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.

 

One thought on “A Case for Less Intelligence

  1. I totally agree that killboards in their current state provide way too much information. Since my CSM campaign last year, I have been advocating introducing some fog of war on the killboards data, starting with not displaying modules destroyed if the pilot of the destroyed ship did not choose to make that information public. This is still on my platform this year.

    Killboard data can also be easily manipulated. Flying in blobs, and choosing who to fly with carefully goes a long way toward a good killboard. This in turn generates behaviors that tie up the players to the larger groups to remain within the requested parameters, or not “tarnish” the sacred Kill stats ratios. Killboards are an added layer that make players even more risk adverse, above and beyond the risk of loss of assets. The intelligence that people can gather from killboards, without even having met an opponent in space, is also ridiculous. Last but not least, killboard data is grossly inflated, only Gevlon de-inflate his reports, and this is, at least, a better way to look at the current data.

    People will always want to measure stuff, but killboards and killmail APIs are going too far, which in turn directly affect the psychology of the game. Glad to read your ideas on this issue.

    Liked by 1 person

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