What is combat logging?
Combat logging is the act of forcefully quitting (by either program task-kill or forced internet disconnect) the game while engaged in combat with another player. Frontier has clarified this act as an exploit, and a bannable offense.
Combat logging via the main menu/desktop via the 15 second timer is a different matter and discussion to be had entirely. Currently, this action is confirmed by Frontier as “legitimate”, and as such is not being addressed in this post.
Why is combat logging bad?
Aside from being classed as exploiting by Frontier themselves, combat logging is bad for the game (and gameplay experience) of both the exploiter and the victim. Not only does logging deprive both players of meaningful interaction in game that is vastly empty and void of a human element, but it stifles the rare emergent experiences that make the game more than a sterile grind.
Furthermore, the very nature of risk and reward is upended (a fundamental aspect of any game) because the combat logging party is never faces any risk of loss. Because the combat logger faces no negative consequences for any action, non-combat loggers must shoulder the full—and completely asymmetrical—burden of risk for any interaction: this disincentivizes meaningful PvP gameplay in a game billed as a space MMO.
Prime examples of gameplay styles that are hard-countered by combat logging include:
- PvP piracy
- Powerplay undermining defense/attacks
- Inter-faction warfare
- Player bounty hunting
- Hunting newbie-killers
- System protection
What does Frontier claim to be doing about it?
After much consternation and discussion involving the relative legality of combat logging with the devs, community, and community managers, Frontier ruled the action of combat logging to be “exploiting”and as such is punishable by shadowbanning offenders (a “shadowban” is a client restriction preventing them from accessing “open play,” which is the online mode with other players.) After this ruling, Frontier has encouraged the reporting and documenting (usually with a YouTube link and supporting chat screenshots) of CMDRs engaging in exploiting. This reporting is done via the support ticketing system, and is usually accompanied by confirmation from Frontier that they have received, and are reviewing, the case of exploiting: they have a stated response time of “usually within 48 hours” for reviewing tickets and supporting documents related to the case.
What appears to be happening?
Despite hundreds of reports of combat loggers, there is no apparent evidence that any action has ever been taken against an exploiter—in fact, there is mounting evidence that Frontier has been lying since the beginning with respect to investigating cases of exploiting. Frontier conveniently maintains that they will not share any details about punitive action taken against an account or whether any action was taken at all, providing them cover to their own policy of neglect. However, we have compiled meticulously documented evidence that Frontier is not only lying about their own policies, but encouraging players to go through the effort of reporting exploiters simply to provide a façade of being anti-exploiter in their own game.
Testing the hypothesis that combat logging is being swept under the rug.
Our test was conducted in the following way, done across two stages.
- Taskkill Combat loggers were recorded in game, and most admitted to exploiting in chat afterwards in addition to the video evidence.
- The video hosted on Youtube was set to “unlisted,” meaning that only the party (Frontier) with the direct URL link could access the video.
- The viewcount with a timestamp was recorded prior to the submission of the evidence to Frontier.
- We submitted support tickets accompanied with the unlisted video and chat evidence of combat loggers to Frontier, asking for an investigation.
- We confirmed with support that they did in fact receive our request for an investigation.
- We waited a minimum of 1 week before following up with support, allowing them a generous window in excess ofthe ~48 hours they require.
- After confirmation from Frontier that the investigation was complete, we reviewed the view counts on the Youtube video evidence.
- Three of our own alt accounts were used to taskkill combat log on our members, who recorded footage of said logs and reported them to Frontier support with tickets.
- Once support had acknowledged that they were looking into the case, the owners of the alt accounts monitored their emails to see if Frontier had punished them in any way.
What we found—Confirmation that Frontier is lying.
After several iterations of reports to Frontier, confirmation that they engaged in an investigation of exploiting, and review of the view counts on the videos, we found that in all instances of reported exploiting, Frontier failed to view any of the video evidence in the reports a single time, even after several weeks and confirmation that they had in fact investigated the reports.
Stage two was aimed at testing Frontier's claims that they can determine taskkills using their internal logs, thereby making the video evidence redundant and/or unnecessary in some cases, and to track any punishments handed out. What we found was that the submitted videos received zero views, and none of our alt accounts have received any form of punishment to this day either - they simply closed the tickets.
Not only is it disconcerting that Frontier tacitly approves of exploiting (as they have defined it themselves) in their own game, but it is unethical that Frontier is willing to not only lie about their anti-exploit actions, but actively encourage players to take the time to record, upload, and file tickets reporting exploiters, knowing full well they will do nothing with the reports. Frontier’s unwillingness to police their own game against exploiters while blatantly lying to the playerbase about it is uncharacteristic of Frontier’s friendly public image, and is a detriment to the player community as a whole.
What does this mean?
Unfortunately, it is impossible to get Frontier to change policy or quit lying about their actions (with respect to exploiters and the community) without exposing their malfeasance for the players to see. We have tried many times through the appropriate channels to get Frontier to either take action or go public with their endorsement of exploiting, but they have lied and dodged every step of the way in order to placate the playerbase. Sometimes it is necessary for players to take it upon themselves to try and improve a game that is under threat; we were forced to do this with the heat meta, and will do it again as necessary. In this instance, it will be by publicising our findings to relevant media sites until Frontier decides to take action.