A Case for Less Intelligence

So right now the media and blogosphere are abuzz with talk of all the new equipment showing up on SISI and broker fees and the impact of the coming release at the end of April, but I want to talk about something that has nothing to do with any of that. It’s an issue that has been talked to death, and were I to write what I am about to write on the Eve Forums, the ISDs would most certainly remove the post because it’s a dead issue. Being able to talk about things that the ISDs don’t think I should is one reason that I started this blog, however, and this is an issue that is pertinent to me because of my particular place in Eve – faction warfare and the world of solo PvP. It is also an issue that may have been argued over before, but honestly I have not seen any truly significant treatment of it. Simplistic suggestions are brought forth and shot down. I personally haven’t seen any really complex suggestions or analyses being made. Another reason I want to bring it up is because Fanfest is coming up soon, and something was talked about at the last Fanfest that I hope to hear more about this year.

The issue is killboards – specifically the ability to see the fits of the ships killed on the killboards. Yeah, I’m in faction warfare and have been working on kite fits recently. With such fits I tend to like to be a defensive fighter, meaning rather than head into a site to kill someone sitting in it, I like to be the guy in the site and wait on people to show up to try to kill me. This gives me the ability to start the fight at the range I want. It also puts me into the position that tends to be victimized by killboards more than just about any other solo fighter. Multiple times per day somebody shows up on my gate in a ship that I would take on. He sits there for a long, long time, then flies away. Often, the guy comes back about 5 minutes later. He didn’t just look at my killboard did he? Yes, he did. He didn’t just go refit into a counter to mine, did he? Yes, he did. I didn’t just run away when he showed back up on my gate, did I? Yes, I did. This experience didn’t irritate me, did it? Yes, it did.

So when it comes to killboards, there are those who like them and those who hate them. I am in the latter group, but my personal position really isn’t so much relevant here, as I am not writing this blog post just to help myself, but to help the game, particularly the world of FW 1v1 fights. My effort to improve this, however, involves killboards, which touch parts of the game far beyond my own personal experience. Any talk of killboards really should be treated with greater depth than you generally read about in Eve’s common discussion forums. So when it comes to killboards, there are generally two arguments made against them, two arguments for them, one suggestion made about them, and one reaction to this suggestion. The only suggestion that you generally hear of pertaining to killboards is to just get rid of the APIs that make them possible, usually proffered by some minority voice out there, which is then overwhelmingly trounced by the player base at large. However, at last year’s Fanfest a guy showed up that gave a talk about an area that had not been previously presented. I am not going to look him up, but rather just call him the Data Guy. He gave a really interesting presentation about the damage metric in Eve. He also gave a presentation at Eve Vegas about the economy in a talk designed to stem some of the fears surrounding the massive drop in player logins this last summer that basically contained the message that a lot is going on in Eve, and the numbers for the economy are quite healthy, even though the summer lull in logins was quite intense this last year. Well, at Fanfest he mentioned that there would be a portal created where we can log in and view all sorts of information about our characters. Now CCP has a very supportive relationship with the 3rd party development community of which the killboard producers are a part. Also, APIs have been updated allowing Your Eve Year to get up and running, and I am thinking that perhaps CCP will shelve its plans for a CCP controlled data portal with the intent of facilitating this sort of thing in the 3rd party development world. I don’t want this to happen. I would like to see CCP go ahead with its character data portal, as I see potential for this portal to be helpful concerning the killboard problem. Therefore, I am going to suggest a solution that is a little more elaborate than just ‘kill the killboards.’

Before talking about a solution, however, let’s talk about the pros and cons. So the people that don’t like the killboards state two things. First, they discourage fights. When you can just look up your opponents’ fits, you’re only going to fight when you can win. And when your opponents can look up your fits, they are only going to fight when they can win. This means that fights are only going to happen when both parties are definitely going to win. Ties is 1v1s are pretty rare, if I recall correctly, so killboards discourage fighting. The second thing they say is that killboard manipulation is unhealthy. For example, Gevlon Goblin, a master of kill data analysis, continually pipes that Northern Coalition. is a crap alliance on account of their kill data. However, NC. lost control over 1/2 of the galaxy not long ago and lost a lot of structures as a result of that event. This time around, however, a new alliance, Northern Army, is holding all of NC.’s territory, so if it gets lost again it won’t hurt NC.’s KB. NC. has been taking space, and all those structures are going on NC.’s KB. So NC. has a super high efficiency now, but really because they’ve been bashing tons of structures with their supers. Yet did they really suck previously? Well, they lost their coalition, but that was really just one thing and doesn’t really reflect on the quality of their overall fighting. Truthfully, NC.’s kill data is NOT a good source to go to in order to assess their quality. This is just one example of many. Further, there are many alliances that require certain KB statistics to join or remain in it. Cultures develop based on the miserable circumstance of acquiring the requisite killboard. Waffles comes to mind.

Concerning the pros, it must be stated that acquiring a good killboard is a legitimate goal for players and player groups. Alliances like PL aren’t interested in sov or controlling the universe. Been there, done that. It is my hope that recent developments indicate that PL may just be committing itself to the worthy goal of defeating the Emporium, although there is no concrete evidence of this. Ostensibly, though, PL states its general aim in Eve is just dank kills. They like killing supers. They like killing big expensive fleets with smaller elite fleets. They want everyone to know about their kills. Now in my opinion, this is just a sad way to play Eve, but I’m not a 10-year vet who has already run the universe, so I am not going to knock them. I am still wanting to make my mark, get rich, get good, and affect New Eden in some way. I can’t really knock someone who has already achieved all those things for setting his sights on just being the ultimate badass fighting group out there, and I concede that having a way to present to the world just exactly everything that they’ve killed is an important part of meeting such a goal.

The second argument generally presented in favor of killboards is in my estimation a complete failure and needs to be immediately put to rest. This argument states that removing killboards is anti-merit, as it deprives more advanced players from a method of intelligence collecting. Its proponents say that on the one hand, an elite player who takes the time to research their opponents should be given an advantage, and removing killboards would be a reductionist way of leveling the playing field for the benefit of stupid players. They then often caveat this with the statement that players will fight less if they have less information upon which to build confidence. Concerning the caveat, I have explained above that having so much information actually discourages fights. Concerning the overall argument, I’ll retort that though these guys claim that they are elite players utilizing available tools that others fail to utilize, really what they are telling us is that there is a really simple system out there that they have gamed for an advantage and they don’t want to lose it. I mean they haven’t done anything really elite like infiltrated a player’s group to determine their fits or actually discerned an opponent’s fit by skirmishing with him. They just want a simple data set handed to them that anyone with any reasonable experience is going to stumble on sooner or later and basically be forced to use in order to stay competitive.

So with this situation, every now and then someone pops up on a blog or the Reddit or the Forums and says they want to get rid of killboards, and they get spammed with a rejection of their suggestion because it’s anti-merit (false) and discourages fights (false). The issue is put to bed, and nothing is changed. There is a bit more to consider here, however. The tendency to manipulate killboards to con New Eden into thinking you’re good is usually a factor of ISK and ship efficiency stats, while the problem of reducing fighting to a simple exploitation of knowledge is a matter of the fact that killboards reveal the fittings of those involved in a potential fight. So there are two separate issues surrounding different sorts of data that killboards contain, yet there is usually just one suggestion: get rid of killboards, and one reaction: keep killboards.

So for a solution, I think it will be prudent for CCP to keep tighter control over what sort of kill information is released. This brings me to their suggested portal. I’d like this portal to continue and not only include character data, but also information about the character’s group – corporation or alliance. I’d like to see certain bits of the information in this portal be sharable via a link, so players can put links to their kill information in their bios and on their forums, blogs, etc. I’d venture to suggest the idea that players even have some ability to select the look of the information that they provide. Perhaps kill stats can be released that don’t include structures or do, depending on player preference. This is just a possible example, as I am not going so far as to provide every detail here, but rather to just suggest general options. I’d like to point out that while I think killboard manipulation is something I don’t like, it is not so detrimental as being able to see your opponents’ fits. So concerning the APIs released to 3rd party developers, removing the fitting information from those APIs would solve what I see as the greater problem. Those who love killboards should be satisfied with showing the world they killed an Avatar, with that ship’s specific fitting being more of an afterthought. So as a general solution, I’d like to see the fullness of a player’s kill information be released by CCP to the players themselves, with the players themselves having more control of how that information is released further. I’d also like to see the fitting information definitely removed from the API endpoints currently out there. In my estimation, this would require players to be truly elite in order to ascertain an opponent’s fitting by infiltrating and interacting with that opponent.

So while the killboard problem has been argued to death for a long time, there really hasn’t been any change. A change is needed. I think that devoting some energy to an elaborate system of releasing this information that involves CCP more actively involved in its release can actually preserve what good killboards add to the game while removing their detriment. I know that a lot of players will reject ANY change to the killboard system simply because they have gamed it and like it and don’t want anything changed that they currently use to their advantage. Hopefully most can admit that the killboard system is causing more problems than benefits, though, and will be open to some thought about this issue.

 

The New CONCORD Code of Conduct

There is a coup taking place in high security space. The factions have a new protector, and that protector is CONCORD. The coup is taking place with subtlety, although the Capital Munitions Division for Corporate Espionage has obtained valuable intelligence concerning the terms of the coup, which I list here. The driving force behind the coup is CONCORD’s new code of conduct. The details of the code of conduct are:

  1. Capsuleers in high security space will only be allowed to tell the same joke for 3 years. Any capsuleer alliance telling the same joke since December 29,2012 20:40 of the Halaima calendar will be required to purchase a ganking permit from CONCORD.
  2. Capsuleer leaders whose groups operate in high sec will only be allowed to bitch and moan about the Council of Interstellar Management for one year. After said year, if the tears include boycotting a CSM summit, capsuleers associated with said leader will be required to purchase a ganking permit in order to operate in highsec.
  3. The price of the ganking permit is classified top secret and will remain so.
  4. Points of sale and identifying information of CONCORD sales agents are classified top secret.
  5. Attacking miners and haulers in highsec without a permit will require capsuleer groups to provide 33% more morons.
  6. A moron is defined by CONCORD as a capsuleer incapable of ship-to-ship engagement with any other capsuleer who pilots his ship without the use of autopilot and who actually reacts to hostile aggression. Morons are also incapable of switching from one joke to another, even after years of trying, and not only do they think their joke is funny for years on end, but they think other capsuleers think their joke is funny.
  7. All Bowhead and Orca pilots are automatically authorized to work as re-education officers of CONCORD’s Code of Conduct. As such, these┬ápilots will no longer be required to activate defensive protocols in order to be completely impervious to moron attack. (explained in point 8)
  8. CONCORD is applying entosis technology in new areas. A new brand of entosis technology has been developed by a mysterious figure known only as “CCP Fozzie”. Fozzie developed entosis link technology as a counter to the cybersymbiotic defensive shield networks created by the Amarr Empire for defense against Drifters and Circadian Seekers. When capsuleer groups in nullsec began to apply this shielding technology to make their criminal networks impossible to attack, entosis technology was developed to neutralize these invulnerability networks. CONCORD is distributing a modified brand of entosis technology to capsuleers enabling them to subconsciously control the nano fibers of their ship hulls without paying conscious attention.
  9. Use of the advanced entosis technology described in point 8 above will enable Bowhead and Orca pilots to devote all of their attention to activities such as managing markets and creating quality social environments for their corporation employees. While their ships are on autopilot they will be further enabled to devote 100% of their attention to informing moron capsuleers about what a funny joke is, how long jokes are capable remaining funny, and how important it is to cooperate with the Council of Interstellar Management and its organizers.

We can see from the obtained information concerning this secret CONCORD program that all civilized authorities in New Eden are unified in their commitment to ensuring that the galactic community of capsuleers works with them to facilitate aiding James315 and other similar capsuleer groups (sometimes called goons rather than morons) in finding a new joke. 10,000 years of study of human sociology allows us to predict with extraordinary reliability that groups of morons will not be able to find a new joke. However, we can at least be comforted that recent advances in capsuleers’ ability to cybernetically control their spaceships’ defensive capabilities will ensure that CONCORD’s plan of requiring ganking permits of all moron pilots who are unable to concoct a new joke after three years will be enforceable.

Early intelligence contains a date of 9 March of this year (Halaima calendar) as the start date of CONCORD’s new code of conduct. It is therefore urged that all Bowhead and Orca pilots take active steps to prepare for their new roles as ungankable shepherds of New Eden’s morons and to work proactively with CONCORD in order to hasten the christening of the new code. While the details concerning the ganking permits are classified, operatives from Capital Munitions can obtain them and provide them to gankers at a price of 100 million ISK, payable to Capital Munitions. Permits will be delivered by contract at an undisclosed time after payment is received. Spread the word!

Citadels and Taxes

So yesterday CCP Ytterbium put up a Reddit post in order to get feedback about some of the administrative mechanics of Citadels that included some proposed changes to the taxes and broker fees charged at both Citadels and NPC stations and it looks like I’ve been triggered again. I wrote at least a half dozen of the more than 1,100 comments on the thread, and I do believe that for the second time in my Eve career I threatened to quit Eve. For the intervening 19 hours I have been thinking about the proposed taxes change as well as read comments on both the Eve Forums feedback post as well as the Reddit thread, and it occurs to me that I actually needed to write a blog post to approach the matter with a level head. It seems to me that many of the comments on the Eve Forums post are too uncritical, and many of the comments on the Reddit thread seemed to be missing the true impact of the changes, including my own. Here I’d like to provide a more reasoned analysis and explanation.

So starting with some observations, parameters of analysis if you will, we can start with the fact that the Eve player base is a bit myopic in thinking and reacting to change. We can see from Fozziesov that what was from a reasonable standpoint a proper introduction of a significant mechanic, starting with meeting requests, the introduction proper, and the relatively slow and graduated tweaking of the mechanic until hit hits its intended mark, ended up stealing a lot of its thunder in terms of positive reception by the players, who ended up being a bit staid in their ways and critical of the change. The mechanic actually did good, but it isn’t necessarily remembered as such in the community’s collective memory. In my posts I usually blame the older players for these kinds of reactions. As a three year player, I am certainly no newbro, but normally don’t see myself as having the same outlook as many 10-year bittervets. However, as a player who is heavily invested in trade and the markets, I have to examine myself to ensure that I am not just resisting change for the sake of it because I am set in my ways.

The next observation pertains to the volume of activity and Eve experience that this change will affect. What I am trying to get at is, if you flip a coin four times, the change that it will come up heads all four times is not great, but certainly possible. However, if you flip it 10,000 times, you can be pretty sure that somewhere around 5,000 times it will be heads and 5,000 times it will be tails. With a change like this, where thousands of players will be affected, the change will have to be extremely intense to get the entire Eve community to shift to Citadels vs. NPC stations. Given that there will be innumerable unknowns in this operation that affects the entirety of Eve, it is extremely doubtful that a simple change will outright kill NPC stations or force all traders into Citadels unless the change is extremely pronounced, specifically designed force an activity. Further, as the comments in other threads have pointed out, making a prediction such as “Mittens will own the new Jita” are actually very hard to make, as we just don’t know whether Goon hatred will prevent such an effort or if Goon might will be able to ensure its occurrence. The same can be said for any speculated player activity pertaining to the base function of the Eve market. Saying such a thing is definitely in the realm of the guys in tinfoil hats. Would Chribba actually be able to pull off being the new Jita Meister? We really don’t know.

A subsequent observation is that the proposed changes are conceptually centered around the economic viability of the Citadels. While I do see ensuring competitiveness is a good reason to make them, they do need to be recognized as having further impact. Concerning the taxes, they should also be recognized in terms of their general improvement or damage to the Eve experience. Do they create meaningful choice and add dynamics to the economic landscape? Or do they damage it, but in an acceptable way in order to facilitate the use of Citadels? Or are they just bad news? Here I’d like to propose that a change to the tax system (including the broker fees) actually has a lot of potential to provide meaningful choice for economically minded players, which I will discuss below. And many of us are aware that much discussion has taken place in the past concerning the lament that in the minds of many players, Jita is really the only place to do business. Crius successfully dealt with the sad phenomenon of most of Eve industry taking place a few jumps from Jita. Others have wanted to liven up ancillary hub activity, while overall we recognize that Jita provides a necessary picture of base prices where Eve’s innate system of regional averages doesn’t quite do the trick. Because of this, Jita lives. However, can a solution be found that increases economic variety and opportunity? I think changes to the tax system can indeed create opportunity for savvy economists without killing Jita’s benefits outright. This issue goes far beyond giving Citadel owners a bit of revenue. We might just be on to something good.

So to start with, for those who don’t know, the current system involves market transactions including a base sales tax of 1.5% and base broker fees of 1.0% when the market is used. This is reduced to 0.75% sales tax and 0.75% broker fees with Accounting 5 and Broker Relations 5. This is then reduced to 0.75% sales tax and 0.185% broker fees with 10 standing with the NPC station’s faction and corporation. Standings modify the broker fees but not the sales tax. Getting perfect standings is a horrific grind. Many traders get insanely high corporation standings for a station, but near perfect faction standings are extremely rare. Traders who don’t bother with the grind can still be quite competitive. It’s actually something of a luxury for the most advanced of players to enjoy a tiny perk for undertaking getting standings that senior players often decide to do just because they have reached their zenith and just want to keep progressing out of general boredom.

Moving from ground rules and basic information to my own intention and preference, I would like to see robust use of Citadels in highsec for economic purposes, but I myself personally want to continue to use stations and be able to compete. Therefore I am willing to complete an agonizing grind in order to protect my play style. I personally don’t want my money going to some N+1 player or group that is going to use my money to blow me up. However, I would like to see Jita take a hit and more player owned hubs appear in space, with players having more choices and options for money-making and more highsec content generated with people popping Citadels to gain economic advantage. Highsec wars will be taking a hit with the new watchlist changes. However, the wars that will be taking a hit will be the low quality, low effort wars centered around random deccing just to get kills off of AFK Retrievers. Wars centered around identifiable political goals in highsec are a beautiful thing and great content. However, such goals are quite rare, essentially being limited to POCO control in a general sense. Controlling industrial production to affect system cost indexes are another use of wars, but such play is extremely advanced and quite rare. Without moon mining, wars over POSes are often simply limited to getting a juicy kill mail off a fat POS. So having wars over lucrative Citadels does seems like a phenomenal content generator for highsec. I personally love the idea. However, as mentioned, my own personal hang ups cause me to view this content as something I want to steer clear of. I want to keep working out of NPC stations. I do think, however, keeping NPC stations viable for those who are willing to undertake a grind is a good option. I think making NPC stations significantly preferable to Citadels for those rare players willing to undergo an utterly sickening grind like actually getting 9.9 faction standings on a trader toon is a doable option. The operative term here is ‘significantly preferable’. Nobody should be forced into such an undertaking simply to compete.

Having said all above, this post is really about broker fees. It seems pretty clear from reading everyone’s comments that the Citadels not having office limitations is great, and the proposed reprocessing mechanic is perfectly fine. Increasing the cost of using jump clones is also fine, but 5 million per jump is pretty steep. There, we might look at a higher cost of creating jump clones but a lower cost of using jump clones. This mechanic can be pondered and tweaked without much ado. Likewise, sales taxes are currently 1.5% modifiable to 0.75% and they are proposed to move to 2.5% modifiable to 1.25% with skills. So prices in Eve will increase by 0.5% and one of Eve’s ISK sinks will increase by a tiny amount, a good thing, and Citadel owners will get some income stream. This seems fine to me as well. The real issue is the large proposed broker fee at the NPC stations, which makes Citadel vs. Citadel vs. NPC station a real dynamic that can have significant changes to how economists and traders do business. Believe it or not, despite my rant on the Reddit, I like this opportunity to shake things up. But where is the sweet spot? We really should not concentrate here on ensuring expected income generation for Citadels. We should be concentrating on Citadel owners having enough room to provide variety of benefit to users from other Citadel owners in order to stimulate highsec content and ensuring a proper balance between Citadels and stations in order to preserve player choice of play style.

Let’s say that they put a 5% broker fee on the NPC stations. This would mean that just getting Broker Relations 5 would have you paying 4.75%. That’s a lot. If you get corp standings to 5, a fairly easy grind, they’ll be 3.89%. That’s still quite a lot. If you get corporation standings to 10, a very painful grind, you’ll still be paying 3.18%. If you add faction standings to 5, an incredible grind for a trader, you’ll be looking at 1.93%. Now we are starting to see some reduction, but MAN that will be a grind. If you take your faction standing up to 10, and I don’t know if anyone in Eve has ever done this, you’re looking at 1.17%. That’s certainly in competition range, but that grind would make the annals of history. Remember Broadcast for Reps? We don’t want Eve players contemplating suicide to compete. It seems to me like 1.2% to compete would be something reasonable. Remember, being able to compete should not require the grind of all grinds. Accomplishing such a feat should result in a significant advantage of an NPC station. Citadel owners will already be getting some nice income from increased sales taxes, reprocessing, office fees. These other variables also provide Citadel owners opportunities to compete with each other by providing diverse benefits. Some will provide offices for free. Others will provide varied reprocessing benefits. Giving Citadel owners less room for competition via offering different broker fees will still allow for their competition and provide an opportunity for nut job players like me to choose NPC stations. If we do still want to allow the broker fee amount to affect Citadel vs. Citadel competition, though, we do have the opportunity to adjust the Broker Relations skill bonus in order to lessen the impact of the standings grind. Further, this can be an opportunity to make the grind more realistic. Nobody will contemplate getting faction standings to 10 for a trader. However, many will contemplate getting corporation standings to 10. This will also provide opportunities for traders to specialize for various hubs. So changing the ratio of benefit between faction and corporation standings is also an option.

From here there is nothing left to do but tweak. The developers and Eve community are welcome to tweak to their hearts delight and offer all kinds of suggestions. Rather than turn this post into a book doing all my thinking here in typing, I’ll just offer my suggestion based on the following principles. Concerning the issue of skills vs. standings, skills are a sensitive issue. When invention changes were going through, I pointed out that it’s silly that there’s basically no reason to get science skills to 5 because the 1/2% invention change and trivial time reductions simply aren’t worth it. CCP came back with a comment about pressure for max skills. In that context, they were certainly right. If a situation were created requiring max science skills for competitiveness, Eve would have been done a great disservice. As it stands, for a trader, Broker Relations and Accounting are considered like PG and CPU Management. You just have to have them to even begin, really. For better or for worse, that’s just the way it is. They aren’t short trains like PG and CPU Management either. However, it’s just two skills, and the players seem fine with it. I actually see increasing the significance of Broker Relations 5 as acceptable. Since faction standings for traders is really a horrific ordeal that results in dual mission runner/traders, I actually propose reducing the significance of faction standings in the broker fee formula, making corporation standings more of a factor. So with these principles in mind, I would like to suggest that base broker fee for an NPC station be 4% and the bonus for Broker Relations be upped to 10% per skill level, overall reducing the ┬ácompetition between NPC stations and reversing the role of faction and corporation standings so that their role in determining broker fees is expressed as e^((0.04*faction standing)+(0.1*corporation standing)). This would mean that a trader with no faction standing and 5 corporation standing would pay a 2.12% broker fee. A slight grind necessary to compete with Citadels from an NPC station. With a significant grind and 10 corporation standings, a trader specialized for a specific station would pay 1.29% in broker fees. A Citadel owner would have to all but give up charging anything for broker fees to have an edge and this trader would not have to worry about having his rates changed on him or getting evicted. That to me, is a significant advantage for an NPC station trader that would come at quite a grind. Jita will live on, but players will have options.

So there’s my analysis. I’ve popped my mood stabilizers and am no longer triggered. In the end, I actually like the broker fee issue as a content creator for highsec and additional variety for the highsec economic landscape. I’m not gonna rage quit, so you can’t haz my stuff. I’m not satisfied with the initial proposal in Ytterbium’s post, but I’ve offered some constructive feedback. I hope this helps the player community get a grasp on what is going on here.