EDIT: My thanks to Seismic Stan at Freebooted, who took up the cause and turned this topic into Blog Banter 44 a couple weeks after I published this post. It has turned into a great discussion across the EVE blogging community with some very diverse opinions and great ideas. I’ve left most of the post as-is with a couple of retroactive minor edits noted in text. Thanks Stan!
It’s been a common thread for as long as I’ve been in EVE – “Local is broken.” Depending on who you ask, it has too much / not enough / too soon / just right info for system intel and scouting use. Mostly, this argument occurs in Lowsec and Nullsec, where people either want a little extra time to find prey, or are horrified at “AFK Cloakers” that make the residents of null twitch, fearing a gank or a cyno. Please see the end of this post for a list of relevant articles I found while researching (and point me at others please).
CCP Explorer (@Erlendur) said something interesting to Poetic Stanziel on Twitter over the holidays – the closest I’ve seen to CCP guidance on this in three years. You can read the whole thread here, but the important bits are:
What they are talking about is Poetic’s “Local Cloaking” post, in which Poe proposes a module that could hide your name from being seen in Local. In short, Erlendur suggests that it needs a more comprehensive plan, and that de-emphasizing Local chat all together should be part of the answer.
So, in the spirit of “solid and focused ideas from the community”, I thought I’d lay some things out to spark discussion and debate. Across EVE, there are a lot of different space types, uses and approaches to game play. I’ve lived in highsec, lowsec, wormholes and NPC nullsec, so have a fairly broad view (although weak on sov null (where I have no experience other than shooting ratters)). I fully expect that I have missed some gaps and my suggestions will need polishing – so I welcome constructive (it wouldn’t work and here’s why, along with a better way to do it) responses (aka not “Your a id10t!” [sic])). Consider this post a constructive conversation starter.
TLDR: I agree with Erlendur, and lay out some specific ideas based on an intel typology, including turning Local to pure chat and creating a variably-configurable structure (or existing structure add-on) I call the IFF Beacon that does different things for pilot ID in different systems. There are a couple of other new ideas too, including probes, a bit about AFK cloaking covert cynos, and constellation-level intel. And of course the common plea for a better Dscan UI.
The Core of the Local Problem
First of all, I am not entirely certain that “Local is broken”. The primary source of the discussion is driven by the fact that Local is fast, easy, has perfect information, and is uniform everywhere except for wormhole space. But wormholes don’t have Local at all, which generates wailing and gnashing of teeth when people suggest that all of space be that way. So … to fix it we need to do a few things.
- Decouple chat from system content listing
- Introduce variability in ease of use
- Introduce variability in quality and quantity of data
- Polish some of the existing tools
- Fill in the gaps left over in various intel roles
People tend to start from the top of that list and get mired in Local itself. Instead, let’s start as Erlendur suggests, by looking at the last first – the broad intel types within EVE, as well as two key current approach attributes – level of difficulty and quality of information.
Current Intel Types and Approach
Not all intel is the same. No one would confuse spying with Dscan, but there is an entire spectrum between them, some more nuanced (say, Local vs. Dscan) than others. Different kinds of intel in the real world require different tools.
Strategic Intel – planning for how to manage intel overall, generally managing a specific opposing entity or defending a set of systems or objectives over a longer time period of weeks or months. Today this comes from scouts and spies.
- Ease of use: Hard.
- Level of detail: Varies by quality of scout/spy.
Reconnaissance – tactical “eyes” for a roaming or travelling gang to mitigate threats or find targets for a current gang but outside their specific system (except in wormholes, where this may also be in-system – more on that below). Today this comes from scouts and pickets.
- Ease of use: Medium (generally an extension of system security, see below).
- Level of detail: High (some dependency on scout’s ability to collate information quickly and communicate it well).
Border Security – triggers that tell you an invasion or intrusion is inbound to a secured location. Today this is spotty at best, often in fact done by scouts or Local-watching intel channels. That works OK, but I propose a mechanical approach as well, that would provide utility on a constellation or region basis.
- Ease of use: Variable (many corps have no concept of a “border”, especially a constellation or region one. Null, wormhole and FW have some concept of a border but it is rarely constellation or region, more often extended contiguous system list).
- Level of detail: Variable.
System Security – Information on who is in system. Today this is Local, and the source of most of the debate.
- Ease of use: Easy (outside wormholes).
- Level of Detail: Very High – Near perfect given time.
Fleet Security – Information on what is nearby of immediate operational impact. Today this is handled by Dscan and/or probes.
- Ease of use: Medium to difficult.
- Level of detail: Variable based on pilot skill.
A Proposed Redesign
So, based upon that typology, how might we address these areas with appropriate intel tools, with key differentiation for different environments? Here are the set of tools I’m thinking about and how I’d envision them addressing the specific intel types and geographic areas of space. Some are new, others exist but are updated from current state, and a few are largely unchanged.
Spying, Research and Observation: Pilots embedded into systems and corps to uncover enemy methods, capabilities and plans.
- Type: Strategic Intel
- Geographies: Same for all.
- Notes: This should stay exactly as is. In effect, this is the metagame. Let the spies and watchers make their own stories and tools.
Fleet Scout/Recon/Picket Pilots: Pilots dispatched to go look and see what they can find. Generally in support of a current active fleet.
- Types: Reconnaissance, Border Security, System Security
- Geographies: Same for all, but this will be significantly affected by the changes to information available as noted below, particularly Local Transponder and Security Probe.
- Notes: Given below changes, I would expect scouts within system (much like are required in wormholes today), or no more than one jump out, would become more common.
*NEW* Constellation Gate Recorders: Player-buildable, destructable static beacon that could only be built at a constellation or region gate. This recorder would capture any ships that passed it that were not part of the specified roster, generally Corps and Alliances set as blue or self. This log would only retain data for a specified period of time, no more than 24 hours. It could include pilot, corp and/or alliance name, but would definitely include ship type, standing to owning corp and timestamp. Time length and quality of data captured would improve as sovereignty/ownership levels improved.
- Type: Border Security
- Highsec: Not available (empire-owned space)
- General Lowsec: Not available (empire-owned space)
- Faction War Lowsec: Available only to Faction War pilots and only usable in Faction War systems. Capability tied to system ownership mechanics.
- NPC Nullsec: Not available (NPC faction space)
- Sovereign Nullsec: Available for corp and alliance builds. Capability tied to system sovereignty and upgrade mechanics.
- Wormholes: Not available (no gates)
- Notes: Today, constellations (and other space geography concepts) have little or no real relevance. Sov null folks talk about regions, but my perception is that they are treated as arbitrary designations by which to divide spoils more so than hard geographic features. This recorder would give the capability for a pocket to truly be managed as a geographic safety point, and gives a capability for expanded intel that can also be a fight target.
*CHANGED* Local Chat: Shared channel that allows groups in the same system to talk with one another via text-based chat. User only appears in chat if they say something. This would be handled in effect much like the Incursion Constellation channels are today. The intel features of Local get moved to “System IFF Beacon” (see below).
- Type: Communication.
- Geographies: Same for all.
- Notes: Local is chat. No intel function unless you want to mouth off in Local, but then you’re giving yourself up. This achieves the decoupling Erlendur suggests.
*NEW* System IFF Beacon As with RL aircraft identification, a transponder (already in lore in your pod) talks to a local “Identify Friend or Foe” (IFF) beacon to allow compilation of local pilots. Today, this is combined with Local Chat. I propose that we simply split them, and add some feature changes to the beacon. The beacon itself will be an actual object but with different properties and capabilities dependent on geography.
- Type: System Security
- Highsec: Near-perfect info. Capsuleers have a window with all pilots, icons, etc. that they have today in Local, updated in realtime. The only thing missing is chat. Non-destructible (NPC owned).
- General Lowsec: Same near-perfect info as Highsec, but delayed. New contacts
take 60 seconds to appearwould appear in the beacon list upon dropping gate/jump cloak, but disappear from the list immediately upon leaving the system. Yes, this gives an advantage to a group with a scout in a neighboring system. Non-destructible (NPC owned). EDIT: Upon reading other entries, I’ve become convinced that 60 seconds is too long, and have adopted suggestions of others that upon gatecloak drop is a better choice, especially for the roaming community to know there are gankable targets.
- Faction War Lowsec: If you are Militia members in upgraded systems their faction owns get Highsec-like behavior. Everyone else gets Lowsec-like behavior. Non-destructible (NPC owned).
- NPC Nullsec: Acts like Highsec in a station system, and Lowsec one jump out from a station system. Anything two or more jumps from a station has
no beacon, and thus no beacon dataonly a total count of active capsuleers in system, with no further information. Addition to and removal from the counter would be handled as in Lowsec. Non-destructible (NPC owned). EDIT: Based on feedback read in other posts, I think roaming parties need something to hang onto – thus the counter.
- Sovereign Nullsec: New or augmented capability to build a beacon and upgrade as part of sovereignty mechanics. If a nullsec alliance wants a beacon, they can build it. Default is
no beacon, no datacounter only, like NPC null and wormholes. Capability level and info provided tied to system sovereignty, costs and upgrade mechanics. Destructible. EDIT: Changed “empty” space to match NPC null edits above. Mynna wrote a great piece on TheMittani.com with some suggestions on this one in particular. As I mentioned in the comments there, I have left this intentionally vague for the sov null folks, CCP and CSM to fill in. That said my vision of it would be that the sov holder would get some advantage, but it would not be overwhelming – e.g. sov could be upgraded and the beacon would act like Highsec for sov party and blues, but like Lowsec for everyone else. Mynna also suggested that the EHP for this beacon be set to make it a viable small gang target. I love that idea.
- Wormholes: Not anchorable in w-space.
- Notes: This gives a variety of gameplay options that based on my experience should play well to the ideals of the people that live in those geographies. Highsec wants perfect info. Lowsec wants to know people are around, but want that little advantage that a bit of extra work brings. NPC null wants the same, but won’t mind a bit of extra challenge thrown in. Sov wants to make its own decisions on configuration, and wormholers like it dark and secret (Local kind of freaks us out, TBH). EDIT: A mobile module version of this for use only on CovOps ships could be pretty cool as well as suggested by commenter “Z” below. I would see that kind as giving a static snapshot rather than a “live” feed like the anchorable.
*CHANGED* Cynosural System Jammer: This nullsec POS module blocks normal cynos from being lit in system. This proposal is that it should also create an intel capability to deal with covert cynos (which it cannot block).
- Key changes:
- At high levels of sovereignty, the cyno jammer gains a “black ops pulse” capability.
- Black Ops Pulse has a one-hour spool-up time and a two-hour refresh time. This means that from the time an appropriately-skilled POS gunner clicks the “go” button until the pulse occurs is one hour, and a minimum of two hours is required between pulses. This timer is visible in system to everyone, along with the standard aggression timers.
- Black Ops Pulse only affects ships that have both a cloak and a Covert Cyno. Ships with standard Cynos or no Cyno are unaffected.
- Any affectable ship hit by the Black Ops Pulse is decloaked and cannot re-engage cloak for five minutes.
- Type: System security
- Geographies: Only works in Sovereign Nullsec.
- Notes: As I mention above, the one place I have little real experience is sovereign nullsec. Therefore, this idea is based heavily on one proposed by A Scientist’s Life in Eve and promoted in TurAmarth’s great piece, which convinced me that in that one type of space there is an actual need for a very specific anti-cloaking capability – namely AFK covert cyno cloakers who stay in system for surprise hotdrops that are unaffected by a cyno jammer. My whole null knowledge about the AFK cloaker issue comes from this post, so I’m taking his facts at their word. This is my shot at what I think is an appropriate fix – I believe that it lets the foolhardy get ganked as they deserve but protects from AFK threats to sovereignty (since the cyno jammer protects against other drops).
*NEW* System Security Probe: This is a new probe type that acts as a systemwide scanner, with better general placement of items (compared to the IFF Beacon) but worse specific placement than D-Scan.
- Number required: 1 (except in very large systems)
- Skill requirements: Astrometrics V at minimum and potentially additional skills
- Displayed targets: Similar to Combat Probes, or focused only on ships, wrecks, drones and POS modules/shields
- Range: 64 AU
- Methodology: Uses normal scanning interface. Pings are never strong enough to be warpable unless combined with traditional probes. Data provided shows what planetary mass (including moons/belts) a given ship is at, or if caught in warp shows its trajectory and rough location. Data presented is ship (or POS) class, or at higher skill levels specific ship (or POS) type. In short, it’s a “real” radar.
- Types: System security, Fleet security
- Geographies: Same for all.
- Notes: The primary reason for this is to give a straightforward option for the systems in which there is no IFF beacon. My suspicion is that these would see extensive use in wormholes, regular use in nullsec and occasional use in lowsec (mostly outside of Faction War).
*CHANGED* Directional Scanner: Immediate information within 14 AU. Can determine specific direction along with additional ship data.
- Key changes:
- Interface improved to make angular changes more intuitive
- Interface improved to make distances more intuitive
- Gathers all info it does today plus pilot name and/or corp name
- Types: Fleet security
- Geographies: Same for all.
- Notes: The addition of pilot/corp is to give it additional value beyond the scan probe. My biggest beefs with D-Scan are not around its function, but around its ease of use.
What do you think?
So that’s my first shot at an answer to CCP Explorer/Erlendur. I look forward to seeing what the community thinks.
Here are a number of other thoughts from the community around the definition of the problem I attempt to solve above.
- Mary Titor – A Question of Intent. This one kicked it off most recently. She brings up the Local issue, but also lays out that the core of the problem is that gankable ships do not see the risk/reward balance.
- Poetic Stanziel – AFK Cloaking. Poetic raised the banner back in October to point out fear of AFK cloakers was stupid. I agreed until I read another post below.
- Poetic Stanziel – Local Cloaking. A direct reply to Mary’s post above, it is a suggestion to how to address her question.
- A Scientist’s Life in Eve – The Unseen Untouchables. Again on AFK Cloaking. Honestly, this one cemented Poetic’s argument. Those ratters are there to be ganked.
- TurAmarth ElRandir – Marco? Polo!. This is the one that finally made me think a bit on AFK cloakers. The operative word: Hotdrop. For purposes of ratter protection, my response is: Tough bounce. However, in Sov Null space, I can see that a cloaked cyno boat for long periods of time is an unacceptable security risk to the sov space. So … literally minutes from pushing the “Publish” button I rewrote huge pieces of this to deal with AFK cyno ships in sovereign nullsec specifically.
Followup Posts: Since I posted this, several others have posted in response, much to my pleasure. They have some great ideas as well and I encourage you to read them. Please let me know if I missed yours and I will add it!
- Poetic Stanziel – Getting Rid of Local and More Local
- EveHermit – I’m Not a Local
- Mabrick – The Local Nexus
- Susan Black – Local Spike
- Sugar Kyle – The Social Side of Local Chat
- Zensai Igunen – Redefining Local Chat
- Tiger Ears – This is a Local Channel, for Local People
- Drackarn – The Case for Keeping Local
This is my 100th post on Interstellar Privateer. Please help me celebrate with a (constructive) comment!