This post is for the personal entertainment of one of my buddies. I told him a long and wild tale about some run-ins I had with a newie-ish pilot in a Rokh battleship. And I was going to post that story here. I survived and triumphed in ways that should have been impossible. It was a great story.

I’ve seen this pilot over several days. I could swear he was in a Rokh when I first saw him. But his performance this morning was pretty lame for a battleship.

When I pulled out my logs this morning to write up the story, something unfortunate became clear. Perhaps he was in a Rokh yesterday. But this morning, he was in a Cormorant destroyer.

I thought that icon looked a bit small in the overview.

Anyway, that means no story. “And then, get this, I managed to get my breakfast all the way to the table without spilling it!” There’s just no accomplishment to it.

Sorry bud, I feel sheepish for telling you that pile of whoppers!

I got my first good scare in weeks, playing Eve today.

I’ve got a salvage Merlin that’s all about speed. Salvagers up top, salvage rigs aboard, speed fittings in the lows. It’s specialized for salvaging wrecks that, shall we say, I did not cultivate.

With those salvage rigs fitted, it’s a very expensive Merlin, and I would hate to lose it. So normally, when flying the Miniluxe Salvager, I avoid the wrecks that have loot in them (this will change after tomorrow’s patch).

So, today. Sweep of the belts. Cleaning up empty wrecks. Ignored three corp-branded wrecks in the first belt that still had loot in them.

Finished the belt sweep. On my way back to the station. I’m docking anyway, why not stop by and clean up those three wrecks?

Warp in. There are the four wrecks again, lock ’em and get to work.

About the time I clear the loot from the first wreck, my brain kicks in.

Wait a minute, four wrecks? I could swear there were three here just mere moments ago. It’s odd for somebody to pass through and pop a rat that fast…

And as my eyes flicked nervously to the overview, *blink* there’s now a frigate-sized icon on it, 30 clicks away. Click, Manticore? Stealth Bomber? Targetting me? FLASHING RED? RED? RED? WARP YOU LAZY ENGINE ROOM SODS, CRUISE MISSILES INCOMING! WARP! WARP LIKE YOU’VE NEVER WARPED BEFORE! OMG There go my shields WARP DAMMIT WARP I SAY!

My warp was slow and inelegant, because I was bobbing on the wreck. The first salvo hit me and ate about three quarter of my shields, and I was gone (with much screaming) before the second salvo hit. In subsequent conversation with the very cool Manticore pilot, I found out just how lucky I was. He’d had the skills to fly his Manticore for just a couple of hours, and he didn’t have the fitting skills to fit all three cruise missile launchers, nor all the ship and missile skills to make them extra deadly. But even so, his first salvo hit me for 367 points, and my ship has less than 1200 points total. If I’d stayed stuck on that wreck for another couple of salvos, it would have been very ugly indeed.

All’s well that ends well, as they say. But, having been on the receiving end of a stealth bomber for the first time in my Eve career, I’ve gotta say, they don’t feel quite as worthless as the forum warriors claim they are. With better skills he could have instapopped me, and if I had been just a smidge more inattentive, he’d have got me anyway.

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).

Conclusion:

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!

It was just like last time. There I was, minding my own business, autopiloting in a speed-fitted Executioner (frigate) around the galaxy collecting parts to build a couple of Gravity Capacitor Upgrade rigs.

Yeah. Sad to say, the tissue-paper Heron onto which I fitted the last pair had an unfortunate accident after jumping through a mission acceleration gate. Nobody said the life of a salvage explorer was easy.

Anyway, I came through a jumpgate and spotted a fat Armageddon wreck about thirty clicks out. Zoom zoom, it’s full of cheap large lasers (ten of them!) and supporting cap gear. More than will fit in my frigate hold.

Take a load to nearest station, come back. Now there’s a Condor orbiting the wreck, with a name suggesting an alt of the wreck owner. Apparently there’s no agro, because he orbits quietly while I finish looting the wreck and turn on my salvagers.

Bonus! Salvage is six melted capacitor consoles, very likely worth more than all the heavy lasers and related gear.

“Oh, the salvage life
is the life for me
with a rum tum tiddly-um rum tum tee
and I never ever ever give a fig about the weather
for the salvager’s life is the life for meeee!”

So I was minding my own business, autopiloting in a speed-fitted Executioner (frigate) around the galaxy collecting parts to build a couple of Gravity Capacitor Upgrade rigs (for faster scan probing). Suddenly through my cockpit window I notice a swarm of Hammerhead IIs chewing on each other.

Well, where the drones are swarming, salvage often follows. So I scroll out to get a sense of the tactical picture, and see a Curse attacking a Raven. Since the Curse is closing on the Raven, I select the Raven, hit “approach”, and hit my microwarp drive.

Beep beep! I felt like I was driving a little Nash Rambler with Roadrunner decals as I blew past the curse just as the Raven turned into a shiny yellow triangle. I whipped out my trusty wreck-opener (don’t leave home without it) and began stuffing battleship gear into my tiny frigate hold. Three Arbalest Siege Missile Launchers, an X-Large C5-L shield booster, some Tech II Magnetic Scattering Amplifiers, and I’m stuffed. No time to look over my shoulder and see whether this dearly departed battleship has friends, just hit the autopilot and GO GO GO! With another hearty “Beep beep!” and a cloud of thruster gas, I was Out Of There.

Inevitably, there was grumbling from the feller in the Curse. A convo request later and I’m hearing a demand and an insult. Not that the demand would have been satisfied in any case, but the insult made it a very short conversation:

Geoff C > return the stuff or face war noob
Marlenus > Insult? Bye.

A good thirty second’s salvage work if I do say so myself.

Yo, if you’re going to mine into a giant secure can, don’t forget to anchor the mofo first, mkay?

Kendolph, this means you. And thank you for the pyroxeres.

The moral of this story is, sometimes new characters drop great salvage.

A few days ago, I noticed the Alphabet Boys mining in one of the systems where I tend to hang out. I called them the Alphabet Boys because they were four of them mining in Bantams, and they were named assky, bssky, cssky, and dssky.

Now, normally I don’t mess with Bantam miners. Been there, done that, was glad to move past it. But, in my experience, groups like this, with names like that, grow up to be macro-miners, asteroid farmers, or worse. And besides, they were jettisoning Rich Plagioclase like it was sewage. So, over the course of several days, I several times grabbed up half a hauler full of ore that I found drifting in their vicinity.

During that process, I noticed that cssky was sometimes to be seen in an Osprey cruiser.

So this morning, I warp into the belt in my Crane to see bssky in his Bantam, mining into a jetcan “owned” (if things that have been jettisoned could be said to be owned) by cssky, who was present — but not mining — in the Osprey. As I approached the can, cssky warped away. I salvaged the abandoned ore, and — curious to see what cssky might be up to — hung around for a bit.

Back comes cssky, full of wrath and vengeance and light missiles. He’s had a chance to refit, and a Crane transport versus a properly fitted (not mining fitted) Osprey can get into a world of hurt. So I warp back to the dock, as cssky flashes an angry red in my rear view mirror.

Light missiles? And he was missing me with some kind of gun? That’s not a properly fitted (which is to say, that’s not a dangerous) Osprey.

So out of my transport I jumps, and into the Iron Crowbar, a salvage Ferox whose purpose in life is prying up salvage that’s not properly nailed down.

Back to the belts. Is friend cssky still there? Why yes, there he is, and in handy warp scramble range, too.

Pew pew pew. Remember the first rule of dealing with Ironfleet: our salvage vessels may look helpless, and sometimes they are. But we do have other ships, and when you open fire on us, we will shoot back.

In the event, it took less than three full volleys of mixed heavy missiles for cssky to go kaboom. I didn’t expect to get to salvage the wreck, because bssky was right beside it in a Bantam. But I targetted him just for fun, and as a distraction, while lumbering in for my salvage. And what to my wondering eye should appear in the wreck, but a tasty multi-million ISK Local Hull Conversion Expanded Cargo I?

To date, I think that’s the best thing that’s dropped from a ship that’s been foolish enough to shoot at Ironfleet salvage vessels.

The killmail was illuminating. The pair of Limos standard missile launchers on a cruiser is less than optimum, though fairly common. But lasers?


2007.02.14 17:08
Victim: cssky
Alliance: NONE
Corp: State War Academy
Destroyed: Osprey
System: [redacted]
Security: 0.7
Involved parties:
Name: Marlenus (laid the final blow)
Security: 1.1
Alliance: NONE
Corp: Ironfleet Towing And Salvage
Ship: Ferox
Weapon: Scourge Heavy Missile
Destroyed items:
Multifrequency S
Small Shield Booster I
Dual Light Beam Laser I
Dual Light Beam Laser I
Multifrequency S
Upgraded 'Limos' Standard Missile Bay I

One of the salvage activities I’ve enjoyed from my first weeks in the game is “busting” deep safespots. Back in the day — before probing was improved — it was apparently pretty safe to leave ships and gear drifting in safe spots far from the ecliptic. These days, not so safe. But it can still take quite a lot of scanning to find small items in deep safes. And it’s a lot of fun looking, you never know what you’ll find. I’ve found cruisers, industrials, cans full of torpedoes, once a shuttle full of expensive blueprints.

Today I found an old safespot, one belonging to a player who started in 2004. There was an anchored Giant Secure Can full of large ammo (which I can’t get at, drat it, unless I can guess the password), an empty shuttle named Cargo Container, and a combat-fitted Merlin frigate named — you guessed it — Cargo Container. Not a treasure, but fun to find. And of course I’ll save the location against the day that they ever decide to let stale unused Giant Secure Containers float free of their anchors. Scoop!

From time to time, I get jet can miners who seem to think that when I find jettisoned ore drifting dangerously close to their expensive mining barges, I’ll leave it marooned and drifting, alone and unloved, simply because they ask me to. I’m always civil to these people, but I never agree to their one-sided propositions.

Sometimes, the result is smack-talk. And sometimes, it’s attempted smack-talk via a machine translator. That’s so weird, and so fun, that I usually play along (and sometimes, play a little dumb) just to see what I get.

As this conversation begins, I’m in my Crane, approaching a jet can in the vicinity of a typical farmer-Covetor, flying three drones and no doubt equipped with civilian shield boosters, eight months old and member of State War Academy. During the course of it, I made several trips back to the hangar with a hold full of ore. At the end of it, Towering warped away:

towering > plz Do not take my box ok?
Your box? I do not understand
towering > My mineral
Marlenus > Your mineral is in your ship, how could I take it?
towering > I do not hope to see you are red
towering > Do you know?
Marlenus > No, I don't understand
towering > ....
towering > You like very much thus?
towering > What froom are you in ?
Marlenus > You mean, salvaging jettisoned ore? Yes, I like it very much.
Marlenus > I don't know what a froom is, sorry.
towering > Which nation do you come from?
Marlenus > United States, and you?
towering > I feel sorrow for you
Marlenus > LOL, why?
towering > I do not like to be thus you are knowing
Marlenus > You don't like to be thus what, you don't like mining?
towering > I do not like to be bother by the person
Marlenus > You're bothered by other players playing the game?
towering > But I do not like to see your time is red
Marlenus > I'm sorry that one of this game's features is something that you don't enjoy
towering > .......
towering > The game is very good But I hope that the person is better
towering > Especially American
towering > Do not close to me
Marlenus > I don't understand what "better" has to do with it. What's better about not playing?
towering > You what stuff very much do you know?
Marlenus > I don't understand.
towering > For God sake you can go to the another place
Marlenus > But, this is where the ore is. Why would I go elsewhere?'
towering > I wanted to eat the lunch you play slowly

This entry is for the interest and convenience of the Ironfleet friends and allies who participated in last week’s mining operations. (You know who you are.)

Recap: Marlenus found a medium Spudomain / Crokite / Ochre belt in .4 space. During the two days it took us to mine out the belt, at least one other mining barge was observed in the belt.

Total Ores Recovered:

Spudomain (various flavors): 4003 units (64,048 cubic meters)
Crokite (various flavors): 3340 units (53,440 cubic meters)
Ochre (various flavors): 16777 units (134,216 cubic meters)

Total volume of ore recovered: 257,704 cubic meters (approximately 6.5 loads for the Tritanium Deliverer)

In the best available local refinery, I was able to achieve a 96.2% recovery rate, and paid 2.354% tax to the Caldari Navy. In addition, 1870 units of ore were left after the refine due to minimum volume requirements across nine ore types. We received:

Ore / Units / Market Value (est.) / Estimated Mineral Price

Zydrine / 16,607 / 35,289,875 ISK / 2,125
Nocxium / 22,881 / 8,511,732 ISK /372
Megacyte / 1,874 / 6,933,800 ISK / 3,700
Tritanium / 22,531 / 56,553 ISK / 2.51
Pyerite / 1,874 / 16,491 ISK /8.80

Total ISK value of recovered minerals: 50.8 million

Thanks to all who came! Your shares will be delivered forthwith.