Informational Density Overload



It’s a Thursday evening like any other, the rat race for the day having been completed, obligations taken care of, dinner cooked and a cool Dr Pepper is sat down unopened on my desk. As I listen to the crack and pop of my wrist joints catching up after the strain of the day, I catch myself saying “I could play some Eve.” Gleefully I double-click that blue-hued icon on the desktop and soon I will become one of the few thousand people that form the sandbox of the galaxy that is New Eden.

With a click and a loading bar I get to the character select screen, containing my carefully constructed and woefully underused Incarna avatars. They decorate the front of the neon boxes signifying my characters and one in particular was catching my eye tonight. An aged, white-haired Gallente woman, my highly-trained exploration ISK-making alt, was drifting in the nether of a special wormhole I managed to find a good while back. So, sure, let’s see if I can get some ISKies tonight. My mind set, I’m itching to play but I don’t click on the profile of the white-haired woman… not yet. That’s as far as I get within the in-game universe of Eve for the moment.

I move my cursor to one of my other two monitors and open up a new tab in Chrome. As I type in ‘zkill’, the browser’s auto-complete predictions already know what I want to search. Clicking it leads me to the wormhole J-code entry in zKillboard’s database. I look over the recent entries, and see that a few owners found their ship’s reimbursement package after contact with a combat recon-flying capsuleer amongst others. This was done on different days and the kills were obviously independent of each other.

Worse, I didn’t knew this masked, and directional-scan immune, stranger.


The cursor of my mouse moves over and creates another tab. Fingers blaze through the keyboard as I type ‘’ followed by a very definitive enter-key press. Within seconds of operating the interface I find that the stranger is a US nightly timezone player, but probably also plays from work once in a while. He engages in a lot of solo WH work but goes out to Querios to fight with his corp a few times a week, so he definitely has a scout left behind in my wormhole. I find out his affinity for Combat Recons is new, mostly flying faction cruisers so far, but also that he enjoys flying T3Ds as well.

I then move on to Eve-Who and input his name there as well. I find out he’s been in his current corp for a while, a nullsec entity, but that he has a pretty respectable history and age, being a 2006 character. That doesn’t say much with the new skill injectors, but I can ballpark how expansive his SP reservoirs are and a variety of other tidbits that I need to know. I come back to zkillboard and analyse over his killboard for a little while longer, looking for deaths to see what he usually fits and a grasp of how good he is, and then I put his name in the clipboard.

My gaze moves back to the screen that has been the source of the background thematic tune that has been ringing in my ears for the past thirty minutes. I take a few bites out of my slightly cold dinner and open the Dr Pepper for a sip as I click on the picture of the white-haired woman in my character roster.

A flash, a tiny stutter as the assets load and I’m in. SSD’s are a magnificent thing.

Before my Proteus hits the grid, I am spamming d-scan and it fills with a table of celestials, wrecks  and… a single ship name. I cloak up and align out as soon as my ship comes out of warp in my safe and for a second, I know I would have been seen if someone d-scanned at that exact time. Thankfully, I know that ship-name style with ornamental ASCII characters as belonging to another player, farming the same WH in his Tengu most times. He does the combats and anomalies and I stick to the relics. Never talked to him, but he doesn’t cloak up when I come around, even with him seeing a different ship name each time. The fact is either that he made my trick and is playing along or he doesn’t check d-scan, I can’t know, but I am fairly certain he’s not a threat.

Under the safety of the cloak, I open up my watchlist (RIP. -Ed.). Rows upon rows of red and green blobs attached to names of pilots fill my screen in an instant. I add a new entry with the combat recon stranger’s name, set him to not see my notification, -10, and add him to my ‘WH Hunters’ label.

I then select it.

Familiar names and faces get grouped together now. I’m usually happy to see this list full red, but that isn’t the case this day. Our stranger is offline, but another name is lit with bright green. He’s been a very persistent hunter, vetted in the same way I vetted our stranger, and I can’t imagine he’s out doing something else right now. I alt-tab to check his killboard, but noticing that he was not spotted on any killboards in other parts of New Eden, I come back to the beautifully bright skybox of the wormhole.


I d-scan instinctively, as is natural for any Eve player, and I notice a special new wreck. I frown as I notice it’s of the ASCII-embellished Tengu formerly belonging to my wormhole ‘buddy’. For a slight second, a Gila is also caught in the all-seeing eye of the d-scan given the small system size, but it suddenly vanishes. I knew the killboard of that very specific person that was opened in my browser just got a new addition. Disappointed, I take a large gulp of my Dr Pepper and a slight sigh leaves my body.

I change my ship name to a quickly-thought of ‘Lancelot Fizzle’, align to another one of my safe bookmarks, decloak and push the safe log off button while spamming d-scan some more. If anything dropped, I could have just insta-warped to another safe and cloaked up. The system remains dormant though, and thirty seconds later, my character and her ship warp of into the unrealistically safe nether of ‘LoggedOutLand’.

As I open Netflix on another screen and continue finishing up my dinner, I leave behind all the potential outcomes and sandbox experiences of this night to be washed away, with a single stray thought going to that poor dead Tengu.


Now, I feel your judgemental stare upon me, but know that I am playing the game that has been set in front of me.

Was I being risk-averse? Yes, as that’s the nature enforced by Eve Online and supported by its medium.

Is a jump freighter pilot that doesn’t use an emergency out-cyno or have eyes on the destination station a brave privateer? No, he’s a poor player and will be pointed at as a bad example. A great JF pilot using all the tools at his disposal and with good awareness, under the current mechanics, will never get caught. And that’s the gold standard. So how am I, how are we, different for also using all the tools at our disposal to avoid losing?

Was I a better Eve Online player than that Tengu? Yes, I was. But the question has to be this:

Was I creating a better sandbox and experience for everyone involved and for the health of Eve going into its second decade?

No, I was not. But again, I was just playing the game as it’s laid out in front of me, using the tools I had available.

“Maybe it would have butterfly-effected the hell of that situation, escalating to a hundred-player battle…”

If I had less information, less control over what I’m seeing, and fewer or more limited resources to draw on, I would have logged in, engaged in the game lacking omnipotent awareness, and maybe died. But maybe I would have wanted some revenge and brought in my main, or a few friends. Maybe it would have butterfly-effected the hell of that situation, escalating to a hundred-player battle, like in that one community-derided Eve trailer. Or maybe I would have just logged off in a fit… but I would have logged off creating a positive contribution to the sandbox, even if at my loss.

However, the moment I can figure out a person’s sleep schedule and the fact of whether he’s a student or employed, the moment I can roughly pinpoint how he plays and fights and what ships he likes and what his stomping grounds are, the moment I can analyse a player and his corp in and out for half an hour and draw not only meaningful, but necessary information for me playing this wonderful spaceship game in an effective fashion… that moment is the moment where you realise that that white speck in the distance is the line that should have not been crossed.

These were the actions of myself, a single Eve Online player, one of a few thousands and shrinking, and this is the way things are for most players and their interactions in the game.

And that is not a good way.


Catch part two of this series next time.

Tags: api, Cosmo, development, information, third-party tools

About the author


Cosmo has been playing Eve Online for the better part of a decade, on and off as most Eve 'careers' go, over the span of a dozen trials and over multiple accounts. He's your average every-man player, with no hats thrown in any rings and with enough perspective to not get bogged down in endless threadnaughts on how every new feature will 'ruin' the game.

He loves the concept of Eve and the potential of what it could be more than the actual grimy bits that currently define the experience. "An Eve Online beyond Eve Online" as he likes to put it.

  • good read, in many way fairly close from my own play style.

    how are you going to pay for your next ship? Do you have other alts accruing money safely tucked in their NPC station or in the middle of safe ratting zones? Or is it that what you catch is going to provide you the ISK you need for your next ship?

    To your main point, I have been advocating since last year for more of a fog of war on out-of-game data, that includes modules destroyed if the pilot of the destroyed ship want to keep that information hidden. it is very possible that API provided time may also be one of those free data that needs to go….

    • Cosmo

      This was a small slice of life, not my only venture in the game. Do a few bits and bobs there enough to keep me in ships.

      As for less, or more to the point, selective API access, i agree, but that’s a really hard wall to scale. Sharing fittings via new Crest endpoints to/from Pyfa is great and fantastic, getting regional history data on product movement in the other corner of space? Not so much.

      I have a lot of concepts on what obfuscation might mean for Eve, but all of them mean a reduction of what is currently possible, and the freedom players enjoy. The current super-cap hunters dislike of watchlist mechanics is an example. And i’m of the firm belief that the changes Eve needs to survive, are not changes that will be welcomed by the most vocal players. But i also want new ways, designed ways, of shaping the experience in the sandbox.

      • Well, my point for my question “next ship” question is that if you had to get your ISK for your next ship by logging in and finding things to kill, you would be engaged in the game, regardless of what your intel tells you. Like me, when you have time to play, you would be out there rather than on Netflix – despite the powerful lure of House of Cards#4 and soon Daredevil #2 🙂

        What you describe as not a great way to engage others is simply a view from someone that is otherwise also logged in in different fashion (market, hauling, ratting,…) to make ISK, and thus contributes in other ways, isn’t it?

        I can now think of getting in a capital or super now that the silly watch list is gone, and I agree that the other changes to free intel that are still needed will be fought by the “establishment”. I believe I am the only one running for CMS XI bringing this up as an item on my platform.

        • Cosmo

          That’s partly why FW is as successful as it is these days, as it offers exactly that, some direct cash for engaging in PvP, for as rough as the system even is. But more than that, it offers meaning in the constant shuffling of borders and systems between the factions. A much more important commodity than ISK nowadays.

          Personally while i like the concept of ‘a guy will make a ship out of this veldspar i mined’, it’s so far removed from an actual imprint that you leave on the game that it’s just a far echo. There was a reason people wanted their names on the hulls and equipment they built, and to appear in the killlogs. To have that feeling of ‘i did that, i facilitated that happening’.

          As for supers, that’s what i mean about the watchlists. Yes, you’re not /that/ safe, someone can just leave an alt on you and track you in other ways anyway, but it’s far from tossing up your arms in the air and going ‘why would i do that? that’s so easy to counter’.

          When i signed up here, i told people i’d have a word to say that will be anti-‘establishment’, and running for CSM was a stray idea, but you need a solid base behind you. We’re not alone, but we’re few, scattered, and quiet. I’m hoping these articles will group us together.

          • Unfortunately, those that are pushing for the No CSM Votes for this election cycle are hurting us “anti-establishment” more than they are hurting the Null Sec blocs, that will have candidates no matter what.

            There is not one “anti-establishment” streak, we are isolated and splintered. For example, I believe my stance on making alts of the same player publicly tied together would also affect “anti-establishment” power players. Still. I truly believe that it helps the power players more than the isolated and more casual players, and shape the game and the current NS stagnation in ways that are insidious.

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  • JZ909

    While the article was fascinating, and brought up valid points, I think that there is a large % of players who don’t use all those tools and have a lot of fun. Do they lose ships more often? Sure, but is lossless ISK gain a good goal? I would argue no. Part of it is the artificial rules we place on ourselves that prevent us from enjoying the game.