Posts Tagged ‘metagame’

Intent and the letter

This post is a bit of a ramble and quite a long way out of current Flame of the Month topics. I’m not a huge fan of jumping directly into hot topics which are generating flames. I prefer to wait until the embers die down because only then can you see the heart of the issue. I believe that this leads to a better view of the heart of the issue, certainly in the long term.

 

Back when I used to Dungeon Master for a Tiny and short lived D&D group the concept of “The Intent and the Letter” was very important to me. You see, like every D&D group we had “that guy”. That guy was always trying to subvert his way around the campaign rules, to bend everything to his advantage, he strictly followed the letter of the law, but blindly ignored its intent.

 

At Fanfest 2013 Myself Arian and Lore played the Conquests board game. During the game, myself and Arian got caught up in a cold war of troop escalation on a massive scale. As a result of our border posturing, Lore began to run away with the game. To try and counteract this myself and Arian forged a temporary Alliance. The terms were simple: We agreed not to directly attack each other, and that no further troops would be placed into any system which bordered the others territory. During the following few years of the game, myself and Arian began steamrolling through Lore’s territories attempting to stop him from finding the last piece needed for victory (we ultimately failed in this). However during the process I, without thinking, placed a large number of troops in a region; with the intent of attacking the bordering region belonging to Lore. Strictly I had broken the terms of my Alliance with Arian, as the region also bordered one of his. Lore noticed this breach and pointed it out. However Arian, clearly seeing my intent elected to excuse this breach of contract and the Treaties held strong. I had broken the letter of the law, but the not the Intent.

 

These are simple small scale examples of how the Intent and the Letter differ from each other in terms of Rules and regulations. They are clear and concise in a way that large scale real world examples are not. Suppose during that game we had been, instead of people, a committee. Suppose that the game actually took a few years to play, and that during that time old members of the comities left the game, and new ones joined. Would I still have been excused my breach?

 

At this stage I am sure you have realised that this post is about the TOS changes made to eve a little while back. I don’t necessarily have any issues with the actions of CCP during this minor controversy, but I do have issue with a continuing pattern concerning the rules of this game. CCP seems to have been writing the rule of the law, but telling us that we should not worry about breaking it so long as we follow its intent. A prime example of this is the “cache scraping” rules. “Technically”,  CCP says “Cache scraping is against the TOS. But don’t worry we won’t do anything unless you do something really bad”. To me this is a terrible way to write rules. How can we the players define what really bad is? Clearly botting is on that list, clearly (for now) eve central is not. But the line in the middle is as clear a mud. Indeed I doubt that even CCP knows where that line lies, until some unfortunate player crosses it. Furthermore, how do we know that in five years’ time CCP won’t be under the steer of different people, who suddenly will hand out ban to previously “innocent” users of cache scraping, pointing at the rules and saying “we made it clear from the start!”?

 

“You see that apple?” says god “The rules of this garden are that you do not eat that apple. But actually if you eat it for a good reasons, that’s ok. I mean, if you run out of food or something, you can totally eat that apple (as long as you do it in a good way), and I probably won’t do anything, although I might change my mind at some point on this one…”

 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is some kind of conspiracy to subvert eve into a soft play venue, if CCP wanted to do that, they wouldn’t need to be subtle about it. Let us not forget that letter or Intent notwithstanding, CCP has the same power over eve that a dictator holds over their citizens. The law is laid down to help the people know down which path survival lays, but if the man with the moustache decides you’re for the chop, no rule book will save you.

 

My worry is that CCP is accidentally laying a path that will in the future lead to hell: funnily enough I believe that CCPs use of intent rather than letter is pure (or atleast innocent). I suspect that they simply don’t know any better way to deal with “grey” activities in the game, and so have elected to use intent as a way to govern on a case by case basis. Intent however is not solid enough to stand the tides of time. So my issue stands on two fronts: firstly that verbal contracts are not worth the paper they are written on (yes CCP has assured us in writing on the forums, but you have to wonder why they haven’t just what’s on the forums in the TOS? Legal wording not withstanding). Because the assurance is unofficial, and not in a clear format, it will lose value over time.

 

Secondly, I believe that the TOS, just as with real law, should give the people it controls a clear definition of right and wrong. It should be designed to deal with 99% of cases, and then intent should be used to govern the 1% which fall in the grey area. This way everyone knows where they stand. Unfortunately, the cache scraping change (and shortly I suspect the impersonation changes) govern 80-90% by the intent, and 10-20% by the letter. If tomorrow I were to come up with an ingenious method of using Cache scraping to make Trillions of ISK, without automating my play, where would that fall? Ask 10 players and get 10 answers, ask 10 GMs and get 10 answers. The dice rolls.

 

Fly like a space lawyer

 

Hark

EVE: Conquests (EVE the board game)

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It was the first day of Fan Fest 2013, we had just finished collecting our passes and picking our Quafe t-shirts when Hark runs off like a kid who’s had too much candy, he had spotted “EVE: Conquests” in the store. Hark has wanted “EVE: Conquests” for a long time, but due to the fact that if he had bought it from the “EVE Online” store it would have cost him more in shipping than to buy the game itself, he had restrained himself. So before fanfest had even ended, we found ourselves in a hotel room giving the game ago. As many of you will have seen the game set up in the “Games Hall” at fanfest: I would like to tell you a little something about the game:

EBG

EVE: Conquests is a strategy board game for 2-4 players set in the EVE Universe (It reminds me of “Risk: the game of global domination”), where the board is made up from regions in EVE Online connected together in the same way they are in game, the players choose to play as one of the four main races in EVE, as you should all well know they are the; Amarr, Caldari, Gallente, and Minmatar (We will skip over the fact that there’s a fifth race in EVE online, the Jove as it’s not in the board game)

In EVE: Conquests you can set the winning conditions for the game so as to try to control how long the game will last, but going by the few time we played the games will last around 2-3 hours when you know how to play, here’s the kicker though “knowing how to play”. The rulebook is a bit complicated; some say so complicated you need a PhD in rule book reading to understand it. But once you have figured it out the game is good fun, I shall try to summarise how to play.

First you pick your race (doesn’t make a difference which apart from preference) and you choose where to place your “HQ” station, this location can not be taken by any other player, you can then lay down 5 or 6 “unit tokens” (Not to be confused with Agent tokens, which are the same item placed in an enemies region!).

These can only be placed in a region which you currently neighbour). Don’t confuse Unit Tokens with Agent tokens, they are the same physical item, but a token in your territory is a Unit Token, but a token in enemy territory is an “Agent Token” (Did I mention the PhD?). To build an “Outpost” you have to control the region and have a token (agent or Unit) in all joining systems (outposts are very important, but we’ll get onto them next).

Once you have a unit or an agent in all region connected to the one you plan on building an outpost in you now have to pick which type of outpost you wish to build, Logistics, Development or Production; and receive the equivalent resource token.

EBG turnsEBG Calendar

I should point out that the game does not follow a linear turn based rotation, oh no nothing that simple for EVE! Turns are decided by a calendar, on which each player has a Logistics, Development and production marker. Each of these Markers represents a different type of turn for the player, which when completed moves further around the calendar (an amount based on how upgraded the “resource” has been by the player using points resource tokens gained by building outposts).

This means that depending on how you upgrade your turns, you can sometimes get 3 “goes” in a row and then have to wait ages for your next turn or have each one of your turns spread out amongst the other players turns. This can also get tactical as you attempt to co-ordinate your defences and counter attacks with the optimal gaps in your opponent’s turns. During these turns you are can do different types of actions. For example a development turn will let you capture a new region or place an agent in enemy territory. Where as a production turn allows you to build units.

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As with EVE online you can fight over the control of the regions (albeit in the 4 main factions rather than the Capsular ones). These fights are determined by dice roll and the number of dice each player has is relates to the number of units each player has in the attacking and defending region, so if player 1 has 5 Units and player 2 has 4 Units they get a dice for each unit they have. There are three types of dice; attack, defence and tactics. Attack and defence are fairly self-explanatory (damage and mitigation) but tactics dice are a bit more interesting, they can be counted as either attack or defence depending on the player choice, so depending on the roll he might need more defence to protect his units or more attack to kill enemy units. To Offset this flexibility you will never get as many points on the dice using tactics as opposed to a dedicated defence or attack Dice. Attack dice are a d10 with Three Blanks, Three 1s, three 2s and a single 3 pointer. Defence Dice are d10’s with four Blanks, three 1’s and three 2’s. Tactics are also d10’s, but have five blanks, four 1’s and a single 2. To initiate an attack, the player must declare where is his attacking from and two (which must be adjacent regions), count up the Unit Tokens for each and decided on their dice.

However EVE wouldn’t be EVE without spy roll he might need more defence to protect his units or more attack to kill enemy units. To Offset this flexibility you will never get as many points on the dice using tactics as opposed to a dedicated defence or attack Dice. Attack dice are a d10 with Three Blanks, Three 1s, three 2s and a single 3 pointer. Defence Dice are d10’s with four Blanks, three 1’s and three 2’s. Tactics are also d10’s, but have five blanks, four 1’s and a single 2. To initiate an attack, the player must declare where is his attacking from and two (which must be adjacent regions), count up the Unit Tokens for each and decided on their dice.

Hark and Arian having a discussion on who will win the Amarr or the Minmatar, little did they know it was going to be Lore and the Caldari

Hark and Arian having a discussion on who will win the Amarr or the Minmatar, little did they know it was going to be Lore and the Caldari

As the final twist of complication in combat, players can use cards purchased with their Logistics turns to manipulate the outcome.’s and metagaming, so the player with the most agents in the enemies region picks his dice second, and can ask the other player either “how many attack dice are you going to use?”, “how many defence dice are you going to use?” or “how many tactical’s dice are you going to use?”. Giving him the chance to adjust his dice to counter his opponent. Every fleet needs a scout.

Now we get on to how to win the game, as I said at the start of the post you can set the winning conditions (I can’t remember all of them), the main way to win is to get points from capturing certain regions which are determined by 9 cards set up in a 3×3 grid; representing  a slice of the galaxy. Only 7 of the cards are showing at any one time and are captured by building an outpost on two of the indicated regions, in either a single row or column (represented by numbers and letters . you get the points shown on the two cards you capture towards your victory points total.

If you have managed to follow and understand that rambling and brief explanation of EVE: Conquests you are doing very well indeed. Certainly it took us a lot longer to get this far, and there are far more nuances and fringe case rules to learn yet. The game is fantastic and although it is complicated, it benefits from the complication rather than suffering it. Once your group has gotten the hang of it, it certainly provides a lot of interesting situations and tactics.

Hark looking longingly at the rule book hoping it would become more understandable

Hark looking longingly at the rule book hoping it would become more understandable