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Planetary Mining Is Unsatisfying in Space Engineers

Discussion in 'General' started by GrindyGears, Aug 19, 2018.

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This last post in this thread was made more than 31 days old.
  1. GrindyGears Senior Engineer

    As the title suggests this is a thread about mining in space engineers, We've had a few conversations in discord with various people on the topic, but that quickly gets lost to the void of endless meme spam and people asking why features are missing (tongue in cheek, sorry)

    So, i'll preface this a little bit with my own personal experiences, and maybe some designs.

    lets just assume space doesn't exist for a moment here because its basically free infinite resources that are easy to extract, i'd like to focus on planetary mining. I have a great soft spot in my heart for ground based vehicles in this game, they're fun to design, balance (sometimes literally) and try to make it as close to "real" as i can. I honestly don't bother leaving planets just because i love the tougher gameplay.

    Now, lets also assume that there are no real bugs that would spoil this gameplay, as discussing stuff around bugs is stupid. This includes clang, simply because I don't have much of an issue dealing with it. See below for a small grid crane and trailer truck that can side load about 70 tonnes at max extension.


    So we've got a bit of an idea how I like to play, this is great for single player, as you can work at your own pace and generally speaking aren't in any kind of rush to get stuff done. This behavior however is quite unsuitable for MP, simply because there is absolutely 0 benefit (game mechanically, personal satisfaction doesn't really pay the bills) to actually engineering a somewhat advanced solution VS just making a thruster porcupine with a couple drills strapped to the nose. I've found that the deepest ores, on earthlike seem to be about 100m deep, not including the size of the ore vein. This presents an engineering challenge of which i've had many solutions, but no matter how fancy, or how mobile, or how well engineered it is, it can never seem to beat a flying miner. This is arguably rightfully so, as a well thrustered flying craft has full six degrees of freedom in its movement, including when its digging, whereas ground vehicles are generally limited to maybe 3 degrees of freedom for movement, and come with numerous downsides as one might expect when comparing to a perfect floating brick.

    I believe that one of the core issue(s) for this major disparity is that flying is essentially "free" in SE flying is really an extremely easy mode thing.

    - We don't have to worry about things like center of mass, and thrust lining up

    - Component cost is a little higher than ground vehicles, but in SE basically everything is abundant enough to render this moot

    - Power/fuel is really a null issue, if you manage to get 1kg of uranium from any source you're basically set for an extremely long time.

    I realize were supposed to be many years into the future for the setting of SE, but I can't foresee our massive mining equipment being made to hover by 2077 the reason we don't typically do mining with helicopters or planes is because its just too expensive, flight is expensive, hovering is EXTREMELY expensive.

    So, whats been the point of all this blather? Well you see: keen has stated that the next major is going to be balancing of game, and I would like to see some balance be brought to wheeled VS flying, to make sure that i'm still clear however, I'll state that I don't think ground vehicles should ever truly be superior to flying vehicles (except maybe in super heavy transport applications) but I would like to see this gap between the two narrowed in a little bit so that it isn't completely one sided.

    Things that I would like to put forth to try and address this based on my 3 points above:

    - Actual CoM thrust would be cool, but aggravating for the vast majority of players, since many people build replicas, or ships that would otherwise never really work in real life (looking at you star trek) So I don't know if adding this as an option would be beneficial. I am however open to suggestions on this particular topic.

    - Actual ore placement in game is a very delicate balancing act, simply because changes that would be good for MP might not be good for SP, and vice versa, adding another system to the world generator that would allow more granular control over how ore is generated, distributed, and concentrated would be a nice way to help balance out how early or how viable flying would be.

    For example: you can't find uranium on planets, this is good because it should technically limit your max power, but its relatively easy to build a big solar array and mount batteries to flying craft that you can just recharge between offloads, So using the above solution, you could lower the yield, or quantity of nickel to minimize the production of solar panel and/or batteries.

    - here comes the big one, power: In SE the amount of power that we can generate is both unreal, and probably breaking a few laws of thermodynamics...

    The game makes it so easy to just strap a nuclear reactor to any grid and toss is some uranium you stole from the crappy pirate AI and now you're set for life. While I realize the power consumption of stuff in SE sounds extremely high by our modern standards the production is also easily able to match it. in order to combat this I would like to suggest increasing the energy cost of atmospheric thrusters (by a yet to be determined amount) to make hovering with them be slightly more prohibitively expensive, hydrogen fuel I wont get into because it already has a fairly rapid fuel drain associated with it (though H2 is cheap to get....)

    But I can already hear people screeching about how they don't want flying nerfed, and blah blah blah... I get it, So to help offset that I would like to see some basic aerodynamic blocks introduced, I don't recall the exact mod, but it adds wing parts, this means that you can still get the benefits of flight and the higher travel speed, without needing to add omni directional thrust. it would still require more power than a ground vehicle, but far less than something that just forces itself to stay airborne.

    This would effectively create 3 tiers of sorts with ground based, and winged flight being reasonably well balanced with each other, so each has trade offs and benefits, and then having hover based (omni) being a late game, or at minimum high expense option.

    Tell me what you think, I'd like to hear your thoughts and experiences of how planetary mining has gone for you. also, feel free to post pictures of your ground based mining rigs to show support for the down trodden!

    If I can see some support for this I will like start a thread on the new support site, I would just like to get some others feedback to improve it before I do.


    One salty, clangy, earth mover.
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  2. Spaceman Spiff Senior Engineer

    Personally, once I discover some desirable ore, I just use warhead(s) to “nuke” a hemispherical crater or two to get to the deposit and fly in my planetary miner to harvest the exposed vein. My method is strip mining at its worst. Prior to the latest release of SE, I intentionally stayed away from developing wheeled vehicles because of their instability and tendancy to randomly explode. But now I’m giving wheeled vehicles a new chance and look forward to designing ground-based ore extraction systems. I’m certainly facinated by the design you show in the picture. Nice.
  3. Dax23333 Junior Engineer

    Only time i've successfully used miners on planets (or moons) are surface scraping miners for gathering ice. And that kind of thing is very useful, as you can get vast amounts of ice very fast and then carry it back on the nice flat ice surface.

    I agree on the idea of adding the wing mod and rebalancing the thrusters and reactors around having it. You could give the thrusters a massive power consumtion and it would not affect things flying along, but hovering would (as it probably sould be) be very energy intensive potentially to the point that it is impractical to do so for long periods of time without having a very specialized ship. I would like that, having the tradeoffs.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  4. Dabombinable Trainee Engineer

    For me planetary mining and flying in general isn't that cheap, as I still prefer using hydrogen thrusters due to the fact that I can design 1 ship to work everywhere. That and I can run it off one of those 250KW small battery+solar panels since very little power is ever needed.

    Anything that I build with hydrogen I end up taking my time with to balance tonnage and fuel consumption. Unlike my atmos and ion ships which are thrown together hack jobs (which really are easy mode for me) where overkill is very easy and cheap.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. Leadfootslim Senior Engineer

    I think the biggest issue is still resource scarcity. An abundance of silver (for reactor components) and uranium is what makes flight so trivial; without those, you're reliant on frequent battery flights and are subject to the whims of recharge times.

    Inventory multipliers, too, make flight too easy, as there's no tradeoff between a massive hauling trip by land and multiple piecemeal trips by air.
  6. Darkheyr Trainee Engineer

    I use battery-powered flyers nigh exclusively, and recharge them on a base equipped with self-aligning solar turrets. Its low maintenance once you have at least 2 of each flyer type. Increasing reactor cost and uranium consumption / scarcity won't change much. The reason why people use flyers is a) convenience and b) inefficiency / unreliability of wheeled vehicles; and c) the engineering challenge involved.

    That being said... As much as I like giving wheeled vehicles their niche, it would further sideline planetary operations in general. There is little reason to go planetside as it is; making planets even less convenient is not going to help. We should really get a reason for planetary ops in the first place before we start nerfing atmo-flyers.
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  7. GrindyGears Senior Engineer

    It's not so much nerfing planetary fliers, as much as it's nerfing indefinitely hovering with a 500 tonne load of cargo, if keen were to add things like wing parts it would still allow you to transport stuff via flight relatively cheaply because you wouldn't need thrust in every direction the same as you would a hover based vehicle.

    Having aerodynamic type flight would probably feel more natural to a lot of players vs what we have now of just kinda keep traveling with multiple thrusters constantly propelling us.

    Also perhaps a tired old excuse but the game does have 'engineers' in the title, which should make planetary mining operations into some challenge. We pay people big money irl to design this stuff and make it easier.
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  8. Timuroslav Apprentice Engineer

    I realize my opinion on the matter is similar and probable going to be wildly unpopular.

    How about instead of making Atmospheric thrusters cost more energy... We instead require that they need kerosene to be piped into them. The small reactor issue of lots of power in a tiny space, I do agree with.

    Also, I do agree that mining on planets is harder than space, it should be backwards in my honest opinion. The planet should be the cradle, and survival in space should require space stations and extra careful resource management.

    If we had hinge conveyor blocks. Excavators would be easier to build. In Space Engineers a good excavator is the hardest freaking thing to build in the game. I've made some okay excavators, but it took some crazy planning. Even then the ground physics doesn't lend itself to slopes, it always wanna chip away into steps. That's not conducive for wheels in this game.

    That said Ion thrusters are too weak and too expensive to be of use. They should be end game tech, but they should their power or cost should off set the only need to be expensive. At the moment they're kind of the worst thruster in the game.

    Btw, I've yet to see a NASA picture of an asteroid shaped like a donut, or a sponge. Asteroids are too easy to mine, since they have very little hazards and don't move... they need some kind of trade off. Like you have to dig deep to get to the ore.
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2018
  9. VigotheDudepathian Trainee Engineer

    I feel some type of progression, schematic, or grind to learn system is REQUIRED for real survival. It would add a LOT of play time, especially on a new server, if you had to actually go explore and look for derelicts, bases, and npcs to trade with. Imagine if when a freighter came by, say mining hauler, you could buy or off of them. OR you could try to attack them and get space police called, eventually your tansponder code is labeled pirate and shoot on sight. Anyway, some type of system where you have to find blocks or scematics to make most of the blocks. You start out and know how to make basic hydrogen and wheel systems. Arc furnace and a crude assembler. Add in more advanced assemblers and refineries/refining methods . Require oxygen, hydrogen, and other rare gasses/elements in refining and alloys for high tech equipment. More complexity in the build system and rarity of parts. Large reactors should be DIFFICULT to make and be an achievement once you do.
  10. domingo Trainee Engineer

    Laser guidance system nowadays used in ground work.
    Semi-automatic ability to keep the grid in the line/plane transmitted to those laser guidance systems.
    Bulldozering - moving voxels by pushing.
    Back conversion of stone (or gravel) to voxels.
    Mechanical arm with fine control (MArmOS).

    All without use of Programming Block (scripts).

    This could help to make planetary mining with grounded vehicles more feasible.
    But even then the cheap hover trumps the cars ...
  11. Morloc Apprentice Engineer

    Just use this method of surface locomotion.....


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  12. GrindyGears Senior Engineer

    Personally I would love hinges as well, but I don't have huge issues using strictly rotors and pistons. Addressing a different point not in this particular quote I don't think planets should be the cradle unfortunately, frankly gravity is a cruel unforgiving mistress if you make one mistake you could lose your whole ship and all of its cargo contents.

    Designing vehicles suitable for planetary mining is, and should be a challenge to some degree, the point of this thread is to express the desire to have more of a challenge than a thruster porcupine be a viable alternative. If I'm going to spend the time actually engineering a solution, I'd like to see more of a return on the investment.

    If you're talking about on planets this is entirely by design, the branch into 3 different thrusters reflect that, ion and atmospheric work splendidly in there own respective areas, ion in space and atmospheric in atmosphere then hydrogen working everywhere equally, but requires fuel.
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  13. Darkheyr Trainee Engineer

    That is nerfing atmo-flyers, no matter how prettily it is worded.

    Don't get me wrong - I work in aviation, and I'd have a field day if proper aerodynamics would be introduced as an option at the very least, and I agree with your statements in almost every way - I just don't believe it would be a smart move to widen the gap between planetary and space operations even further, especially considering the relative difficulty in designing workable rovers with moving parts.

    As it stands, even when operating from a planetary base and disregarding atmo-flyers, building a spaceship to mine an asteroid and bring the materials back down again is easier than building and using a complicated wheel-based mining rig. Before we talk about making atmo-flyers less universally useful, this disparity needs to be adressed, or your suggestions merely become yet another reason to avoid planets.

    The increase in effort should yield an increase in reward, one way or another.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  14. Calaban Junior Engineer

    I disagree with the OP.

    -Sit in a land vehicle, and run out of power, or have batteries suddenly switch to recharge. Do you lose the whole land vehicle in very short order?

    -Sit in a land vehicle and accidentally press Z, F, or Y while moving for any reason- does it become any kind of disaster?

    - in a land vehicle, approaching a hill and finding you do not have enough power to get over it results in you simply stalling the wheels and wallowing in safe frustration. Finding yourself with out enough power to get over a hill in in a flying craft, however, results in what I like to term "Deceleration Trauma"

    -grab another grid off center with landing gears in a land vehicle and let go of the controls and see what happens. Then grab another grid with an atmospheric flyer off center, and let go of the contro- oops! its destroyed, isnt it?

    No, flying in the gravity SUCK zone of a planet is the least forgiving of any other form of travel. In fact, looking back at all my hours playing... i think the only times i have ever had a disaster that left me with a day 1 restart, was in atmospheric flying.

    As the loading Screen says "Flight is the one engineering school least forgiving of mistakes" or something like that. To make it any more difficult is to heap insult to already substantial injury. Because as we all know- Clang Hates Us.

    Then there is the grey area. I happen to love "Jump Buggy's" when encountering canyons or mesas I want to explore.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2018
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  15. Bullet_Force Apprentice Engineer

    I agree I've never seen the point of making wheeled vehicles when I can just as easily make a plane that is far easier to use. There is no incentive to make anything wheeled atm unless your some kind of role player but if your like me and want maximum performance at the cheapest price then there is no point.
  16. GrindyGears Senior Engineer

    Most of those things you outlined boil down entirely to user error imo:

    - if you run out of power, or for some reason use the stupid semi auto feature on batteries which would randomly cause them to switch to recharge and hog power that I assume is coming from reactors, that's user error or poor design.

    - z is forgiving if you aren't skimming 5 feet off the ground. F can be forgiving assuming you have dampers on, it should just float on the spot. Y is again, user fault and not exactly close generally to movement keys.

    - again unless you're skimming if you run into a mountain because you couldn't pull up fast enough, that's your fault.

    - you've entirely fabricated a scenario here, my crane can easily tip itself over if it grabs something too heavy, if your flyer were to grab it, and lacked the power it just wouldn't be able to take off.

    I agree with the loading screen btw, aeronautical engineering is dangerous business, fortunately the game simplifies it to strap a thruster in each direction with a gyro to steer, regardless of its position relative to the center of mass, I could literally make a giant 6 pointed star with thrusters all facing a direction that would just cause them to rotate and not fly straight because of moments of inertia.

    @Darkheyr I would argue that flying to and from space to mine and process ores while still utilizing the easy flight mode, is also still more effort and as such still obeys the rule of more effort, more reward, but I understand where you're coming from with that.

    I know this suggestion is basically a pipe dream, as unfortunately keen will cater to the more casual crowd which can't be bothered, or are simply unable to build really cool planetary mining machines with moving parts. still I will strive to get us more physics blocks that may one day lead to a simpler time in designing mining machines
    • Agree Agree x 1
  17. Calaban Junior Engineer

    User error can be claimed for absolutely anything going wrong- or in fact, anything happening at all. I mean- wheels just dont detonate on their own without us doing any... thing... wait a sec.

    The point of the examples was the consequences of those user errors (same errors in land or air) being much more final and irreversible with a flyer.
  18. Darkheyr Trainee Engineer

    Oh, it IS more effort than an atmo-flyer, but still - ridiculously so - less effort than a wheeled mining contraption. And to add insult to injury, any flyer or spaceship without moving parts is infinitely easier to replace when things DO go wrong, due to ship printing.

    And yes, more physics blocks. I'd love that. And making the ones we have easier to use would help, too - say, by enabling easier subgrid printing. As long as I can effortlessly replace small flyers but not trucks - or at least, not quite as easy as a 2 by 2 face fixed printer - flyers will take the day for convenience reason alone.
  19. Ronin1973 Master Engineer

    Flight is the chief mode of locomotion in SE while wheeled vehicles are a novelty. Wheeled vehicles take longer to reach their travel points and are more prone to user accidents. Your center of mass in a flying vehicle doesn't really matter. But with wheeled vehicles, it certainly does as once that center of mass is beyond your wheel base... you get to experience some really awesome physics. The majority of the planets are very mountainous. So if you're not dodging trees, you're dodging ravines and cliffs.

    There is no real upside to land based vehicles other than power savings... but as the OP pointed out, once you discover a patch of uranium... that isn't a concern at all.

    Perhaps in the balance, consumption of uranium will be faster, making the need to conserve energy and manage it a higher priority. That would balance out the risk vs. reward for wheeled vehicles. I'm not sure how the community would feel about it, though.
  20. Calaban Junior Engineer

    Center of mass is calculated- as seen when you grab a load off center. Its just that the Gyroscopes are actively Torquing the ship to maintain position.

    So if all the up thrusters are at one far end of the ship (lets say the back end,) then the gyros compensate to make it all work as we see it in game as normal- by applying just the right amount of "pitch up" to keep the thrusters from levering it over into a somersault.

    Granted the gyros are extremely powerful in this case, and unrealistic. But hey, this is Clang's Universe. Things work how he wants it.. before he blows it all up for lol's.
  21. GrindyGears Senior Engineer

    A singular flying grid, not talking about one actively trying to lift another grid has the sum of its thruster forces applied to its CoM and thrusters alone do not create a force moment (rotation) regardless of how heavy, bulky, or poorly designed a flying craft is, as long as you spam enough thrusters it will work as a miner, no questions asked. This particular thrust model had basically no measurable gauge from which performance suffers based on shape or layout, two grids of equal mass with the same thruster count will perform the same. wheeled vehicles however CoM becomes quite important if you want to travel faster than a crawl because otherwise you're going to roll over.

    I should have clarified in the post that I was not referring to lifting a grid when I said stuff about aeronautical design.
  22. PLPM Junior Engineer

    Alright, fine.

    There´s actually a very simple way to make wheeled vehicles more adecuate while not making useless or unpractical a hovering vehicle in atmoshpere.

    Just change the mass of blocks and the thruster´s power for small ship blocks, they are tremendously heavy for a mostly hollow block. This means that current thrusters have to be more powerful to compensate and this allows miners to lift a lot of weight, even if is just half the vehicle´s dry mass, It will be several tones of ore.

    If the vehicle´s mass and thrust was downscaled, it would mean that while it´s still just as fast and agile, its lifting capabilities would be severely down graded. Allowing wheeled vehicles to shine more easily.
  23. Darkheyr Trainee Engineer

    Doable for small atmo-flyers, though it would limit orbital lift capacity for small craft even further.

    And, of course, it would either mean ion engines get far more powerful in relation, or they get weaker as well, and you're just moving the thruster porcupine issue from ground to space because asteroid miners now struggle with their cargo.
  24. GrindyGears Senior Engineer

    If we had massive deposits which were worth setting up a stationary "mine" in a more conventional sense, I can perhaps see wheeled vehicles shining a great deal, if you remove or limit mobility requirements then the extremely heavy weight capabilities would be more suitable. That said it's already pretty easy to get to post scarcity, and having a deposit large enough to make stationary mining practical would probably supply a server of 32 or more....

    Does anyone have any thoughts about that concept?
  25. Darkheyr Trainee Engineer

    I'd love stationary mining sites. In my eyes, this would be a perfect solution to make planetary operations viable. In essence, space would be where ore is easily reached but it requires constant travel and effort, and on planets you could set up sites that produce slower in the short term, but are really hard to exhaust.

    How to work a need for wheeled vehicles into that? Hard to say. Though I actually find strict tunneling easier with a rover than a flyer in Earth type atmospheres, once you manage to design an effective one.
  26. GrindyGears Senior Engineer

    Well, i guess the general thought towards large deposits would be to basically make ore weigh more, to make flying it around costly, to say it in context of real life, you wouldn't try to use a helicopter to transport rough ore, or hang a drill from. So it only really makes sense for wheels to be primary mode for moving heavy bulk cargo.

    But we are also coming back to the issue where the sheer amount of resources generated from even a relatively small planetary deposit is generally more than enough for a single person, if you had something worth setting up a mining op it would be way to much in all likelihood
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  27. Dax23333 Junior Engineer

    We already kind of have large ore deposits that make permenant setups viable, in the form of ice lakes or indeed the ice moon. And that really, really works. You can make a whole base designed to generate vast quantities of hydrogen and ice and ship it to where it needs it, and it isn't something that is totally silly.

    This being on the surface makes it quite different though, a type of ore that would spawn in large veins but very deep down would make for a different challange. Unfortunatly making it very deep makes the flying miner dominant again because driving your wheeled miner down a deep shaft is more difficult than flying. And this is where it is backwards, in real mining operations this is utterly impractical.

    One thing that would hinder flying down your own tunnel would be turbulence and ground effects from having that much thrust blasting air about in a tiny space. Give flying craft a 'shake' of some kind when near voxels in atmosphere? So they'd kinda push away from it, but do so in such a way that it is unstable. Idk if this would be a good idea or not.
  28. GrindyGears Senior Engineer

    Fuel is great and all, but if you don't have a ship to pump it into its kinda pointless to stockpile. :p
    (As in you need other resources)

    I do kinda like that idea, if you have an enclosed area or a thruster is close to voxels it could apply some kind of force, but I'm not actually sure that would do much, as the force would probably be from all sides and cancel out.

    I wonder what the consequences of adding a mechanic that basically prevents you from "blowing your own sail" if a thruster is exhausting gas or moving air to lift itself in the case of atmos, if you had a grid in front of it that moving air pressure it would apply an equal but opposite force to the grid, and thus create no net movement. If that makes no sense I can get a video later
  29. odizzido Junior Engineer

    Having thruster shake when close to voxels would stop plunge miners but it's easy and effective to build a flying miner that lands and drills with pistons.

    The main issue is that power is free. Sure a flying miner uses 10000 times more power, but when that power takes a second of mining to get its irrelevant
  30. Darkheyr Trainee Engineer

    Again, uranium is not the underlying problem. I run my stationary bases and its small craft purely via self-aligning solar turrets and batteries. Even removing uranium from the game would not change my planetary playstyle beyond removing the few reactors I keep around offline for emergencies. Many people play the same - and still, flyers trump rovers.

    Complexity and convenience is what needs to be looked at. I have a wheeled miner actually. It has moving parts, meaning I need to assemble at least part of it by hand, or design some clever stacked projecting to be part of it. Or I could just take yet another flyer from a fixed 2x2 face printer and have a miner with more range, more speed, no restrictions due to terrain, less danger of accidentally breaking something, and if I break something, I just fetch another one in under a minute.
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