CCP representatives note that they strive to create multiple income sources in EVE, but they do not want fully passive income. The intent, of course, is to generate at least some involvement and “gameplay” with every ISK-earning action. In the real world, poor people work and rich folk do not (or at least don’t in any way that generates an income tax form for the Infernal Revenue “Service”). In EVE, it’s easier to earn millions quickly since you can get paid for wholesale murder. This is much harder to pull off in the … I can’t type that with a straight face. It is very easy to get paid for wholesale murder in the real world, but in EVE you don’t have to deal with the moral quandaries since it’s just a game. Even then, it’s the people pulling the strings and putting in minimal effort for maximal return who make the real money.
The activities I'm going to describe won’t make you a space Romney on their own, but they will allow you to build income without having to ride the keyboard at all times. They will also build value while you’re AFK. Since you train while logged off, I see no reason not to make ISK while logged off as well.
Scamming is a small niche, where if everyone were doing it all the time, no one would make any money at it. It’s also generally illegal in real life, but not in EVE with a few exceptions. Being a real-world crime, it requires a certain set of proclivities:
- Mens rea (mental state): You intend to defraud another player.
- Actus reus (the act itself): “Titan for sale!”
At a bare minimum, scamming requires at least a passing understanding of game mechanics. The better you understand the system and the poorer the intended victim does, the better your chances of success. Allow me to interject here: I’ve never attempted a scam, so I’m no authority on it, but I’ve played a scammer on TV, which is why you should buy my Titan! That's not a very effective pitch, is it?
Most scams revolve around recruitment, sale of vaporware, or sale of deceptively mislabeled goods, but the first two require a certain je ne sais quois to pull off. Even dealing with people in a virtual environment requires a minimum of understanding of social cues and triggers. You don’t have to hide a poker face, but you do have to avoid as many tells as possible that would signal the mark they’re about to be had. Even so, I can’t count the number of after-scam interviews where the victim says something like, “I knew it was a scam but I did it anyway.” This sounds deceptively like hindsight bias to me.
Scamming can be very hit or miss, with scammers searching for marks and working the deal over extended periods, so the actual ISK/hour equation is impossible to calculate with any accuracy. Suffice it to say that the really big scams have been in the billions for only a few hours' effort at most. It also requires selling a lie, and it’s not something everyone can pull off. If you find the right mark at the right time or even properly weasel yourself into a position of leadership in an unsuspecting corporation, you actually can become a space Romney overnight. Much like real life, “breeding” is a gene-pool lottery. It’s a lot about luck to find those marks. Most of your scores will not set you up for life, and many will require an accomplice since two liars seem to be more believable than one for some reason.
Investment requirement: Pure moonshine.
Training time: None in game unless character skills are needed to make the scam believable.
Risk: Fairly minimal unless you care about your reputation.
Speaking of time, although I have a supercarrier coming out of production in three days, my contacts tell me TEST is set to bulldoze the area in a week on some damned crusade for “gudfites” or something. Bottom line: I need to move the thing the hell out as soon as it’s ready, and I don’t have anywhere to park the thing so…
Mining is considered a fairly passive income because people are accused of doing it AFK all the time. Given the time needed to pull in ore, you certainly can leave the keyboard for a few minutes at a time and not really miss anything. With ore mining, there’s more involvement as those asteroids will deplete quickly, requiring targeting another one. With ice mining, you can sit there for an hour until your ore hold fills because the ice chunks are never depleted (they could deplete, I suppose… I’ve never seen it happen, and I’m not about to waste time trying to prove a negative). If you’re mining in Caldari space, there are also the Guristas who aren’t any more of a threat than any other pirates except they use ECM. As a result, when you’re in a Caldari space ice field, you really can’t walk away for an hour at a time, or you’re liable to come back with four ice blocks in your 35,000 m3 hold and nothing targeted.
Mining is certainly less intensive than combat, and if your ship is well tanked, you can pull it off even with the poorest connections. Regarding ganks, it’s not worth worrying about them. Even if you are at the keyboard, the gankers come into it in high-sec knowing they’re going to lose their ship and with friends intending to destroy your barge anyway, so there’s probably not a lot you can do even if you are watching when it happens. Failed ganks can be entertaining to see, especially when it’s someone who didn’t bother to scan you and discovers the damage control and resist gear a little too late. That did happen to me once. Even so, never be smug; the gank that fails with one destroyer will work with two or three. It’s all a numbers game. If you do feel like adding insult to injury, though, be sure to have some salvage drones in your bay to loot and salvage the wreck, and then beat feet. They’ll probably come back pissed at that point.
Given the recent changes to mining barges, ganks have become increasingly rare as it takes far more effort to destroy certain barges and exhumers in high security space before CONCORD kills your ship. More effort means more people involved in the hit in this case. Setting up your ship for resilience instead of pure mining speed will help and may deter certain ganks, but there is no way to prevent them entirely.
One bonus of mining is you don’t have to be paying attention at every moment. That means if you have the proper skills trained, you can be managing PI or the market while stripping asteroid fields.
Investment requirement: None to begin because they give you a Venture. It's about 200 million ISK for a fitted Mackinaw at the moment.
Training time: Depends on how far you take it. You can start from the first few noobie missions in a Venture and go into mining barges and exhumers in two to three months.
Risk: Minimal in high-sec to begin with, but mining barges and then exhumers get progressively more expensive, and losing one to a gank before it’s paid for itself is frustrating in time and ISK lost.