People don’t want to admit it but recent improvements in AI have clearly killed off certain forms of online gaming. To give an example of this, I used to be an avid League of Legends player, yet I have stopped playing the game entirely for months now because at least 30% of my solo queue games were being decided by bots. Sometimes the bot throws the game, other times it players inhumanly well, clearly clicking a hundred times a second. League’s developer, Riot Games, has seemingly given up on stopping the bots because there is no discussion of the situation despite it clearly costing them players.
Of course, we also don’t hear much from CCP in regards to botting either. Now that chat bots are casually indistinguishable from the average human, it is impossible to separate a carefully managed bot from a human being. This is clearly having a big impact upon things like null sec wars and industry, where he who controls the bots and gets away with it controls the universe.
As bad as this is, gaming in general is doing just fine. Three of the most popular games of the past several years are: Fortnite, Minecraft and Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Maybe some people thought that building things would a weird fit for a Zelda game but it’s been a smash hit. What do these games all have in common? The theme of constructing your own things and with the latter two, exploration.
This brings me to my first argument regarding how Eve Online can survive the Botpocalypse: more exploration content. I’m already mainly an exploration player as it is. I AFK mine the veldspar, then use it to buy exploration ships and to fund solo PvP content (Abyssals). AIs do not affect my gameplay at all. In fact, if I were to encounter a dangerous AI during my explorations, it would probably improve my gameplay experience, not detract from it. As such, this is clearly one of the ways forward for Eve. They need to start asking themselves how they can improve their exploration systems, which are already perhaps the best and most unique part of this game anyway.
My second suggestion is an even more modest proposal: legalize botting if the person wants to pay for a sub. Similar as with multi-boxing, you can’t stop it anyway, yet if someone wants to fund the development of my game to run some bots, I say let them do it. Counter-intuitively, this might actually reduce the toxicity of botting. This is because one of the advantages of botting is that you are doing it against people who are not botting. If everyone in nullsec starts openly running bots for their industry and so-on, there is no advantage to those who are secretly running bots. Again, if this is what you want to spend your money on so that players can get more exploration content put into their game, you do you and I’ll do me.
Perhaps there are nullsec players who hate this idea. All I can say to you is: I’m sorry but it’s going to happen some day, no matter what we do.
My third suggestion is that custom station colors are a great idea but it needs to go further. Including a system that keep the themes of different races’ ship designs in-game, at some point they need to let us start designing our own ships. Think of a hybrid between building a vehicle (or a giant robot) in Tears of the Kingdom (everything that is built has to be skinned and shaped in certain ways, so nothing really looks out of place) mashed up with the strategic cruiser mechanics and you have players building their own ships. As the number of ships in Eve only grows larger over time, it has reached a point where there are probably no major balance issues that would emerge in most contexts because there’s arguably a ship for every possible niche role already, so letting players design their own ships (probably only for certain kinds of content at first, not for major battles) probably wouldn’t unbalance anything. As such, maybe things like the large battleships, command ships and so-on would always be standardized for balance purposes but just as strategic cruisers are really flexible, making them even more flexible (and on down through destroyers, frigates and shuttles) would probably not change anything.
To summarize the essential message I want to get across here, the way to survive the Botpocalypse is to put things into your game that bots cannot ruin for other players. Exploration and creation are those things. Like, if someone wants to make a bot that designs ship shapes then fine, whatever. If they want to run a bot that attempts to hunt me down in a wormhole then fine, it gets a little slow in there sometimes anyway and there’s like three thousand holes or something. You can’t beat them but you can integrate them.