Thursday, 4 December 2014

CCP vs ISBoxer: Update

I've already posted about the ISBoxer input broadcasting change, and since then the conversation has been continuing on the forum, and on other blogs.  It's definitely an issue with very strong feelings on both sides.  I made my position on the matter clear last time - banning input broadcasting will not fix the problems they are attempting to address, rendering the entire change pointless.

Beyond this, the change may not even prevent ISboxer users operating at the near same level of effort as prior to the change.  One of the things still being questioned is the use of other ISBoxer features which aren't input broadcasting, but allow lower effort input to control your characters.  Two of these features are VideoFX and Round Robin.

VideoFX allows you to cut a portion of an eve window out and place it within another EVE window, or in a blank window segment called dxNothing.  This means you can be looking at a single window, and see all of your clients modules, ship status, overview, etc all in a single place.  An example of this can be seen to the right.  If this is allowed, which at the moment it seems to be, then players will be able to group their controls in such a way that time between clicking them is minimised.

Round Robin
A round robin keybinds is pretty simple.  It allows you to set a key to execute a command on a client when pressed, then when pressed again perform the same command in the next client, and so on.  For example if I set up a round robin keybind for F1 on 4 clients, then press F1, it does this for each press:

Press #1 - F1 on Client 1
Press #2 - F1 on Client 2
Press #3 - F1 on Client 3
Press #4 - F1 on Client 4
Press #5 - F1 on Client 1
Press #6 - F1 on Client 2

This allows a player using ISBoxer to look at a single screen and press a button which executes commands on background clients.  Standard global keybinds will also be able to execute commands within requiring a player to alt-tab, and these type of keybinds seem to be within the rules as long as each press only executes one command on one client.

Between these two features, most ISBoxers will be able to continue as normal with very little extra effort.  Only the largest multiboxers will remain affected.  At the current time I have a support ticket with CCP asking for a public clarification over the use of these two features, and the community are arranging a meeting to ask them the same questions among others.

A Real Solution
So with it being fairly clear that this change will have little to no impact, and will certainly not solve the issue that appears to be CCPs target, the question remains, what should be done.  Before I even begin on that let me be clear.  I have used ISBoxer in the past, prior to that I've multiboxed the same amount of clients manually for a considerably longer stretch of time.  Recently I've had no need to run ISBoxer, and actually had to resub my ISBoxer account to play around with the settings to see what will still be possible going forward, so changes to ISBoxer have no real effect on me.

Now personally, I believe that most people's issues with ISBoxer come down to envy.  Nobody is really damaged by ISBoxer players ISBoxing.  Some solo miners seem to think that every multiboxer they see is either ISBoxing or a bot.  It simply isn't true.  And even when they are an ISBoxer, many times they are only usign broadcasting for certain commands, while the majority of their commands are being done manually per client to improve efficiency.  So to be honest, I don't think ISBoxer rules should be changed at all.  It's not worth the hassle of enforcing a rule which could easily spill over to banning legitimate manual multiboxers purely so that envious players will be cheered up, especially since it will be a month before they realise nothing has changed and are reporting hundreds of manual multiboxers (as they will likely assume anyone with more than a couple of characters must be broadcasting input).

Realistically, the actual issue CCP are trying to address is that through mutliboxing (not even just ISBoxing), players are able to achieve more than players who do not multibox.  It was people flying solo bomber fleets which was the final straw bringing in this change.  Now the problem with multiboxing activities like mining, bombing and incursions has nothing to do with input broadcasting.

The problem is that the game mechanics are far too simple and so encourage mass multiboxing.  I believe that the correct way to address this issue is to improve those mechanics.  Make mining more engaging and more rewarding to do actively rather than semi-AFK.  Make bombing require more input to accurately deliver damage.  Make incursions benefit from multiple players fulfilling considerably different roles.  These are ways that multiboxing would still be viable, but would reduce the desire to do so and reward people for actually playing the role they choose actively.

For too long systems like mining have been left in a state where players benefit from doing them inactively, and that's really the issue here.  It's about time CCP took the time to review the dull, inactive gameplay mechanics and made them worth actively playing.