Before asking yourself something like that, you first need to ask other things:

  • How do we know they burn in the first place?
  • Do non-witches burn too?

I’m not going to be picking comedy apart for logical errors, because the source of comedy is the logical errors, but it’s amusing that the logical errors in the discussion about Local are quite similar. The blog banter going round about the solutions for Local seems split between "Don’t fix what isn’t broken, go live in a wormhole" and "Local IS broken, fix it like so". Both variations range from very articulate to, well, not so, and both sides of the argument largely ignore something.

I want to say a few words about that something. There’s a reason why I didn’t say anything specific on this problem since I started blogging, and this here is that reason.

The problem with Local channel as intel source is not that it’s ‘unrealistic’. Lots of things in Eve are unrealistic, but accepted as normal anyway. (It is, however, quite silly, but that’s not what I’m getting at here.) The problem is instead that it’s completely black-and-white, absolutely perfect, and completely closes off tactical opportunities that would make the game richer. I.e. one cannot skillfully hide,1 ambush, or otherwise employ cunning based on imperfect information without relying on gate mechanics, because Local doesn’t pass through gates, while characters do.

The problem with just removing it is that it’s currently indispensable, in particular, for roaming gangs and other small gang activities.

Wherever I May Roam

I did write extensively about how Eve is treated as sport, while thought of as war, and in the context of this problem this is important. Why do people roam? You wouldn’t do that if it were a war. The obvious answer, so obvious that it’s never seriously analysed, is to find some action to procure fun. So how did that become a thing?

Quite a sizeable portion of the population does not actually like PVP for the sake of PVP itself, and prefers to engage in it for the sake of inflicting themselves on the universe permanently, or at least, in the term longer than the adrenaline-pumping minutes of actual combat, — be it through sov, structures, ISK destroyed/lost ratios, loot and wallet balances, logs of tears, status among peers — something that remains after the fight is over as a more or less tangible result of effort. I don’t know how large this portion is, but I have little doubt this is not just a minority view. In the absence of other factors, like structure grind being incredibly tedious, a fight over something is preferable to fighting over just meeting randomly in space.

Players have to roam randomly, because otherwise they would never get enough fights, let alone enough fights on their preferred terms — against opponents of comparable (or smaller) weight and numbers. I don’t have the actual source on the data,2 but there’s anecdotal evidence that engaging in PVP is strongly correlated to having children. Which is quite easy to explain if true — having comparatively little playing time for yourself also means you prefer to spend it on the more interesting activities. But it also means you can’t time your playing cycles to the other player’s cycles. Which is a requirement for fighting over permanent objects in Eve. Roaming remains your only option, but players would, nevertheless, prefer fighting for tangible result even in a situation like that. Fighting over a killboard score is just a fallback.

As Ripard Teg mentioned in one older post of his, "In my experience, a PvP gang will fly no more than 15-20 jumps before you better give them some PvP." This affects the viability of nullsec as a place to live and makes jump bridges a necessity — jump bridges that are otherwise quite problematic for nullsec because they imbalance force projection when things come to war. Local is a similar necessity for roaming, because without Local, a roaming gang cannot quickly assess the potential of a system for actually getting a fight. A WH-style Local, where you don’t even know if anyone is in there with you, would kill roaming as a practice if implemented everywhere, and leave thousands of players displeased. There are multiple reasons why they can’t fight over permanent focal points in space instead:

  • There are very few permanent focal points. POSes are the most important kind — and there are only that many moons per system and only that many POSes one can set up before either going bankrupt or insane.3 Assaulting a POS is a multi-hour time and effort investment, is very often boring, and requires a large, specially prepared group. You don’t do that as your evening’s random dose of fun.
  • Due to the peculiar running away mechanics I have already mentioned, assaulting focal points does not guarantee actually getting a fight. If the enemy can’t assemble a force with an advantage in numbers, they will not engage, they will rely on reinforcement instead and come next time.

Local is important for roaming because it lets one quickly see if there is anyone in the system at all. But notice that a highsec system with no people in it at all is exceedingly rare. It is a requirement for roaming to have such a capability because population distribution in Eve is so uneven, and the distribution of population willing to fight is even more uneven — not because system-local chat is somehow a requirement to engage in PVP.

The Final Solution

No plan for altering or removing Local is complete until it addresses the problem that Local ‘solves’. Local isn’t very suitable for finding opponents either — if it were, you would be able to see which characters on it are docked, for example. But that problem does not need to be solved by whatever replaces Local itself — Local is only pulled in as a crutch. Trying to twist a replacement of Local to fit will only produce yet another crutch, just a different one. It might turn out to be better, but it will remain a crutch.

The final solution to the issue needs to address the root causes and requires introducing quite a few changes that seemingly do not fall under the auspices of ‘Local problem’:

  1. More permanent focal points in space, preferably with opponent size filters like FW plexes. I.e. a development on the concept of a POS, a much larger variety of structures in space, suitable for conquering and defending — and looting when not conquered. An array of "come out and fight me" fitting the wide variety of gangs that actually are seen in the wild, so that people who are now roaming would be able to fight over them instead.
  2. Larger population of free-for-all areas, ensuring there’s more and more varied opponents.
  3. Changes in combat mechanics which would ensure that numeric superiority is less of a certain advantage than it currently is, so that people would actually come out and fight even if outnumbered.
  4. More means of cross-system electronic surveillance, allowing roaming fleets that do go out to find each other more easily without having a separate fleet of scouts.

No matter where you go, everything’s connected. I mentioned #2-#4 previously, and the recent threadnaught that massively insisted that POSes do not affect just a minority of players in many voices suggests #1 is keenly felt already, so I don’t need to dwell on it.

Discussing this issue without it’s wider context will only break down just like it did all the previous times it came up.

  1. Except by cloaking. Which is extremely special-purpose in Eve for some reason.

  2. Met it cited in a forum post, with no source. Anyone up for tracking that one down?

  3. Faction Warfare plexes are another kind of focal point, but — only ‘tangible’ to people signed up for Faction Warfare. To everyone else, they’re just opponent size filters.