Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Local Channel - Finally, CCP breaks the silence

For years now a debate has been seen across the EVE community around the local channel and it's use as a source of intel.  Some people have argued that it's automatic and infallible nature is too powerful and it needs to be reduced or removed, while others have argued that it provides necessary intel for the game.  My opinion on the matter is in no way undisclosed.  I believe it should be left as is.
With that in mind, you can expect this post to be somewhat biased, as it's my views on the situation.

The Debate
To this debate there are two "sides" but 3 main schools of thought.  I'm going to refer to the sides as Pro-Local and Anti-Local for clarity.
On the Anti-Local side, the general consensus is that local providing instant, accurate intel is too powerful.  As soon as a player arrives in a system, they are visible on local chat, so any defender in the system can react to their arrival.  This is where they split into two schools of thought.  One is that local should be either completely removed or delayed (like in a wormhole, where you only show up if you speak).  The other is that it should be reduced (for example only showing counts of player by standing, or not displaying cloakers) or replaced with a system that requires effort on the defenders part(such as intel structures, scout ships with scan modules or a d-scan like interface).  There are also many mixes between the ideas reducing and replacing, way too many to cover here.

On the Pro-Local side, the thoughts are that local is required to keep balance, removing local would increase risk too heavily, or simply that the removal of local is pointless.

CCP Swoops In
Throughout this debate, CCP have remained remarkably silent.  They have not said anything official, and few CCP employees have given out their personal thoughts on the matter.  Until now.  CCP Fozzie has answered the question during an interview (article can be found here).
The interesting part is this:
Will there ever be a way to avoid showing up in local?
Potentially. It's not something that is going to be an easy solution, but I can say that we don't like the fact that local chat is so powerful as an intelligence tool as well as a chat but replacing it is something that's going to be a pretty large project because it is such a valuable way of gaining intelligence right now. We don't want to take it away without providing some other way to find out with some other act of gameplay who is in the system with you -- or at least some of the people that are in the system with you. So, we don't think it'd be a good thing to just tear it out and not put anything back in to replace it but we also aren't fully happy with the way it is right now. It is something that we would definitely like to change.

Unfortunately (for me) this shows that CCP are on the Anti-Local side of the debate.  As you can imagine, the Pro-Local side are pretty disappointed, and the Anti-Local side are rightly declaring victory, but what does it really mean?

Will Local Change?
This is the real question, and the answer is: probably.  CCP obviously have the intention to change it as can be read above, then further to this Malcanis (a CSM member) has posted the following on the EVE forums:
This discussion will get a little more entertaining in a few weeks time.
He's followed it up with a couple of other teaser posts, but they pretty much boil down to this.  So it sounds like there's already something in the works, and in a few weeks, perhaps there will be an indication of this.

But will it really have an impact?  Will it be what the Anti-Local guys want?  I'm not so sure.  Nullsec is where any change to this would hit the heaviest, as PVE operations are pretty much a requirement to hold sov.  Without them it's incredibly difficult to source everything you need, especially Titans and Supers.  Renters would also struggle, which again would hard sov holders pretty hard.

With nullsec generating a considerable amount of revenue though subscriptions, as well as often being the area responsible for pushing EVE into international news, I imagine CCP will be fairly delicate with any changes they make.  I'd be quite surprised if it was much beyond what we currently get, but with structures or modules to support it.

Unanswered Questions
With so many different ideas fow what could be implemented and with no official word on potential solutions at this time, there's a lot of guesswork going on, and there's a lot that simply can't be considered until we have some idea about what CCP are planning.  There are still many questions though, and the main two from my point of view are below.

Any effort-based or isk-based system will be easier for larger groups to absorb than smaller groups.  So if a change is put in place, will this widen the gap between the large coalitions and smaller groups?  I don't see how it could be worked so it doesn't.  No matter what amount of extra work you put across, a larger group is always going to find it easier to spread the burden than a smaller group.

And, for me, the most important question: Why?  Why is this change even required?  If they do put in a replacement to local, at best, it will require some amount of effort or isk to get back to exactly what we have now, and at worst it will leave us disadvantaged all round.  So what are the benefits?  I really can't think of any.

Many Anti-Local players seem to be under the impression that a change to local will mean they can suddenly wizz around null ganking left right and centre in an unstoppable whirlwind of death.  I honestly can't see that happening though.  No matter what system is put in place, PVE players will adapt and learn to master that system until they achieve a similar level of security to what they can achieve now, and if that's impossible to do, they'll simply pack up shop and move on.

To me, the whole change seems like a pointless addition of a time/isk sink (depending on how they do it) with no real gameplay benefits.  In the meantime, other features which are long overdue for a review and would greatly improve overall game experience are left untouched.  Sov mechanics and POS permissions to name a couple.

The Conclusion
Really though, there can be only one conclusion at this point.  There's simply not enough information released right now to take any accurate interpretation away from this.  Hopefully, CCP will release information soon enough to really stir up the debate and hopefully they'll include the community in finding a solution at the very least.  Until then there's just going to be a whole lot of conjecture (much like this post), but it sure will be a fun ride regardless.