Some friends and I recently took another stab at blowing up the meteor. Roughly 8 of us on a 24/7 private server. Unfortunately, we didn't finish because after around 14 days, we kinda lost interest in the game.
There's a few reasons for this, but mostly I think it was due to the core resource-gathering gameplay (mining/logging/farming) becoming a tedious exercise - and on a server of 8, it made up a significant portion of the gameplay. For a lot of us, the game became "Sigh. Let's go and dig up clay/iron for an hour I guess". This isn't a problem unique to Eco - I think few games handle resource gathering well. Even so, I figured I'd describe the issues we faced, and well as some possible gameplay changes that might improve the situation.
I think for us, the core issues we faced for each of the core resource professions (mining/logging/farming) were:
Mining - Until skid-steers, this is very much a repetitive profession that features very little in the way of skill or variety. Hit the rocks, move the rocks, sell the rocks. While vehicles do change it up a bit, the core remains the same - it's just faster.
Logging - Very much the same as mining, particularly with stump clearing. You can combine this with forestry (re-planting trees), but even so, it's still fairly tiresome.
Farming - This already has the potential to be very enjoyable. However, I think it has two main issues. One is that your ability to farm grows MUCH faster than the demand for food. We had one guy farming, and he was producing enough food for easily 5x our server population. Secondly - while there's a really interesting nutrient/habitability system in play, it's not /necessary/. All you need to do is find somewhere with reasonably high habitability, plant a BIG field, grab the skills for extra yield, and you're good for life.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure the more recent additions to the game, such as large-scale farming and mining tools, actually do much to solve any of these problems either. Certainly for farming, it seems to exacerbate the problem by allowing one player to produce far, far more food in a given amount of time. And sure, mining vehicles allow you to gather ore faster - but that doesn't make it that much more interesting.
In order to improve this, here's a few ideas I came up with that might help, or least help inspire other possiblities.
Mining - This needs a clear core dynamic, ideally involving some challenge, or skill on behalf of the player. Perhaps it could also benefit from some element of risk. One possibility here would be to have the player focus on the design of the mine. This might be done by introducing structural integrity to mines - perhaps corridors and open spaces are prone cave-ins, and you'll need reinforcing structures to prevent that. This could be further emphaises by the layout of the mine. For example, digging under an existing tunnel might weaken the tunnel above. Perhaps certain rocks present different hazards - sandstone could be particularly prone to collapse, especially if it's raining? Or maybe mines could flood, forcing players to consider drainage? These are a few of the ways that mining could be made into a more challenging experience.
Logging - Similar to mining, I think this needs some challenge or skill added to it, to prevent it being a mindlessly rote activity. One possible route here would be to integrate it more deeply with the idea of forestry, and maintaining a healthy forest. For example, perhaps diseases or insect pests strike forests, forcing players to clear-cut trees, or find strategies to mitigate the problem. Alternatively, perhaps increase the impact forestry has on the animal simulation - forcing players to manage the animal's habitats, while they're cutting down trees. (This could also be tied into animal husbandry?)
Farming - The simplest way to improve farming could be to increase the impact that the existing environmental conditions have on crops, and emphasise cultivating the land more. Make aquaducts, terrain elevation and nutrition have a greater impact on crops. Make it rewarding to spend time refining the perfect land on which to grow crops. Additionally, perhaps decrease food yield across the board - particularly now that large-scale farming is viable - or add additional food resource-sinks into the game, to allow demand to better scale with the increased production.
These are just a few of the ways that we thought of that, in my opinion, would go some ways to improving the existing professions, leading to more engaging gameplay. I think the issues with these professions do need considering seriously, in part due to how much of the game they can take up, but also the disproportionate effect the have on new players joining mid to late game servers - particularly given, on a small server, the game is a 30 day investment.
Also - I know this was a long post, so thanks for reading if you made it this far!