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Learning The Ropes Of Space Mining

So far, I've found myself pretty fished into EVE Online. I've probably mined about 3 million ISK worth of ore over the past few days. For the most part, mining is a relatively effortless endeavor. Target rock, release drones, order drones to mine, engage mining laser, watch the radar for threats, wait until cargo hold is nearly full, recover drones, turn off mining laser, warp back to station, drop it off.

I'm starting to get tired of mining but, considering how easy it is to do, there's always room for one more load. That's how I somehow ended up racking up 19 hours in the game. During this time, I learned quite a bit about the game.

While the actual activity of mining is simple, the economics behind it are only revealed through actually applying a bit of rudimentary mathematics. It's often more lucrative to sell the ore directly, even if I have ample refining skill, but I have to actually do the math to find out. Many parts recovered off of hostile NPCs need to be similarly checked: Are they worth more assembled or worth more when reduced to their base components?

I had it pointed out to me that there's an actual "Learning" category of skills whose lone purpose is to make it so you can learn faster. From a design standpoint, this seems like a bit of a mistake, as a power gamer would obviously want to maximize their learning skills before actually investing in learning things. It's pretty boring to spend weeks simply learning how to learn so you can actually learn what you wanted to learn in the first place.

Another thing of significance I discovered was that the main purpose of having an ore ship was the Strip Mining turrets. Parts in EVE are typically organized thisly:
  • "Civilian Tech" - Cheap garbage that barely gets the job done with minimal skills required to use them. Example: Civilian Mining Laser, Civilian Expanded Cargohold.
  • Tech 1 - The basic unit that can be purchased relatively cheaply and does a better job than Civilian tech. Example: Miner I, Expanded Cargohold I
  • Variations of Tech 1 - About five different types of the tech 1 item that improve the base item here or there. Sometimes requires slightly more skill to use and with a higher cost. Example: EP-S Gaussian, Modified SS Expanded Cargo.
  • Tech 2 - A unit that is better than a tech 1 item in every way, but costs more and requires more skills to use. Example: Miner II, Expanded Cargohold II.
  • Rare Tech - A unit that is rare and slightly more effective than even tech 2. Example: Ore Miner, Limited 'Expander' Archiver Cargohold
  • Specialized Tech - A unit that requires a special ship and related skill set to use and is much more effective than Tech 2. Example: Strip Miner.
This fundamental philosophy of design seems to permeate almost all of EVE Online. I think you can even see this in comparing Frigates to Destroyers. There's the "civilian" tech rookie frigate, a tech 1 frigate, a few variations of that frigate, and finally the tech 2 "destroyer." Although, ships are a little more complicated than most parts, because they break off into different roles: Assault ships, electronic warfare ships, ore trawlers, haulers, ect.

As I was saying, the mining classes of ships (which require a different categorization of skills to pilot than cruisers or haulers) seem to be the only ships that can use Strip Miners, and the Strip Miners seem to mine at about 500% times the rate of Miner IIs, which mine about 150% faster than Miner Is. It's quite a jump in input, I can see why you'd be tempted to pilot a ore trawler even though it's about as defenseless as a frigate but much slower.

That's pretty much what you need to know about space mining, but I spread it out quite a bit, so here's the really short version: The rate in which you make money mining ore a combination of how much that ore is in demand combined with the sheer speed in which you can harvest it. That's pretty much it, but EVE Online provides quite a bit of details.

Apparently, there's a tactic known as "Jetcanning" which involves jettisoning ore into cannisters as you mine it, then have a hauler come out and picked up the mined ore. The purpose of this is to have specialized roles between the one that harvests ore quickly (the miner) and one that moves massive amounts of goods quickly (the hauler). Jettisoning ore into cannisters has the added advantage of providing quite a bit of extra storage you normally would not have (which is just a tad exploitive, in my opinion - the cannister you're storing your ore in is basically materializing out of nothing).

Aside from the gleaming of excessive profits, the only real excitement in this whole endeavor comes from the occasional pirate. Mining around 0.8 security level space, the occasional NPC Pirate (called "rats" by the players) are pretty harmless and easily whacked. However, bored players can and will show up in ships they don't mind losing to the Concord Assembly (NPC police that patrol space above 0.5 security level) and perform a kamikaze attack.

I've yet to have that happen to myself, but that might be because I simply don't give them the opportunity. I saw a few yellow-named (elevated security level) players in the solar system, even a battleship, but I gave them pleanty of room and they left me alone. I did have a cruiser apparently dive at me, but I warped away to safety before came within 10km. Perhaps that was what he was going for, my terrified fleeing providing some level of satisfaction to someone who wants to grief players without losing their ship to Concord.
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