The little pop-up box seen below, screenshotted from the test server, caused a bit of a stir this week:
It's widely speculated that CCP is about to remove pilots' ability to board ships in space while under the GCC timer. Presumably, the purpose of the change is to eliminate hyperdunking. For those unfamiliar with the mechanic, hyperdunking is a special form of suicide ganking developed by Agent Globby. It involves having a friend in a Bowhead eject new ganking ships on top of the gank target so that the ganker(s) can repeatedly re-ship and attack the same target. It's typically used against freighters.
News quickly spread on EVE-O (the official EVE forums), the EVE subreddit, and elsewhere. No doubt everyone has been holding their breath in anticipation of hearing what I would have to say about it. As it happens, I do have just a few thoughts I'd like to share on the topic. The thread on EVE-O in the General Discussion subforum was locked a few hours after it began. The ISD was able to rest easy after that, since it was the only really active thread on EVE-O that day. (Crisis averted!)
Luckily I have my own blog on which to share my thoughts, and it has more readers than EVE-O does. (Which is quite sad when you think about it.)
#1. Hyperdunking Is a Funny Thing to Nerf
Very few people use the hyperdunk method, and only a tiny percentage of freighter ganks result from it. Though hyperdunking requires fewer gankers, it's a cumbersome method and absurdly easy to counter. If I had to rank all the different forms of highsec aggression, hyperdunking is likely the most easily thwarted. For that reason, I don't view it as being overpowered.
I suspect a lot of people see a freighter kill with one ganker on the killmail and think, "That's abusive, bordering on an exploit." I disagree, given the ease of countering it, and how incompetent someone needs to be to fall victim to it. I had similar feelings toward the late, great Boomerang method pioneered by Herr Wilkus.
The removal of hyperdunking won't leave much of an impact on the carebears. Those who escape death due to its removal won't notice, as they are probably comatose most of the time. Even so, CCP must have felt the hyperdunk needed to go, as literally tens of freighters were killed by it this year, and because people were having fun in highsec--which is almost as alarming as people having a conversation on EVE-O.
#2. CCP Took a Long Time to Do This
I'm not surprised to see hyperdunking removed, but I did find it interesting how long it took for CCP to get around to it. Hyperdunking officially came to CCP's attention all the way back in January, when CCP Falcon posted an announcement confirming it was a legitimate tactic and not an exploit. Assuming the test server change gets implemented on the main server in the near future, that's at least nine months of hyperdunking.
By contrast, consider the Boomerang. Herr Wilkus publicized the method (which previously had been used in different forms by others) on EVE-O on March 20, 2012. As you can see from the thread lock, CCP began investigating it by the end of the day. By March 30th, it was declared an exploit. It was patched out of the game three days later.
Maybe it's because the Boomerang was called an exploit, and the hyperdunk wasn't. Strictly speaking, the Boomerang method shouldn't have been called an exploit, as the ganking ship didn't avoid destruction at the hands of CONCORD. Regardless, if CCP doesn't like a newly discovered, unintended mechanic and they choose to remove it, whether they call it an exploit or not is immaterial. In both cases, the result is the same.
Another contrast: Also in 2012, The Mittani caused an outpouring of miner tears when he declared Hulkageddon Infinity. CCP responded quickly. Within a couple months, they released an (unscheduled) expansion with a complete overhaul of the mining ships. In addition to rebalancing all the barges/exhumers and redefining their roles, CCP gave them ore bays.
So why did hyperdunking take a least nine months to remove?
At this point, observant readers might point to what I said in section #1 of this post, reasoning that the removal of hyperdunking was merely a low priority. Perhaps, but the arguments in section #1 are reasons why hyperdunking didn't need a nerf, not why the nerf should be delayed. If something isn't overpowered, you don't wait nine months to nerf it; you leave it be. If it's an abusive mechanic that needs nerfing, why wait?
Without reading too much into this, it makes me wonder about EVE and the resources CCP is dedicating to it these days. For the past few years, EVE has been on a meager diet when it comes to CCP-supplied content. Is EVE development lacking in manpower? Witness the long-delayed and poorly implemented "fix" to nullsec sovereignty, the unexplained delays in fixing obvious problems (trollceptors, excessive jump fatigue), the delays in implementing citadels, and the lack of other content in the meanwhile. Critics point out that CCP Seagull has been a broken record, continually promising the same features and improvements on an agonizingly slow timetable.
In years past, resources were diverted from EVE proper to Incarna, World of Darkness, and Dust 514. May we assume that, after the failure of those projects, the resources never came back to EVE, and that CCP is completely focused on "lots of cool VR stuff"? How many devs work on EVE? For the sake of appearances, are there devs assigned to EVE part-time who actually spend most of their time on VR?
Just curious, that's all.
#3. EVE Community Reaction
I took a look at the EVE-O thread, the additional thread in the Crime & Punishment subforum, and the one in the EVE subreddit. I was struck by the community's reaction to the removal of hyperdunking. One would have expected almost unanimous praise for CCP. After all, hyperdunking is something very few people do. Unlike can-flipping (effectively removed years ago) or awoxing (removed earlier this year) or ganking generally, hyperdunking is an esoteric practice. Besides, carebears vastly outnumber content generators. Normally, everybody eats these nerfs up.
When I first began writing about highsec, the risk/reward imbalance, the pattern of nerfs to aggression, and the futile drive to reach theme park subscription numbers, it wasn't merely because it was my Destiny to become Saviour of Highsec. (That was a factor, of course.) It was also because there was simply no one else to do it. If I didn't write it, no one else would.
In the old days, hardly anyone would voice any criticism of nerfs to aggression, even when CCP removed common practices like can-flipping. Reading the threads about hyperdunking, I was impressed by the number of people who opposed its removal, even in the short-lived thread in the General Discussion subforum, which is populated almost entirely by carebears (to the extent it's populated at all).
The majority of commenters support a safer highsec, naturally. But even among those misguided individuals, I noticed some significant changes. For one thing, very few of them expressed a belief that the nerf would boost EVE's subscription numbers. In the past, nearly all the carebears would sing in a chorus about subscription revenue, no matter what the nerf was. I also noticed a distinct lack of the One More Nerf™ fallacy. Carebears didn't claim the nerf would save highsec; they were already begging CCP to nerf ganking in new ways (nerf bumping, increase freighter EHP [again], give freighters more fitting options [again], etc.).
Overall, the tone of the discussion was different. It was less one-sided. It was more like a debate, and less like a Bacchanalia of bot-aspirancy. People were more aware of the patterns and trends of EVE development, and less likely to dismiss them as paranoia and conspiracy theories.
EVE community, my, how you've grown! (In maturity, if not number.)
If my portrait had arms, they would be hugging you right now.