As both my remaining, loyal, handsome and intelligent readers may remember, I have a little alt-corp that lives in a High Sec pocket somewhere behind low / null systems. I use this team to afk-mine belts Veldspar (because the rocks are so big) in Retrievers or Mackinaws, export the minerals to Gallente space where I do “industry”, i.e. make random stuff for which I have mats when I remember and then I forget to sell it. In addition, my little group does PI on nearby planets that serve as nearly 100% passive income source.
But lets back up on this a little. Planetary Interaction in EVE Online is the process of extracting raw materials from planets, then processing and combining these materials into more valuable (and crucially, smaller) products which are then used or sold. There are quite a few excellent guides on the internet and I don’t want to go through the basics (e.g. what skills one needs and which ones are optional) but offer a perspective on how to set up a long-term, low maintenance system that generates a little bit of beer money and can be managed in ~ 30min / week total, across all characters.
Where to go
This posts deals with high sec only (yes, I do WH PI as well and the mechanics is very different) and the first order is to find planets that are not over-farmed (the resources are limited) and with reasonable access to the Customs Office (POCO). One should not assume “no tax”, in fact, I accept anything up to 20% tax before I look for another planet. I also pay for convenience, a nearby POCO in high security space with 20% is preferred over a POCO three jumps deep in Low Sec with 10%. In Low Sec, I need to scout ahead or be combat ready and I really don’t need that hassle in Empire Space. I estimated that I would be willing to travel 3 systems from my little home base, again, exceptions are of course possible, I tend to autopilot on the way to the planet but never on the way back. Any gate I need to take manually is an interaction I want to save.
So, I start with EVE Planets which is an excellent site that not only explains what planet are in a target system but also which products can be made on them. Or one could use Dotlan and search for specific planet combinations across different regions. However, neither site tells me if a POCO is actually accessible at all and hence a sight-seeing trip needs to be organized. I actually do have a spreadsheet for this, looking at all planets in the 3 jumps around me, their POCO owners and their duty rate. This is my only spreadsheet I have for all things EVE. Yes, I am a filthy casual.
When checking out a POCO, I take a look at the corp that owns it; I try to avoid active, large corporations that have significant killboard traffic and frequent wars. Ideally, I want a small, 1-man / 3 alts corp that has gone offline years ago which brings up the possibility of removing the POCO and replacing it with my own. I have of course done this in WH space but can not recommend it for high sec, the profit margins are so slim it would take ages to recoup the ISK spent on a single POCO. Let alone the hassle of removing one in the first place (takes forever with subcaps) and the quite real possibility of raising attention of neighbors. No, I like to fly under the radar and simply use what is available.
Lastly, I check the resource layer of the planet and who is using it. I explained before how to do that but here is a screenshot of a High Sec Planet
I use the false-color slider to see where “hotspots” are for the two resources I need but also to check who else is using the planet. Right-clicking on the planet brings up a selection to “Show other character’s networks” which displays other player’s command centers. They are much easier to see when the false coloring is set to “white”. See this picture of the same planet / area.
The other command center is visible now and I can click on it to get the name of the owner and also see what kind of farm they are running there. The name of course gives me the corp, the killboard and so on. Basic intel that every EVE player should know how to access, even if it is overkill most of the time. Knowing things is never bad.
The command center can be dropped anywhere on the planet and I used to be paranoid enough to drop it on side opposite to the one that comes up when viewing the planet before rotation. This was designed to hide from people using the trick above but even I think its a little too much and nowadays I just drop it right where I am building my farm.
With a planet selected, I look where best to build my farm. For the system I am using, I have to have 2 resource layers since I am making “T2” products. These are products that need 2 separate resource streams to make. The example I use for this post is “Nanites” which needs Reactive Metals and Bacteria. The diagram below from EVEplanets shows how this looks like:
This means, I need to run 2 separate extractor control units at the same time for two different resources. Most people run each planet on a single resource and then have manufacturing planets to combine the products all the way up to e.g. T3 or T4. I do that in WH space for example and it is very efficient. But it does take more time to manage (now we need to import products, assign storage facilities etc) and of course its a lot more expensive, the duties leveraged from each POCO are based on the estimated sales value of the product. Each additional import/ export round eats into my margin. This of course is different in WH space where we own the POCOs but in high sec, the duties leveraged are a net loss. So, T2 products it is for me.
Lets look a the farm and the routing itself. At the core, I have a Spaceport, a launchpad to be precise. Unlike in WH space, I don’t bother with a storage facilities but route all incoming and outgoing product through the Launch Pad itself.
One note, I hear a lot of people route the extractor head’s output directly into a Basic Facility. This is a mistake as the processors can only accept a limited amount of resource. I route everything into the spaceport and then set up routes from there to the 5 reactors.
Yes, its a clickfest, yes it gives me carpal tunnel but I tend to do this only every few months (if that often, my WH set up has been unchanged for years). The result is a stand-alone T2 facility that needs extremely little care beyond refreshing the extractor heads. Lets look at those for a second.
I promised I won’t go through the whole PI set-up but I want to just mention how I balance the power grid of my farm with the number of extractor heads. First off, I run this every week, so I start at 6 day programs with 2h cycles. I could of course run faster cycles but that means I have a) more raw material than I can use or store, b) deplete the resource layer and move the extractor head and c) am on the slippery slope to take High Sec PI too seriously. Its beer money, not income. So, between the two resource layers, I balance the time (shorter time – more extracted) and the number of heads to come out roughly at the same “total” units produced. There is some eyeballing in this and I tend to check after a couple of days which resource is limiting and adjust where required. Of course, I could “spreadsheet” this but its overkill, just a little tweaking here and there works just fine.
This is not the only way to do T2 production, of course, I used a (probably more efficient) method in the past. I would have one extractor with 10 heads “seesaw” between resources. For a few days run Base Metals, then for a few days run Microorganism and so on. One can even swap the T1 processors over (and go through the entire routing click fest again). The upside is a much faster extraction process (but also resource depletion), the downside is that I need to deal with this damn stuff every 2 or 3 days. Also, its quite easy to run out of storage space – yes, then we need a Storage Facility and we need to more routing….
What to make
Notice that I have not even talked about what I am making. The reason is that I limit myself by selection of planets / POCOs / T2 already quite a bit. Those are more important for me than eking out the last ISK in margin. I tend to aim for products that have long-term use and price stability, for example any type of fuel for POS / Citadels is good. That includes Mechanical Parts and Consumer Electronics which I make quite a lot of. Sometimes I check the excellent calculator from Fuzzwork for ranking but not all that often; the nanites for example I am making are listed as negative profit, likely because it assumes that I am importing / exporting all materials with 10% duties each round. Given that this is a Barren planet, I should be making Mechanical Parts. I may just switch over next week or so. No rush.
I hope these notes help someone to set up a low-maintenance PI farm somewhere safe and relaxed which can be managed whilst watching TV or listening to colleagues blathering on conference calls. EVE is a game and if I really needed the ISK, I’d just buy a PLEX and cash it in. But as a casual, single player experience, High Sec PI isn’t actually that bad.