Greedy Goblin

Monday, June 25, 2012

The expected FW-LP disaster

Everyone heard about Goons exploiting the faction warfare loyalty point system. Before you'd comment that it wasn't an exploit, let me quote Jinrai Tremaine from the goblinworks channel who told it very elegantly: "they were manipulating prices with the sole intention of affecting a CCP algorithm rather than the ingame market [of players]". CCP agrees, there are already rollbacks.

Sidenote: if you find a loophole and try to test it, simply do not interfere with other players while doing so. If the Goons would just amass 5T worth of datacores, screenshotted them and publish the results they would be the heroes of the day. They would probably got some reward from CCP. Now they look like caught cheaters crying over the lost loot.

However this post is not about bashing Goons. Not even to blame them. If not them, someone else would exploit it. And actually many did. Practically everyone in FW who openly stopped defending PLEX-es and traded systems just like the WoW players in the Tol Barad disaster. By the way I can't believe that at CCP there isn't an employee whose job is to play the #1 MMO to learn good moves and to learn from the bad ones. The funniest thing in the Goon post was that they couldn't cash out Amarr side because other exploiters always plexed the systems back. It starts to remind me of the botmaches of Alterac Valley when in off-hours both sides were filled by exploiters who were AFK-leeching on the spawn point.

This post is about how this exploit was necessary and coming from a fundamentally bad design. I mean that if you run a bank in a simple building with no guards or safe deposit or anything, you'll get robbed. The robbers are still bad guys and deserve punishment. The employees still failed to do their job so deserve to be reprimanded (like the moron who coded the price algorithm). But we can see that the whole situation was explosive and robbery could only be avoided by excellent work of the employees (what is unlikely as people fail) or especial honesty of the local population (there are bad guys everywhere).

What made the situation a powder keg waiting for someone with a cigar? Allowing players to create wealth. Players must never have any control over creating items or currency in any game. All items must be created totally independently from players who can only obtain the already existing items. Of course it doesn't prevent exploiting or cheating. However it significantly limits its effect since the only way to exploit is to gain faster (or without human effort via a bot). Both are limited by other factors, for example if you could exploit Diablo 3 making your character oneshot everything, you'd still had to travel between mobs and spend time looting and you still could only loot what the mobs had. Also, if there is a way to increase DPS, people will surely use it in PvP, causing enough forum rage to reveal the exploit in a day. Even if the exploit is PvE-only (like mining bots), if the resources are limited, players who are outcompeted by exploiters will surely inform developers (even if not in a rational way). If the exploiter creates resource, no one is directly harmed (everyone are by inflation) so no one will bother to find it and report.

EVE Online is littered by fundamentally bad mechanics where players can create items and the game hangs on devs being able to prevent players from using these mechanics differently than they "should". Some examples:
  • Value is created when a player ship is destroyed: exploited by the recent Goon move, people who self-destruct insured ships when insurance payout is larger than material cost.
  • Value is created via plexing FW: abused by practically every living body. I mean 100M/hour in a rifter with no risk, skillpoints, investment or anything? (the original plan was surely that it's risky and hard because of the defenders of the plex)
  • Rat spawns are triggered by rat deaths: exploited by titan (bot) ratting
  • Ore spawns are triggered by ore removal: exploited by mining bots
  • Missions created in unlimited number when players talk to mission NPC: exploited by missioning bots, abused (not considered exploit) by mission-blitzers
  • Waves triggered by killing trigger mob: abused by practically everyone and his mother to decrease the difficulty of the missions
  • +6 sleeper battleship for carriers: abused by practically everyone in larger wormholes
Each of the above are attempted to be fixed by devs one by one, closing the most obvious abuse methods (titan target nerf, hunting bots, manual fixing prices...). It's only a matter of time when will someone find another loophole.

The resource creation must be fully remade to prevent such abuse: ores and rats must spawn on their own pace. Players can claim them when they want and can, but there shouldn't be any mean for them to make them spawn faster. Please note that respawing is such control. The rocks shouldn't appear faster or more in farmed systems than not farmed. It can mean that overfarmed systems run empty and abandoned systems can have huge belts. The same for rats is creating an interesting gameplay: leave a system unfarmed for a month and you'll need supercaps or an alliance-fleet to clear the accumulated rat army. Overfarm your systems and they runs empty? Time to gain some more space from those who can't protect theirs.

Missions shall be a similarly limited spawning resource. Mission agents would have an LP and ISK budget and get new batch of ISK/LP every day. Player overuses the agent: he starts to pay less for a mission. (The mission NPC loot and salvage is calculated into the payment.) Agent left alone for days: he pays a premium. The only exceptions should be career (newbie), COSMOS and epic arc missions but even they could be compensated by taking their rewards from all normal agents equally.

Waves must not be controlled by players in any way. They must be timed. If you can't loot the mission objective before the guards arrive, too bad. If you can't finish the first wave before the second, the lower level agents are your friends. If you killed the first wave in no time and don't want to wait for the second, go to harder missions or incursions. Sleepers should either hide behind no-capital acceleration gates, or have an army that can only be broken by capitals or a large subcap force.

FW must not give any form of rewards for any PvP or plexing activity. They should give access to agents and another resources, but these must exists regardless of PvP. So the agent (with properily tuned rewards) is always there but only those can access it who control the system. To reward actually fighting instead of just being in the Minmatar militia, some kind of "combat activity rate" can be on the character page and the best agents only talk to you if it's high enough.

I know it's lot of programming, but it shall only be done once and then there won't be any more exploits.

Please comment and discuss. After this idea is finalized, it's copied to the official forums as suggestion.

The moron of the week is the unnamed member of the goblinworks channel (I don't name him since he confessed himself and admitting is the first step): "I was travelling through low-sec, started to read some article on the web and forgot about eve". The next line was a link to a loss report with his podkill with full crystal set, 2.8B. Don't go AFK in lowsec!

Saturday morning report: 62.4B (1.5B spent on main accounts, 1.1 spent on logi, 0.5 on Titan, 0.4+0.5 on Rorqual)
Sunday morning report: 64.1B (1.5B spent on main accounts, 1.1 spent on logi, 0.9 on Titan, 0.4+0.8 on Rorqual)
Monday morning report: 65.2B (1.5B spent on main accounts, 1.1 spent on logi, 0.9 on Titan, 0.4+0.8 on Rorqual)


Anonymous said...

I'm afraid CCP is way behind the curveball.

Yes, they make basic design mistakes that reveal inexperience even with contemporary MMOs, let alone the history of MMOs.

Yet, they are running the last triple A sandbox-ish MMO.

The wild frontier of the 90's spawned dozens of very successful sandbox MUDs, followed by Ultima Online. It was a golden age of creativity.

Then WoW happened, big money entered the MMO market, and the great stagnation began. The natural evolution of the sandbox was cut. As a result, today's sandbox design attempts are naive, often showing lack of basic understanding of cause and consequence.

The concept you outline is a great foundation for a successful sandbox. However, there is no way CCP will implement any of your ideas. They are struggling with the most basic of improvements, despite stepping up effort since monoclegate.

Any changes in mining, missions, and belts are a guaranteed no-go. Any changes in sleeper spawns are 2-year time tag.

Changes in FW, considering all the outrage, might happen, but even here something as basic as making PvP viable or fixing the goon loophole will come about at glacial pace. Nevermind how easy those fixes are. It took them months to admit Minmatar ewar is not on par with the rest...anything a tiny bit more arcane won't be fixed before Winter.

NoizyGamer said...

I don't know about a lot of your comments, but I think I can address some of the ones about botting.

1) As far as I am aware, except for one person caught botting in a super carrier, supercaps are not used for botting. The preferred ships for mission botting, at least by the pros, are Caldari Navy Ravens and increasingly Tengus. The reason for the titan tracking nerf was to try to make titans dependent on support fleets. If you do see a super cap botting, all you have to do is call Pandemic Legion and they will be happy to award that pilot with a Darwin award. Actually, just about anyone will help just to get on a super cap kill report.

2) Ore spawns, except maybe if an alliance has made an improvement in null sec, only respawn at downtime. And for some minerals in null sec I hear it isn't even every day, but I could be misinformed about that. That is why bots are so bad for miners; in the old days the bots would strip all of high sec of ore before people could get home from work or those in the U.S. could log on. Also, if an asteroid is not mined during a day, it gets bigger after downtime. I've heard of some really large asteroids in null sec.

3) The fact that botters use the mission system isn't considered the exploit. The exploit is using an automated means of playing the game.

spinksville said...

I was hoping more people would comment on this one, because I'm curious how many EVE players see this as cheating.

To my non-EVE playing view, logging on multiple accounts so as to quietly kill trade with your own alts looks like a clear cheat/ exploit and I assume CCP agree since they did a rollback.

So why aren't players crawling out of the woodwork to criticise the cheaters and agree with you, even if the suggestions may not be practical? Is finding exploits seen differently in EVE?

Agent Black Cat said...

To me personally, I consider using EVE systems to do a delibearte end-run around intended functionality to be an exploit. So, for example, while its possible to duck CONCORD retaliation, its against the rules and therefore an exploit even though the code allows it. Similarly, if pressing SHIFT+q+F1 caused that weapon to do 10x damage for no reason that would be an exploit.

CONCORD will destroy someone who attacks in highsec without kill rights. This could be read to mean that CCP doesn't want any such attacks. That's not the case, though.

Its possible to buy or build a ship for cheap enough to insure it, self destruct and profit. CCP may or may not intend this to provide a guaranteed minimum income to industrialists. Since the rules haven't changed, its presumable that this is the case.

On the other side, the Goons tried to start a forever war with a blogger and found a lot of people piling on to oppose them. It was never intended that declaring war on a one man corp would (theoretically) allow the entire player base to have kill rights on your corp.

Similarly, tying LP awards to the average value of a module destroyed was not intended to allow market manipulators to print ISK.

In both cases and possibly in the case of insurance, the rules were set but the consequences weren't considered (in both cases despite warnings from players).

As a player, its not my job to read CCP's mind and determine what they meant to be an acceptable outcome. Its their job, if they find it abusive, to put a stop to it through code, announcements and rollbacks.