I don't have any links on hand, but I recall CCP answering a question about an official killboard with "Not worth our time, eve community third party tool innovation blah blah generic buzzwords."I personally think it would be nice, but CCP does not think it would be a worthwhile use of developer time and maintenance effort. That being said, I can live with eve-kill, even as occasionally unreliable as it can get.
Love them or hate them, EVE wouldn't be the same without killboards. EVE players have long debated the importance of killboards and the statistics they report. Some may question their worth, but over the years, killboards have taken on an increasingly large role in the EVE universe. They are used at the lowest and highest levels, from the pirate perusing his personal numbers to the coalition leader relying on stats for propaganda. The most popular killboards host millions of killmails and get traffic from countless EVE players each day.
CCP has, for the most part, kept its distance from killboards while revealing mixed feelings about the subject. Killboard links are subject to stunningly draconian rules on the official EVE forums. At the same time, however, killmails are so integral to the EVE experience that CCP has routinely upgraded and revamped the killmail system.
CCP has never hinted that it would like to get into the killboard business. All EVE killboards are hosted by third-party sites. This fact doesn't make killboards unique; EVE's creative playerbase makes use of all kinds of third-party tools and websites. Nevertheless, killboards do occupy a peculiar position in the world of the EVE metagame. Killboards are central to the EVE experience, but unlike similarly-important tools such as TeamSpeak or Jabber, killboards lack a stable platform. EVE is in need of a good, reliable killboard host. (This point is likely to be somewhat controversial. Don't worry, I'll return to it.)
An obvious solution presents itself: CCP should abandon its traditional, standoffish attitude toward killboards and embrace them. CCP should create and host an official killboard for EVE.
THE HISTORY OF EVE KILLBOARDS
If you play EVE at any level above the futile grinding of the highsec carebear, you're bound to encounter killboards. Frequently. It's fair to say that, big or small, all EVE corps engaged in PvP are to some degree preoccupied with killboard stats. That statement may sound like an insult, but it shouldn't be taken as such. In a sense, killboards are the essential record of what happens in EVE. Someone who plays a first-person shooter game wouldn't be embarrassed to admit that he looks at the scoreboard during a round of play, or even at a long-term scoreboard that charts his progress over the course of multiple rounds. Is EVE any different?
EVE gameplay is far more open-ended and versatile than that of an FPS game. This fact leads some to call it a "sandbox", which in turn leads them to deny EVE's fundamental nature, which is that of a competitive, multiplayer, PvP game. Don't let the word "sandbox" fool you. "Grand Theft Auto III" was called a "sandbox" by millions of players, but it remained a game primarily about stealing cars and shooting people. EVE offers much more freedom than GTA, of course, but it still has a central theme: making spaceships explode, or building spaceships (so they can explode), or trading equipment (used to make spaceships explode), or anchoring structures in nullsec (to tell everyone else who's in charge of making spaceships explode).
A rabid carebear will insist that you're a twisted sociopath if you shoot at spaceships in a 0.5 security system, but he'll say you're an honourable warrior for doing the same thing in a 0.4 security system. This is one reason why it's best to shoot carebears, rather than listen to them. Wherever you reside in the galaxy, EVE is a game about blowing things up and getting kills.
It's no surprise, then, that EVE's original culture developed around killboards and kill statistics. The first dominant EVE culture was created by the corporations who would become the Band of Brothers alliance. They viewed EVE through the prism of kill-to-death ratios. Kill stats were used to determine whether someone was an elite PvPer or not. There were limits, of course. One problem was that in the early days, all killmails had to be posted manually. People posted their kills, but not their losses. Band of Brothers, always innovators, improved upon this model: they posted all of their kills and lied about posting all their losses.
Then came the Goons. The Goon culture was a reaction against the BoB culture. Goons didn't care about elite PvP stats or kill-to-death ratios. They swarmed their enemies with cheap ships. Central to the Goons' identity was a story about how they used mobs of inexpensive frigates to take down expensive enemy Vagabonds and other HACs. At the core of this story, however, we find just another kill statistic: ISK ratios. The Goons didn't care about how many ships they lost, but they did care very much about the fact that they inflicted more ISK damage than they suffered.
As the Goons grew and started fielding more expensive ships, this attitude changed. The Goons allied with the Russians of the Red Alliance and began conquering nullsec space. The Goons' enemies comforted themselves with killboard statistics. Goon leaders urged their players to ignore killboards altogether, even the ISK ratios. The only thing that mattered was who held the field. That fact determined who won the sovereignty war.
Ultimately, the Goons prevailed, and their culture - rather than BoB's - became dominant in EVE. Today, even elite, roaming nullsec PvPers will claim not to care too much about killboards and kill statistics. But they do. Despite the triumph of the Goons, EVE players' attitudes toward kill statistics remain murky. There's a good reason for this murkiness: it's not always clear who holds the field.
Due to EVE's needlessly complicated sovereignty mechanics, the early stages of a sov war take place in a fog. Unless one side is hopelessly outmatched, there's a lot of back-and-forth, a lot of griping about time zones, and a lot of spin. The armies clash against each other again and again, with neither side gaining much ground. Then, suddenly, one side fail-cascades.
Before the tipping point is reached - which may be a long time after hostilities commence - neither side "holds the field". In the meantime, the players must argue with each other about who is winning. There's only one way to make those arguments: kill statistics, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood killboard. Alliances claim not to care about killboards, until they do. You can't fight a war without them.
Lastly, many alliances initially held mixed feelings about killboards. They liked to show off their stats, but they worried about what else they were showing off. Killboards are an intel gold mine. They reveal fittings and fleet compositions. If they're updated quickly enough, they even reveal locations almost in real-time. In earlier days, some alliance killboards withheld information for 24 hours before making it available to the public. For the most part, that practice has fallen out of favor. In EVE as elsewhere, the desire to share information has taken priority over the desire for secrecy.
CCP'S ATTITUDE TOWARD KILLBOARDS
CCP isn't against killboards. Not by any means. CCP has expanded the use of APIs to make running killboards much easier. They've even given "Community Spotlights" to Eve-Kill and BattleClinic. It's also fair, however, to say that killboards never made CCP feel warm fuzzies the way, for example, SOMER Blink did.
If killboards are important to EVE, and if EVE is important to CCP, then killboards ought to be important to CCP. Whenever a major killboard host encounters financial difficulties, players on EVE-O will post suggestions about CCP helping them out. Obviously CCP wouldn't do that. It's vital that CCP keep some distance between itself and any third-party outfit. That having been said, CCP has gone a bit further than a respectful distance.
Consider CCP's policy toward linking to killboards on the official EVE forums. It's a simple policy: They're forbidden.
"Posting of kill reports outside of the Crime & Punishment forum channel is prohibited. More often than not, posts of this nature are made with inflammatory intent and are designed to promote trolling and flaming. Therefore, the posting of links to kill reports from any third party site, or the direct copy-pasting of kill reports from in game is prohibited on all forum channels of the EVE Online Forums, with the exception of the Crime & Punishment Channel."
By any reasonable standard, this rule is completely ridiculous. Unfortunately, it's but one example of many. I've made no secret of my disdain for the way EVE-O is moderated. That's a subject for another day, but you can read some of what I think in a previous article, "The Rise and Fall of CAOD". The Crime & Punishment subforum permits the posting of killmails, but only subject to its own, even more ridiculous, set of rules. I'll get to that in a moment, but first let's focus on the ridiculousness of this particular rule.
The posting of killmails is outlawed because people can use them to promote "trolling and flaming". True, players can troll by posting a killmail and saying "Player123 sucks" or "Look how I pwnz0red Player456". Such troll posts could be locked, just as one might lock any other post with trolling or flaming. The presence of the killmail link is not a problem in and of itself. It does nothing except provide some objective evidence to support the claim that Player123 does, in fact, suck.
There are many good reasons to post a killmail link. The site you're currently reading does it all the time, whether in ALOD articles or in battle reports. EVE is a competitive PvP game, so it would be nearly impossible for TheMittani.com to cover EVE news without posting links to killboards.
Whoever wrote the EVE-O rules disagrees. CCP is quite clear on why killmail links are banned: "More often than not, posts of this nature are made with inflammatory intent..." Maybe they think the articles on this website have inflammatory intent. Or maybe they think TheMittani.com is just a different environment. I can think of one difference: A lot of people read TheMittani.com, and not many people bother to read EVE-O anymore.
Now let's look at the rules about posting killmail links on the Crime & Punishment subforum:
"The posting of killmails is permitted, however following criteria must be met:
a) The name of the victim must be removed or covered up.
b) The killmail must be posted along with constructive text/content. This means no posting new threads with simply a killmail in it without a comment.
c) The killmail must be posted directly into the post and may not be a link to a third-party site."
The EVE-O rule-writer goes on to say:
"The reason behind these rules was a spate of threads seeking to embarrass other players, such as those with poor set-ups. Killmails are not supported by us and given the ease of forgery, threads with killmails in them tended to descend into arguments about the veracity of them. To foster a better community spirit, killmails will be removed from any post that do not follow the above rules."
To be clear, this isn't satire. Those are the actual rules, quoted verbatim. You're supposed to type a killmail out and censor the name of the victim. You're not allowed to post links to API-verified killmails. And these rules were designed with the problem of forgery in mind! Spectacular reasoning. The rules are obviously years out of date, but they didn't make sense even back when they were written.
The EVE-O rules also seek to prevent players being "embarrassed" by having their poor set-ups shown off. Here, clearly, an ALOD article would break the spirit of the rule. My objection to the rule is this: Killmails with players' outrageously bad set-ups are funny. Granted, they come at the victim's expense. Here's the thing, though - so does everything else. A battle report, unless it's a draw, will make one side look good and the other side look bad. Again, EVE is a competitive PvP game. This reality means that there are going to be winners and losers. A game like this is not going to make you feel good all the time. As long as it's within the context of the game, I have no problem with someone looking foolish for doing something foolish. An ALOD article about someone's terribly-fit multi-billion ISK ship is not cyberbullying. It's good, clean, fun.
ADVANCES IN EVE KILLMAILS
Though the treatment of killboards on EVE-O is wretched, the in-game killmail system is another story. The last several years have seen CCP making positive changes to the system. A lot of changes, in fact. Killmails have been improved and upgraded more times than almost any other feature in EVE.
As I mentioned previously, CCP expanded the use of APIs to enable killboards to verify the authenticity of killmails. CCP also made it possible for killboards to automatically retrieve killmails so players don't need to input them manually. These changes alone provided a huge leap forward.
On numerous occasions, CCP has expanded the amount of information provided by killmails. Originally, killmails only showed items that were destroyed, not dropped. This information made it impossible to get the full value of a kill unless you looted the wreck, and that information couldn't be put into a killmail unless you doctored it yourself. CCP fixed the system so that it now lists both the dropped and destroyed mods and indicates which is which. For years, players yearned to know what was inside the pods that they popped. CCP added implants to pod killmails, though you still can't tell what the value of the medical clone was. Later, CCP also fixed killmails for Orcas so that you can see what was destroyed inside their corporate and ship hangars.
CCP also took steps to broaden the scope of who gets included on killmails. CCP was merciful to the sov-grinders when it expanded the killmail system to include structures such as POSes and everything that goes with them. The list of participants on long killmails got its own upgrade: originally, only the first several players were included, and now all of them are, no matter how many players assisted on a kill. On top of that, the killmail system was changed so that players who use bubbles to interdict targets are given credit.
Most recently, killmails received another major overhaul. Rather than consisting of mere text, killmails contain proper graphical readouts, showing what was killed and who killed it. The killmails can be linked anywhere in-game, though obviously cannot be linked out-of-game. Taking a cue from the popular killboards, they mails also show the estimated market value of everything that was destroyed.
In short, killmails have come a long way. I didn't go through patch notes or anything. The changes listed above are only the ones I was able to recall from memory - there could be more. Until you actually go through a list like the one I drew up, it's hard to believe how many times killmails have been singled out for attention. I bet you thought I couldn't say anything nice about CCP, didn't you?
By now, it should be clear that CCP understands how important killmails are to EVE players. The question is, are the current killboards up to the task?
THE NEED FOR AN OFFICIAL EVE KILLBOARD
At the beginning of this article, I made the claim that there are no good, reliable killboards. What I mean by that statement is there are no killboards that have both a good layout and reliable hosting. Some have one or the other, in my opinion, but none have both.
There are three main killboards in use today: Eve-Kill.net, zKillboard.com, and BattleClinic.com. They each have the same job, to present voluminous killmail information in an easy-to-read format. Of the three, it's no contest. Eve-Kill has the best design by far. There are a few things I would tweak, such as adding an ISK value column for the lists of killmails (as zKillboard does) so you can browse to the most expensive ones. Other than that, Eve-Kill's layout is as close to perfect as you're going to get.
zKillboard's layout isn't terrible, but it isn't nearly as good as Eve-Kill's. It wastes space and doesn't display kill participants until you've scrolled all the way to the bottom. BattleClinic has the advantage of longevity. Unfortunately, however, its layout is so poor that players flocked to BattleClinic's competitors at the first opportunity. These days, if you send someone a BattleClinic link, they might react as if you linked them a Myspace page. BattleClinic is apparently aware of this problem, and I've heard that a revamp is in the works. As I'm writing this piece, a revamp hasn't happened yet.
Eve-Kill's problem, basically, is that it's too good. In consequence, it gets a huge amount of traffic, as players prefer it to the other killboards. This situation brings us to the reliability factor. Eve-Kill frequently has trouble fetching killmails from its server and very often won't display killmails past a certain point in time. Maybe this problem is specific to Eve-Kill, or maybe it would happen to any killboard host that gets the lion's share of EVE traffic.
Either way, I think it makes sense for CCP to take the next logical step by creating and hosting its own killboard. Of course, CCP's killboard would be hosted separately from the game itself, as Tranquility is also known for taking the occasional coffee break. When you consider how far CCP has gone on the killmail front, why wouldn't EVE have a killboard of its own?
From a player perspective, I don't see a lot of downside to this suggestion. Some might have concerns about what that would mean for the future of the other killboards. If you like the killboard you have, you can keep your killboard. Perhaps if CCP went into the killboard business, they could arrange with Eve-Kill to "borrow" their layout. Or maybe you could choose from different options for the layout.
In any case, CCP is well aware of the players' love of killmails, and it's time for CCP to recognize the central role played by killboards, too. If it does, I think CCP will see that it's a role it should handle itself.