There are four ideas here, all of which I really like. I think they would each be a good mining method for ships of different sizes:JabbleWok wrote:I like that idea! Effectively a relocatable extraction platform. It would be less efficient but more flexible than locally assembled extractors. If whole asteroids can be crunched, it may be more efficient to fit an engine to the asteroid and take it to a more centralised processing station. Of course there will be a critical size of asteroid above which it becomes a better idea to take the crunching gear to it!Hardenberg wrote:I do like the idea of a mining rig installed into a ship, where you simply set the vessel down and let the drilling rig go to work. Then again, I could also imagine a "space dredger" (anybody remember the reference in the Elite manual?) that tractors in complete asteroids to devour and refine.
(1) Mining with Small to Medium Sized Ships
Small to medium ships could have a mining drill/extractor rig attached to them. Even smallish ships could use this setup. As Hardenberg said, they'd land on asteroids (which Josh has already implemented) and fire up the drill, which will automatically carry in ore to the cargo hold. Perhaps it would NOT also refine the ore into pure materials, but merely store the ore.
(2) Mining with Really Big Ships
With large enough (i.e. Really Big) ships, entire asteroids could be swallowed and processed within the leviathan's belly. Such a setup WOULD refine the ore into pure materials, spewing out the waste rock and storing the good stuff in the hold.
(3) Mining with Any Size Ship
A captain of any ship could order an AI-piloted thruster scaffold to dock with an asteroid, as JabbleWok suggests, and fly it to an ore refinery. This scaffold would basically just be a cheap NPC ship which you would use LT's command interface to command to land on the asteroid, and then command it to fly where you want the asteroid to go, pulling the rock with it. Even the tiniest ship could use this method, as it's not doing the mining itself.
Perhaps multiple scaffolds could be attached to large asteroids to make their transportation quicker and easier.
(4) Mining with Any Size Ship II
Another idea folded into JabbleWok's post was the idea of actually leaving the drilling rig on the asteroids surface. The ship with attached rig lands, leaves the rig where it is, and flies away. The rig then mines ore (maybe refining it too, if the rig is big/expensive), and the player returns and picks the rig back up when the it signals that it's full.