Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Friday, August 3, 2012

You made me this way

I'm accused all the time of having an overly negative view of CCP and EVE Online in one form or another.  Or I'm accused of being a cynic.  Just this week, someone accused me of being a "glass half-empty" kind of guy.

Guilty as charged.

But hey, it's not like I didn't warn you.  ;-)  It's right up there in the banner text that I write about EVE from the bitter-vet perspective.  And how does one become a bitter-vet?  It happens because you predict the worst possible outcome, then say "I hope it doesn't happen this way, but..." and then... the thing you've predicted happens anyway.  What has precipitated this prologue?  I'll get to that presently.  But before I do, I want to remind you that New Eden is a harsh, cold, unrelenting place where you can get scammed or betrayed at any time.  Everyone remember that?

Great.  Let's talk about player-to-player contracts, the tent-pole feature of EVE Online's winter 2012 expansion.

I hope it doesn't happen this way, but it sure looks like CCP is trying to ensure that EVE players can never scam or exploit the naivete of DUST 514 players.

Now granted, CCP has done a wonderful job of hiding what I believe is their intent with this feature.  And Two step, Gods bless him, apparently asked about this explicitly during the CSM Summit session on this topic:
Two step asked if these contracts would be connected to Dust 514 contracts in any ways (sic), but the development team responded that this would strictly govern EVE game play for the time being.
That's the only time DUST 514 is mentioned in the entire section.  But absent DUST, it sure makes you wonder who or what this feature is for, doesn't it?  Oh sure, there were about 15 possibilities listed:
  • escort;
  • training;
  • POS/POCO take-downs;
  • POS/POCO defense;
  • wormhole eviction;
  • wormhole protection;
  • 0.0 renter relationships;
  • 0.0 manufacturing;
  • individual corp member accountability;
  • recurrent billing and services;
  • reciprocal standings for allied entities;
  • third-party escrow services;
  • time limits for services renders;
  • requirements for a number of ship kills during a war-dec;
  • requirements for specific kill types; and,
  • collateral agreements for loans.
It's quite a long list, isn't it?  There's only one problem.  Not a single item on that list came from a CCP employee.  They're all CSM member ideas.

Why did CCP even bring the topic up in the first place?  We have a clue, and it's at the bottom of page 138 of the Minutes:
CCP Tallest, reading from the design goals document for the system: "We want to give players tools so that they can interact with other players in a structured manner, with an emphasis on putting meta-behavior into this structure.  Examples would be bounties, mercenary contracts, kill rights, etc.  The focus should be on players or player entities taking contracts with other players or player entities, not the environment.  The causality is expressed when players build the rules for a contract, then the rules are active and lasting for a period.  We'd like to leverage the interaction to create social objects, and review the current system if possible, moving to the long-term goal of contracts being for all player-to-player services, and the marketplace being for item exchanges."
That's a long goal.  Let's break it down.

Today, player-to-player agreements exist of course, but they're handled via tools that exist outside of the game itself.  Most often, EVE mails, e-mail, and the EVE Online forums are used, as well as alliance forums for documentation of more private agreements.  If a corp joins the CFC or rents space in from the DRF, there are formal or semi-formal agreements in place associated with that: the CFC corp has to provide a certain number of ships for CTAs, the DRF renters have to form up for ops, and so forth.  If I hire Noir or some other mercenary group to fulfill an objective, there are EVE or e-mails communicated back and forth to describe the terms of the agreement.  A well-known contract currently exists that establishes the goals and principles of OTEC for limiting technetium supply.  And I'm told by a reliable witness that there is a cabal of players that collectively own tens of thousands of PLEXes that makes formal agreements on how many PLEXes should be sold at any given time and what the price point of a PLEX should be.

Only the very simplest player agreements, such as courier contracts with Red Frog Freight or the like, are handled entirely with in-game tools.  And even some courier contracts require a little extra negotiation.  That's what Blue Frog Freight is for, as an example.

Of course, the interesting thing about such agreements is that they can be broken at any time and there's no punishment in-game for doing it.  So it happens all the time.  The meta-game takes care of dissemination of the information that this or that person is untrustworthy and is likely to break such a contract.  The Mittani got some mileage out of acting as a third-party escrow service for super-caps for a while, for instance, but he doesn't do it any more because word got out that he was untrustworthy at this service.  EVE's "marketplace", for want of a better word, is quite good at self-correcting in this regard.

The team involved here, though, makes it clear that they want to scrap the current contracting system and "push more item trading into the marketplace, turning contracts into a more free-form service," in the words of CCP Soniclover.  The tricky part, of course, is going to be in the process of "players building the rules for a contract, the rules are active, and lasting for a period."  How does one program that?  Nobody asks, but CCP Paradox volunteers that they will "formalize these agreements so that players don't have to worry about trusting the other party, because the mechanics would provide a level of guarantee."

Nobody asked "how?", at least according to the Minutes.  Sure would have been interesting had someone done so!

That said, one of the goals here is clearly to move that "level of guarantee" into the game itself.  If Mittens breaks three third-party super-cap transfers in a row, that presumably will be shown in Mittens's contract history.  Of course, there's nothing saying that a scammer can't tell both parties "I'm going to use my alt X for this" and then populate this alt with ten or twelve phony (but apparently successful) third-party super-cap transfers, but let's not break CCP's spirit just yet.

That's all CCP has to say about this feature for now, though.  They spent the bulk of the session canvassing the CSM for ideas rather than presenting a lot of specifics themselves.  The thing that I'm having a hard time swallowing is the supposed lack of a DUST link on this topic.  The entire point to the EVE-DUST link -- as I understood it -- was going to be the provision for EVE players to contact DUST players for help in either clearing off plantets or defending their own.  Without a viable contract system to make such agreements, how will that link work?  And without that need driving it, it's hard to understand the urgency for this feature.

But yet CCP decided to be coy about it.

What I worry about is that CCP is being coy about it because they don't want to throw DUST players into the deep end right away.  If DUST players had to rely on the EVE-O or DUST forums to get jobs, then got scammed into attacking a planet for free because the person hiring them refused to pay, is the dark, cold world of New Eden going to drive a lot of starry-eyed DUST players off?  Therefore we need a formalized contract system in the game to keep them from being scammed.  And if that makes EVE slightly more difficult to execute scams in, goes this logic, then so be it.  I hope it doesn't happen this way.  But.

In the meantime, I'm having a hard time deciding who the player-to-player contract feature is for.  The bulk of EVE players just don't seem to have much of a need for more than what the contract system provides today.  As I joked yesterday, EVE had a "freeform contract" system in the past and nobody used it.  Without a "killer app" for this feature, I can't build up a lot of enthusiasm for it.  If the new contract system allowed the formalization of renter agreements, then the big alliances would like it.  If it allowed for contracting of kill rights from player to player, the merc groups would like it.  But widespread appeal?  So far, I'm not seeing it.

Maybe I'm a cynic.  But if I am, EVE and CCP made me this way.  ;-)


  1. I have no idea how CCP can do this but anything that can reduce scams is good to me. Now I don't have a problem with scams but there are just too many in Eve that it's not fun to hear about anymore. That and it's too easy to do

  2. Excellent piece Jester! I see why throwing dusties into the fray right away doesn't really make sense on a money making level though. They're playing it safe, but this winter expansion seems like its not gonna really add much substance, imo. Or maybe i need to go back and read the minutes again! lol

  3. I currently use the contract system to compare what items prices are outside the region I'm in more often then not... also there are a few rare oicer items I'm always looking for.
    TBH if the current contracts get tossed it'd make the game that much more difficult ( although I doubt it'll be as much a burden as the piece of crap UI has been )

  4. For dust they can use something like wardecc merc marketplace, but with a simple goal added that condition some rewards. Some eve entity ask a planet to be taken; some dust merc entity accept and go get the planet. If they succeed, they the get the reward. I don't think CCP need that freeform contract for that.

  5. There is one type of player-to-player interaction that the game formalized and that works quite well: locking and shooting them down. Human interaction is very non-systemic.

    When I first heard that they wanted to code a system for mercenary market I was very skeptical of it, no matter what they had in mind. Sure enough, what was implemented did not survive first contact on field.

    Now they talk about formalizing all these types of player interaction and I'm pretty much with you in this one. It won't work.

    At some point a 'genius' dev will talk about formalizing ransoms and here too there are no news. It just won't work.

  6. Interesting.

    Someone has to broker such contracts, else players will find a way to scam regardless.

    I think the DUST players are going to get hosed good and hard.

    1. DUST players are mostly going to be FPS gamers. It doesn't matter if they get hosed, 'cause they aren't going to stay around any longer than it takes for the next big FPS to be released. My FPS pals have never stuck to any game longer than about 2-3 months, before moving on to whatever is new.

      My corp is looking forward to screwing the DUST players over so bad that the tears will never stop falling over Iceland. I doubt that any of them will ever come back for seconds, let alone thirds.... ha, ha!

  7. Service contracts were discussed during ATX:



  8. For me it seems like players made quest : i want x guus from corp y to die and i ll pay you z.
    Thats could be intersring fir lots of people and mostly for pvpers who gets an easy way to make money without being prod

  9. You're a moron. Go play wow.

  10. I would be very surprised if they actually managed to program something that is both enforceable, and not so draconian as to be useless.

  11. The only way I can see them being able to program this sort of contract is to have a forfeit built in that both sides agree to should the contract conditions not be met, similar to the collateral on courier contracts.

  12. This sounds incredibly boring in terms of an "expansion". What are they going to call the expansion? "Bureaucracy"? Haven't read the minutes yet, but I'm hoping they are going to add something else interesting to the game. All these little fixes have been great, but a steady diet of this is starting to get a bit stale. And while it might take a lot of development resources to implement, it still sounds like a minor addition.

  13. I think CCP is starting to realize that if people are left to features of "trust" and "friendship", they simply don't do anything.

    I mean do I *NEED* to take revenge on that guy? No. I *WISH* to get him killed. If I can set up a secure contract, I probably do. If I have to mess with EVE-O trolls and risk being scammed, I just let it go.

    Please note that 60-80% of players decided to "let it go" for every player-related feature and stayed in highsec where they don't have to bother about enemies and scammers. Jita market pay for their ore/loot safely, screw the rest!

  14. Wow, you (and lots of other people) are really missing the point here. The "service contracts" will allow *automatic* payment when the terms of the contract are met. While they don't enable anything much that couldn't have been done before, the risk of scamming is a lot lower, and that will mean that the marketplace for these will be a whole lot bigger than the current mercenary/service market is right now. Being able to ensure that someone won't just take your ISK and run (or won't pay you for whatever they asked you to do) is kinda huge. Especially if standings are allowed in the contracts, you could imagine real renter contracts where people pay isk and get standings, *and* the contract insures that if the owner kills the renter's ships/POSes/whatever the renter gets their ISK back.

    1. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think Gevlon is right. Having these sort of contracts available and enforced by game mechanics will increase the demand for these sort (whatever the contracts can cover) of services dramatically.
      Imagine if a big null-sec alliance offers to allow high-sec care-bears to run their anomalies in exchange for 50% of the bounties. Imagine further that they offer to _protect_ them; not just from ganking by alliance members but from everyone else. If the interface shows how effective this alliance usually is at such protection and the ratings look good, do you think die-hard high-sec mission runners might be willing to move to null-sec? I do.

    2. "die-hard hisec mission runners moving to null"?? I lol'd. No, they won't. Especially not for a 50% effective "tax". Pretty sure nullbear renters pay far less than that now. Besides, how do you measure "saves"??? Is CCP inventing a "number of ganks/badfights I've escaped"-board feature to the game??

  15. It seems to me that CCP spent a large % of corporate effort and resources in purchasing several companies and getting into consoles.

    I do not see how the EVE HTFU/grief/scam culture can make it to peripatetic console players playing and buying stuff in a F2P.

    Either the HTFU extends to Dust, and the folks with their cashshop F2P armour get gooned a couple of times and leave. And a CCP with a failed DUST is not good for CCP or EVE.


    Dust players are insulated from HTFU and the selling out to casuals/gb2w posts flood the forums and CSM.

    I do not see a good outcome.


    As to the specifics, it sure seems like there are a lot of things with objective criteria.

    Some immediate examples: You get paid X if POS#127 has/has not been destroyed by Y date. You get paid X% of all damage inflicted on Y pilot/corp/alliance by Z date where damage is some forumla, not computed by the FW guys, of actual after insurance loss.

    OTOH, the reasonable expectation is that this round of contracts will be a mix of exploitable mistakes and never used irrelevancies.

  16. There is a second way to Bitter Vet status, and it's much simpler. Just watch CCP release expansions for years that move the game away from what you want it to be.

    Lets go through them all starting with my first.

    Rev 1. 0.0 is still fun. Drone regions suck. POS bashing sucks.
    Rev 2. 0.0 is still fun. POS bashing still sucks.
    Trinity. Jump Bridge networks start becoming the norm. 0.0 sorta fun.
    EA. Jump Bridges everywhere. 0.0 sucks. POS bashing is life sucking.
    QR. Lag is gone, I can play again!
    Apoc. Remember less lag doesn't help a game going to hell. POS - Suck
    Dom. No more POS! Happy.
    Tyr. Just figured out Dom screwed the few good things about 0.0
    Incurs. Could 0.0 get some help? Please?!?!
    Incarna. Seriously? 0.0 NOW!
    Cruic. Well, life is easier....
    Infer. Crawling through the desert begging for life giving water to 0.0
    Winter. That's their plan. **** it, I'm a bitter vet now.

  17. I am not so sure if this will impact scams so much, they have always been about working around the rules, like changing the flow of a river.

    What is important is that someone who is scammed has some way of striking back at the scammer (ie, if you scam those Dust dudes, they should be able to find out what your interests are and target them for revenge :) ).

    At any rate, I think this is an important step for CCP, keeping the EVE game in the actual EVE game, you have made a few posts about this already I believe.

    Also, they should probably not make 100s of types of contract but rather 1 type of contract with 100s of fields and check-boxes, this will allow flexibility for players and yes, scams, for those who don't read the fine text, those who have bought a few carbon Charons in their time ;D.

    There is fair reason to despair though, because CCP seems to have very poor design strategy.

  18. well, it's not fucking hard to see why Jester's this way.

    "If the appropriate bay is full, the module/drone will deactivate as normal, and excess ore is lost" ~CCP Masterplan

    "The current mining frigates will not be losing their mining bonuses in Inferno 1.2, and we do not plan to leave people without entry level mining options." ~CCP Fozzie

    both dead wrong, for tranquility. maybe it was deep dark sekrit hints about stealth fixes not in the patch notes. mmmm...yeah, no.

  19. Salvage drones: finally! And I'm not saying that I was patiently waiting for them, but that finally CCP is doing something for the new players that will be of little use to the older ones. Older players already have a salvaging alt. after all. It's the new guys will get to enjoy the game even more without being told : get an alt noob.

  20. This contracts system seems remarkably similar to the one mentioned back in May in the Pathfinder Online (= sort-of a fantasy version of EVE in the making) design blog, described here.

    The purpose stated *there* is "You can think of these contracts as a questing system hidden in plain sight."

    Now Ryan Dancey used to work at CCP...


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