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Durendal5150

Mining, Constructs, Balance and You

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'We are considering the possibility of Mining Units inside your constructs, but this will be in an expansion after release and it will require some careful balancing to make sure standard mining is still an option, in particular for beginners.' ~Dev Blog

 

So after reading this I got to thinking, how can this be balanced out? What problems does the idea represent, how does it disrupt the mining gameplay loop, and how can we solve this?


So first, let's lay out the problem. The primary issue is one of progression. Mining by hand is a given task. Construct tools for the task increase the efficiency of this task immensely. Otherwise why would the player choose to use them? One might imagine a huge nanoforming device dissolving and scooping up huge swaths of land and ore in a fraction the time it would take a player. Obviously, this takes a lot of utility away from players without such devices. How can they compete? Why even try?


But with a little thought, we can turn this right on its head. Make this a vehicle for emergent player choice and 'real' progression(1) rather than linear A->B improvement.


The first step is to change up how ore voxels work. Instead of generating a Vein of X copper ore, as an example. Now we generate that vein, but we also pick a grade for the ore. This could be a variable percentage, or simply a low/medium//high variety. So a vein of 10,000 ore might be a small vein of pure ore, or a huge swath of mostly chaff minerals a half kilometer across.


So now, we have room to make different approaches to different situations by tweaking how the tools themselves interact with these ores.


On the one hand, we have low grade ores. Strip miner elements excel here. If you tried to mine this by hand you'd get nowhere at all. Pockets like this might go untapped for much of the early game because trying to mine them is so horribly uneconomical. But once you've got strip miners, suddenly they become a new potential source of material.


On the far end, we have high-grade ore. Dense, slow to mine, and where hand mining excels. The huge, imprecise, and jam-prone methods of the strip miner fail here. Such a machine will ruin the ore, giving you only a pittance of the yield otherwise, and the process of melting down this dense chunk is just not what the machine is for at all, and will take just as long or longer as mining it by hand.


So now we have, in the environment, a number of varying situations that call for different approaches. Some require artisanal mining by hand, some require the application of enormous strip mining equipment, and most importantly, both are valid, equally important choices at different levels of accessibility.


It's also worth noting that mining elements don't have to necessarily be more powerful. You could have a simple, construct-attached version of the hand nanoformer for the benefit of greater storage via an attached hopper. You can have the strip-miner described above, or you can have something inbetween.


Ultimately, the point I'm making here is that the key to balance for player resources and experience is, imho, to make different approaches valid in different situations, instead of viewing them as a clear progression. Hope my thoughts on the subject are useful!

 

Edit:
(1): I felt I should clarify what I mean by "real progression" since it's not really clear. What I mean by this is making the player able to interact with, utilize, or achieve something they were previously unable to before. As opposed to linear "illusory" progression where the activities in or state of the game world don't change, but the player simply becomes more efficient at them. (Or apparently more efficient in some cases.)

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The problem with ship mining is not only how fast it works. If that would be the case, your suggestion would be flawless.

 

The problem is also with automation. If vein are large enough for strip mining to be effective, what prevents me from programming my ship to mine 24/7? There is no way to balance that with hand-mining, which require actual player input.

 

So IMO keeping veins small, concentrated, odd shaped and in-between a lot of rock is the best way to prevent mine-bots.

 

But vehicle mining could be for something else than gathering resources. It could be tool primarily used for large terraforming projects - building tunnels, bridges, ect.

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5 hours ago, CalenLoki said:

The problem with ship mining is not only how fast it works. If that would be the case, your suggestion would be flawless.

 

The problem is also with automation. If vein are large enough for strip mining to be effective, what prevents me from programming my ship to mine 24/7? There is no way to balance that with hand-mining, which require actual player input.

 

So IMO keeping veins small, concentrated, odd shaped and in-between a lot of rock is the best way to prevent mine-bots.

 

But vehicle mining could be for something else than gathering resources. It could be tool primarily used for large terraforming projects - building tunnels, bridges, ect.

I actually considered this very problem in the process of falling asleep last night. I think the simple answer is 'ship tools aren't programmable.' It's already my understanding that NQ have no desire to let players program weapons systems on constructs to be automated. The tools can simply be the same. They're extensions of the players skills that require those skills to operate. I imagine something high-tech like a wide-area nanoformer, oscillating tractor beam, or other things that require the operator to direct and use them. Not just big drills and grinders that can be pressed against the terrain and collect it as they go.

 

Edit: I like the idea of vehicle tools that are expressly for terraforming a *lot* by the way. It's something else I'd thought about myself. I think that falls right into this same vein of 'player extension' too. Terraforming elements are just like hand tools for it, but BIG. Same as the mining elements operate.

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It's a bit different with weapons - you need to point them in quite specific direction. If your ship is made to always mine in front, then someone can just map mining to spacebar, and put coffee cup on it. So you program only ship movement, and character just constantly press mine button.

 

But. If veins between stone are shaped like thick spaghetti floating in the water, then it could work. As you would not strip mine, but actually have to follow the vein (even if a bit bigger and more loose than veins for hand mining). Which require actual player attention and control - problem with bots solved.

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Well, the point I'm making is you don't have to make miners just a thing that always mines to the front. Or acts like a drill and mines whatever it touches. You can make them tools the player has to aim and control like weapons, or like a larger version of the existing terraforming mechanics. If you were going to have mining devices that could be automated, I'd have them such that they just stop on ore completely, or destroy it instead of harvesting it. So they're useful for huge terraforming projects and nothing much else.

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On 4/1/2018 at 1:32 PM, CalenLoki said:

The problem is also with automation. If vein are large enough for strip mining to be effective, what prevents me from programming my ship to mine 24/7? There is no way to balance that with hand-mining, which require actual player input.

 

Actually it depends on mechanics of mining machinery. Few month ago I suggested similar thing - to allow creation of mining platforms, that won't be a ship-like structures, but more like rails connected platforms that can only move where rails are physically present. So in its turn it means you can mine faster and larger area but you always need to build new rails when ore at some range is mined. 

In other words for example some mining laser is added, it can operate only if attached to mining platform and has mining range of 20 meters (or any other 'balanced' range). Once all ore/soil is mined at that range, you need to build more rails to move your platform forward and continue mining again. So it won't be possible to create AFK miner, you should spend resources for 'advanced' mining in return you gain more efficiency. Also as your mining tool is part of a platform, which you need to move forward - you should mine not only useful ore, but also some useless stuff if it prevents platform from moving. 

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That's a lot of complicated additional mechanics to control for something that I think the original suggestion does more elegantly.

 

I don't see the need to create new usage cases and mechanics to stop the player from AFK mining, when just saying 'you can't program resource collection elements to work autonomously' is a non-feature that costs no additional dev time or complexity overhead.

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I agree here with Durendal5150. The idea of having different amounts of pure/distilled ore is good. Small veins of pure ore are easy for other players to get, but often annoying to find, while rich players find huge stuff and just mine it all. Despite it being less pure.

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Fair point. I actually hadn't wholly considered the effect on players by experience and wealth. Was more concerned with 'has constructs that mine' vs 'doesn't' but it does mean there's always a niche for newer/poorer players to fill in the loop, without dumbing the whole thing down.

 

I might draw up some quick sketches to illustrate the idea further at some point here.

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On 4/1/2018 at 9:31 AM, Durendal5150 said:

I actually considered this very problem in the process of falling asleep last night. I think the simple answer is 'ship tools aren't programmable.' It's already my understanding that NQ have no desire to let players program weapons systems on constructs to be automated. The tools can simply be the same. They're extensions of the players skills that require those skills to operate. I imagine something high-tech like a wide-area nanoformer, oscillating tractor beam, or other things that require the operator to direct and use them. Not just big drills and grinders that can be pressed against the terrain and collect it as they go.

 

Edit: I like the idea of vehicle tools that are expressly for terraforming a *lot* by the way. It's something else I'd thought about myself. I think that falls right into this same vein of 'player extension' too. Terraforming elements are just like hand tools for it, but BIG. Same as the mining elements operate.

well NQ are considering static deffences as programmable " It's already my understanding that NQ have no desire to let players program weapons systems on constructs to be automated. "

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2 minutes ago, unown006 said:

You could turn mining somehow into a mini game "rust did this" might solve a problem

I don't see the problem this is trying to solve. If the above is all implemented more or less as I envision it. (however well I've communicated that so far.) there should be enough moment-to-moment choices to keep it from going too terribly stale. The inclusion of hazards in mining (Such as volatile minerals, gas pockets, etc.) might be one way to offset the tedium of it and introduce some more player skill.

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12 hours ago, Durendal5150 said:

I don't see the problem this is trying to solve. If the above is all implemented more or less as I envision it. (however well I've communicated that so far.) there should be enough moment-to-moment choices to keep it from going too terribly stale. The inclusion of hazards in mining (Such as volatile minerals, gas pockets, etc.) might be one way to offset the tedium of it and introduce some more player skill.

just another layer of security to prevent boting ships to mine an idea nothing more

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I really can't see how construct-based mining will not kill mining as an entry-level activity for new players.

 

Unless perhaps those tools are only meant for things like asteroid mining, which will not really be something a new player will have the skills and equipment for.

 

Large auto-miners will increase the supply of low-level materials massively, which will drop the price and make it very unprofitable to do by hand.

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12 minutes ago, NanoDot said:

I really can't see how construct-based mining will not kill mining as an entry-level activity for new players.

 

Unless perhaps those tools are only meant for things like asteroid mining, which will not really be something a new player will have the skills and equipment for.

 

Large auto-miners will increase the supply of low-level materials massively, which will drop the price and make it very unprofitable to do by hand.

And that is why this thread was born present information to open your eyes and try to help you see how such a thing could happen.

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3 hours ago, NanoDot said:

I really can't see how construct-based mining will not kill mining as an entry-level activity for new players.

 

Unless perhaps those tools are only meant for things like asteroid mining, which will not really be something a new player will have the skills and equipment for.

 

Large auto-miners will increase the supply of low-level materials massively, which will drop the price and make it very unprofitable to do by hand.

To go back over the points above addressing your specific concerns.

 

The idea is to make the yield not change so much as the kind of resources that are required and how. Construct mining is intended as a sidegrade activity in this proposal, not a direct upgrade.

 

Asteroid mining, as I envision it, requires both approaches. To get the most yield, someone needs to clean a rock of all the high-density nodes before the remaining ore is stripped, or they'll be wasted.

 

Automated mining isn't part of the above, and shouldn't be. Construct mining elements would operate much like hand tools do, and require player input directly. Ultimately, the idea is that both kinds of mining will have loosely the same profitability, and a good mining operation will utilize both techniques to maximize it. Since there are types of ore in the above example that construct miners (at least expensive, strip miner kinds,) can't work on.

 

- - - -

 

With that in mind, let's prevent a few speculative examples of such elements:

 

1: Mounted Nanoformer

What it says on the tin. This is a hand nanoformer on a stick, that can be used from a construct to make use of its mobility and/or larger inventory. No other benefits over doing it by hand.

2: Terrain Displacement Unit
A big tractor/presser beam thing. Can reshape terrain but not actually collect anything. Displaced terrain is either moved physically elsewhere or destroyed. Great for digging tunnels or smoothing roads. Gives access to other terraforming shapes. Utterly incapable of collecting anything.

 

3: Industrial  Nanoexcavator
The actual strip miner. Picks up huge swaths of terrain and low grade ore. Works slower on medium grade ore and may not give full yield. Jams on high-grade ore and ruins it. Can't actually place terrain back down like the other tools.

 

4: Large gauge laser/tractor bore

Speculative. This would be a static-construct only thing or maybe only work when the construct isn't moving. Fires a big-ol mining beam straight down. Picks up things just like number 3, and mostly good for digging initial mineshafts or very long tunnels. Probably operates somewhat slowly, or at least slowly without a player operating it.

 

Those are a few basic examples, anywhere. I'm sure grades and side grades of them could be thought up.

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I liked your initial idea, but those examples are against the principle "matter can't be destroyed, only displaced".
More discussion about the idea here: https://board.dualthegame.com/index.php?/topic/13100-delete-item-is-a-good-thing/


So I'd change your 2. and 3. to: "can't compress matter as efficiently as nanoformer (i.e. everything takes up 5x more storage space), thus need the matter to be dumped somewhere frequently".

 

And instead of destroying ore, it could just slip past detectors and end up in waste container. I.e. if you mine high-grade ore, only 20% of it goes to "ore container", and rest goes into "stone container". When you dump that stone somewhere, you go through it again (either with strip miner, so another 20%, or by hand). Containers with half-compressed mass would have no way to check what's inside, just how much they're filled.

 

So the difference between them would be:

Displacer: digs faster, but have no way to filter valuable ore from dirt.

Stripminer: digs slightly slower, but can filter ores. The higher quality ores, the more % of it ends up in dirt container.

Nanoformer: digs slowest, filters everything, compress everything, even dirt.

 

4. Is not really needed IMO. You can do the same with other tools and simple Lua code to keep your ship moving in straight line.

Less tools with, but with more applications -> win

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@CalenLoki

That's fair. I figured that 'ruined' ore would just be replaced with a lower grade variety. Hitting 100% ore with a strip miner only nets you 10% ore, or something like that. Plus the risk of a jam. Your adjustments to the displacer are spot on though, that works better than my idea.

 

Four is needed because the other tools do not work via scripting, same as weapon elements. They're some sort of big arm/turret a player has to manually aim, select an area with, and initialize. I'm pretty sure NQ has been clear they want to to keep automation out of resource gathering, and I agree with that sentiment. Hence my description of all of these as some sort of nanoformer or nanolathe variant and not as physical drills or cutters. They're 'turrets' or emplacements that require manual targeting. At least, that's how I'd go about keeping them balanced with hand mining still, and keeping the player engaged with the activity.

 

 

We talked a bit on the discord about the idea of hazards, as an aside, and came to the conclusion it was a good addition. This would be that rarer and deeper ores would have pockets of explosive gas, unstable minerals that could damage tools/avatars and other hazards surrounding them or embedded within them. The idea here being these would be avoidable or mitigatable with suitable *player* skill, thus raising the skill ceiling of mining as a loop. At the moment, most of the focus has been on adjusting for *character* skill, but I think mechanics that make the loop fulfilling for a range of player skills are highly desirable for a number of reasons.

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Hazards sounds really good. Anything that increase difficulty means that mining can be faster in general. And less boring.

 

Regarding scripting and auto mining - once I get access, I'll make nanoformer-based auto miner that require avatar presence, but not player input. But let's not get into off-topic ;)

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Why the fear of automation? As far as I see it, there would be a lot more players if they could concentrate less menial jobs. in addition if you set a ship to run 24/7 it is vulnerable to attack and piracy. I see no need for getting rid of an automation aspect.  

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2 hours ago, Thainz said:

Why the fear of automation? As far as I see it, there would be a lot more players if they could concentrate less menial jobs. in addition if you set a ship to run 24/7 it is vulnerable to attack and piracy. I see no need for getting rid of an automation aspect.  

The Devs have explicitly stated they're against allowing the game to be over-automated. While I can only guess at their specific motives, I can present a few arguments:
~ Allowing the automation of the foundational economic activity has the potential to shut newer players out of the economy if they can't afford the methods of automation.
~ It would also make botting extremely easy, further upsetting the balance of the in game economy.
~ Ultimately, the game isn't about automation. It's about player activity and player experience. If one of your activities is so menial and mindless that no player wants to engage with it and would rather see it automated, this is probably an indication that your design and mechanics are flawed, not that the activity is inherently undesirable play.

 

I think automation would ultimately just be a band-aid. If the gameplay isn't satisfying in and of itself, there's a problem. And allowing the player to skip it without developing new foundational mechanics around the automation that are fun, (See: Factorio.) isn't going to do anything but make an entire sector of the game not really part of the game.

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Frankly I never understood how manual mining is ever considered fun. But I guess I better get used to it :P and who knows maybe DU will actually make it an interesting gameplay.

 

Automated mining is no fun either, but creating an automated mining system in-game would be fun for me, and so would watching it work well (or maybe not so well ^_^ ).

 

I'm not arguing for this, I understand the problem with automation. Just saying it's a bit of a shame. There do exist some games that explicitly revolve about automation and I generally like those a lot. Factorio is one of them. And many of Zachtronics' games. And programming games.

 

You better believe that whatever can be (semi-)automated in DU, I will probably be tinkering with it. :) Shame also that scripting probably won't be a viable profession in DU because, unlike constructs or blueprints, you can't sell scripts and you can't protect them from being freely copied. So scripters will have to find some other way to make a living. But I digress...

 

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54 minutes ago, Nanoman said:

Shame also that scripting probably won't be a viable profession in DU because, unlike constructs or blueprints, you can't sell scripts and you can't protect them from being freely copied. So scripters will have to find some other way to make a living. But I digress...

 

i wouldnt be so sure about this

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