Gathering resources is done in one of two ways. Players can setup mining colonies on planets. This can be a costly venture and even though it does not use a system of repetitive player actions, it does offer risk. Another approach is mining in space. Asteroids can be mined from ships equipped with mining systems. In both cases, players mine for a specific classification and not a specific type of resource in a classification. To put this another way, players don't mine for gold, instead they mind for Native Minerals. During the mining process, the resources gathered can be sorted and in the process of sorting, Gold could be found. To put this into the context of gameplay, casual crafters could craft items using the very broad classification Native Mineral and advanced crafters would be more likely to use specific types of materials found in the classification. Each classification has between 5,000 and 10,000 individual elements throughout the universe.
Mining was designed to provide multiple levels of player interaction. In the simplest form, a player almost clicks a button "I want to mine stuff" and the rest happens. The player is only responsible for paying the bills and making some administrative decisions. On the opposite end, the player is able to micromanage the entire mining operation. The difference? The casual player will spend more to run their mining operation and likely not have the same results as the very engaged miner.
The main purpose of mining is to gather raw materials for crafting. Some players will mine materials to sell them instead of craft. There will also be players that mine materials to fulfill contracts offered by planets.
Mining is divided into the following steps: Surveying, Sampling, Mining, Collecting and Sorting. Players can decide the extent they wish to participate in each step.
Depending on the proficiency of the miner, survey could be a small area of asteroids or a quarter of a stellar system. Survey reports provide a medium level of detail of what to expect. Again, proficiency of the surveyor comes into play, but starting out you will get reports for all resource classifications that have a concentration higher than 25%.
As you become more proficient in mining, surveying will begin to yield additional details. In addition, you will gain the ability to survey more than planets and asteroids.
After surveying, or in some cases instead of surveying, the player will take a sample. This provides a detailed analysis of the target and depending on the level of proficiency, will give the full list of resources found. Players that are just starting out will only get reports on resources appearing more than 1%. Advanced players can sample down to .001%. When searching for very rare materials, the ability to acquire detailed analysis of a target is critical.
Mining is straightforward. From a ship, mining is done using lasers and tractor beams to collect materials into a hopper. Players equip their mining operations to focus on a specific classification of materials. Advanced players can mine for more than one classification at a time.
During the mining process, the hopper pulls in the raw materials. During the collection process, Players setup the hopper to maintain temperatures conducive to the raw materials they are trying to gather. A player's proficiency in collection determines the number of collection hoppers the player can configure. Proficiency also plays into temperatures that the player can maintain.
A player's proficiency in very unstable materials also plays a large role when collecting volatile materials that have very high rates of decay, are very reactive or are just horribly unstable.
Players can use sorting to make resource collection more efficient. As materials enter the hopper and the collection process moves material into storage based on the needs of the material classification, the sorter can discard unwanted materials or group materials into storage containers.
Sorting is actually the one step all miners should participate in quite a bit. Crafters do not need to use specific raw materials and can instead use the broad classifications while crafting. Miners have the ability to create stock piles of varying levels of quality as well as collecting materials by name.
When players enter a spaceport they are offered different venture options. One venture is to purchase a mining contract. Contracts are between the player and the planet but a player can outsource part/all of the mining operations to other players. Players just starting out should avoid contracts unless they are involved in a player association that can help out. Most contracts will require a player to hire other players to participate. Only very advanced players with sophisticated equipment will be able to fulfill a contract on their own. This is proportional to the profits players will experience when completing contracts.
Contracts are also used to fill the commodities markets. Players have the ability to trade in raw material classifications just like the stock market. The commodities market's prices are set by the supply/demand of contracts. Financially savvy players may learn how to manipulate the commodities markets.
The basic contract consists of the classification of materials to be mined for the contract, minimum specifications for a variety of attributes, the quantity required for completing the contract and the deadline for completing the contract.
Managing contracts is a simple process. The player initiates the contract by paying a fee which is around 10% of the final payment. As the player travels to the planet where the contract originated from, they will be reminded of the deadline. Contracts can also be managed in the venture panel.
Players failing to complete a contract or cancelling a contract early do not get a refund.
Contracts use very broad classifications for collection and never require a specific named material to be mined. Additionally, the temperature which the materials are stored is also ignored.
A set of minimum specifications are used to ensure that the contract fulfills a desired level of quality in the delivered batch. Advanced miners can set their sorting operations to meet the minimum requirements for contracts easily. New miners will have a tougher time managing the quality.
The quantity of materials to be delivered for the contract is typically higher than most players can store. So using warehouses or developing mining colonies to store the materials for delivery will be required. This can be a significant expense for players just starting out with contracts.
The deadline for delivery is a hard deadline. This is the point that the materials must arrive at the planet from which the contract initiated. Players must take this into consideration if they are storing materials far from the target planet. Advanced players will likely setup workflows in their mining operation to automatically delivery to storage on or near the planet the contract originated.