Friday, 9 September 2011

Research and Invention in EvE - Donning the White Lab-Coat

From the moment that I was aware of Research in EvE it had always been a form of magic to me. I didn't really know what you could do with Blue Prints other than make stuff from them. When buying Blue Print Copies I noticed that ME and PE efficiencies were different on occasions, but this, again, meant nothing to me. My former CEO was very much into the whole Science and Industry scene, and we used to have a High-Sec POS that offered research labs. But ask me what these were used for and I would have simply shrugged.

Following our recent Corp move, we landed close to a very appealing Low-Sec area. One of the other directors set up his own POS purely for personal research labs. The CEO also then decided to place a Corp POS in the system to use as a PvP platform. As a director also, I was selected to construct and run the new tower. With our new tower being a PvP base, you can imagine that our structure needs consisted of nothing more than a Hangar and Ship Maintenance Arrary and the usual defences. Being the manager of this POS, I decided that I would allow myself some perks. So I pinned down the other director and asked him to explain the whole research idea to me. I was carrying the intention of using the spare CPU and Powergrid in our PvP POS to set up some labs of my own. After digesting the basics of research, I hauled in two labs (one for my main and one for my alt) and blew the dust off of my blueprints.

I sucked up some information through a conversation in Twitter, too. I had been informed a while ago that researching Blueprints was a good passive income. Being a sucker for free ISK (!) I was keen to get my prints going. But in the Twitter conversation, I was informed that this venture was far from passive. Well, I've already learned that it is as much as it isn't, depending on what is done.

Although I know that I am only scratching the surface of research at the moment, I can safely state that Material Efficiency (ME) and Production Efficiency (PE) as well as Blueprint Copying can be turned into a passive income. They can either follow on from eachother, or be used individually to generate ISK. But it also greatly depends on the Blueprints used, which I will clear up shortly.

So, how is this done?

There are three basic ways to start researching Blueprints. NPC stations, POS with NPC station in system, and a stand-alone POS. I would say that the most undesirable way to research BPO is in an NPC station, mainly because the research slots are nearly always full. But this also means that you will have to queue your BP's behind someone elses, and this can leave you waitng days or even weeks before you prints even get a look-in. Although, this is by far the safest option and if you have time on your side then consider this method. There is a search feature that can be used to find any free slots, but as this is not the option I choose to use I haven't looked into that. Plus, with this method, there are no POS-running costs.

A POS with an NPC station in the system is, in my view, the most desireable option. What this gives you is the ability to keep and run your BP's remotely from the NPC station without having to travel or store any prints at the POS. The benefits of this is that if your POS comes under attack and is destroyed, you have not lost potentially billions of ISK worth of BP's.

The other option is to set-up a POS in a system without an NPC station. What this means is that jobs have to be started from your POS, and BP's and materials will need to be stored in your labs. Perhaps not such a problem in High-Sec, but in Low-Sec hungry pirates with enough fire-power may want to get their hands on any valuable prints kept at your POS.

OK, if you've got your research method set-up and BPO's ready to begin researching, what can you do with them?

Well, I have gone with the three most basic options at the moment. I'll start with perhaps the most simplest, which is Copying. But you need to have a BPO worth copying in the first place. For instance, copying a Drake Blueprint Original (BPO) will produce Drake Blueprint Copies (BPC). These copies can then be sold on the market, and the income generated can be worth while. Initially, a Drake BPO will set you back around 400mil, and the copies can be sold for, say, 500,000ISK a time. After a while (and through mass-production of these prints) this will return profit providing they are continually pumped out. However, copying a 10mn Afterburner I will not be worth while (unless it's for invention, but I will cover this later) because the BPO original is so cheap to buy in the first place.

Ships will take a while to copy, and a basic lab only offers one copy slot. So although the process is slow, it is passive in that you can set the print for several copies and/or runs (copies being how many individual BP's are produced and runs are the amount of times someone can manufacture the product from each print), and leave it to work itself for the best part of a month. Once the job is ready, simply deliver the prints to your hangar and cart them off to a trade hub and sell them. This process can constantly be repeated and requires very little interaction.

To churn a bit more ISK out of each print, we can research ME and PE. ME will reduce the amount of materials required to manufacture the item, and PE will reduce the amount of time the job takes to complete. Although the saving may seem tiny in small production lines, the difference will be greatly felt when manufacturing 1000's of unit of the item. But on a Drake blueprint, I would say the ME factor is more important. Although ME can take a while to research, a standard Drake blueprint will have a material wastage factor of 10% (ME level 0), where an ME level 20 will only have a material wastage factor of around, say, 0.5%. So using the ME20 blueprint will straight away have a desirable saving on a single production run and allow you to sell the BPC for more than an ME0 BPC.

The final area I will cover is Invention. This is a great little tool that allows you to produce T2 items. I have selected to invent Scourge Fury Heavy Missiles, as these are a popular consumable. To start invention, you will need a BPO of the T1 component - in this case, a Scourge Heavy Missile. This needs to be taken to the lab and copied (ideally several times), and only one run is required of each BPC. It is worth pointing out here that the ME and PE of the BPO has no effect in invention. Datacores are required to start the invention. These can be purchased or you can acquire them for free using R&D agents, and note that these are consumed whether your invention was successful or not. Providing you have the skills (pre-requisitions for invention are shown by selecting the BPO 'Bill of Materials' and selecting the invention tab - it will show you the skills needed as well as the data cores and other items required) you can start invention.

Invention only takes a short amount of time to complete (37 minutes for me to invent a T2 missile print), so there is not long to wait. There is a percentage of chance of successfully producing a T2 blueprint, which can be increased by using Encryptors (expensive and not worth it on small, cheap items) and/or T1 variants of the item you are trying to produce. I use Caldari Navy ammo as my 'helper' product to increase my chance of a successful T2 print. Unless Encryptors are used, you will only ever produce a single-run T2 BPC. Encryptors do various things from increasing the chance of a successful outcome, increase the number of runs available from each print (up to 10), and give the print a higher ME rating. But these vary from 3.5mil to 50mil, so unless you can get them from areas such as Radar sites for free, then I don't think it's worth it for the smaller Inventions. As a rough average, I am successful 2/3 of the time and have a hangar full of T2 Scourge Fury prints. These can then be sold or used for your own production.

The other are is reverse engineering, which is used when you have acquired sleeper artefacts. However, I have not started down this path yet, so I have no knowledge to share on that topic.

So, if copying and ME/PE is the focus, researching can be a nice passive income. For T2 Invention, this requires quite a bit of attention if you are wanting to churn out the prints at a fast rate.

I hope this is of use to someone!

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