Who Wants to Be a Billionaire?

I set myself the challenge of becoming a billionaire in Eve Online, in only 30 days. Is it possible?

Walking to the captain's quarters aboard a space station in Eve Online

Eve Online allows you to buy 30 days of subscribed game time using in-game currency. I’ve played the game sporadically over the last three years, each time activating a month-long subscription and then trying in vain to accumulate enough wealth to keep my subscribed status before time ran out. I was never successful.

Even with several hours of play time every day, I’d only scrape together a measly amount of ISK (the game’s main currency) over the month, probably not even breaking the 100 million ISK barrier. I’d then accept defeat and move on to another game.

Now that I’ve returned to Eve Online once again, could things be different this time? At current prices, you need around 1.1 billion ISK to be able to afford a PLEX (the pilot licence extension). Can I become a billionaire in a month? Challenge accepted!

Ascension to wealth

Since the Ascension expansion, which was released on 15 November 2016, a subscription is no longer required to play Eve Online. However, there are limitations to being a free player, known as an “alpha clone”, such as having a pre-defined set of skills and restrictions on which ships you can pilot.

Choosing to subscribe to the game provides additional benefits. These “omega clones” have fully unlocked access to learn all skills available. Knowing the right set of skills can improve your character’s abilities, allow you to do more damage, fly any ship and use more advanced equipment.

Having an already established character, I found that I missed the benefits of being an omega clone. For now, I’ve reactivated my subscription and have the freedom of playing the game as I did before, without any restrictions.

What I’d really like, is to be able to earn enough ISK per month to afford a PLEX. That way, it’d be possible to enjoy both the benefits of not having to pay a monthly subscription fee and retaining my omega clone benefits.

From rookie to riches

For someone starting out in Eve Online, earning ISK can be an uphill struggle. You begin your life as a newly qualified capsuleer with a bare minimum of tools to help you get started, mainly your rookie ship and a civilian mining laser.

A Navitas Gallente frigate in Eve Online

Visiting the local career agents and completing their various tutorials in industry, exploration, business and military combat can help you further, as they give you additional starter ships and equipment for their respective career fields. With a little hard work though, you’ll be able to start earning some ISK.

It takes money to make money –  that old adage rings true in Eve Online. Every time I’ve returned to the game, I’ve built upon what I managed to achieve the previous time I played. You go through many different iterations of self-improvement, learning more skills, upgrading equipment and flying better ships. All of that requires money to buy skill books, better equipment and ships, which eats into the pile of ISK you’re trying to accumulate. But hopefully, your better stuff will help you to earn back what you originally invested and more.

That’s the place I’m starting from now – I have a foundation I’ve built during my previous visits to New Eden. I’ve got a decent set of skills in a variety of different career options and a fleet of ships specialised for both industrial and combat purposes. I also have quite a few assets in the form of old junk lying around from past adventures. I also have a little bit of ISK saved up, so on day one of this challenge month, I’m starting with 70 million ISK to help fund my activities.

Explore, expand, exploit and exterminate

As a solo player, I mainly stick to the relative safety of high sec (the highest security level space). While I’m less likely to run into trouble, the trade-off is that some methods of making money are less lucrative in high sec.

I’ve tried various ways of earning ISK – while the game offers a multitude of opportunities, including piracy and illegal activities, I mainly enjoy the business and industrialist options in Eve Online. There can be days when I feel like blowing up some pirates for bounties, though.

Other methods of making ISK include exploration of relic and data sites for valuable loot; or ice mining and gas cloud harvesting. I’ve dabbled a bit with exploration, but I really need more practice using scanning probes or to skill up to use them more effectively. For now, I’m happy with the activities I’m currently running.

Security

Flying by an exploding pirate base in a catalyst frigate in Eve Online

Running security missions for agents will pay out rewards for completion and potential side-income in the form of bounties and salvaged loot. You also accrue loyalty points with the corporation the agent belongs to, and these can be traded at the loyalty point store for various useful items ranging from implants and skill books to special variants of ships and blueprints. You can keep these for yourself, or as with most things in Eve Online, sell them on the market for ISK.

Higher level security missions are more difficult, but will have better payouts for the time spent engaged in combat, in the form of higher completion rewards, time bonuses and bigger bounties. You can only access higher level missions by gaining better standing (reputation) with the agent and corporation, though, so it takes time to build up a good relationship.

I’m currently running level 3 security missions for Federation Navy in a Myrmidon battle cruiser. An average mission takes around 30 minutes, pays about a million ISK in rewards and bonuses, but some of the bounties on the larger enemy ships can be quite good too, at almost half a million ISK.

Mining

Mining is the base of the Eve Online economy. The materials which players mine get turned into everything from ammo, weapons and ships to fuel blocks and citadels.

It can be a bit boring watching your mining ship doing its thing, but it provides a steady, predictable income per hour and you usually won’t have trouble selling the ore you mine for a reasonable price. Alternatively, you can refine that ore into minerals – with a high enough skill at refining, the value of the minerals you extract can be worth more than the base ore itself.

Retriever mining barge in Eve Online

Alpha clones are restricted to using the Venture mining frigate and can’t use advanced equipment such as mining drones or tech II mining lasers. Omega clones, however, will be able to scale up their mining operations and earn more by using mining barges.

I’m currently using a Retriever mining barge fitted with strip mining lasers, mining about 50,000 cubic metres of ore per hour worth around 8 million ISK. The ore mainly consists of plagioclase and omber. Far more valuable ores are found in low sec, null sec and wormhole space though, so this is where high sec mining has its limitations.

Salvaging

Waste not – you can earn ISK by salvaging and looting wrecks. While running security missions, you’re likely to be leaving fields of debris in your wake. If you have a salvaging beam or salvage drones, you can collect valuable materials from the wrecks. Checking their surviving cargo containers, you can also find sellable loot.

Salvaged loot can provide a bonus side-income while mining – when mining in areas other than the highest security systems, you’re likely to encounter pirates. These can be taken care of by attack drones orbiting your mining vessel and then salvaged.

During security missions and mining runs, the amount of loot I’m salvaging tends to be around 1 million ISK worth of items and materials.

Manufacturing

Some of the material salvaged from wrecked ships can include components which you can use in manufacturing to create rigs, which can be quite high value, if sold.

You can also save a lot of ISK by manufacturing things yourself, as opposed to buying a fully priced product from the market. For example, when I’ve needed a new ship, I’ve found that it can be a lot cheaper to buy an inexpensive blueprint copy from player contracts and then build the ship. I usually have some excess materials lying around after mining and can purchase the remaining requirements relatively cheaply.

I’m not manufacturing much else at the moment, as all jobs require the appropriate blueprints. My current stock of blueprints are mostly for consumables I use a lot, such as ammo and drones.

Trading

If you can spot the best deals, then trading can be a very profitable way of making money. It’s all about buying goods at the lowest price and then selling them somewhere else at the highest price.

Purchasing your trade goods requires that you have some liquid capital available – the more you invest and the bigger the trades, the more likely it is that you’ll earn a profit.

There is an element of risk involved with moving goods around in space, though. While in transit, you’ll have a lot of value tied up in your cargo hold. If you were attacked and it was destroyed, you could stand to lose a significant amount of your wealth in one go.

There’s also a lot of randomness and competition involved in trading too. You can use tools such as the one at Eve Central to find potentially profitable trades, but bear in mind that the data will be several minutes to hours old, and some other eagle-eyed trader could have beaten you to it and filled the order, either leaving you empty-handed or with a cargo hold full of goods you can’t sell except at a loss.

A Gallente industrial ship in Eve Online

I’ve done most of my trading in industrial ships and fittings available to alpha clones. A typical trip involves moving from one region to Jita (the game’s busiest trade hub) with a full cargo hold, and then filling up again at Jita and making more profit on the way home. One round trip takes about 40 minutes and can earn between 10-30 million profit depending on what buy and sell orders are available at the time.

Planetary interaction

Planetary interaction involves setting up resource extractors and processors on planets to produce commodities. You can set these up to run autonomously for a set period of time, for example a three day cycle, and then come back later to collect what they’ve produced. In this way, it can be a very good source of passive income that runs even when you’re away from the game or doing something else.

Only omega clones can run planetary colonies – the necessary skills are unavailable for alpha clones. Training the necessary skills to run multiple planets at the same time can also take a while. If you were previously an omega, had a bunch of colonies and then lapse into an alpha clone state, you’re unable to export from your planets until you regain omega status.

Shorter extraction cycles will produce more output, so effectively the more attention you pay to your planets, the more you can squeeze out of them. I run 24 hour cycles, so I have to check in with my planets to reset the extractors daily, but this only takes a few minutes to do.

The planets available in high sec are quite resource poor – you’ll find more profitable planets out in low sec and null sec. The customs offices you need to use to import and export goods from your planets are run by player corporations and they can set their own tax rates. Finding a low tax planet can be an important factor in earning a profit.

Despite these factors, I’m running my planetary interaction in high sec, as that is where I live in the game. At the moment I’m producing around 24 million ISK worth of planetary commodities daily.

Spreadsheet online

There’s an old joke that Eve Online is more about spreadsheets than playing a game, but I’ve found that having a spreadsheet is helping me to keep track of my progress  on my journey towards a billion ISK.

Based on the estimated price for a PLEX and how many days I have left, my spreadsheet will give me a quota for the day with the amount of ISK I need to earn to stay on track.

So far, I have been surprised that it is actually working! A combination of trading, mining and planetary interaction seems to be earning enough to be worthwhile.

You’ve got to speculate to accumulate

At first, I was spending all day in the game struggling to meet the quota. Now that I’ve worked up a routine, I’ve cut the necessary time down to around two hours of focused gameplay and then some semi-AFK mining as needed (doing things like writing blog posts at the same time).

My quota for each day fluctuates at around 35 million ISK and on several days, I’ve actually exceeded that figure. The more money I make, the easier it seems to get, as the daily goal for the next day gets pushed down lower. I’m currently twelve days into the month, and I’ve made over 500 million ISK so far.

Although my main focus is a generating a big pile of ISK, I’m not just hoarding it. Along the way I’m also picking up skill books to improve my character, building new ships and paying for various expenses, like repairs.

There’s still more than half a month to go, but at this rate of progress I feel closer than ever before to reaching Eve billionaire status.

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