Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lost in Eve

There's a reason why Fiddler's Edge isn't a podcast.

I am dependent upon the written page in order to self-edit. In real time my thoughts don't get the aggressive revisions they need in order to be drawn up into some sort of coherent order. I'll be talking my way down one line of thought when a couple of other ideas flit by. And ol' brain wanders off after them like a cat distracted by a flight of birds, leaving me behind, stuck in mid-sentence and delivering exceptionally clever witticisms like 'uuuuuuh", or 'ahhhhhhh'.

That, my friends, is the sound of too many synapses firing at once. I tell you, it ain't pretty.  

Thanks to Jayne over at Lost In Eve, you'll have a chance to hear it for yourself.  Jayne was kind enough to invite me to participate in a round-table podcast along with Chad from Fly Reckless and the lads from Eve Commune.  We held forth on RMT, the Dominion sovereignty changes, Pandemic Legion, IT Alliance and made our predictions of what's in store for 2011. Good fun in good company.

One thought I've been mulling in my head for a while and finally gave voice to during the round-table was  how CCP might enforce RMT and botting violations in nullsec. At the moment, all CCP does is confiscate the offender's virtual possessions and ban him from owning an Eve account for life.

That might get some marginal violators but, thanks to the anonymity of the internet, a determined RM trader or botter will  soon be back in business. In short, the current RMT deterrents do not deter. The risk of getting caught and the punishment that follows are far outweighed by the benefits of botting and RM selling.

So here's a modest proposal: Punish nullsec alliances for botting activity that occur in their space. Let's face it, at present botters are pretty much ignored (if not encouraged) by most alliances. Not their  business. Let CCP worry about it. If anything it's extra ISK in the alliance pocket, so why worry. No skin off the alliance's nose.

But lets say for a moment that, if a consistent  pattern of botting in a given alliance's space continues despite CCP's usual measures, CCP punishes said alliance. Not without warning of course.

Sort of: "Oh, by the way lads we couldn't help but notice that the botting patterns we discovered in your Arglebargle systems have continued despite our prior notifications. By way of friendly reminder to properly police you sovereign space, we'll be removing these systems from your sovereignty."

Something like that. Of course continued misbehavior can draw escalating punishments - fines to the alliance, alliance leadership, and alliance corporation directors. Confiscation of capital and Supercapital ships. And, of course disbanding.

In essence; If it's your space, help CCP keep it botter free. Alliances and corporations should have some skin in the game if some of their merry band are breaking the rules - particularly if the member organization benefits from the rule breaking.

Of course there are workarounds. There always are. We Eve players are a clever lot. However, the goal isn't to stop botting and RMT altogether - but to make it less convenient and make those that do answerable to their fellow capsuleers as well as CCP.

Another random synapse firing. Just a thought.


  1. First off, let me say, "Don't be too hard on yourself." I heard you on the Lost in Conversation episode, and it was your well-spoken thoughts which brought me to you blog. Seriously.

    As to the meat of your post, I think it's a great idea. I'm sure the alliances won't agree, but who's asking them? Not only would it hopefully curtail the botting somewhat, it would add another dimension to mining space.

    In addition to the "stick" of punishing the alliances for allowing botting in their space, CCP could also offer them some sort of "carrot" for reporting botters they find--perhaps a reward of ISK, or an increase in the value of rat loots in the system, better asteroids for a while, whatever.

    Great blog, man. I'll be keeping an eye on it.

  2. I rather doubt CCP has the resources (dev time) to devote to anti-botting and RMT measures. I think our only hope is a loud and sustained noise from CSM and a good chunk of the player base to motivate CCP into action. So go to eve-o and support your local internet spaceship politician!

    I've been thinking of ways to hurt botting. Our Dear Fiddle's suggestion is good, and here are 3 others:
    1. Detect bot license server calls. Advanced bots have anti-piracy programs built in, that make a call to a central license server maintained by the bot creator, every time the program is started. Can the EVE client be modified to detect this call?
    2. Auto-auditing of high net worth individuals. Kill the money mules, and spend some time looking at how the rich got rich.
    3. Time spent online. A simple script that singles out those that are online an unnatural amount of time. May catch the occasional neckbeard with no life.

    Now get on the forums, and make anti-RMT noise!

  3. Last week I actually posted the same kind of idea in a GD thread on botting. It would actually be a way for CCP to free-up resources, forcing alliances to do their work for them. Surely it's much less work for CCP to monitor overall alliance botting patterns than to determine whether an individual pilot is a botter or not.

    I just wonder if CCP have the testicular fortitude to stand up to the alliances like that. Sometimes their relationship seems a little too... close.

    Oh, and I just listened to the podcast: perhaps you needed more words than your written analyses, but your contributions were definitely the most interesting of the whole panel, so no worries about too many synapses firing!

  4. I'm looking forward to hearing your podcast, and I'm sure it will be insightful and brilliant. I know what you mean, though, about needing the paper (and time) to edit yourself.

    Even if the botting issue is not getting blown massively out of proportion, there is a palpable lack of hard facts, carefully reasoned into a coherent theory, behind the current bot "discussion". And that much _is_ a hard fact.

    Until someone is ready to back up the grandiose "pro tip" posturing and armchair "in-the-know" with adequate, actual, meaningful hard data and well-reasoned inferences to connect it all, this botting discussion is nothing more than hysteria. To suggest that it is a "problem" not being handled adequately is even more stupid without any basis for comparison.

    Personally, after watching a demo of H-bot, it's hard to imagine botting not existing in Eve on _some_ scale. I adopt and revise Arggam's comment to say that CCP unlikely has the resources to combat botting levels to extinction without significant input from the player base, though I disagree that pressuring CCP will accomplish anything constructive.

    Nevertheless, I remain unconvinced that its significance upon the average player is even remotely worth all the furor. Seeing people's flaccidly substantiated assertions and willingness to accept it as fact has been disgusting to me.

  5. Edit: I think "more stupid" should have been "stupider".

  6. Xel -

    You've a healthy sense of skepticism. However, the absence of facts is impossible to prove and therefore not a fact. It would be fair to say, however, that you haven't been presented with any facts that convince you that botting exists on a large scale.

    What is your standard of proof? Can you give me an example of the sort of hard data and well-reasoned inferences that might convince?

    Viz H-Bot, I assume you saw a demo of the "NPC Hunter" version of their software?

  7. Sorry so long, wordy, and poorly constructed, but that’s the best I can do with the time I have:


    Respectfully, I beg to differ. I understand the premise of circumstantial impossibility in proving a negative: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proving_a_negative. However, that is not applicable to my premise, as I am not holding out that a lack of evidence equals to there being no problem.

    Rather, here, the impossibility belongs to another party. I am stating the fallacy is the player-base's, where it demands, "Prove that there is _no_ out-of-control problem, CCP", when CCP has effectively denied one (per the latest devblog). To be precise, CCP’s devblog acknowledges the basic problem, reminds of the steps CCP takes to deal with it, and it may be reasonably inferred from the tone that CCP finds these steps to be adequate.

    Here, it is the player base committing the logical fallacy in demanding that CCP prove the negative of no unreasonably unchecked RMT/botting/etc. How can CCP prove that negative? CCP would quite rightly ask of the player base, then, "Well, where is your evidence that it exists unreasonably in the first place?" I ask the same question.


    And there hasn't been any reasonable evidence, which is my qualm. I do not doubt that problems may exist, nor do I doubt the potential scope and magnitude of the problem, per the NPC Hunter software, yes. But the one is not logically necessitated by the mere existence of other. Assuming so would be another type of logical fallacy (can’t think of what it’s called).

    I can think of any number of alternatively acceptable explanations. Here's one. What if Eve Online contains x percentage of RMT/botting/etc., which is relatively the same as any MMORPG and considered combated at levels considered to be "healthy" in the industry. The simple fact is that without more data, we just don't know, yet droves of people are holding out as if they had firsthand knowledge. I would be surprised if even half of them had _any_ kind of direct, confirmed experience with RMT/botting/etc. in-game. The assertions quickly reach disgusting levels in the absence of any reasonable evidence.

    Do we confirm the fact and then believe it or do we believe it and not worry about confirming the fact? You show me the plausible confirmations, and then we might have something to talk about. Until then, claims that Eve is afflicted by this are preposterous and impossible to prove in the negative as "untrue", per your impossibility argument.


    The minimum as anyone's should be, the same as the court typically requires in western law for a civil matter, a mere preponderance of the evidence, (51%) likely to be true, based on factual evidence or a well-reasoned, logical chain of inferences. Examples: direct proof such as plausibly confirmed bot kills, but not one person has come forth with that. Or how about even circumstantial data from analyzing an economic report, a la the quarterlies, if we could get CCP to provide it; that would be at least something to go on. But no one is asking those kinds of questions, and maybe that’s the problem: jumping to conclusions instead of seeking the means to get there.

    I would posit that if you can't come up with just a few instances of actual proof as to just how out-of-control the situation is, perhaps the problem isn't so big as it's being made out to be in the first place. Frankly, the comments about the Russians I've seen come off racist and reactionary. And of course, every alliance is taking pot shots at the other. It’s just hysteria, in its current incarnation.

  8. You guys are only looking into the 0.0 macro's here, in my experience there are those ofcourse but the guys running most macro fleet prefer to not have any contact with them to make sure they are not caught.
    I will only be going into the macro mining side of things.
    If you hang them in a nice highsec dead end system with a good refinery station in system and some decent belts you can still get a shit ton of isk and minerals out of them, ofcourse this is less then when you use them in 0.0 but the risks of 1 being blown up and 2 being linked to your macro system is way less likely.
    i have seen several highsec ice belts that had obvious macro's in them (usually about 4 macks and 1 orca) and ccp wiped a lot of those in their last big push against macro's.
    So there is no way that you will get rid of all macro's by simply making the alliance do the work.
    However for the RTM side of things it would work, although not on a alliane scale since most of the RMT is done by either corp or alliance managment, but there is always someone in a alliance that thinks that stuff like that should not go on and is willing to talk to a mod about it.

    Just my 2 cents to add.

  9. I heard the podcast Mord and read the above. While the concept of punishing the Alliance for botting activities is a good one; I am yet to see how it can be applied to EVE in a realistic manner.

    Also I would like to point out one simple thing, resourses.

    People say CCP know about botting/RMT activities but take no action. I think it is a simple case of CCP not assigning enough people with the simple task of BOT/RMT Hammering. Add to that annual contracts and already low pay to CCP staff and you see where I am going with this train of thought.

  10. There is also the issue that CCP enforce upon themselves a strict 'no interference' policy with regard to 0.0 politics. This is why ships lost in big fights in 0.0 are not re-imbursed unless there is catastrophic and provable server failure.

    As soon as you have CCP poking botting alliances to clean their act up you'll get the tinfoil hats rabbling on the forums about bias and favouritism. A better solution would be for players themselves, independently of CCP, to go out hunting the bots and investigating the alleged botting alliances. Use the in game mechanics to declare war on botting and blob any of those supported by botting or allowing botting in their space to hell and back. The tools exist for the players to do this on their own, we should be using them.

  11. Mandrill - Carebear 0.0 is right in that I'm talking strictly nullsec here, so the wardec mechanic doesn't come into play.

    Nullsec botters tend to belong to the alliance owning the space. They're programmed to warp to a POS when neutrals or reds enter the system and they react to that presence much more quickly that humans do - in fact that hyper-fast reaction time is one way to tell you're dealing with a botter.

    To deal with them, you need to bring the wherewithal to take down the tower. Which means you've got to bring enough force to hold off the angry alliance locals until you can kill the tower. So we're talking a major action here, just to get at a botter.

    And that doesn't even get into political and military blow-back from the offended alliance - especially if the alliance is blue to your alliance.

    With regard to high-sec, botters tend to belong to NPC corporations, so the wardec mechanic is useless. I've known miners to suicide gank suspected botters. However, in high-sec the sec status cost of doing so is too high, and the botter is simply back to work in short order in another cheap mining barge.

    I've some ideas for high-sec botters, but that will wait for another time.