Drugs are good, mmkay?
Across New Eden, pilots search for that certain ship, fit, or module to give them an edge over their competition. There’s a lucrative market for such things, but one advantage is all too often overlooked, despite being cheaper many of the more exotic modules out there. If you watch any of the more popular PvP videos, you might catch a glimpse of it, nestled snugly in the cargohold amidst ammo, nanite paste and capacitor charges. Boosters, drugs, pills, whatever you call them, they're one of the staples of elite pvp.
Boosters are commonly talked about, whether in videos, forums, or an EFT warrior showing some ludicrous tanking numbers on their drugged-up fitting, but not many know where these things actually come from. I had the chance to speak with two members of Es and Whizz corporation, one of the larger booster producers: Big G Toscano, an experienced smuggler and salesman, and Kolya Kopalnia, who works with the production side of things.
An article on the nitty-gritty details of production would be mildly entertaining at best, so for those of you seeking such details, I will refer you to the resources I was given by Kolya.
Basically, to make boosters, you need lots of gas. A reliable source of gas is difficult to come by, so Es and Whizz have operatives all over New Eden for tracking down and mining gas, while at the same time purchasing gas from outside sources. There are 8 “flavors” of gas, one that corresponds with each flavor of booster (Amber clouds are used to produce Blue Pill, for example), and there are two types of each flavor. Mykoserocin clouds are used to produce the weaker, but safer Synth boosters, and can be found in high security space in Ladar sites. Cytoserocin gases are used for the Standard, Improved, and Strong boosters, and are only found in low and null security systems. It is important to note that each flavor of gas can only be found in certain areas, and that gases pulled from wormhole Ladar sites are not currently usable in booster manufacturing.
Once you have the gas, you still need some specialized skills and equipment, as well as a few extra materials (that depend on what grade of booster you’re making), but all these can be found either on the market, contracts, or by running NPC sites. After all materials have been gathered, it’s off to the POS. Here is where things get quite complicated, so I’ll leave it to the guide linked above. Suffice to say that drug manufacturers join wormhole corporations and coalition tower fueling pilots in wishing for an update of the starbase system.
Kolya tells me that while there are 8 varieties of booster, the most popular by far are Blue Pill, Exile, Drop, and X-instinct, with Mindflood being preferred by capital pilots and in wormholes where every GJ of capacitor matters. The other boosters are still produced, but usually only because you need them to refine the higher grades of the more popular boosters.
Now that we have a nice big pile of contraband, it needs to get to the customer. Big G Toscano takes over at this point, although he is one of many such agents operating at a given time. Depending on the size of the order, and the desired drop point, there are many methods Big G employs. His standard method involves a fittingly pimped-out Prowler, and arranging a meeting station ahead of time. Due to some quirks of the contract system, the easiest way to complete the drug deal is for the buyer to issue a Want to Buy contract in the target station.
When I asked about high security space, Big G said that he basically does whatever he can to avoid them. Using cynos to travel (although he never revealed what exactly was using the cyno) around Empire will usually work, and most customers are very understanding and will choose a new meeting point. When absolutely necessary, Big G will make the run. Aside from a few trade secrets, he advised a fast ship, splitting the load among ships, and using busier systems. In his experience, the customs officers seemed to get bogged down by higher traffic, like any checkpoint. Due to the potential penalties involved (confiscation, 200% market value fines), Big G understandably avoids hisec like the plague when possible. Orders that require Empire travel can get even more expensive due to the high risk of loss and fines. Big G estimated that his average deal was for anywhere between 200 million and 1.2 billion ISK, so avoiding a 200% fine seems like a very good idea. In the old days, Es and Whizz, and a few of their friends successfully fought their way through customs, all the way to Jita.
Customs agents aren’t the only casualties in the war on drugs. Kolya told me a few stories about cartel wars over gas, manufacturing locations and customer bases, but he said that most drug producers these days keep it pretty civil, preferring to compete with prices instead of battleships.
Despite not offering any free samples, I wish to thank Big G and Kolya for their time and cooperation - without them this story would not have been written. In their closing comments, they wanted to thank CCP for the Venture, ask nicely for a POS revamp, and firmly oppose any effort to legalize boosters. For all your booster needs, drop by the channel “Narcotics” in-game.