Recently I wrote about five reasons gamers should give Eve Online, a notoriously intimidating space MMO, a second chance. One reason I cited is the game’s unique monetization, which allows players to pay for their monthly fee with an in-game items called a Pilot’s License Extension. If you can buy these, you can play Eve free, forever.
They’re not cheap, however; currently about 600 million ISK (Eve’s currency) and rising at a slow but steady rate. New players with a dinky ship and a few million space-bucks may look at the cost of a PLEX and believe it far too expensive to afford. In fact, it’s not hard to come up with the money if you know how. Here’s three ways a newbie can earn enough to play for free.
The core concept of station trading is very simple. You sit a character in a station, you have that character train trade skills, and you buy items low, than re-sell them high. The difference goes in your wallet.
To start station trading you first need to have a character in one of the major trade hubs. These are, in order of largest to smallest, Jita, Amarr, Dodixie, Rens and Hek. Smaller trade hubs see a lower volume of items, but also have less competition, so you should pick a hub based on how frequently you plan to check on your trades. Players who enjoy trade, and want to do it for hours on end, should go to Jita. Those who only want to check on trades once a day (or less!) should go to Hek or Rens.
You also will need to train the character you trade with, who is likely an alt, in some basic skills. The Trade, Retail, Wholesale and Tycoon skills impact how many orders you can have, and you’ll probably want to at least get the first two to level 5 and Wholesale to level 3 (that will let you run up to 108 orders). You should also plan on training Accounting and Broker Relations to level 5, as these skills reduce taxes and broker fees (that’s more money in your pocket). None of these are pre-requisites, however; you can start trading while you wait for your skills to level up.
Once your trade character arrives at the hub of your choice you need to start purchasing items with Buy Orders. These orders tell other players you want to purchase items at a certain price. Ideally your buy order will offer more than anyone else; if it does, players will sell your order first when they’re looking to move that item. Once you’ve acquired items through buy orders (which can take hours or even a few days), you re-sell them using Sell Orders. Again, having the lowest price is usually best, though obviously you want to make some profit.
So, what items should you trade? While there’s a ton of theory surrounding the answer to this question, I suggest that you just download Elinor, a fan-made utility that can automatically analyze any item. With Elinor running, you can export data to it by clicking “Export to file” when you have an item selected in the game’s market window, and Elinor will calculate margin, volume and profit for you. You should look for items with a margin of at least 10%. Also pay attention to the volume numbers; if they’re in the low hundreds you may have to wait awhile for a buy or sell order to be filled.
Once you have these basics in place, there’s not much to do except monitor orders. Make sure your buy orders pay the best price, then re-sell the items you buy at the lowest price, while also maintaining 10% profitability or better. You’ll sometimes need to switch the items you buy and sell as other players enter those markets, and you’ll make more money the more frequently you check your orders. Still, it’s entirely possible to check orders once per day and make a daily profit of 5 to 10% of your total worth, which means you’ll double your money about every week or two. A player who does well can buy a PLEX within a month, while those who spend less time may need two. But once your trade empire has started, you’ll reap greater and greater rewards; a player will a billion ISK in trades can often make 100 million ISK on a daily basis.
Players who want to trade should also read the blogs Markets For ISK and Merchant Monarchy. Both are penned by players who started with nothing and now have tens of billions of ISK sitting around. The writer of the latter blog has over 300 billion ISK, enough to play Eve free for 500,000 years!
While station trades sit in one place, inter-regional traders make their money by purchasing items at places where they sell low, then hauling them over to a place where they sell for more. There can be a lot of profit in this, but it’s also more work.
To be an inter-regional trader you’ll want the same skills as a station trader (see above). In addition, you’ll want to pick racial industrial ship piloting skills, like Gallente Industrials, which will let you pilot basic hauling ships. The basic industrials are the Tayra, Bestower, Iteron Mark V and Mammoth. Each has a large cargo hold, which can be made larger with Expanded Cargohold equipment from the market.
You also should have small, fast frigate. Not all the goods you carry will be large, and small loads can be transported more quickly in a frigate than a big industrial.
Once you have your ship, you need to find items worth selling. Fortunately, Eve market fansite Eve-Central has a comparison tool [No Longer Available] that does it for you. Just enter the system you want to haul from, and the region you want to haul to, as well as the maximum price you can afford to pay for an item. A list of candidates will be generated for you. Jita, the biggest trade hub in Eve, also tends to have the lowest prices, so you’ll probably want to enter it into the “from” field. The system you’re hauling to can be any of the other trade hubs; Amarr, Dodixie, Rens or Hek.
With the list generated, scan the items for those that move in relatively high quantities. Anything above ten is decent, and an item that moves at a volume of 50, 100 or more is a great candidate. Once you’ve identified an item, visit Eve Markets and search for it. This handy website will generate a supply/demand graph that help you decide if the item is likely to sell once you move it. After moving your haul to its new location you can either sell it to someone with a buy order posted (if that would be profitable) or create your own sell order.
As you earn more money, you’ll be able to move more items worth more ISK, which should mean better and better profits. However, it’s wise not to move more than a 100 million ISK of items at once, because pirates do sometimes harass players even in high-security space. If you need to move very large orders, consider contracting the work out to a dedicated hauling corporation like Red Frog Freight.
While you can have your ship move the items on auto-pilot, your account must be logged in during the duration of the trip, so this profession is best for players who can occasionally check in on the game. You can expect to make a profit of 30% to 50% on a good haul, so it’s possible to afford a PLEX within a few weeks of casual hauling.
While station trading and hauling can be very profitable, they may not interest everyone. Some players care little about the economic game and would rather fly into space – the more dangerous, the better. If that sounds like you, then Faction Warfare is a great way to make money.
There are four NPC factions in Eve; Amarr, Caldari, Gallente and Minmatar. Each is allied with one other, and at war with two others. When you join a faction’s militia, you become flagged for PvP combat against whomever your faction is at war with, and you gain the ability to capture complexes in contested systems. You can view contested systems by looking at the Faction Warfare menu, which is available in stations or in space (strangely, it’s under the “Business” section of the sidebar). You can only join a militia when in a station owned by that faction, however.
Systems are won and lost by the capture of complexes, more often called “plexes” for short. These objectives are lightly defended by NPC ships and can be captured by players. They also come in different sizes; novice, small, medium and large. Only basic frigates can enter the novice plexes, while advanced tech 2 frigates and destroyers can enter small plexes. Medium plexes also allow cruisers, and the largest ones do not have ship restrictions.
Capturing a plex provides you with Loyalty Points. The base values are 10,000 for novice, 17,500 for small, 25,000 for medium and 30,000 for large. If your faction is doing well, these rewards can be increased by up to 225%, which means a maximum of 97,500 points pier large plex capture.
This is where the money comes in. Loyalty Points can be redeemed for special ammo, equipment and ships that are only available by earning loyalty with a faction militia. These special items are also superior to everyday gear. And they can be re-sold on the market for a lot of money. Loyalty Points often convert to ISK at a rate of 3,000 ISK per Loyalty Point. Which means capturing a single novice plex can net between 15 million and 100 million ISK, depending on your faction’s current success. That is a lot of money.
There are a few downsides, however. First, the items you buy with Loyalty Points don’t magically convert to ISK; you have to sell them. This means you’ll need to train into an industrial ship and pick up a few trade skills so you can occasionally haul your valuable faction items into a trade hub.
Second, you have to play in a PvP environment. You don’t have to engage other players to capture a complex, but opponents will sometimes show up to try to prevent your capture, and pirates also roam faction warfare systems in search of a fight. As a newbie, you’ll generally want to avoid conflict because your skills probably won’t match your opponent. But if you fly a cheap frigate (one that costs no more than a few million ISK) losing a ship won’t set you back much. Some players may even prefer this; knowing that you’re being hunted can provide a thrill.
Most players will be able to capture two plexs an hour. Assuming they’re both small, and no factional bonuses are in effect, that’s 35,000 Loyalty Points, or about 50 million to 100 million ISK. A hardcore player can earn a PLEX in a day, while casual gamers can play for free by spending just five to ten hours in factional warfare a month.
There are other ways to earn ISK and play Eve Online for free, but the three methods listed here are the best for newbies. All three require very little start-up capital and only a handful of skills, none of which are pre-requisites. A new player can realistically earn enough money to buy a PLEX within a month using any of these methods, which means you’ll only have to pay for your first month of play.
Do you have any tips on how to earn money in Eve? Leave them in the comments!