dotlan

Interview with Wollari, creator of DOTLAN

 

Eve Online is a game of information. Hiding information, discovering it by any means, and making the best decision based on the information you have. There is so much information in Eve that players use a varied array of 3rd party tools to make sense of it all.

Reliance on third party tools and sites in Eve is almost unmatched in any other MMO game. From EveMon to plan skill training, to Eve Fitting Tool to plan ship doctrines, to Siggy for wormhole chains, players are constantly using external tools when playing the game.

Without these tools, Eve Online is arguably impossible to play with any sense of confidence or understanding. Imagine trying to plan a deployment into nullsec using only the tools provided in the game client.

DOTLAN Evemaps by Wollari is considered a cornerstone in most EVE player’s daily life. In operation for over seven years, Evemaps is used for many purposes, from planning attacks and retreats, monitoring sovereignty changes and failcascades, to simply deciding on which systems to mine in highsec.

I reached out to Wollari to ask him a few questions about himself and Evemaps.

(The interview has been minimally edited for readability. -ed)

Wollari

When did you start playing Eve? What do you like doing today?

I started playing in June 2007. I always kept an eye on Eve Online since I played lots of space games in my path (X1, X2, X3, I-War, Privateer, Wing Commander 3, Allegiance, Freelancer to name a few). I just was scared about subscribing to an online game for a monthly fee model.

When I started playing eve I joined the Eve uni for a couple of months and then followed my friend into the defending nullsec Provi block. A year later I was travelling all over Eve, had a couple of homes and joined lots of amazing fights. It was always a mixture of (small to mid size) group PvP and exploration that I enjoyed in the game. Nowadays I’m mostly not online and can barely keep up with the game. With family and kids you can’t spend full days/nights to prepare or move your shipyard. And with the jump range cut it basically disabled my personal golfbag (aka carrier) to move my personal belongings and ships around to follow my group. So most of the time I just spin my ship and talk to my friends on teamspeak (at least when I find some spare time).

evemaps.dotlan.net appears to have started in July 2008, what was the impetus to starting EveMaps?

When I started playing in nullsec there were only two types of readable 2D maps available. The Ombey Maps and the one from Serenity Steele who later sold his mapbook via EON. One guy in our alliance created a combined map for the area we lived/operated in (Providence/Catch) with MS Visio and some scripts to retrieve the sov data. It was mostly manual work to update the map so he only published very few internal updates. At that time I just started to play around with PDFs generated by PHP scripts and I started to take the map layout and recreate an online PDF version for the Provi block which was a huge success. Within the next month the idea was born to create a similar online version for all regions of Eve Online. That’s how it all started and over time features and more data were added to the whole system. And yes, there’s no algorithm that placed and arranged the system positions. All maps were hand made. I first had created the map editor (with Javascript and SVG) before I created the final webpage.

Players commonly refer to your site simply as ‘DOTLAN’, how do you refer to it?

I call it “EveMaps”. DOTLAN in general is basically the namespace of all my personal projects. The name DOTLAN, the logo, the CI, my clothes (jacket, shirts, etc) were already there (from my lanparty project/age) so It was a logical move for me to put EveMaps under my DOTLAN banner and reuse the logo/brand I like and identify with.

dotlan2

You’ve done impressive work keeping up with the game, like with Aegis sov. How do you decide what feedback to listen to and implement?

Mostly I can wrap my mind around how the things should work. Of course I talk a lot with my friends and we create ideas on what information can be important, what should be pushed and what is just background information. The realisation phase is then completely done by myself. When I’m done, we review it and maybe I do some tweaks, I try to find a balance between what’s possible or what’s too much work for too little use.

DOTLAN is widely used by many in game, including the most powerful groups. Have you ever been approached to provide covert intelligence on what others are doing/searching for?

To be honest, since I only poll and use public information there’s not much real intel I could ever provide. But on the other hand no, no one has ever asked me to provide secret information or any internal information. In this regard I try to act like the Swiss bank and stay as neutral as it can be (when it comes to EveMaps).

For the tech minded, what is the platform and stack that DOTLAN is built upon?

The platform stack is basically LAMP. Linux, Apache/Nginx, PHP, MySQL spiced up with a lot of client side javascript. I have a couple of background PHP daemons who’re constantly polling the API to get updates as quickly as I’m allowed to. I usually archive all the API results in the case I have to rebuild some broken data. I also always keep a history in the database which allows me to create graphs or list the recorded changes.

In the whole lifetime of EveMaps, the core code was fully rewritten twice. The first major rewrite was when Dominion was hitting TQ and I had to switch from daily changes to constant changes. A 2nd major rewrite came up when I switched from cron jobs to long running daemons that are keeping track of the polling and the change to some kind of MVC model and switched from prototype to jquery.

EveMaps runs as a virtual server with 16 GB of memory on my personal hardware that has been already upgraded twice with the help of the awesome Eve Online community. Right now it’s running pretty rock solid (apart from the daily hickup when doing live database backups around 11 cet/cest, with some time and motivation I could tweak this or just live with it ;-)).

Your donation page lists ways to support DOTLAN and your work. Are the donations enough to support the site costs and do you feel that your work is appreciated by the Eve community?

As everyone who is running a fansite will likely now, donations is nothing constant. If there’s no major event or incident happening donations come only occasionally. Combined with the bit of money from Google adsense, it pretty much covers the monthly housing costs. If I would push ads and myself more into the foreground constantly I could maximize the income… but pushing myself into the foreground isn’t the position I usually like to take.

CCP has discussed removing the in-game browser from the client. How do you think that might affect DOTLAN use?

I don’t think so. Yes some ingame commands (like show info, set destination) would break and features like retrieve the ingame position via HTTP Headers will likely be replaced with some authenticated CREST endpoint. Until CCP created a few replacements I don’t think that the in-game browser will be removed. The only sad thing is that the browser was introduced with the words that it’s now easier to push security updates to the chromium engine and in the long run it never got updated and will likely never get updates again.

You share your extraordinary photos on the DOTLAN site. What else about your non-Eve life are you willing to share with the Eve community?

I know I haven’t blogged in a while and TBH the blogpost about my Iceland trip (before this year’s fanfest) is behind time (sic). But here you can take a peek at some of the pictures we managed to capture. I still can’t believe the amount of luck we had to be at the right spot at the right time for the incredible aurora show at Jökulsárlón after our flight to iceland was canceled and rebooked due to bad weather conditions and a closed airport in Keflavik.

Sure, photography is one of the things I like to do but the majority of time is taken by my family and work, and both of them need more and more time of course. Apart from that I still try to maintain my lan party software (at end of October we held our yearly lan party (www.junien.de) with 650 participants), I spend some time on open source projects, play around with my server hardware or try to keep up with the technology, but that’s gets more time consuming than before.

______

Wollari’s work is extraordinary and the entire Eve community should be grateful for his efforts.

A cornerstone of the Eve community is the 3rd party development that enables players to make sense of a game with an extremely steep learning curve.

CCP has continued to work toward better interfacing with 3rd party tools, with good stuff coming out of the CREST efforts. Some of the new tools based on CREST are great and move the needle on making Eve more fun and enjoyable. But tools like EveMaps are hard to replace if development stopped. Members of the Imperium might have GARPA at their disposal, but many would be sent back to printouts if Evemaps went away.

The ability of the Eve SSO (single sign on) mechanism to be integrated into 3rd party tools is another good step forward between internal and external developers. Efforts like SSO are welcome and of huge help to the community. CCP’s continued work in these areas can pay off exponentially by unleashing the creativity of the player base.

As CCP considers the removal of the in-client browser, care must be taken that players are not crippled by losing ways to make sense of the universe and be able to find a way through it. Try finding a plasma planet or cyno mid-point in nullsec without using a third party tool. It’s unclear to many how the CREST endpoints are going to somehow replace the in-game browser, especially for those playing on a single screen.

Thank you to Wollari for his time and answers to my questions. Remember, you can donate to Wollari a number of ways.

 

Tags: 3rd party applications, DOTLAN, Dunk, EveMaps

About the author

Dunk Dinkle

Dunk Dinkle has played Eve since 2008. A life-long gamer, he's played MMORPGs since the first days of Ultima Online. In Eve, he's taken a path from high sec mission running to factional warfare to null sec. After the battle of Asakai, Dunk landed in Brave Newbies where he annoys FCs with an extensive soundboard.

  • 412nv

    Awesome Stuff! And i thank you for Dotlan aka “evemaps” 😉

  • Wollari thank you so much for your EVEMaps on DOTLAN. I never undock without your maps open on my second monitor. Being able to leave notes on various systems as I travel around is great! I have tried other map tools that work in-game but DOTLAN’s design has always been visually more comfortable and easier to use for me. Donating via PayPal is a more than worthwhile investment in a tool I use literally every day that I log in.