A History of (my) Money

A Note: As I wrote this, I realized it’s not so much “A History of My Money” as it is “A History of What I’ve Done in Eve”. Even ‘back in the day’ when I logged in and PvPed a lot more than I do now, splashing about in the economic and meta side of the game has always been my real interest, and it is perhaps failure to fully appreciate that that accounts for my handful of burnouts over my career.

Every now and then I get asked about how I made all my isk. Most recently, that came in the form of “mynnna, did you amass your wealth reasonably gradually, or was it one big score that capitalised you and facilitated all the bigger plays?”

“Some of both” doesn’t say very much, and since talking about yourself is always fun, why not?

My net value in-game hovers right around two trillion isk, overwhelmingly concentrated in a pile of assets in Jita 4-4. That doesn’t include characters, which are worth another 500b isk even valued merely at PLEX value (divide the value of a PLEX by the SP you can train in a month and that’s a sensible if simplified minimum character value.) Most of that is moon minerals that I’m still waiting on for eventual appreciation in value, and if I hold them long enough for them to go where I expect, that number climbs to more like three and a half to four trillion. Sounds like a big number, and certainly is, but one thing to keep in mind – I’m far from the richest person in EVE. The most visible candidate for that title is probably Somer Mahm, operator of Somer Blink. If Somer’s personal take of the nearly two quadrillion isk the operation prominently claims winners have taken home is even just 1%, that’s twenty trillion isk. And, with the average margin on each and every paid Blink rarely sitting lower than 20-25%, there’s every reason to believe it’s higher. Then again, so much of those winnings are in the form of credit that just gets wagered again, and of course there are all the promos, freebies, and *cough* “giveaways”. Nevertheless, there’s ample money and even more assets floating around New Eden, and consequently there are fortunes out there that dwarf mine. The difference is that for the most part, they’re not so public about it.

But I digress. One of the things that’d probably be most surprising to people is how relatively little time it took for me to amass what I do have. While I’ve played since early 2006, the vast bulk of my fortune has only really come in just the past year. The short answer to the original question would be something like “I didn’t really make money very well at all at first, then I started amassing it reasonably gradually, and then it exploded as a result of a tremendous succession of big scores.”

The long answer is, well, longer. I started playing in March of 2006 and for much of the rest of the year was actually pretty alarmingly carebeary, taking advantage of the mining and ratting in Syndicate to claw my way to the ability to farm the Intaki Space Police agent in that constellation. Back then, those agents gave out offers for Snake Implants, so if you were lucky enough to get one (there was no LP store then, just random periodic “missions” where you traded LP for whatever you were offered) it was quite a boon. Despite losing my first ever Snake Omega to a gatecamping pirate in a sniping battleship in lowsec (for I had no instas) I managed to make and retain perhaps a billion isk. To the modern “average goon” that’s pocket change, but at the time it was quite a hefty fortune. By the end of our accidental invasion of XZH, though, I was basically flat broke, as were most goons. Even if we’d had the alliance-wide capacity to do SRP, the notion was an exceedingly foreign one in EVE at large at the time; even if it hadn’t been, Remedial (the CEO of the era) was a staunch free market libertarian type who would have scoffed at such an idea anyway.

After XZH, of course, there was Band of Brothers. “There are no goons, goodbye” and all that drivel. I actually simply got my hands on new mission equipment and moved up to Poitot (something something named system) and got a little money back, in between hilarious antics involving mass newbie ship swarms with gimmicky names. After BoB declared victory and departed, we moved to Scalding Pass, blah blah blah a lot of history goes here. Over the next year and a half or so I dabbled in various things – ratting, the Serpentis agents in Curse, even my first of a handful of forays into Industry – needless to say, building battleships deep in nullsec before Jump Freighters existed was sort of like industry hardcore mode, and 40-50 hulls a week was an impressive number. Still, my predilection towards flying and occasionally losing expensively fit Vagabonds while harassing Lokta Volterra and other foes meant I largely lived hand to mouth, never really building up much of a reserve.

At some point mid-2008, after running one exploration complex to learn the system and coming out with a few hundred million isk, I decide to try my hand at station trading. It wasn’t nearly so crowded a profession as it is today and finding items with generous margins was often trivial. Over the next six months, that isk turned into 18 billion. A modest success, but more than I’d ever made before, to be sure. Then I quit, burned out over EVE and something else, and – sure I’d never come back – gave most of it away.

Just a few months later, BoB was disbanded, and I resubbed along with many others. Before long I was back to station trading. However, after my previous relative fortune, I found fooling around with a scant few billion isk decidedly unsatisfying, so I decided to short circuit the process. I launched a bond offering, looking for 50 billion isk at a 10% return. Rather unlike bond offerings in the Market Discussions forum (a practice that is, these days, all but dead thanks to one scam after another) Goons are largely trusting of other Goons, and I’d never been shy about talking about my previous successes. One more helpful factor is that Goons were (and still are) lazy, and so will jump at any way of easy isk. Letting someone else make isk for you, of course, is the easiest way possible. In just a couple of days, I had my 50 billion isk, and very quickly hit the opposite problem – it’s actually quite a bit of work to keep 50b isk active, at least when you’re limited to generic margin trading. Which, I was – back then I was quite a bit less knowledgeable about the markets, so “trade across the margin” was it. Fortunately, a different opportunity presented itself – faction arbitage. Goons might be lazy, but the average line member is nonetheless a prolific ratter, something usually visible on Dotlan. That includes exploration, too. Back then, however, we lacked the shipping services we have today, so imports and exports to and from Empire was a lot harder. And once you got your faction loot there, you had to deal with contracts to sell it. Contracts couldn’t be easily adjusted, didn’t last all that long, and so no one else wanted to deal with them, either. “Dump to buy orders” wasn’t an option, because what buy contracts did exist were tremendous lowballs priced at half or less the sale value of the item. It seemed like a niche. I purchased a Jump Freighter and opened up shop. Sure enough, it was smashingly popular. To goons, getting 80-85% of market value instantly and without hassle beat the hell out of trying to get it sold themselves, and before long the venture had consumed most of my capital. Profits were good, and I all but neglected other trade in Jita in favor of lucrative market seeding in Delve. Alas, juggling school and EVE once again burned me out, and not long before Dominion, I very messily closed shop, liquidated my assets and paid off investors. In my haste I wasn’t overly concerned with wealth preservation for myself, and so was left with nothing but a few billion isk and a modest pile of a Neodymium and Technetium that, prompted by a brief but oddly informative devblog, I’d bought on a whim. Unfortunately, I sold them both (latter especially, of course) much too early, preferring to simply hold cash during my break from the game.

During that break, of course, Goonswarm famously dropped sovereignty in Delve and was disbanded by Karttoon shortly after. The alliance moved to Syndicate and then to eventually to Deklein. Tyrannis lands, along with it one of the largest single patch events the game has ever seen – the implementation of Planetary Interaction. A whole slew of previously NPC seeded goods were converted to player produced items… yet left on the market for some time. Dozens of goons and many other players besides made enormous investments, buying up those items for a small fraction of their brand new production cost. Guidance Systems are probably the most famous of them, and there are still multi-million unit stockpiles out in the wild even to this day. Alas, I was absent for this, still unsubbed, and so missed out on the opportunity for an overnight tenfold increase of my fortune. I came back sometime between Incursion and Incarna, promptly restarted the faction business (supplementing the 25 billion or so I had with another 30b isk bond that filled even faster than the first), and ran that for over a year. Goonswarm had, by then, recovered nicely from its trials after Delve and customers were abundant. Before long I had all the capital I needed to maintain operations, pay off the bond, and do other things, so I started looking around for other opportunities. Sure that CCP would fix R64s someday I started picking up Thulium, for example. No one had any idea when CCP might fix moons, but at less than 2,000 isk per unit, it seemed like a steal – a long term lotto ticket, if you will. There was money to be made on other events as well, of course.

Early in 2012 it came out that CCP would be adding all faction, deadspace and officer items to the market. Knowing full well that margin traders would drive buy and sell prices together and kill my business model (why sell to me for 80-85% when you could use the shipping services we then had to send it to Jita and dump for 90%+), I closed down the operation and unloaded my remaining loot. I was able to fully cash out well before the patch, though some other faction dealers were not quite so lucky. (Incidentally, I’d come close to figuring out that trick but was unknowingly crippled by my preference for setting contracts to one week expiration – the trick relied on absolute age and so required a two week duration to work. Kwark still paid handsomely for his own stock, though, and so I made good money flipping modules from Goon mission runners who had an odd, almost robotic level of output. Don’t ask, don’t tell.)  He took a large bath on his vast holdings. Infused with a surplus of cash, I set about getting more involved in the market. But I’d learned a lot over the past year or so and so got more into advanced trading and investment techniques, things that offered larger returns over longer timeframes and so took less effort, rather than simple margin trading. I did stumble onto this hilarious oversight just a few days before the thread was posted, and decided to buy up as much as I could, refine it, and then file a petition to let CCP know and sell after it was fixed. I was beat to the punch on the last part, but not putting almost a third of my isk into the books. As it turns out, CCP took it seriously enough to do a quick patch on a Sunday, quite a novel event even if it was as simple as temporarily removing the item from the market. A couple days later they reseeded it, but it refined into a few units of Tritanium at that point. Even then I know a few people who lost their shirts by not refining immediately. Indecisiveness rarely pays off when it comes to speculation.In any case, though, Pax Amarria was a one-shot thing, so I needed other things to do. Fortunately, as it turns out, I’d found them two weeks previous.

It’s a not-at-all kept secret that CCP’s “Chaos” test server can be connected to by anyone. You can’t log into it, but you can patch a client, and then use “Reverence” to sift through the data files and see what’s changed. These days CCP is quite a bit cagier about what they put there, and has been known to outright troll the players, but it wasn’t always the case. Early in March, I found, via a publicly posted “diff” (a differential change log) by Sarmatiko, the changes from that day. They included Rogue Drone rats getting bounties. The implications were rather obvious – the longstanding mineral fountain that were the Drone Regions were about to get hit with a nerfbat. Like most people, I assumed that the drone alloys overproduced high ends, and so their removal would cause them to spike. It was, in hindsight, an awfully shortsighted assumption. The mass production of Supercapitals with minerals sourced from those very alloys wasn’t exactly a secret, after all, and how could that be possible unless the alloys offered a relatively balanced mineral basket? Still, early knowledge via the Chaos leak meant I hit high ends hard, and well ahead of most other people, and it wouldn’t be long before my oversight would be corrected.

Around this time I actually took the time to acknowledge that Twitter existed and the #tweetfleet tag was a thing. It didn’t take me long to find the (now defunct) twitter feed of CCP Diagoras, and no time at all past that to become a big fan. Diagoras was part of CCP’s Research and Statistics team, among other things, and so each and every day tweeted things he found in the course of his work. The twitter feed is a wealth of information, some of it interesting from a trivia perspective, and some of it invaluable data providing a look into the guts of New Eden’s economy with a detail that’s never been seen since, and certainly never will be again – CCP knows better, these days. Given the upcoming changes, one set of tweets relating to the amount of minerals obtained through any sort of refining was obviously of interest. On first glance, they seemed to confirm my assumption. A few days later, though, that assumption flew out the window thanks to this set of tweets, which provided average mining volumes for February. When taken together, it was possible to roughly estimate where minerals from refining were actually coming from – mining, or non-mining sources? As it turned out, the data showed that those “non-mining sources”, the largest of which were the drone alloys, may have been providing as much as 40% of the game’s Zydrine and Megacyte, but also provided 60% of the Tritanium, Mexallon and Isogen and a whopping 70% of the game’s Pyerite and Nocxium.

Already I’d been planning to take my profit and move into low ends in anticipation of upcoming demand from Tiericide, as by then it was known that the initiative would involve adjusting build costs. Needless to say the revelation about what was really oversupplied sealed the deal and aside from a brief excursion to the edge of the sandbox, focused on shifting the bulk of my cash into low ends. While it turned out that high ends rose on that very same tiericide demand, taking the profit early to buy low ends was the right choice. I sold out into the mid-summer peak and profited handsomely, rebought after the hysteria and chaos diminished a bit, and split between building a relatively modest amount of cruisers and selling minerals to everyone else doing the same for Retribution. Rinse and repeat for Battlecruisers in Retribution 1.1, though those minerals were supplemented by the gains realized from a largely overlooked change involving scan probes and containers. It was all NPC seeded up until Retribution, and CCP decided to make them player built and seeded blueprints. As it turns out in the initial pass, though, they’d flubbed something – I want to say it was one of the containers, but I can’t remember for sure – and given it a dramatically higher mineral value than its current NPC value. And, they could be bought in infinite supply. The value was obvious, but fortunately I bided my time. Why tip CCP off? This proved to be a good thing, as just before the patch they caught and fixed the mistake. Scrambling to find something else to do with the isk I’d freed up, myself and a collaborator instead hit nearly every NPC sell of Gaze Survey Probe in the game, up until we’d bought enough to increase the price (many NPC commodities fluctuate in price based on buy and sell volume). As a humorous aside, some poor sap didn’t wait, and for all we know is still in possession of tens of thousands of overpriced containers a jump or two from Jita. Whoops.

Of course, well before all of that, but only a couple months after OTEC was announced (sidenote: OTEC was a complete sham, or more correctly, a hilarious and trolly name for a what was really little more than a NAP with other Technetium owners. The undersupply that drove the massive price spike was completely natural) came this trivial little devblog. Then brand new developer CCP Fozzie was taking a stab at the broken-ass state of moon minerals in EVE and seemed intent on doing it right. The first crack was introducing Alchemy, of course, but it seemed as though another rebalance of moon mineral inputs, much like the one that had broken things in the first place, was inevitable. If it weren’t obvious enough, the devblog even acknowledged that. As a result, I minimized (relatively speaking) my investments into Battlecruisers and Battleships and instead started acquiring more R64s. This time, I assumed, CCP would get it right.

CCP revealed Oddyssey at PAX East in late March, 2013, and needless to say, someone screwed up. It was still a month and a half to the expansion, and yet they showed off a slide like this? Despite the mistaken inclusion of Titanium rather than Thulium, the implication was extremely clear and made me very happy to be sitting on my cache of R64s. The Ice miner was a little more cryptic, yet just as telling in its own way. It offered no clue as to what CCP had planned, yet thanks to the nature of ice at the time – massive, literally infinite asteroids that could be mined by dozens of miners all day without exhausting – its value was in the crater. What could they possibly do to drive it lower? The most important factor in effective market speculation is getting in first, and so on the basis of that logic, I quickly and decidedly prematurely sold out of all of my tiericide Battlecruisers for a modest profit and dropped a pile of money on isotopes. That decision was vindicated a week or so later, when another Chaos leak showed ice belts vanishing from the game as static objects, and vindicated again by CCP Soundwave, who said in an interview I think ice is very underplayed as a very tactical resource. Like it should essentially be the oil of Eve Online… It would be good if it was something that people thought about instead of something you get from endless mining barges in Empire that may or may not be piloted by people.

Indeed.

Fast forward a bit, Fanfest confirms everything, Odyssey is deployed a little less than a month later, and the markets all go apeshit. The rest is basically history. Of course, by that time I’d already taken office on CSM8, which put a damper on my normal speculative market play. I’ve occupied myself since then by slowly liquidating investments and investing them into other things, mostly still underpriced moongoos, and riding the price cycles inherent to advanced reaction products – the reaction farm operators of the game tend towards a herd instinct, which results in inevitable cycles of crashes and spikes in their outputs. Presumably I can afford to be patient, and yet I’m getting bored. And so, instead of reinvesting as I liquidate, I’m getting out into other things. Market manipulations, industry, whatever. Still, the bulk of my wealth is bundled up in a pile of R64s sixty million units high, none of which have a name starting with “D” – I sold that all long ago. And so, most of my plans and schemes simply have to wait, as I don’t have the liquid cash to pursue them all. At least not yet.

Perhaps that’s for the better, though. I’d hate to incite all my planned chaos all at once.

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8 thoughts on “A History of (my) Money

    • Since market speculating requires lots of record keeping, he likely only has to go back through his spreadsheets and financial reports to jog his memory. Or he could just have eidetic memory.

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      • Sort of neither really. I rarely actually write anything down. In writing the post I wound up looking up patch notes and so forth quite a bit to properly put things in context – I remembered what I’d done or could place it near significant events, but not remember when it was. And in most cases, I’d be hard pressed to tell you quantities and prices.

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  1. I’m forever confused every time I stumble upon confessions like this about someone’s wealth accumulation. On one hand I’m utterly amazed and can only say kudos sir for all of your ingenious speculations, and/or predictions about game mechanics, changes and ability to conclude from whispers among the not so or known eve chatter. On the other hand, it really makes me wonder what the hell I’m wasting my most important currency – time on? I guess the obvious answer would be – every one of us gives and takes from eve what he can and/or wants, and tbh, I never put in nearly amount of both time and effort as you did, but then again, I am enjoying my time in eve, mostly due to my friends with whom I love to be around doing whatever we do.
    Still, every time I try to invest time and effort in making isk (so I can seamlessly enjoy blowing stuff up), I read a blog or forum post like this and I get utterly depressed by it. Billions, trillions, tens of trillions etc of anything that I will probably never have, are actually in someones pocket, due to this or that way of thinking/scheming/prediction or just timing, and it all just flows by me somehow. Ah well, guess I’m not that special kind of cookie my mother used to tell me ;)
    Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed all of your time in eve, and are still.

    Thanks for the post, was an interesting and great read.

    o/

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    • I dabble in it every once in awhile but it’s never been any huge cornerstone, always more of a thing I could do if I didn’t have something else to do instead.

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  2. Very interesting article, you made a lot of smart plays over the years.

    If you have a lot of liquid ISK, are you parking that in PLEX? or do you think PLEX prices may fall one day?

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