Greedy Goblin

Friday, May 4, 2012

Expansion suggestion: multi-character client

This idea has been bugging me for some time, so I just introduce it. I know some CSMs are lurking around, I hope they find it worthy to show it to CCP. It's something that serves both players and CCP

What would the multi-character client do? Simply after you logged in the game you could select your characters to enter the game. This one client would handle all your characters and for this reasons accounts in the hand of one person would be merged. The client would support logging in with multiple characters concurrently, assuming your subscription method supports that. Instead of Alt-tabbing between clients, you would get a bar that shows the other characters face and most important data: shield, armor and hull HP, what he does (warping, approaching, shooting/mining, being docked, idling in space). You could switch to the char with one click.

That's alone handy but here comes the real stuff: multiboxing support. If your pilots are in the same system, you could link them to one of your pilots, they would orbit that pilot and the master pilot would get extra buttons/hotkeys: order supporters to lock that target (available on overview and selected item too), open fire on that target (assuming it's locked), fire at will (shoot whatever is red, practically aggressive drone mode), heal that target (use repping modules on the target if locked). Obviously it wouldn't be as effective as having individual players behind each pilot, they would be just glorified drones, but still it would allow much better multiboxing. Also with one click you can switch to the other pilot to micro-manage.

The client could also support "perfect multibox" which is available if the ships are the same type and fit. This case everything the leader pilot does is mimiced by the supporters.

The concurrent login handling is convenient. The multiboxing support would get some customers to buy more accounts. However it seems to affect only a small playerbase that doesn't really justify the developer resources. So here come the big deals.

Only one client can run on a computer. Since the client would handle all your characters, it's pointless to run more than one client. However banning to do so would be a serious hit on account sharing, illegal account selling and illegal ISK selling. Why? If I have two accounts, I can let some buddy play with one while I play with the other. If all my characters are on one account, I can't give him one, just all at once. Also, he can't play his own account while he is playing on mine as the client either runs my account or his. If you have an illegal pilot (botter, exploiter or whatever) on the same account as other (legal or not) pilots, being caught and banned would mean losing them all. Having the illegal pilot on a different account wouldn't help alone, as playing that account would make it impossible to play other accounts on the same computer. This would significantly increase the costs of botting and other illegal activities as every pilot would need a separate computer to avoid the risk of more than one being banned at once.

Finally this client would allow much more customized payment methods which would allow CCP to make offers that more players would accept, increasing both customer satisfaction and CCP income. Currently if you buy an extra account you get one pilot who learns skills, two who don't and one more concurrent logins. This is the offer, take it or leave it. Many choose to leave it. For example if you are a trader with your main in Jita, the two alts are on Rens and Amarr, you won't pay a full subscription to have one more pilot in Dodixie. With this client CCP could sell the following separately:
  • Concurrent logins
  • Pilots learning skills
  • Pilots not learning skills
When you activate a PLEX, you get 300 "time points" on your account. Every day a concurrent login would take 4 pt, a learning pilot 4, a non-learning 1. I just made the numbers randomly with only caring that if you use the current account you get exactly 4+4+1+1= 10/day= 300/month. The player could make changes in the client which take effect at server downtime, so can't be changed more often than daily. With this client the above trader could create his Dodixie alt (happy), while paying 1pt/day = E1.5/month to CCP, which is profit they wouldn't get otherwise.

This client would remove the all-or-nothing bar from buying another account, luring customers into it step by step. For example the above trader first just buy his passive Dodixie alt. Then he is unsatisfied by training speed (as only 1 out of 4 pilots can learn skills), so he buys one more training pilot spots. Soon he'll have enough skill points to train one more alt to freighters and to have two freighters in space he'll buy one more concurrent login. Also, the client would make the account management simpler: you just buy time points from money or activating PLEX and you do the micro-management within the client.

I'm sure that the above system would significantly increase the amount of players who use more than one PLEX for playing time (paid by themselves or by the guy who sold a PLEX on the market), even if most of them would only pay 1/3-2/3 PLEX more. However if just 1/3 of the players would choose to spend 2E/month more, that's 2.9M E/year income to CCP while actually making all players happier or at worst neutral.

EVE Business report: Friday morning 18.2B (2 PLEX behind for second account, 0.3B spent on Titan project). The reason of the drop is that I bought myself a 650M ship and also decided that my trading alts have much more to learn, like PI and manufacturing, so the first one got Cybernetics 4 and 3 +4 implants. The remaining 2 will come from the gift. Remember that you can participate in our EVE conversations on the "goblinworks" channel (60-80 people on peak time) and your UI suggestions are welcomed.


Foo said...

At best; one game client per 'pc' would become one game client per vitual machine; with botters still only needing one physical machine.

Server side restricting one game client per IP address would prevent multiple players in the same household.

That said, other games successfully tie multiple 'games' or 'game accounts' to the same user.

Andru said...

I'm still baffled at the fact that you consider selling PLEX "cheating", while multiboxing, fair.

In both cases, someone(even if not you) spends RL cash for an in-game advantage.

Neither of it is prohibited by game rules.

You can't pick, mix and match your "ethical" framework to what it suits you. (IE. I do it, it's fair, others do it, it's cheating!)

Either you reject both as "cheating", or you admit both as "fair".

Gevlon said...

@Andru: not really. A multiboxed character is subject to the same rules as the normal. Simply: one can gank your second account just as well as your first. Multiboxing is a multiplier, if you suck on one char, you double-suck on two.

RMT on the other hand "magically" place ISK on your account.

Gevlon said...

@Foo: properly configured virtual machine applies to a professional farmer. However most cheating is performed by random guys who just downloaded some bot program. He don't know how to or can't be bothered to set up a virtual machine properly.

Also, a virtual machine needs resources so at least the farmers need to buy stronger machines.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to one person hi-sec gank fleets. Press one button and all you 8 tornado alts fire at once.

Trocadero said...

While convenient for some players and profitable for CCP, this concept would open a way for some serious changes in game balance. Anonymous above me named just one of them. In 0.0 a blob would grow up if one player could control X more mimicked ships, mission runners would rejoice grinding missions X times faster, even miners could probably multiply the yield.
I don’t know how that would affect the game economy, but just from gameplay view the distance between new players/corps, and established ones would probably grow.

Azuriel said...

ISK "magically" enters EVE all the time. And I have no idea where you see any distinction between someone who has a 2nd account semi-AFKing their way to ISK to pay for PvP ships on their main, and simply using the cash shop CCP included with the game.

Out of curiosity, how can you stand living under capitalism? Cheaters are everywhere! People buying fancy cars for social status when they didn't earn it the same way you had to, etc etc etc.

Gevlon said...

@Azuriel: you are an inch from being banned from here for being an idiot.

The second account ship obeys the same rules as the first. With 2 hulks you can mine twice as fast, true. But can lose two times more ISK to a ganker.

Real life money is real life money. Buying things in real life with it is normal. Having lot of money is winning RL. But a game is separated from RL for a reason. Buying an EVE-ship by having RL money is just as bizzare as buying a car from ISK.

Peter Petermann said...

Unified Accounts - comming, CCP stated during fanfest they are workin on a
client that allows you to login with one account and use your linked accounts

char switching client - i'd like that.
However there are a few technical issues with that. The way the eve client
is build atm, it does not allow you to utilize multiple cpu with one instance,
so the performance of such solution would be quite horrible. When i look at
your suggestion to ban running multiple clients, which for most people
would be performance wise the better choice, i must say i don't like it that
much anymore.
Now obviously with enough time they could rebuild the client to support
several cpu, but disallowing multiple clients at all for all linked accounts
would just cause people not to link accounts - since i for once prefer
to be able to have clients open at two machiens, for example
my gaming pc for the client with the main fleet, and my laptop for my scout
character - which i both need to see at the same time.

the multiboxing support your suggesting sucks though. Automating gameplay
functionallity - and giving them assist button for multiboxed accounts is
exactly that - is a pretty horrible idea, and it would be quite bad
if CCP would change their stance from "you get banned for that" to
"we are now helping you with that"

your suggestions at payment make the system overly complex. this would
increase CCP's support effords, also when i look at just my accounts and project
my behaviour to other older players most likely CCP would lose money.
Most characters that i have are utility characters, which are trained
for one specific task and have a high focus on that - there is no need for me
to train them any further - the only reason i'm training some of them for
something is that well, i can train one per account anyways.
with 5 accounts i have 3 characters which actually i'm serious about training
now at the current rate thats 5 * 30d a month. which by your formular would be
1500 points.
Now the system suggested by you would allow me to optimize point usage
Now with 3 characters in training thats 360 points a month for the training.
Usually i login up to 3 characters at the same time, so if i get your formular
right, thats 360 more points, bringing me to 720 points.
Now i have 12 characters that are one-pointers, adding 360points
which brings me to a total of 1080 points.
Meaning i would get from 5 plex that i need to 3.6 plex that i need,
effectively lowering the income of CCP - which i don't think is a good idea.

And frankly, i allready calculated this in your favour, because there will be
alot of days where i only login 2 or less characters at the same time.

About the multiboxing discussion allready going on in the comments here:
yes multiboxing in the way you suggest it, aswell as with some of the
multiboxing tools available, which allow you to synchronize commands
you do gain an unfair advantage.
If you look at PVP where we have two sorts of ways of killing a hostile ship:
possibility 1: we do more damage per second than the other side can repair
on that ship. - multi boxing clients just add a bit damage, and a bit targets,
its all "fair", sort of.
possibility 2: alpha-based, where you try to create enough damage with the first
volleys to kill the ship before repairs can kick in - here you end up with
a huge advantage if your firing is synchronized by software rather than
people switching through accounts, or even just following spoken orders.

And no, you are wrong when you state
"Multiboxing is a multiplier, if you suck on one char,
you double-suck on two."
- if you suck at game mechancs and your fits are
crap you will still get out on top if you bring 5 ships that you can control
with too much switching arround over one player whos running one ship.

Gevlon said...

@Peter: CPU issues has to be solved anyway. Multiple monitor handling should be included too, allowing characters to be distributed on available monitors or even split a single monitor into character windows. It's technical issue, and the current inability of the client is a reason exactly to improve it.

You didn't give any reason why automated game functionality is bad. It actually just convenience.

Support become easier. They just sell "time points", how you use it is client-handled needing no human support.

CCP would lose money only on people who do it wrong now, like you. You shouldn't have 5 accounts, you should have 3. Moving characters between accounts is legit and you shall do it. When my station trader alts will be complete (in a year or so), I will move one of them to my main account, move the Titan/Carrier pilot to that account and terminate the third.

"multiboxing helps alpha" cannot be an issue. If alpha is accepted, then getting it easier is accepted too. If alpha is not OK, it should be handled on its own. (for example by limiting reload time of all weapons to 10 secs, adjusting their damage).

5-boxer vs 1 isn't an issue, unless you consider 5v1 an issue. I can't care less how many players sit behind the gank-squad. Multibox may make them more frequent but if it's legal, it's legal. If it's not, it should be stopped even if 5 different players do it.

Peter Petermann said...

your math went wrong there,
i cannot transfer a total of 15 characters to 3 accounts.

one person having synchronized alpha of 5 ships is stronger than 5 players having 1 ship each - i thought i made that point clear.

and, do you really need examples for why automation of gameplay is bad? the game is supposed to be played - doing stuff is supposed to be an effort, not to be slacking around.

Gevlon said...

@Peter: 15 characters? What the hell are they doing?

"alpha" is meant as damage done within 1 rep cycle. It doesn't really matter if they land in the same millisecond or distributed in 5 seconds.

Gameplay is DECISIONS, and not micromanaging trivial stuff. Do you think that "you can warp only 1 AU at once and have to re-start warp after every such jump" would add to the gameplay experience?

There is a genre of twitch games where the decision is trivial and the winner is the one with the faster reaction time. I doubt if you'd like EVE moving that way.

Peter Petermann said...

15 characters is not that much, depending on what you do.
most of 'em are either cyno alts, a few trade alts, a few transport alts, a corp holding character, scout alt, production and research characters..
i know people having more accounts than i have characters (and yes their accounts are full too.

as for the alpha, depending on the repair type 5 seconds are a difference - for example shield boosting is instant, if i can get enough alpha in before the hostile is enabling his shield booster - or before further hostiles get their remote boosts on him i win - if i don't i missed the alpha chance and am playing the dps game. so in worst case 5 seconds actually make a difference - and the times get much higher than that.

depending on your ship and your ships fitting and your skills you actually have to warp several times to reach your target =)
the joy of 200+ AU distances with a falcon.

now, there is a lot of stuff thats considered gameplay, which personally i cant be arsed todo, mining for example is considered gameplay - but i don't see much decision making there - personally to me it could be automated, but that would break the game for all miners, wouldn't it? also it would change my game from having miners that mine for me to playing solo - whats the point of an MMO then?

Hivemind said...

I loved the first half of this post, and as I was reading it I was fully prepared to write a congratulatory post for a well thought-out idea that would benefit the game a lot. Unfortunately the second half kind of nixed that.

The "and you can only have one client running at once" idea is an issue with several playstyles. Bluntly it comes down to the fact that not all multiboxers run their multiple accounts on top of each other - some use multiple monitors, some simply overlap windows. Either way, they make use of the ability to physically see multiple locations at once, for example by placing multiple scout characters either in different systems or at different places in a single system. For them, the ability to hear audio from all their clients is also useful, to hear stargate noises etc. While still technically doable with a single client, having to constantly switch between their characters like you suggest would quickly become exhausting and potentially misses vital information.

There are also situations where a player would want some characters on a multi-client to benefit from your "perfect multibox" setup with another in a different ship off-client so as to not break the perfect multibox (or not be affected by the multiboxing at all, while the others are) examples would be a group of characters in mining ships with a seperate character in an Orca (you wouldn't want the Orca's links toggling every time you switched mining lasers on), a group of damage dealers in a mission plus a seperate Noctis, or a gang of front line combat ships and a separate command ship boosting them.

So yeah, the benefits of having in-client multibox support would be great, but not at the cost of only being able to view a single character at a time.

On the additional payments/subscription options you suggested, again I like the idea but I'm not sure the implementation is feasible; if the system you suggest is used, I predict a lot of unhappy players who miscalculated the amount of time points they were using, go to log in and find they've run out of playtime. Not a game-breaker, but throwing inconvenience at players is bad, especially when, as their accounts would have all just run out, it would be very easy for them to just walk away from the game. I would suggest something simpler, working on 30 day instalments as the normal subscription does (which also provides CCP more revenue since you have to pay for 30 days even if you only need to use the service for 20 of them) - trading convenience for simplicity. Something like 1 PLEX for 30 days of 1 extra training character and concurrent login, perhaps with the option of paying 1/2 a PLEX worth of AUR for just one of those services, or 1 PLEX for 60 days of one of the two.

All that having been said, I love the core idea of being able to merge my accounts so rather than being able to concurrently log on 1 character from each account at once I instead get X amount of concurrent logons, which I can distribute regardless of who's on which account, and also so I could distribute training regardless of account-of-origin for the characters.

Trocadero said...

Alpha is acceptably balanced as it is now. When a group of players organize to suicide a ship, it is balanced in that sense that more players should have an upper hand over a lone one, no matter how tanked his ship is. Multi-box already break that balance, synchronized clients would make it worse.

In 0.0 warfare it would make blobs bigger as 1 player would be able to control more ships. The contrast between small and big fleet would grow, leading to less fights overall as FCs would just decide not to fight.

If the idea would be implemented without the synchronization you proposed, then the numeric balance would be preserved, while the convenience of operating multiple characters at the same time would go up.

As for the economic aspect of that change – it would all fall down to the popularity of the feature. A lot of older players have more than 1 account, while I think most of new players play only on 1. CCP would lose some money on consolidation of accounts of old players and that loss would have to be made up by new players buying more training/character slots. It all depends on ratio of both groups of players.

Hivemind said...

In response to the comments:

"It would make alpha easier", "It would lead to 1-man fleets", "It's automation" and the like:
There are already third party programs that allow a user to duplicate inputs across multiple clients, which means with the correct setup this level of multiboxing is already doable, and there are some players who already do it. As far as I am aware this software is legal as it's only duplicating human input - the account owner must still be at the keyboard, making commands manually. It's also possible to duplicate this on a hardware level using either a device called a switch which allows a single keyboard/mouse input to be sent to multiple PCs or simply using a set of wireless mice/keyboards of the same make/model and synching one mouse/keyboard to all the receivers. Both of those require one PC per account though. In other words "It already happens, it doesn't break the game". There's also the point where a skilled multiboxer who isn't using that kind of support can achieve similar results just through practice; not quite as fast, still good enough for steamrolling combat or alpha striking.

"RMT on the other hand "magically" place ISK on your account."
Well, let's see. The ISK you get selling PLEX (or even via illegal RMT) is generated by players ingame. If it's illegal RMT it may well be from botting, though accusations are frequently thrown around that high ranking leaders of various alliances are or have been skimming from alliance resources to sell to RMT traders, but that ISK was still earned via ingame methods. It's also not magical because you do not get it from nothing - effort was spent to get the IRL funds that you converted to PLEX to sell, and there is a finite limit to how many PLEX you could sell. Ultimately, can you explain what the difference is between someone who works a difficult, time-consuming but well-paying job that gives them a lot of disposable income they can convert to PLEX in the limited free time they have in order to enjoy the game, and someone who (to use the opposite extreme) is unemployed, plays EVE for 16 hours a day across 20+ accounts running an ingame financial/manufacturing empire that leaves them with plenty of ISK? In both cases, a lot of effort goes in, a lot of ISK comes out. Why does it matter so much whether IRL money served as an intermediary in the equation or not?

"Most cheating is performed by random guys who just downloaded some bot program. He don't know how to or can't be bothered to set up a virtual machine properly."
So you're an expert on botters in EVE? I haven't looked into it myself, but based on the RMT Tears posts from Nosy Gamer it seems like there are forums where this stuff is discussed, and it would probably be through these forums that people get the bot software itself. I would expect the average botter to be more well informed than the average EVE player, a cut above the usual M&S if you will, and to take advantage of available information if it helps them run their bots better (which I believe VMs do) and with less chance of getting their whole bot stable banned.

Gevlon said...

@Hivemind: "magical" refers to the ingame event of PLEX just appearing in your hangar out of nowhere.

The difference between the PLEX buyer and the 16-hours farmer is that I can defeat the second but can't defeat the first. I can blow up his ship, I can undercut his auction, I can use politics and spying to remove him from the corp that helps him. There is absolutely nothing I can do to prevent the PLEX buyer from getting ISK.

Of course the above is academic as the PLEX buyer will defeat himself by buying an expensive ship and get himself killed, however it doesn't change the idea behind it.

Guthammer said...

That still adds a lot of complexity to the set up and requires even more resources.

Hivemind said...

I was going to concede that there is a difference in how the two examples I gave would break down in the face of opposition - the farmer's income slowly decreasing as you out-compete him in more areas, the PLEX seller's income remaining constant until he runs out of IRL money. Then I realised that wouldn't actually happen - the ISK value of one PLEX is set by supply and demand, if a seller floods the market they will get ever decreasing amounts of ISK per PLEX so their income also tapers off.

I definitely disagree that there is nothing you can do in the face of someone competing with you backed by IRL cash to buy PLEX - they are not sitting on an infinite supply of cash, thus at some point they will hit their spending limit and be unable to continue selling PLEX. If you can put enough pressure on them - through price manipulation of goods they want, by destroying their in-space assets (or paying others to do it for them) and bringing pressure to bear on their allies, you can still drive them to bankruptcy ingame.

You could also destroy their ability to purchase ISK by crashing the PLEX market, though that would be extremely difficult to do for any length of time.

Other points
> Can you really guarantee you can take out the 16 hour farmer? The example I gave was using 60+ characters over 20+ accounts (which does happen - there aren't many but there are a few one man cartels on that scale, not counting bot networks). Can you really track down everything he's doing to make money and shut it all down? And then what he switches to after that? Because if you're going to answer "Exhausting the PLEX guy's bank account would be far more difficult", this is the alternative.

Anonymous said...

RMT in EVE is bi-directional: If buying PLEX with rl money and selling them for isk is cheating, then buying PLEX for isk and "selling" them for rl money is cheating, too: both create a link between the real world and the game world which shouldn't exist. Using isk bought PLEX for your account payment is exactly such a game -> rl money transfer, even if rather limited. And if nothing else buying PLEX with isk is supporting cheaters.

Running several accounts is RMT. And RMT to gain an in-game advantage is cheating. Either you pay rl money for the accounts directly. Or you use isk to buy PLEX in game and use those PLEX - which is as much cheating as shown in (1).

Even outside the RMT issues, multiple accounts break several in-game mechanics. The most obviously one is skill-training on multiple characters. The game lets you train only one out of three possible characters at the same time and you are bypassing this mechanic by using several accounts.

Other examples are: trading in several far-away places (even at the same time if you so wish), fleet booster alts or healing alts for a combat main, hauling alts for a mining main, salvage alts for a mission running main etc. All these activities are either impossible on a single character or require serious time investment and can only be done sequentially.

How can you consider bypassing/breaking core game mechanics NOT cheating?

But my core problem with a lot of your posts lately isn’t so much the question what is cheating and what not but that you are randomly picking some issues and label them cheating and others you simply declare fine. You are basically just cherry-picking: what serves you fine is proper game play (inverse-RMT, multiple accounts), what you dislike (RMT) is cheating. And while you are of course free to state your opinions on your blog, you don’t just present them as personal opinions but state them as absolute facts and dismiss other, equally valid opinions as “stupid” or worse. In my opinion that doesn’t make for good blog posts.

MoxNix said...

"Press one button and all you 8 tornado alts fire at once."

You can do that now with simple autoit scripts. It's common practice for multi-boxing in many games and not considered cheating... If it was considered cheating it'd be impossible to detect without the game installing spyware on your system.

Anonymous said...

Math for Gevlon's account.

Current system: 4 accounts x 6 points = 24 points

Training mode: 4 learners x 4 points = 16 points.

Goals reached mode: 1 learner x 4 points + 3 capped alts x 1 point = 7 points.

CCP makes much less money from Gevlon on this idea, since CCP can't charge for the unused nonlearning character slots and can't charge for learning time that isn't needed. This may be true for many alt makers.

As you say, if it encourages new multi-accounts, CCP does make money there. (Me, perhaps)

Unknown said...

I would support this motion if it meant a lower monthly fee for me if I only want to play 1 toon.

As a one-toon man I don't care for any of the functionality suggested.

NoizyGamer said...

@Hivemind - Many, but not all, sites that sell bots have their own forums where they discuss things and receive technical support. And yes, botters will go to some lengths to set up their computers just right. That tells you how profitable botting is, at least until you get caught.

The purpose of setting up virtual machines isn't to improve performance. It is to attempt to mask their IP addresses so the botting accounts cannot be linked to their main account.

One thing I would have to take issue with is that botters are a cut above the usual M&S. They may be more technically proficient, but some of them are dumber than rocks. For instance, I saw a post from a bot dev recently that said he was looking into whether CCP can detect virtual machines. I would think so since CCP came right out and stated that they have never seen a user using a VM that was doing it for a legitimate purpose. If CCP detects you using a VM, then that's a red flag.

One other thing. One of the things that makes bot forum porn interesting, at least to me, is some of the idiotic things botters admit to doing. Like, using the mimic human behavior settings and then botting for 12-14 hours straight.