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.
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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Game of spreadsheets

While I was rereading the Penny Arcade Report piece about new players in EVE the other day, a paragraph caught my eye that deserves special mention:
There are other misconceptions about the game too, but Helicity [Boson] often dismissed them out of hand. He barely had anything to say about the common idea that EVE is a game of so much complexity that it requires Excel spreadsheets to keep track of, adding only that he'd never used a spreadsheet in all his years of play.
Uhhhh... yeah. This statement deserves a bit of review.

It is completely impossible to play EVE Online without spreadsheets. If you think you are doing so, you are dead wrong. Some of us have spreadsheets to tell us which mineral is worth the most to mine. Others have spreadsheets to keep track of what they should be manufacturing this week. But you know what? When EFT tells you that you should fly a Cynabal instead of a Vagabond, the numbers that it generates to tell you this come from a spreadsheet. When EVEmon tells you exactly when you're going to have to drop a new skill into your skill queue, that's a spreadsheet too. There are spreadsheets to keep track of when 14 different structures will come out of reinforced, spreadsheets to keep track of corp and alliance members (or their moons), and other tools that look just like spreadsheets that fleet scouts use to report exactly how many logistics ships the enemy fleet has.

The thing that ties all of these things together is that some of them are spreadsheets today, and the rest were once spreadsheets. And the tools that aren't spreadsheets still look like spreadsheets. That's been forgotten but it doesn't make it less true. Every single EVE app in use today is just a spreadsheet made a little bit prettier.

When I first started playing this game, ship fitting was done primarily with huge annoying spreadsheets that had the information for mods, ammo, ships, et cetera. EFT and its follow-on apps were built on these bones, but those spreadsheets are still around if you look. Here's a little screen-grab from one I used in 2008. I won't post the whole thing because it's 48 megabytes...

And where the guides players used weren't spreadsheets, they looked like them or were direct copy/pastes from spreadsheets into graphics files:

A lot of us are still using tools that look like this today. Here's a Google spreadsheet with a handy reference to the names of most every ship in the game (it hasn't been updated with the Stratios or Astero yet, nor the recent hauler renaming). Here's a spreadsheet from last year with the names of lots and lots of supercap pilots. And many of us (including myself) have their personal spreadsheets with which we use to track a zillion and nineteen things depending on personal preference. And most of these spreadsheets and all of these external tools have the nastiest possible :math: behind them. Here's the formula for the acceleration of a given ship based on inertia and mass. I use it to this day; I used it recently to do guesstimates of how fast a plated Stratios would get into warp(1):
Velocity after t seconds =
(top speed) * (1 - (e^(-t * (10^6) / ((inertia modifier) * (mass)))))
But of course, once the EFT files for the Stratios were available, I used those instead. Because EFT is a much more user-friendly spreadsheet than a spreadsheet is. EFT will always be there to calculate the grid and CPU costs of mods as we insert the lines for each mod into the little spreadsheet-like rows and columns the tool is built on. And I assure you if we didn't have EFT and Pyfa and EVEHQ, we'd all still be using plain old-fashioned spreadsheets for everything.

And I didn't even mention the spreadsheets in game.

Anyway, keep it in mind the next time someone tries to make a claim that EVE isn't a spreadsheet game. I defy you to play this game without them. ;-)

(1) Inertia modifier for Stratios: 0.47. Mass for unplated Stratios: 9,350,000 kg. e = 2.71828. Top speed of Stratios: 182m/s. Therefore, it takes an unplated Stratios a little over 6 seconds to reach 75% of top speed. Now add plate mass and/or skills. For bonus points, do this :math: without a spreadsheet. I dare you.


  1. The beauty of this game is in its complexity .... you don't have to use a spreadsheet to play, but you can get so in-depth on something that you can utilize it to succeed.

    I find this flexibility refreshing

  2. Well, every game is spreadsheets because every game is a mathematical system(I'm not counting experimental crap like Dear Esther here). The only difference is, EVE doesn't try and hide it.

    For example to get full stats on Planetside 2 weapons, I have to go to a third-party website of someone who dug them out of game files. If I want to know how weight of the bow in Skyrim affects pull speed and therefore continuous DPS, I have to go to a third party website of someone who dug that out of game files. If I want to plan a character in Dark Souls I have to go to a third party website of someone who made a character planner, etc. In EVE, all I have to do is right click -> Show Info.

    I much prefer the EVE method.

    (Also, that article is pretty bad. Same lies that have been repeated about EVE for years, just with some sugar coating)

    1. I don't know. Sometimes I wish there was a simplified view of all those stats. Especially if I spend any time in the newbie channel. I don't need to know the radian speed a turret moves at when they ask a question. I just need a bar graph I can point to.

      "As you can see, blasters track quickly, they have high damage, but very low range.".

      Then a check box to "always show detailed view" for everyone else. Part of the problem with getting people into Eve is just pure information over-load. Or information displayed perfectly well to us who slogged through figuring the format out but makes no sense to someone who hasn't spent hours learning what the pure numbers mean.

      I agree with Jester that the game really is just spreadsheets, and I'm glad Eve tosses so much information in your hands to make choices. But the number of times I've wanted the information obscured behind a venerable industry standard bar graph for making snap decisions without having to mentally translate everything is a whole lot less than 0.

  3. Don't forget that your overview is a spreadsheet :)

  4. I agree - it is pretty complex. However, one area that needs more work - display and comparison of figures. It's sometimes difficult to understand, without a lot of experience, what the difference between a warp speed of 2.9 sec, 3.1 sec, and 3.9 sec actually mean in-game.

  5. I starting playing the game because the graphics were cool - along with the music, you really got the impression of a being in a sci-fi space opera.

    Spreadsheets are not cool. Anyone who is thinks otherwise is an accountant. And I find it to be pretty sad that most of you can't even enjoy the view anymore, with your UI covered in popup windows, or minimized so that you can dick around with Excel.

    Complex games do not require spreadsheets to play. This is just bad game design.

  6. Never used a spreadsheet lol.......real men fly with the overview closed.

  7. From where I stand the term "spreadsheet" implies more than just data displayed in a two dimensional matrix of rows and columns. Taken to silly extremes, your view says that tic-tac-toe is a spreadsheet game as well.

    Of course, I work on backend systems, so I would tell you that what you are really seeing is tables from a database which is what is really driving everything.

  8. I think its worth noting that the skills I got in Eve online I parlayed into a job in the transportation and logistics industry. An industry I now play a larger role in than I could have ever imagined - I speak at events and I give seminars that people actually pay to attend. I work at a job where I make a very comfortable wage and deliver substantial value to my employers.

    All of this, because of the skills I learned making spreadsheets for EVE Online.

    If EVE is a game of spreadsheets, so often is life.

  9. (Uses lots of mathematics) ≠ (Is a spreadsheet)
    (has rows and columns) ≠ (Is a spreadsheet)

    Redefining "spreadsheet" to mean "any software that involves mathematics" does indeed lead to the scenario where anyone who uses EFT is in fact using a spreadsheet. But by the same token, defining "alcoholic" to mean "any person who consumes alcohol" also means that every EVE player is an alcoholic.

    If you don't understand the mathematical model behind the numbers to the point that you build the spreadsheet yourself, you're not spreadsheeting: you are simply using a calculator.


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