Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Shape of Space

To head out of town on a mildly contentious note, one topic that comes up a lot is, "What can be done to stop the gankers?" Oh, I tend to dislike discussion this topic. It opens up huge doors of emotion and anger. It touches upon how Eve is defined and people crouch on each side hissing insults over fitting and gameplay and assumed personality disorders. I don't hate the topic because of the topic, I hate it because of how people respond to it.

Coding in behavior is rather hard for CCP. They can try to give carrots and sticks out to get players to do things. But reward is not as tangible as a cookie may make it seem. With organization and cooperative work, players tend to over come hurdles and learn to dodge or mitigate the damage of sticks. The only thing that can challenge a player is another player.

What does everyone think about the shape of space? A few years ago, CCP opened up a few gates in the Amarr/Minmatar warzone that made a world of difference. The entire warzone no longer had to funnel through a pipe to get to the other side. A few years before that, upon the creation of Faction Warfare, Black Rise was created to give the Caldari warzone a large enough space.

We've also had the creation of the dronelands since Eve's creation. I am not adding wormhole space because it is not anchored on gates that a group can live on and camp in forever.

The shape of space started to chew at me when the Phoebe jump changes were first announced. Some areas are very, very far from others. This leads to bottlenecks in all areas of space. Areas that are predictable because a pilot wishing to move from them does not have another option.

The thing is that Eve's space is not some sacredly laid out masterpiece. It was created randomly. Yulai lost its gate and the original super highways were removed to ease server load. Over time gates have opened, regions have been built. Randomness is cool. After all, Eve is a spaceship game, but some of that needs to be looked at.

Often, when the case comes for miner ganking, people are advised to just move. Find a new system, there are thousands. Get off the major pathways. Look around. Players are often homebodies and tend to slowly move away from their home base like a drop of water into a still pond creates ripples. Habit traps us as well as any snare.

Are bottlenecks good? I ask because I am curious about what people will say. I expect someone will say that people could always just take their freighters through low sec if they wanted another route. That type of logic will get an eye roll. Instead, I'm curious about giving people choices. There is the lazy choice which is the easiest. And then there are the more complex paths people could take if they wished so. I don't want every bit of space connecting to every other bit. But two or three pathways create more options.

I do admit, I'm not a fan of gate camps. Thinking of methods to work around them appeals to me. I've turned around and flown another way, gone through another region, and doubled my travel time to avoid a gate camp. That came from awareness. I've also died to them when buzzing along without thought only to hear that high rattling buzz that says I'm fucked because someone has pointed me.

In my dreams there are ways that allow the hunters to hunt and the hunted to have make a decision about what they want to do. I'm not a fan of nerf this and buff that to fix things. I don't think game mechanics are going to fix every problem. Sometimes, we have to be willing to help ourselves and the mechanics give us the tools to do so. I'm fond of allowing people to screw themselves over by not looking or thinking before their act. I am just as fond of choices.

I've spent a tremendous amount of time in a freighter. I've had evenings when I decided to dock up and leave for the day because something told me if I decided to push, I'd push to far. That was a choice and one that adds excitement and depth to my game. I've also decided to roll with it and hope for the best.  Both things were choices and choices, I believe, are very, very good for us.

8 comments:

  1. "Sometimes, we have to be willing to help ourselves and the mechanics give us the tools to do so."

    That assumes the mechanics do in fact give us the tools to do so. Good gameplay requires the ability to choose from among more options than staying docked ("The only way to win...") Certainly low and null residents have some real gameplay responses to trouble in general, but highsec ganking tends toward very stale systems. Miners can still choose between tank and yield, and attempt to identify neutrals to watch for trouble, so there's some dynamics to the equation, but not much. More connecting routes would add more dynamics to hauling, which would be nice. I do think there needs to be some bottlenecks in the game to help people find action during quiet times, but funneling people down too much makes the game stale.

    The bottlenecks aren't the real issue though. It's bumping that becomes an issue. What is a pilot being bumped to do in response? Is there any response to being bumped that gives them any agency in the situation? Certainly more routes can create more choices, but that does little to address the fact that highsec bumping removes agency from the target in a way that represents bad gameplay. There needs to be changes to the game mechanics, not because there's (too much) ganking happening, but because the ganking gameplay itself is too one-sided.

    I think too many people in the ganking discussion get focused on outcomes (who loses what) than on good gameplay design. Miners and freighters getting ganked isn't an issue. Pilots with no agency in their own survival beyond the choice on whether to undock is.

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  2. As someone who used to haul for PushX (comments are my own, not the Corp's!) I think bottlenecks are good - otherwise haulers can't get rich taking risks for others. But I think there are too few bottlenecks. Right now, it's impossible to haul through Uedama or Niarja during primetime without a webber. Sure, you can get a friend, but solo hauling is effectively a dead profession (with freighters, at least). Risk is good - thus bottlenecks are good. But at the moment, I would like to see the risk slightly dissipated (maybe one more bottleneck? Spread the bumpers out a bit?) There are no perfect solutions, of course...

    Just my two cents.

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  3. Wonderful wonderful questions. Difficult ones though.

    I've spoken to you previously about highsec bottlenecks. Niarja and Uedama stick out as examples where there's no other option (even reasonably safe) but to suffer the possibility of ganking. When the option is a somewhat guaranteed loss (take a freighter through Tama if you dare), or a 'picked from the herd' loss people are going to go for the second.

    I'd like there to be at least two highsec routes between hubs: one short and 'hunted', another long and less populated. CODE/Miniluv are only so successful because there's no way of avoiding their predations without comparatively absurd risks. It would be awesome if high-sec were even more massively interconnected, but it probably wouldn't matter unless you shortened the route between the hubs.

    (In my dreams I wish for bounty hunting to be like Star Wars, but then I remember that the criminals beat the legitimate government....)

    Null-sec/Low-sec is a whole other bugbear. Supers need to be able to travel solo. It doesn't need to be completely safe, but it needs to be far safer than it is now. Retreating to bugs/downtime as *the only* way to move relatively safely is absurd, and worse, a timezone lottery.

    The shape of space is massively complex. Null-sec is hugely spread out, and easy movement of capitals is hard. Just to get from one end of Deklein to the other is 4 capital jumps. I can cross 6 regions of low-sec space with 3 jumps.

    This disparity causes massive pain. The best solution to it I saw was changing jump drive range for null-sec to null-sec jumps. Seen here: https://www.reddit.com/r/Eve/comments/3jn197/yet_another_jump_change_shitpost/ (Ignore the title, there's some decent thought behind this.) This allows null-sec movement to be less of a pain, without crushing low-sec.

    I think (with little actual metrics) that NS-NS jumps could be buffed to 20LY at the most. Moving in Null would become easier than moving in low. Unfortunately I don't have the ability to show how this would work on an actual map.

    So there's wot I tink. :)

    Adjusting the location of Derelik/Aridia would be cool, but it seems like an impossible challenge.

    Anyway, hope you have fun at the summit, and that you remember to get enough sleep!



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  4. An alternative route between Amarr and Jita is only effective as the awareness in the pilots. Look at the mining barge update; despite a viable option of the procurer/skiff ganking remains effective against the four other hulls. The type of player which is the focus of ganking, is the player least connected the information external to the game. Thus any effort to provide a player choice, must also come the education to be aware of its existence within the confines of the game.

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  5. Some slapdash thoughts from DireNecessity

    Fact Finding:
    I fired up the Autopilot avoidance settings to determine the Hi-Sec Rens to Jita options. Appears that if one want to wants to stay in Hi-Sec there are two options: 25 jump route through .5 Uedema or 29 jump route through .5 Niarja. To my knowledge these are the only two entirely Hi-Sec routing options . . . Voila, bottlenecks!

    The Hunters:
    It’s been a while since I Suicide Ganked and when I did it was usually solo work but even so I think it’s worth speculating on what goes behind setting up a successful Hi-Sec freighter murdering suicide gank gate camp at one of those bottlenecks:
    1) A scanner scout scanning prey prior to the bottlenecked gate far enough in advance to create the necessary time needed to set up a worthwhile suicide gank
    2) At least one dedicated (and very possibly more) bumper to prevent the freighter prey from warping of while nudging that same freighter prey away from powerful suicide ganker popping gate guns
    3) A sizable gaggle of blood thirsty suicide gankers primed to warp in on the previously identified and now properly prepared prey
    4) Dedicated looting salvagers including one big enough to filch the substantial content quantity secreted away in freighter holds
    5) If hunters want to gank in both directions (coming and going) they need to match some of the same infrastructure on the other side of the bottleneck

    The Prey:
    Most likely a soloish freighter flying pilot who has packed enough valuables in the hold to become an interesting target.

    An Observation:
    Quite a mismatch in people organized and assets dedicated. I point this out because from the prey’s point of view nearly all the hunter’s preparatory work is invisible (including target choice decisions favoring the easier to murder). This is the way of ambushes – organized hunter, unprepared oblivious prey.

    A Thought:
    If Prey dedicated anywhere near the resources and effort towards surviving that Hunters do towards murdering I’m confident most such prey would survive. The litany of possible defensive choices is long (don’t autopilot, don’t ‘jackpot’ the cargo hold, ‘anti-tank’ conscientiously, scout ahead, bring a ‘webber’, be patient, etc . . .). Sadly, though we have records of successful hunts via eye popping killmails, we lack records of successful evasion and escape. With little doubt, a high percentage of prey reaches its trade hub destination (trade hub economies most certainly haven’t ground to a halt) but we rarely hear about those transits because records on such matters aren’t published. Accordingly, every discussion on the topic is highly anecdotal from the get go. Lacking demonstrable facts, people shift to emotion (what else they gonna do?) It’s frustrating. If CCP is considering a review of Suicide Ganking and wants helpful input from players I suggest CCP consider releasing some statistical information on the matter. Sans that, all we players are able to provide is out of context emotional tirade.

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    Replies
    1. Good thoughts.

      I think that ' a high percentage of prey...' section is wrong though. The limiting factor on Hauler death isn't the number of prey, it is the number of predators. If MiniLuv had unlimited men, I believe they'd gank everyone they could.

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    2. In principle you may be correct Rob: rapacious murders do murder rapaciously. But then again, in principle Hi-Sec freight runners could organize en masse to resist the depredations of MiniLuv/Code. If well-organized avenging angels started camping Niarja/Uedema with the sole purpose of befuddling the suicide gankers currently hunting there ganker life would be greatly complicated.

      Where to develop game design balance from is not a clear cut question. Do you balance presuming optimal play on both sides? Do you balance between tedium and reward? Do you balance to promote the advantages of organization or to highlight the delights of solo? Do you balance to deliver short term opportunity or long term preparation? Etc . . .

      When it comes to suicide ganking, where the game ought to be balanced from is rarely revealed by the disputants. Those involved all too often simply presume that their preferred origin is obviously correct and then proceed as if there is no further need to examine or support that presumed origin. Accordingly, disputants often spend most of their time talking passed each other in dishearteningly repeatable echos of exactly what similar disputants said last time around. Until a foundation of shared facts and broad common goals are established, we just spittin’ in the wind.

      Though it’s appealing to stop at this point, I think it sensible to ask just where I believe the origin of balancing should be. When it comes to Hi-Sec movement, I think it reasonable to balance from a capable, thorough, cautiously patient solish player perspective. If you bring that to the table, I’m not so sure the current situation is anywhere near in practice broken. There might be in principle problems underfoot, but then again there may not.

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  6. Reading the sidebar links brought this up:

    NevilleSmit.com
    End WCS Persecution!

    High strength faction warp stabs might help some people.

    But the main thing I do to decrease risk through chokepoints, is to take multiple trips. Pretend freighters don't exist. That makes moving large loads a chore, but, its a valid alternative.

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