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.


Blood raiders ratting: First steps

It’s been a quiet few days.

I decided to go up to our designated ratting system (We have been given an area to rat in. Sweet.) in order to see what it would be like. No, I am not telling you the system. as I like not being hot dropped.

First issue: It’s Blood Raiders. So we have to deal with EM/Therm damage as well as capacitor warfare. Ouch. That doesn’t make my job easy.

So I dig out a Tengu, grab my missile clone, rummage up some faction modules from my old PvE pile, and start to fit it up:

[Tengu, Why am I taking a shield tanker to Blood Raiders?]
Caldari Navy Ballistic Control System
Caldari Navy Ballistic Control System
Caldari Navy Ballistic Control System
Caldari Navy Ballistic Control System

Republic Fleet 10mn Afterburner
Dread Guristas EM Ward Field 
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Dread Guristas Shield Boost Amplifier
Pithi B-Type Small Shield Booster 
'Censer' Medium Capacitor Battery (Is this worth it?)

Heavy Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Fury Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Fury Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Fury Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Fury Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Fury Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Fury Heavy Missile

Medium Bay Loading Accelerator I
Medium Warhead Flare Catalyst I
Medium Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I

Tengu Defensive - Amplification Node
Tengu Electronics - Dissolution Sequencer
Tengu Engineering - Augmented Capacitor Reservoir
Tengu Offensive - Accelerated Ejection Bay
Tengu Propulsion - Fuel Catalyst

Yes, it’s pretty bling. I had a load of these modules from my Level 4 mission running days, when I was PvE heavy and just getting the best modules for everything, so there wasn’t much cost for me. With this fit I’m hitting a good 80% resists to EM/thermal and it is cap stable. The capacitor battery is the one choice I am completely unsure about. Should I add extra buffer? How about another resist module? Or maybe something else?

And here is where we hit a problem. The range is amazing, the tank can take forsaken hubs with ease. So it should be a no brainer? Apparently not. I’m hitting a barrier on DPS and no matter what I do I don’t thing this generates the raw damage i need to be running anomalies.

Make no mistake, this is a good fit. And it does do well. It just doesn’t do as I would normally like.

So whats the alternative? Whats the better choice in this situation? I have been pondering an Oracle Fit. Or even an Apocalypse? I will admit, I am not that well thought out in theorycrafting. I’m assuming Lasers or Missiles might be good due to the Damage type. Te ship will have to deal with all ship types (Frigates up to Battleships), deliver good DPS, but also be able to mop up frigates whilst having a good tank against EM and Thermals.  I can use T2 Hybrids, Lasers and Heavy Missiles. I have Battlecruisers 5 for all races, so there should be something I  can use for this.

It will have to be something to ponder. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Peace out.

PvP Logistics: Why Incursions are great practice!

I wrote a few paragraphs on how to get into incursions. Then I realized that there are two great resources that would be better than my atrocious prose. 256px-Oneiros

What I want to write was an explanation about my experience, and why any fleet logistics pilot should get their feet wet with incursions.

My own time with Logi was inspired by incursions. I started the long train to get into it, wanting to get a taste of the Gravy Train. As part of Eve Uni we had our own regular incursion fleet. This was great as we has a lot of beginner players, wanting to get into incursions, and an FC who was willing to take the time to explain what was going on.

I was terrible to start with. I would take so much time looking in the broadcast window, finding the person in the overview, locking them up. So slooooow. I would not be ready for spikes in alpha damage. Oh yes, i was terrible.

And during that time I learned a great many things. Locking up via the broadcast window. Setting up my watch list. Pre-locking certain ships to avoid the lock time. Listening to the FC calling primaries and how he chants, to get an idea of how the fight was going. Learning to stagger the activation of reps, and visually getting an idea if I need to apply more or less reps. Capacitor management. Knowing when to let a ship die, or when to overheat your reps to keep a ship up.

And, through all of that, was the knowledge that this was a “safe” fight. The opponents were not PvP. They would not leave the field. And they were predictable and repeatable.

The ISK is also awesome.

How did this help? First real fleet fight i got in as Logistics I saved three ships in deep structure and i can point to our victory in that fight to me coming in at range and maintaining our core DPS ships. And i didn’t freak, i wasn’t nervous, I just kept cool and did the work. All because I had the practice I was given in incursions.

If you haven’t given them a try, or are still super nervous about fleet fights, get in there. The community is friendly, and you will be able to practice your fleet fight skills in a safe , controlled environment.

Peace out.

End of Deployment

So, our deployment to Fountain has come to an end, and we soldier back to our home in Venal. We have an entire week with no fleets to gain ISK.

Which leaves me in a predicament. What should I do to gain ISK?

Now this is hard. I won a Somer Blink thing and got a stupid amount of ISK, and this is sitting in my Capital fund. But even with a T2 capital set I’ll still be on 10 billion. So I don’t need the money, but it’s good to get into the habit of earning it.

I have a few options.

Mining: Null sec mining got a major buff, so I could just mine  my ass off. In doing so I could start some manufacture in nullsec, or work on POS fuels. This may be what i do, as very few people do it. Got to be prepped for the hot drop though.

Planetary Interaction: This is always an option. Get some PI on the go and earn ISK in a passive fashion. it is also good in that If i do it right, I could just manufacture POS Fuels in nullsec.

Exploration: I think everyone and their dog will be doing this. Relic/Data sites can be super profitable though. Its kinda fun, and rewarding.

Ratting/Sites: Fighting PvE, with possibility of loot drops. Again the exploration system makes this awesome. Doing it in nullsec does leave you open to the hot drop however. i have got to be careful.

Missioning: I could slowly kill myself and get some standing with Guristas, and earn pittance. Let me think….

Incursions: My first PvE love. I could join Incursion fleets and go kick some ass. Is there still an Incursion civil war on the go?

This is not going to be an easy choice. Do you guys have any ideas?

Peace out