Tuesday, April 3, 2012

EVE Online, the MMO for programmers?

So EVE Online has been in the news again lately. Scandal, cyber-bullying, banhammer wielding, resignation from the CSM, all manner of general angst.

But even before that, it has been more prominently on my radar for a couple of months now due to increased activity amongst the bloggers I read. SynCaine had been writing a fair bit about his corporation’s activities, and Wilhelm Arcturus, the Ancient Gaming Noob, has entertained with lively accounts of nullsec warfare going down.

I’ve played EVE. I played the free trial roughly four years ago, created an account and played for a month. Reactivated about a year later and played another month. But that’s it – the actual gameplay never grabbed me enough to keep me subscribed and playing.

Also there seems to be a bit of a vicious circle: to really appreciate EVE, I’m told, you need to be in an active corporation doing interesting things. To be in an active corporation requires quite a level of commitment. And I’m not prepared to make that level of commitment to a game that I’m not yet really appreciating.

But anyway, with the game being on my mind, I thought it might be worth another look. I didn’t reactivate my account, I thought I’d just quickly create a new trial account, jump on that, and refresh my memory about how the game played.

And that led me to check out an aspect of EVE that I had a vague awareness of previously, but no more: the scope for tool development using the EVE API.

Now this is really quite neat, the sort of thing to really catch the attention of a programmer who might be up for some hobbyist coding. You can download an EVE data dump in the form of an SQL Server database backup from here. There’s all the information you could want on the game’s star systems, items, all sorts of stuff. And then there’s the API documented here which allows you to retrieve specific info on your characters, etc.

There are many wonderful tools which make use of this data and API, such as EVEMon and the EVE Fitting Tool.

What I’ve done is write some code which takes the tables of star systems and jumpgates from the EVE data dump and figures out routes from one system to another, limited to high-sec systems. What I’d like to do next is combine that with some market data, which I can either save to a file from the game, or pick up a feed from EVE-Central’s API, which is itself fed by volunteers saving data from the game. Then, I’m hoping I can generate some trading opportunities.

Another possible step is spotting reprocessing opportunities. The EVE data dump, combined with my character’s skills (obtained from the EVE API), can be used to calculate what minerals I can reprocess a given item into. So I should be able to spot bargain items that I can buy, reprocess, and sell the minerals.

I have to say, cutting this code strikes me as being potentially more fun than orbiting a rat and plinking it with a railgun!


  1. I think you'd find wormhole space interesting. Do the exploration tutorial and see if you can get scanning down. If you can then train the astrometrics skills to 3-4 and ask for a wormhole corp that will take in newbies.

    I think it is a combination of interesting activities with much lower social pressure than in null. Also people tend to be pretty interesting to play with.

    1. Actually scanning was the thing I most got into last time I was playing, I really enjoyed the minigame of triangulating signals.

      I got into shenanigans by going through a wormhole and then having it close behind me. Eventually scanned my way out - into nullsec. Exciting times trying to get home, and then finally on the last gate that was going to take me out of nullsec, I hit a bubble and got smashed. My one PvP death: http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=6280112

  2. Hehe I know the felling. A year or 2 ago I tried to write my own bot for EVE. I don't do much programming, but trying and learning in Autohotkey was one of the most fun things I did at that time. I don't like mining so I maybe only made 5 mill ISK with my own bot.

    Later I got into industry in EVE and that was where things got interesting for me again. I made billions, money I never thought I could make before doing missions. Is also the time where I had to learn to spreadsheet. And I like it. No real commitment. I play when I have time and when I want to.

    I play many other PvP games that make me rage and are team oriented, but in EVE I can just relax and watch the numbers and graphs on my Display.

  3. The trouble I have with EVE is there really isn't much room in it for independent players and things take too long to achieve for little reward unless you happen to enjoy repetitive grinding while waiting a few weeks to do a few extra damage points. It's a fantastic MMO but there really isn't anything spurring you to develop when you're not in a corporation, and when you are you need to be focused in one area to get anywhere.

    Like the author I've fallen into the pattern of reactivating my account for a month every 6 or so and then forgetting about it again.