EVE Online is full of opportunities. It rewards players who actively seek out new ways of doing things, looking to build businesses in the cracks between established practices of New Eden. Traders capitalize on consumers’ laziness by buying items in outlying systems and selling them at a huge markup in trade hubs, or by stocking known warzones with ammunition for poorly supplied soldiers. It’s a world owned by the enterprising capitalists constantly keeping a finger to the wind and planning on how to profit from its change.
Of the many such enterprises, Red Frog Freight and its sister corporations, Black Frog Logistics and Blue Frog Freight, is one that I find one of the most interesting—if only because it involves an aspect of EVE Online many find boring: hauling goods.
Any EVE player can tell you what a drag it is having to move home systems, whether to seek new opportunities or because of a corporate mandate, the reasons are endless. Bottom line: it sucks. For industrialists, miners, and those who just like owning lots of stuff, moving portions of it is a chore that can take days away from doing what you actually love.
In 2008, Red Frog Freight saw the opportunity and started as a subsidiary of Red Frog Investments before quickly becoming a separate entity. Offering a courier service through high-sec, Red Frog would move any goods (within reason) to any system connected to empire space. Now, seven years later, Red Frog has become a well known feature of EVE Online. Their services extend to both low and null-security space in the form of Black Frog Logistics as well as the specialized Blue Frog Freight which deals in high value contracts.
“I ended up joining Red Frog with an alt to make some ISK in 2011,” Lyn Fel, CEO of Black Frog told me during an interview. “I joined Black Frog in 2012, and I didn’t actually become CEO until a couple of years ago.”
Lyn had been with Red Frog for quite some time, working his way up to a director of Red Frog before becoming the CEO of Black Frog Logistics and managing the operation’s low and null-sec initiatives.
“I’ve done a lot of other things,” Lyn told me. “None of it interested me, all of it kind of bored me to be honest.”
Lyn, like many players, operates under two separate characters. He told me that while he acts as CEO of Black Frog, he also has another character embroiled in the sovereignty conflicts of major null-sec alliances.
“That’s why I enjoy EVE: for the PVP.”
But the arrangement has been a positive one, while Lyn gets his adrenaline dose from PVP in null-sec, he was able to support such exploits through his career with Red Frog. Later, he made the switch to Black Frog in pursuit of greater rewards.
“It’s of course more lucrative to do the Jump Freighter work, and you actually have to pay attention.”
Years of experience allowed Lyn the benefit of saying that last sentence casually, but in truth, there is very little casual about hauling upwards of 20 billion ISK through EVE’s most dangerous systems.
Across all Frog services, pilots are required to use Freighters or Jump Freighters. Both ships are massive industrial vessels sought after for their enormous cargo holds. Big ships have their drawbacks, however, as Freighters move incredibly slowly and are cumbersome to maneuver. Jump Freighters are specialized Freighters that allow pilots to make jump bridges, special portals that allow them to skip through several systems at once. Both ships have a steep upfront cost, especially to new players, but Lyn explained that the investment is more than worth it—especially when hauling valuable loads. Freighters don’t die easily, and while most other industrial ships can be ganked by one or two pilots, Freighters typically require a concentrated effort to bring down.
The business of Black Frog is, at this point, a finely tuned machine. Using the contract system and the corporations trip calculator, players can create courier contracts between systems. Members of Black Frog are free to take contracts as they please, the incentive being the reward for a completed run with a bonus for contracts that have reached a certain age. Each hauler has two accounts—meaning they pay two subscription fees—with one account being what Red Frog calls a contract alt and the other a hauler alt. Contract alts are members of the corporation, while hauler alts are not known by the corporation.
It’s a system that seems overly complicated, but is designed to provide the maximum amount of security for pilots. By taking a contract as one character, they are then able to trade the contract to their anonymous hauler. Anyone looking to knock over a Frog Freighter for their own gain will find it impossible to distinguish and track them. The system also has the added benefit of making Red, Black, and Blue Frog virtually immune to declarations of war, since their contract alts rarely need to leave the station and never with valuable items.
Unfortunately, as well built as their system is, there is little a Frog pilot can do to ward off those looking to knock over their Freighter.
“There’s not really a whole lot you can do as far as ganking goes,” Lyn said. “That’s one of the things with EVE, there not really a whole lot of recourse. You can try to repair the Freighter or gank the gankers.”
“But maintaining that presence all the time is not really cost effective.”
Looking at a kill report of a Freighter in EVE Online might make you think that the loss of one would be devastating, but Lyn shared with me how the corporation has managed to turn violence into an overhead cost. Each pilot joining Red Frog Freight (which is typically where most new haulers end up) has to also cough up a billion ISK to act as their personal collateral. It’s a necessary requirement to keeping any losses from being the corporation’s sole responsibility. But, as Lyn told me, it led to more than a few pilots joining up, losing a freighter, and then having to resign because they were bankrupt by the loss.
“The members put in a percentage of their rewards into an insurance account.”
“As long as they follow our strict guidelines—we have rules like they can only haul one contract at a time, that kind of thing—and they’re covered. They’re only out 200 million if they get ganked,” Lyn told me.
It’s a smart system that promotes a healthy culture within the corporation and keeps Red Frog pilots in their ships running contracts. Blue Frog and Black Frog however, have no such recourse for pilots. Since both Blue and Black Frog operate with much more at stake in New Eden’s most dangerous systems, both corporations are only home to pilots who have proven themselves capable of the increased stress. The rewards are far more lucrative, but so is the risk.
To help mitigate that risk, Blue and Black Frog pilots can utilize a technique known as double wrapping contracts. When items are turned into a contract, they are essentially wrapped up in a package, by wrapping that package within a second package, the items within the contract become undetectable by cargo scanners.
It’s a smart way of concealing the true contents of your load, but the consequences of doing so need to be weighed as it can have the reverse effect of piquing a potential gankers interest more. Why would anyone double wrap something if it wasn’t incredibly expensive?
Other tools of the trade include having a second character fly alongside the Freighter using a stasis webifier to help the Freighter achieve warpspeed velocity much faster. It’s a trick that is simple to pull off, but complicated to explain why it works (seriously, just believe me).
But no matter how much you work to mitigate the risk, every pilot will lose a Freighter eventually..
“It’s just part of the job at this point.”
It’s nothing short of shrewd business to take something that would keep some pilots up at night and turn it into a routine. Speaking of business, Lyn’s tenure as CEO hasn’t been spent idly hauling goods around New Eden.
“When I took over we did no [sovereign] service, all we did was NPC stations only.”
For those unfamiliar, null-sec is divided by sovereign space, which can be claimed by player run alliances, and NPC space, which cannot. Black Frog has always operated within NPC null-sec, but Lyn has been spearheading an initiative to extend that service to the player-run empires that so often break headlines.
“At the moment we service about more than half of sovereign null-sec,” he said.
It’s an exciting time for Black Frog, and a unique proposition that sees the politically neutral Freighter service working with alliances embroiled in epic conflicts. But as these titans continue to clash, Black Frog is there to supply them the armaments, or move their precious cargo to safer space. It’s a lucrative initiative, and one that both parties were eager to agree to.
While Red Frog enjoys a large roster of haulers who, as Lyn told me, typically stick to the safer areas of space, the corporation provides an enticing alternative for those looking to make a passive income. It takes about a month for a brand new player to train the skills required to fly a Freighter. It also requires some diligence in order to scrape together the cash required to buy one and pay the upfront collateral. The rewards, however, are potentially endless. Pilots are free to take work as they see fit, and the passive activity of hauling is perfectly suited to those who enjoy playing EVE on a casual basis or multitasking while also playing. Once you’ve proven yourself capable, moving to Black and Blue Frog can provide even greater rewards, enough to fuel just about any pursuit a player would like to chase.
Those looking to join up with Red Frog can view their recruitment page and fill out an application.Related: Column, EVE Online, Interview, The Final Frontier