Inside most serious gamers is a frustrated game designer fighting to get out. Which is a nice way of saying, we all have strong opinions about how our favorite games could be improved.

I want to take a whack at “fixing” jet can mining. Don’t get me wrong, as a salvager I purely love jet cans, they are rich salvage opportunities. But everybody knows that they are a borderline exploit, in the sense that they were never intended to be used for mining.

And yet, as many a miner will tell you, the current alternatives to jet can mining are lacking. Best solution is a friend or a second account with a hauler, so you can mine and haul at the same time. But some people are short of friends, or have odd gaming hours, or don’t have the money for a second account, or don’t have a computer that will easily run two Eve session. And the two-accounts business has a hint of distasteful meta-gaming about it.

Another obvious fix would be larger secure containers. But (a) that’s a boring solution, and (b) any “fix” to mining that makes things notably easier for macro-ers and farmers is a non-starter.

So what’s needed is a “solution” that adds fun to the game. A way for the solo miner to mine without jet cans, but with greater efficiency than hauling with the mining vessel or mining into 3,900 cubic meter cans. Something that offers greater security from ore “thieves” (if you can truly steal that which has been freely jettisoned into vacuum) would be great, but it can’t be perfectly secure without enabling the macro/farmers too much. Ideally, it would also be something injects a coolness / fun factor into mining, and enriches the game environment for everybody.

What would such a thing look like? I submit it would look like a cheap, disposable “Solar Sail Ore Return Vehicle” or possibly “Ion Drive Ore Return Vehicle”.

Imagine the scene in the belts, if you will. Every so often, a mining ship releases an ore return vehicle. It pops out with large solar sail and slowly begins accelerating on a vector toward a nearby station. Although its acceleration is slow, it is continuous, so that by the time the ore return vehicle leaves the grid, it’s going faster than any ship in the game. Although the ore return vehicle never warps, it reaches a very fast top speed in normal space (I suggest about 1 AU per hour) until it reaches the destination station, where it is captured by station facilities and deposited in the owner’s hangar. (I suggest for ease of programming that the capture at station end be assumed and invisible, as we do *not* need the congestion of decelerating ore packages around busy stations. In role play terms, a big electromagnetic capture grid would do the job, and convert the kinetic energy of the return vehicles into useful industrial power in the process.)

Although there are numerous possible objections, they are all resolvable through balancing. What follows are some balancing suggestions and some open questions:

1) Ore in return vehicles should be insecure. While the return vehicle is accelerating out of the asteroid belt, it should be possible for folks to remove ore from them, just as they currently can remove it from jet cans, with the same agro / flagging results. Miners using this method should be prepared to defend their return vehicles during the launch phase, just as they currently defend their jet cans. However, each return vehicle will have a smaller amount of ore than a jet can, and it only needs to be defended until it reaches a speed faster than any ship that can catch it. I would suggest it should take about five minutes from launch until the ore return vehicle goes off-grid, which should also be (roughly speaking) when it’s going too fast to be vulnerable.

One thing I would also like, but can’t figure out how to balance, would be to have the vehicles be possible to intercept in deep space though probing or just being in the right place at the right time. But it’s got to be hard enough to be rarely done and only barely worth the trouble. And I can’t figure out how to make it possible at all if the top speed of the return vehicles is high enough to get them to station in a few hours.

2) Attackability of Ore Return Vehicles. As a sort of hybrid between ship and drone, the ore return vehicle should be fully attackable. In addition to being openable as it accelerates toward its destination (like a can), it should be able to be locked, webbed, bumped, shot, etc. Just as with anything else, in secure space hostile acts earn a Concord response. Otherwise, the cans should be fairly fragile; and if they die, they (option a) poof like a mining drone or (option b) leave a wreck which may or may not have its cargo inside.

3) Total time to return ore: This method should not be for people in a hurry. I think the return vehicles should require a period of hours to make the average belt-to-station journey.

4) Expense: This method should *not* be without cost for the miner. It should be an option, but strongly NOT the most efficient mining method in the game. There are a couple of ways of handling this. Make the return vehicles go *poof* during the ore-capture-at-station process and set the price of vehicles accordingly; or (harder) make the return vehicles re-useable (they accumulate in the station hangar) but have the station charge a percentage fee (appropriately faction-adjusted) for the capture process. I like the latter idea better, because then it would also be possible to have an “ore return vehicle capturing array” module for POS’s, enabling more widespread use of this technology in 0.0 space.

5) Variability: There’s no reason not to have a wide variety of ore return vehicles with differing prices, capacities, speeds, security levels, and special abilities. At different cost they could have various sizes, initial acceleration capability, some could be secure (either absolutely secure like a GSC or partially secure but vulnerable to hacking), and there could even be a line of militarized ones that look normal from outside but, upon being opened, explode like a mine, explode with a webbing effect, explode with a warp scrambling effect, launch a pod of combat drones to respond to the agro that the tinkerer just earned, or … you get the idea. (This is why I like the idea of reuseability; a miner could launch a certain percentage of dummy militarized ore return vehicles to get a “leave my ore alone” reputation, but they could be re-used if they get “home” without being molested.

6) Deployment: How many can a mining ship carry and what does it take to launch them? This offers the biggest scope for balancing. I’d like this tech to be available to every Bantam-mining new miner peon, at a low level of efficiency; but I’d also like it to be something that can be fruitfully used by a serious miner in a covetor or hulk. I think the return vehicles themselves should be, in packaged form, 25 cubic meters or so, enough that a frigate miner could go out with four or six and mine for quite awhile, while a barge can go out with dozens and mine, well, also for quite awhile. At the low end, I think they should carry five hundred or a thousand cubic meters of ore (which means a frigate miner will still need to use jet cans a bit to load one, if it works like that) up to perhaps four thousand cubic meters for barge boys who are willing to pay the price in isk and skills.

Launch procedure is another matter. There has to be an activation process (so the owner can specify which station or capture array in system the return vehicle is going to) and to me that suggests a high slot module. That’s no big deal for a mining destroyer or cruiser, but it’s brutal on frigates and barges. Perhaps, given the essential interaction with the cargo holds, this should be a low slot module? Push the button, a window pops up allowing you to choose the destination, and boom! The vehicle launches (sucking a load of ore from the cargo hold) and begins sailing away in the appropriate direction. Wherever it sits, the module should use packaged return vehicles as ammo (and, potentially, could even have an ammo capacity of one or more vehicles, reloadable from the cargo hold as usual).

It’s also possible that this whole technology, with much larger ore return vehicle sizes, should be added as one of the capacities of the capital mining/industrial vessel that is supposed to be coming. In that case, though, I think the capital version of the ore return vehicle should be able to carry anything (not just ore) and should have the ability to use at least one jump gate (albeit with slow acceleration away from the gate giving another chance for theft).


Ore return vehicles would add visual richness and coolness factor to mining and to asteroid belts, offer a more secure alternative to jetcan mining at the cost of some efficiency, and improve the mining experience for everyone. At the same time, it avoids offering any perfectly-secure mechanisms that would inevitably be abused by macro-ers and farmers, and ensures that miners will not be able to fully opt out of the PvP experience they currently “enjoy”. I submit that this would be a reasonably-simple-to-implement, easy-to-balance, worthy addition to the game.

Update: I also posted this in the Features And Ideas Discussion forum on Eve-Online. You can find it here if you want to add any feedback. Thanks!

One Response to “Ore Return By Solar Sail”

  1. Hasril Pux (in-game) says:

    This is a brilliant idea! I realize this is an old post, but do you know if CCP has considered implementing this? I’ve never been fond of macro mining or a can mining, and this would make a respectable alternative to those methods. The risk factor is acceptable, entertaining even, and almost entirely for those reasons I would use this method every time I mine.

    I’ve only been reading your site for the past two days and I just gotta say, it’s been a very interesting read.

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