This is going to be the first part in a series of editorials I'm writing dubbed "The Think Tank". In these pieces I'm going to be exploring the current state of EVE Online and some changes I think would improve the EVE experience for its players. Most of the subjects I tackle will be major and interrelated. As you read these posts, bear in mind that these are opinion pieces, and as such will not be completely free from my personal biases. Ultimately, what I care about is the health of EVE Online and the experience we all have while playing it.
There's an activity in EVE which a few love but many bear doing in the same way they bear household chores or their job: Mining. Industry saw a major overhaul with Crius, and while reprocessing and compression were changed, mining itself has been mostly untouched. I feel there is a lot of room for improvement with mining. I will be operating from two basic premises in this piece. If you feel I'm wrong about either of these premises, please feel free to let me know.
- Premise One: Mining in general is a boring and dull activity, especially in "safe" areas.
- Premise Two: For the level of risk involved, HiSec mining is leagues more profitable than in LowSec or NullSec.
From these two premises, I draw two conclusions:
- Conclusion One: Mining needs more polish and content.
- Conclusion Two: The risk:reward ratio of mining needs to be altered, making it more rewarding to do in dangerous areas.
The goals are to make mining more interesting and dynamic to engage players in this activity rather than the current iteration; CTRL-click, F1-F2, ALT-TAB. The amount of ISK/hr should also scale with the amount of effort players are willing to invest and the risks they're willing to take. CCP is on the right track with the Crius changes, but there are still a few more things that need to be done.
Polishing the Rocks
Currently ore belts in EVE Online are fairly vanilla, fairly plain, and fairly boring. Even many of the ores themselves look lackluster, with the exception of a few. Belts are very disengaging for the player warp to the belt, maybe move a few kilometers, then set up your mining lasers and alt-tab to Netflix.
EVE Online is a beautiful game, and CCP is constantly upgrading their graphics. Mining could use some love. Imagine if the ore sites that spawned around gas giants gave the player the feeling that they were mining the rings of that planet. Imagine if "Asteroid Fields" spawned between planets instead of around, and gave the impression that the miner was in a cloud of rocks. Imagine if materially dense rocks (the high-yield variants) spawned closer to the sun, and the lighter rocks appeared on the fringes of the solar system. Imagine if some ore belts were tilted the way ice belts used to be. There are a wide range of possibilities CCP can release and I would love to see them do this. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life, and a common complaint from moderately experiences newbies is that "every system is the same". This would help alleviate those feelings.
I would also like to see the contents of belts themselves updated. There are a variety of rocky objects in EVE Online, but we never see them in asteroid belts, and rarely do they appear in spawned ore sites; things like cloven asteroids, shattered asteroids, and barren rocks. Ideally these should make up a large portion of the objects on grid, with the useful ores mixed therein. There should be debris clouds and dust fields, and wrecks of derelict vessels.
"Running on Empty" in Empire
In EVE lore it is stated that demand for ore has outstripped supply. Empyreans have been eating resources at an unprecedented rate. Just a single carrier or dreadnaught represents hundreds of man hours of mining and a volume of ore mined greater than the ship itself. And this isn't taking into account supercapital proliferation. There is a massive demand for materials. In just one week in May 2014, more than 28.8 billion cubic meters of ore was mined in the entire New Eden cluster. A solo miner might take 20 years to do this, but all of New Eden accomplished this in just 7 days. In case numbers are a little abstract for you, I'll put it this way: At the rate Capsuleers are mining, they would deplete both Earth's moon and the entire asteroid belt in just a little over 2 years. This is just counting player Capsuleers; if we consider baseline NPC miners and NPC Capsuleer miners, then in no uncertain terms this should represent an environmental catastrophe.
Of course, even with Capsuleers and empires gobbling up every rock they can find, resources in EVE Online the game are infinite, limited only by daily spawns (of which there is more than enough) and the amount of time miners willing to spend mining (which also, it seems, is limitless). Since Veldspar is infinite, it actually has no inherent value. You are not actually exchanging ISK for Tritanium, but rather ISK for the time and effort the miner spent gathering it.The time is dirt cheap because most of that time the player was alt-tabbed to either another account or something unrelated to EVE. The effort is dirt cheap because virtually none is required.
Since most mining takes place in HiSec, the first change I would propose would be to reduce the amount of harvestable ore in all HiSec systems, with the most reduction taking place in 1.0 through 0.7 space. In many belts replace the ore with barren asteroids and debris fields with just a smattering of small ores throughout. Reduce the volume of remaining ores even in untouched belts. Players would have to scout for good locations instead of just jumping into any system and warping to top belt.
The availability of ore should also depend on player activity. EVE is, after all, player generated, right? Put responsibility in the hands of the players. The respawn cycle of ores, at least in HiSec, should depend on how much people are mining in HiSec. I propose a daily system that regenerates (x)m3 of each ore each day, as long as the amount of m3 mined per day in that system is above a certain threshold. Once that threshold is crossed, the mount of m3 regenerated per day will decrease. When ore is not mined, the amount of m3 regenerated increases. And all of it on a sliding scale. Each system should function independently from every other system, meaning miners can't just migrate HiSec in a circuit to always have the best spawn.
I also propose restricting ores by security status as follows, since Capsuleers and Empires have mined space dry (else why would Capsuleers want to build new Stargates?):
- 1.0: Only Veldspars
- 0.9 - 0.7: Only Veldspars and Scordites
- 0.6 - 0.5: All available HiSec ores.
Exploration is one component of EVE that is both engaging and interesting. I personally feel that exploration should be an important part of any playstyle. We all do some level of exploration in EVE. But I think this can be expanded upon.
Currently ore sites appear in the discovery scanner. The community is divided on whether or not this is a good thing, but I personally feel it was a good change, and I mine in WormHole space. However I do think there should be a bit more cat-and-mouse to finding juicy ore sites, and for those who prey on miners. CCP could add some ore sites that must be probed down, perhaps some systems would even have lucrative "hidden belts" that would require a bookmark and are hard to probe done without good skills and equipment.
Another idea I've been toying with is the idea of "rogue asteroids". These sites would show up as "Rogue Asteroid" of varying sizes; large, huge, and massive. A "Large Rogue Veldspar" might contain 500k ore. A "Huge Rogue Veldspar" might contain one million unites and a "Massive Rogue Veldspar" may even hold multiple millions. In a HiSec at least, where ores would be scarce, an anomaly containing a single rock with a million units of ore (depending on the type of ore) would be an enticing find. In dangerous space, not being immediately warpable would make these sites important.
Dare to Be Bold, Pilot
One EVE trailer that I watched years ago had the motto "dare to be bold, pilot". The entire game has traditionally been based around risk:reward, and indeed the highest bounties and the rarest ores are found in the most dangerous places. With Crius, the best manufacturing is now found in dangerous parts of space. However, 70% of players live in HiSec according to CCP. It stands to reason that most mining takes place in the relative safety of HiSec, too. But if all the best ores are in Null, why is this? The answer is simple
- First, there is a high demand for lower end minerals such as Tritanium, which is found in the highest amount in Veldspar and can easily be mined uninterrupted in the relative safety of HiSec and jumped, via compression, to Null.
- There is a bottle neck for minerals which are found in the greatest abundance in HiSec.
- The rewards for mining in NullSec are not big enough to entice miners out of HiSec.
The first step is to balance risk:reward between HiSec and less secure areas of space. Is there some rule that low end ores, such as Veldspar, have to be the best sources of low end minerals? HiSec is currently the source of 5 of the 7 major minerals. Perhaps HiSec should only be the source of Tritanium, Pyerite, and Mexallon?
Perhaps as you move into LowSec, the ores contain more of these three minerals per batch, but higher end minerals start appearing. The best, of course, would be found in NullSec.
But it's a SANDBOX, Xui!
A lot of people will disagree with my changes concerning rebalance. Most will say that I'm breaking "the sandbox". I posit that these players do not understand the concept of a sandbox MMO. Being a sandbox, especially a sandbox based on the concept of risk:reward, does not obviate the need for balanced play. In fact, balanced play is more necessary for a sandbox MMO, as unbalanced play shatters the game.
I don't propose changes to HiSec mining as a way to nerf it and "force" people into other areas of EVE, although I do think it would be immensely beneficial to the game if more players considered playstyles that included operating in dangerous areas of space. More people in dangerous areas of space means more targets, and more targets means more PvP and content in general. This can only be accomplished if risk:reward is balanced in all areas of space. And every aspect of the game, even something as elemental as mining, should be interesting. While "nerfs" to HiSec mining might encourage people to venture into other areas of space, at the very least, players willing to take risks should be rewarded, and mining itself should be engaging and interesting for people who decide to pursue that path.
In conclusion, the changes I propose:
- Add a new celestial to Overview: "Asteroid Field". These new fields would spawn in locations between the orbital paths of two planets in a system, representing the warpable location of a stellar asteroid belt (as opposed to a planetary asteroid belt).
- Add a new scannable ore site, called "Rogue Asteroids", which contain a single rock with unusually high volume.
- Revamp the layouts of asteroid belts and make them larger by adding objects such as "Barren Rock", and "Shattered Blue-Crystal Asteroid".
- Reduce the overall availability of ores in HiSec, via removal of harvest-able belts and reduction of ore volumes, and restrict their spawns by security status.
- Reduce the amount of Noxcium and Isogen that HiSec ores contain.
- The amount of all minerals found in local ores scale upward with the lawlessness of the space in which they are found.
- At least in HiSec, change asteroid respawns to a sliding scale that would be affected by activity levels.
I think the above changes would make mining more interesting, more engaging, and more balanced. What do you think?