There are many ways to make ISK in EVE. Whether off the backs of other players or from NPC entities, ensuring you maintain a constant cash flow is as much art as science. Every scrap of ISK that exists in New Eden at one point had to come from NPC sources in order to enter circulation. Rather than go into the economics of sources and sinks, or ways to extract ISK from other players, I’m here to examine the variety of non Player vs. Player methods of ISK acquisition. Many of us in Nullsec like to forget there is Player vs. Environment content in EVE, but we too grudgingly participate in it from time to time. One should take with a grain of salt any reports of how many ISK per hour people claim to make at any particular activity. These figures tend to be variable and are often inflated across the board because no one ever seems to want to admit they’re not making the absolute maximum possible.
If you’re brand new to a particular area, run through the newbie missions and you will get at least an overview of nearly everything here. You can find articles on the web about them, but hands on experience is the only thing that will really tell you if these activities are for you or not. If you’re well versed in EVE PVE there is likely nothing new for you here. This article is intended to be a limited introduction and others have already written far more than I ever could on these topics. I will try to provide at least a brief overview of each and links to other places with the minutiae; if nothing else hopefully you will find a new article or tool here you didn’t know about before.
There are over 300 NPC corporations in New Eden and most of them have agents who are happy to distribute grunt work to players. When selecting a corporation to run missions for, one should ask themself what they intend to get out of it. Running missions provides a variety of payments that can include Loyalty Points, ISK, equipment, and reputation with the corporation. Excepting the faction militia corporations, missions will involve purely Player vs. Environment content. Missions can include mining (given by Mining agents), courier work (Distribution agents), and shooting things (Security agents). The assignment of missions used to be far more random than it is now but the current system will reliably give you the content you’re looking for.
The Evelopedia has an extensive guide for mission running and Eve Survival has an exhaustive breakdown on what to expect on them. If you’ve run missions before there isn’t anything new here except the improved AI I’ve heard about. I haven’t run missions since that patch but one can expect to lose drones that aren’t carefully shepherded and shielding a friend flying a much weaker ship by drawing aggression first will not reliably keep them from being shot anymore. Once you’ve run a few of them you pretty much know what to expect.
The important thing then is managing your reputation so you’re not shot at by opposing factions when flying through their space and getting the rewards you want. If you’re interested in any sort of industrialism you’d do well to choose a home station with a corp that provides as many services you want as possible. You should look for manufacturing slots and 50% refining at a minimum. You’ll probably want to grind up to 6.67 reputation with them to eliminate your refining tax. This level of reputation is also sufficient for access to Level 4 agents. Unless you plan on venturing into Lowsec for a level 5 agent you won’t need more than that.
If you want the best return on your efforts ensure you’re working for one of the research corporations (there are only a few) so you can train some science skills and get datacores while you’re at it. There isn’t really much to say about missions that hasn’t been said before elsewhere. I haven’t run missions in ages but the rewards of reputation are forever so I will always enjoy reduced market fees in certain places and never lose anything on refining.
Some handy tools for mission work:
- Eve-Survival mission reports - These reports will advise you what each missions triggers are and which structures are worth destroying as well as how to blitz certain missions.
- Chribba's Eve-Agents - This is like an out of game agent finder and is far easier to fine tune your searches with.
- Ellatha LP store database - Basically an out of game LP store listing. Not every corporation in a faction has the same offerings.
- E-Uni tutorial agent listing - Details on the beginner mission sets.
- NewEdenLibrary faction matrix lookup
- Evelopedia standings mechanics article - These two have additional details on faction standing interaction so you’ll know who you’re angering and making happy apart from the actual entity you’re working for.
- Chruker's damage types table - A typical damage type chart.
If you’ve earned your reputation with a research corporation you will have access to their research agents who, with the proper training, will generate datacores in various sciences for you. This is time based and they don’t pile up terribly fast but they are nearly free costing only 10,000 ISK each. If you’re planning on doing Tech II manufacture you’ll want to select a corporation using the agent finder linked above to ensure their research agents can provide the type of datacores you’ll need. If you’re planning on selling the datacores for a little extra income the prices vary per market but if you’re at a loss to decide, it’s hard to go wrong with Mechanical Engineering since it’s used in literally every Tech II ship and many modules.
Once you have the skill training and reputation this income is mostly passive since you only need to cash in with the agent. Running missions for your research agents will double the research points for that day, but for that agent only; they are not actually required to obtain the datacores. EVE University does have an extensive wiki on things PVE related and even if you’re not a member of the corp it’s a lot of good information in one place. Just make sure it’s up to date before applying it since like any Wiki not all articles will get prompt maintenance after a patch.
Handy tools include but are not limited to...
Mining is that slow, yet reliable income many aggressive players complain they cannot stand. The income from mining has improved since several sources of scrap metals were removed from New Eden and it’s not uncommon to see entire systems strip mined bare by midday. If you’re solo mining you’re going to want a Retriever or (if you can afford to lose one) a Mackinaw. Tanking your barge is rather important, especially if you’re going to be AFK. Tanking your barge instead of optimizing extraction rates cuts into profits in the short term but it helps direct the attention of “gankers” to others. Think of tanking like The Club for your ship. It won’t stop a gank, but if it’s a choice between you and an untanked barge they’ll likely target the other player first.
Mining Barges and Exhumers are primary shield tank ships so you’re looking at shield extenders, boosts to your shield resists, and the all important Damage Control module. I cannot stress enough the importance of a Damage Control. They add a small amount of all resistances to shields, a moderate amount to armor resists, and they more than double your hull points.
If you’re mining ore you’re going to have to pay attention to switch targets since the new cargo holds on Mackinaws are huge. If you’re mining ice anywhere but Caldari space (due to Guristas use of ECM) you can probably be AFK for the whole load... and that’s a lot of time for people to prepare a strike on you. Tank your Mackinaw and orbit the target and you will avoid or survive most amateur ganks.
Handy tools here include:
- Dotlan maps - Dotlan is probably the most useful resource out there for everything navigation related. It shows a great deal about each system and can help you decide where to set up shop.
- Grismar ore refining and valuation tool - The numbers at the top are old as the hills but if you plug in the current values the results will be accurate.
- Halada's complete mining guide - This guide is outdated since the mining barge tiericide but remains an excellent starting place for everything mining related. It also illustrates the mathematics behind extraction and refining rates.
Incursions are fleets of Sanshas that show up in various constellations from time to time. They obstruct the normal order of business until they either go away on their own or enough players shoot them long enough to make them go away early. The profits in fighting incursions have fluctuated with balancing so like any content your ISK per hour will vary. I’ve never run with an incursion fleet but I’ve read the better ones are impossible to solo so you’re looking at team content here. If you’re antisocial this probably isn’t the way to go. Most of the good incursion content also requires fairly high end ships and gear to run smoothly.
Exploration includes finding Complexes, Sites, and Wormholes. Most of them will give you an easy 100% signal from a few probes. Complexes in Highsec are nothing to write home about since they’re remarkably easy to run and the drops are low end. If you can do Level 3 missions don’t waste your time with Complexes in Highsec.
There’s a section of the New Game Experience training that addresses this but there are plenty of guides out there as well including YouTube videos demonstrating probe management. Just know that in Highsec exploration sites and complexes are fairly rare and not worth much. You will usually get only the equal of two security levels lower of ore in Gravimetric sites than what the system normally spawns so even if you find one in a 0.5 system it’s not going to be amazing; you might be better off just mining Veldspar. If you find a Gas Cloud the gas is low grade and most people manufacturing drugs aren’t going to pay much for it. Analyzer and Codebreaker sites will carry only a little scrap and unimpressive modules unless you’re finding them in exceptionally dangerous space. You’ll probably find more wormholes than anything else.
If you’re especially cautious you might be able to make do with a battlecruiser in low end wormholes. Unless you bring a friend you’re going to have to carry everything yourself, sacrificing something for those mid slots, or make multiple trips. If you’re looking for some excitement and have a disposable ship it is an interesting way to spend an evening. If you’re risk averse or your heart jumps when your shield drops to nothing in one volley you’ll probably want to avoid them. There have been many articles written by those with much more experience in wormholes than I have:
TheMittani.com also boasts a number of wormhole related articles though many focus on fleet engagements:
W-space is a profitable but dangerous place to earn your ISK. The bottom line is use a disposable ship and don’t use your good clone.
Manufacture and Marketing
If you are among the richest and most risk averse of beings manufacture and marketing is where it’s at. Marketing is competition with other players which is a kind of PVP, but since you’re not shooting them it’s generally considered PVE. The entry costs for more than casual manufacture from ore you mine are staggering, the competition is fierce, and the profits are minimal which is to be expected from a moneymaking activity that technically doesn’t even require you undock.
You won’t get far without a research POS and you can add some profit by sourcing as much of the raw materials as possible yourself. Be warned though, you will be competing with people who manage spreadsheets for a living. There are economists and accountants that play EVE to keep themselves sharp so unless you find an abandoned niche somewhere or are willing to accept the most minimal profit you may wish to select more reliable methods to earn your ISK.
Tools that will will help unravel some of these complexities include...
- Chruker item lookup - if you need a blueprints optimal or perfect research numbers just plug the blueprints name into a google search with “chruker” and if the print has been in a CCP database dump it’s in there.
- Evelopedia Invention article - Invention itself, using those datacores noted above, requires a POS.
- E-Uni's starbases article - Information about your future POS.
- E-Uni's POS and You article - Other notes about your future POS.
It’s worth mentioning before you decide to launch one that the only useful things you can do at a Highsec POS are research, invention, copying and limited manufacturing. You cannot do moon mining above 0.3 security. You cannot manufacture drugs or do any chemical reactions in Highsec. Manufacturing is usually easier and more economical at an NPC station.
The most profitable things to manufacture generally come from the most ludicrously expensive blueprints so if you want a BPO with high profit per unit you can expect to pay in excess of a billion ISK for it. You can expect to have it in research for a few months before it’s useful as well.
Manufacture and marketing is one of the ways that the Space-rich make their money. The entry fee to the click and profit club is staggeringly high.
If you’ve never played with Planetary Interaction before it’s probably the second most passive form of income there is, next to doing literally nothing and waiting for research points. The competition for planets in Highsec is high and you can be sure that most planets have several players extracting from them. In addition to the resource depletion from that, Highsec planets are naturally poor in resources. The lower the security status of the system the better it is for PI, but in Lowsec and below you’re probably going to run into trouble eventually since the Customs Offices are destructable and the owners determine who can utilize them.
The income isn’t amazing but it requires little maintenance once established unless you’re making “P4” goods. If you’re not fueling your own industry there is always a market for PI consumables. Making Wetware Mainframes will only get sales to people making POS modules but making Enriched Uranium, Oxygen, Mechanical Parts, Robotics, or Coolant gives you access to the POS fuel manufacturing market. Since those materials are burned you will always have a market, but you will also always have competition. The single most important reference for PI I could find is this set of tables on the EVE-University site:
I still refer to it at times and I’ve been doing PI since it first came out. If you’ve never gotten into PI before it takes only training in the PI skills and a few million ISK to set up. The only parts you need to buy are command centers for the planets you wish to set up on. Everything else is handled from the Command Center once it is launched. There are extensive guides for PI setup that go beyond what I can detail here but you’ll only be out a few million ISK on all the mistakes you make. PI is mercifully cheap to get into.
Risk vs. Reward
I’ve stuck mainly to mentioning the Highsec options here because when you venture beyond that it becomes less a question of if, and more a question of when someone will attack you for your shiny bits and a killmail. The ore is better in Lowsec and Nullsec. The exploration sites are better in Lowsec and Nullsec. Level 5 agents are only available in Lowsec, but if you want the security of CONCORD at least destroying your murderers you’ll need to stick to High Security space. Good luck, and godspeed.