Is this a taboo subject?
I think it is, as any talk of it seems mostly under the radar. But I was reading a post in the EvE Forums that addressed this, and I wanted to discuss it.
However, before I say anything else, I want to make it clear that I condemn anyone who uses mining-bots to harvest ISK to sell for real money. I have no hesitation clicking on that 'Report ISK Spammer' option. In fact, I reported someone yesterday. But I'm not talking about them. The folks I'm referring to are those who treat it as an aid, much like most of us use EFT or EVEMON.
A lot of the pilots I fly with are married with kids. Others are students who do a lot of studying. Or some (like me) are just tied up in a busy life-style. I hear it a lot when we plan something like a Corp mission-blitz; 'Sorry guys, but I gotta take the dog for a walk and then put the kids to bed.' They log and miss out on ISK. That's fine - after all, EvE's a game and real life is, well, real life.
However, ISK is needed to play EvE, and flying advanced ships is more fun than scurrying around in noob vessels. But the more advanced the ship the more expensive it is, and if you can't generate ISK to buy these it could be off-putting. A character may have 30million skill points, but actual gaming time means the pilot may never afford anything larger than a cruiser. What should the player do? Continue in a state of slow or non-advancement? Or just give up if enough time cannot be dedicated to the game? The latter would take money away from CCP, which is not ideal.
To that end, is a mining-bot an answer for these people? Is it wrong if used in a way where the player is sat at a computer studying while the mining-bot takes control, leaving the persons' learning uninterrupted but still physically at the computer? Or while a father watches a DVD with his kids leaving his Retriever to nibble away at asteroids - should a macro-miner not be allowed here?
I don't know if it should be or not. It can easily be argued that EvE is a game, and games are meant to be played. But should it even matter that a small amount of people use this tool to provide that extra income to enhance their otherwise feeble game-time? Granted, there will always be the select few who totally abuse the application and run it 24/7. But these people are everywhere in life.
It has never crossed my mind to use one myself. These days I barely touch mining. My Hulk is currently buried under a mountain of dust, and I'm not planning to bring her out any time soon. Besides, macro-mining (apparently) will bring in around 6million ISK an hour if done with a well-rigged Hulk. Well, that's not even pocket money to me so I wouldn't consider using one. But to the 'one-hour a week' players, ten-hours of mining spread over the week would make a healthy difference.
But remember this - macro-mining benefits people other than the direct user. Hulkageddon victims (in and out of tournament) are more than often macro-miners. So would it have even come about without the fields of juicy automated Hulks? Even Carebears benefit. For players involved in production there is a greater supply of minerals due to these macro-mining folk. And the more ships and components built the more fierce the market, which means cheaper prices for everyone.
So at the very least we might agree that there are some pro's coming from the macro-miners. But I would only be lenient to those who wouldn't abuse the program. And CCP? Well, at the end of the day, macro-miners are still paying customers, so I'm not sure that they would look to ban them unless they were ISK harvesting to sell for RL cash. I think it is just frowned upon.
I would safely bet a reasonable amount of money that macro-mining will never be made legal in the game, but could CCP perhaps provide an alternative for 'mild' macro-miners by introducing a similar in-game feature? The notion behind PLEx was to provide an answer to Cash-for-ISK, right? Could something be done about Macro programs?
How about a mining set-up similar to the current PI model? Special mining-drone colonies could be introduced. Asteroid fields too dangerous for humans, for whatever reason (in other words, inaccessible), could be implemented. The ore is delivered to a holding station (like a Customs Office) and the drones need to be reset after a certain amount of time in the same way extractors do in PI. The amount mined would need to be greatly inferior than actual player-mining, but enough to make it worth while for the 'mild' macro-miner to switch to the in-game method. Perhaps even the compressed minerals found in Rogue-Drone salvage could be the unrefined material found in these belts?
The example is nothing more than a spit-ball, but does anyone think an alternate method is possible?
I am very interested to here peoples opinions on this topic, so please share your views.