Wednesday, July 2, 2014

ISBoxer: Unexpected Attention And Unanswered Questions

An interesting development is occurring on the ISBoxer front.  That silly little thread in the Assembly Hall section of the EVE Online forums asking the CSM to pressure CCP to ban ISBoxer is actually attracting serious attention, at least from the CSM.

Xander Phoena had expressed his thoughts on the use of ISBoxer before the CSM election and expanded upon them in his weekly CSM summary on Sunday:
"My own personal thoughts on this one are simple. Isboxer and it’s variants are a symptom of the problem rather than the cause. There are certain mechanics in game that cause people to use Isboxer because otherwise it would just be too damned tedious. However – and this is a big one – there are individuals out there piloting 20, 30 man bomber gangs solo with deadly precision. These people aren’t multiboxing because of a faulty mechanic as such (unless you want to argue that bombers are grossly OP in the current meta which makes them a faulty mechanic which they probably are) but because it is the ‘perfect’ way to run a small bomber gang.

"So yes, the mechanics need fixed, but none of us are so naïve as to believe that’s an overnight job. I would ‘like’ to see the likes of Isboxer banned. Of course, I’m well aware that ‘banning Isboxer’ isn’t quite as easy as that for CCP. It’s a pretty messy one. What I would like to find out from CCP definitively is what is and what isn’t allowed under the EULA. My understanding is that at the moment Isboxer itself is fine. What ‘may’ not be ok is using a piece of software such as Isboxer to allow one mouse click to activate 30 modules on 30 ships over 30 clients (yeah, I know – why would you use Isboxer otherwise).

"I’m not going to let this one go. Soon as I can organise a meeting with the correct people in CCP to make things more black and white, I’ll report back."

Sugar Kyle made a brief statement in opposition to ISBoxer in her weekly CSM update and expanded on her reasoning in the comments:
"It is the point where human ability to mulitask that ISBoxer shores up that does it for me. I'm a multiboxer but once I have 3 or 4 accounts going I mess up. I make market mistakes. I forgot to dump ore. I leave alts on gates. I don't cloak someone. I don't jump someone to a gate.

"It removes the breakdown of human error that comes with keeping track of so many things and so much divided attention."

But I didn't really get a sense that the issue was gaining attention within the CSM until I heard Major JSilva bring up the topic at the end of Big Country's talk show on EVE Radio last night (or this morning if you live outside the Americas).  In the chaos that followed, I didn't quite get Major JSilva's position, but I think he thinks that having a pilot actively at the keyboard for each ship in space, even if using ISBoxer, is better than seeing pilots park their ships and walk away from the keyboard.  I did hop into Sugar Kyle's chat channel after the show was over and confirmed that Major JSilva not only supports the use of ISBoxer, but is also a user.

Multi-boxing software is, at best, frowned upon by major MMORPG companies today.  The use of software like ISBoxer is banned in Guild Wars 2 and Wildstar while Blizzard took steps last year to curtail its use in the PvP setting of World of Warcraft battlegrounds. People don't like getting pwned by software.  That, I believe, is driving the current movement against the use of ISBoxer in EVE today.

But, how big of a problem is the use of ISBoxer, if its use is a problem, in EVE?  I think CCP really needs to quantify the issue and determine just how prevalent the use of the multi-boxing software truly is.  Of course, when I talk about multi-boxing software, I'm referring to Inner Space, the software that runs ISBoxer.

Inner Space, in addition to running the ISBoxer extension, also runs extensions that power bots like DirectEVE1 and ISXEVE.  If I were CCP, I would want to know how many Inner Space users are running ISBoxer vs extensions that power bots.  Is ISBoxer just a cover that helps hide serious botters who run Inner Space?  Or is botting use just a small percentage of Inner Space use and most of the use of the software is to run ISBoxer?

Also, farms of twenty, thirty up to fifty accounts mining make me suspicious.  Multi-boxing software would really help skirt around the prohibitions against botting use.  While botting is very cost effective for those gathering in-game currency for the secondary RMT market, having one player control 15 accounts at the same time would server the same purpose.  If I were the nosy type, I'd want to know if a lot of those accounts are linked to RMT rings or if users are running the software responsibly.

Don't ask me the answers to any of the questions I just posed, as I have no idea what the answers are.  But CCP could find out.  Back in 2013, CCP demonstrated the capability to detect Inner Space extensions, as the software runs in the EVE executable's memory space.  At the time, bot developers reported that CCP was just looking for the DirectEVE and ISXEVE extensions as well as Red Guard and an autopilot warp to zero hack.  If CCP were serious about finding out what is happening in their game, they would put some of the detection back in place to gather metrics.  Assuming, of course, that doing so would not stretch the resources of the security team.

Resources.  For me, that is the biggest issue.  Is trying to enforce the EULA where ISBoxer is concerned really worth the time and effort?  Perhaps CCP did the research last year and already knows all of these answers.  If so, according to my reading of the policy on client manipulation, the answer up is no.  But CCP did leave the policy open to change.  The question is: how big is the problem, and does CCP have the resources to do anything about the problem?  Assuming, of course, a problem actually exists.


1.  However, there is a move among botters who don't want to pay Lavish Software so they can use DirectEVE to develop a version of the Questor bot that does not use Inner Space.  I hear that at least one development fork actually works.


  1. It got banned in WoW pvp cuz people like one of my friends were running around with 9 nukers in what he called his anti-twink set up. Yeah u can control 9 toons in a WSAD game but lol it give u no advantage in eve. I also dont get the argument that it helps with the UI. This is bullshit. Like sugar said after 4 boxes most real humans will start to make mistakes. ISboxer eliminates this and thats why its cheating. And saying that having someone isboxing is better then afk cuz lol if the isboxer is mining hes pry semi afk. In summery multiboxing itself is already an advantage, ISboxer thats that advantage and turns it into something a normal player cant compete with. Id like to see someone 7 box bombers and get perfect runs with no ISboxer...most i can do it with is 4.

  2. Said it before, will say it again. CCP cannot afford to kill ISBoxer, because of the subscription hit. Does anyone seriously think that if CCP wipes out the 30 account stealth bomber players, that 30 more accounts by other individuals will spring up to replace them? Or the 50 miner fleets, or the 10 Paladin or 12 Vargur fleets?

    Subs are already down. They are going to take another hit when the full impact of Crius and the autumn's T2 invention changes come crashing down on the high sec industrialist.

    There is no way CCP can afford to kill off ISBoxer as well. Wiping out just one 50 miner fleet and one 30 stealth bomber fleet = 78 accounts (assume the player retains 1) = approx 1000 dollars a month in top line revenue

    Oh, and as an aside, not many can afford the 22-24 billion in ISK it takes to plex 30 stealth bombers every month, unless they are making insane amounts of ISK. How many of these ISBoxer's operated like that before the Blue Blanket covered so much of null?

    1. 24b isn't alot of u have 50 accounts.......esp when u can make a bil and hour using a few of their alts in a wh or even incursions. I said it b4 and ill say it again they are plexing their accounts wont cost ccp a dime. Ur right not many can afford it did but the whole 10 guys really abusing isboxer can. The only one losing money off eve banning isboxer is IS. And u can't really blame this one on 0.0 other then a few of the ISbomber guys. Alot of these guys multibox so they dont have to be a null sec grunt with no freedom. I know it's the reason I started. last point other then the few guys really abusing this you pry wont even see alot of accounts unsubbed. Hell is even bet that a large majority of the multiboxers in eve dont even use ISboxer. Just the people that are abusing the multi broadcast of commands.

    2. The revenue from ISBoxer accounts comes from PLEX, not direct subscriptions. Thus, if they leave it will not have any effect on CCP's finances unless their number makes up a large enough fraction of PLEX buyers that it causes a noticeable dip in PLEX prices. First of all I don't think that's true, secondly PLEX are perhaps too expensive already, prohibiting some people from running legit accounts.

    3. @A concerned Minmatar - One could argue that if the people with the large ISBoxer fleets no longer are paying top ISK for PLEX, then the price of ISK will go down and the more casual player will be able to purchase PLEX. But how many PLEX do ISBoxers buy in a month? 4000? That's less than 2 days of sales in Jita. Still, that is quite a bit of ISK.

    4. I think I may have been unclear. I believe it will not affect CCP's revenue much if they ban all the ISBoxer accounts, so they should go ahead and do that.

    5. Dins isn't always right, but he is this time.

      CCP has already internally discussed the use of ISBoxer and made the exec-level decision that, as long as it isn't being used for RMT, there is no sound financial reason to ban its use and lose the revenue from those accounts.

      As for being a violation of the EULA, well... technically, it is not. CCP devs have repeatedly told players that they are turning a blind eye to ISBoxer, therefore, everyone is free to use it until CCP says otherwise. Thus no unfair advantage. You might as well claim that having multiple accounts in general is an EULA violation.

  3. You are looking at it from one side, Dinsdale, I am looking at it from the other. If frustration with other people ISBOXING starts to drive people away from the game because they see it as an unfair advantage then at what point will the balance lean towards stopping the boxers to keep the real players?

    If you do not act and if there is a bleed of the solo player then eventually the isboxers will find themselves all alone, at what point will they also wander off to find another game?


    1. That tipping point you mention is NOT happening anytime soon, if ever, and it does not matter anymore.

      CCP has clearly indicated that they want people to have more alt accounts, not less, since they have said "screw the casual player, we are focusing solely on the hardcore player". Casual players have less accounts. Hardcore players have more. And more accounts then leads to "more accounts online at once", which leads to ISBoxer.

      Once CCP handed the development reins to the cartels, it was lights out for the casual player.

  4. "but I think he thinks that having a pilot actively at the keyboard for each ship in space, even if using ISBoxer, is better than seeing pilots park their ships and walk away from the keyboard."

    To be fair, I'd be inclined to agree with this overall sentiment, because fuck afk "gameplay". But that's obviously more to do with "fuck afk "gameplay"" than it is about isboxer.

  5. And i got one more question. Why is CCP allowing IS to make a ton of money off their game. They went after the eveiseasy guys as soon as they tried to monitize but if you write bot software its ok? (yeah i know by itself its not a bot but lol we all know there are bots that only run if u pay for IS.)

    1. You could also include Roc and Pajama Sam with Capsuleer from so long ago in that as well. That is a very good question.

  6. I have no issues with this app. Not my play style and I lose no sleep regarding its use...but that's me.