EVE Evolved: What do we want from Drilling Platforms?
Drilling Platforms were touted as an upcoming revolution in the way we collect resources in EVE Online, but the feature was still firmly in the early design stage when we discussed it with CCP at last year's Fanfest. There were general ideas floating around about automated mining structures that require different levels of player interaction and disrupting enemy resources by attacking their drills, but nothing concrete at the time. We've now been promised a solid development roadmap update at this year's Fanfest on April 6th and more information on Drilling Platforms in devblogs before then, and it's got me wondering what EVE's upcoming resource-gathering revolution might look like.
In this edition of EVE Evolved, I speculate about what Drilling Platforms might be like, discuss the kinds of gameplay I'd like to see from them, and lay out a few of my dream features.
When I spoke to Executive Producer Andie "CCP Seagull" Nordgren last year about Drilling Platforms, there seemed to be two major guiding principles behind the design: The idea that you should be able to invest in your space by building stuff, and the idea that there's room in EVE for different levels of passive and active resource gathering gameplay.
Nullsec alliances can currently improve a star system by installing upgrades into its infrastructure hub, such as the Ore Prospecting Array that spawns asteroid belts or the Pirate Detection Array that spawns cosmic anomalies. These upgrades aid active farming and improve what's already in a star system, and it takes a major offensive to destroy the hub. With Drilling Platforms I expect that you'll be able to improve a star system by building actual infrastructure at key locations and defending those real assets you built rather than just the strange abstraction of upgrades in an infrastructure hub.
Most resources in EVE today are actively gathered by players, whether it's miners hoovering up asteroids or gas clouds, explorers hunting down rare blueprints in relic sites, or anyone salvaging wrecks for rig components. Only a few resources can be obtained via automated processes, the most notable being moon minerals used in tech 2 production. The fact that moon mining takes place in destructible starbases has led to all kinds of emergent political gameplay, with moons being key strategic objectives in major wars and alliances forming defense pacts and trade cartels to protect their profits.
Drilling Platforms will likely be designed to replace starbases as moon mining platforms and also to expand that paradigm into other common resources such as tech 1 minerals and gas, and possibly even unexpected resources such as datacores and salvage. This should ideally encourage alliances to build wealth-generating infrastructure throughout their territories, while providing strategic targets for fleets of all sizes to disrupt an enemy's economic activity or steal assets. We could have a range of long-term platforms that slowly churn out resources into hackable containers, for example, and short-term structures that need to be interacted with frequently.
Though I'm a big fan of citadels, I think Engineering Complexes were a bit of a missed opportunity. CCP could have given us specialised research lab and shipyard structures with minimal offensive capabilities and let us anchor them near friendly citadels for protection to create a small citadel village. The studio could also have made a way for players to spy on, steal from, or disrupt industrial structures to create interesting PvP opportunities. In the end, Engineering Complexes were just a type of citadel hull with bonuses to both manufacturing and research but about the same in all other respects.
The main worry I have for Drilling Platforms is that they'll all just be citadels with different models and bonuses. I do expect a fully-featured refinery citadel with the ability to run reactions, but a "resource-gathering revolution" also calls for a fundamentally different class of structure. They'll need to be infrastructure you can invest in and build up throughout a system to slowly harvest resources in the long-term and improve active harvesting in the short-term. They don't necessarily all need the full citadel feature set, and I think they do need to be easily disrupted or open to theft rather than just being vulnerable to complete destruction for a few hours per day. I'm hoping the reason that the feature has been pushed back from Winter 2016 to a late 2017 release window is that its scope has expanded to include unique mechanics like these.
The general framework I'd love to see Drilling Platforms use is that you find a resource via the normal process and install a platform to enhance it in some way. You might find a hidden asteroid belt full of Crokite and install some drilling rigs to slowly mine it over the course of a week but get a higher total yield. Or you could find a gas site and install a platform to make it a longer-term fixture of the star system that slowly churns out gas. Below are a few items from my personal dream feature wishlist for Drilling Platforms, admittedly ignoring technical feasibility:
- Small Drilling Rigs: The first idea that probably pops into anyone's head when they hear about Drilling Platforms is a small and cheap rig that you can install on any asteroid that automatically mines very slowly and has to be emptied periodically. This is a no-brainer and can easily be limited to a maximum of five per player using a new skill. Players could afford to spend some time surveying for the best asteroids to install the rigs on and then leave them for a few hours to fill up, and if you don't defend them, then someone could come and steal or destroy your ore.
- Planetoid Smasher: One of the most interesting ideas I've read for Drilling Platforms comes from the original "Back into the Structure" dev blog from 2015. Massive planetoids could rarely spawn in asteroid belts, and you could install a drilling rig that would break it apart into small high-yield asteroids over a long duration. Imagine it as a structure that generates an extremely rich asteroid belt over time, but you still have to mine the asteroids and someone could come and ninja mine it if you don't. It could even run for just few hours per day, so enemies know roughly when you might be mining to provide PvP opportunities or when to pop in to steal the asteroids.
- Comet Mining: CCP has often teased the idea of locating and mining stray comets in a star system as a way to actively produce moon minerals. I'd love to see some kind of telescope structure that can be activated to locate a comet that can be actively mined to produce a random mix of moon minerals. Not only would this help scale supply to the tech 2 market naturally by player activity but it would also break the moon goo cartels. Each system might get a new comet every day, and anyone who doesn't have access could potentially hack the structure to activate it and locate the system's comet.
- Salvage Yard: Have you ever come across a huge wrecked ship or structure in a salvage exploration site and wanted to salvage it rather than just picking through the loot containers? I'd love to see a salvage yard structure that players could build on top of these sites, which would periodically re-fill the hackable loot containers with salvage parts. What would be even better is if destroyed titans left behind a special wreck that we could set up a salvage yard on rather than a normal wreck that can be salvaged in any old frigate.
Drilling Platforms have the potential to be a total revolution in the way we collect resources in EVE Online, revitalising everything from nullsec production to dangerous lowsec mining. This feature could break any tech 2 moon goo cartels, provide vast sources of minerals for capital ship production in nullsec, and maybe even ensure that local resource-gathering is always more desirable than importing minerals from Jita.
Alliances may finally be able to invest in the profitability of their space in a way that makes sense, and small fleets may suddenly find themselves with plenty of strategic targets to hit on PvP roams. The largest alliances might even be able to forego most of their active resource gathering and concentrate on investing in and defending structures, while individuals and small corporations could gain guerrilla opportunities to profit and steal from the rich. A lot is hanging in the balance as we eagerly await CCP's upcoming Devblogs on Drilling Platforms and head rapidly toward EVE Fanfest 2017. What would you like to see from Drilling Platforms?