Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Line of Fire

When I started in EVE one of the biggest disappointments was that asteroids did not block line of sight to targets, nor block weapon fire either. I found it immersion breaking; it was nonsensical that lasers and missiles would fly straight through a mass of rock with ease.


Before I played EVE I was in love with Star Trek: Starfleet Command and in that game the objects in space meant something. Get too close to an asteroid and *BOOM* you crashed. Go through a small asteroid debris field and see your shields deplete. Lose an opponent's lock on you by skirting behind a space station. It allowed a certain degree of tactical consideration and environment awareness in the heat of battle.

And then in EVE?

*BOUNCE*

The only thing that structures and asteroids changed was the path of your flight, and even then you simply bounced off them. Sure, sometimes you could get caught up on the asteroid field and lose valuable velocity and transversal, but that's about it. I understand that CCP needs to make concessions to multi-player environments and processing limitations and gameplay accessibility, but it still sucks.

Over time I got used to it and adapted as we all have who have stuck around in this game. But I still lament the sameness of space. The new nebulae went a long way to breaking that monotony but it is still unfortunate that environmental effects are limited to one space mission where waves of a gas cloud damage your ship, deadspace pockets that limit warping abilities (and used to disable Microwarp Drives), and a few systems in wormhole space.

The ones in wormhole space interest me the most. I like the idea of all the common and well known rules of PvP combat being turned on its ear due to the system you just jumped into. It adds some spice to otherwise well known rules of engagement. I wish every region had one or two similar systems where things were just not quite the same. Something to give fleets a decision point: do we try and fight here where everyone's X module won't work, or next door? Does that hinder us more or less than our opponent? I like decisions, it makes life more interesting in game.

And yeah, I still wish asteroids blocked line of fire.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Blog Banter #59 - Terrain

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 59th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.

* * * * *

This month's version comes from commenter Zappity who asks:
Probably been done before... What about local force projection (as opposed to the longer distance force projection that is often talked about)? I think of 'terrain' in EVE to be how systems are mapped together by gates. Strong tactics which exploit terrain have historically been extremely important in deciding battle outcomes. How does this apply in EVE in the presence of cynos?

Related to this, you have the option to explore the topic of wormhole systems with effects (Black Holes, Cataclymismic variablestar, etc) and if similar environmental effects on certain grids/deadspace or system wide should be explored for known space?

Get writing!

* * * * * 

Participants:
Evoganda - Hiding in Plain Sight
Sand, Cider and Spaceships - I'm Behind the Grassy Knoll
Zappity's Adventures - Terrain
Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah - Line of Fire
Stabbed Up - A fleet commander's guide to bookmarks

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Apropos of Nothing, Here is a Lego Star Destroyer with My Kids




Bonus question: can you determine which two are the 6 year old twins and which one is the four year old "little" brother?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ISBoxer is Botting

In the latest Derping Through War podcast, episode 11, the hosts get to debating if using ISBoxer, a program that allows your mouse and key commands to be replicated to multiple application, is acceptable in EVE Online or not. Currently CCP has allowed this application to fall under the list of acceptable utility applications to use, like macro keys on fancier keyboards and mice.

Well, CCP is wrong. Using ISBoxer is still botting and CCP should disallow its usage.

Botting

First off, let's look at the reason that ISBoxer is currently allowed while normal botting is not.
I am a bot.
A "bot" is a pilot in EVE who is operated by a third party program operating via a script that the program follows. This is primarily seen in tasks that don't require a lot of decision making like belt ratting or mining, although some bot behaviour can be very nuanced.

CCP has been waging a war on banning accounts that use botting and any associated accounts as the activity has several deleterious effects on the game world. For one, because they can sustain operations much longer and more consistently than a human can, they can generate more resources/wealth and this impacts the economy in the long term with widespread bot use. Secondly, it creates the imbalance where pilots/organizations that utilize botting have an advantage over competitors forcing players to operate at a disadvantage or join botting themselves. Thirdly, since botting is used to amass in game wealth quickly and efficiently with the fewest humans involved, it is a common tool of Real Money Traders who can be shady and dangerous to their customers.

So CCP has rightly declared botting an exploit and bannable offence.

ISBoxer

ISBoxer, on the other hand is not considered and exploit mainly because (1) is it human-directed therefore does not have a bot's ability to operate consistently and for long periods of time, and (2) is currently not a main tool of wealth generation so is not noticeably affecting the economy or being used by RMTers.

One example of the use of ISBoxer is a single man mining fleet where the human uses the program to order multiple mining ships to mine the asteroids. Another example is the one given in the DtW podcast where a single human operated a small fleet of ships for PvP purposes. In these cases the operated ships have to be virtually the same and the client layout of each account needs to be near exact with the same overview settings and everything, but once setup you basically operate any number of ships your computer can handle clients for as if they were just one.

Its not widespread yet but I think it will be over time as pilots move to min-max their experience as the majority almost always do in order to be competitive. Why have a fleet of 5 guys when everyone can ISBox 3 accounts easily and have 15 ships? Why mine by myself in one ship if I can increase my profit by mining in 5? And CCP says its ok.

Isn't ISBoxer just like Multi-Boxing?

Not Me.
No, its not. Multi-boxing, i.e. having multiple clients open at the same time and doing things in each of them, is different because as a human you can only really pay full attention to one at a time. I cannot give an order at exactly the same time to both clients, I need to switch back and forth and while working on one, the other is unattended and essentially vulnerable to mistakes.

One could argue that an improperly setup interface for ISBoxer can lead to mistakes as well but that is more of a mechanical setup issue and not a human mental error issue. Once perfectly setup, multi-boxing can still allow for human error, ISBoxer cannot. The number of times I've heard someone on comms say "just wait, I need to move my other ship" or "dammit, I missed warp because I was on the other client" from multi boxing players is very high. Multi-boxing is human-intensive, ISBoxing is not.

In essence, ISBoxer is just a bot that doesn't have a preset script to follow, but rather follows you.
-THIS UNIT IS WATCHING MASTER-
This is why I think CCP is wrong on this issue and should change their stance. A bot is a bot is a bot. It shouldn't matter if the bot is independent or dependent on the player for their instructions, it still allows a single human to sustain larger operations over long periods of time with fewer mistakes than a human without using ISBoxer would be able to. It doesn't matter that it does not affect the economy or is not a tool of the Real Money Traders. Its a bot, and CCP should make it an exploit.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Guest Post: Your Hypothesis Is Not Correct

Originally a comment by Axloth Okiah on my Hypothesis on Wormholes post.

As a "professional wormholer" pretty much on top of the whole foodchain (ie. diplo and leadership of one of top alliances), please allow me to correct some of your inaccurate assumptions.

The biggest one is that there is some preferential space one needs to "break ïnto" in order live in wspace. Your text suggests that we somehow block off entry to these systems - in a similar manner to sov-holding alliances in null which prevent newcomers from taking root. By this you probably mean C5 and C6 systems where capital escalations are possible.

But in reality, there are dozens of free and unoccupied systems like this and even bigger number of semi-inactive and poorly defended ones. The infamous "fortress systems" with 10+ POSes and tons of capitals are at most 10% of the total. In this respect, situation got even better for "newcomers" with Hyperion and number of good systems went up because of the wh-effects and C4 static rebalance (Black Holes for example used to be basically uninhabitable, now they are actually good and desirable).

There is simply no way and, perhaps more importantly, no incentive for us to prevent others from settling in. There isnt any competition for resources going on because escalations are same everywhere and most of publicized evicitons happen because of grudges and enmity. Coming into wspace is in practice extremely easy. What is hard is actually living here longterm which is a result of shit POS design and shit corp role management that make growing, recruitment and ship security a total nightmare. Start-up groups often dwindle and die because they cannot sustain any growth as result of pressure from the environment and game itself, not because of other wormholers trying to remove them.

The income is not that stellar either. Prices of salvage have been dropping for a long time, which unfortunately disproptionately affects lower-class wormholers. On top of that, all of the income must be divided among the membership, so bigger groups earn less. While 3-men farming groups earn a ton of isk, average membership of professional wormholers earn less then hisec incursioners while facing significantly higher risk (regardless of Hyperion release).

In the end, the current slumber is nothing new and is a result of overall eve slowdown and less players logging in - it will hopefully pick as the summer ended. Similar concerns about wspace dying and groups being too big, evil and entrenched crop up every couple months, regardless of whats really going on. But its been the same and roughly cyclical in nature for several years now as strong alliances form and then disintegrate into smaller ones.

So... I think your hypothesis is not correct and hopefully I managed to explain why ;)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Hypothesis On Wormholes

I've been listening to the excellent Down the Pipe podcast ever since it started in November 2012 so it provides an excellent perspective on the state of Wormhole space from pilots living there for the past two years.

Things have changed, and I don't mean just recently. There has been a malaise sneaking into wormholes for the past year and the recent changes in Hyperion release have exacerbated the issue into stark contrast from two years ago.

From an outsider's perspective of both wormhole space and null sec space, I'm going to put forth a hypothesis that I've been thinking on for a week or so that might be completely wrong... or might not. Here we go.

Hypothesis: What is happening in wormhole space right now is a microcosm version in both scale and time of what has been occurring in null sec for years, and can be predictive of what is coming in the next year in null sec.

Now to support my position.

About two years ago wormholes appearing to be booming with large corps and alliances battling it out constantly for resources (i.e. good systems and the sites in them) or for fun and profit. Then about a year ago I noticed a change in the winds that perhaps might have been there for a while but was definitely becoming apparent through blog posts and podcasts like Down the Pipe. Wormhole space was becoming less vibrant and started to, dare I say it, stagnate. The entrenched forces in the C5 and C6 class wormholes became larger and richer and the barrier to entry to these lucrative systems became higher.

Let's be clear, wormholes with their different rules and systems with special effects and no local or stations already have a large barrier to entry for the common pilot, add on to that large numbers of professional wormhole pilots guarding the entrance way to the best space with fleets of capitals and T3s and hundreds of pilots at the disposal, and new groups are dissuaded from attempting to break in.

This creates a cycle wherein to access the riches available to these powerful entities a pilot or group of pilots must join the existing organization. These powerful and growing alliances start to strangle out smaller groups that cannot compete financially and the overall population begins to drop and activity starts to dwindle.

Then along comes CCP with changes.

Before we can talk about the effect of these changes, let's talk about the paradigm of wormhole space which is that the risk is a lot greater (i.e. no stations, dangerous rats, no local to warm you of other pilots, no easy entry and exit, etc) but is compensated by high rewards. This dynamic was fine early on in the wormhole timeline since Apocrypha but over time the rewards remaining mostly constant while the risk decreased as pilot proficiency for the ins and outs of the region improved. Eventually groups mastered wormhole space and became experts at controlling the holes into and out of their systems to the point where sites could be run in rather extreme  safety by the professional wormholers for the same rewards. And let's be clear, these are some of the best rewards in all of New Eden at the end of the day. Listen to Down The Pipe episode 39 and sit agog when they talk about what ships they use to run their PvE content.

So, back to CCP's changes. Its obvious that the thrust of the changes were to decrease some of the control the of holes that the professionals had acquired in order to break down some of the walls that the professionals had erected around themselves. As wormholers themselves will state, the risk was subsequently increased as it was harder to close holes, and harder to close them safely, AND there are more of them, while the rewards had not changed at all. The fact that compared to most of all other space the rewards in the best wormholes are still miles above is lost on these professionals who only see their comfortable and known situation being disrupted. I don't blame them too much as any of us would balk at similar types of changes in our preferred area of space. Personally, I don't think CCP communicated the intent behind the changes well enough.

Regardless, the impact of those changes will require months to play out. Will there be an exodus of players from wormhole space as the changes to higher risk and less hole control and stagnation caused by the invested professional organizations drive them away? Or will these changes plus future changes trigger a wormhole renaissance where new players/returning players adjust to the new tactics and rules? We should know over the next year.

* * * * *

In null we are at the part prior halfway in the changes to space phase. On the horizon is the promised sovereignty mechanics changes and the "new space / building stargates" promise. Once these changes are done, null sec will face the same question that faces wormhole space right now: Is it the beginning of a new age, or the final long decline of the old one?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Seven to Go

So eight years in EVE this month and I'm approaching another milestone: only 7 more killmails until I hit 1000 on zKillboard.


I know that is not a lot compared to a lot of old veteran PvPers like the awesome Rixx Javix but I'm happy with it nonetheless given my extreme time constraints per week. I took a moment to graph out the kills into a little chart (sorry it runs right to left, I'm too lazy to switch it around).


I highlighted a few milestones. You can see the first two Bring Me the Head of Kirith Kodachi live events in 2010 quite easily, and you can see why I fondly recall my time in Paxton Federation in the original ProviBloc back in 2009, but the most striking change in the chart starts when I joined the Gallente Militia in June of 2012. Even in a small insignificant corporation practically by myself, with the same limited playing time, my PvP activity started to climb dramatically.

This is why I sing the praises of faction warfare and Aideron Robotics; it has allowed me to turn a limited weekly game time budget into a modestly successful PvP and Fleet Commander life.

This Sunday, time to get 7 more.

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