Thanks to the Tyrannis expansion, wormhole space is now littered with rich planets and resources simply waiting to be harvested and sold on the market. However, the original system for Planetary Interaction was a maddening and obtuse clickfest that forced players more into enduring repetitive actions than preening their colonies for maximum profit.
Fortunately, Incursion 1.1.0 changed all that.
The following is a quick guide for making good money from the planets in your system. Its focus is on PI as a source of a passive income (requiring the least amount of effort for a solid profit), but there are many ways to micromanage your colonies for additional output.
(If you prefer, here is CCP’s official post-Incursion Planetary Interaction guide. However, it only deals with how to create P1 materials. Be sure to read the rest of this guide for how to create P2 or P3 materials chains, specifically for your wormhole planets.)
1. Decide on your product.
Different planets can be used to produce different PI materials, and some sell better than others. Take a moment, look at the planets in your system, and figure out which ones you can use for a passive source of income. The best products to choose are typically the ones that can be manufactured entirely on a single planet (a “single-planet chain”), since they require the least investment of time for the profit. Refer to this guide for what are your best choices, considering the planets you have:
Let’s say we have a Barren planet, and we’ve decided to make ourselves some Mechanical Parts. Reviewing the product chain on our reference page, we see:
- R0 Base Metals; R0 Noble Metals (Extractors)
- R0 Base Metals -> P1 Reactive Metals; R0 Noble Metals -> P1 Precious Metals (Basic Processors)
- P1 Reactive Metals + P1 Precious Metals = P2 Mechanical Parts (Advanced Processors)
With this in mind, it’s time to start laying our buildings.
2. Create your infrastructure.
This will require some points in the Planetology skills subset, though in wormholes, Remote Sensing isn’t useful beyond as a prerequisite. I would advise training Command Center Upgrades to V at your first opportunity–even IV’s Advanced Command Centers will give you good profits for your clickfests, but the returns from level V’s Elites are quite worth the investment of time. Train Interplanetary Consolidation at your convenience; but the more planets, the better.
The simplest and most efficient approach to building our infrastructure, like tanking, is the “spider.”
- First, identify the best planet of those available for what you’ll need. Using the Planet Mode for each of our Barren planets in turn, we can compare the overall level of Base and Noble Metals. Since Noble Metals are the least-present, they are our defining characteristic:
From this, we can see that Planet III is the best choice for initial surveys. Keep in mind, though, that scans don’t tell the whole story–simply because a planet has a low overall resource doesn’t mean it can’t have one or two giant hot-spots you could tap.
- After entering the specific planet’s interaction window, you’ll need to identify the two resource hotspots you’ll need for your chain. Do so by locating the best hotspot of the rarer material (the one that requires you to slide farther down on the scale to see). This one is your bottleneck resource, and it’ll determine the rest of your PI setup. In our given example, it’s Noble Metals.
(click to enlarge)
Instead of single promising hot-spots, try to look for a collection of them grouped close together, or a “field” of them. Hot-spots deplete now, and giving yourself only one location to work from can easily stunt your colony down the road.
As we can see above, placing an Extraction Control Unit in the center of the three spots on the left will give us options down the road.
- Select the nearest large hotspot of the other resource you’ll need (in our case, Barren Metals).
(click to enlarge)
The camera view was not shifted between the previous image and this one. Therefore, we can guess that a PI system set up roughly in the center of the screen would be able to take advantage of both hot-spots. You may need to rotate your planet a few times, switching back and forth between each resource scan, to find the optimal spot for your new colony.
- Double-check to make sure no other players have placed extractors on the hotspots you’ll be using. To do this, first right-click the planet and select “Show Other Character’s Networks”. Then select any resource and drag the Scan bar all the way to the left (highlighted below) to white-out the planet. Other players’ Command Centers should become visible, and you can click on any to see their whole network. Below is an example of another player’s system I found on this planet; fortunately, it’s from one of my own alts.
(click to enlarge)
As a rule of thumb, if you’ve identified a hotspot, it’s because there’s no one currently extracting there. But it doesn’t hurt to check.
- Place your Command Center roughly halfway between the two hot spots. (You will need to have it in your cargohold to launch it.) Whenever you enter PI mode for this planet, your view will always auto-center on your Command Center, so it helps to have it as close to the action as possible.
- Upgrade your Command Center. To do this, click on the placed Command Center and select along the bar as far as your Command Center Upgrades skill will allow:
- The first buildings we’re actually going to drop are our Extraction Control Units. Using the hot-spots identified earlier, we’ll place a single(1) Extraction Control Unit as directly in the center of both fields as we can:
- Once we have set both Extraction Control Units, place a Spaceport as in-the-middle between them as possible, and Ctrl-select them to link them. (The closer to the center of a direct line the Center is on, the less precious CPU/PG the links will take up.) The Spaceport will be our central location to route all resources, launch our finished product, and generally keep an eye on how well things are running:
- The two links you’ve just made will have a large amount of raw resources traveling over them. We’ll need to upgrade the links. It’s important to do this now, as it will help us gauge how many other buildings we can safely place. To do so, click directly on each link between the structures, click the green + sign on the left, and select “Upgrade”. We’ll only need it to Level 1 for now:
- As stated, every building takes up CPU and PG. To help us accurately decide how many extractors we can place per Control Unit, we need to build our Processors now. Since we’re making a P2 product (Mechanical Parts), we’ll need a ratio of 2 Basic Processors to each Advanced Processor. I personally like to place my Processors in a Y-pattern, keeping each product distinct visually (one arm for Reactive Metals, one for Precious Metals, and the last for Mechanical Parts):
Note: This guide assumes Command Center Upgrades has been trained to V. Adjust your individual colony appropriately if this is not the case.
Link each Processor to the Processor next to it, not directly to the Spaceport; this will come in handy for double-checking routes later. Make sure you also install the appropriate schematic in each Processor, then route all output directly to the Spaceport with your friend double-click. We’ll link our other input and output materials later, once our Extractor programs are installed.
- Now that all the other CPU/PG needs are spoken for, we’re finally ready to start placing our Extractor Head Units. To do so, double-click both of the Extractor Control Units and activate enough Heads to take up half of the CPU remaining (usually between 2 and 4, often 3). First, select a duration for your plan. I personally set my Extractors on 4-day cycles (96 hours) and collect products every 8 days. Second, adjust your resource scan so that the white spots showing are just enough to fit your Extractor Heads inside. Third, space out your Extractor Heads, spreading them equally across your hotspots; too many Heads on one hotspot will mean depletion before your program ends.
Here we can see the result for Base Metals:
(click to enlarge)
Note: Some planets, like Gas planets, have resources that are in bands fairly distant from each other. Your links to the Spaceport may take up enough CPU/PG that you’ll only be able to place two Extractor Heads per resource and two of each type of Processor.
Now we’ll do the same for our other resource, Noble Metals:
(click to enlarge)
Our last step here is to compare the “Total” resources gathered for the period selected (highlighted in the image above). As you can see, we placed 3 Extractor Heads over the Base Metals and 4 over the Precious Metals; this was to near-balance the overall amounts at 1,190,805 Base and 1,545,669 Noble respectively. We can easily adjust the number of Heads in future cycles, if we find ourselves accumulating too much of one type.
Install your programs and Submit the changes on your planet.
- Now it’s finally time for the (comparatively) grueling task of routing all our products. To route the Extractors, double-click on the Extraction Control Units, select the “Route” button (second from left), double-click the material listed, and then double-click your Spaceport to route to it. Yes, double-click is your friend at this point:
You’ll want to double-check the usage on your two main links by hovering over them (see above). If the percentage listed is between 50% and 100%, you’re golden. If it’s listed at 100%, it means that it’s maxed, there are resources that can’t be transferred along it, and that you need to upgrade it. If it’s below 50%, it means you can downgrade it a level and still be safe (since each level doubles what it can handle).
- Time for the final step of our colony establishment: completing the last routes. We routed the outputs when we created each Processor, and now it’s time to route all input materials to their appropriate Processors. Luckily, since everything is ending up in our Spaceport, this can all be done from one location:
(click to enlarge)
You will need to route Base Metals to those producing Reactive, Noble to those producing Precious, and both Reactive and Precious to the Advanced Processors. To do so, double-click the Spaceport, select the input material (Noble Metals in the above illustration), select “Create Route”, and then double-click one of the appropriate Basic Processors. You will need to do this three separate times for each material (i.e. once for each Processor).
- Double-check that all your routes ” took” correctly. You don’t want to wait for the end of your program to realize a Processor either isn’t receiving or sending properly. The easiest way to do this, with our Y-shaped setup, is to select the Processor closest to the Spaceport and view the “Routes” (second button from right):
You should be able to successfully see all materials passing through the selected Processor. For example, here we can see 3 Noble Metal routes exiting from the Spaceport (one is hidden beyond the top of the window) and 3 Precious Metal routes returning. Advanced Processors will have an extra set, with the three different materials that pass through them.
3. Readjusting your setup.
We’ve already seen that it’s basically impossible, with the nature of depleting and shifting hot-spots, to make sure you’re extracting in mathematically-perfect proportions. Consequently, we will need to double-check how each colony is doing when we reset the program and adjust it if need be.
Thanks again to the Incursion patch, we no longer must wait for the entire program to complete before pausing, canceling, or restarting it. Whenever is most convenient for you, you can reinstall each program for another cycle.
Before you do, however, click on your Spaceport and judge the materials sitting inside. Since we’ve set the Spaceport as the repository of all materials before they’re sent off, it’s the best indicator of our colony’s health. If you find a serious backlog of one type of material (at least 1/3 of the entire space of the Spaceport for me), re-adjust the proportions of Extractor Heads:
Looks like it’s time to add more Noble Metal Extractor Heads. (click to enlarge)
Don’t forget to double-check the traffic over the links afterwards. It’s no good to set up another Extraction Head if the product can’t fit over the connection. To do so, simply hover your mouse over the Extraction Control Unit, and the percentage will automatically show:
With this setup, your PI colony can now run as hands-off as possible.
As stated, I personally set my Extractors on 4-day cycles (96 hours) and collect products every 8 days. Planetary Interaction, to me, should be an easy, hassle-free source of passive income. However, it can certainly be milked for more, if you’re willing to invest the time required playing and optimizing.
If you intend to play on shorter cycles, or if you simply do not have Command Center Upgrades V, you will have to play around with the ratio of Extractors and Processors. Shorter cycles will mean more output, which translates to either more Processors or fewer Extractors. A lower CPU/PG from a lower level of Command Centers also means that you will not be able to power as many pins, and you’ll need to discover which ratio works best for you.
With a character set up decently for PI (or two or three), it’s not hard to bring in hundreds of millions of isk a week, simply dumping to buy orders. Take a gander at the planets in your system, decide your product, and go for it.