Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Story Of Monkeysphere and The Folly of Relying On Side Effects

Monkeysphere is a player who's been doing a hugely effective job at killing cloaky macro ratters in 0.0 space, you know the kind of pilot that kills high bounty pirate rats while they're alone in a system and then warp off and hide as soon as they see someone else in local chat. It's very hard to catch this kind of pilot, generally it involves lots of logging in and out in a system to trigger the warp in and out behaviour until you get lucky and end up in the same belt as the bot. Actually killing a macro ratter once you catch them is generally a whole lot easier since they're not really setup for PVP and can't react to another player outside of attempting to run off. Macro anything in Eve is not only disliked by the legitimate players, but also against the terms of the EULA, when a macro loses his ship there's not exactly a groundswell of sympathy, and robots generally lack the mastery of the English language to complain on the forums.

But when Monkeysphere killed some real-honest-to-god-flesh-and-blood ratters they complained very vocally claiming that the agressors had not appeared in local chat until seconds before their arrival on grid with a cry of OMG HAXX they rallied support and a threadnaught ensued. It's basicly 63 pages of people arguing on every side of the issue and every pilot involved has been accused of breaking the EULA, while some people who are actually educated, rather than simply opinionated, went out and developed a version of the local-cloak exploit by hijacking Eve's custom IRC system. And to add to the 'controversy' for much of this time Monkeysphere found himself stuck inside a wormhole unable to find an exit big enough to let his ship out. This of course led to tin-foil-hat wearers suggesting that the GM's were keeping him locked up while they investigated whether the logs really did show nothing. Let me make it clear that proving an exploit is possible is a long way from proving a pilot used an exploit, and lets face it, nobody likes macro ratters so a lot of people are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt based upon his stellar record cleaning up the universe.
This thread started on the 19th of April, and a week later CCP deployed a hotfix to the servers to plug the exploit, although the jury is still out on whether this fix has actually worked with tranquility and singularity running significantly different versions of the codebase.

Regardless, this whole incident really illustrates to me that Local chat as a source of intel needs overhauled anyway, it's a side effect that's core to the way people work in 0.0, and everyone ends up with all this excess UI space going to waste when they drag the chat window into a thin vertical pane. Instead we should get a dedicated UI that's more compact with narrower rows and multiple columns for standing, sec status, corp/alliance so we can sort through this data faster. Once this happens local everywhere goes to delayed mode and everyone tucks it back into their stack of chat channels never to be used again except to make the occasional 'GoodFight' after your ibis had judgement laid upon it by an avatar.

Now on top of this, the rules for what you see in local would be changed, in hi-sec everyone should generally get all the info, providing they're in good graces with the controlling faction, if your standings drop too much with the caldari you lose access to local intel in Jita, although you're probably more concerned with the navy running after you at that point. Factional warfare would be treated specially, with Militia pilots blocked from receiving intel in enemy space. The FW combat zones would be designated sensitive militarily sensitive areas with only friendly FW pilots receiving local intel, but this being FW, the faction in control of a system may change, so getting local intel is a reward for militias that make the effort to capture and control systems.

In NPC 0.0 the standings based rules would apply, if you're out of favour with the pirates don't expect their traffic control to tell you about that battlefleet in system. The real awesomeness of this plan finally shows up in the rest of 0.0 space, there's no intel here by default, but once your alliance plants your TCU and takes control you can setup a trackin station upgrade that will monitor anyone entering and leaving the system via the jump gates or those oh-so-obvious cyno beacons. Ships arriving via covert cyno's and wormholes wouldn't be detected until they do something to signal their presence, such as approaching a gate, POS or outpost. The tracking station would have to be setup away from any interference so it needs to sit in deep space, away from POS towers, and being a big hunk of electronics it's quite sensitive to things like guns and missiles. Give less than a million hp of shield+armour and maybe 10million structure, easy to disable quickly by a small gang looking for something to do while the system residents hide in stations.

As an alliance with your own space you get access to even better tools for intel monitoring, as well as intel in local alliance members (perhaps only with the correct roles) would be able to go to the starmap and see the status of all the systems they controlled. Instead of the delayed map statistics you'd be able to see numbers change much more rapidly, and you'd be able to look in the system you were about to jump into, instead of trying to find someone in your lame intel channel who's not AFK. You'd be able to see that red fleet arrive on the edge of your space, know what way they're headed and arrange the response with a better understanding of what you're facing. Unless of course the incoming fleet makes a point of sending in someone to kill your tracking stations.

The 0.0 behaviour provides new reasons to take and hold sov, it provides a proper intel dashboard to track enemy incursions and it also provides some tangible sov related targets for small PVP gangs that find their targets hiding.

And finally.... for wormholes things would be pretty much the same as right now, no intel, and the persistent fear that there might be a cloaked fleet out there waiting to announce themselves when you go and play with the sleepers.

So I may be dreaming aloud, but there's a non-zero chance of me getting enough votes in the forthcoming CSM elections, and you never know what dreams may come.


  1. This, oh god please this.

    Not only would it make small gangs and black ops gangs useful (hit and runs on the tracking stations) it would discourage travelling in large blobs as they would be too easily detected. You'd still have big fleet fights but some planning would be needed to get everyone to the target via different routes, this would force the planning of attacks ahead of time and removew the excuse of "but we didn't know there was going to be a fight" excuse that alliances currently use for not contacting the GMs to remap nodes.

    Post this in features and ideas, it'll get my support.

  2. Well written. Also, I like this idea -- though I think pilot names/corporation/standings ought not to show up as part of the information; and I think covert ops cloaking device II ought to keep ships off the list completely. (you didn't specify on these two details, so I thought I'd just fill them in the way I prefer)

  3. Interesting post, if a little biased and over opinionated. Exploiting, whatever the reason is wrong.

    Also, calling local chat a "side effect" is going a bit far. It is a game mechanic, nothing more, nothing less. Local chat and the associated intel has been in the game since 2003. Calling it a " Side effect" when used for intel is like calling safespots created midwarp a "side effect " of the bookmark system, off grid observation spots a "side effect" of the grid system, etc.

    At the end of the day, macroong is wrong but so is hacking/exploiting...


    And two wrongs do not make a right.

  4. Sure exploiting is wrong, and while there's strong evidence that the game was being manipulated there's only circumstantial evidence as to who was participating. Yes it's a classic case of the logs showing nothing, so I'm not going to go and tell a bunch of GM's how to do their job, even if I get elected to the CSM.

  5. Some great ideas there, it doesn't really make sense atm that everyone gets the same intel no matter what. Gets my vote for a change to the way things go :)