Eve going mainstream?

As I write this Eve is back in the gaming cultural zeitgeist. After 13 years of subscription only play Eve is one of the last MMO's to offer a free to play element. It's back on the front page of Reddit and the next few months should prove to be very exciting. So I find myself writing about my experiences returning to Eve at a time of transition for the venerable MMO.

A common assertion about Eve is that it is a game about spreadsheets. That isn't strictly true as Eve, like most games, is database with a fancy graphics engine. But there is a way to turn Eve into a spreadsheet simulator and that's to try margin trading.

Massively multiplayer capitalism

The thing that makes Eve so unique is its player driven economy. It is the dynamic player centered economy ever seen in video gaming.It is so complex CCP had to hire it's own economist to understand what they had created. Other games like Elite Dangerous have economies that respond to player inputs but the economy but the market is still controlled by the game. In Eve 90% of the your purchases and sales will be with other players. It is an Anarcho-Capitalist's fantasy land of unregulated speculation, industry and trading. If you want to turn Eve into a game about spreadsheets then trading is the way to do it

There are two ways to trade in Eve, by things cheap in one place and sell them somewhere else where the goods are more expensive or sit around in a station and game the market for fun and profit. The latter is where the real deniro is to be made and having never done it successfully when I started I decided I'd give it a go.

Margin trading

The concept behind market trading is simple, buy goods and then sell them for more money. This works because players are lazy, they head to market hubs to dump their unwanted items for less than they are worth because they need the money now, and they buy goods at a massive markup because they can't be bothered to fly 3 systems over to get them cheaper.

So I did some research and placed an order for some Tech II Armor Hardeners at around 30% less than what they were selling for. Within a few hours I’d managed to buy around 10 of them and sold them each for a tidy profit even after broker fee’s.

This was great, but it wasn't about to start bringing in the big bucks, so I turned to youtube and google to try and figure out how to do this better. And the answer is diversify, find a number of trade goods, set up buy orders and roll with that. I found spreadsheets that tapped into the games API to give you real time feedback on your profit margins. I later found an application called Evernus that did this on a massive scale giving you serious market intelligence.

This made me much more successful and I started making much more money, upwards of 5 to 6 million a day on each good I was trading.

How to margin trade

But by god is it boring. The gameplay cycle is essentially this:

  1. Identify through your fancy spreadsheet or Evernus some goods with around 35% to 50% profit and that sell at a reasonable volume
  2. Place buy orders for these goods and set the price to a tiny bit more than the most expensive buy order already on the market. If you set your buy order to high you will eat into your margins and make less money.
  3. Come back 5 minutes later to check you are still the most expensive buy order, you won't be so change the price to be ever so slightly higher than the new most expensive order
  4. Repeat this over and over again until people have sold you some stuff
  5. Place sell orders for your newly acquired goods at slightly cheaper than the current cheapest sell order
  6. Come back 5 minutes later to check you are still the cheapest, if not amend the sell order so you are
  7. Repeat until you've sold all your stuff
  8. Go back to step 1.

Playing this way is dull and Eve offers so much more than a glorified Bloomberg terminal. But the fact this works is astonishing, if you are really smart and you can read the economy you can make big bets on future prices and make immense amounts of money.

But these systems are what make Eve tick, what I was doing was crude. Smarter players than me will find there is a whole world of market manipulation, deal making and double crossing. Every ship blown up in the lawlessness of null space will have been mined, manufactured and sold on the open market before it became a glorious fireball on someones monitor.

This is Eve at it's worst and it's best. It's most monotonous and it's most competitive. Its why it's survived 13 years, longer than World of Warcraft, longer than Guild Wars and certainly longer than Everquest 2. It is baffling, complicated, and on the face of it extremely dull. It is arguably the most important video game ever made. And it's about to get a lot more interesting.


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