Greedy Goblin

Monday, May 18, 2015

The price of developing EVE-tools

Practically no one doubts that the EVE API gives a huge advantage to those who have the IT knowledge to use it. They just claim that even this very unevenly available data is better than no data and CCP doesn't afford to develop zkillboard or dotlan or the various background API check and alliance IT tools that players use.

Which is nonsense. CCP could and should develop anything that players would pay for. As they realized that enough players pay for skins, they developed skins and sell them for AUR. What is the proof that players would pay for third party tools? The fact that they already paid for them. I mean the fact that Zkillboard, Dotlan and all the IT tools exist mean that someone developed them. As there is no free lunch, some players (non-players wouldn't care) had to pay for them. Maybe it was the alliance from RMT/PLEX-affiliate money. Maybe it were random players with adclicks. Maybe it was the developer himself, doing unpaid volunteer work.

Considering that CCP could implement and host such tools more easily (they can access their own data without API limits and they already have various sites to share fixed costs), it's obvious that CCP would make profit if they'd get the payment/adclicks/volunteer work that that currently the third party developers receive. Note: volunteer work can be received by giving out libraries and sample data, the volunteer writes and debugs the code that an employee just have to check for malicious parts and then put it on the official site where it can access the real database. The volunteer would even receive a bonus he can't now: writing code for a major software corporation looks much better in a resume than making a game fansite.

My point is that the work is already done (often in multiple, competing instances) and it's already financially stable (developers get sufficient payment to continue). So it would be a no-brainer for CCP who has monopoly in EVE-related software to jump on this market and make a killing. CCP would get a nice profit from selling these tools for AUR, while players could access it regardless of their real life profession. Who would lose: those who now have a monopoly on the API-based EVE data and use this monopoly as an IWIN button in EVE.

19 comments:

Provi Miner said...

While I agree this is easy to see as another "cash flow" I do doubt the IWIN button, rather in the sense you made it I see it more as "I cash out" button.

Thats said you need to post fits for the burn amarr anti goon campaign again.

Zyrus said...

People would rather look at a zkillboard that shows them as green rather than paying to see that they suck.

Consider what your stay in eve has shown you about the "average" player.

Your idea is good, for rationals, most players are not this.

S Riojas said...

"Who would lose: those who now have a monopoly on the API-based EVE data and use this monopoly as an IWIN button in EVE." This is quite incorrect. No one has a monopoly on the API data. It is freely available to anyone. As mentioned before, is there a barrier of access? Certainly, but it is not impossible to learn and use.

As for an IWIN button: the data presents no such thing.

CCP can readily make the tools themselves. But then the tools are created in how they feel it should be used, not how the players want to view the information - such as the data you, Gevlon, pull to make your charts for PvP losses. If CCP charged for the tools, they would be competing against those who offer the same or similar for "free" which leads CCP to decide to either cut the information spigot or truly find out what the players want to know when they develop tools.

If the former is chosen, then CCP makes the Data pay to know - or, in your terms, a Pat to Win button. In the latter case, CCP would have to become very innovative - in fact, innovative to a point where modules of information could be dragged and dropped into formats the player is interested in seeing. Takes development time, but would provide the best gain for the player: unhindered competition always spurs good innovation.

Gevlon said...

The situation is currently worse than pay-to-win: you have to create/get the tools to win, but you don't even know where to buy or have to buy from unreliable sources. I mean, can you guarantee that EVEMon doesn't send your API keys for the developers who will sell it to Goons/Rekkingcrew/whatever?

Selling access to tools would be like selling PLEX. It's not optimal and it does have pay-to-win aspects (if I'd have a million dollar, I could buy 50T ISK in PLEX and send every living pirates in EVE after CFC, destroying it in a few months). But PLEX is still better than illicit RMT.

Anonymous said...

How exactly do players with access to the API win? I've never lost to a player and seen the API as the defining factor. API is just info, info you can get in a multitude of places.

Ryanis said...

"Considering that CCP could implement and host such tools more easily (they can access their own data without API limits and they already have various sites to share fixed costs), it's obvious that CCP would make profit [...]"
Not exactly. Actually, they would probably call their own API for easy of development and maintenance.
Moreover, they would not share server cost because load will require specific dedicated servers. They may pay less than a random dev as they can leverage costs by volume, but that's all.
And lastly, who would pay ? Lagre alliance have their own customized tools ; Most tools already exist (even if they can be biaised) so pepole won't pay and just use the old ones (especially if they show better scores).

"Who would lose: those who now have a monopoly on the API-based EVE data and use this monopoly as an IWIN button in EVE."
They won't lose anything as they already have their tools. And they are probably better than what CCP could develop on short/middle term.
Except for siphon units, API don't give that much advantage. Most alliance IT power do not rely on API calls : internal management, planning, organisation, discussion, SRP...
Give me only one example of IWIN button related to API ?

dobablo said...

Just because a government could do something and make it available to its population does not necessarily mean that it should do, especially when there is already a functioning marketplace offering that service.

I think CCP are happy to leave this area alone because.
1) It risks harming the raison d'ĂȘtre for some significant communities.
2) The limited availability of concise and accurate data means that the ability to cut through the information fog of war is considered to be a valuable component to the meta-game.

Gevlon said...

@Ryanis: CCP can shut down the API, forcing everyone to use CCP tools or no tools.

The IWIN is in pilot evaluation, both in the sense of background check and performance checks.

Those with proper tools can tell which pilot is performing, who needs improvement, who is a leech and who is spy-suspicious. Those without tools can just recruit random people and then wish and hope (this doesn't go well in MMOs).

Same thing can be told for corp evaluation for the alliance leadership and alliance evaluation for those shopping for blues. This is what I wrote about my own experience: http://greedygoblin.blogspot.hu/2015/05/api-my-own-story.html

Stripped from data I could only pick an alliance based on propaganda and trivia and picked TEST because they were big and loud and looked successful. Big failure.

Then I got data and picked Marmite and Mordus and Goonies die in hilarious numbers.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion:
1) CCP's advantages would be a) using the current data (not one day old or older) and b) they already know the relations between those data (a 3rd party developer needs to learn it)
2) the users of the 3rd party tools would loose their information advantage when every user gets the same information
3) ingame solutions (like the planned ghost fitting) are much more comfortable (and automatically up-to-date in terms of items, skills etc.) and more users would use them
4) I don't think, the majority of the players (casual players) would pay for those tools

But I don't see the IWIN button for those players using the 3rd party tools. It's an advantage, yes, but an IWIN button?

Foo said...

Let me rephrase your argument. "Practically no one doubts that out of game research gives a huge advantage to those that have the knowledge to use it. They just claim that this very unevenly available information is better that than no information ...."

Gevlon, my challenge to you is to convince me of the following:

Is there a monopoly because of the API? Your own research with kill-boards has shown that there is not. Even if you didn't have the systematic tools that you currently have, the same information is available with simply observing killboards and reading, taking a sample rather than complete data sets. Also, there are *plenty* of Eve API tools out there, some with source code, others without.

Would CCP do a better job of providing unbiased kill information information? Given the option of stroking egos or providing the cold truth, which gives the appearance of earning more cash?


Would CCP both get and accept the volunteer work that some developers already provide? Given the recent discussions over something as simple as alliance logos, I doubt that they would accept much in the way of third party source code.


In terms of guaranteeing that any given project does or does not submit API information to the enemy of the day, that can be determined by the IT crowd among us, providing someone cares to check. CCP also provides auditing on the API keys to see when they are being called. Then there are website based tools that I am fairly sure do leak information. I

I have a slightly different problem with the API, that it grants perfect knowledge, but this complaint will most likely apply to any CCP hosted tools.

It is not clear what you are objecting to in this series of posts. Is it that:
* Those who put in research gain advantage?
* Players are donating effort?
* Developers are being paid with suspect money?

Gevlon said...

@Foo: it's obvious that out of game research is advantageous. Anyone saying "just use the client and have fun with spaceship explosions" is a M&S. However now the developer hints little pieces of information in hard-to-use formats without documentation.

Just because someone with my scientific experience, formal (even if decade-outdated) programming training and extreme dedication to solving such problems could break into this field, there is still a monopoly (actually oligopoly) here. It's like "Ferrari and Porsche don't own the supercar market, you can make one in your garage". It's theoretically true, just ask Ferruccio Lamborghini. But demanding this for a video game is extreme.

My main problem is that the advantage the API provides is crucial, to the point of IWIN. Before I started this extremely effort-demanding project of evaluating killboard data, I failed to do any damage to my enemies and was rightfully a laughing stock. Since I do it, I'm behind 8-10% of the total damage of the largest coalition of EVE with 40K players.

In other words: this is something you MUST do in EVE to be any good, but it's not available in the client and can't be done without special training.

Zaxin said...

"However now the developer hints little pieces of information in hard-to-use formats without documentation."

hard to use formats like XML.....

I have no formal programming training, but I can work out how to install a program like IskPerHour, as can many people with far lower computer skills than myself.

You seem to think no one can use the API unless they write a program from scratch. This is very far from the case.
If you want to use the data yourself, there are any number of extremely easy to follow guides for how to export data.

You only need some coding knowledge if you want to use Reverence or perhaps EMDR.

(Reverence: https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&t=6501

EMDR: https://eve-market-data-relay.readthedocs.org/en/latest/

You have been using fitting tools and other tools for a long time without complaining that it gives those who can write them an advantage.
Do you also think those who can work with the WOW or GW2 API have an advantage over those who just download the addons from Curse?

The documentation is easy to follow if you can read instructions, and many of the tools are on github, which even a non-programmer like myself can access and read.

It comes across as if you have only just found out about the API, in which case, you should probably read around here http://wiki.eve-id.net/APIv2_Page_Index
and
https://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/IGB_Javascript_Methods

Of course, if you are completely IT illiterate,you will not be able to use these, but, judging by some of the queries that people have in channels, many people using the API are just firing up spreadsheets for the first time in their lives, and using googledocs for making your own trade/industry calculations has been a thing for many years, even for complete novices.

Foo said...

I wrote another wall of text, addressing points then deleted it.

At a most basic level, I trust that any gaming company will encourage epeen over perfect information.

I believe that the misleading nature of killboards is deliberate, and fully supported by CCP.

I believe that if CCP hosted such a board, it would be in such a way that further obscured real data.

If there was no API at all, there would still be killboards of one form or another. Zkillboard have a manual interface so that players can still submit kills that I believe would be used.

Your success or lack thereof comes from asking meaningful questions, and moving past the propaganda. Without belittling the very real effort in your current technical solution, it is still only one road to that direction.

Zyan said...

Mostly I agree with your postings Gev, but not this time.

If CCP "sells" the API-Information it is (some sort of) pay to win. Only ppl with enough money will recive the information, if you can't affort it you are always one step behind.

The actuall information is free and avaliable for everyone, it is no rocket sience to get informations out of the API. One Afternoon and you have the basics. Or you can rely on already existing free 3rd party tools.

and i doubt that RMT is such a big sponsor for 3rd party tools. I build such tools just for fun, as I said before, for me the datamining is a part of the game, just like pvp.

And what is next? I am bad at PVP, but I can't kill ppl, so I want buy kills for AUR. Just like you can buy informations for AUR.

TLDR:
Tools for AUR is horrible bad, because it gives a "free" advantage for ppl like you that earn enough ingame money to buy plex and trade them for AUR.
Everyone else has to pay for something, that he can get for free atm.
(don't get me wrong, I greatly admire ppl that earn that much isk to buy plex)

Gevlon said...

@Zaxin: if you don't develop a tool from scratch, you are at the mercy of the developer. He is probably working for a group that has good reason for double-crossing you. This is the fundamental difference between EVE and WoW tools. If I download an addon from Curse, I can be sure that it was written in good faith, in EVE I have every reason for the opposite.

For example, have you re-checked my statistics? Maybe I doctored them to make my campaign look better or to make Goons worse. Alternatively I can be a Goon spy who write these statistics to demoralize NC., SN2 and such alliances by claiming that Mordus Angels outperformed them. I provided the raw data and all the big killboard links to prove that I'm not, but you see my point, right?

@Foo: I agree that CCP probably don't want players to realize that their killboard is not green, so they won't create an accurate killboard. However now they provide the tools for third party developers to create this accurate killboard and I did. My point is that whatever their goal is, they could reach it better by controlling all the EVE data than give it to a few IT wizzards and hope they don't do anything bad with them.


Ryanis said...

"CCP can shut down the API, forcing everyone to use CCP tools or no tools."
=> First, they could do this only if they replaced all or almost all third-party tools with CCP's equivalent. Let's face it: they cannot. Or, at best, it would take ages. Better spend developer time on features and fixes.
=> Second, they would harm a lot of developpers doing so and people would lose the liberty to make their own tool.

"Those with proper tools can tell which pilot is performing, who needs improvement, who is a leech and who is spy-suspicious. Those without tools can just recruit random people and then wish and hope (this doesn't go well in MMOs)."
=> Public tools are not better than private ones for this mean. And best solution is still discussion and playing for that matter.

"Same thing can be told for corp evaluation for the alliance leadership and alliance evaluation for those shopping for blues. This is what I wrote about my own experience: http://greedygoblin.blogspot.hu/2015/05/api-my-own-story.html"
"Then I got data and picked Marmite and Mordus and Goonies die in hilarious numbers."
=> That's debatable as long as you are talking about killboards. But, considering you're true, all killboards are the same: they are biaised the same way.
=> What you want is brut data to analyse (in spreadsheets for example). This IS the purpose of the API. I admit however that for non-ITs, the format is not ideal and CCP could also give CSV formatted data dump.

"Stripped from data I could only pick an alliance based on propaganda and trivia and picked TEST because they were big and loud and looked successful. Big failure."
=> For me, you just looked at the wrong data. You didn't fail because TEST looked better on killboards, you failed because you listen to those telling that killboard is a good way to pick up an alliance.
=> Without tool, TEST/CFC/&Co would still look loud and successfull. If CCP developped a tool, they would still find a way to look good. Best way to check is to TEST them.

Also how could CCP provide a Killboard as kill data is a private information purposely given by people ? Should CCP remove all API Keys authorization and just set everything public ?
You do have private tools accessible to restricted group members and sharing private information. That would be ashtonishely hard for CCP to adress and more complex to use if everyone need to manage permissions.

"If you don't develop a tool from scratch, you are at the mercy of the developer. He is probably working for a group that has good reason for double-crossing you. "
=> That may be true in some cases. But not most of the time.
=> There will be bugs however, and sometimes tons of them.

"For example, have you re-checked my statistics? Maybe I doctored them to make my campaign look better or to make Goons worse. Alternatively I can be a Goon spy who write these statistics to demoralize NC., SN2 and such alliances by claiming that Mordus Angels outperformed them. I provided the raw data and all the big killboard links to prove that I'm not, but you see my point, right?"
=> That's true with API too, except that required skills are different: not everyone can analyse data like you did.
=> And... honestly, how many readers did checked your data (which could be biaised too btw) ?

Smokeman said...

I see what you're saying.

CCP should make generic versions of the IT tools the big alliances use and sell them to people that run corps that are interested in maximizing their effectiveness, but don't have the IT chops to do it themselves.

They would then require their line pilots to provide the needed API keys to get the data needed, and this would allow the small corp/alliance to get and format the data they need to manage their herd of pilots.

The process of doing this would also teach CCP how to play their own game. Win win!

Borat Guereen said...

Gevlon points the right direction...

The only people I would give my Characters API too is CCP. I do not use any third party software that requires any kind of API.

I look forward to the ghost fitting-in game...

Anonymous said...

What IT is involved in huge alliances coalitions? And for what tasks and purposes. I really can't see any usefull usecases.

I really don't see where an out of game IT infrastructure might help. Can you or someoneelse give examples.

Sure they use mumble and maybe forum software and a wiki. But I guess that is not the IT infrastructure you refere to.