A few final thoughts of Planetary Interaction before I stop talking about it, at least for a while, are in order:
Characters and Accounts
Something was nagging me after finishing the PI challenge. Just to be sure about it, I asked Mabrick if his approach was just for one character, or for an entire account. He told me that his play-style was to focus on one character. Take that as you will, I’ll take it at face value. But I started playing around with my alts (I have 2 accounts that are active), and found a nice string of systems that I could feed into one final production planet. So I started building and mapping out logistics. Turns out you make up for a lot of holes in a production line this way.
I now have 2 characters feeding a PI chain, with a third who will be added to that in a few days. Already the profits are increasing a fair bit, more than double what I was making per day with the one character. The logistics are also tighter, but the string of systems is helping with this. I simply unload everything via contract into one central station, then top off the production planet as needed. I think a new(ish) player could do well to invest about a month into an approach like this once he or she is about 6 months into the game. I still hold that missions and ship training are going to be the best bang for my buck from the starting line, but your mileage may vary. It wont break 500m/month, but it’s enough to fund some of my other production efforts.
I already had most of the training out of the way, and by my calcs, and judicious remaps, 3 alts can be at CCU IV and Interplanetary Consolidation IV in about 36 days. Since this is a second industrial account that also manufactures and trades, it’s not a huge deal to alter that training schedule. I doubt this will happen on my main combat account though.
I plan on posting the results of month 2 in due course.
I remarked in comments that I really wish there was a way to transfer goods in-system that bypasses the space hauler step. A commenter noted that this may be fine in HS, but it would break the risk factor in Low/Null/WH space. I’m not sure I agree. If you kept the POCO taxes, that would leave the infrastructure pretty much alone. You also still have to haul out the final products you want to sell, which will invariably require a larger, slower ship. So I’m not sold that in-system transfer is game breaking.
I would envision this system working like an upgrade to the Command Center or Launch Pad, or a new building. You spend some extra CPU and PG, maybe pay a fuel or isk or percentage of materials cost, and get the chosen goods routed to another planet in system. This would eliminate one of the more tedious aspects of moving intermediate goods around. In my daily PI activities, hauling seems to be the biggest chore and I would gladly make some concessions on output to get rid of it.
The biggest bugbear in PI is the way routing doesn’t really work. I set up 5 new planets this week and redesigned my production planet. Sure enough, once it went live I had more than a few broken routes. I though I fixed them, but some Mechanical Parts keep overflowing into one of my Launchpads. All because you have to manually enter each route, and often have to commit to an intermediary step or two in order to trick the system into validating a given route. This is silly.
Ideally, once you put schematics into Production Facilities and connect the links, the system should be able to figure out what needs to go where. You could even prioritize competing facilities by outputs if you had that complex a setup. I don’t buy that this would be too hard to figure out. If I can get a Minecraft quarry and pipe mod to sort the thousands of items in that game properly with an afternoon of tinkering, the same should be doable in a non-modded game.
Passive v Solo
After a month of running PI, I will not call it passive income. To my mind, “passive” implies a few clicks here or there and you get isk. That is not what PI is. PI is lots of clicks, and lots of hauling, and lots of monitoring. If you want pure passive income, go farm datacores. Go find a quiet market hub and do some low scale trading. Build something and list it on the market, updating prices once a day.
PI requires time and effort, and I think many people consider it passive because it is a solo affair. But missions and mining are also often solo activities, and one mining run or one mission takes about the same time to complete as a day’s PI efforts. To get anything out of any of those requires attention, and PI is the same.
PI setup is ridiculously obtuse. It seems like CCP doesn’t want people to be able to figure out how PI actually works, or to be able to see how changes might impact your setup. PG and CPU are hidden behind clicks, both for your Command Center and for new structures. Multiple “submit” steps are needed to do the simplest things. Timers slow down the ability to quickly move things. Due to routing, you often have to do things is one very specific way or the local union will throw an error message. Sometimes your ECUs just wipe the settings you had for no reason at all. The sliders don’t update until you release. Some things have to happen in space, some can happen in station. All of these things lead to lost time, lost isk, and frustration.
Yeah, I hate buzzwords, but I want to talk about PI in the light of other aspects of the game. PI is good when you only have about 30 minutes to play, want to get into the game, but don’t want to fall into the rabbit whole of joining a roam or starting just one more mission. For me, the real beauty of PI is providing a steady source of seed money for other industry. My main is a FW pilot at the moment. So he tends to lose isk, and what isk he does make is tied up in modules off in a low sec station or five. I can get that stuff out to market now and then, but it takes some forethought and some specialized ships, and a fair bit of time. I’m risk averse with my loot, and a CovOps can’t really carry much and still be nigh-impossible to catch. But there is a silver lining.
I can use my PI seed money to purchase building materials for items that sell for far more than the build materials. In an odd way, Mabrick’s proposition was right. The 134m I made from the first month of PI has made me roughly 500m isk in the last month, but only because I used it to fund more lucrative operations out in low sec. FW chews through a lot of ships. Ships need modules and rigs, and I can use PI money to buy the materials to make those modules and rigs. Throw in some careful location scouting, and I have a trade/PI/stock route that manages to move everything along the circuit in the right order to save trips and make money. It’s paying for my ship loss habit, at the very least.
So my final verdict on PI would be that as a standalone mechanic, it’s pretty lousy and not a lot of fun. Combined with some planning and other industrial endeavors, PI can make a decent income.