Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Alphas And Level 4 Missions: A Match Not Made For New Eden

In a somewhat surprising development yesterday, the latest security developers' blog announced CCP's plans to gate level 4 missions behind the paywall.
"As part of the fight against abuse of Alpha accounts by those involved in botting and real money trading, the EVE Dev Team have been looking at what Alpha characters currently have access to in New Eden.

"As we discussed initially in the New Year security update, the team were considering placing level 4 and 5 courier missions behind the requirement to have Omega clone status.

"After investigating further, the decision has been made to place all level 4 and 5 missions behind the requirement to have Omega status, to assist the fight against RMT and botting.

"Of course, we are aware that mission running is only a part of the issue, we’re also investigating more ways to reduce the abuse of alpha accounts.

"The changes to level 4 and 5 missions will be arriving on Singularity in the coming days, and are scheduled to go live with the March release."
All I can say is, "Wow!" I didn't really expect this move. I didn't even expect CCP to remove the ability of Alpha characters to do level 4 distribution missions. Perhaps I should take heed of words I published four years ago on why RMT is bad for MMORPGs:
"The final impact that RMT has on online games is an increased cost in operating the game. Or, as Dr. Castronova put it, 'an increase in service provision costs, relative to the costs of a hypothetical counterfactual game in which RMT did not happen.' These increased costs represent not only the additional customer service staff required to handle complaints from regular players about the activities of those involved in real money trading operations, but for the additional staff required to handle criminal activities committed against the game, such as hacking accounts and credit card fraud."
CCP has limited manpower to throw at the botting and illicit RMT problems. As CCP Falcon, the community manager for CCP, explained on the EVE Online sub-Reddit about how CCP currently bans bots:
"It's a pretty manual process right now, but solid automation is in progress.

"It's all about trying to keep the number of false positives to a minimum so we don't screw with genuine players.

"It happens from time to time, but we're trying to get better at resolving it as fast as possible."
By restricting the access of Alpha accounts to level 4 missions, CCP is telling the world that the detrimental impact of bots is not worth the number of legitimate players attracted by the missions. The big question is, "Why?" I would love to see either a dev blog or a presentation at one of the player gatherings on the CCP 2019 World Tour breaking down the behavior of Alpha players.

Some might think taking level 4 missions away from Alpha characters is a group punishment that is unfair to players who play by the rules. Perhaps that is true. But the developers could have made much more draconian changes. CCP Falcon laid out a different course of action that would have delighted a large number of players:
"Taking my CCP hat off would mean also taking a break for the reality that resources to tackle botting are of course finite, and no other online game in existence faces the challenges we do when dealing with it because of the nature of how the game is built with a completely player centric economy.

"CCP Grimmi and CCP Peligro take a horiffic [sic] amount of shit from people for no reason, when truth be told they're working their ASSES off constantly to try to sift through reports. A big part of what I'd do would be assiting [sic] them by making life harder for people who're trying to screw with our game and giving them more resources.

"Bear in mind that I'm also not a game designer. If I was, you guys would hate me even more than you do now, because EVE would be one of the most savage games in existence.

"With that in mind, taking my CCP hat off completely, some of the biggest steps I'd take for both botting and account security (if they were simple and workload wasn't an issue):
  • Place every hull larger than a cruiser back behind the requirement for omega status.
  • Place every weapon larger than medium back behind the requirement for omega status.
  • Place T2, augmented and faction drones behind the requirement for omega status.
  • Keep cross racial training for alphas, but place hulls that require a blend of racial spaceship command skills behind the requirement for omega status.
  • Make NPC AI far more aggressive toward drones and fighters, and more unpredictable in general.
  • Build an intelligence system that was separated entirely from the chat system from the ground up that required active user input to remain up to date.
  • Local would become more akin to old "Region" or "Constellation" chat - here's a list of people roughly in your area, if they choose to show themselves.
  • Look at creating incentives and gameplay to keep people active during activities that are often done AFK (mining for example).
  • Quadruple the headcount on the Security Team with a couple of programmers and four more security analysts.
  • Make 2FA mandatory for all accounts that have any roles that give access to pooled assets or ISK.
  • User option to permanently disable extraction on a character or account basis.
  • Account based rewards for first time enabling 2FA and cumulative rewards every quarter for keeping it active.
"I'd also go full scorched earth. You bot? You're screwed? You harbor botters and receive dirty ISK for them, we empty your wallet. Don't have enough ISK to pay back what you got illegally? Your keepstars and corp assets start vanishing. Zero tolerance. You collude in harming our game and community, we level you. Cut and dry.

"That said, this whole post is based on the caveat that there were no limitations on what we could do. Some of this is really not realistic, even if I'd like to see it personally."
Regular readers of The Nosy Gamer probably realize that if CCP implemented most, if not all, of the ideas on CCP Falcon's list, I would probably do a happy dance while reading the patch notes. I don't see a pullback on Alpha ships and equipment on the horizon, but I could see the improvements involving two-factor authentication making an appearance in the future. Also, I would definitely disable extraction on my characters on all my accounts.

I spent so much time discussing CCP's announced plans that I neglected to analyze what the changes could mean for other areas of the game. But that's okay. I have plenty of time to come up with ideas in the next two to three weeks.

No comments:

Post a Comment