As I discussed in my previous, overlong post about mining, the primary source of extra chunks when people mine together is not the bonus chunks but the extra chunks that are generated because people get extra ticks after the rock has disappeared.
When you have more and more miners, bonus chunks start to matter more, but they matter more primarily because apply to the extra ticks as well. Suppose four people mine a rock. They each get 6 bonus chunks per tick as a result of having three helpers. When the rock disappears, three people are still mining. The person who finished the rock off can't help mine that rock again, but the next person in line still had two helpers for 3 bonus chunks and the person after that had 1 helper for 1 bonus chunk. In total, four bonus chunks were generated out of nothing.
If 8 people mine a rock then you get 26 bonus chunks from seven helpers. Because of this the second tick will finish it. Despite this, there are still seven more ticks coming and those ticks get 22, 18, 14, 10, 6, 3, 1 and 0 bonus chunks for a total of 74 chunks generated out of nothing. If it was a sparkly rock then the seven post-rock ticks would normally only generate about 42 chunks, so the bonus chunks makes a huge difference here.
I created a simulation of mining both with and without bonus chunks and compared how much better the with-bonus-chunks model was in terms of total number of chunks received and in terms of speed of mining. Note that here speed means the speed at which you mine through rocks, not the speed at which collect chunks.
As you can see, the first helper does next to nothing in terms of expanding the number of chunks you get, it's less than a 0.5% bonus. The second helper only brings it up to a little over 3%. At the same time as the extra chunks are expanding exponentially, the speed at which you are mining increases dramatically then rapidly plateaus. In fact, as the number of helpers went to infinity, the extra speed at which you mine would tend towards zero.
Apparent and Real Increases
The number of bonus chunks received is the apparent bonus from mining. If you mined 6 chunks and got 6 bonus chunks, you feel like you got double. The real increase you get from mining would be increase in real chunks times the increase in speed, factoring in the time to walk to a new rock. Here I am using 6 seconds to walk to a new rock which is more realistic than the idealistic 4 seconds I used in my previous mining post - remember that you have loading screens and that you are herding cats.
So the apparent bonus rockets up while the real bonus stays quite a bit more down-to-earth. That's not to say that real bonus isn't good. If you can get nine glitchen together to mine in an area that can actually sustain that rate of mining then you are each mining three times faster thanks to bonus chunks, which is certainly something to be happy about. It's just a far cry less than the more than five times faster that it looks like on your screen.
With only one extra glitchen, the real increase is less than 10%, and it is almost entirely composed of mining time. The bonus chunks, as shown above, have no noticeable impact on the number of chunks you walk away with from a given number of rocks.
I think all of this offers us a few questions that we, and Tiny Speck, should consider:
- Should the amount of bonus material from bonus chunks scale exponentially with the number of players mining?
- Given that more glitchen would make mining seem much faster even without bonus chunks (two glitch means half as many ticks each, etc.), should increasing the speed of mining be the most significant result of bonus chunks?
- Is there an issue when apparent bonuses from having friends outscale real bonuses from having friends?
- Should the bonus for more people mining be a go faster bonus or a more to go around bonus? And should the nature of the bonus change from one to the other depending on how many people you have?
I think that last point is the weirdest one. When you have one or two glitchen help you mine, there are very few extra chunks to spread around between the two or three of you, but you go noticeably faster. When you have a very large number of glitchen helping, the number of extra chunks created from nothing can become staggering, but the time to mine actually starts increasing with each additional glitch. If you have 20 glitchen helping you then bonus chunks make rocks disappear only 40% faster while you generate 240% extra chunks.
A Different Approach
I'm not a huge fan of how the bonus chunks thing works out. The apparent effects are very predictable but they don't match the significantly more turbulent real effects. With realistically sized mining teams there is too much emphasis on emptying out rocks faster instead of on more resources being there for everyone to share.
If I had my way, what I would do is reduce the number of bonus chunks received to be equal to the number of glitchen helping, reduce the maximum number of bonus chunks to 10, and at the same time making bonus chunks not count against the number of chunks left in the rock. Bonus chunks would be actual bonuses, pulled from the raw imagination of the Zille. This would completely eliminate the increased speed of chewing through rocks - rocks would still go away faster with two glitchen than with one but only because two glitchen are taking mining actions, not because the mining actions themselves wear down the rock faster. Basically, the time to mine through two rocks would be the same whether you cooperated to clear them out one at a time or whether you each took one and mined them out by yourselves.
At the same time, the net benefit of chunks gained over time from mining with partners would be very close to what it is now. This would shift the benefit of cooperation from gathering the same resources faster to having more in total to share between you. This would mean that as long as people were willing to cooperate the amount of chunks available would scale, to some extent, with the number of people gathering those chunks, and mining areas would become saturated with glitchen much more slowly.
Finally, with this system, mining with friends would become entirely beneficial. I'd be able to replace my current motto of "cooperate if others are there but hope that they are not" with "bring as many friends as possible."