EVE Online: Crafting. In. Spaaaaaace.

"A million and a half? Are you joking?"

Wyl glanced over his shoulder at his corpmate, who sat across the room, flipping through screen after screen of Sinq Laison public market reports. "Troubles?"

"I'd rather be shot at," muttered Ty. He tapped one screen closed and pulled up local private contracts available for the same products, but judging from his reaction, Wyl guessed the results weren't any better. "At least with pirates, you know what's going on: you want to kill them, they want to kill you. Simple. With this..." He flipped the screen to the side and spun in his chair, watching the ceiling. "I can't tell if the prices on some of these modules are that high because people are stupid, or greedy, or if there's actually a good reason."

Wyl nodded, only half listening while he pulled up some production schematics. "Bet on greedy. You still trying to fit that old Vexor for the Duvole outpost?"

"It's a tractor beam!" Ty threw his arms toward the ceiling. "I could understand a big price tag for the weaponized version of the tech -- ship webs are a hot item, I get that -- but an industrial tractor beam? For a million-five? It's like someone misplaced a decimal point."

"Mmm," Wyl said. He'd pulled up two armor repair schematics he'd planned on loading into the station factories today, but frowned when he saw the production and material efficiency ratings -- no one had optimized the blueprints, and it was going to cost them more than the corp was prepared to pay if he ran them as they were.

"Then there's the new cargo containers," Ty said. "CONCORD says we can't haul passengers in airtight, vacuum-sealed environments, but I don't see the problem. I mean it's not like they'd spoil."

"Mmm," Wyl said. Maybe he could get Shoi on comms and see if she had some room in her schedule to tighten the plans up before they ran them. She was some kind of wizard with production research. They could...

"And even if they did go bad," Ty continued, "that's what the jettison button's for, am I right?"

"Sure..." Wyl murmured, turning back to his terminal to pull up Shoi's contact info. Halfway though the call code, his fingers stopped. "Wait. What?"

"Finally caught up to the rest of the conversation?" Ty smirked. "We're both rubbish when we got a screen in front of us."

"Sorry." Wyl rubbed at his eyes. "I'm distracted. We've got to do something with these blueprint originals before we --"

"Hey!" Ty sat up. "Blueprints! Can we get a tractor beam blueprint?" He didn't wait for the answer, spinning the chair back to his own terminal and pulling the market scroll back up. "Oh... yes we can. Hellooo, purchase order..."

"Ty," Wyl began. "My production queue is pretty full right now."

"Not a problem," the pilot replied. "I'll handle it."

"Y--" Wyl coughed. "Sorry. You'll handle it?"

"Sure." Ty confirmed the purchase and sat back, lacing his hands behind his head. "I do run production jobs, you know."

"I know," Wyl was forced to agreed for the sake of accuracy; what his friend said was, technically, true. "But pulling into random stations with a cargohold full of looted serpentis wrecks and melting the components down to make more railgun ammo isn't exactly the same as managing a whole factory op."

"Hey, I'm not trying to step on your toes," Ty smiled, raising his hands. "But I don't want to clog up your workflow. I'll deal with the tractor beams."

Wyl's brow creased along familiar lines. "Are you sure?"

"Sure I'm sure," Ty popped out of his chair, looking far more comfortable in motion than he did hunched in front of a terminal. "It's like they said back in Academy training when I was putting those Navitas frigates together: 'Anyone who knows which way to hold the blueprint can build a battleship.'"

"Well..." Wyl said. "I suppose that's technically true, but --"

"Sure. I know. It's not that simple." Ty shrugged. "I just want some tractor beams." He grinned. "Maybe I'll even make some extras and undersell those thieves in Dodixie."

"That..." Wyl struggled for a suitable reply. "That would be nice. If that happened. Yes."

"Excellent." His friend rubbed his hands together. "Time to go get some raw materials. CB!" He shouted down the hallway.


"Feel like a mining expedition?" Ty winked at Wyl and strode out of the room.

Wyl watched him go, the corner of his mouth twitching in the very faintest hint of a smirk, quickly supressed.

"He'll learn," he murmured, then turned back to the comms window to call Shoi.

The crafting system in Eve is complex and not readily accessible without doing some research and having more than a few question and answer sessions between you and more experienced players.

But on the surface, it looks pretty much like any other MMOs crafting system:

  • Collect the raw materials.

  • Process the raw materials.

  • Get the "recipe" for the item you want.

  • Use the recipe to make the item you want.

  • Repeat.

That was the impression that I was left with after finishing the EVE new player tutorial several months ago, because the tutorial itself is kept simple: you are sent out to collect ore for a couple of very basic items, then led through the process of feeding a blueprint copy into the manufacturing queue in the tutorial station. In the end you have a few shiny frigates to sell on the market (probably to people who are going to reprocess them back into their component materials).

My experience with crafting in other MMOs is one that places the entire experience somewhat to the side of the "main" game -- a nice-to-have (assuming it's a good system), but nothing that will make you or break you if you ignore it, and (in many MMOs) so cumbersome and unbalanced that it often isn't worth the effort.

Most importantly, in terms of drawing a comparison to EVE, in other MMOs the crafting system is something that can be entirely ignored by the playerbase in favor of simply killing bad guys, taking their stuff, and "repurposing" the best shiny bits as your own.

The reason I mention that last bit is because of the stark contrast it draws -- if the players in EVE all ignored "the crafting system", there would quite literally be no game to play. Miners would have no reason to mine. Scientists would have nothing to research. Pilots would have no ships to fly, no guns to mount on those ships, no ammunition for the guns, and (with the exception of NPC pirates) no one to shoot. Basically, no ships and almost no ship fittings enter the game if a player didn't set out to build them. (With the exception of those fittings provided by NPCs via their violent demise.)

The daunting part of this isn't in the basic system, but in the details. As I mentioned above, the core steps don't seem to be any more complex than any other MMO: get stuff, melt stuff, remake the stuff into new stuff.

It turns out there's a bit more to it than that.