Hey all, bear with me as I realize this topic has come up several times since Alpha Characters were introduced and subsequently expanded. I also realize there’s a few existing threads regarding this topic, but I believe these threads have been tainted by a multitude of arguments that would be better addressed all in one go than trying to refute each one weeks or months down the line.
The Argument For Mining Barges
When Alphas were first introduced back in 2016, they came with a host of restrictions that locked them to mostly T1/Meta modules and on-race T1 frigates-cruisers. At this point, the argument for mining barges was an incredibly unrealistic one. That changed though in late 2017, when alphas were given full access to all T1 ships through battleships, including pirate faction ships, as well as T2 weapons through the battlecruiser level. Surprisingly absent from this change which opened up countless opportunities for alphas was an extension of the roster for mining ships, as the only dedicated ship available remained the Venture.
Balancing The Career Options
The main argument for mining barges is that their availability balances the career options for alpha characters. Right now, an alpha character can easily make 40-50 mil an hour exploring in a T1 frigate or ratting in any of the standard ratting ships. Hell with a bit of startup ISK they can even run DED sites just fine and make a helluva lot more than that. In a venture outside of moon mining though you can only max out at a small fraction of this amount. This effectively locks out the mining career path for alpha characters, as it makes absolutely zero sense for most players to mine except when harvesting Xenotime, or the jackpotted variants of Monazite or Loparite.
Now in the cases of mining some higher level moon ores like the ones mentioned above, barges would be able to make more ISK through this method than the other two ‘standard’ moneymaking methods, but because of the rarity of these ores I’d equate these short bursts of income to the ISK gained from running DEDs, something which as mentioned above alphas are more than capable of doing. While mining standard ore, even a max omega skill / max yield fit / T1 strip mining covetor tops out at <50 mil/hr outside of Triglavian ores. Restricting the available modules and skills, it should be fairly trivial to ensure this number stays under 50 mil/hr even under boosts for most ore.
Ultimately, having this option doesn’t drastically increase the amount of ISK alphas could make compared to before. What it does do though is turn mining into a viable path for alpha characters (and by extension strengthens the industry and production paths as well). It just doesn’t make sense that Alphas are still locked out of this playstyle, one that pretty much all players try at some point early in their Eve careers, and one that makes up the backbone of the game’s economy.
Addressing The Counterarguments
Alpha Characters Don’t Deserve More Than They Already Have
This is by far the most prolific argument against this subject that I’ve seen so far. It usually goes something along the lines of “CCP graciously gave people free to play characters, they don’t deserve anything more and if they want more they should subscribe.” The problem with this is that it seems to be an argument against Alpha Clones in general rather than an argument against mining barges. It’s not a response to the idea itself, rather just an expression of people’s disdain for Alpha Characters. This argument was also made against giving alphas ships from other races before the 2017 overhaul, and it’s as meaningless now as it was then.
The Issue of Botting / Bypassing Alpha Restrictions
At first glance this argument has some merit to it. Mining in a barge can be an incredibly AFKable and scalable activity. But at the same time, so is ratting. Ultimately for this argument to have merit it needs to be applied to the ISK making side of things as well, which breaks down when you take into account the fact that alphas also have access to ships like the Myrmidon, Gila, and Dominix that surpass the income making ability of barges in most situations.
On this topic, I’d also speculate (though admittedly lacking solid proof that only CCP has access to) that the vast majority of bots and botfarms in Eve aren’t Alpha Accounts. For one thing for people who know what they’re doing, maintaining an Omega Account in Eve is exceptionally easy through the use of things like SP farms, something which I’d bet most botfarms take full advantage of. Additionally, for these characters the cost of PLEXing an Alpha Account is easily made up by the additional skills and options for ISK generation.
Many people have argued that mining battleships are the route alphas should take if they want to mine. This may’ve been a legitimate option 10 years ago, but there’s a reason people don’t use them now. These ships only barely out-mine a procurer, and to do so requires constant emptying of the ship’s cargo every mining cycle, a process so tedious that it takes less effort for an alpha to get the ISK for ore they need via ratting, then transport the ore from their local trade hub to wherever they need it.
The Economic Argument
There’s an argument that’s floated around theorizing that if Alphas have access to mining barges, they’ll devalue ore so much that they’ll only make the equivalent of what they would in a Venture before the change. Even ignoring the fact that the price of ore has shot up due to the shortage period, economics just doesn’t work this way. When compared to the absolutely insane mining power of rorquals and even the moderately more powerful exhumers, I highly doubt giving alphas mining barges would have any significant, lasting impact on the value of ore.