Should Intel Channel Ping Bots be Banned?

I think so.

Let me explain for those of you unfamiliar with them. Lets look at NEAR 2, probably the most popular of these tools. Nexoteable alternatives include Vintel and I'm led to believe that GSF also have (had?) their own internal tool.

While all of these tools list a myriad of varying features, the key one is this: an audible ping when a hostile is within a set number of jumps from your current ratting system. Let's take a practical example, a Rorqual spends 5 minutes in a Siege cycle, ~25-30 to align, and then you're scott free. An interceptor can travel go 1 jump every 30-60 seconds depending on how long the warps are and anything else is far slower. So say you set your tool to ping you when a hostile is 5 jumps out. Unless you're unlucky enough to have just entered a cycle as it happens, that's plenty to cycle red and hit align if he keeps coming your way. If he doesn't? Hey ho, just go siege green again. You can do this alt tabbed, watching a movie, fuck I have a friend with wireless headphones who'll go cook dinner or do housework while his Rorquals are in the belt, safe in the knowledge that should anything hostile be coming his way, he'll be instantly notified and have time to get back to his computer and do something about it.

Not only that, but NEAR2 in particular has some pretty nifty features straight out of Pirate's Little Helper. What corp/alliance is the character in? How many kills have they gotten recently? What ships do they usually fly if it wasn't reported? Who do they fly with? etc. Again this isn't secret stuff, however automating it to this level brings it to another level.

So how does this work?

Well it's quite simple. Unsurprisingly EVE keeps a lot of logs by default.

explorer_2017-10-25_00-11-02

However what you might not know is that these files are updated instantly.

There can be a fraction of a second of delay, but that's it. If there's a neut heading our way, you're going to know about it within a single digit number of seconds of it being reported in intel.


So what's the catch here? Why is this not a clear case of botting?

Because technically it isn't. As far as the EVE EULA is concerned, a bot is when a program sends input to the game. It says absolutely nothing about what you can do with the game's output. Any half decent programmer can probably imagine up a half a dozen different ways of getting the same information out of the game, but the difference is none of those are completely legal in the way that ping bots are. And even if they were, they're no where near as practical.

The scary thing is how this scales. In Hard Knocks our #1 enemy when hunting anything in the drone regions is the "Drone Den" intel channel. It's shared between every single group that lives there so it's virtually impossible to move around without getting noticed. Take Vintel with it's map, you can sit and watch people get reported as they move around and even think "okay they've passed through my pocket now I'm safe".

Now I'm not against intel channels. As I've seen many goons put it, you can't and shouldn't try to ban teamwork. I do however think it's a problem when you've widely available tools that make it possible to safely leave 10 billion ISK capitals in belts while you go afk for 30+ minutes in a game based on risk/reward.

No one using these tools is breaking any rules right now and I don't think anyone should be punished, however they seem pretty squarely against the spirit of the game.

In my mind there's a really straightforward solution here: delay the log files. Buffer them by time, by lines, whatever. It doesn't really matter. If these files are 5-10 mins out of date then their usefulness in this context is completely neutered, without having any advrse effects. It's better than declaring these tools an exploit/cheat/whatever, because you don't need to ban anyone or give Team Security another job to do if it's not possible in the first place.