EVE Evolved: EVE Online’s moon mining overhaul and the future of conflict

Just under four years ago at EVE Fanfest 2013EVE Online‘s Executive Producer Andie Nordgren took the stage and delivered an epic long-term vision for the game’s future in which players will one day explore deep space and colonise previously undiscovered star systems. Developers have been tackling this enormous vision one step at a time ever since, and today we have a versatile set of player-built Citadels and Engineering Complexes for corporations and alliances of all sizes. As we approach the four year mark, we’re now about to hit another major milestone in Nordgren’s plan with the release of Upwell Refinery structures and a total overhaul of EVE‘s resource-gathering gameplay.

CCP released a devblog last week revealing details of the new Upwell Refinery structures and a whole new gameplay system for moon mining that sounds pretty damn impressive. Rather than simply deploying a static structure that provides a permanent stream of moon minerals, new moon mining structures will physically rip a huge chunk of the moon’s surface away and drag it through space to a refinery for players to mine. The new mechanic will transform moon mining from a relatively secure source of passive income into entirely active gameplay, with far-reaching consequences for alliance warfare. This forms one part of the promised resource-gathering revolution, which we’re sure to hear more about at EVE Fanfest 2017 this week.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I drill down into the details of the new Upwell Refineries and moon mining mechanics, and ask what effect this will have on the rest of the game.

How does moon mining work now?

Moon mining has been a highly contentious topic for most of EVE Online lifetime as it forms the basis of the tech 2 manufacturing chain and so there’s a lot of ISK involved. Base minerals are slowly harvested from moons all across New Eden using automated starbases and fed into reactors to produce extremely valuable advanced materials. There’s big money to be made in running a reactor farm and regularly switching to the most profitable reactions depending on market conditions, but’s not engaging gameplay.

Shuffling around all those materials and keeping the fuel tanks topped up on the reactor starbases can be a huge logistical headache, and there’s always the risk that your reactors could be attacked as they have to be set up in low-security or null-security space. On the other hand, powerful military alliances often claim moons with rare materials such as Dysprosium and just sell the raw material on the market rather than running a reactor themselves, generating billions of ISK per month for very little work.

The most valuable moons have often been seen as strategic objectives in territorial wars over the years, but most of the actual battles over moons involve shooting at stationary structures for hours with no real defense being mounted. CCP even tried to make things more interesting by adding the ability for individuals to steal from moon mining operations and reactor farms with the introduction of the Mobile Siphon in 2013, but they’re usually discovered and destroyed very quickly and are more of an annoyance than engaging gameplay.

How does the new system work?

The new moon-smashing mechanic takes place in a new Upwell Refinery structure, and it sounds so much simpler and more engaging than the current system. One refinery placed near a moon can install a special moon mining service that physically blasts a chunk out of the moon’s surface and tractors it toward the refinery. Once the chunk is close enough, the refinery’s owner can detonate it to break it apart into a massive asteroid field that players can then actively mine for moon minerals using standard mining ships.

The refinery’s owners will be able to specify what size of chunk they want to carve out of the moon’s surface, from one small chunk every week to larger ones that take several weeks to reach the refinery. It’s expected that alliances will organise regular mining events to quickly collect the valuable moon goo, which is certain to make miners more valuable in nullsec alliances.

The new system will also make those complex reactor farms a thing of the past by turning reactions into a new assembly-line style industry. You’ll be able to use reactions in an Upwell Refinery in exactly the same way you’d use a blueprint, and a new skill will increase the number of reactions players can run simultaneously. Some players have warned that removing passive supply of moon minerals will starve the market and drive up prices, but I think reactions no longer being limited by slow hourly cycles will have the opposite effect. We can expect the gap between the price of raw moon minerals and the reacted output to close rapidly, and the profitability of reactions will take a nosedive.

How will this affect conflict?

The one outcome we can be sure of when passive moon mining is replaced by this new active version is that more of the conflict over moons will involve actual players shooting at each other. There’ll probably be more full-scale turf wars over moons with rare resources, as multiple refineries can be built around a moon but only one can have the moon mining service installed. Moons will only be valuable to claim if you’re actually going to get mining fleets together, though, and more ships in space means more opportunities for combat.

You’ll actually be able to see a moon chunk visually approaching an enemy refinery and roughly predict when they will have to detonate it, so it should be easier to get a fleet together to drop on enemies while they’re mining. On the other hand, it may be difficult to catch miners in the act as the asteroid belt will be generated right next to the refinery and the station’s weapons will be in range to help.

The Rorqual’s PANIC module will also be a lot more useful to a defending mining fleet as they should only need to stall for a few minutes while a backup fleet is put together in the refinery. Getting an enemy Rorqual to hit the PANIC button could be a great way for an attacker to force an escalation, though, and some alliances will probably even put a Rorqual out there deliberately as bait to get a fight. With billions of ISK in moon goo floating in space, I wouldn’t be surprised if some alliances even tried to steal enemy moon goo with an offensive mining fleet. That would be a hell of a sight to see!

Active moon mining has been a highly requested feature for years, so I’m pretty excited to see it actually happening even if it is still largely limited to territorial nullsec alliances. Developers have also said that they’re interested in expanding this “scheduled mining event” style gameplay to other resources, so we may get similar mechanics for other resource-gathering activities in the future. We might be able to farm gas for tech 3 production directly from stars inside wormhole space, or generate asteroid fields full of tech 1 minerals from planetoids in the kuiper belt of every star system.

I’ll be on the ground at EVE Fanfest 2017 later this week from April 6th to April 8th to get more insight into CCP’s plans for resource-gathering and the future direction for EVE. If you have any questions for developers or if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to follow up on while I’m there, leave a comment or send an email to brendan@massivelyop.com and I’ll do what I can!

EVE Online expert Brendan ‘Nyphur’ Drain has been playing EVE for over a decade and writing the regular EVE Evolved column since 2008. The column covers everything from in-depth EVE guides and news breakdowns to game design discussions and opinion pieces. If there’s a topic you’d love to see covered, drop him a comment or send mail to brendan@massivelyop.com!
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