Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mining That Doesn't Suck

 I have a confession to make.  I actually like mining.  <dramatic pause>.  But not mining as we know it today, with barges and orcas, implants, stripminers, and gankers.  I liked mining as it existed in 2003; before all that was added.

So no, I don’t really /get/ mining as it exists today.  I don’t like barges.  I don’t like sitting in the same belt licking rocks for hours and hours.  It yields a predictable return (barring a surprise ganking) but isn’t all that compelling over the long run.

There have been dozens/hundreds/thousands of ideas spewed on the internet about how EVE could do mining that doesn't suck - I'll add this to the pile.

Keeping with Manifesto Rule #3 – I’d advocate more small ship mining, in asteroid belts.

Historical reference:  In the beginning (i.e. at launch) we gathered raw materials in t1 ships – frigates and cruisers and eventually Godzilla, my trusty Apoc.  But in the very VERY beginning - days and weeks after launch - nobody in the corp even owned an Industrial, and we simply undocked, mined until we were full of ore, and warped back to station.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

In long stretches, it got tedious, and jetcan mining with a dedicated hauler was of course far more lucrative.

But there was always something about undocking, warping to a belt, and picking through the rocks to find an intended target.  Each undock was a new adventure; each arrival in a belt was full of new potential.  (We learned quickly that all belts are basically the same and there are only a few flavors of ores... I'm talking at the VERY beginning).

We moved around a lot, explored different systems and belts in high/low/null, and tried our best to collect all of the various ore types.  We also scrubbed the ship databases looking for the best mix of cargo hold, turrets, and speed (since there was no warp to zero option, docking speed mattered).  In null and low we ninjamined - looked for a belt without rats and tried to fill our holds before any spawned.  There was always a panic when the red +'s appeared and we tried to warp out before our thin frigate hulls got punctured.

We were noobs and naive, but it was a fun way to learn the game.

With a decade’s perspective, I find myself wishing that CCP had chosen a different path for mining.  I’d really rather push mining into a mobile (not stationary) activity.  A mix of exploration (using that word generically, not to be confused with the Exploration mechanics in game).  Something that maybe can’t be multi-boxed or macro’d as easily.

So here’s the idea, similar to a post by Sugar a few weeks ago (I was in chat as this was discussed, what follows is my twist on her framework):
  • New extra dense rare ore types. Silly example: extra dense scordite, super dense scordite, really really super dense scordite.
  • These new ores spawn in existing belts frequently but in limited numbers (respawn rates about the same as current rat timers)
  • New module: Prospector I, similar equip requirements as Miner I, limit fitting to small hulls (not barges, industrials).
  • One cycle of the Prospector module exhausts the asteroid and yields 1 unit of super-ore.
  • Rare ores take 50m3 or so per unit (i.e. I can fit 3-8 in a standard frig/cruiser).
  • When refined, Rare ores yield enough raw materials to provide a decent isk/hr.
The sequence would be:  Warp to belt. Fight rats (if present).  Cycle a survey scanner to locate rare/dense/super ores (if any). Maybe get lucky and stumble upon a rare ore.  Harvest.  Move on.  Return to station when full.

Intent would be to fit the Prospector module in a utility high slot, one per ship, in order to maintain some combat dps for self defense.  By necessity, you’ll sacrifice a mid slot for the ore scanner.

Relatively high ore respawn rates would keep several miners busy in a given system.  Balance the payout to be notionally similar to "normal" mining methods in terms of m3/hr of minerals, i.e. make this "new" mining viable vs. rock licking.

The framework should work for high, low, and nullsec zones equally well.  But using small, mobile ships really favors making lowsec mining viable.  Allowing SOME self defense would make grouping possible – picture a ratting/mining frigate roam in lowsec with some friends.

Using the existing belts and the existing equipment increases accessibility; makes it a viable noob as well as veteran activity.

There are dozens of ways to extend this system, but in keeping with Rule #6 (KISS), I’ll stop here.

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