It’s actually approaching 2AM as I write this, but the concept of a lunchtime post is something short and fast enough that I can hammer it out in the hour I have for lunch at work, while I eat, using my iPad’s on-screen keyboard.
Mining is boring. Mining offers no particularly meaningful way to reward being active or paying attention – you can pick a ship that mines faster and requires you to empty your cargo bay more often, that’s about it, and (despite still being low-effort at a few actions every two minutes) the roughly seven-fold increase in activity required clearly isn’t worth it for the ~25% higher yield. There’s even less gameplay involved than ratting or other solo PvE and that’s saying a lot by EVE’s standards. That said, there is value in low effort and even “passive” (man do I hate that word) income, so doing away with that mode of mining shouldn’t necessarily be a design goal, either – properly incentivizing and rewarding a more active style should be.
So, to present an idea that isn’t really exactly new, throw out the notion of asteroids as big chunks of specific ore and instead imagine them as huge blobs of undifferentiated ore, or to keep the thinking simple, blobs of all kinds of ore mixed together. What’s actually in the asteroid would still be based on where you are, of course, so lots of ABCs in nullsec whereas these highsec blobs would be Veldspar and Scordite and Plagioclase, with Omber & Kernite and so forth about as you’d expect to find it now.
One option a miner would have would be something about like what you do now. Point your mining lasers at the rock and just let them run. You get… whatever you get. You might randomly get lucky and hit a node or vein of higher value ore, you might not, but there’s no more effort involved than there is today. Where the income from this low-effort mode should be balanced, well… that’s honestly another debate unto itself. Could leave it where it is and just put the active mode higher, could nerf it, could do both.
The active mode, by contrast, would involve some kind of minigame. Plenty of obvious (and less than obvious) options for that out there, really, but by doing it and doing it well you’d be able to not only target specific ore but greatly increase your actual mining rate, because reasons. Because you’re optimizing the frequency of your laser for the ore you’re after or whatever technobabble you want to go with.
The important thing here is that regardless of the mode you mine in, if you point a bunch of miners at one of these rocks for long enough, it’ll yield the same amount of minerals by the time it’s exhausted whether you’re active or not – the active option just does it much more quickly and so far more profitably. Or hell, you could raise the stakes a bit and present special bonus nodes or “things” in the minigame that let you get some extra minerals (or something else) impossible to get at in the passive mode.
In context here skills probably would just continue to affect mining much the same way they do now, improving your volume intake. Skill and success at the minigame would be a new factor though, and it’d be absolutely possible for an active miner with much lower character skills to nevertheless out-mine someone with high character skills. This would be a good thing and I dare you to convincingly argue otherwise; in the meantime, I’m going to sleep.