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...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Data is data

There isn't much point to this post... just a little afternoon geek philosophy for you.

One of the things that's always bugged me about EVE in a low-level way is how the communications technology in their century is worse than the communications technology in ours.  Isn't this supposed to be the future?

On planet Earth if I want to buy something in New York City or put in a bid on an auction in London, I ultimately have to use really advanced science called a "transmitter" to make that happen.  But it can happen: I need not be physically present to buy something.  I can get on-line and see the price of a variety of company stocks or products all over the world.  I can even have them shipped right to my door.  In EVE, though, I can't place a bid on a contract in another region and I can't even see the market in Jita unless I'm physically in The Forge.  The latter drives a lot of the cache scraping mechanics that EVE market websites have to go through to show us the latest EVE market prices.

CCP could put a stop to about half of this immediately if we could look at prices and place orders remotely.  How many of you have asked on your alliance's comms, "anybody got a Jita alt?" or just logged in your own Jita alt to check prices or to buy a few things you had no intention of immediately picking up?  A lot, I'm guessing.  Granted, it'd cause a bit more server load, lots of people being able to check the Jita market or place a bid on an auction in Jita from wherever they are.  But ultimately that server load comes from somewhere anyway because of people logging in Jita alts and cache scraping.

Hey Red Frog?  New business for you: I put a shopping list into a website somewhere, one line at a time.  It kicks me out a ticket number.  I paste that ticket number into an EVE mail, send an account some ISK.  You do the shopping for me and then deliver the stuff to me where I specify.  eve.amazon.com.  Go!

The contract one just makes no sense to me at all.  Why has it ever been the case that you can only bid on contracts in your own region?  What does CCP get out of this?

In a similar way, in the real world if I taste a cookie that I like and I ask for the recipe, I can get it.  And that recipe can be stored on an e-mail server in New York City, but that doesn't prevent me from baking the cookie in California.  But in EVE, I need to physically be near to the presence of a BPO or BPC in order to build the item that blueprint describes.  I kind of, sort of get this for BPCs: they're license keys, not the actual product.  But for BPOs?  Other than the fact that I'm putting them at risk by putting them into space, why must I have copies of BPOs at every station I work or why must I carry them around?  Is the risk part of the equation sufficient reason for all that lifting, hauling, and carrying?

Granted, there is a risk involved in moving BPOs around and I'm of course all for that.  Likewise, I guess I like the mechanic of having to buy multiple BPOs for things since they're a ISK sink.  But how does a programmer in Iceland even think of that mechanic, and how did he sell it to his boss?  "There's these blueprints, see, and you need them to build things.  Only it's not tied to the character... anyone that physically takes ownership of them can use them.  But you can only build them once per blueprint.  And if you're a region away from the blueprint, you can't build those things at all.  And if your blueprint gets blown up you have to buy a brand new one and you forget everything your character learned about that last blueprint."  Huh?  At some point, someone had to think all that up.  Who was this guy?

Data is data, except in EVE where not only can your cookie recipe get blown up, but you permanently forget how to bake cookies if that happens.  ;-)  But yet I can restart my PI extractors from half-way across the galaxy?  How did that happen?

And before you ask, no, I didn't get any blueprints blown up.  I'm just geeking out about this.  It happens sometimes: I think of these things that are weird about EVE and I get to actually thinking about them.  Discuss.

32 comments:

  1. Consider it market and banking regulation. New Edeners have learned from the lessons of the past (i.e., the mortgage crash).

    As for technology of communications. We communicate FTL. That's pretty darned advanced. :) You can be 30 ly away from me and we can communicate instantly.

    :)

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    1. Quantum entanglement or "spooky action at a distance" that can somehow convey information. Now, we just have to discover how to connect that data flow to a 3D printer...

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    2. Or a window... in a space station. FTL communication to people scattered all over the galaxy, all at once. But forget about looking outside a space station to see who's nearby.

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  2. Obviously the answer between the real world's technology vs Eve's has a ton to do with design decisions to support game mechanics and you've said as much. It seems apparent enough that one of the fundamental design pillars of eve is every item has to be physically moved, this supports PvP action and allows for market decentralization with allows for far more people to engage in the industry side of the game than would otherwise be available if there was a central auction house as there is in many other games.

    I think a lot of the other issues come down around CCP not wanting the eve economy "solved". If all the market information was available everywhere in real time it would really close the loop in a big way to making the economy extremely deterministic and players would just play by formulas or in a truer sense the formulas would be playing them. And when the right choice is always apparent, there is no choice and without choice there is no game.

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  3. Possible (not necessarily good) reasons:

    - The region restriction reduces the amount of data the hamsters have to treadmill at once. This may be a holdover from older times, from before the hamsters were given steroids.

    - It was meant to foster community, by instilling some sense of 'home'; like the 'Constellation' chat channel.

    - Players are forced to undock from their little comfort bubble and travel, opening themselves up for interactions both friendly and hostile. Even alts expose you to a different system with different people.

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  4. The immediate downside of having market orders available everywhere is that you end up with just one trade hub, at Jita. The other trade hubs wouldn't die, because not everyone wants to go all the way to Jita to pick up something, but for anything valuable, the trip will be worth it. Like you said, we already do this with Jita alts.

    I'm guessing the other restrictions just flowed on from this one restriction.

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  5. Shadowblade EdgeMarch 7, 2013 at 5:28 PM

    "Hey Red Frog? New business for you"

    I hate to be that guy, but this isn't new. Vanguard Frontiers (VAF) did this for us (IRC) in Cobalt Edge, that was the exact process too, and yes it was totally awesome. They even had a neat site. You could probably get anyone in BL to take some caps if you can take a look at it.

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  6. I had a big long post here but it was shit, so:

    You're looking at the design process teleologically, from the outside. To understand it, you need to look at it from the inside, as an iterative, evolutionary process acting purely on the context of the immediate moment.

    Blueprints don't work like RL blueprints because they aren't RL blueprints; they're closer to "spaceship ingredient #4".

    They will probably end up working like RL blueprints, if anyone ever decides the manufacturing system needs to be scrapped and rewritten from the top down. c.f. the ship rebalancing project and the new DD and BC skills.

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  7. The BPO's& BPC's remind me of the MC's in the book "The Diamond Age" by Neal Strphenson

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  8. In an era in which the entirety of one's memories, indeed one's very soul, can be transmitted across interstellar empires into waiting clones, one still has to undock to go shopping for a new skillbook. A skillbook that in our era we would just download.

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  9. I have always wondered why BPOs do not expire. Look at this way, once I own a BPO its a cash cow. I can milk it for copies infinite times. I do own originals of the Procurer and Retr blueprints. I would have thought the NPCs are in business to stay in business. And instead of an inexhaustable item - it should be a limited patent licence. Number of Runs/Copies or Time Frame - which ever triggers first.

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  10. Building a spaceship is not baking cookies. It's more akin to a house, or a car. Take a modern prototyping facility (analogous I think to the factory lines in eve that can build anything). Have the prototyper build (at high cost) 5 cars. Take the plans away and ask them to build a working car.

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  11. I think that EVE is essentially plodding along with a series of UI and mechanics designs built with the limitation in programming and hardware of a decade ago and the need to balance certain aspects of the game around a much smaller player base.

    In certain areas of the game (and industry/mining come to mind most immediately) the design of these systems in some cases are drastically inefficient for the player at the scale of industry and mining that the game requires today. 10 years ago some of this was simply necessary to get the game to run --- today its an impediment to the players (and like most of the old UI/mechanics is very new player unfriendly).

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  12. All of the things you mentioned are there to drive gameplay. The number of traders in the game drops by a factor of 10 if everybody can see and will thus demand Jita prices. Industry likewise requires more thought and savvier logistics with the way blueprints work, and risk drivers of moving those blueprints add to PVP opportunities with meaningful stakes.

    In all cases, your suggestions amount to pure easy mode. This is not "for the love of god don't make it take 203482 clicks to start every industry job", either. That's completely mindless; these things you mention require at least a little thought. And a little thought is all you need to drive gameplay where smart players do well and dumb player make funny content for the rest of us.

    Saying data is data and complaining about lack of realism is like complaining about viscous fluid space physics for our spaceships... moreover, in this case it's like saying "in the future we should have teleporters that take us anywhere at any velocity we choose". It's not realistic, it's not for a reason, and the mentioned alternatives are worse.

    Also, the blueprint destroyed=forgotten thing makes absolute sense to me, from gameplay perspective and even from a "realism" perspective. Just imagine their complexity being such that they'd take years to transmit via FTL communication; trucking around a "quantum future hard drive" with the schematic on it might be the only feasible way to do it. Indeed for really big data Amazon S3 allows you to mail hard drives as it's faster than uploading. Insert some copyright regime (even for BPOs) for why the station doesn't keep a copy.

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  13. I've had the same thought so many times. The fact that there is no in game way in game way to have true price discovery is ludicrous. Also, while I don't run missions, why does one have to go to the agent directly to start a mission? Why can't he or she email me the instructions? or text them? how come I don't have a damn cell phone! Finally, once some missions are complete - the ones where all you have to do is kill every thing in a site - why do I have to go back to the agent? I mean why can't you wire me the money directly!

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    1. The markets (and any other complext system in New Eden) are electronically decentralized. Simple communication between individuals or via actual time delayed travel is the way extra information needed to operate in your centralized area alone is carried across certain boundaries. It prevents systems & individuals from arising that can gain too much of an advantage. It also prevents the use of partially outlawed/heavily regulated AI to perform the tasks or collect too much data in one spot, which could collapse just about any system within this advanced society. =my two cents

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  14. As far as I am concerned, I'll bet anything that during all the meetings and pow-wows and late nights cram sessions during the years EvE was being dreamed up one Guiding Rule was:

    "Get them OUT of the stations and into Space every chance you can."

    Why?
    "Undocking allows for Player Interaction." where as giving us tools and mechanics that make perfect sense IRL, allow us to stay docked up, as all those countless Jita Alts do, and thereby AVOID Player Interaction.

    Wanna understand CCPs mindset? For any question you ahve about EvE mechanics, ask yourslef, "Can this mechanic increase or decrease the possibility of Player Interaction?" Always select the 'increase' solution and you will understand why... 'It's Working as Intended.' =]

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  15. As for the BPO/BPC argument: consider that if you had a 30TB data store and access to a 100Mbps link between NY and LA. What is the fastest way to transfer the file from one side of the country to the other: (a) drive the disk across the country in your car, (b) copy over the network.

    That's about a month by network versus a few days by car.

    What is the information density of a spaceship BPO? What is the throughput of the fluid relay network (consider that Local chat is text based, due to throughput limitations).

    So given the information density of a BPO contrasted to the throughput of the FTL communications system in EVE online, is it any surprise that blueprints have to be carted across the galaxy in the hold of a ship?

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    1. Do you work with networks IRL? You don't mind if I borrow this explanation, do you?

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    2. Nice answer.

      http://what-if.xkcd.com/31/

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  16. The invention mechanic always bugged me: if I've invented the improvements once, why do I have to re-invent it next time, and why don't I get any better at it? Then I realized that they really misnamed the process You're not inventing the T2 blueprint, indeed many things like T2 ships are explicitly said to be designed by NPC entities. No, what you're doing with invention is hacking the encryption on the T2 blueprint license key. This explains why you need to train hacking and the encryption methods skills. And why it only works for a few items, the license runs out and you have to hack another one.

    Sadly the once piece of "official lore" that I've read which deals with blueprint invention seems to botch this idea completely, but who pays attention to that stuff.

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    1. Exactly my kind of thinking. And I ignore boring and unimaginative lore/story elements that don't sufficiently explain how such an old and complex society and technology like this could exist and make sense. (Perhaps the small folk/planet bound wrote some of that lore and don't truly understand the complexity?)

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  17. A bit like the Dune universe communications, data, AI, and to an extent "insider information" is decentralized and highly compartmentalized (or outright banned in some situations).

    Extremely complex communication/data hubs which are ultra secure and which use perhaps a specialized sort of AI which can be completely monitored and regulated for abuse and break ins is used and to do it any other way, or to connect more than two of these hubs together at the same time ever, would perhaps risk the AI getting out of hand or other triggered security breaches.

    The AI and nanotechnology which is used to create items likewise must be isolated and limited (while being extremely advanced) in order for it to remain safe and of course to remain properly regulated so the proper overlords can get their due. Characters using a BPC/O learn nothing about the production of the highly complex tech except for the rawest of base materials that goes into it. The process is extremely advanced and highly automated. Those who do have knowledge of the creation of these automated lines, the programming going into the nanites and the products themselves have only highly regulated & isolated chunks of the information. This nano tech. is just as dangerous as any out of control AI force or deadly viral plague alone, if someone could isolate it or manipulate it.

    Imagine the havoc if the automated installations were all connected, all limits & locks could be turned off and could be compromised by one individual or group who knew how to suddenly pump out 500,000 drones across key systems and then control them from a distant safe location. Again, communication of any complex sort must be regulated for this reason as well.

    And finally the custom of face to face communication for creating certain deals or contracts (agent missions and perhaps other things if you stretch the imagination) is more than just a highly ingrained set of cultural habits, but it is that too. It's about keeping your information pure, safe and out of the hands of anyone who might be able to say they are anyone over the normal/non-regulated channels (local).

    It has holes, but like I said, fill in a few blanks with some new imaginative lessons the New Eden cultures have learned from history and you can make it fairly feasible. The technology truly is God-like. Without extreme decentralization and regulation of anything that could tap into the more complex aspects of that tech., the society and balance could not endure.

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  18. Usings todays technology bssed on light/electromagnetism, it would take 30 years or so just to transmit one packet of data from Jita to the edge of the star cluster.
    The future faster than light/warping technology clearly works mainly for moving self contained objects (with a warp drive).

    Let's face the game is it too better this way. It makes distance matter.

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  19. Concerning Blueprints: I just imagine how you start to try explaining the worker at facility XYZ how to build this 10 million tritanium ship out of your mind talking with hands and feet as you don't speak the workers slang :P

    Very entertaining. especially the result of that production. :D

    Another point: your Character has build all the stuff once from the 500 Blueprints you have lying around, and he knows them by heart? He wasn't the one who optimized the material efficiency, it was some algorithm in your lab or maybe even a group of scientist working for you to get that Blueprint better.
    But since you don't own the license to create your own BPO you only can copy them. You could try to replicate that BPO to get another BPO with same research values but then the license owner will swarm you with lawyers and beat the crap out of your wallet. ;-)

    Just because you know how much coppers is build in your car, doesn't mean you could rebuild it, right?

    To the PI: Yeah you can start extractors over light years away but if you are docked in station you can't communicate with the Customs office in the very same system. Why? Well maybe your cellphone gets jammed out of security reason?

    Market: Why should the proud Caldari in Jita allow a filthy gallentean citizen to enter there market without traveling into caldari state territory?
    The empires might want us to work for them, but I don't think they trust us or are too much fond of us.

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  20. Here's how I consider BPOs from an RP perspective: To make stuff at a molecular level, you need quantum-level data that can't be sent through over FTL comms (without a conciousness along for the ride). You can replicate it (BPCs), but they're inherently imperfect copies (Heisenberg) at a quantum level, they degrade with observation.

    The whole market-prices thing is both annoying and possibly necessary. From an RP POV it would make sense for each empire to have their own market, but not one per region. Unfortunately, if we collapsed all the markets down into one, margins would be further crushed and Jita would become even more insane. I suggest increasing tax rates in busier systems: it'd be an ISK sink, it's good from an RP point of view (why wouldn't the owners of 4-4 want to milk it?!), and it's a market-based solution.

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  21. Consider the distance between New York and london, and compare it to the distance between Rens and Jita. Do it in lightyears.

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  22. Thematically, the answer seems obvious... there is no realistic way for data to travel through space in a meaningful timeframe unless carried by someone with ftl capabilities.

    Even if Jita constantly broadcast prices into space, it would take 1 year to reach a system 1 light year away (duh), which is right next door in stellar terms.

    In fact, EVE already gives you a huge bonus in that regard, because you can check all the prices in a region from the safety of your station, despite the physical impossibility of that with current technology.

    Oh, and if you are 14 AU away from the gate when I jump into the system, Dscan (and local) will tell you right away that I am here, despite the fact that it should properly take nearly two hours for the light and emissions from my ship to reach your ship.

    So yeah, I think EVE technology rocks, despite it's limitations.

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  23. Mostly I believe this stuff is hold-over from technical limitations of the system. While EVE claims to be one world, it's really dozens and dozens of constellation and region servers. That's why you can't see stuff in another region... because it's on another server than the one you're on.

    As for PI. PI is handled outside of the main market and space simulation which means it can be consolidated on its own set of servers and which is why you can manipulated them so far away as long as you don't have to interact with something that is in space. For that you need to be on the right server.

    I can see arguments made for keeping blue prints local (though the argument falls flat with POS mechanics since you can keep the blueprints in a station).

    Regarding the face-to-face stuff with agents. I think it's also a hold over because they couldn't get the tech to work for spawning stuff in your hanger if you weren't in it. They've probably long since fixed it, but not a lot of incentive to fix it.

    The code base is more than a decade old and a lot of the early tech was rushed. You'd probably be surprised how much stuff is the way it is simply because it's too annoying or too risky to fix.

    Remember: software development is hard.

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  24. I love the points made in this specific write up. Props Jester.

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  25. I don't think this is all that complicated. The market system, the contract system inventory system and the PI system were designed/built at different times, under different design philosophies, probably by different devs, without much consideration of how any of the pre-existing systems worked or did not work, esp. over distance. Also, much of the inconsistency is due to just bad/lazy design management.

    Look at the way you need to manage stacks of items remotely. You can split stacks remotely, by using the contract system (yeah, wtf, right?), and you can merge stacks by putting each stack up for sale on market, then buying or cancelling the orders. Pretty convoluted and silly.

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  26. Really? You are comparing building ships and modules to baking Cookies? You can't possibly be serious. I suppose whatever it is that you do in RL, it has nothing to do with engineering. Let me tell you that without a physical copy of the blueprint you have no Chance to get aircrafts, ships, refineries or anything else related to engineering assembled correctly and there is no way to just remember all that stuff even by multiple people. And if you lose the blueprint or don't have it available anymore you have to do the research that went into it again. As an engineer i think eve's building system is pretty good and resembles how it works in rl. Well except that you cant transfer/copy the research status on another bpo but since the blueprints are bought and you arent the creator i just think that there is some sort of futuristic protection against modification on it and the process during research is different and allowed. Anyways the way you want crafting to work is unrealistic

    And btw really important blueprints arent even stored on PCs with Internet access, let alone send around via email, so i wouldnt expect that to be safe in the future either. Industry spionage is probably big in the future too

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