The last portion of the Incursion Expansion has introduced a major change to the way that materials are harvested on planets. The resulting process involves significantly less clicking for a similar or better benefit and allows for superior maximization of profits.
A Quick Caveat
If you are unfamiliar with planetary interaction in general, or something in this article does not make sense, you can probably find the answer in one of our previous articles on using planets:
The Old Way
The new extractor system makes having a planet easy and quick, instead of monotonous and carpal damaging.
Previously, people would need to use extractors for harvesting raw materials from planets. Each individual extractor would need to be double-clicked on and assigned a harvesting schedule in order to get it working. These schedules were static, with the options ranging from half an hour to four days. The longer cycles would return less material per hour, but might be preferable if a player did not want to bother with it too often or would be away from the computer for a few days.
The New Way
As of Incursion, the old extractors are no longer functional. Those should be decomissioned to free up power and processing. Instead of those, we now use an extractor control unit. Each "ECU" controls up to ten "extractor heads" that can be individually moved around, but are slaved to the ECU. When the ECU is programmed and started up, all of the extractor heads attached to it follow its program.
Essentially, you are controlling all of the attrached extractors at once. Once you are happy with your settings for an ECU, you can get it working again with three clicks. Easy as heck, and a huge improvement over the previous system.
You can also upgrade command centers without deleting the entire colony, something that has previously been very annoying. Just click on the command center and upgrade as necessary.
Programming The ECU
Don't let the word "program" fool you into thinking this is difficult or involved. Programming an ECU is simple: select a resource to harvest, add as many extractor heads as you desire, move the extractor heads around to hotspots containing that resource, and tell the ECU how long its harvest schedule should be. Just like before, the longer the time involved, the less will be returned per hour. The differences are that you can specify a much more particular time frame, and that you are shown a bar graph of materials harvested over time. The graph also gives specific information about each time period if you move your cursor over a particular time increment.
The materials must still be routed and processed as before, and each ECU can only harvest a single resource. So under the model that most planet-based industrialists follow, most planets will probably have at least two ECUs, with each being used to harvest a different material. Not bad at all.
If two extractor heads have overlapping areas, there will be a portion of any harvest loss due to interference. This is to keep players from figuring out where the most productive spot is and just piling all the extractor heads onto it. Thus far it seems unlikely that there would be a situation that would warrant a lot of overlap, but supposedly there will be short-lived hotspots that might warrant it.
The Sunny Side
This new way of extracting materials from planets means that running large-scale planet-based industry projects in much easier. Instead of clicking dozens of times, per planet, it is only a couple clicks. That means making wide use of planets is easier than ever. I have previously only been able to stomach having two planets going at a time, and these only because I have very specific material needs. Now, things are so easy that I may as well go whole hog. After all, it's easy ISK.
The Shady Side
When writing about EVE Online, I normally try to stick to what I know for sure, and eschew hearsay and rumor. Nonetheless, I think it is worth mentioning that a lot of players in high-security space have been complaining about reduced harvesting yields since the most recent expansion. I think this is most probably a result of CCP "kicking depletion into gear" and generally reducing the amount of materials available on a planet that others are also using. At least some of the griping is probably exaggeration and/or a market manipulation attempt, but I think that I would be remiss if I did not at least mention the concept.