On September 13th, CCP released the latest major update to Eve online, and as miners go, there were some mixed reviews.  Now a week later, the miners and industrialists have had a chance to play with the dynamics of the updated mining barges, leading some to speculate on the future of mining in Eve online.  Up to this point, mining has been a backbone of Eve, providing the raw materials for creating everything from ships to their fittings; a unique career that allows some to “AFK – Mine,” and play with very little interaction between themselves and the game.  As mining can be a tedious process with lesser rewards when compared with other PvE activities, many have called for a re-balance to this sometimes underrated, but vital portion of Eve.

According to the dev-blog

“…we are completing a light pass on the stats and bonuses of these ships and of the strip miner modules themselves. The balance between the mining ships is in a fairly healthy state right now so we’re not making any drastic changes to the relative strengths of the different barges and exhumers.”

What this effectively boils down to, is a balancing of high slots (all barges are now fit with 2), changing the stats of the modules and ships to compensate for the loss or gain of a high slots, and a change in the stats to the “Ore Faction” strip miners.  As soon as it was announced what the changes would be, capsuleers, both miners and non, took to the forums and reddit to give their opinion on how this would change Eve, for the better or the worse.  The general consensus was, after hours calculating the different stats, that there would be little difference between the barges before and after the change, although for some of the barges, specifically the Hulk and the Covetor, they would see a moderate drop in their mining abilities, with the loss of one High-Slot.

Solo Mining

Solo Mining

According to the CCP post, loss of a high slot would be balanced by gaining a low slot, along with a 25% role bonus reduction to strip miner/ ice harvester duration and activation cost.  If the capsuleer fit their pod to use the extra low slot with a third mining laser upgrade, their overall amount mined per cycle should be roughly even with what they were previously mining.  In practice however, this doesn’t seem to be the case.  In addition to the loss/ gain of slots, and the role bonus, there was a 40 TF cpu loss for the Hulk and a 15 TF cpu loss for the Covetor.  This was supposed to help ensure that the capsuleers had the correct skills to ensure a proper fit, but as one forum commenter stated:

“I think you’ve overdone it on the reduction to the Hulk’s CPU. I understand you want to make the fit ‘tight’, but you’ve actually made it impossible.”

So what does this all mean?

In all reality, these changes don’t affect many players, and may not seem important, but to many miners, these complications further their frustrations, and make them feel like more of an outcast.  With the loss of the extra high slot, miners are required to be more engaged as they will be draining asteroids faster, only being able to drain two (at an increased rate) instead of three at a time.  For many of these “AFK Miners” this is an issue, because they are not truly AFK, they are “Multi Boxing” or playing with multiple characters on multiple computers simultaneously.  As one reddit poster states:

“Anyone mining with one account is wasting their time, because the best part of mining is the minimal interaction needed per account. It’s beauty is in the logistical complexity of running a mining OP. In fact, running a multi boxing setup is requires constant attention. You essentially cannot go afk or you’ll end up with full holds and decreasing returns.”

The OP has hit the nail on the head, because the current balance of the game, and the changes that CCP has made and proposed for the future points to bringing mining back out of the hands of solo pilots and “Multi Boxers” and into the hands of fleets and corporations.  This isn’t to say that being a solo miner will be unprofitable, but for many sitting in space, spinning around a hunk of minerals is less than the most active, hi-reward experience.

What does the future hold?

Picture a fleet of 10 barges/ exhumers, an Orca, and the drones of each ship flying around them, as they work through asteroid fields.  As each miner fills their hold, they deposit the ore in the Orca, who is providing boosts throughout the op.  Each miner is paid by the Orca pilot, a percentage of the market value, and then as the orca fills, it returns to its dock, unloads and returns to the op, ready to accept more ore.  On a more grand scale, there could be multiple Orcas, all unloading into a boosting Rorqual.  Throughout the op, the miners are protected by their numbers and their drones, easily taking down, all but the largest enemies and groups.  The comradery and friendship grows between pilots, and the goal of CCP is achieved: Players are engaged and fulfilling a vital role in the Eve universe.

With the upcoming boost changes, this seems to be the overall direction that Eve is moving, an on grid, active environment, where characters are engaged with the game, and working for (or against) a common goal.  Under the boost changes, Orcas and Rorquals will no longer be able to sit off grid, providing boosts to everyone in the system, instead they must be near those that would like a boost, and provides infinitely more fulfilling play for those characters.  This has raised some concern about how the Rorquals will be safe, when capsuleers start to field fleets just to destroy them, but as with everything, a balance will be found, strategies and tactics will be developed, and the once nomadic pilots of Rorquals and Orcas will join the miners in a more active role.  This is ultimately what will make Eve a game that continues to bring in new players and will retain players for years as it has already done: an active playstyle that is engaging, and creates situations for capsuleers to play together.