It's been about a month since the blog post on mining barge changes by CCP Ytterbium. I've had a couple requests to do a followup. Now that I've had a chance to do some thinking on the matter, I've a few observations I'd like to make.
I am more convinced than ever that these changes will again make mining a valuable and worthwhile endeavor for industrialists. However, it will not do so for all industrialists. For instance, there are not enough changes to the high-end mining barges to really make much of a difference to a miner of my skills. I am all Vs across the board in hi-sec mining skills. The limited changes to the Hulk will not make much difference to me.
However, it will make a difference to mining in general. Dedicated ore capacities will allow miners to properly fit their ships and still earn a living. They may not, but after the changes they won't have the excuse of their cargo holds being too small. They will also have no reason not to use their low slots for tanking modules. I currently fly a shield tanked and cap stable Hulk with 31k EHP. That should be the standard for every miner.
And on the subject of tank, the Procurer and Skiff will become the lone wolf miner ship of choice so long as CCP follows through on their "battleship-like EHP." The ISK to hour ratio will be less but that should put an end to 1 mISK gank Catalysts. That will certainly help the newer miners who don't yet have the defensive skills to finesse tank their barge or the awareness of local that will allow them to avoid potentially disastrous encounters. And those who predate on miners will have to upgrade to a 100 mISK hull if they still want those kill-mails. I don't think that's too much of a sacrifice. Currently it is just too easy to pop a miner. If the EHP is too much, I am certain CCP will dial it back so that gankers can pursue their elected play style with no more risk than the miner faces.
The middle ships, the Procurer hull, will likely be my happy medium. I will happily accept the slower mining rate for that added EHP. It'll give me more time to adore the beauty that is New Eden. The only thing that remains to be seen is how the ore hold stacks up to the 8000 m3 cargo hold in the Hulk I currently fly.
Of all these, the ships that intrigue me most are the mining frigates. The will be entry level for the rookies but I think they will find a following with old hands like me. The reason goes like this. In nature, there are two dominant ways of insuring survival when you are not the predator. One is to be the Rhino: so big, tough and dangerous that no one wants to mess with you. The other way is to be the Wildebeest. By themselves, no Wildebeest can defeat a determined lion. If they roam singly they will all eventually be picked off and eaten. However, by forming a large herd, they ensure the survival of most herd members. There will be an unlucky few dragged down and eaten but once the herd gets moving only stupid lions give chase. The dust, the thundering hooves and the jostling bodies are more than enough deterrent to make the lion look elsewhere.
So it could be with mining frigates. Individually they are easily popped. In large groups, they can ravage an asteroid field like locust and then move on. Perhaps a few are brought down but the larger whole continues. A mining roam would then be possible and probably even fun. They will go after the valuable ores. The ones that are heavily protected. Say I find a nice wormhole and get 20 of my buddies to dive through it in mining frigates. Would most of us be able to make it out with valuable ore to pay for the inevitable losses? Wormholers are notoriously lone wolfish. They could only pop one or two of us before the rest fled. This tactic might also work in null sec when you don't have sov. What would a hundred (five hundred?) mining frigate fleet look like and how much ore could it steal from an opposing alliance before they could respond in force? Even warp bubbles might not allow defenders to pop them all. I think it'd be very interesting to find out how survivable herd tactics are in Eve when your only intent is to swipe and run.
The last comment I got on my previous post about the changes concerned market prices. Adam Varian conjectured that prices would rise a bit and then level out. I don't think this will happen across the board with all barges. Any price increase is likely to be a manifestation of increased demand. Speculators will certainly begin this price increase before the update, providing BPOs remain unchanged (and there is nothing to indicate that they won't.) However, these are not new pew-pew ships. Huge speculation buys are unwarranted and those who guess wrong will lose ISK when prices go back down after the change. Those that guessed correctly will earn some small profit. So what's the correct guess?
The Covetor hulled vessels will still perform the same role as today outside high-sec. The miner will operate in a relatively safe area and will have Orca support and protection just an intel channel away. Maximizing yield will still be the operational call to arms as others can haul away the ore. In high-sec they will fall out of favor as too expensive. I think demand (and therefore prices) of these barges will go down.
The frigate hulls cost so little now that it is fairly irrelevant what their price does. I could be wrong. The demand might be astronomical. But it will take time for miners to figure out how to best use these ships so nothing will happen straight away. After that, it takes so little time to build a frigate I think manufacturers will easily keep up with the demand. No price increase will come.
The Procurer and Retriever hulls will become more desirable to high-sec miners that currently use a Hulk for it's capacity and tank. This will happen for two reasons. The high-sec miner will get better defensive capabilities and a larger ore hold. It also won't make much difference in their ISK per hour since their rate is already low. They'll make up most of the loss by not having to dock as often. Back and forth time is wasted profit and every miner knows this (or should.) I'll predict a modest uptick in demand for these hulls.
All in all though, there will be less demand for barges as losses decrease across the board. Miners will have better defenses and those that hunt them will move on to easier prey. The big losers in this change may be those who manufacture the barges for a living. But they are experienced industrialists. They will move on to more profitable hulls. After all, it really doesn't matter what you make so long as the margin is right.
Of course, I could be as easily wrong as right. That's the thing about speculation. It's just trying to guess what the herd will do based on limited behavioral knowledge. In this case, nothing like this has ever come along by which to make comparisons. That makes my speculation mostly wild-ass guesswork. Anyone else have speculations of their own they'd like to share along with your reasoning?