One of the interesting changes coming in the Inferno 1.2 patch is kind of a surprise. CCP is actually looking over the mess that is the current collection of Mining Barges and their T2 cousins, the Exhumers. Each of them is finally getting a dedicated ore bay as well as a collection of other changes. These changes were first hinted at back in June. We're now seeing the specific changes on Singularity and they've also been pulled into a database dump summary.
EDIT (30/Jul/2012): There is an updated database dump. Expect another post soon with any updates to this one.
First things first: this work is long overdue and better not be even close to the end of the story. Still, it is a start and does recognize some of the issues with the current mining ships, notably their fragility. It's no coincidence that every single one of them is getting massive HP buffs. Hulkageddon V has done its evil work well. ;-)
Let's look at the Hulk first. The first thing that strikes me out of the gate is how little is being changed about it. The Mining Barge bonuses and Exhumer bonuses are almost identical. The only change is a 1% increase in speed per level to ice harvesting for the latter, increasing from 3% per level to 4% per level. In short, a perfectly-skilled Exhumer pilot will mine ice about 5% faster with a Hulk after Inferno 1.2 than before. This strikes me as kind of an odd change: the Hulk is supposed to be the highest yield mining barge. More on that in a second. The Hulk should have been given the Mack's 5% per level increase. Its mining yield for ore is unchanged. That also should have been bumped slightly, to 4% per level.
On paper, its capacity is also unchanged, but that's not accurate. The carrying capacity of the Hulk is actually being nerfed. Instead of a single 8000m3 cargo bay, it receives a 500m3 cargo bay and a 7500m3 ore bay. This makes all the cargo-fit Hulks out there more or less useless: cargo expanders and the like don't work on specialty bays. All of those Hulk pilots fitting tech 2 cargo rigs are going to be unhappy.
Armor and shield are being roughly doubled, but this is going to have little impact. A well-tanked Hulk can already stand up to several destroyers or a single battle cruiser. A poorly-tanked Hulk cannot. And it looks like this will continue to be the case, with one exception: Hulks with any tank at all will now probably be out of reach for suicide-ganking by a single arty Hurricane. You'll have to use a Tornado.
All in all, I'd rate the changes to the Hulk as a net negative: it's a better ice miner than it was, with slightly better defenses. But the effective nerf in capacity is going to make a lot of Hulk pilots grumble, particularly since its ore mining yield is unchanged. Of the six ships affected, the Hulk comes out of these changes the worst off.
Suggested change: increase mining yield to 4% per level, increase ice yield to 5% per level.
The Covetor (the T1 variant of the Hulk) received similar updates to the Hulk in shield and armor, as well as a small buff to structure as well. However, strangely enough the Covetor did receive an increase to mining yield, from 3% per level to 4% per level. It also received an ice mining bonus that it didn't have before. The ship's anemic CPU output is being increased by more than 25%, from 200 to 255 base. Best of all, its cargo capacity has received a significant increase. Though the cargo bay itself is being reduced from 4000m3 to 500m3 like its T2 variant, its ore hold will be 7000m3, a significant buff.
Overall, the Covetor comes out of these changes to mining ships in pretty good shape. Still, there's one more obvious change that should have been made that anyone who's actually flown a Covetor will tell you about right off. The Covetor's base shield resists, like all the T1 mining barges, are ridiculously poor and of all the mining barges, the Covetor should have this problem corrected.
Suggested change: increase mid slots from one to two.
Let's move on to the Mackinaw. Though the Skiff comes out of these changes as "most improved," (more on that in a second), the "Mack" is pretty clearly the winner of this change. The Mack loses its 3% yield bonus per mining barge level in favor of a 10% bonus to ore hold capacity per level. Given that it has a 25000m3 ore hold by default, a 50% bonus here is hugely significant. It instantly makes the Mack one of the best ore haulers in New Eden, outstripping nearly every T1 and T2 hauler and rivaling the ore hold capacity of the Orca! That's a major change.
And the mining yield bonus isn't going far: the ship picks up a 50% bonus to Strip Miner yield as well as a 1% per level bonus. That is mated to a 35% increase in CPU and an additional low slot! I'm not 100% confident of my math yet, but I think this is going to prove a miscalculation on CCP's part. It's quite possible that with Mining Upgrades mods and a smart fitting, the Mack is going to be superior to the Hulk in both capacity and mining yield, which we know wasn't CCP's intent. We'll have to see what the EFT warriors out there come up with.
The ice yield is also being changed. Instead of taking 25% longer (-5% per Exhumer level) to produce a doubled yield, the yield bonus seems to have been removed entirely and instead the duration is reduced by one-third. A small per-level Exhumer bonus is then tacked onto this. Again, I'm not confident in my math yet, but even with the additional CPU, low slot, and ice mining rig, I think this is going to result in a fairly large net loss of ice mining yield. Still, the massive cargo hold will make up for a lot of this. Ironically enough, I think we're going to see even more ice mining bots and AFK ice miners out there.
The Mack receives almost quadruple increases to shields, armor, and structure. With its T2 resists, it's going to be a tough little boat going forward though still not anything close to even a battle cruiser tank. Its sig radius is being doubled in size and therefore, it should continue to be quite gankable by Tornados. The big surprise for me on the Mack is how little difference a high Exhumers skill is going to matter when flying it. There are a lot of Exhumers V pilots out there that rely on the current Mack bonus to make them more efficient. Losing that is probably going to make them rather unhappy that they spent all that training time on Exhumers V.
Suggested change: move more of the yield bonuses for the Mack from role bonuses to level bonuses.
The T1 version of the Mack, the Retriever, is renowned for being a thin piece of tin foil wrapped around two Strip Miners... no longer. It is receiving nearly a ten-fold increase to shield capacity and nearly a five-fold increase in armor! It's also receiving the doubled sig radius of its T2 version and as a result, BCs will continue to have little trouble blapping it. Still, being in the Hulkageddon "Junior League" is going to be more expensive. Right now, it's laughably easy to blap multiple Retrievers with a single destroyer. It's going to take a bit more to finish one now.
The good news doesn't stop there. The Retriever is receiving a 20000m3 ore hold, the 10% per level bonus to the ore hold per mining barge level, and the same yield bonuses as its T2 version. The Retriever was already an extremely popular mid-level mining boat before all these changes. It's only going to be more so now. I suspect we're going to be seeing more Retrievers out there than any other single mining ship.
Suggested change: nerf it a bit. I think the Retriever's going to end up being too good.
I once described the Procurer as the most useless ship in EVE (an Osprey can out-mine it right now), and its T2 variant the Skiff wasn't much better. These two ships get the "most improved" award. Let's start with the Skiff. Shield capacity is being hugely increased, almost a base ten-fold increase, and the ship is losing a yield bonus in favor of a shield hit-point bonus. Grid is also being increased from 35 to 50. That combined with the new MAPC2 module is going to make double-MSE fit Skiffs trivial. The ship is being given an additional mid-slot to help with that sort of fitting. CPU is also getting an 82 point increase. That makes the following fit quite easy:
Micro Auxiliary Power Core II
Mining Laser Upgrade II
Medium Shield Extender II
Medium Shield Extender II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Limited 'Anointed' EM Ward Field
Modulated Strip Miner II, Veldspar Mining Crystal II
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I
That means a ship with 79% average resists and about 10500 shield hit points before fleet bonuses. That's about the buffer tank of a typical PvP-fit Sleipnir, with about a 25% smaller sig than a Sleipnir.
Net: Skiffs are going to be able to take a lot of punishment.
Will they be gankable? Certainly. But in higher high-sec systems, it's going to take several Tornadoes to do it in a single volley... probably six or so depending on exact fittings. Even more interestingly, that's beefy enough that I'd consider it a "reppable" tank. It's not going to fold up at the first sign of abuse and if smartly defended might even escape from a surprise covert cyno gank fleet in low- or null-sec. It only takes the ship 8.5 seconds to align off for warp, which is also about the equal of a Sleip. All in all, it's pretty impressive!
The fun doesn't stop there: mining output from the single Strip Miner is tripled, and ice mining is given a similar yield bonus. This means that the Skiff will still be the worst miner of the bunch, but it won't be that far behind the pack. The ore hold is 17500m3, which is more than double the size of what a Hulk has today. It's quite ample.
All of this opens up all sorts of fun possibilities. I can easily see Skiffs routinely brought in to handle Lyavite mining in Incursion sites, for instance. I suspect a smartly-tanked and prop-modded Skiff will be able to come right in with the rest of a fleet, motor to the Lyavite and start mining right away and not have to worry too much about the Incursion rats. The grid and mining buffs also make it ideal for quick insertions into W-space. The Skiff also puts Mining agents on the map. Traveling in a Skiff isn't too horrible.
So yeah, call the Skiff most improved by a long way. We're going to see a lot of them built and bought in the coming months. They're going to be quite common by Hulkageddon VI.
Suggested change: give it a full size 25m3 drone bay. That 15m3 one is just silly.
What about the Procurer, the most useless ship in EVE? It doesn't come off nearly as well as the Skiff. Without the T2 resists or mid-slots, it gives up most of the advantages of its T2 variant. It gets a small grid buff, but without mid slots there isn't much to spend the extra grid on. It does get the yield buffs which at least means the Osprey will no longer be out-mining it.
Still, with all of its myriad disadvantages I can't see much reason to fly it. The Retriever is still a better call in any circumstances I can think of. The Procurer retains its title as the most useless ship in New Eden, I'm afraid...
Suggested change: give it another mid slot. Maybe even two more mid slots. It has fewer slots total than a freakin' noob ship, for Heaven's sake!
Whew! That post went on longer than I expected it to. Overall, call me mildly optimistic about these changes. I'm a bit disappointed that the Hulk didn't come out better than it did, and I think the Mack and Retriever are a bit OP (but maybe my math's just wrong). But adding the ore bays to these ships is long overdue, and it's nice to see that CCP is finally starting to take the "Harvest" part of this game seriously.
But before I close up, let's make sure the elephant in the room isn't forgotten, everyone. MINING IS THE MOST BORING ACTIVITY IN EVE! You've put an interesting and colorful band-aid on this sucking chest wound, CCP. Thank you for doing it and it's a good first step. It might even distract a few people for a couple of months. But now it's time to address the real problems here, m'kay? Get on it. ;-)