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Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#1
With Josh's recent work on scanners, and the new discussion about ice fields, I thought it might be useful to take an in-depth look at what the "mining" game might be like in Limit Theory.

Now that we've had an early look at what scanners might be like, and since we've been told mining lasers are out, replaced by "transfer units," what does all this imply for creating a mining empire in LT?

More specifically, given what (limited) things we (think we) know now, what will this part of the game feel like? What will a typical game session be like for a player who wants to do a bit of the old Ore Processing Shuffle?

How much of a role should the following activities play in mining?
  • Planning: Reviewing your production goals, studying the list of available resources, and deciding what to hunt for (or just winging it)
  • Prospecting: Scanners for sure... but what about consumable probes? sample-taking devices? detailed mining assay devices?
  • Extraction: Activate transfer unit, wait until hold is full. Should this be more active gameplay? Should some separation of base ore be possible here to minimize taking up some cargo hold space with trash?
  • Hauling: Does a full hold slow you down, or burn more gas? Can what's in your hold be scanned by other ships? Can they take some or all of what's in your hold? (How?)
  • Trading: Just sell your ore straight-up? Can you haggle, or otherwise allow character (RPG) abilities to affect sales price? If different places offer different prices, how much variation should there be in those prices, and under what conditions? Can you just give all your ore at no cost to your own factories if you own some?
There are other resource-related activities that aren't, strictly speaking, about "mining" per se. But they are related in that they may have some effect on the Production game that mining supports. How should these gameplay features help make mining more fun for more players?
  • Refining: Too complicated to include in LT? Should "things" you can mine be directly convertible to products, or would a refining minigame be appropriate? If some raw resources can be refined, what should they be refinable to?
  • Manufacturing: Blueprints to objects... but will blueprints call for specific input resources? How detailed will blueprints be? Will it be possible to customize the output of a blueprint, either before or during a manufacturing run? What's the limit (heh) on how many of some product can be manufactured if you have a blueprint and functionally infinite resources?
  • Distribution: How do manufactured products get to "consumers"? Must real NPCs buy products, or can they be purchased by notional (simulated) groups of NPCs? Do products needs to be shipped to sales points? (Is there a viable gameplay role as a "superstore" selling products manufactured by NPCs?)
  • Research: What kinds of research can improve mining? Better scanners... and what else? How much better can everything supporting mining get?
  • Contracts: Why mine? Can you choose to do it just for yourself? Or will it clearly be more advantageous to take a contract to mine for someone else? At what point can you start to offer your own mining contracts? How far can you go down that path?
  • Factions: Will mining-only organizations emerge? Or is factional mining only cost-effective when it's just part of a larger production-focused organization?
Those are a lot of questions -- feel free to tackle whatever interests you.

It's worth noting that the Commonly Proposed Ideas thread has links to a number of mining-related subjects. Those are worth reading. (Also, is anyone updating that thread any more?)

In light of recent Joshisms, though, I thought it might be interesting to revive an existing thread on the mining process to include the new scanning information, and to open it up to other gameplay systems that could affect mining-as-gameplay.

New thoughts?
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#4
Flatfingers wrote: Prospecting[/url]: Scanners for sure... but what about consumable probes? sample-taking devices? detailed mining assay devices?
Strikes me as possible an unnecessary extra step. Though perhaps there could be different levels of assaying equipment that do a better job, so a rock you previously thought worthless might turn out to be fancy.

Maybe a core probe can only penetrate so far into a rock, so with improved models you can see whats deeper inside without excavation.
Extraction: Activate transfer unit, wait until hold is full. Should this be more active gameplay? Should some separation of base ore be possible here to minimize taking up some cargo hold space with trash?
I think, personally, that there should be two general types of mining. Fast 'nodes' that you find occasionally while prospecting and can mining beam/drone/etc in a couple of minutes, and a long term 'installation mine' that you plop a rig down on then go away, returning for pickups.

The idea of eve style 'sit in place for hours sucking down minerals' I think is just irredeemably boring. I could imagine some minigames to spice it up, but I think that would be a cure worse than the disease.. At least with the brainless mining I could watch a movie or something.
Hauling[/url]: Does a full hold slow you down, or burn more gas? Can what's in your hold be scanned by other ships? Can they take some or all of what's in your hold? (How?)
I would be thrilled beyond measure if mass directly correlated with your speed. I think it provides a great natural predator vs prey balance for commercial ships. Mining ships and haulers are natural prey, being weak. But, they have massive engines for pushing around tons of mass. What happens when they get rid of the tons of mass? They now have massive engines pushing a much smaller mass. SPEEEEEEEED!

As for how, ideally Josh would blatantly copy Iwar2 and have cargo containers attached directly to the sides of the ship. It was so satisfying to pirate NPCs then call in your buddy in his hauler to pick up the choicest containers.
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#5
CutterJohn wrote:
Flatfingers wrote:Prospecting: Scanners for sure... but what about consumable probes? sample-taking devices? detailed mining assay devices?
Strikes me as possible an unnecessary extra step. Though perhaps there could be different levels of assaying equipment that do a better job, so a rock you previously thought worthless might turn out to be fancy.

Maybe a core probe can only penetrate so far into a rock, so with improved models you can see whats deeper inside without excavation.
I think probes would be a great addition to the scanner mechanic. Maybe a scanner that's a bit less accurate when delving into an asteroid field, and tells you "there's a lot of ore in this chunk of rock, but not in all of it and I don't know where exactly" and you then would have to probe it to know where to dig. (obviously it would only work/be useful for the bigger asteroids)
CutterJohn wrote:
Flatfingers wrote:Extraction: Activate transfer unit, wait until hold is full. Should this be more active gameplay? Should some separation of base ore be possible here to minimize taking up some cargo hold space with trash?
I think, personally, that there should be two general types of mining. Fast 'nodes' that you find occasionally while prospecting and can mining beam/drone/etc in a couple of minutes, and a long term 'installation mine' that you plop a rig down on then go away, returning for pickups.

The idea of eve style 'sit in place for hours sucking down minerals' I think is just irredeemably boring. I could imagine some minigames to spice it up, but I think that would be a cure worse than the disease.. At least with the brainless mining I could watch a movie or something.
I really like this.
I am usually more an 'entrepreneur' than a fighter in this kind of games, but I get instantly bored with the 'go there, grind like there's no tomorrow, rinse, repeat' routine, and a way to deploy something like a semi-permanent mining station that you could install near a profitable vein and use it as a provisional base of operations would be terrific.
Something like a 'nomad miner' kind of thing :thumbup:
Flatfingers wrote:Trading: Just sell your ore straight-up? Can you haggle, or otherwise allow character (RPG) abilities to affect sales price? If different places offer different prices, how much variation should there be in those prices, and under what conditions? Can you just give all your ore at no cost to your own factories if you own some?
Haggling would be absolutely spectacular :clap:
it would make the whole trader business really 'alive', provided it doesn't become a 'wander everywhere marking down starting prices and then go back where it suits you best'...there should be some sort of remote-haggling device like a trading computer (or stock market :shock: ) to complete your transactions and then go make the deliveries straight up where they're needed.

The haggling/stock-market thingy could also get handy for a tiny bit of speculation: I could intentionally underprice things for (potential) allies and such using it as a diplomatic advantage, or to drive opposition out of business if I'm in a position of strength...the possibilities are endless! :o
Flatfingers wrote:Contracts: Why mine? Can you choose to do it just for yourself? Or will it clearly be more advantageous to take a contract to mine for someone else? At what point can you start to offer your own mining contracts? How far can you go down that path?
As I understand LT so far, there's really no difference between you and the NPCs...so if you could take on a contract to mine for someone, why not do the opposite? it would be a great management challenge...what can you offer that the others don't to your contractors? why mine for you?
Flatfingers wrote:Factions: Will mining-only organizations emerge? Or is factional mining only cost-effective when it's just part of a larger production-focused organization?
This I think is an issue that would solve itself over time, if I understood how LT would work. Quoting Josh's february 9 dev update:
JoshParnell wrote:That would have interesting implications for research, since a research unit is assumed to produce RU at a constant rate - so if the blueprint-object RU ratio increases as items get more valuable, it means that research slows down non-linearly with valuable items, putting a higher curb than usual on vertical progression. It would also mean that research would fall out of balance with production - in the end game, it would be near-impossible to develop a new technology, but comparatively trivial to produce any existing one. Altering the powers involved in these fundamental constants could change not just the balance of activities, but also the way that the balance changes over time. Cool :geek:
Be a huge mining-only enterprise would be damn profitable in the early stages, but with the increasing technology level being stuck at the first stage of the production chain will be less and less convenient.
This could lead to a lot of possible outcomes: diversify? try to reach monopoly of resources in order to boost the prices and stay afloat? become a mammoth mining company compensating quality with quantity? something in-between?

Sounds pretty realistic to me...
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#6
I'm in a rush so please forgive me if the topic's already "out there"...

What about deep core perforations + bomb detonations? Could that be feasable, bring better results? I won't be that kind of miner, but as a concept to explore could be interesting to know the possible applications. Besides... a chain reaction in a tight asteroid field or ice field could be something to behold once in a lifetime (at least lol). Any thoughts? :wave:
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#8
mcsven, I came within a gnat's whisker of including a link to that very post in the Prospecting bullet. I'm feeling a bit silly now for not having done so as I agree it would make for good gameplay.

One of the other notions that comes up sometimes (especially following a mention of wildcatters) is of "staking a claim" to a find -- one that's too big to take immediately and completely -- by registering it with some local authority. That implies a number of interesting game mechanics, including the idea that there is anything like a "local authority" who is capable of and interested in enforcing property rights.

It also creates possibilities such as claim jumpers, and of needing to be tight with some paramilitary types who can guard your find (and won't steal it) while you're off registering your ownership of it.

I'm not sure how much fun the typical LT player would find those things. Interesting to think about, though.
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#10
From today's devlog:
JoshParnell wrote:The next thought really excited me: what if you had to launch probes that attached to the asteroid, took core samples, and then fed information directly into your HUD - basically like a mini-scanner, except via real objects that you have to deploy! That'd be pretty sweet, not only because the concept is fun and immersive, but also because it introduces another "real" minigame: trying to triangulate the high-density pockets of an asteroid with a limited number of probes.
Why not directly use the 3-D overlay of the asteroid? the probe could add nodes where the good stuff is, and you'd have a way to elegantly merge the HUD with real objects with a purpose! :shock:

(it would also be quite cool il the 3-D 'virtual' asteroid, which in this current instance of the HUD is a translucent blue, could glow with a different color where "the good stuff" is)
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#11
Strego wrote:From today's devlog:
JoshParnell wrote:The next thought really excited me: what if you had to launch probes that attached to the asteroid, took core samples, and then fed information directly into your HUD - basically like a mini-scanner, except via real objects that you have to deploy! That'd be pretty sweet, not only because the concept is fun and immersive, but also because it introduces another "real" minigame: trying to triangulate the high-density pockets of an asteroid with a limited number of probes.
Why not directly use the 3-D overlay of the asteroid? the probe could add nodes where the good stuff is, and you'd have a way to elegantly merge the HUD with real objects with a purpose! :shock:

(it would also be quite cool il the 3-D 'virtual' asteroid, which in this current instance of the HUD is a translucent blue, could glow with a different color where "the good stuff" is)
Yeah, I would like to see it as a 3-D virtualisation as well. Something I'm not decided about is whether the high-concentration parts should appear as nodes and whether mining beams should automatically lock on to them, or whether the player should have to control the beam completely manually.
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#13
How about this? Since people don't like wasting time waiting for their ship to 'suck down minerals', why not let the long part be the DISCOVERY of where the minerals are but the actual mining of it be the quick piece?

In minecraft (yeah, I know I bring it up way too much) the hard part is always trying to find the deposits, but once you've found one, it doesn't take long to get the items that are in the blocks.

This way, you spend time on the interactive stuff rather than spend time on the non-interactive stuff.

Edit: Grats Thymine on your new rank. I was *really* tempted to delete one or two of your off-topic posts somewhere in your far past (so you wouldn't know where I deleted them from) to drop you to 999 just to screw with you. ;)
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#14
I'm pretty close to being OK with just using mining probes to collect all resources, and doing away entirely with mining via transfer units.

Incidentally, mining via harvester (plus hand-sampling) is pretty much exactly how Star Wars Galaxies did it. Quite a few folks seemed to think that was fun, for whatever that's worth.
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#15
Wow, this is embarassing...I hadn't even seen this thread, but looks like you guys were thinking about probes long before I was :lol: Oh you....LTers...you're a sharp crew :)
CutterJohn wrote:Strikes me as possible an unnecessary extra step. Though perhaps there could be different levels of assaying equipment that do a better job, so a rock you previously thought worthless might turn out to be fancy.

Maybe a core probe can only penetrate so far into a rock, so with improved models you can see whats deeper inside without excavation.
The way I see it, it is an unnecessary extra step, just like scanning is an unnecessary extra step in finding something. It's just another one of those "optional" pieces of gameplay to engage with, such that people who are interested in it can get good at it and reap the benefits. Those who aren't interested can still fire blindly at rocks and do just fine - the amount that you extract from any surface point is the same whether you're doing it blindly or not. In addition, locating ore can still be done with the scanner. So probing would just be an extra step for those that want to maximize yield (especially if, for example, you wanted to make sure that you set up a drill at the most favorable location.

Like I've said before, that's pretty much how I want most if not all of the LT gameplay to be - you can hop in and do it just fine without worrying about any complexities ("easy to learn")...but as you become more experienced and want to start engaging with the game at a deeper level (in the area of your choice), those options are there for you.
Strego wrote:I think probes would be a great addition to the scanner mechanic. Maybe a scanner that's a bit less accurate when delving into an asteroid field, and tells you "there's a lot of ore in this chunk of rock, but not in all of it and I don't know where exactly" and you then would have to probe it to know where to dig. (obviously it would only work/be useful for the bigger asteroids)
Definitely, that's pretty much how I see it too. Scanner is for detecting the presence of something in another object, probing is for locating that presence within the object.
CutterJohn wrote:I think, personally, that there should be two general types of mining. Fast 'nodes' that you find occasionally while prospecting and can mining beam/drone/etc in a couple of minutes, and a long term 'installation mine' that you plop a rig down on then go away, returning for pickups.

The idea of eve style 'sit in place for hours sucking down minerals' I think is just irredeemably boring. I could imagine some minigames to spice it up, but I think that would be a cure worse than the disease.. At least with the brainless mining I could watch a movie or something.
I like that too, and would like to explore it a bit more. I like the idea that players still have something to gain by prospecting manually, but not letting it be the same "in for the long haul," boring gameplay that you see in EVE. The idea of occasionally hitting a really rich pocket that can be sucked up quickly while prospecting is very appealing. When you set down a drill, you're not setting it down in these "fast" pockets, you're setting it into a rock that has a high overall content, so that it will be a long time before the drill runs out.
DWMagus wrote:How about this? Since people don't like wasting time waiting for their ship to 'suck down minerals', why not let the long part be the DISCOVERY of where the minerals are but the actual mining of it be the quick piece?

In minecraft (yeah, I know I bring it up way too much) the hard part is always trying to find the deposits, but once you've found one, it doesn't take long to get the items that are in the blocks.

This way, you spend time on the interactive stuff rather than spend time on the non-interactive stuff.

Edit: Grats Thymine on your new rank. I was *really* tempted to delete one or two of your off-topic posts somewhere in your far past (so you wouldn't know where I deleted them from) to drop you to 999 just to screw with you. ;)
Yep, this. I like it a lot, and it's more-or-less what CutterJohn was getting at with the idea of fast nodes. Ore pockets should follow something like the exponential distribution, perhaps even exp squared, so that most of the time you're finding junk, not really worth stopping for. Every now and then, you happen to strike a rich pocket, and fill up a full hold of ore pretty easily. Making discovery the hard part sounds like a great idea :)

However, now it starts to call probing into question. If the discovery of ore is a really high-variance activity, then what's the point of a probe? Why not just use your transfer unit and watch the rate? If you see the rate spike, then bingo, you've hit a pocket. Otherwise, move on. Where do probes come into play? Perhaps for long-term drilling (where high-density pockets don't apply?)? Or...maybe the high-density pockets are very hard to hit precisely, so you can use a probe to discover the exact surface location in less time than it would take you to randomly try hitting different parts of the rock with a transfer beam.
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