Fixing Eve: Hacking Minigame


So, lets talk about mini-games. Let talk about hacking, and mining.  Lets talk about how we can make it better.

The hacking mini-game came in with Odyssey, to a lukewarm reception. Odyssey gave some very good and interesting tools for exploration. The core mechanic in these being the ‘hacking’ mini-game that comes up when you use you data or relic analyser module.

This game is terrible. And by terrible I mean it is not based on any sort of skill on the behalf of the pilot, but instead on luck. It is  boring and lacks any finesse on the part of the player.

Sure, there are ways for the aspiring pilot to mitigate the luck as much as they can, ways to minimise hitting the bad nodes. Nodes that can be ignored or attacked depending on setup. But it doesn’t need any bad clicks. Just sheer luck can make the game unwinnable.

From a game design perspective I can see what they were influenced by, and I want to go over that, and then cover changes, small changes, that I think would add to the hacking mini-game, but also make it more of a game, than a random chance.

The Influence: Deus Ex Human Revolution

There is no doubt in my mind that the successful hacking mini-game in Deus Ex provides some small inspiration for what was created in Eve.

The hacking game gives the player a target node to capture, a set of links (both one way and multi way), as well as node that have special effects on the game grid. The player has their own hacking skill and other abilities to affect the grid, a set of viruses with different effect, and the element of chance. Each node must be captured to allow you progress. Capturing anode can alert the security system at any time. Once alerted it begins to “backtrace” the player. So at that point the hacking becomes a race against time.

The myriad ways of playing the game , as well as the possibility for finesse on the part of the player, really makes this an exceptional part of the Deus Ex game. I know of players who would forgo actually opening a door with a key in order to enjoy the hacking mini-game. That’s the true test of any skill gateway: Does the player get bored with it?

Why it works

It works because it is a mix of strategic and tactical. The player has time to map out their strategy at the start, choosing nodes to capture in order to progress. The initial phase is stealth, doing the least amount of activity to avoid alerting the security system. The use of viruses to help this is key. But this strategic moment, the fact the play space is known, and that the player is in control of their destiny, is what really kicks things off.

When the system is alerted, it becomes fast twitch game. Multiple captures can be chained, as well as node reinforcement, all to give additional time to the hack to get victory. Finesse is out the window as brute force is used to achieve the aims.

Why it can’t work in an MMO

And here is where we have to acknowledge the inherent issues facing an MMO. MMO’s have a ‘tick’: A processing cycle that executes any player actions/commands and returns the results. For eve, this server tick is 1 second. And 1 second per action means any twitch games are impossible if they are run through the server.

Let us not forget the possibility of Lag.

The alternative is to allow the Client to run the game, and simply send the result of the game. But the first thing I learned when writing MMO’s [1] was that you CANNOT trust the client. Clients can be hacked, memory manipulated and the response can be forged. You cannot allow the client to be in charge of anything that has an affect on the game.

Some MMO’s manage some twitch like mechanics, or make it seem like twitch, but this issue is one that is important in eve. So knowing this, the fact the eve hacking mini-game has no twitch elements makes perfect sense. but it does mean any game must have no twitch elements.

Improving the Hacking Minigame

So, we want to have some skill based elements. We want it to reward skill on behalf of the player, but also be simple enough for players to learn to achieve success quickly. We want players to be fully in control of their destiny, to limit luck.

Node Highlights

I used to play a board game called Advanced Squad Leader (don’t judge me). Anyway, in that we had stacks of units, but they were covered by a counter that had a (?) on it. The ? counter let you know there was a possibility of something there, but you didn’t know what it was. In some cases that ? might have nothing there. But it gave you some idea of where to go and what to do. It aided your planning.

In the Eve mini-game I would highlight all nodes. Have them displayed at all times on the game grid. I would not reveal what those nodes where (be they good or bad), except for perhaps a hint colour for nodes that may be the goal node. Thus when the game grid is loaded up, the player can see the challenge presented, and can plan their moves accordingly. Which nodes do they go for. Which nodes seem most dangerous. Which would prevent progress. The use of choke points in the game grid to have some nodes that must be traversed , but with multiple options might also help. Do you risk Route A or Route B?

Bonus Nodes

I would add in an additional node type: The Bonus node. The Loot gained from the mini-game is good, but if we added some nodes that are optional, but deliver enhanced rewards if captured, we give the skilled player the chance to increase their profitability. It also add an additional risk for the hack, all for the possibility for enhanced rewards. Do you explore the hidden nodes, in the hope there is some extra loot there?

Hacking Scripts

In the current set up you can pick up utilities as you traverse the game grid. These utilities have a positive effect on the player’s progress. I think CCP missed a beat in not allowing the modules to have utilities loaded at startup. I would add in a set of scripts that can be leaded into your module. These scripts would modify your stats/initial utilities at the start of the game. Perhaps a script would increase your Virus Strength, or increase your Virus Coherence. Or perhaps it would give an initial load-out of utilities. Players could then shape their style of play by suing these scripts. And the multitude of options for those scripts (Mixing each attribute and loadout) would mean they could be hoarded, collected, sold. And if we made these scripts limited use then it adds a small ISK sink to the process as well, and allows the player to make a trade-off.

All of these changes places the power back in the hands of the player, and removes chances as an element, replacing it with skill, and encourages players to “Shoot for the moon” with increase rewards, with the added Risk of failing the hack.

That’s just my thoughts an ideas on the hacking mini-game. I’m not sure if this is the best place to put them, I think ill try to pop them on the CSM forum as well, see how that works.

Peace out.
[1] : My previous job was Content Developer for Jagex. I have worked on RuneScape as well as Transformers Universe. I did a few mini-games in my time (not very good ones, ill have you know), but mostly Systems programming. Feel free to ask about it if you like.

 

Trying out the Manly Maulus (Solo)


I was checking out a Youtuber called Clahim. He has nice channel devoted to small solo pvp. (http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSfCv82rDbjbfaXCZf7Ll9A)

As you know, I am utterly terrible at eve, and always wanting to learn, so watched his videos. There are some cracking ones in there, but one that caught my eye was a Maulus fit that ignored the hull bonus, and focused on its other strengths. 4 mid slots and a big drone bay. Thus making for a good tank and good DPS.   The “Manly Maulus” :

Lets look at the fit:

[Maulus, Manly Maulus from Clahim]
Dual Light Pulse Laser II
Dual Light Pulse Laser II

Medium Shield Extender II
Warp Scrambler II
Stasis Webifier II
1MN Afterburner II

Drone Damage Amplifier II
Damage Control II
Navy Micro Auxiliary Power Core

Small Core Defence Field Extender I
Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Anti-Thermal Screen Reinforcer I

Hobgoblin II x 6

I’m working up to Drone Interfacing 5, but at 4 I get a decent amount of DPS off the fit, with a pretty good tank. but the only way to test the fit is to go out and get blown up: Which was what I tried to do. And yes, the Pee Pew lasers is also awesome. I assume I could get better DPS from other guns, but for this fit most of the DPS was from Drones, and the gun DPS was added icing on the cake. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

My target: Novice Plexes in FW. Novice plexes prevent any ship from entering them except for T1 frigates. This limits the engagements to my level, and meant I could get at least a fair fight. As long as I didn’t get dogpiled that is!

So, first few attempts and I come up with jitters. Forgot to point a Merlin that ran off, and played cat and mouse with a bantam that refused to stay on grid with me. I moved through systems till I reached Manjonakko. Now this was full (over 60 pilots) and with 5 novice plexes, I thought id be able to get some action.

First catch of the day was a rifter. Kill was here: http://www.manson-family.com/kill/816259

I came in on the warp in and he was sitting 2k away from me, just waiting on the button. I quickly lock him up and nail him down. I will admit to being nervous. after a second I reminded myself to launch my drones. DPS is needed! Waht a horrible error. But it doesn’t matter, as the fool has not even started locking me up. Too focussed on his FW methinks.

It didn’t take long, I wore him down quickly. After the fight I could see why. Tech 1 guns on a Rifter set up for Tank. This was one of those ships that as designed for the NPC spawns and to farm plexes, and not for any PvP engagement. A cheap kill, but it got my feet wet.

Next plex held a Kestrel. Rockets make my transversal tricks less good, and i was guaranteed to have a tough fight. But I hoped my Drones would burn him down.

I warped in and got the tackle. Instantly he responds with the same. We are both scammed and webbed. No one is going anywhere and we are in it for the duration. I keep the AB running as any speed mitigates some of the rocket damage.

I’m shooting him with Multifrequency in the hope I would land more hits , but he starts trying to get range. Transversal drops to zero and I make the decision to switch to Conflaguration. He is faster than me, but this fight is almost over and he wont get away. With no Transversal I am guaranteed to hit with full DPS, and Conflagration has slightly better damage.

Then I notice, my shield tank is gone. he still has shield. I am gonna die, crap, what do I do. Everything is overheated. I can do nothing but wait as my armour goes, then into structure. I make an effort as the last slivers of hull go away to try to break off. but it’s in vain. I wont be able to warp out. time to pay the pier.

And then.

Nothing.

http://www.manson-family.com/kill/816258

I won the race. The Kestrel was fit for DPS, so no Damage Control in the low slots. As soon as the shield disappeared my drones and lasers ripped through his ship like paper. And the choice to change to Conflaguration for that little bit extra DPS meant I won the race.

Damage Control 2: I love you so very much.

I couldn’t get another fight so I called it  a night. A great many mistakes, but I learned something, and my first foray into solo PvP was a success. Hope to be doing it more soon.

Peace Out.

It’s The End Of 401k As We Know It…


The news from my former alliance is that Evolution, the Sir Molle fronted corp, has left 401k (dotlan link here: http://evemaps.dotlan.net/alliance/The_Retirement_Club )

Sir Molle was the military director for 401k. In addition EVOL has over 300 members. That’s over a third of 401k, all gone. And the latest reddit rumours (http://www.reddit.com/r/Eve/comments/1monrs/401k_cascade/) is that Shiva is “considering its options”. With Zeroniss stepping down from Alliance lead, that means, in coded language, they are about to jump ship.

And that tells me 401k is coming to an end.

I was enthusiastic when i was in there. I worked hard, attended fleets, and really tried to help out. But there were too many factors against fun that it did turn into a slog at times.

Enforcing a deployment was the big mistake. It took far too much effort to get stuff shifted and we barely made a difference. And that hit morale bad.

The move from null-sec to HopHib to get into the NC. fleets was a mistake. We never really got into their fleets, and things went down hill.

Then we started losing corps.

Finfleet left, and that wasn’t big in my eyes. But NYAN leaving was huge. They formed some awesome fleets.

Then Manson left. And we were told to deploy somewhere else. And i got to talking to the Manson guys.

They ran the awesome KOTH fleet. They ran all the fun fleets i was in.

I jumped ship. It was a no brainer.

And, after that, i hear that 401k got station camped by PL, and now we are where we are.

I feel bad for it, but then, I think it was falling apart anyway. Good luck to all the guys that are in 401k. Sorry that it’s ending. i hope you find a place to call your own.

Peace out.

Stepping to the Plate: Poetic’s List of Grievances.


Poe announced his retiring from EvE. You can find it here: http://poeticstanziel.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/ciao-4-niao.html . I wanted to take a moment  to cover some of the points Poe made, and my own thoughts on them. Bear with me as I poke the hornet’s nest.

  • Hulkageddon not happening: Hulkageddon can still happen. There is nothing stopping it, all that’s needed is someone to step up and call for it.  Why isn’t it happening? Perhaps Helicity Boson didn’t have the time to set up the site. Perhaps the war for the CFC meant the cash wasn’t there. An enterprising pilot could maybe talk to Somer blink and get some sponsorship. Now, i’m aware that the Mining Barge changes meant that ganking barges is no longer the easy task it used to be, but that doesn’t prevent it from occurring. It just means any gank need to be set up correctly. So IMHO that isn’t a factor in the event not happening.
  • TOS Changes: I don’t see it as a big deal. The sort of scams that rely on misspelled names and saying you are someones alt are rare, and really boring. The scam where you slowly pull in your mark. Or the corp joiner who cleans out the hanger. That’s the real meat. That’s still going to happen.  This is not that big a deal, and I think people are making mountains out of molehills over it. It isn’t removing lying and subterfuge. Its stopping some cases that, tbh, are based on misreading an in-game font.  As someone who is Dyslexic. I don’t mind this. And a few other cases that they feel are causing issue. I don’t know the full reasoning, but i get the inclination.
  • Development Bad:  I agree and disagree. I agree that there hasn’t been a Jesus feature. The last 3 expansions have been revisions and not really expansions. There have been no added gameplay, not of the lies of wormholes or incursions. However the revision changes have been good, adding interesting new gameplay and fun times for all. The myriad Frigate and Cruiser fights happening now are a real bonus, and FW has ignited Low Sec to where it should be. The hacking game…it sucks. It is a terrible mini game and i could make better. But the idea of it, i like. the idea of a sub game to attached to exploration is cool. I think mining might be another area where this might help (I’ll detail how i would change mining in a later post)

I wont talk about Screegs and bots. It might be true, it might not be. But with no real evidence i cant really say, and I’m loathe to comment on something where there isn’t much proof.

So yeah: I can see where Poe is coming from. I may not fully agree with the criticisms, they do add up to a good enough set of reasons to give Eve a break, maybe forever.

I wont. Having too much fun killing stuff atm.  And that’s the real take away. If its fun, then that’s cool. But if its no longer fun, then taking  a break might be a good idea.

Peace out.

 

 

 

 

Hero Logi: The Not-So-Heroic Cutting and Running.


We built up a shield nano fleet for a quick roam. We were mostly T1: Continuing our quest to get good at T1 before we start on the T2. I was piloting Scythe, whilst my logi buddy was in an specially fit Osprey: Cap stable with a great many reppers. I have to say, the Osprey fit was pretty good, lots of repping power. But I like Scythe for all its versatility. 2 logi with 5 dps seemed to be a decent gang, so we started out on the roam

FW systems are very hit and miss. Whenever we send someone in, the solo button pushers dock up. Too much risk vs reward there. However if you cause some bother in that area you soon get someones attention.

And this attention was quite large, and gives a good set of lessons in small gang logistics:

  • Get some range from the fight. We were sitting at the gate, but as soon as the decision was made to engage we started burning away from the fight. I was AB fit, but the distance became really important later.
  • Get an idea of composition. The opposing fleet had Griffins and Exequror as support, and a good set of Cruisers for Damage. We spotted 3 Exequrors on the initial decloak.  We thought, rightly so, that we could use our DPS to alpha through the Exequror, whilst kiting, and pick them off over time. We were so wrong.
  • Be aware when the tactical situation changes. After the first 30 seconds of engagement, a further 2 Exequrors decloaked. This is bad news. The increase in Logi power meant we could do nothing to burn these guys down.
  • In a small gang, the Logistics call for the scatter. I cannot stress this enough. Our repping power was good, and for a minute or so we were keeping everyone up. Then the opposing fleet started calling primaries as opposed to spreading damage, and there was not a thing I could do to stop it. overheating all our 8 reppers was not preventing the first primary from falling, and with the removal of a good chunk of DPS we made the decision. I told the FC that we were ineffective, kept the repper on the last primary and turned and fled. The FC immediately said we should get out. This saved the bulk of the fleet.

Remember how i said i pulled range? Well, that range saved me, as the lone final Warp Scram dropped off after i overheated my AB to burn for warp. I had just enough range to get out.

We lost 2 ships out of 7. The opposing fleet lost nothing. After the fleet it as revealed that those griffins were very effective in jamming out our DPS. However only losing 2 in such an overwhelming kerbstomp was pretty good.

The fleet we faced was actually 2 fleets, and an almost Shakespearean betrayal later, and one part of the fleet was in pods, flying away. Our personal achievements are listed here: http://www.manson-family.com/relatedkills/816094/

We burned for home. Good lessons learned I think, and we will try again, tomorrow.

Sidebar: I've started to pop Reddit links to my blog posts, 
and a lot of the Reddit guys have come to have a look. 
Thanks for taking a read, I am open to feedback, 
and under no illusions that I am terrible! 
Feel free to drop any comments, questions, 
or good lessons as I hope it will help me in my Eve career.

Poetic Injustice


I still have a blog banter to write, but i wanted to take a moment to talk about another blogger: Poetic Stanziel. (http://poeticstanziel.blogspot.co.uk/)poetic_stanziel_2012_05_27 (1)

Poetic, like me, was an Eve Uni alumni. He spent much of his career doing stuff with Fweddit and the FW space. Recently he joined the CFC and helped with the fountain War.

His blog was abrasive, opinionated and regular. More recently his posts had atinge of Agit prop as well as good old CFC cheerleading.

One thing was sure, his posts were never boring, and they were always an interesting read.

Take the time to go have a look. He is branching out his writing to other areas now, but I think with him gone from EvE: New Eden will be lessened

Peace out.

“Nobody gives me the raspberry!”: Adventures in terrible PvP


Time continues to march on. And I have had a little bit of a break from writing. time to get back on the horse.

Man, I am straight up terrible at small gang pvp. I panic too quickly and forget things. I need to get blown up a few more times to really get used to my sitation.

I flew a Blackbird (please don’t hate me) with a corp mate in a Moa. A rook was doing a very slow orbit around a gate at 150, so we engineered warp ins. I aligned up and my mate in the Moa brings the tackle. I warp in and start applying Jams.

Straight away a slasher drops in with us and we start brawling. I get Jams off, and start taking drone damage. Then my shield warning goes off.

I panic, and fly off.

Here’s the Rub, I’m bloody Armour tanked.

I really need practice in Armour Tanking. Too many years flying Caldari has me trained to freak out when i hear the shield warning.

That being said, our blaster Moa didn’t really cause the Rook much pain, and we warped off with no losses on either side. But it was a glaring lesson. I need more small gang and solo PvP practice.

It’s a good thing we are in FW space.