Greedy Goblin

Thursday, May 14, 2015

API: the greatest fail of CCP

This post is part of the series made on the 2013 kill database:
  1. Introduction and inflation problems
  2. Places, ships, times, battles
  3. Pilots
  4. Alliances overview
  5. Two Legions
  6. Goons and TEST
  7. NC. and Nulli
  8. RAZOR and FA
  9. Pizza and MoA
  10. Marmite and Whores in space
  11. Red vs Blue
  12. Shadow Cartel and SCUM.
  13. BLOOD UNION and Ixtab.
  14. Kill It With Fire and Sleeper Social Club
  15. API: The biggest mistake of CCP.
Yesterday I concluded analyzing the 2013 killboard data and while doing it I realized possibly the biggest mistake of CCP: the API system. No, not its specifications, its pure existence. I mean, to get essential data about EVE, I can't just go to the official site and get it, I must do extreme IT work using the API (or using data of others using the API) to get it. Dotlan, Zkillboard, EVEMon and the rest of the essential stuff we use are third-party developed. There is no guarantee that they won't go down tomorrow, nor there is guarantee for the validity of their data.

To make meaningful decisions in EVE, you are at the mercy of third party developers and your own IT knowledge. Every major alliance has IT services, ran by professionals, using real money paid servers and such. The problem is that if you have no access to IT talent, you can't even lift off. It's bizarre that being successful in a game is limited not by game knowledge or even knowledge of the community, but access to third party IT.

The disparity of access to IT allowed fundamentally wrong beliefs to linger for a decade. Before I made my posts about CFC losses, you would have laughed on the idea that the largest coalition suffers most of its losses to "NPC trash" and "highsec gankers". The idea that they lose more in solo PvP than in their hallmark 100+ fleet combats was bizarre. Hell, the "community" was all over "solo is dying/dead" cries, while solo PvP was/is the most important form of ship destruction in EVE. The statement that "Goons rat more than their own renters" would be considered an 1/10 trolling attempt! Not to mention that literally everyone believed to be killboard green and they even had "proof".

All these statements were true (except the killboard green) and I could prove them with extreme amount of programming and I used data spoon-fed to me by Hanura H'arasch who collected Zkillboard data into a human-readable file and that was made available by the third-party site Zkillboard.com. If any of these parties had not sacrificed countless hours of free time not playing a game, but debugging code and watching long progress indicators, you would still believe that solo is dead, CFC has only PL to fear and all the nonsense that propagandists and wishful thinkers told you.

API made CCP lazy. "Why bother hiring employees for this, when players do it for free?" - is a common thinking in the MMO scene (just consider Blizzard UI addons), but CCP simply can't afford it, because the meta-gaming coming from the one-universe PvP setting makes community members motivated to limit the information. I mean Blizzard can afford to let players do the work for them, because if Adam write a tool for himself, he has no reason to not share it with Betty, just look at the boss guides published on Youtube. In EVE Adam has every reason to mislead Betty or at least keep her in the dark. I mean Goons with their IT services might have known for years that they lose more ships to Mordus Angels than to PL, NC. and SN2 combined but had very good reason to keep this hidden. Or your crappy corp CEO might known that your "killboard green" was meant with getting full credit for each kill you got on, but definitely didn't want to tell you the truth.

I'd suggest CCP to immediately discontinue its API services and hire employees to provide the data needed in easily searchable and understandable form. This way everyone would have access to the same data and kept in the dark on other fields, so EVE success would depend on playing the game, instead of writing code and scrapping data.

20 comments:

Anti said...

lets look at AH data.
CCP gives you all the information in game.

yet EvE Central exists.

humans and gamers especially want the most efficient path to success. so instead of flying to each region and checking prices we use eve central.

how efficient would any data provided by ccp need to be before players decided they didn't want it processed further?

Anonymous said...

I disagree that _having_ an API is giant mistake by CCP. Allowing players to make websites such as Zkillboard, dotlan, siggy, tripwire, wh.pasta.gg, evewho, and many others makes Eve unique and is what attracts its more technically focused playerbase. I do think that you might have a point that some of the more important of the third party sites, such as a public killboard should have been implemented by CCP, but I disagree that they should turn of the API when doing so.

Additionally, you're assuming that they'll eat the cost of hiring more developers to develop these tools which will cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars which hurts them more than a company like Blizzard with more subscribers.

Anonymous said...

You're making a baseless assumption that ccp has and would be willing to commit resources to make the equivalents of 3rd party tools. Judging by the fact that the api and CREST and in a poor state developed by a single person, which also has other higher priority tasks, I find that extremely unlikely. I don't see ccp making generic great apps like evernus or killboards. And non-generic, specialized apps, like recruitment management? Wouldn't happen at all, since those are tailored to specific requirements, even with resources available.

Gevlon said...

"Attracting more technically focused playerbase" is a politically correct term for "giving IWIN button to IT nerds in a spaceship game"

Anonymous said...

"I'd suggest CCP to immediately discontinue its API services and hire employees to provide the data needed in easily searchable and understandable form. This way everyone would have access to the same data and kept in the dark on other fields, so EVE success would depend on playing the game, instead of writing code and scrapping data"
The way the deliver data is the best way to deliver data. If they had zkillboard you'd not be able to do half the stuff you do. The zkillboard data you receive it fetched from zkillboards API which works much like CCPs. You simply can;t build a site that universally allows people to analyse the data in any way without it being like their API.

"you would have laughed on the idea that the largest coalition suffers most of its losses to "NPC trash" and "highsec gankers""
Nobody would have laughed at that, I'd have put money on large groups losing more to high sec players.

"Hell, the "community" was all over "solo is dying/dead" cries, while solo PvP was/is the most important form of ship destruction in EVE."
Ship destrutio, maybe, but it's not really PvP in the strictest sense. It used to be that you could fly out in a solo ship and come across other solo ships and fight. Now that rarely happens. One solo guy might go kill a solo ratter, but you rarely get just one on one with both sides set out for PvP.

"The statement that "Goons rat more than their own renters" would be considered an 1/10 trolling attempt!"
Everyone knew this. It's been a running joke for like 4-5 years. There's not much else to do in sov space when you're not on an op.

"Not to mention that literally everyone believed to be killboard green and they even had "proof"."
And they still do. Based on the metrics provided by the killboards everyone is killboard green, and sadly most people go by those metrics. Wrong they may be, but they are there and consistent. Until someone brings out a killbaord that delivers kill data with a different method of analysis, that's the way it will stay. The problem is that zkb and eve/kill have a monopoly over it, as to receive kill data you need to have thousands of player API keys, which a new site would not have. If CCP ever release kill data through crest without requiring peoples keys, you'll see a lot more methods of analysing that data coming out.

Gareth Jenkins said...

There seems to be an assumption baked into the arguments here that making raw data available through an API is somehow locking some players out.

I see it as quite the opposite. It might be the single most democratic feature in EVE. You don't need years of in-game time, masses of free time to grind or a huge alliance to back you up. Quite simply, to make use of it, all you need is some freely available tools and a modicum of dedication to learn one of the many programming frameworks/languages that can make good use of the API.

If you really do lack the dedication to learn a bit of programming (or are unable to for some reason) then the _vast_ majority of third party tools are free and many are open source, giving you the comfort of knowing that any possible major flaws are likely to have been weeded out already.

It's not just that the API allows CCP a route to enrich the game for free but that it gives the opportunity for players to produce tools that CCP has never even conceived.

There's plenty of game features I can't be bothered with personally (planetary interaction is the first one that comes to mind). I'm sure it gives advantage to those that use it but I feel no resentment towards them or the feature. I know that if I were to spend the time and effort to learn it and make use of it I could do so. I choose not to and in doing so I accept that I may be missing out.

I would ask you to extend the same courtesy to a game feature that you don't want to invest the effort into making use of. Accept that there are some of use who have invested time and effort in learning how to make use of it (although, for me, it is in minor ways).

Now, I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't pressure CCP to provide official services when they are needed but accept that CCP are bound to have a priority list and if you want something done that can be done via the API then the quick route might be to learn how to do it that way.

Gevlon said...

@Gareth Jenkins: I'm saying that the API is locking 99.9% of the players out, letting only a very small programming elite in.

"modicum of dedication to learn one of the many programming fameworks/languages" is laughable. You consider it OK to demand players to learn a new real world profession to be successful in a game. Exactly because I'm not in IT and had to re-learn it to do my analysises (I had formal training once) I know how hard it was.

"gives the opportunity for players to produce tools that CCP has never even conceived." is the very problem. Some players will have powerful tools what others will not. Literally IWIN button.

I am using the API data, filling my blog with analysises gotten from there. I'm not a kid on the sideline crying "I can't have it, no one should". I'm one of the expert users saying "this is way overpowered", like PL AoE-doomsdaying their own carrier.

I'm fully aware that rewriting third party tools might not be a priority for CCP and demanding it in vain. However this case I demand to shut down the API and leave everyone equally in the dark, while currently those with the IWIN button roflstomp those without it.

Anonymous said...

> I'm saying that the API is locking 99.9% of the players out, letting only a very small programming elite in.

While being "programming elite" (severely goon-averse though or I won't be reading you), I have to disagree with you on needing to be elite to use the API. I've given test tasks to my applicants for intern positions using eve API, and the fail rate were comparable to any other intern-rated task. Even interns can do it, and they are hardly elite.

Manserk said...

If you think the API give too much advantages to "IT nerds", you should release all of your own coded tools to make people more equal.

Borat Guereen said...

I ran for CSMX on a platform that included creating a metagame fog of war about killboard API, amongst other topics.

I fully agree that API and metadata is way too powerful and significantly favors large groups with the means to organize advanced data analysis.

Cpt Niki said...

I have the very same opinion with Gob in the API key.

Everyone who say that it won't change anything in theirs day to day gameplay I dare them to not use any of the tools (not only the dotlan, z, evemon, eft and many many others) but those that are using API to make that corp/alliance management easier.

I say if you want to learn something for the game, log in.

No external tools for a game that gives you, not the IWIN button, but a good advantage.

I had some posts in some goon sov changes and propositions

https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&t=356024

none answered my questions with data, evidence only some stuff like everyone is director in BAT and some short of, as I call it, bullshit.

Zyan said...

It's not a mistake.

Eve is the only game I know that gives that much data to the players. Sure you have to use the API, and not everybody can use it. But that's where the 3rd party comes in. Thats part of the game, if you want something you have two options: a) do it yourself, or b) rely on someone who does it for you.

I'm sure CCP could make the same tools but they don't want to do it or they have not the time. The other alternative is to shut the informations down, so everybody is equal (noone has the data).

S Riojas said...

Nothing prevents anyone from learning how to pull the data except their own determination. How it is presented is a variable of skill and talent, but all the how-to is available for anyone to learn.

Should CCP include a spread sheet in game for traders to track their sales?

It happens to be one of the additional attractions to the game: A lot of what you make of the game is in your own hands.

Anonymous said...

Gevlon has quite the point.
It even impacts gameplay.
If you want to become big in null,wh,low you NEED an IT infrastructure .
It is a big barrier for new upstart alliances/corps.
And to be sure that it can not be read by other alliances it NEEDS to be done in alliance!
Eve lacks ingame tools to do the same!

Dàchéng said...

Programmer interns? They already know vastly more about software programming than 99% of the human race.

Zad said...

Double edged sword. I think CCP has realized that the way to go for their business is to keep Eve technically focused. Would it not be the case they would have harder time differentiating the game from other MMOs.

In general terms, yes, it is nasty that certain people have a clear advantage in this game, in an ideal world that would not be the case.

However Eve is business above first, and in business sense it makes sense to keep the APIs and even provide more of them.

Anonymous said...

"Gevlon has quite the point.
It even impacts gameplay.
If you want to become big in null,wh,low you NEED an IT infrastructure ."

This is nothing to do with the API. Even without an API the better your out of game tools are, the better organised you would be.

Unless you propose that CCP replicate the effort that PL/Goons/large wormhole corps put into developing their out of game tools and then host them freely, along with things like teamspeak - which would inflate the cost of the game.

And tbh, using the APIs don't require much knowledge of computing to use. Even if they did you'd only need one such person per corp.

It's somewhat amusing to see Goblin come out in favour of morons and slackers.

Gevlon said...

You think "not being a programmer" = "moron"? That's a bit extreme.

Anonymous said...

"You think "not being a programmer" = "moron"? That's a bit extreme."

Your original statement was: "To make meaningful decisions in EVE, you are at the mercy of third party developers and your own IT knowledge."

On an individual scale that's generally untrue, you just need to make yourself wealthy enough to hire someone to do the work you want - using the API to work out market trends is just a case of a google spreadsheet with the importxml function, and people without IT savvy made themselves rich before google docs, just by doing the market analysis by hand.

At a corp level you just need to hire one individual who has the requisite skills.

Anonymous said...

back in wow i learned lua to write addons that helped me get an advantage over other players and got important information from third party sites on game mechanics and exclusive information.

in eve i learned xslt among other things to automate data processing and give me an edge again.

What's the big difference?
in most games you can benefit from creating exclusive addons, tools or exchanging exclusive information on secret boards.

Just playing the game will always put you at a disadvantage.