Friday, March 18, 2016

Building capital ships for profit: The guide

Part 1: Introduction

Welp, it's time to do this again. This guide will cover exclusively the building of jump-capable capital ships, in lowsec, from original blueprints, for profit. The tools and techniques contained herein could be applied toward the building of non-jump-capable capital ships, supercapitals, or building from blueprint copies, but these topics will not be covered.


Building capital ships can make money. How profitable it is changes with the market, but you can often make a couple of hundred million per hull. This is possible because capital manufacturing has high barriers to entry, in terms of player ability, knowledge, planning, setup time, and isk. It's very hard to get started with it, and the vast majority of people who try fail. However, if you can get a manufacturing process up and running, it only takes a few hours per month to keep it going.

Starting requirements:

  • 20ish billion isk, in addition to the cost of the items below:
  • A personal corporation, or tower roles for your non-personal corporation
  • A jump freighter and a cyno alt (recommended).
  •     Alternatively, Black Frog could work.
  •     Really, really alternatively, a covert ops hauler could work. Slowly.
  • A scout alt (recommended)
  • A blockade running tengu (recommended)
  • A jump clone (recommended)
  • An RX-804 reprocessing implant
  • Capital ship construction 3 (4 for rorquals)
  • Reprocessing 5
  • Reprocessing Efficieicy 5
  • Crokite Processing 5
  • Kernite Processing 5
  • Plagioclase Processing 5
  • Scordite Processing 5
  • Veldspar Processing 5
  • Mass Production 5
  • Advanced Mass Production 4
  • Advanced Industry 5 (recommended)
  • Metallurgy 5 (recommended)
  • Research 5 (recommended)
  • Laboratory Operation 5 (recommended)
  • Advanced Laboratory Operation 4 (recommended)

Part 2: The spreadsheet

We'll be using it a bit throughout the series, so you may as well grab the spreadsheet now.

Here's it is (libre office calc document). Download it.

The front page has three sections:

The profit calculator is meant to help you decide which ships are best to build at the present time. The build price is taken from forge mineral/compressed ore prices, assuming ME10 blueprints, and the sell price is taken from Forge region sell orders. These prices will update every time you open the spreadsheet, so there's no need to touch it.

Note that the build price may read slightly low because the compressed ore market is so screwed up. This shouldn't take more than a couple of percent off the profit margin.

Once you know which ships you want to build, the component calculator lets you put in ships, material levels, and quantities to build, and tells you how many components you will need. The "ship" and "me" columns are drop-down menus.
  • Note: Using a Thukker component assembly array and/or a capital ship assembly array can significantly reduce the cost of building capital ships. However, using these without an alliance to back you up would be insane, so the spreadsheet doesn't support them.
  • Note: If you want to build a ship not already on the list, you can add it on the "math" sheet under "ME0 component quantities for ships". See the directions there to add the new ship to the drop-down.

The compressed ore requirements section tells you how many units of minerals and compressed ore you will need to refine, at the refining rate set, to produce the minerals needed to build the components shown in the component calculator. We move mostly compressed ore because it has a much smaller volume than the minerals created by refining it.

The refining rate currently set is for refining at an intensive reprocessing array with perfect skills and a 4% implant. Because of the way Crius does refining math, it is VERY IMPORTANT that this number be either accurate or rounded up.

Unfortunately, the only good way I'm aware of to find this number is to actually do some refining. So if you're going to use a different refining rate, buy a good amount of compressed veldspar and refine it with whatever setup you're going to be using. Then divide the number of units of tritanium created by (415 * [number of units of compressed veldspar you reprocessed]). Round the result up at the fourth or sixth digit or whatever.

The tool also gives you the volume of the compressed minerals, and an estimate of how much they will cost. As with the profit calculator, the cost estimate is based on Jita buy orders and is updated every time you open the document.
  • Note: The spreadsheet assumes your components are ME 10. If you want to change this, go to the "math" sheet, and under "component mineral requirements" set your material levels appropriately.

Part 3: Moving expensive blueprints safely

Capital ship and component blueprints are highly gank-worthy, and you're going to be moving them from place to place, including, probably, through nullsec. The best solution I've found for this is the blockade running tengu:

  • Note: A T2 fit is almost as good and a lot cheaper. I move large numbers of expensive blueprints multiple times per year, so the shiny crap makes sense for me.

It aligns fast. It warps in bubbles. It has a covert ops cloak. It has stabs. It has a large, fully passive tank. It even has guns and a neut it case something goes wrong. I've been flying ships like this for years and have never lost one. I've been shot at a few times, but only because I allowed it to happen.

That said, flying smart is your first and best defense. Use a scout when moving things through null. And learn to fly the thing before you use it to move blueprints. Know that you can't cloak within 2 KM of anything. Know that there's a brief delay - based on your distance from the servers - between the time you tell your ship to warp and the time you can activate your cloak without it failing, and practice until you get it down. Know how to check the out-gate for a camp before warping to it (refer to situation 6, steps 2 through 4 here)

Part 4: Researching blueprints

Capital ship hull blueprints are very expensive to research, and it takes a very long time. Blueprint research cost and speed change greatly depending on your location, like so:

The player-owned outpost is clearly the best option. At 28% it costs about a billion isk to research a carrier blueprint from ME0 to ME10. In highsec this would cost about 4 billion.

  • Note: I've heard that it's cheaper to research blueprints in a player-owned tower, but haven't confirmed this. Once again, putting expensive stuff in a tower without an alliance to back you up is flat crazy. 
  • Note: Research implants decrease research time, but do not appear to decrease research cost. 

Capital ship component blueprints only cost about 30-50 million each to research to ME10/PE20 at 100% cost, and they're a lot faster as well. You can totally do those in in highsec.

To do research safely in a nullsec outpost, you need several things:

First, an outpost you can do research at. As of the time of writing, there are stations in Providence that let anybody dock. Alternatively, you could temporarily join a renter corporation or something.

Second, a scout to go first when you bring the blueprints to the outpost and when you take them out later.

Third, jump clones. Two of them, one for the scout and one for the character moving the blueprints. Once the blueprints are at the station and in research, you will clone jump out.

Fourth, a blockade tengu and a scout ship, which will also stay in the research station until the research is done.

With ships and jump clones in the station, you will be able to get your blueprints out even if the station changes hands while your research is in progress.

Part 5: Getting ship blueprints

To build capital ships, you need two types of blueprints: Component blueprints, to turn minerals into capital ship components, and ship blueprints, to turn the components into ships. Which component blueprints you need depends on which ship blueprints you have, so we're covering ship blueprints first.

How many ship blueprints should I get?

As a general rule of thumb, a character with 10 manufacturing slots can keep 3 capital ship hull blueprints in production constantly, using the remaining 7 slots to build components for the next three hulls.

Which ship blueprints should I get?

This is something you should evaluate for yourself. The market changes over time, so any advice I give you will be invalid eventually. If you have the cash, I'd recommend getting two of each hull blueprint. This will allow you to change your production as the market shifts.

Where can I get them?

You can also get ship blueprints from contracts. However, ME10 blueprints are rare and are likely to be more expensive than doing the research yourself.

What material level should I research them to?

The number of components required to build a ship drops significantly between level 9 and 10. So, probably 10.

In the case of the archon, going from ME0 to ME9 saves you 2%, but going from ME9 to ME10 saves you an additional 5%. The naglfar isn't quite as bad, but the last material level still saves you 45 million per run. At that rate it will only take 20 runs (200 days) to make back the cost difference between ME9 and ME10. And remember, the isk you spend on research isn't gone -- the blueprint is worth that much more if you sell it later.

What production efficiency level should I research them to?

20 would be nice - 2% faster construction means 2% more profit over time - but going with 16 or 18 will save you hundreds of days of research and billions of isk. People don't pay for PE like they do for ME.

Part 6: Getting component blueprints

Which component blueprints do I need? Where can I get them?

How many do I need?

It depends on how many production characters you have and what ship blueprints they are producing. I recommend adding up the component quantities needed to build on all your blueprints and using that to pick component blueprint quantities.

My quantities look a little like this. I tuned my component blueprint numbers manually, building on six characters, and ended up with numbers like one corporate hangar blueprint, two armor plates blueprints, three sensor cluster blueprints, and five drone bay blueprints. However, I have more blueprints than I can possibly produce at one with six characters. If you plan to build on all of yours simultaneously, you might want something like one blueprint per 100 components (rounded up).

Part 7: Location

Picking a region:

You want to build and sell your ships in a region where you can sell all the ships you build and where you can get the best prices. When I counted market volumes a few years back the Forge region had by far the most active market. Lonetrek was a distant second, followed by Domain, and Sinq Laison and Heimatar were much smaller still.

If you build in a less active market it may be possible to achieve better margins per hull, because when you're the only seller you get to set the price. However, hulls may sell proportionally more slowly in less active markets, making it possible to out-produce the demand.

I've always built in Forge, and have been pretty happy with it.

Picking a station:

  • It must have industry.
  • There must be a moon in the system with no tower on it.
  • It should be adjacent to highsec, making it easier to get your jump freighter out of the system after moving compressed ore in.
  • It should be in jump freighter jump range of a market hub. You don't want to be moving 10 billion isk of compressed ore through gates in order to get in range of your manufacturing system.
  • It should be possible to warp from the undock to the highsec gate without getting stuck on the station. Test this.
  • Buyers may wish to buy in a system which has capital mods and fuel on the market. If you don't feel like stocking them yourself, you might want to pick a system where somebody else is supplying them.
  • A station where too many other people are manufacturing will have increased manufacturing fees. You may want to pick a station which is not too active.

Part 8: Moving minerals

You've picked a station. Your blueprints are researched and in place. Now you just need to get minerals there.

You need four things: A jump freighter, a cyno alt, a small tower, and an intensive reprocessing array.

The tower can be anchored on any free moon, and the reprocessing array anchored near it. These should be torn down when not is use, as people will shoot them just because.

Pick what ships you want to build and buy the minerals and compressed ores listed in the compressed ores tool. You'll want to get them from buy orders, and this can take a few days. Once you have the minerals and compressed ores, put them in your jump freighter.

Use your cyno alt to online the tower. Set the shield password/corp access settings to turn on the shield. Once it's online, have your cyno alt light its cyno inside the docking radius of your station. Do not activate the cyno near the tower unless you're an idiot.

Jump the JF in, warp to the tower (note: get the shield access settings right BEFORE warping. Not sure if that's still a problem, but it has been in the past), put the compressed ore in the reprocessing array, reprocess it, and haul the minerals to your station. You may want to keep a freighter in your building system to make this process faster.

Once the reprocessing array is empty, have your cyno alt tear down the tower until it is needed again.

Part 9: Walkthrough

Step 1: Decide which ships you want to build and put them in the component tool.

Step 2: I recommend copy-pasting the component quantities somewhere, separating them into 80-ish-component runs if necessary, and using color-coding to indicate the status of each run. Thusly:

 Step 3: Buy the quantities of minerals and compressed ore

Get the quantities of minerals and compressed ore from the requirements tool and buy them. The market for compressed ore is bullshit, and you may want to base your buy price on the price of 100 units of uncompressed ore (or 95, or 105, or whatever works) instead of just 0.01ing the highest buy order.

 Step 4: Have your cyno alt online your reprocessing tower

Step 5: Jump to station

 Step 6: Warp to tower, reprocess ore, haul minerals to station

Step 7: Build components. If you're doing mass production, you'll want minerals for the next run of components available by the time your component blueprints are freed up from this run.

Step 8: Build hulls

Step 9: Sell hulls. If you're doing mass production your next run of components should be done by now, allowing you to put the hull blueprints right back into production.

Friday, March 11, 2016

I joined Horde

Yes, they're the current flash in the pan and I should feel bad about it.

That said, today I started out in a basilisk and finished in a pod with structure damage in a rifter with structure damage and got on more kills than I did in four months with initiative.

So there's that.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Capital guide progress update

Yes guys, it's coming. I just installed the components for my final check run, and this time it worked. These are my leftovers from the two check runs, which totaled over 20 billion isk:

That's an error of less than 0.004%. Part of it is deliberate rounding up, part of it is just because compressed ore doesn't do exact numbers.