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.


  1. That input broadcasting/multiplexing is illegal is a simple matter of principle. How one may (legally) emulate the mechanism to achieve similar results is irrelevant to the principle.

    People are misguided that it's about actions taking some "minimum amount of time" to perform. The point is about the complexity and scalability of actions over multiple clients. In the worst case, input BC/MP can reduce the cost of concurrently performing any arbitrary sequence of actions over any number of clients to the cost of doing a single action in one client -- it is clear why input BC/MP should be illegal.

    On the other hand, for an action as simple as just inputting F1 to a client (there is no simpler action really), it's not surprising that this scales relatively well, even manually, over a few clients. Forgetting round-robin, a "clean" way of alternately mashing your OS window manager "next window" and "F1" keys is obviously legit and cheap. Stating this fact has no bearing on the main topic at hand. It is for more complex actions, particularly those involving the mouse, where ruling out input BC/MP is important. (Personally though, I would find repeatedly hitting F1, say, ten times, for each "input tick" intolerable over any reasonable period of time, even if I could do it quickly. Particularly if the task was boring to start with.)

    Be careful what you wish for. If the aim was truly to make actions take longer to perform, just so manually repeating them over multiple clients would take longer, it would be trivial to artificially complicate the inputs required to perform those actions. No benefit; just a PITA. For light gameplay such as mining, the effort cost is already somewhat balanced against the reward. Artificially increasing the complexity of the task through some horrid minigame would need reward rebalancing. At the end of the day, it's *mining*. The thing on the other end of the laser is a rock... not a person, which is what makes direct PvP alive. Even the most fun mining minigame would become a terrible chore after just a fraction of the time that miners spend mining.


    1. I seriously doubt that the aim of the change was just a matter of principle. If CCP are making decisions which negatively affect subs with no aim to improve the game, then that's even worse than a misguided attempt to resolve gamplay issues. It would also raise the question of why that wasn't enforced for the ast few years where they've repeatedly stated that input broadcasting was fine as long as one keypress only created 1 command, regardless of how many clients that command hit.

      It's pretty obvious from the discussions that have occurred prior to this change that the reason it's happening is to stop overly efficient multiboxers who are able to do things like bombing runs solo. This won't be fixed, so come January when the same thing keeps happening, what change are we going to see there as the next attempt to resolve this issue?

      And mining can be done almost completely AFK. The gameplay for mining is terrible and requires too little interaction, even on a single player level. That's why it's possible to manually multibox (no software) 20 miners and still find yourself with spare time. That gameplay *should* be made more interactive, regardless of whether or not broadcasting is allowed. It's bad design and should be looked at. I'm not a fan of the minigame idea, but having unique circumstances that occur while mining that a miner needs to react to and more rewards for reacting to those circumstances well would be a workable idea. Yes, it's mining, it's a rock, but that doesn't mean the gameplay should require near zero input from the player.

  2. >>Nobody is really damaged by ISBoxer players ISBoxing.
    This is were isboxers and those that don't disagree.

    1. If I were ISBox mining, and you were sitting there alongside me and didn't know I was, you would see nothing different between me and other players (except that my lasers would something be overstripping rocks more). Nothing an ISBoxer does can't be done by the same amount of other characters controlled by multiple players.

      So no, ISBoxers don't hurt anyone more than a new alt or a new player hurts them. It's all about perception. If they perceive that one physical player is getting reward for all those characters, they lose their damn minds. This used to happen when I manually ran mass multiboxed miners before I'd even heard of ISBoxer too.

    2. Actually, I think one could detect an ISBoxer when all the lasers on 20 miners turn on in the same moment. But detectability is not the issue here. We can imagine someone using a robot, not at the keyboard at all, and it being undetectable.

      The issue is that ISBoxer allows you to gather more resources than normal players can gather, doing the same thing. Resources are sold via a market. Your increased supply lowers price. Since you get much more of the resource, you get more total income even with the lowered price. Normal players just get a lower price. As such, your gain comes at their expense. Hence they have good reason to resent you.

      What is confusing you here is that the benefit of ISBoxer is concentrated on those using it, whereas the corresponding losses are distributed extremely thinly, across thousands of competing miners. The amount of pain you create for any individual miner is almost (but not exactly) zero.

    3. I wasn't speakiing about detectability, I was talking about impact on a player. A player only cares that a multiboxer is broadcasting if they know that's being done. If they were to think that each player was just another player, they wouldn't be going "Hey! That group of people are able to outperform everyone!" because on a character level it's impossible for an isboxer to be *more* efficient than a solo player, because at the end of the day they have to play at least one screen as if it is a single player.

      As for resource gathering, even before I'd even heard of ISBoxer I was running 20 miners, and had people yelling at me then about how evil I was. So that's still going to happen, broadcasting or not. I'm still going to be able to run more efficiently than solo players because my alts work like a well oiled machine.

      And yes, even a new solo miner will have a loss that is spread thinly over all other miners. That's the nature of supply and demand. but unless they plan on banning multiboxing altogether, the people that are able to run 10, 20, 30 accounts are still going to be the ones raking in the bulk of the isk, as they pretty much always have been with or without ISBoxer. ISBoxer is being used as a scapegoat for the wider issue which is that mining (among other mechanics) requires so little interaction that even with 20 characters you can still play a playstation game while mass mining.

    4. Actually multiboxed mining is much more efficient than solo, because you can boost. Beyond that, your point stands. But it's a kind of large point. I think if any new player could get an Orca boost in any system, there would be a lot of a controversy here.

      I agree that mining is boring. And since you see my point about the market distributing the effect of multiboxing, I am not sure we disagree very much here.

      I do think there will be a marginal effect of the multicasting ban. You wouldn't care if there was no effect. Nobody would care. Do I think it will be huge? No.

      I certainly have no wish to eliminate multiboxing. I multibox. I do think it is nice to see it reduced, but as you say, the right way is to make it so that content is not easily multiboxed. But given that the content is what it is, CCP should still do what they can. I think banning multicasting is a good thing. It is a bright line, easy to know you are crossing and easy for CCP to police.

    5. er... a lot less of a controversy...

  3. Damn do you always cry this much ? You are a real idiot with mental issues.

    1. Shameful. If you don't even have the cojones to reveal your identity, you can't honestly expect to be taken seriously.

  4. Hi,

    Just wanted to ask, isnt the "round robin keybinds" still a violation of the EULA, ? Since you still sort of push one button to control multiple clients?Im not an isboxer, so im not exactly sure of the ways how it works.

    Also, from what i saw in various chats, there will be some of unsubscribing of accounts only due to the fact that some of the isboxer ale just lazy/unwilling to adapt to different methods of doing things
    This change, destroys their easy way of playing and they dont want to do it in any other. Actually pretty sad, as eve was pretty much always a game of adapt or die(or ragequit in this case)

    1. In theory, no it's not, but the question is still out there. Most of the multiboxers are totally happy to abide by the rules, but we really need to know where those rules are.

      Round robin simply changes which clients it's controlling between keypresses, so you still have to issue 1 button to issue 1 command to 1 client. Want 10 commands on 10 clients? 10 presses. Want 1 command on 10 clients? 10 presses. 10 command on 10 clients? 100 presses. It's considerably faster than swapping client to client manually, but it's not broadcasting at all.

      And yeah, there probably will be some unsubscriptions. there are with pretty much every change. I've seen much rage about the new UI and it's only been out a few hours. I doubt there will be a considerable amount though. From some of them it's understandable however.

      The way I see it, CCP should have turned around and banned broadcasting when it began. Instead they didn't , and quite the opposite they said quite clearly that as long as you had to click once for each single command, regardless of how many clients that command reached, that it was fine. Now they've gone back on that, certainly some of the larger ISBoxer players feel like they've been duped into owning far more accounts than they now need, and they have to pay CCP 2 PLEX a go to even sell their characters, so their options are painstakingly sell all of their surplus characters and let CCP roll around in all the consumed PLEX, or abandon those characters completely.

  5. But another question comes to my mind, why do so many people boarded the hate train to isboxers. Why doest it matter to most of them. I mean if you get blown by this replicator guy i can understand to feelings, but for the most people, i doubt they have even seen the isboxer fleets or they saw them and didnt know that it was it. The thread is very long , and i didnt read all of it but there were lot of people congratulating ccp for the move, whis has very little impact for them. I refuse to believe that soo many people game satsifaction is decreased by people which are multiboxing. Also saying that owning multiple accounts is gaining the unfair advantage is also some bs, ccp wants us to have more then one account, its not like its forbidden for some and allowed for others, anyone can have two or more accounts and use them to their advantage.

    1. I honestly don't know. I imagine part of it is envy. As I said above, if a player were to see a fleet of miners, and he thought they were all controlled by different people, then there would be no problem. Even if they took all the ice, all he would see is other people taking the ice, which is fine. If however he knows there's only one person controlling them all, suddenly it's a problem, suddenly its unfair. In both those scenarios, the number of characters and the speed the ice is taken would be the same. That would lead me to believe it's about it all going to one player, which sounds like envy to me.

      Yeah I agree, the amount of people jumping in to say thanks seems to be shockingly high. I'm still wondering how many of those will be back once they realise that multiboxing altogether isn't going away though, because many of them seem to be under the impression they'll never see another multiboxer again once January arrives.

    2. Maybe part of it is envy, part of it is the idea that multiboxing ruins the economy.

      The basis is perhaps the assumption that all multiboxers plex their accounts while most of the regular players pay for their subscription.

      Plex price is determined by supply and demand.
      Multiboxers don't sell plex, they buy plex. So they are only visible on the demand side.
      More demand means higher prices. So multiboxers raise the price of PLEX.

      Whether this is good or bad is open for discussion. But if I want to plex my account this is bad, multiboxers make it more expensive for me to buy a plex on the market.

      The other assumption I made was that when 1 isboxer stops playing and unsubscribes his 30 accounts that he won't be replaced by 30 individual miners.
      This means that without multiboxing a lot less ice/minerals will be generated.
      Less ice/minerals on the market will mean higher prices making it more profitable to mine.

      So I view multiboxers as people that prevent me from plexing my account by raising plex prices and reducing the value of my ingame activities by flooding the market with isk or minerals.

      I hope my story is still slightly coherent after I removed some of the wall of text.

    3. It's true that the price does go up through increased demand, but the price of PLEX will always go up if there are no specific circumstances causing it to drop. People generally don't want to buy a PLEX for cash then receive less isk than they did last time, so there will always be some people put off until the price increases, choking the supply whenever demand drops. This is evident from the history of PLEX prices.

      ISBoxed alts themselves are no more damaging to the economy than any other multiboxed character. The market will always be flooded with items regardless. Back before ISBoxer was commonplace, it's not like we were running out of tritanium, and mining is certainly more profitable now than it was when I started.

      While it would make sense that multiboxers should have a profound effect on the economy, the statistics really don't show it to be the case. Sure, at the moment we are in a bit of a spike, but most of that is through speculation, not because of the loss of ISBoxer users.

    4. As i read on the thread i just cant believe how much more trolls pop up there, most of them do not even bother to read 2 page back, or even the OP. But what i wanted to ask, did you recieve an upate about that round robin? is it legal?

    5. Not as of yet, but the ticket is still open. The latest dev blog about it however seems to be saying that no more will be said on the matter, so in classic CCP style, they want to be as unclear as humanly possible and wait for it to explode in their face. If the way the deal with their game rules is any indication of the way their company runs, it's no wonder their staff are jumping ship.

      Luckily Elite:Dangerous is awesome and may be dividing my attention for a while.

  6. I just have a quick question, has the round robin keybind is legal? Have the GM or DEVs or anybody replyed? anything official, as i not read all the posts on this massive thread, that iam no longor able to follow as it strayed too much for the topic many times

    1. Well create your own ticket to ask a GM or try it out and see if you get banned?

      "Input Automation refers to actions that are commonly also referred to as botting or macroing. This term is used to describe, but is not limited to, the automation of actions which have consequences in the EVE universe."

      "Examples of allowed Input Broadcasting and Input Multiplexing are actions taken that do not have an impact on the EVE universe and are carried out for convenience:

      • EVE Online client settings
      • Window positions and arrangements (of the EVE Online client in your operating system’s desktop environment)
      • The login process "

      You push one button and only action happens in the eve client so that might be an argument on why it's allowed.
      You push one button and two actions happen, this is a macro (one action in the eve client, and one action on the eve client, changing focus to another eve client) so that might be an argument on why it's a bannable offense.

      Very likely that until you get banned for the first time you will never know the answer.

    2. As of yet I've not heard of anyone getting a response. My ticket is still open with no comments. When I get an update, I'll chuck up a new blog post about it.

    3. The argument that "You push one button and two actions happen, this is a macro (one action in the eve client, and one action on the eve client, changing focus to another eve client" doesn't really hold, as historically macros have only been banned for performing multiple game actions. There are a whole heap of issues if they start banning button presses affecting both EVE and a completely separate application. Most importantly, it would be impossible for CCP to tell the difference between someone using round robin and someone switching between windows manually.

      Beside which, if they did declare it banned for that reason, the round robin would just be changed so you hit it twice as much:
      Press #1 - F1 on Client 1
      Press #2 - Switch to Client 2
      Press #3 - F1 on Client 2
      Press #4 - Switch to Client 3
      Press #5 - F1 on Client 3
      Press #6 - Switch to Client 4

      Honestly, I think CCP won't respond on it, it won't be explicitly banned, and most people will be able to use it without issue, but periodically an eager GM will ban someone for it. Pretty much the same way any other rules work.

    4. That changed round robin should be legal by any definition. There is no input replication of any kind. If I had isboxer I'd be willing to risk a 30 day ban by using it. (And most likely quit the game permanently anyway if that happened because it would destroy my trust in CCP).

    Seems round robin is not legal as declared by CCP Peligro. I also start questioning videoFX now, "You may not use your own or third-party software to modify any content appearing within the Game environment or change how the Game is played.'"

    And VideoFX allows you to reposition windows, giving you an unfair advantage.
    With videoFX you can get 10 ships into warp faster or maintain a better overview as someone who has to move their mouse further to click on stuff.

    1. Indeed, and that doesn't really help in understanding how far that reaches. VideoFX is still technically allowed as long as the time you take to perform actions is reasonable, and it will still be used by players who want to tile multiple sets of local windows from multiple scouts onto their main so they can watch multiple srrounding systems for incoming threats. At the same time, I've heard reports from layers who have never used ISBoxer but have multiple monitors with tiled displays who have been banned for supposedly using macros. Tiling EVE clients on high resolution monitors is effectively no different from VideoFX, so we're now wandering into the territory of banning legitimate users simply because they've been reported and noot looked into in enough detail.

      Beyond that, what about programs like Elinor. They "change how the Game is played" quite significantly by automatically chucking prices into your clipboard when you export market orders, allowing near automated margin selection for trading. It also raises things like ventrillo, teamspeak, mumble, and even programs like raptr, which shove overlays onto your client, as these "modify any content appearing within the Game environment".

      This whole thing is a massive can of worms with players being banned for playing too fast while being near players who report them while other get away with just using ISBoxer a little less because they aren't near other people to be reported.