interface puts a friendly face on industrial activity and makes it a lot more fun and engaging, and there's clearly a lot of profit to be had for anyone who can work out how to reduce his costs.
While the markets may take several more months to fully adjust to the new industry paradigm, the results of the changes to tech 2 blueprints are still unclear, and most of the profit will ultimately end up in the hands of spreadsheet warriors, the industry revamp has succeeded beyond expectations in the one area that matters most: It's a hell of a lot more accessible.
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the bi-weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.