Removing local has been a point of contention as long as I can remember. Some people love the idea and some people hate it. It comes up over and over again like its buddy the AFK Cloaker Question. Without further build up, I am going to jump right into the fire.
The Wormhole Comparison
Interestingly, local does not exist in one part of the game, wormhole space. Some advocates of local removal point out that W-space works fine. Then they demand that everyone should accept the idea of local removal on that fact alone. They fail to acknowledge any of the differences between K-space and W-space. To start, a wormhole resident can collapse any wormhole that he does not like. If it is too dangerous to collapse that wormhole, then they can and probably should retreat to a safe location such as a POS. Many times wormhole residents have early warning of an incursion because they see on their scanners that a new wormhole has opened into their space. That means somebody is coming, at the very least a prober alt. In the event of combat it is very hard to blob in W-space, as hard as blobbing happens in K-space. Populations are low. Concentration is penalized by lowered incomes. Travelling to group up is hard.
Capitals win fights, so the mechanics of capitals in W-space bears particular examination. You cannot hotdrop into a W-space system. A tackler has to wait for backup to arrive the usual way. 20 carriers cannot be instantly crammed into a system. A W-space defender has a much greater leeway to use capitals in his system’s defense than a K-space FC. Invading a wormhole with any decent number of capitals takes multiple wormholes over a longer period of time. The only defenders who will not be aware this is happening are those who are totally asleep at the wheel.
It is my opinion that using W-space as an example of why local should be removed from K-space is a really bad comparison. There are too many differences between the two. The decision to remove local from K-space should be based on the rules and gameplay that exist in K-space. To be clear, the failure of this argument should be separate from the question of K-space local. It would be a mistake to hold the awfulness of this particular argument against the idea of removing local. With this out of the way let us look at real pros and cons.
Fleet Size Disparity: Removing local helps the big gangs
Removing local would by definition make everyone sneakier. The biggest disparity I see coming from this would be between a solo pilot and a larger gang. For this example the larger gang can be fairly small itself. I am going to compare a solo pilot against a 20 man roaming gang. With local removed, the 20 man roaming gang could have four or five interceptors looking in nearby systems, and a few alts as well. The 20 man gang would be able to piece together a reasonable picture of what was in the area. The solo pilot might have an alt. This alt could only look in one direction, giving him a much more limited view. And that assumes that the solo pilot does have an alt. Many people do not own alts. The game should probably be playable for those guys.
Now imagine an encounter between the 20 man gang and the solo pilot. With local, when the 20 man gang comes into system the solo pilot can get safe and not be blobbed. If the 20 man fleet wanted to kill the solo pilot, they would have to send in a bait ship to engage him while hiding at least one system away. The bait ship would have to be something he would not be afraid to fight. When the bait ship(s) is engaged against the solo pilot, the fleet would rush to the bait ship’s aid. They would have to jump into the system, and the solo pilot would know that he was about to get blobbed. The solo pilot would have a handful of seconds (20-30 on average) to kill the bait ship and run or to escape the bait ship’s tackle. If local was removed the solo pilot would only know he was in trouble when the fleet showed up on D-scan. This is a much smaller window of opportunity within which to act. An interceptor on D-scan is seconds away from landing and making very firm tackle.
Removing local creates an intelligence disparity that favors larger fleets who can afford to send scouts around. Smaller gangs and solo pilots will operate nearly blind. This is terrible because solo and small gang should be viable in EVE. The smaller gang is already at a disadvantage. The big gang has more firepower, repair, hitpoints, and EWAR than the small gang. The advantages of more people are already huge and hard to overcome. Small gang play in EVE should be a matter of skill, not a crapshoot where the small gang could get blobbed at any moment.
Hot Droppers : One guy is not just one guy
Hot dropping is a major factor in local removal. A single guy could bring in 20, 50, or any number of additional pilots within a few seconds. A cloaked T3 with an interdiction nullifier is nearly impossible to stop, and only visible to D-scan or watching the gate for a couple seconds when it comes into a system. If it was just that one guy, I would suggest that his anonymity was fine. One guy on his own is not much of a threat. Cloaky nullified T3s are weak combatants. The fact that he can bring in help nearly instantly means that it is probably fair to warn pilots in the system that he is around. Again, EVE should be a matter of skill. A good pilot should have some chance to avoid a hotdrop with the proper precautions.
Dem Ratters and Bots: Hiding from hunters is so easy even a caveman can do it
While it should be possible for a pilot who is paying attention to evade a hunter, it shouldn’t be as simple as hiding in a POS when a red comes into local. There should be a bit more dynamism to the situation. The fact that local tells a pilot exactly when they should hide is evident when you look at bot programs. Bots go about their business and the only decision they need to make is to warp to their safe when someone enters local. This makes bots nearly untouchable. Now and then one gets caught by a rat, and there are some tricks that can be done with bubbles. However bots mostly get away. EVE should require skill. A robot skilled enough to play the game right should be a triumph of artificial intelligence. It should not come down to; if(hostile is in local): hide until they go away.
If we could somehow break this, such as by removing local, bots would suffer greatly. This is a good thing. It is good for the health of the game from a perspective of gameplay, fairness, avoiding RMT, and preventing more devious hacking attempts. Death to bots.
The Dread Pirate Roberts: Local provides too much specific intel
Dread Pirate Roberts might be hiding in system somewhere no one can see him, biding his time, waiting to swoop down on someone. Unfortunately local gives him away. His reputation precedes him, and everybody is extra careful when he is in system, thwarting his dastardly plans. If he wants to be treated as a random pubby, he has to create a new account. When he tries to sneak through enemy systems, everyone knows what he is up to with very little effort. They know what he flies by checking the killboards. They know how much of a threat he is for the same reason. He has to resort to AFK cloaking, finding really unskilled players, and logoff traps to accomplish his goals.
Real hotdroppers use obscure alts. Dread Pirate Roberts anonymity or lack thereof does not really stop hotdrops from occurring. To handle the risk of a hotdrop, a pilot simply needs to know that someone else is in system with them. They would like to know if the local is blue or not, but they do not need to know the specific name.
The Lore of Local: It is hard to justify local
Some people say that local is a registry of residents in a system that the gates keep track of. That does not make sense when someone comes in through a wormhole or a cyno. It really is pretty hard to understand why people would want to announce their presence to their enemies. Wormholes obviously do not have local so is local something to do with the infrastructure of a system? If it has to do with local infrastructure, should not sov holders be able to set local so only their allies know who is where? The desire to remove local is inspired in many people by the fact that it does not make any sense.
My Solution: Modify local so it only shows how many pilots are in system
Yes. In K-space, take away the list of exactly who is in local. Do not tell people how many blues or hostiles are in local. Just display the number of people in a system. For lore reasons call it, “active drives detected in system.” You can speak in local and reveal yourself, but you do not have to. This keeps the good part of local, a solo pilot or micro gang can avoid being blobbed. Some warning exists for a potential hotdrop. At the same time, this accomplishes many of the good things that make people want to remove local. A bot has to make a decision, is it going to stop ratting when anyone comes into system, even if they could be friendly? Dread Pirate Roberts gets to keep his anonymity until he initiates combat.
The best part is, this penalizes the blob. When 100 guys are hanging around a system, one hostile can sneak in and nobody might notice. They would have to keep a regular role call to know that 99 guys in the system are friendly and one is unaccounted for and therefore probably hostile. It makes more work for the blob instead of the solo pilot. That guy who sneaks into the 100 man system can swoop in and surprise somebody before the alarm is sounded. When the blob is roaming, they have to expend effort differentiating blues and fleet members from potential targets. For a solo pilot in hostile space, he knows that everyone he sees is a potential threat or target.
For the same reason, NPC stations would simply provide a number of guests instead of who exactly is docked. Station sov owners would be provided with a list of occupants, but no one else would see the list.
Additional Tweaks: Buff D-scan a little bit to make up for nerfing local
I suggest a module that can be fitted to a ship that increases the range at which they can D-scan. Call it active sensors and inform anybody who gets pinged by a ship using D-scan with this module. This would create a new role in fleets of long range scanner and could make for some neat submarine warfare style of thing. Choosing to use this gives a clearer picture or the area, but it also warns the enemy that people are looking for them.
A module that reduces the range at which the fitted ship could be D-scanned would make for an interesting counter.
It does not really matter exactly how the remaining intel tools get buffed. The important part would be that they require active work to gather intel so there is some actual gameplay to scouting. Intel should be a bit more dynamic than it currently is. CCP has moved a bit in this direction already by making combat recons immune to D-scan.
Closing: I am a bad person
There are reasons for and against removing local. I have tried to propose a solution that captures the best of both worlds. Given that it is a fairly radical solution, I will attempt to engage with anyone who wants to discuss the idea or the issues surrounding local itself.
My general opinion of trying to influence CCP to change the game is that it is a weak strategy. Then there is the fact that most ideas are probably terrible, including my own. Remember how bad that fatigue idea was. What idiot thought that would make the game better? A good player adapts to whatever changes CCP decides to make. In the worst case scenario, if CCP ruins the game, the good player recognizes this and moves on. Proposing ways to change the game generally comes as a form of advocacy. CCP BUFF ME SO I CAN WINZOR MORE! CCP NERF THE PEOPLE WHO ARE FIGHTING ME AND MY ALLIANCE AND MY COALITION! Of course my last article was me whining at CCP about ship skins. I am as guilty of advocacy as anyone else. That is because I am a bad person.
In this case I am more interested in talking to the people who constantly want to bring up removing local. It is an engaging conversation that deserves more than mere advocacy. It deserves having its various points and solutions looked over carefully. It deserves more than a simple position, remove local / do not remove local. People are going to go on talking about removing local for as long as the server runs, so we might as well have a detailed conversation.
Tags: local, Mukk