Thursday, 26 February 2015

Response to GRN Open Comms Show 25th Feb

This is a response to part of a podcast over at The GRN Show I started writing some of this as a comment but it grew a little too large so I decided to write it as a blog post.  Now to get it out clearly to being with, I have in the past used ISBoxer.  I am not however a current ISBoxer user and neither was I an ISBoxer user when the EULA enforcement change was announced.  I do though understand why ISBoxer users are upset with the way that CCP has handled input multiplexing changes.

The part in the podcast I am responding to is from around 1:48.  I have a lot of problems with the way the Open Comms Show was conducted.  First and foremost, it sounded like an ambush on shadowandlight rather than a constructive discussion, and this was highlighted by the overuse of the word "mong" towards the beginning of the segment.  (edit: for clarity, as Dirk MacGirk has rightly pointed out, he did shut this behaviour down quickly).

Now I don't disagree that shadowandlight suggesting that CCP are steering the game towards 1 player 1 account is pretty ridiculous.  While it might be something that some devs would prefer, the game has progressed too far to be able to realistically do that, and CCP know that fully.  I do however disagree with a lot of the arguments put against him.  I absolutely hate the repeated notion that a "manual multiboxer" is somehow a better person for doing just that.  Too much throughout this whole argument I've heard "well, I only use the EVE client and no tools to control me and my alts", as if that's deserving of a medal or something.  I don't care if you choose to use tools, or not use tool, or if you play the entire game 300 feet away from your computer using nothing but McDonalds straws taped together to push buttons on your keyboard.  Everyone has a different style and everyone has different skills.  I'm a long time gamer and a competent programmer by trade.  I can fire off input at a ridiculous rate compared to a 50 year old small time computer user who has chosen to use EVE.  Should that mean they should be awarded because their computer skills suck and yet they fight through adversity to compete in the same game?

That's part of my problem with this whole argument.  The argument is always put forward "oh, if you use ISBoxer, you are more efficient".  That's not a given, it simply isn't.  Sure, if you have 100 accounts, the likelihood is that using ISBoxer is going to be more efficicient simply because others can;t run that and switch between controls that fast, but there are maybe a couple of users with the hardware setup that would actually support that and, to be quite honest, if they want to put all that together and chuck CCP a grand a month, good on them.  For most ISBoxer users, 20 accounts is pretty much the limit.  Now I've seen players mining with 20 accounts with no software, and believe it or not, it's far more efficient than using ISBoxer.  ISBoxer is dumb, it can't make decisions such as "how much ore is left in this asteroid, and thus at what point should I cancel and cycle my lasers again" which you can if you are manually multiboxing.  ISBoxer isn't more efficient at mining than manually controlled characters; it simply takes less human input and in return throws out blind commands.  Even players using ISBoxer to mine tend to use broadcasting only to get out to the belt and move ore into a hauler, saving them clicks, not making it more efficient.  You're far better off not broadcasting and just manually running each miner in response to their individual circumstances.

Now the point raised by shadowandlight which I most agree with is that this is a game mechanics issue, not a EULA issue.  This is because whether you use ISBoxer or not, you can get a ridiculous level of efficiency doing things like mining, ganking, bombing and even incursions simply because the mechanics involved in those are far too passive.  Go grab ISBoxer, run up 20 accounts and go do multiboxed exploration.  Now working out for you?  How about missions?  Broadcast those buttons.  Wait, what?  The NPCS are all over the place and the mission objectives are completely different and thus input broadcasting isn't working out?  Fine, let’s try trading.  Oh crap, I just sold some tritanium on this account and accidentally sold a stack of PLEX for 6 isk on that account.

The problem is that if game mechanics being used by ISBoxer are so ridiculously simple that you can just mash your face into the F1 key and successfully complete those activities, then those activities is far too simple.  EVE players will game any system and minmax everything they can to benefit as much as they possibly can, and reining that in should be done by restricting what the game will let you do, not by banning people when you feel they've grossed some invisible limit.

The biggest problem with treating this as a EULA problem is that players can be (and as far as I am aware have been) banned without actually using any form of multiplex, or even without using input multiplexing at all.  If you are fact enough manually multiboxing you can find yourself in trouble.  You can definitely find yourself in trouble if you are using programs like Voice Attack, which when combined with both mouse and keyboard input can make you ludicrously efficient.  Yet as it stands, Voice Attack is allowed.

My next issue with it is communication.  CCP have failed to communicate with the very people they are banning.  They are purposely being vague and then people are surprised that players are pissed off that they don't know where they stand.  How would the ganking community feel for example if CCP said "you can't gank people too much or you're banned" and that was that?  With no line drawn, they would have absolutely no idea where they stand.  There's clearly perfectly valid questions put forward, and they aren't answering.  This is further highlighted by the fact that I have to refer to it as a change to EULA enforcement, because it's not even a change in the actual EULA.

As shadowandlight stated on the podcast that buying PLEX and using software like Evernus or Elinor are also ways to give yourself an artificial advantage over a "normal" player, to which the response was "but that's not against the EULA”.  Neither was ISBoxer!  It was completely allowed, not just accepted but petitioned to GMs and DEVs and classified as allowed.  Now that it's suddenly not, people just expect ISBoxer users to lie down and not kick up a fuss, even though their gameplay is being destroyed pretty much because a load of people not doing it whined about it expecting that to mean they will get more of the highsec ice.

At the end of the day, the complaint that third party applications like ISBoxer that grant theoretical benefits over other players, yet others don't simply because of "input" is disingenuous at best and retarded at worst.  I'm a trader and an industrialist.  There is no way I could do what I do in the hour before I go to work without the use of the custom marketing tools, databases and reports, even if I had all day to do it.  I simply couldn't work through that much information and put feed that much data back into EVE if I didn't have those, so how is that not third party tools granting me a benefit over a manual player, yet ISBoxer is?

Finally, while it might come across as such, I'm not pro-ISBoxer.  I'm fine with CCP deciding they don't want it, but I think they need to be a heck of a lot clearer with what they are banning and why they are banning it, and I think that if third party tools are a problem that we need to look into a whole host of other applications too.  If it's not OK for a player to use tools to be able to gain a benefit another player doesn't have, then we need to understand what benefits are OK and why.

I'd honestly like to hear a reasonable discussion over this, which isn't either a bunch of players yelling over the top at each other, or a group of players all on one side of the argument casually agreeing with each other that the opposing side is wrong.  I'm beginning to think that increasingly unlikely however.


  1. This is Bigcountry , and Im one of the hosts for The Open Comms Show. Im going to respond to only 2 things in this post cuz the rest was covered during the show..
    First - I apologized for the mong comment , i admitted i was getting a little too hot headed and calmed it down.
    Second - in regards to your very last section , tahts how the show is , if you come on air with an opinion , you may be on your own or others may agree with you , in this case nobody was really on his side about this , but thats who its done , feel free to coem on with your opinions and remember its an open platform , therefore people can say wahtever they feel.

  2. Sorry man, but I went long. Longer than is worthy of a "comment". But here is a link


    1. Dammit, it ended up as two comments.

      Thanks, I appreciate you taking the time to draft a response. I think around the format of the show and how the interview came about you've pretty much covered, so I'll not extend the discussion in that area. I've added a small amount of clarification to the above to reflect your reaction to that as in hindsight it came across harsher toward the show as a whole than I was originally intending.

      The problem that I have with splitting out a term for ISBoxer users over multiboxer users (though appreciate why one is needed), is that it automatically gains a negative connotation from players who don't play that way. You say "hyperboxing" and people will automatically have this vision of someone clicking 3 times and commanding a 100 man army into a battle with ruthless efficiency. In truth though that's not the case. There's an enormous range of ISBoxer users, from guys who use it simply to manage windows to guy with 100 accounts looking to strip ice belts in half an hour, and lumping them all under one label is tarring them all with the same brush, even more so considering many people’s inability to differentiate ISBoxer use and botting.

      I’ll explain for example my typical use when I used ISBoxer back in the day. I had 10 accounts, 8 miners a hauler and an orca. I’d log in using broadcasting, logging all accounts on simultaneously. I’d send a fleet invite from the Orca pilot, accepting it on other accounts using broadcasting. I’d broadcast to undock, then broadcast to turn on all hardeners. The Orca I’d then manually warp to the belt using fleet warp to take the rest of the fleet with me. Once landing I’d turn on all the Orcas links, and then broadcast control the miners to keep at range of the Orca, and open up the fleet hangar and cargo windows. I’d then broadcast click on some rocks and broadcast hit F1. From that point forward the only other broadcasting I would do is to move things from the cargo bays to the Orca. I would control each miner manually, the haulers would be warping back and forth manually and if defence was needed, the Orca would do that.

      So realistically compared to when I manual multiboxed my miners previously, I benefited from a faster setup, less RSI when moving cargo, and my computer not screaming quite so much thanks to ISBoxers ability to limit framerates (which is still a function players are allowed to use). But that’s not what people see when they think of hyperboxing. They are under the impression that you just click once and somehow the lasers guide themselves to rocks that don’t contain too little ore for a cycle, and without them hitting the same depleted rock leaving one to end up with nothing for a cycle.

      This is why I believe the main problem is mechanics. Mining takes maybe 20 clicks an hour per client once you’re set up. It, along with some other mechanics, lends itself to multiboxing, manual or not, far too much. Beyond that though, had CCP changed the mechanics to make it more of an active gameplay style, I believe considerably less people would be upset about it. Other activities in the game a difficult to multibox because they require individual interaction, which I think is a much better approach. It’s the exact same argument as against AFK gameplay.

    2. Surely you can understand why they are upset though? I’ve read Noizy’s blog, and while yes it may not have been strictly EULA allowed for a long time depending on interpretation, GMs had been consulted and had given responses making it clearly allowed. From that players have gone out and bought extra accounts and invested huge amounts of time into developing them, and then were suddenly told years later the rules were changing, making them pretty much pointless to own. I’d be pretty upset if they’d done that to me too. I appreciate that CCP can do what they want, but we as consumers also have a right to agree or disagree with those decisions, and that’s all we’re doing. CCP once wanted to put in microtransactions, and it’s only though people complaining that those got heavily restricted.

      Certainly though, I agree that the biggest issue is communication. I hate all of this “we can’t be clear because of rules lawyers”, like people won’t push the boundaries if they don’t know where they are. Of course they will. Making the line blurry just means that regular folks get caught in it too, which is why it’s now pretty worrying to mass multibox whether you’re manually doing it or not.

    3. I do in fact understand why they are upset. Anytime anything is taken away from anyone for any reason, they will be upset. The degree to which they should be upset is debatable based on the circumstance. But it can't be that crazy to think that some players, probably a plurality if not an actual majority, might think that things like ISBoxer are closer to botting than they are to just playing the game in the "standard method". That's just the general view. Perhaps it's out of ignorance, but I think most players of this game understand multiboxing, the method by which one controls multiple instances at roughly the same time. They understand the issues related to trying to control more and more accounts. Thus, if you tell people that this tool CAN allow you to control much larger fleets than one could reasonably do manually they question it. Throw in reports of 80-man mining fleets and they laugh and say yeah, something is fucked up there. Is either side completely right or completely wrong? I don't think so. Some people just push things to a point where they gain enough attention and then pressure builds to drop the hammer.

      I also recognize that not all users of a tool such as this are either bad people or perhaps even abusive to the extent in which they use it. In the case of ISBoxer, it has uses which are not now and should not ever be bannable to use. It also has some uses that are rightfully banned and potentially others that should be banned. I wish that nothing had to be banned, ever, but the fact is that some players just go too far. I'm not sure if you've seen the VFX stuff with cutouts of numerous clients built into one window where the functions from EVE's client window do not even need to be clicked, but instead just requires the mouse to be "rolled over" the buttons to activate modules. Again, some players push too far and then ruin the party for those using the functionality in a more acceptable way.

      I think that is probably what leads to a lot of changes in the game, including CCP's change of heart on how to deal with ISBoxer-like programs. Methods are discovered or metas created, because they work, and are then pushed to extremes that garner attention. That attention then leads to rebalancing, nerfing or removal. DomiFleet and Wrecking Ball leads to nerfing drone assist. The most recent example: Skynet. The outcome: fighters will no longer be assignable at all. I'm pretty sure some sizeable minority is displeased with this as well.

      As for communication and vague EULA's and all that, just remember that when the shoe was on the other foot, when ISBoxing was "allowed", the "multiboxing" community wasn't demanding any clarity from CCP. In fact, they scolded and derided those of us who wanted CCP to either follow their EULA or be crystal clear that they were in fact giving a special pass. To explain why it did not provide advantage, their term, over normal game play. It's almost funny that now that the winds have shifted, people like me still want them to be clear yet I'm now partnered up with the screaming multiboxers who have had parts of their toy taken away and they aren't sure exactly what the line is anymore. Like I said before, I could care less if all ISBoxer features were allowed or not. Hell, to be honest, botting never phased my game. Neither did RMT. I don't care if any of these things are allowed or not. All I want is the rules of the game to be clear, and if there is a rule, that CCP endeavor to enforce it for all players. Oh, and to not make rules that they can't enforce. Nothing grates me more than putting in a rule where they don't have the means by which to catch the rule breakers. That may be the case here. That is catches more than just tuna in the net. I don't think there net is catching happy dolphins who aren't even remotely close to violating the EULA, but it may be catching some other fish that look and smell like tuna.

  3. ISBoxing was allowed. More people began to use it as it was easier, and meant more 'fun' could be available to the actual player. a low % of the over all multiboxers took the piss and exploited it. they should have been dealt with in a case by case basis.

    Personally, I thought what the heck, I'm not going to exploit the gank multiboxing, i'm just going to have enough accounts so I can do stuff myself while I wait for others to come online. I got up to 8 accounts. the last one I subbed at very start of november, about a week before it was banned. I liked eve, and I could afford to pay the sub in money so i decided to throw ccp the cash for the sub.

    In doing so I entered into a contract based on the product they were selling. That product allowed ISBoxer. 1 week later when it was banned, it essentially broke the contract by changing the advertised product I trusted was sold in good faith. I should be entitled to a refund. I petitioned as such. CCPs response was simply horse shit.

    I quite eve on all accounts due tho this, it was the final straw. This time they actually broke the law in their changes, and no amount of bitching saying it was against the EULA is correct. The fact is it was allowed, accepted and promised never to be banned.

    I am not alone, and since many, many people quit, less content is available so more people quit who were never multiboxers. The snowball is rolling.

    That change was stupid, and since then you can look at the login figures. 35k concurrent 6 months ago. 23k concurrent recently. That says it all.

    But even if they realise what a stupid, stupid decision they made, and reverse it, you will never see us come back.

    once it gets to 15k eve is as good as dead. That might seem impossible, but its only 33% less than now, and there has already been a 33% decrease in 6 months.

    So the haters will have the last laugh.

    The other sad thing is EVE cannot pick up new players like it used to. Less people playing is less word of mouth for a start. More people used to play eve than there are people who still do, and they tell people not to bother.
    EVE has aged badly and now it has serious competition. Many other better gaming alternatives exist. The MMO target audience taste is changing with a new generation, eve is stuck with a flavour that worked well up to about 5 years ago.

    People starting eve now quickly realise its pointless, you cannot catch the guys playing for 10 years. They leave. Eve's middle class, 3 to 6 year old players are leaving.

    Anyway, enough said. Lets see how many players fozzie can get rid of in the next patch.