I was tethered to a player owned Athanor and a Poksu Mineral Group NPC hauler arrived, docked, about 5 minutes later it re-appeared and warped off.
Is this behavior new or just something I missed?
Do we know if they use any refining facilities (and pay the player). It appeared to arrive from the direction of an asteroid belt full of NPC ventures and headed out towards more player owned structures.
Did CCP program in a production cycle or just a day to day routines to make them act less like a NPC?
This. The NPC mining fleets start in the belts from the downtime reset, but they are not as good at mining as player ships. Still, the fact that they don’t stop unless “interfered with” (warning: hazardous activity) causes some complaints later in the EVE day, when real players log in to find some belts are empty.
If you can blow up a hauling ship without dying horribly (defense fleets are usually coordinated with damage, ewar, and logi ships) you find all the ore they actually collected in the wreck.
The haulers don’t refine, they just drop the rocks off adding to the stockpiles for their respective organizations - might be fun to see some CCP statistics on their current stockpiles
So no NPC stations in system. Yeah, CCP has probably coded the NPC Hauler to dock at Player stations if no NPC stations are available. As for the Ore it carries, that’s probably just deleted from it’s cargohold after docking so that the Hauler can go back to it’s usual activity.
Imagine of you could re-enter the newbie NPC corps after leaving them (or just do this with any of the veteran NPC corps that you can re-enter, I guess)… and pull off a multi-billion ISK tax heist, too!
I think if the Hauler can’t dock in a station and eject the contents of it’s hold, it probably just hangs around until Downtime. As for the Mining Fleet, I think CCP probably programmed that content to continuously spawn Haulers so that the Mining Fleet can continue it’s operation.
I’ve been using a polarized Naga - approach blap & run, you need different tactics to get the DST’s scan them down & draw off the support fleet. The loot is not great but I hear you can get very rare billion ISK modules if you get a jackpot drop.