Thursday, February 26, 2009

EVE Online and the art of mining (Part 3)

In part 1 of this series we discussed the two principal methods of mining along with some criteria you might consider in choosing between the two methods. In part 2 we discussed some general techniques one should use in mining, and in part 3 we're going to discuss the second principal method of mining--Jettison Can (or jetcan for short)--in a little more detail.

If you have been following along in this series and have been using the solo mining method in a Frigate or a Destroyer you might be looking for something a little more efficient. Solo mining can become a little tedious with all the running back and forth, but you can make it a little more bearable. Switching to jetcan mining means you can skip most of the round-trips to the station to drop off loads of ore, but it also means you will lose some of your security and will need a "hauler". As you fill up your cargo hold with ore, instead of running back to the station to drop off you can open your hold and right click on the ore and select jettison. Doing that will place your ore in a temporary cargo can that free floats in space. Incidentally this can will only last one hour and then it and anything left inside of it will be destroyed. If you right click on the can and select "set name" and then name it, the can will last two hours instead of one. With the jetcan all you have to do is keep dropping your ore into the can when you fill your cargo hold, but there are some limitations to these cans, as you will undoubtedly notice. The first of which is that you have to be within 1500m of them to access them. If you are in a Frigate or Destroyer, you can move back and forth to it from where ever you're at though. Or if you are in a larger ship and have a tractor beam you can simply tow it along with you.

Once you fill up the can to whatever level you want or feel comfortable with, you can run back to the station and switch to your industrial. Then run out to your can (you bookmarked the cans location didn't you?), empty it, and take the load back into the station. Once the ore is dropped off switch back to your mining ship and repeat for as long as you care.

But know this; that can is completely unsecured. Anyone can go up to your can, open it, and take anything and everything from it without you being able to stop them. Anyone that does that however, will become flagged to you. If you mine for very long you will find that whatever system you are in, there will be people who do this intentionally hoping you will attack them. Don't do it. They'll usually do one of two things, either just scoop your can (called can-flipping), or by taking your can and then putting their own can out into space. This second method is probably the more common. They know that most miners won't attack them, but they are hoping you will take back your ore from their can, which flags you to them. And they will attack you. If you are new to EVE, do not be deceived by someone doing this in a small Frigate. They generally know what they are doing, though you will find the odd new player who takes the contents of your can out of ignorance. Can-flipping isn't something that happens hourly, but you will see and experience it if you jetcan mine where ever you are.

You might be thinking that doesn't seem all that safe. Believe it or not a lot of miners create alt accounts to be their haulers. If you can afford to pay for two accounts, create a second account and skill him up into industrial ships initially. An Itheron mk III with 3 x Cargo hold expander I's for example can hold a minimum of 9,000m3 ore, which is a pretty decent amount of ore for someone that is either mining in a Frigate/Destroyer or in a mining Cruiser at this point. The EVE client isn't all that large for as far as MMO clients go these days, so most mid-level computers should be able to run two clients simultaneously. I run two (my miner and my hauler) in window mode on my laptop with no problems (Duo core2 2.03ghz, Vista with 4GB of ram). Fleet up the two accounts, and then set your hauler to stay within 500m of your mining ship. As your miner fills his hold, jettison a can into space. From your hauler, open the jetcan and either grab the ore and move it into your cargo hold, or leave one ore in the jetcan to keep the can alive, and move the rest of the ore into your haulers hold. I prefer the second method myself, at which point the jetcan serves one purpose--as a momentary transfer point between the two ships. If someone tries to flip the can the most they should get is 1 ore. Lot safer.

Say you don't want to pay for two accounts though, but hate having to stop mining operations to haul your ore into a station and don't like the insecurity of jetcans. There is of course another method of jet-mining that is more secure, however it has it's own set of idiosyncrasies that you'll have to deal with. Giant Secure Containers (GSC) offer you the ability to jet-mine and be completely, and totally secure at the same time. A GSC won't hold anywhere near as much ore as a jetcan will, but you can password protect the GSC so no one else can open it, and you can anchor it in space, so that the GSC itself can not be scooped and stolen from you. The problem with using GSCs though is that you have to train Anchoring I to use them, they can't be used at all in 1.0-.8 space, and you can't anchor one within 5k meters within any other stationary object (asteroid or another GSC). Once anchored the GSC won't move, so if you think of the typical asteroid belt you would most likely want to anchor several of them along the asteroid belt for the best efficiency. In other words it would take planning on your part ahead of time to decide where you wanted to anchor them along the belt in question, and then you would need to purchase them; haul them to the belt and anchor them in the spots you determined.

From the size of the cans you can see you aren't going to be able to do that in a Frigate, so you'll need to haul them in your hauler. the idea is that as you mine and fill the cans along the belt, you would at some point jump into your hauler to come out to the cans to empty them and take the ore back to the station. You could also but double the amount of cans you needed. Fill your hold with the first set of cans and anchor them. Then go back and fill your hold with the second set of cans. When you head out to the belt to pick up the ore from the anchored cans you can simply unanchor them and replace them with the empty GSCs in your hold. Doesn't matter which method you use as long as the ore gets to the station from the GSCs that are anchored along the belt.

Since you can only use GSCs in .7 or below space you will also begin to run into pirates. They're more common below .5 space but even in .7 space you will see them every now and again. So if you are intent on mining in .7 or below space in order to use GSCs then you will need to make sure you have some means of protecting yourself from the pirates. In my Exequror for example, I have a squad of Acolytes which can take care of any pirates I might run into above .5 space. But most Frigates and Destroyers can only hold or utilize one drone at a time. One drone can still do a good deal of damage, but if you are going to be mining in a smaller ship for some time yet you might consider skilling up in some drone skills to make your drone more powerful and might want to make sure you outfit your miner with a shield booster too.

Eventually you will get to a point in your skill progression where your miner can operate a mining barge. The barges--especially outfitted with cargo hold expanders--can hold a good deal of ore by themselves, but it still won't take a very long time to fill them. Because the GSCs are relatively small, and will be getting proportionally smaller as your mining yields increase, you will begin to outgrow GSC use which will leave you in the same relative position you were in at the beginning of your mining career. Which means running back into the station with each cargo hold load or getting a dedicated hauler.

My own plan, which might make sense to other serious miners that can afford to pay for an alt account, is to skill my hauler up into an Orca. The Orca will not only give me great mining bonuses but holds a very great deal of ore in its own right. It's designed as a mining support vessel so your hauler can park one in the middle of a belt and use its tractor beams to bring jetcans from your miner to it. No need for GSCs or the hassle of anchoring them, but of course an Orca will cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of 400-500 million ISK and will most likely take you a couple months to full train for anyway. While you train and save for that the best bet with a mining barge is to either haul your ore into the station solo-style, or use a dedicated hauler to do it. It won't take a very long time to fill an Itheron mk IV though, so either way you will be make a lot of round trips. Get the Orca once you can afford it. By the time you can afford it you will be at a point in your mining career where you can make it pay for itself in a short period of time anyway.