Fix What Ain't Broke, Please

My dear old dad always said, "Don't fix what ain't broke." What he meant was: don't waste time changing something that is working adequately. And certainly, the invention process in EVE Online isn't broken. It's a well-established mechanic that players have used for years (since the Revelations expansion in 2006) to generate Tech II blueprint copies. It has a few internal quirks and inconsistencies, but once players get some experience with it, invention becomes fairly routine and easy to manage.

For the last three years, I've generated a large proportion of my in-game funds from Tech II module manufacturing. In fact, I admit that inventing, making and selling Tech II items has made me relatively rich in New Eden - wealthy enough to support an expensive ship collecting habit. After mastering invention, I no longer worry too much about plunking down a billion ISK or more, every once in a while, for some shiny faction hull.

In fact, I got so comfortable with invention that I created a formal syllabus and taught classes about it at EVE University, and re-purposed that content into an online guide.

And so, it was with some trepidation that I read the latest dev blog from CCP Ytterbium about plans to change the invention process. After the massive overhaul to manufacturing in the Crius expansion, I have been experimenting to determine if a solo high-sec industrialist can still make a decent income - and so far, the results have been encouraging. However, since almost all of my manufacturing output is Tech II items, which have been quite profitable, I was fearful that CCP Games was planning to eviscerate my favorite money-making activity.

No Worries

Fortunately, my fears appear to be unfounded. The proposed changes to invention are definitive improvements on the process, and continue Crius' theme of making industry more accessible to the capsuleer masses.

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First, it appears that CCP Games' initial efforts to open industry as an option to more players has been successful. Since the release of the Crius expansion, players' use of all aspects of industrial production have increased very significantly. Clearly, simplifying the user interface and streamlining industrial processes have garnered the attention of large numbers of EVE Online players.

The proposed invention changes continue in that same vein, by eliminating inconsistencies while at the same time introducing more variability in outcomes. For example, both Reverse Engineering, used to make Tech III blueprints for strategic cruiser components, and Invention, used to make Tech II blueprints for various modules and ships, will soon follow the same general principles and process, making both easier to understand and apply.

After reading the dev blog, I found myself nodding like an overenthusiastic bobble-head doll. In fact, I wish CCP Games would go ahead and implement all of the proposed changes in the upcoming expansion, Oceanus. Instead, they are being annoyingly prudent and sensible by waiting for player feedback before incorporating the planned invention changes into the game.

Pleasant Surprises

I am surprised, but also somewhat relieved, that passive generation of datacores from R&D agents is not addressed in the dev blog text. I recall that CCP Soundwave called for the eventual elimination of all passive activities from the game in 2012, including datacore farming, and I'd expected that to happen in the upcoming revisions. The dev blog says nothing about this, however, so perhaps CCP Games no longer worries about it, since CCP Soundwave has since left the company. Or, perhaps CCP still has some ideas hidden up their sleeve, and their true plans for R&D agents are yet to be revealed - leaving something for conspiracy theorists to chew on until the official roll-out of the planned changes.

I like the balancing of different types of datacores used for invention jobs. I've always kept more of my R&D agents focused on Electronic Engineering because I used those 'cores more frequently. After the proposed update, that won't be true any more, as there will be more need to use a wider variety of datacores in invention jobs. That means I'll need to change some of my R&D agents' focus on different science disciplines, but that is a relatively minor one-time inconvenience.

Eliminating data interfaces completely is a welcome change. They add nothing but needless complexity and expense. I recall how I bought dozens of these when I first started experimenting with invention, as I'd misunderstood the process and thought they were consumed like every other item - definitely one of my more bone-headed decisions. It took quite a while to sell that stockpile of excess interfaces in the market, after I realized you only needed to have one of each type to start every invention job. Future inventors won't ever have that opportunity to repeat my mistake - this is a good thing.

Eliminating the use of meta items from the invention process to increase the chance of success is also a good idea. Like data interfaces, they seemed a nonsensical wrinkle in the process, used infrequently by ultra-experts trying to optimize outcomes. Replacing these with the use of Teams makes much more sense, and is consistent with how manufacturing now works since the Crius expansion. However, the dev blog does not elaborate on how invention Teams will work, exactly - it only says it will be "just like it works right now for other industry activities". Later, it says, "Having Teams [will] affect Invention [Material Efficiency] and [Time Efficiency] inputs, which can shave Datacore costs down." On the face of it, this sounds like a good thing, but I'll be reading the forums looking for more precise details on how Teams will affect invention outcomes.

The changes to probability of invention success will concern some large-scale industrialists, but I am not overly bothered by what has been proposed. While the revised formula means a generally lower chance of base success, the compensating factors of Teams, revised decryptors, and the wider diversity of job outcomes more than make up the difference, in my opinion. I love having a spectrum of invention job outcomes, from exceptional success to critical failure, as opposed to the current boring and totally binary results we receive today. I also like how a portion of datacores are returned for some failure outcomes, or how ME and TE can be improved with some of the higher-ranking successes. However, it's not clear to me how datacores might be returned for smaller invention job failures. For example, if my Hobgoblin drone invention job, which uses only two datacores, gets a "terrible failure", which provides a return of 10% of datacores used, does that mean I get one datacore back (rounding up), or none at all (rounding down)? Again, I'll be reading the forums closely to get more details.

The wider variability of invention job outcomes is a welcome change to what was previously a totally binary process.

Hallelujah!

My absolute favorite line in the entire dev blog is this:

[W]e recently changed Invention to only consume one run of a Tech I blueprint copy instead of eating the whole stack. The next logical course of action is to allow players to start invention with multiple runs (that each consume one run of the input blueprint copy) so they don’t have to launch them manually every hour, which is what we’re going to do with this set of changes.
— "Lighting the Invention Bulb" dev blog, 11.09.2014 14:17 by CCP Ytterbium

If this was the only thing that CCP Games changed in the invention process, I would be a very happy industrialist indeed. The most irritating thing about invention is the need to log in repeatedly to deliver completed jobs and initiate new ones. This singular change - the ability to start automatically repeated invention job runs - eliminates that hassle completely, and improves efficiency dramatically. This is not just a good thing - it is a wonderful thing - and it warrants a sincere "thank you" to CCP for including it.

Fixing What Ain't Broke

It's not often that I read a dev blog in which I like everything that CCP Games proposes, but this is certainly one of those times. The changes proposed to invention and reverse engineering make sense, will be easier to learn and use, provide more interesting outcomes, and greatly reduce the tedium of the current mechanics. What's not to like?

Sorry, Dad - it seems that fixing what ain't broke does make sense sometimes. Who knew?

Fly safe! o7

 

Tech II Invention Guide

The following guide is derived from a syllabus of a class that I teach at EVE University. I wrote the original version of this syllabus in 2010, and it has since been improved and updated by my fellow professors and teachers at the UNI – my heartfelt thanks to all of them.

This guide was last updated on April 6, 2015.

Invention is the process in EVE Online that produces Tech II blueprint copies, from which one can manufacture advanced technology items and ships. Tech II items command higher prices in the market and can be a lucrative way for players to earn ISK.

However, for those who are not well prepared, trying to perform invention can be a costly nightmare. This guide endeavors to illuminate the potential obstacles to successful invention, and provide useful advice to budding Tech II entrepreneurs.

History of Tech II Invention

Once upon a time, long, long ago... CCP decided that Tech II (Meta-level 5) items and ships would be a cool thing to offer to EVE Online players.

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To maintain play balance, Tech II items had to be more expensive and harder to get than Tech I (Meta-level 0-4) items, since they represent a significant improvement in performance. They couldn't simply seed Tech II blueprints in stations, as Tech I blueprint originals (BPOs) are provided, or else no one would ever make Tech I items anymore. And so, in their infinite wisdom, CCP created the Tech II BPO lottery, where a limited number of Tech II blueprint originals were awarded to players, based on the number of research datacores they owned. This happened with the Castor expansion in 2003.

This solution presented some significant problems. The production of Tech II items was reserved to a relatively small number of EVE players who were lucky enough to get one of the BPOs. This allowed them to control prices, making Tech II items dreadfully expensive.

So, in their now smarter infinite wisdom, CCP developed the invention process, released with the Revelations expansion in 2006, which allows any EVE player to produce Tech II blueprint copies after a significant investment in skills, materials, and equipment. The invention process produces limited-run Tech II blueprint copies, but with a chance of failure, thus making Tech II item production more difficult, but still attractive enough to warrant investment by players. Since BPCs produce limited runs of items, unlike BPOs, the invention process also keeps Tech II item production at a much more intensive but more scarce level than Tech I production.

Tech II BPOs still exist in EVE, and are highly prized and hideously expensive. Their owners have become very rich in the game, and they guard their use very diligently. Some pundits in the EVE Online player community have speculated that Tech II BPOs may one day be discontinued. If this ever happens, then the invention process will become the sole source of Tech II items in the game.

How does invention work?

A player using the invention process takes a blueprint copy (BPC) for a Tech I item, adds a required number of research datacores, and attempts to convert it into a blueprint copy for a Tech II item with an invention industrial job. Although it sounds simple, invention can be expensive and difficult to do successfully if you don’t possess the right skills and use the right methodology.

Not all Tech I items can use invention to create Tech II variants. For example, there is currently no Tech II version of Salvage Drone I. To determine if an item is eligible for invention, search for the Tech I item in the Market, select "Show Info", and click on the "Variations" tab. If you see a Tech II variant listed, then that item can be invented.

Required Skills for Invention

You need to train several different types of skills in order to perform the invention process.

The basic skills needed for invention are:

  • CPU Management II*
  • Power Grid Management II*
  • Electronics Upgrades III
  • Science III*
  • Hacking II

*Note that advanced sciences skills (listed below) require Level V trained for Science, Power Grid Management and/or CPU Management, so in effect you must train to Level V for those skills as well.

There are four racial encryption method skills. Each Tech II item requires a specific one of these encryption methods:

  • Amarr Encryption Methods
  • Caldari Encryption Methods
  • Gallente Encryption Methods
  • Minmatar Encryption Methods

Each invented item also has two advanced science skills associated with it. The advanced science skills are:

  • (Racial) Starship Engineering - one for the four racial factions (Amarr, Gallente, Caldari, Minmatar)
  • Electromagnetic Physics
  • Electronic Engineering
  • Graviton Physics
  • High Energy Physics
  • Hydromagnetic Physics
  • Laser Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Molecular Engineering
  • Nanite Engineering
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Plasma Physics
  • Quantum Physics
  • Rocket Science

An inventor must have the basic skills, the proper encryption method skill, and the two science skills trained, as required for each item, in order to start an Invention job. Higher skill levels of the encryption methods and science skills lead to a better chance of invention. The basic skills do not alter your success chances.

In order to see which skills are required, select "Show Info" on a Tech I item's blueprint copy, and look in the Invention section. (If there is no Invention section, then that item is not eligible for invention.)

  • For example, 1MN Afterburner invention requires:
    • Minmatar Encryption Methods I
    • Molecular Engineering I
    • Rocket Science I

Required Items for Invention

There are two mandatory items required to start an invention job:

  • Blueprint copy (BPC)
    • You must have a Tech I BPC of the Tech II item you wish to create. If the Invention job is successful, the BPC will be transformed from Tech I to Tech II. If the job is unsuccessful, the BPC will be destroyed.
    • See the section below about how to acquire BPCs
    • The Material Efficiency and Production Efficiency of the BPC does not matter for an Invention job.
  • Datacores
    • Each invention job will require two types of datacores, consistent with the science skills required for that item's invention. The number of datacores needed depends on the size of the object created. Small modules only require one datacore of each type, for example. The larger the item, the more datacores you will need. For instance, Battleships require 32 datacores of each type.
    • Datacores may be collected from R&D agents (see Datacore Farming), redeemed as rewards in faction warfare loyalty point stores, or purchased in the market. 

You can also apply an optional item, a decryptor, to change some characteristics of an invention job. Decryptors can affect the invention chance of the process as well as the Material Efficiency (ME), Time Efficiency (TE), and number of runs of the created Tech II BPC. Decryptors will be consumed during the Invention process, whether successful or not.

When using no decryptor, the base values for a successfully produced Tech II BPC are the following: Runs: 1 for ships, 10 for modules/items; and Material Efficiency: +2%, Time Efficiency: +4%. Add the values from the decryptor to the base values to calculate the final outcome of a successfully produced Tech II BPC. Decryptors affect the results of Invention jobs, as follows:

  • Accelerant: +1 run, +2 ME, +10 TE, 120% chance of success
  • Attainment: +4 runs, -1 ME, +4 TE, 180% chance of success
  • Augmentation: +9 runs, -2 ME, +2 TE, 60% chance of success
  • Parity: +3 runs, +1 ME, -2 TE, 150% chance of success
  • Process: +0 runs, +3 ME, +6 TE, 110% chance of success
  • Symmetry: +2 runs, +1 ME, +8 TE, 100% chance of success
  • Optimized Attainment: +2 runs, +1 ME, -2 TE, 190% chance of success
  • Optimized Augmentation: +7 runs, +2 ME, +0 TE, 90% chance of success

Preparing for Tech II Invention: Making Copies

Invention can only be performed on blueprint copies (BPCs). You will need to either create your own copies from BPOs that you own, or acquire BPCs from other players. You cannot buy BPCs in the Market, but some players sell them as contracts. To see what BPCs are available, select the Neocom button (in the upper left corner of your screen), choose "Business", and then "Contracts". Click the "Available Contracts" tab, then select the Buy & Sell category. Under "Contract Type", select "Want to Sell". Under "Item Category", select "Blueprint Copy". Set the remaining parameters as you desire, and press the Search button.

You can search for blueprint copies (BPCs) for sale by other players as Contracts.

Most inventors buy their own BPOs and make their own copies, using facilities in stations or in Design Laboratories in Player-Owned Starbases (POSes). To see what facilities are available in your region, click the Industry button on the NeoCom (or use the shortcut Alt-S), and click the "Facilities" tab. On this list, you will see icons for each of the types of industry facilities available to you.

You can limit your seach by using the drop-down options to find corp-owned or public facilities, and by different types of industrial capabilities.

Since a Design Laboratory anchored and online in a POS provides a 40% reduction to copy times, most serious inventors set up their own POS to run copying jobs. However, this is not a requirement, and many players who run occasional invention jobs find copying in public station facilities to be adequate for their needs.

You do not need any skills to run a single copying job, but if you want to run more than one at a time, then you need to train Laboratory Operation for one additional job per level. (You can run up to a maximum of 11 simultaneous research jobs, including copying, if you train both Laboratory Operation and Advanced Laboratory Operation to V.)

To copy a BPO, first move it to the facility that you've selected. Right-click the BPO icon, and select "Use Blueprint" (or open your Industry window, select the "Blueprints" tab, and then select your BPO from the list). Select the "Copy" job type by clicking on the icon that looks like two beakers.

In the "Job Runs" field, select the actual number of BPCs you want to produce. In the "Runs Per Copy" field, it's generally a good idea to set this at the maximum value - this varies by item type. The Runs Per Copy determines how many invention jobs you will be able to run later on that BPC, so unless you have an immediate need and need to have a short copying time, go ahead and set it to the maximum possible value. The copying job duration and cost will be displayed - click the Start button in the lower right corner to begin the job.

Copying a BPO: set the number of BPCs you want in the "Job Runs" field, and the number of Invention jobs per copy that you eventually want to run in the "Runs Per Copy" field.

You can monitor the copying job's progress in the "Jobs" tab of the Industry window. When the job is finished, you can receive your BPCs by selecting the "Deliver" button next to the completed job. Once you have a BPC in your possession, you can being the invention process.

The Invention Process

1. Assemble all the elements that you need for invention.

  • Check the Invention tab on your Tech I blueprint copy for all the required skills and materials. Make sure you have trained all the required skills to the recommended levels.
  • Acquire or produce the required items: BPC and datacores.
  • Acquire decryptors, if you wish to use that optional item to boost your chance of success, or to affect the resulting characteristics of any successfully produced Tech II BPCs.

2. Transport all required items to a invention facility, either a station facility or a Research Laboratory at a POS that is open to you.

3. Select your Tech I BPC, right click on it, and select "Use Blueprint".

4. Complete the invention research job dialogue box:

  • Job Runs: you can run multiple iterations of invention jobs, provided that you have enough runs on your BPC and a sufficient number of datacores (or decryptors, if you use them) for each job.
  • Input/Output: select the location(s) for all required items needed for the job, and where you would like the Tech II BPC to be deposited, if successful.
  • Decryptor: if you include a decryptor, be sure it is selected as an optional item.
  • Output Type: if you can produce one of several types of Tech II BPCs from this invention job, select the desired output here. For example, conducting research on a Gallente Atron frigate can produce  either an Ares or Taranis interceptor, depending on what you select.

5. Start the job and wait for the outcome. You can monitor the status of your invention jobs by clicking the Industry button on your NeoCom, and selecting the 'Jobs' tab. The job status updates in real time, so you can leave the dialog up if you want a second-by-second countdown timer. Wait times for invention jobs range from about an hour for simple modules, up to several days for large ships.

5. Each completed job (in the Jobs listing in the Industry window) shows a Deliver button. Click that to have the product of your job delivered to you. When delivered, the Jobs window will show you if your invention job failed or succeeded. If you initiated multiple runs of invention jobs, it will tell you how many of your runs succeeded. All input items are consumed by the invention process, whether successful or not.

When the completed invention job is delivered, you'll get a Tech II item BPC for each successful run.

  • Tech II module BPCs have runs of 10 items, unless modified by a decryptor.
  • Tech II ship BPCs have runs of 1 item, unless modified.     
  • ME and TE on Tech II BPCs are +2 and +4, respectively, unless modified by a decryptor.
  • Tech II BPCs generally require a Tech I version of the item, some additional specialty items (from planetary interaction and/or moon mining component production), and morphite to build. Most starting inventors simply build the Tech I item, and acquire any additional items using buy orders in trade hubs.

Maximizing Invention Success

All inventors should become familiar with this ultra-useful industry and invention chance calculator: http://eve-industry.org/calc/

The chance for a successful invention is calculated by this formula: 

  • Base Chance:

    • All modules, rigs, and ammo have a base chance of 34%.

    • All Frigates and Destroyers have a base chance of 30%.

    • Cruisers, Battlecruisers, Mining Barges and Industrials have a base chance of 26%.

    • All Battleships have a base chance of 22%.

    • Freighters have a base chance of 18%.

It's not difficult to get a decent chance of success for modules (close to 50%), but progressively more difficult for ships as their size increases. This is why investing in some decryptors is a good idea for Tech II ship invention jobs.

Note that the following factors have no impact on the probability of invention success:

  • Material level of the input BPC
  • Time Efficiency level of the input BPC
  • Maximum runs of the input BPC
  • How attractive, charming or brilliant you are.  :-)

A few helpful guidelines:

  • Encryption skill affects the chance of success moderately - training up to level 3 is useful - beyond that, it produces only very slight improvement
  • Science skills affect success most significantly - train up to at least level 4, and eventually to level 5 if you are going to be producing significant amounts of certain items
  • Decryptors can greatly improve the chance of success, but can also be very expensive - in general, use these only for expensive invention jobs like Tech II ships or large Tech II ammo.
  • To maximize profits from invention, you need to minimize your investment costs. This means using buy orders to purchase datacores and decryptors in the market. You'll  also want to shop around to different stations to find the most affordable blueprint copying and invention research labs - the more used the facilities in a system, the higher the job costs.
  • Reverse engineering, which is the process to produce Tech III ship components, works very similarly to Tech II invention, except it uses some different components. Once you've mastered invention, reverse engineering is not difficult.
  • As you gain more experience in invention, you can experiment with different investments to improve your efficiency. Many inventors tire quickly of depending on public resources for blueprint copying, which are 40% slower than labs in a POS. If you are going to be a serious producer of Tech II items, you will eventually want to establish a research-oriented POS, so that you always have optimal copying and invention job times. But that is the subject of another guide....

Fly safe! o7