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Observations about Cloaky Observatories

May 17, 2021

By Seraph IX Basarab

I have always kept an open mind to changes CCP implements into Eve Online. There are those who will jump and scream at any update, claim CCP will certainly kill the game this time, and generally freak out over anything that they can. I have never been one of those people and instead generally tried to understand where the game designers were coming from. I still think that overall the game is better now than it was in the past. But I have noticed a kind of trend favoring more safety and catering to PvE (krabs) oriented players. Citadels offer unrivaled level of protection for null bloc players. Tethering, PDS, asset safety, and of course perfect intel via local chat all ensure that null bloc players are fairly safe in their space. Up until recently we had several years of overabundance from Rorquals being ridiculously powerful resource acquisition platforms, to single regions being able to house whole coalitions. Much of that has been in flux but overall the trend remains: nullsec is safer than it ever has been.

CCP recently announced a deployable tool that will decloak people who are afk cloaking. The measure is an attempt at “combating inactive gameplay.” It’s currently on the test server and certainly it will go through several iterations before it gets released to the playerbase. However I do not remain convinced that “afk cloaking” is actually an issue. And ultimately this change will only serve to make null krabbing and even botting safer.

If someone is afk while “afk cloaking” then they can’t harm you. If they are active…well then they’re not afk. The real issue is that local gives perfect intel on who is in what system, and based on that the krabs feel unsafe to go about their activities. The counter argument to that is that the defender has no idea of knowing if the cloaked attacker in system is afk. But why would they deserve to know? Why are they entitled to that information? The attacker doesn’t know if the 30 guys sitting in the system’s station are afk or if they will warp to their target the moment he tackles them.

Throughout the day I’ve been discussing with people that favor the addition of this module. These people have little experience when it comes to black ops/covert ops warfare. They do not see the effort and work that goes into setting up such an operation, the risk involved, the time, planning and coordination. The only thing they are aware of is what they see: the final step where they get dropped. Combined with this, the safety entitlement prevalent through null bloc culture makes discussion on the subject matter nearly impossible. “Haha you’re just salty you don’t get ez kills!” Spams the guy that mostly PvEs, spins his ship and has an FC tell him when to use his mwd and when to press F1.

Yellowstone national park’s eco system was collapsing. In 1995 they introduced 14 wolves into the park and saved it all. How? Well without wolves the caribou, elk and deer multiplied and over grazed the area. Beavers couldn’t find the foliage they needed to make dams. Without dams the water coursed faster causing issues for fish spawning areas as well as erosion. The wolves cut down on the number of herbivore activities. Not only were their numbers lowered, but their behavior was changed. They avoided sensitive areas that required more vegetation density in order to ensure a healthy eco system. Some scientists dispute exactly to what extent each and every aspect of this story carries but essentially the point is you need balance between carnivore and herbivore, between hunter and krab. Does Eve need a safer nullsec for krabbing?

I’ve been accused of “hating PvEers” or claiming that I think “other people don’t play the game right.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. PvE/industry/mining are vital parts of the game. But they’re not parts that even need more added safety. And ultimately those parts of the game are not equivalent to PvP. Yes I am saying PvE activities while important, are not as important as PvP activities. Let’s stress test this claim.

Imagine scenario 1 where all Industry/PvE activities were automated by NPCs and bots and real players only did PvP.

Imagine scenario 2 where all PvP was automated by NPCs and bots while the real players only mined and built.

Which game is better? Which one draws people in? Which one allows you to leave a mark somewhere? If you are a PvE/miner/indy person no disrespect, but we both know the truth here. Both are important but just maybe there’s a slight priority to the health of the game in favor of PvP…or at least there should be. Eve is ultimately a game about conflict. If you want a game where you focus on building and exploring, Terraria is great. You can do some of that stuff in Eve too…but don’t use that to justify nerfing what Eve is really about: conflict.

If afk cloaking truly is such an issue here are some suggestions: anchor a cyno inhib, rat in fleets/groups, or even have protection fleets. Protection fleets are boring? Then you aren’t getting dropped that much. And if you are getting dropped that much, then protection fleets shouldn’t be boring. Ultimately afk cloaking is only an issue because krabs threw their toys out of the pram when CCP tried to introduce Black Out. That was quite possibly the last gasp of “HTFU culture” that CCP had. AFK cloaking is only an issue because you already have the privilege of perfect intel via local. The other solution is players that are cloaked and have not activated any modules or warped simply vanish from local. If they do anything other than use chat or move camera, they would appear back in local. Another option is if you close your local window, you just vanish off of local as well. Kind of like “running silent” in a submarine. You trade information for stealth.

Ultimately this is an important issue because it will nudge the design of the game either more into favoring PvE play style or back in line to ensure we have a healthy pool of predators. Somehow the game has survived for years with afk cloaking. This mechanic is necessary for small groups to be able to punch up on any meaningful level against bigger groups. Nerfing asymmetric warfare is simply a null bloc buff. CCP, is that really what Eve needs right now?