The advantage of Planetary Interaction [PI for short] is that its relatively easy to get into. There are only a few skills and they are relatively cheap. The Command Centres used to start a PI network are also cheap as are the upgrades on the planet. PI makes a good, semi-passive income for a new pilot. You can also tailor it to your preferred level of interaction.
There are five planetary skills and you can get them all for just under 10 MISK. These skills are; Command Centre Upgrades, Interplanetary Consolidation, Remote Sensing, Planetology and Advanced Planetology. More on these later. However there is one hidden skill that you need. The person who owns the network needs to have a industrial ship to haul the materials from planet to market. Fortunately there is a ship especially designed for doing just that. The Epithal has a special cargo bay that is meant for planetary materials. The bay is larger than anything that a normal industrial is capable of so its worth the price straight away. It only needs basic skills to use as well.
Command Centre Upgrades - This skill determines the maximum upgrade level of your command centre. The higher the level, the more power and CPU your network has to build facilities. To get the most out of your planets you are going to want this skill at 4 at least. Level 5 is recommended. Your network on a planet has power and CPU limitations just like a ship does. The facilities and links on the planet use up those resources. This includes how many extractor heads you can manage so it has a direct affect on output.
Interplanetary Consolidation - You start with the ability to manage one planet. For each level of Interplanetary Consolidation you are able to manage another planet to a maximum of six planets. Its not essential to train this to level 5 unless you have a complex and interconnected network of planets. Some end products need the materials of several planets to achieve and that is where the number of planets you have would matter.
Remote Sensing - At first glance people might ignore this skill. However its very important if you don't want to be tied closely to your planets. Remote sensing allows you to see the coloured resource overlay for a planet at distance. This means you can scout planets at long range and check their resource concentrations. It also lets you position your extractor heads over those resource concentrations. That means you can restart your mining operations from up to 9 light years away from the planet. That makes it easier to manage the planet since you would only have to go to the system to move things to the customs office. Everything else can be done remotely.
Planetology and Advanced Planetology - These skills dictate how accurate the coloured resource overlay is on your display. Low skills mean the real concentrations might be somewhere else. Higher skills means the overlay is more accurate. This is important for positioning your extractor heads so they get the best yield. Since concentrations move and change based on mining activity, you will use this skill often to move your extractor and the extractor heads.
NOTE: There are some new skills coming out with the Rubicon Patch in Nov 2013. I will update this post when they do.
Looking for a Planet
There are two approaches to selecting a planet to do PI on. The first is look at what you have near you and make what you can. The other is to decide what you want to build and find planets that can supply what you need. For both you are going to need an idea of what makes what. I recommend the following PDF chart which shows the products you can make and the raw materials needed. It also shows the planets each material comes from. Eve_PI_Diagrams_v1_4.pdf (application/pdf Object)
Either way you are going to have to look at scans of planets. To access the planet view do one of the following; Click the planet in space and select the planet view from the overview, use the system menu to navigate to a planet and select "View in Planet Mode", Right click a planet in the solar system view and select "View in Planet Mode" or get the Show Info window on any system in range and right click a planet in the "Orbital Bodies" tab and choose "View in Planet Mode". This last option lets you search planets from the starmap or from other planet search methods like the People and Places.
Planets have different resource availability based on the security of the system they are in. High sec planets have the worst yields. It then gets better as you go from Low sec to Null and lastly, wormholes have the best yields. To add to the temptation to go into lawless space, the Customs Offices in those areas can be replaced by player owned customs offices [POCOs] which often have lower tax levels since the owners want to attract business. High sec customs offices are all owned by CONCORD and have a set tax rate of 10%. more on Customs Offices later.
Below is a image of a planetary scan. The Colour overlay shows the concentrations of different materials [one at a time]. Clear is extremely low to no resource. White is high concentrations. There is a slider bar that can adjust the sensitivity of the scan and you will need this in high sec especially as the yields are low and you need to turn up the gain on the scan to see the concentrations.
There are eight types of planets in Eve and each has five resources available. Some resources can only be found on one planet type while others are found on several. What type of resource you want will dictate the planets you need to find. It also dictates the type of command centre you must use to start your network.
Landing a Command Centre
You must start off by buying a command centre that matches the type of planet you wish to exploit. Barren Command Centres for Barren Planets etc. Command Centres are 1,000m3 so you will need an industrial ship to move them. As far as I know the Epithal does not take them in their special bay.
Take your Command Centre out to the planet you have chosen. Warp to the planet at any range. Then enter Planet View mode. Its usually a good idea to site your Command Centre near the resources you are going to extract. This is so the links are shorter and use less CPU and Power. However the resources are going to move around. In some cases resources appear in bands around the planets. Otherwise you may have to make a best guess. However you are not restricted to placing structures near your command centre. You may place them anywhere on the planet. However when you open the planet view or double click the surface it will automatically zoom to the command centre so its best to have it near your structures.
To land the command centre, click on the Build button, then Command Centres. There will be an entry for the type of command centre you need. Click that and then click on the planet where you want the command centre to be. This makes a round circle with a symbol in it. These have been nicknamed PINs. (supposedly short for Planetary Interaction Node). All your structures on the planet will look like this. You may have to leave planet view at this stage and return. The system sometimes has trouble updating that its ready to receive new structures.
Before you go further, click on the command centre. You will get an info window pop up. This happens for all PINs. The CC PIN has an Upgrade button on the bottom left. Upgrade your command centre as much as you can. This will give you more Power and CPU to use for your network.
The Work Flow of a Planetary Network
If you are actually mining the planet then your network starts with an extractor. This will be sited near the resource you are collecting with it. The extractor uses extractor heads to suck up resources and move them to the extractor itself. Then the material is sent along a link to the next PIN. I recommend that you use a Silo for that spot. I'll explain that when I cover the extractors in detail. Each raw material turns into a tier 1 material. There is no reason not to do this on the planet as it saves room and cost. Thus the next step is to send the raw material to an Basic Industry Facility. Now if that is as far as you are going then the last step is to send the tier 1 material to the spaceport so it can be transferred to the customs office in space where you collect it. However its often more efficient to do another step of manufacturing on the planet. That means you should send your tier 1 material to a storage silo. I often use the one I send the raw materials to as it rarely fills up enough to limit material flow and to save power and CPU. Again your last step is to send the material to the spaceport for storage until you are ready to launch it to the customs office.
Here is an image to help you visualise it.
Lets have a look at the facilities you can get on the planet. Once the command centre has been placed, these facilities can be built on the planet by just paying isk. No need to transport anything. When you create facilities the cost is deducted from your wallet when you submit the changes. Prices are relatively low but I don't have a list of costs.
Command Centres - These basically allow you to build on the planet. After that they just dictate how much you can install on the planet through the upgrade level. The Icon displays the Power and CPU usage with coloured semi circle gauges. The command centre can also store 500m3 of stuff but that isn't much in the grand scheme of things. The last function is that it can launch the product in the command centre into space by rocket. When you do this there is an entry in your journal under "Planetary Launchers" and you can right click > warp to the can it launched. This is the cheapest but least efficient way to get stuff off the planet. There is no way to get stuff down to the planet with a command centre. If you aren't going to use the rocket thre is no point connecting the command centre to the network with a link.
Spaceport or Launchpad - This is a vital structure. It allows you to send stuff to and from the customs office in space. Since it can also hold 10,000m3 it often doubles as a silo for the end product of your process. The Customs Office is your access to the good. You open it like a POS array or wreck. Then you can move goods to and from the spaceport. You should place this Second and near the command centre. This makes sure you have the CPU and Power allocated for this critical building.
Extractor - This is what pulls the resources from the planet. It does so by using one of more extractor heads. These are linked automatically to the extractor and extract from an area based on your extraction program (more later). You will probably have several extractor heads for each extractor. The heads must be placed within a certain distance of the extractor so you will be forced to put your extractor close to deposits and then link it to the other buildings. Extractors have no storage space. If an extractor is mining and not sending the material somewhere it is being tossed out the airlock. For this reason I recommend linking your extractor directly to a Silo. I will explain the process of setting up a mining program and routing material later.
Silos or Storage Facilities - The name says it all. These things hold stuff. They have a capacity of 12,000m3 and are able to do one "Expedited Transfer" every few hours. That is a manual way of moving stuff around your network. Silos can hold a mix of materials so I tend to use it as a catch-all buffer between operations.
Processors or Industry Facilities - These things take material and turn it into new products. It uses as set of pre-installed blueprints to select the product you want to build. When linked and routed correctly the facility will automatically draw needed material from a silo (or extractor but this is inefficient) construct the product and then send it to a destination. There are three types; basic, Advanced and High-tech. The basic converts raw material into tier 1 products. Advanced facilities do tier 2 and 3goods and High-tech do the highest tier goods. Warning - High-tech facilities can only be built on Barren and Temporate planets.
Links - Think of these as roads or conveyor belts. They link PINs together. They use CPU and Power based on their length and upgrade level. The length depends on the distance between PINs taking into account the curve of the planet. Big planets will cause links to be longer. As a result you want all your main buildings close together and the link to the extractors the only long link. Links have a capacity. They can handle a flow of a certain amount of m3/hour. You can upgrade links if your are moving large amounts through them. Links don't automatically make things move between PINS. You have to establish "Routes" which dictate how much stuff goes where and when. I'll describe this process later.
Basic Set-up - Tier 1 Production
To help explain how to set up your planet I will use a tier 1 production system as a model. So we are going to extract a resource material and turn it into the first manufactured material. Place a Silo on the planet near your command centre. To do this go to the Build menu and click the Storage Facilities option then silo. Now click on the planet where you want the PIN to go. This is the basic procedure for placing PINs. Next to that put a Basic Industry Facility PIN (I'll call these processors from now on) and a Spaceport. Make them close enough that the link will be short but just far enough away from each other that you can see the link itself. Now create a link between the Silo and the Processor. You do that by holding CTRL and clicking on the start PIN, then release CTRL and click on the destination PIN. This is a shortcut that lets you bypass the menu. Now link the Silo to the spaceport. We don't need to link the spaceport and processor because the product will flow back through the silo to the spaceport once the route has been set. It is possible to trace a route through five different links as long as all the links have enough capacity for the sum of their load.
So why did we set up this bit first? The reason is because your network can't do without them and you must reserve the CPU and Power. This is because you are going to want as much mining capacity as you can get and extractor heads use up Power and CPU.
Its now time to site your extractor. When you go to place the extractor, there will be a shadowy circle around the pin as you go to place it. This is the range for the extractor heads. Site the extractor near the resource deposit you plan to mine. Not on top of it. You want the extractor heads on top of it. Just make sure the shadow covers the deposit. Now link the extractor to the silo.
Every time you make a change to the planetary network the system wants you to confirm the changes by hitting a Submit button. you will need to do this often. You have the option of wiping your changes and starting over if you have made a mistake.
The next step is to set the extractor heads and mining program. Double click on the extractor. You should get a new window with a bar graph on it. There are a set of materials on the right side. Select the material you plan to mine. This will bring up the colour graph. Now on the left side is a section labled "Extractor Head Units". Click on one of the dots and an extractor head will appear near your extractor. Now the extractor head has a circle around it. That is the area it is extracting from. Move the extractor head by clicking and dragging it around. Note the number on the panel changing as you move the head. That is a gauge of the material concentration under the head. If extractor heads overlap they suffer a penalty to their extraction amount. The size of the extraction area depends on the time period set for the mining program. On the panel at the bottom right is a slider bar. This controls how long your extractor will work without being restarted. It ranges from 1 hour to 2 weeks. The longer the time period the less efficient the program and the bigger the heads. Of course very few of us have time to change things every hour so people sacrifice efficiency for ease of maintenance. For the moment set the slider to 1 hour (there is a reason we are doing this). At the bottom right of the panel it tells you how much the extractor is getting per hour and for the whole time period. This will become important later. Now add a few more extractor heads. You need to do some adjustments later but you need some material shortly so just a few heads for now. Now hit the Install Program Button and then the Submit button. Your extractor is now mining.
While you are now mining, you haven't yet got somewhere for the material to go. The extractor itself has no storage so you must create a "route" from the extractor to the silo. To do this click once on the extractor to get the basic info window. There are some buttons at the bottom of the window. The second one from the left is the Products menu. Now that you have selected something to mine this menu will have a product in it. It will also say "Not Routed" next to the product. The shortcut to make a route is to double click the product in this window and then double click the destination (which is the silo). Submit the changes. Now when your extractor finished its first cycle it will send the goods to the silo. Now the first batch of mined materials is going to be only 15 minutes after your program is installed so get this done quickly. Don't forget to submit the changes. We need some material in the Silo for the next step so wait for a little to go to the silo.
Next we are going to set up the Basic Processor. The processor has a set of schematics already installed into it. You have to select the one you need. Click once on the processor PIN and hit the Schematics button. You can now scroll through the schematics and choose the one you need. Each raw product has a single schematic it uses. When you click once on a schematic it tells you the required material and the output product. To install the schematic, double click on it or hit install at the bottom. Now you need to make a route from the silo to the processor and another route from processor to the spaceport. Click on the silo and click the Storage button. You should have some material in there by now (this is why we did a short program earlier). Double click on the material and then double click on the processor. The route will automatically route the right amount of raw material to the processor whenever the processor needs some. Click on the processor now and go to Products. Double click the product and then double click the Spaceport. This should make routes from silo to processor and then to spaceport. There is a Routes button on all PINs allowing you to see the routes going through it. Its worth checking its set correctly. Don't forget to Submit. Your processor is now running.
Here is where you must juggle with Power and CPU. You must now decide how long your mining cycle is going to be and then try to make sure the processor is getting enough material to be running full time. A basic processor consumes 3,000 units of raw material every half an hour. Work out how much material you need for it to run for the whole period you plan to mine for. For example, if you plan to mine for seven days, your processor will consume 1,008,000 units or raw material at full production. Double click on the extractor and stop the program. Now set the period to the time you want it. Adjust the extractor heads so they don't overlap. The total mined amount in the bottom right will tell you if you are getting enough. If you need more material, add more extractor heads. This is where you are likely to run out of Power and CPU. If you are mining a particularly rich deposit, you may be producing more than you need. That is where you look at putting in a second (or third) processor. try to balance mining amount to your processing ability otherwise you will have raw materials pile up in your silo. When you have the program you want and the processors you need, install the mining program and submit the changes. The system now runs until the program ends.
You should notice at this point that the graph on the mining program panel starts with high amounts early in the program and drops to smaller amounts later in the program. This is the reason we use the silo between the extractor and the processor. The extractor will mine most of its stuff in the first third of the program then top up the silo for the rest. Meanwhile your processor is taking a set amount each half hour. While you could have the extractor feeding straight into the processor, you would be losing all the bulk materials mined in the first part of the program since it has nowhere to go. The silo provides a buffer that allows for fluctuations in supply.
The material coming out of the processor should be going into the Spaceport. We do this so there is always room for the raw material in the silo. When you get to know how the various systems work you can play around with setups to try save CPU and Power. However I find this configuration most efficient. The spaceport is your interface with space. While you can launch stuff by rocket from the command centre, it only does 500m3 at a time. You want to move thousands of m3 worth of stuff. That means you must use a Customs Office.
Customs Offices and Spaceports
Spaceports launch goods to the customs offices in space. They can also receive goods from the customs office. To do this you must be in the solar system that the planet is in. You can do this in warp or in a POS or even cloaked. Click on the spaceport and use the Launch button to open the interface. Alternately, warp to a customs office and open it like it was a wreck. You can reach a customs office through the system menu. They are listed for each planet in the list. One thing to realise, it is possible to destroy customs offices so they wont always be there.
The customs office interface is two panels. One side is the contents of the spaceport and the other is the contents of the customs office. Drag and drop items from one side to the other to set up transfers. Then hit the transfer button. This will move the goods and charge you the import/export tax. The goods will then be in the destination storage. For the customs office, you can move things in and out like it was a jet can.
Customs offices can be built and owned by corporations. They can also be destroyed. The corp sets the tax rates for people with different standings levels to the owning corp. This means friends can be charged less than neutrals and hostiles can be taxed heavily. Of course if your taxes are too high someone might just attack the customs office and place their own. Player Owned Customs Offices (POCOs) have a reinforcement mechanism just like POS to give the owner time to come to the rescue. This makes taking out a POCO a long process that is likely to result in a fight. In high sec the tax is made up of a portion which is the NPC tax and another portion set by the owning corp. There is a skill that will reduce the NPC portion of a Tax on the high sec POCOs. This is highly recommended for the serious PI person. I'll include the name when the patch updates the with the new skill.
There are two ways you may want to advance the above basic design: Do multiple tiers of production in one go or create a planet that is doing the advance tiers of production and not mining.
Its very hard to have a system go from raw material to finished product on one planet. Usually one or more of the resources needed are not available. Doing raw material to tier one and then tier two production is possible. Coolant is an example as all the needed resources can be gathered on one planet. Rare cases allow you to add a tier three production. Robotics is an example of this but can only be done on the rare Plasma Planets and isn't likely to produce at full rate in empire. These production systems require the highest levels of Command Centre Upgrades and rich planets. It also needs some experimentation as you try to balance the mining output with the consumption of your processors. I tend to send the middle tier of products back to my first silo and then on to the second tier of processors. Basic processors produce at the same rate that advanced processors consume so there is not likely to much middle tier product building up in your silo. This leaves your spaceport to collect the final product until you come and collect it. Remember that product must have room to go at the end spot or its wasted. You will have to empty the spaceport regularly
The highest tiers of production aren't likely to happen on the same planet as the resource collection. Many people have multiple planets collecting and processing material and then move the stuff to a production planet dedicated to building. You will need to transport the material manually. There are no links between planets. Also you must land the material on the planet and that requires a customs office and a spaceport. You can have multiple spaceports on a planet and the customs office has an interface to allow you to swap between them.
There are a few things to remember when designing a build planet; First is that the High Tech Processors can only be built on Temperate and Barren planets. That restricts where you can set up those planets. Next is that a spaceport or silo can move goods manually only once every 20 minutes. This means that you have to plan your network so that you can get your product to the planet and then to the start PINs of each production line. You will need a combination of Spaceports and Silos to do it. There is a way to save Power and CPU on links. You can trace a Route through up to six links but the material adds to the capacity of the links you go through. This will matter at the end and start links where everything is going through. Upgrade the links if you need to.
For starting pilots, PI can be a source of regular income that is semi passive. Whoever you aren't going to get rich in Empire from it without working on the higher tier items. However when you move to Null Sec or a wormhole this becomes a very viable income source well worth exploiting. At the very least you can refuel your towers with it. Market research will tell you what sells and what doesn't. POS fuels are a regular and consistent income but highly competitive. It may be worth finding someone who makes fuel blocks and doing a supply deal with them. Remember this is a collaborative game. You don't have to make everything yourself.