Monday, June 18, 2012

Mining Ship Rebalancing And Botting - First Thoughts

Friday saw the publication of a dev blog from CCP Ytterbium about the upcoming ship rebalancing for the winter expansion.  While a lot of commentary focuses on the game play aspects of the changes, I'd like to take a little time and speculate on what the changes could mean for botters.  I don't see any effects on mission bots, but mining bots potentially will see major effects on their activities or at least see the need to reship into different hulls.

First a review of the changes and what CCP is trying to accomplish in terms of balancing mining ships.
Our goal is simple: each and every single mining barge (and their tech 2 variant) should have an appealing role, and not just be a stepping stone on the way to something better. Players should'nt only aim for the Hulk without considering anything else when doing some hard rock and roll mining. That means playing with the following variables: 
  • Mining output: first and most visible balancing factor, plan is to increase all barge mining output to be within an acceptable margin of the Hulk, not miles behind as it is currently. 
  • Autonomy: mining barges should have proper cargo holds so they not always have to rely on jet cans (without turning them into industrials however). That means giving them large, specialized ore bays where all the ore will automatically go into when mining. 
  • Resilience: another point is to give some of them proper EHP not to be one-shot by anything that even remotely sneezes on them. 
As a result we thus get: 
  • New ORE frig: we want this ship to replace current mining frigates as low barrier of entry vessel, but also fulfill high-end gameplay expectations by providing a very mobile platform for mining in hostile space. Lowest mining output, decent ore bay, little to no resilience. 
  • Procurer/Skiff: primarily made for self-defense. Better mining rate than the ORE frig, good ore bay, but capable of having battleship-like EHP. 
  • Retriever/Mackinaw: made for self-reliance. Has the largest ore bay, similear to the size of a jet can, second best mining output but less EHP than the procurer mining barge. 
  • Covetor/hulk: ore bay is identical to its current cargo hold, little to average EHP, but best mining output. Basically made for group operations when players have industrials and protection to back them up. 
At first glance, the major botters and those tied into RMT operating in high security space should run as normal.  They already run in fleets with Orca support.  Running without fleet support dramatically reduces the mining output of bots, which is why I included some tears about this a few weeks ago when the new Unified Inventory system broke bots.  But how about botters only running one or two accounts?  This comment from FireMagnet on the Eve Pilot/Eve Miner forums gives some hope.
"Welp, there goes solo hulk botting. Hulkageddon might have to be renamed Retrigeddon or Mackigeddon."
Since we don't yet know yet the mining yields for the revamped ships, FireMagnet's comment is possibly the natural reaction of an Eve player to change.  The critical factors to watch when the changes finally appear on the Singularity test server are mining yield and the capacity of the ore cargo bay.  From the description in the dev blog, Retrievers and Mackinaws should have a ore cargo capacity of around 25,000 cubic meters while a Hulk's ore capacity should not change.  The question is whether the Retriever/Mackinaw's capability to stay on-station mining longer will result in greater long-term yield compared to the higher output Hulk moving back and forth from the station more frequently.

Non-botter theory crafters will have difficulty in making this calculation because of each bot's human-mimicing algorythms.  For example, this exchange that occured on the Eve Pilot forums points out one effect that the War on Bots has on botting software design: 

Koisagi:  "Just a quick question thats been baffling me for a while, when my miner offloads to the station i think he goes and makes a cup of tea! in a nutshell can i reduce the time he spends in station between trips?"
ComalDave:  "Remember that the idea is not to get the maximum ore per hour, but rather to get the maximum ore without getting caught. EP taking a break to make a cuppa is a good thing."
So apparently the new botting union rules are that bots get to take a coffee or tea break when they return to the station.  That means trying to reduce the amount of trips that bots make back to the station.

Speaking of the ore cargo bays, I am interested to see exactly how that mechanic will work.  Will CCP allow the transfer of ore between the ore cargo bay and the regular cargohold while the ship is in space?  And how large will the devs make the regular cargohold?   Will the cargohold have just enough space to hold a set of mining crystals or large enough to hold a significant amount or ore?  These questions are of interest to all players, but the answers will influence how the bot developers need to change their bots once the newly designed ships are deployed on Tranquility.

Botters don't need to just worry about Team Security coming down and banning their accounts.  Even before The Mittani placed his permanent bounties for killing exhumers and mining barges into effect players across New Eden took joy in suicide ganking mining bots.  With Hulks apparently about to experience a nerf to their tanks, the top of the line exhumer is about to become much easier (and cheaper) to kill.  If that practice becomes common enough, I can see botters downsizing to Mackinaws or even Skiffs just for the survivability factor.  However, given the few reports I've read on the botting forums about ganking vs. the threat of account bans, botters downsizing because of player actions is probably wishful thinking.

Beginning at last year's Fan Fest CCP Sreegs put into place an attrition campaign against bots designed to limit the amount of bot usage, whether because of players no longer using bots or just not running them 23 hours a day as was standard practice in the past.  The current advice for botters is pretty well summed up by a statement posted by Eve Pilot developer Slav 2 on Friday, 14 June:
"CCP made quite good efforts to ban bots in the past and now rare botter use bot 23/7. These long running bots are found quite easily, the only you can do here is to hide bot activity. Dont do with bot anything you cannot also reproduce manually. That means 10h of botting per day is maximum you should do in order to be on the safe side with periods of logoff during day. Also CCP collects information about your system during login. If you use the same computer for several accounts (even if you just login to change skills), accounts became connected and there is a chance that all these accounts be banned at ones when bot found. You can use VMWare in order to separate bot and main account, but [in] my opinion VMWare users are banned more frequently then users who dont use VMWare."
With the bot supression efforts showing positive results, will those developing game features step up and join in the War on Bots™?  The Hulk changes show some promise but do CCP Ytterbium and CCP Soundwave have any further plans connected to the mining ship rebalance aimed at bot users?  I'll keep an eye on the issue because I do have some hopes the answer is yes.

3 comments:

  1. This post by CCP Ytterbium should interest you:

    https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&m=1481903#post1481903

    WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH THE HULK AFTER THE CHANGE? Exact modifications are still vague, but the plan is to quite reduce its cargo hold and add an ore bay of the same size than the removed cargo hold. That means cargo expanders and rigs won’t affect the ore bay at all, requiring players to unload ore more frequently. This is by design, as we want the Hulk to be moved into a fleet purpose that has to rely on others to make proper use of its best mining output. That also means we will not be introducing items that affect the ore bay size.

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  2. still no comment regarding the tank on the hulk from Ytterbium.

    I suspect the hulk will have abilities about the same as it has now, with the ret/mack hull having the BS tank

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  3. This is a good tactic that CCP is taking:

    Find the pain points that human players experience in mining that bots are a-ok with, then remove them.

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