I realize this is a day behind the whole debate, but it needs to be said. Despite the fact that most of nullsec is distracted by the war, if something is not done about the botting emmpire being run disproportionately by one alliance, the next era of EVE will be decided by bots, not by the outcome of this war.
Full disclosure: I am an ex-panfam vet with very strong opinions about both Asher’s and Olmeca’s recent posts, both of which I thought were very mature and well-reasoned. As much as I’d love to weigh in, I feel it needs to be said that this ancient debate is taking oxygen away from a discussion we should be having here much more often.
Bots are still the bad guys. Despite CCPs’s efforts to mollify the players, botting is as bad as ever and its geopolitical impact is far worse
than ever. It is being perpetrated far more comprehensively and institutionally by Frat and allies (Azure Citizen, etc.). Currently, about one quarter of nullsec is un-roamable due to bots--space that small and midsized alliances have been pushed out of--but soon, this will dictate the balance of nullsec as Goons' use of rorquals did the last era; but with one notable exception that Goons didn't institutionally cheat to do it.
First, let’s consider the last era of EVE. After WWB I, Goonswarm moved into Delve, and CCP introduced a series of changes specifically designed to let the rest of the game catch up to NCPL.
These changes achieved their goal. Throughout a period of several years, Goonswarm experienced a cultural shift (for better or worse, off-topic) and so did the game. Krabbing became a good thing, pvpers became a cultural minority, and the game consolidated into the massive feedback loop that is super umbrellas, rorquals, and citadels. When in 2013 the PCU would regularly reach over 50,000 and the largest alliance in the game was about 6,000, in 2018 the PCU might break 30k on a weekend, and the largest alliance in the game was just as big. Regions like Curse and Syndicate completely dried up, and small gang groups died left and right, with most of the successful ones moving into wormhole space. This, coupled with the great decline of faction warfare, ushered in a very dark period for this game. To most, these are the defining features of the last era of EVE. This era culminated in the eviction of Panfam from Tribute, in which NCDot, the old-school “elite” mid-sized supercap power, was forced to evacuate without any serious contest in the face of an overwhelming supercapital force.
Let’s examine what drove this shift:
· Rorquals were introduced in a form so broken it defies words. They were slowly scaled back, but not before completely and permanently changing the EVE economy and the political landscape that feeds off it.
· Citadels—in my opinion, the worst game expansion ever—gave the defender massive
advantages and allowed almost unlimited industrial production, as well as the hoarding of supercapitals with more than one per character. (This is all still true. Hello?
· “Fozzie anoms” allowed huge amounts of players to fit into tiny areas, making them very defensible.
· Older changes such as Jump Fatigue (which used to be much stronger than now) further discouraged mobile, pvp-driven gameplay.
· Capitals were made disproportionately powerful versus subcapitals, and FAXes were made disproportionately effective at keeping titans alive. This further discouraged roamers and tightened the umbrella’s grip on its region.
· Imperium propaganda encouraged krabbing and flaunted Delve, connecting the alliance more closely with an area of space than most nullsec groups would ever dare.
Of these, all but one were a intentional changes by CCP. In my opinion, any one of them could be seen as a good change versus what came before it, but the combination very nearly killed this game. The outlier, the huge shift in Goon propaganda, is to be applauded as a very smart strategic move that allowed them to exploit broken game mechanics. The blame for this era rests entirely on CCP making huge changes and not reacting fast enough (citadels and anoms are still completely broken, HELLO? ANYONE HOME? Oh cool a new skin…) and not on the players for exploiting them.
But, critically, the players exploited intentional changes made to the game
Now, most casual observers would say that the war in the South is what will decide the next era of EVE, whatever that is. This is said routinely on talkshows like Meta and TiS, and is parroted in propaganda on Reddit.
The outcome of this war will not matter. Within two years, Fraternity will be the strongest power in this game, and will have permanently ruined the economy.
They will have done it by exploiting fundamental game mechanics, not intentional changes
. They will have done it with an army of nigh-uncatchable bots that can be replaced faster than CCP can ban them.
The difference here is vital. Frat are not benefitting because CCP said “We need Frat to catch up to the rest of the game” and gave them a series of releases to boost them. Frat are not benefitting because their enemy (whoever that is, at this point) poses a real threat to the game, as NCPL’s dominance did back in 2014. They are certainly benefitting from the limitless anoms and easy defensibility of citadels, piggybacking on EVE’s version of the Roaring ‘20s. But the real mechanics of their domination are local chat, dscan, character and corporation creation, taxes, drones, and scalability. These are fundamental things.
While every good player in any game exploits game mechanics—that is the beauty of games, after all—Frat is doing it by cheating. I feel confident in asserting that a vast majority
of their ratters are bots. I roam their space nearly every day, across every region they own, and in counting the number of suspected bots and the number of confirmation emails from CCP, I can say that the bots in any region of Frat space are between 70-100% of players there. I have almost never had a roam in which fewer than three quarters of the ships in space were bots. In regions like Branch and Cobalt Edge, I sometimes report every character in every system and receive 90% as many emails from CCP in a big bunch, a few days later.
The issues with botting are self-evident. It’s cheating. Every alliance does it or supports it in some degree. But the really disturbing thing about Fraternity is how the non-bots react in an organized, institutional way to defend their bots. Whereas in most other space, bots are ignored by blues and locals, in Frat space, response fleets form regularly to chase you away. And no, these are not “content fleets.” These are fuckoff blobs of supers, muninns, and wildly blingy anti-nano with at least 3x the numbers. Last night, they formed a 50-man muninn fleet and burned over from another staging to chase off our gang of stiletto, Ishtar, HFI and omen navy. I could almost
tolerate the bots if there was anything
else to hunt in their space, or if these responses were remotely fightable. But as it stands, this is clear evidence of an institutional defense of bots. When we poked them in local last night, they had this
This is a problem for roamers right now. 9 regions are difficult or worthless to roam in, to add to the many others. But it is also a problem for small alliances. Just ask the people in BOOM and the other small northern alliances what a Frat batphone looks like when you so much as push on a Raitaru. This is an immense amount of territory being dominated by a major power and used by bots, not real players
. In fact, as we saw in their war with Test, in which Blackout caused their ADM bots to fail, Frat is only able to hold so much space in the first place because of the botting empire.
And the economic impact is already being felt. This will soon be a problem all of EVE has to deal with, and not because CCP decided to put their finger on the scales as a referee, but because they couldn’t take their hand out of the honey pot. The more I roam Frat space, the more CCP’s emails start to make me angry rather than satisfied. Is that really all you’re willing to do? This shit is ruining the game
. All too often, we wait for something to have almost ruined
the game. But this is what it looks like when it’s happening.
There is a whole ecosystem built around botting already. These bots are very diverse—some wait for you to show on dscan, some go when you enter local, some go when a scout at the mouth of the pocket sees you. Some primitive bots tether and can be bumped off. Many (especially in the northernmost pockets of Branch) will warp to citadel, dock and log off when you are spotted at the mouth of the pipe. That way, you can’t even report them. On top of this, while many look like this
, many others will have been cycled through a dozen or more highsec corps, with 1 day in each, to obscure their character history. Some will be left dormant for up to a year before being used. But to any EVE player, the behavior is easily recognizable: they are landing on tether by the time you’ve hit dscan 4 times; if you leave system and come back a few times, the response is always exactly the same. Sometimes, they even break, and sit there in the site or on a gate, and while you’re killing them they smacktalk you in local for not catching them.
If you know all of this already, that’s my point.
If this post isn’t telling you anything new, that’s a huge problem.
Maybe it’s the language barrier, maybe it’s political insulation, how spread out they are, or just distraction with old narratives and old debates—but for the impact this is having on the game, we should be talking about Frat daily
. Every. Single. Day. They and their pets own Branch, Tenal, Perrigen Falls, Oasa, Cobalt Edge, and parts of Deklein, Outer Passage, Geminate, and Vale. That’s 9 regions in whole or in part. They are putting up bigger numbers on the MER than Imperium ever did. And they are doing it by using bots to exploit fundamental game mechanics, not by smartly capitalizing on intentional changes.
If something is not done soon, this isk will mix and flow and become untraceable and inextricable. Hilmar has said that he sees 1,000 titans on a move op and sees the failure of a developer. It’s true—that one’s on them. We can’t be expected to not
get titans when the game leads us that way. But when Frat is ruling this game, crushing content and stagnating the political landscape once again, it will have been both the failure of the developer for not acting and the failure of the community for not talking about it when we still had a chance.
Let’s do our part. While fighting this war, take a moment to tell CCP that the emails are a nice touch, but not enough. Asking players to do their work for them is not enough. Treating symptoms rather than making a change to local chat or to corporation mechanics is not enough. And no, despite what the security reports say, botting is as bad or worse than it has ever been. What is a smallganger’s content problem today is going to become an inescapable ubiquity tomorrow, and it needs drastic action.
To end, I’ll list some of the many, many
possibilities for action. CCP could take any one, two, or three of these and it would help immensely. I don’t pretend to be a game designer, and most of these are from other people, so let’s not get bogged down on the specifics here. This is just to show there are lots of options:
· 10-20 second local delay
· Reduce number of anomalies per system; upgrades improve quality (hub->haven) not quantity
· REMOVE WARP CORE STABS (Period. Just get rid of them.)
· All anoms long point; not scram, to encourage bc and bs ratting
· Collaborative ratting, akin to incursions or Triglavian sites; more payout, more apm, more characters
· Alternately, all anoms escalate nearby for payout; again, more traveling gate-to-gate.
· Ratting gives a combat timer. Smart ratters already have safes they warp to if they have to aggress to get out. This wouldn’t be a problem for real players.
· Rework ESS mechanics (Hey! They got one right! When is this coming btw???)
· Anoms diminish if over-farmed, forcing more movement between gates and other things real players have to monitor
· Passwords on ansiblexes, so hunters can use poorly-managed infrastructure to skip the huge dead areas
· Disband major botting corps that also do other things (Chuangshi, Phoenix City, Galactic Empire Co., STARCHASER) not just the little piddly ones, and ban leadership.
EDIT: Many are getting hung up on the argument that PVE should not be nerfed to control botting. I apologize for not being more specific, I was trying to keep the post as brief as possible - changes like delayed local would benefit the game as well as deter bots. These would be good changes for content creators (just listen to any one of Pando's "FC Chat" podcasts...) and if paired with incentives for ratters, would be good for the game overall. Blackout showed us that heavyhanded changes to support hunters without incentivizing their prey ends up killing content. But make no mistake, these changes would NOT be just to fight bots and they are not the only possible changes
To add to this, while some of these are EVE players botting to cheat--this is how Frat has amassed such a huge super fleet overnight--many are also professional botters who play EVE because it is so easy to bot. You don't have to make it impossible, but currently, infinite anoms, infinite intel, warp core stabs, utterly minimal APM, and an open economy to sell isk in makes EVE VERY attractive. Limiting these just to bring it in line with other MMOs would help a lot.