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.

 

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Quick Random updates


Random grab bag of thoughts.

I’m leaving 401k and my corp. There’s a whole blog post to come about that, but suffice to say i’m joining up with some guys who match my playstyle. Manson Family here I come.

Evebloggers.com (Which gives me the most traffic) has stopped working. Which sucks a lot. Firstly as it is the go to page for the blog list, but also because it drove a lot of people to read my stuff. Must go viral.

I did my first Jump Freighter run the other day. Initial terror was replaced with relaxed fear after a while. Need more cyno alts.

I am looking forward to the HAC and Medium Long Range changes. However it does mean a long train to get Amarr Cruiser 5. Damn it!

Almost completed Advanced Spaceship Command 5. Capital Ships: Coming soon.

And thats that.

Peace Out

War On Test: Why We Fight


We are resetting Test.

The reason is that we want to achieve some sov, and the best way is to assault the test holdings. This is for some strategic direction and will involve tight doctrine ships and lots of structure shoots….naaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!

The real reason was posted by Zeroniss yesterday, and I really liked reading it:

“The purpose behind the formation of 401K was simple. We are a number of experienced corporations that have tried and done a lot of what this game offers. At the end of the day though, after all the nonsense and politics, we want to just enjoy the game and have fun.

The entire idea behind the Retirement Club is to not take ourselves too seriously, not become too embroiled in pettiness or politics, and to just focus on having fun and generating fun for our membership, because it is always the membership that comes first.

Eventually over time we included younger corps into our midst and realised you don’t need to be old and jaded and bitter to have some of the same ideals to want to enjoy the game while striving to be good at it.”

The reason to reset Test is for fights.

Test wont be the only reset we do. And it is for no good reason for the fact they are around, and want fights.  We want more fights, more good interesting fights, and this is how we are going to get them.

We are not a large alliance. We are here for fun. Lets have fun.

When you read that, it sure makes things simple. When you distill it down, it looks a lot better.

Goodbye NYAN: Alliance update


The Nyan Cat Pirates are leaving 401k.

Unlike the last corp booting, this one isn’t with animosity, but because their raison d’etre isn’t being met by the alliance. They are awesome guys. Give them a wave if you see them. They are nothing less than fabulous.

I think it’s hard to have a catch all alliance. You have to be really big to accommodate everyones play style. And we are not that big. Getting smaller it seems. I’m sure the “Slope” chat will occur in short order (http://evemaps.dotlan.net/alliance/The_Retirement_Club)

In a more positive not, Zeroniss put up a post on our forums getting us back to the core principles of the aliiance. Getting invovled in fun content and good fights, as well as good corp and alliance fleets. And shooting goons, cause there’s loads of them near us, and they seem to dislike the alliance because of one member we have for some reason.

That a pretty good way to run.

KOTH is this Friday, i am going to be providing a full battle report in it. Fear the awesome that will soon arrive.

Peace out

Quick Update: Alliance woes


It has not been a good time for the Alliance.

Long story short: a corp was a bit upset at our chosen PvP. We were doing regular EU time zone roams to get some fights while waiting for better opportunities. They didn’t like this. There was some behind the scenes discussions that led to the Alliance Leader asking them to leave, but with full blue status and time to get assets out.

However they decided to leave not in a polite fashion. And decided to make a stink. But not before leaking all the chat logs.

This is where it all falls down for me.

I get why you disliked the current PvP stuff. I get the reasons. That’s cool. I also get that you may not like the direction of the alliance, and were not happy that Zeroniss kicked you out. And that the ‘behind closed doors’ chats might have been not nice or pleasant.

I get that.

But delivering a colossal “up yours” to the alliance after all that means you are doing it to all the pilots.

All the guys you flew with.

Every last one.

I loved fleeting with you guys. The fights were good. You seemed pretty chill. If it was an issue with Zeroniss or Sir Molle, I get that you wanted to hit back at them. But did you not think of everyone else with what you did?

Maybe you did? Maybe the whole idea was to try to split the alliance up. I dunno. In the end its your guys call. I just think it was pretty uncool.

I won’t lie. As it stands, we are not in the best of states. But I have to report that the corp I am in is still very tight. Our CEO had a meeting last night and we were all of one mind. ReSpawners have some good people and I enjoy fleeting with them.

Anyway, i’ll get onto the rest of my day later.

Peace out.

Blog Banter #48 – Lore


“How important is “fluff” in Eve online? Would eve online be the same if it were purely numbers and mechanics, or are the fictional elements important to the enjoyment of the game? Would a pure text, no reference to sci-fi or fancy names still be an engaging game? Should CCP put more or less emphasis on immersion?” (http://www.ninveah.com/2013/08/blog-banter-48-lore.html)

In a pure game-play perspective, the fluff is just that. It isn’t ‘needed’ at all. You can have Faction A/B/C/D fighting in faction warfare. And Faction A/B/C/D ship types. The universe could just be a generic universe. No need to add in “Jove” or “Caldari’ any of the races or pirate factions. You put placeholder names in and the core mechanics of the game will be just that.

But it would seem cold, and clinical. It would be boring. Same ship shapes, same weapons, same mechanics and the same uniform space.

The fluff may not be needed for the game, but it certainly gives it some oomph. It gives it soem colour. Some flavour.

How many times have you heard of a player quoting the Minmatar prayer: “Trust in the Rust” and marveling in the awesomeness of the Rifter. Or the Amarrian player who starts quoting scripture just randomly, because they love the golden ships? These aren’t players who fully immerse themselves in the lore, but do like the setting enough to at least be aware of it. Removing the fluff would remove some of the emotional motivation. So having it there for players who don’t fully immerse themselves is a good idea.

Have you visited the Eve Gate? How about the monolith? These are small parts of the lore, but people who are casual do make pilgrimages there, just to say that they were part of it. Or that they were there. That’s an evenings worth of content right there. Just by adding in some lore. An evenings worth of personal game-play.

Then we get to those who love lore. Who love the chronicle, and who love reading the meta-game drama of the empires. And these players, those who love the setting, is what this lore is amazing for. Check out C.V.A (http://www.cva-eve.org/) . Have a look at the blogs that provide IC prose and fiction (http://satyrwood.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/preparing-for-null/ is a more recent example). With no lore, this part of the game-play would evaporate. And what is an MMO, if not a vessel for escapism. This lore provides the deeper immersion these players want.

It isn’t just the hard core. Many of the players get a kick out of being part of these universe events. The titan battle at Caldari Prime was a major example, with so many players being a part of it, and loving that they got to shape the world a little, or at least get involved.

You can remove the fluff. But it would have no soul. And Sci-fi fans are nothing , if not obsessive, about the ‘fluff’. And if you develop a deeper lore, and give players the ability to uncover it for themselves, then you will be rewarded with greater engagement by the player base. That is something we have been lacking, that players can uncover detail for themselves.

I think CCP should put a bit more thought into Lore, and back-story, especially in light of the “Build your own star-gate” mechanics coming soon. It would not be wasted time. And could retain current players, while opening up the game to new players who love engaging with the greater universes story.

That’s my first attempt at a BB. Hopefully it is up to scratch!

Peace out.

The Return of the Band of Brothers? (Alliance thoughts)


Before I begin: That was a fairly intense ATXI wasn’t it? Full props to Pandemic Legion for pulling out the win when their backs were against the wall. You can check out all the ATXI stuff here: http://www.twitch.tv/ccp . Given time the matches will pop up on YouTube.

Okay, with that out-of-the-way, personal nerws.

Out Alliance went down to HopHib to hook up with NCdot and take part in some ops. Now, having to move up then move down within a week has been a bit of a breaker of wills. Much kudos to my Corp for helping me move my stuff. I managed to get most of it out, but 6NJ was in full firesale mode. Many thanks to Black Legion for bubbling the station to make our leaving a little more exciting *shakes fist*.

I was bored after no ops so I popped thee Warp Core Stabs on a Retriever and decided to CannonBall run down through CFC space, for shits and giggles. (Sorry Rixx: http://eveoganda.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/wcs-ecm.html). It was quite fun, as I had about 5 ships just behind me, desperate to get a point. And it was going so well, right up until they got a Sabre in front of me. Well it saved me another 20 jumps or so as I appeared in a new clone. Worth a run, and hopefully fun for the other side as well.

I understand that people consider 401k to be BoB. Well, you can rest easy now. Happy Endings (F0NDL) and Fin Fleet (FINFL) have decided that the direction the Alliance is taking is not for them, so we have bid them adieu. They were fun to fly with, and I wish them the best, but they will not be a part of 401k now. And with that, the :tinfoil: about the new BoB comes to an end.

Is the BoB rage stuff still going on btw? When is the shelf life for this? Molle is a military planner, but he isn’t in charge (That would be Zeroniss). At what point do people begin to chill out? I guess I just don’t get all the demonization of people. Mittani is just a dude. Molle is just a dude. They aren’t the second coming of Satan. The CFC are not evil personified. Pandemic Legion are not the Mongol hordes. Some of the time, they give fun fights. And that’s why we play, isn’t it. For the random fun explosions in space?

Well, if you excuse me, I have to go get some more BPO’s from out ‘inside man’ in CCP, while at the same time tactically resetting nodes for our advantage. Being evil takes work you know. (Yes, i am kidding, so chill)

P.S If you are new to EvE, take some time to read some of the old stuff (Good link: http://www.eve-tribune.com/index.php?no=archive&page=1). It is AMAZING. The BoB war was some of the most exciting content to come out of an MMO, with deception, lies, guile and an awesome tactical move that seemed suicide, but worked beyond anyone’s wildest dreams (I’m taking GS dropping their claimed space to assault directly into the heart of their enemy).

This game is awesome.

Peace out.