Community Spotlight: GARPA
There are many useful 3rd party tools that help players make their lives easier. They range from market sorters, skill planners, and ship fitters. GARPA, a team of players who are part of Goonfleet, have produced two such tools, the Garpa Topographical Survey mapping program and the GarpaUI settings backup and sync program. Together, they are both amazing tools for players.
Garpa Topographical Survey
GTS is a highly flexible route planner for both capital and sub-capital ships. It allows the user to get from point A to point B according to any number of conditions they choose. The head of the project, pmchem, says, “For example, avoiding incursions, lowsec, and systems with recent kill activity while visiting 20 waypoints in an optimized order for a trip from Rens to Jita.”
While some of its features are replicated by the in-game autopilot, GTS has many more features. These include handling jump bridges, beacons, cyno jammers, incursions, cyno alts, corporate offices, multiple safe routing options, standings, stations, waypoint optimization for very large numbers of waypoints, calculation of actual in-game travel time, save/favorite routes for quick reference, clipboard sharing of routes, the ability to record notes for specific systems, calculation and sharing of systems in jump range, weighted routing, and much more.
GTS is not merely a route planner, however. It also acts as a galactic database. This allows the user to set up complex queries to discover parts of the galaxy that have certain properties. For example, the user can find the nearest corporate office with medical services for pod jumping.
These two features can be combined to make a powerful planner. You can, for example, find all the highsec level 4 agents for a specific corporation in a neighboring set of regions, then plot an optimal round trip to visit all those systems.
And the best thing about it is that it can be used (via the browser) in game for maximum efficiency.
As pmchem puts it, “The in-game autopilot is fine for getting from A to B with no stops in-between. But when a user wishes to navigate in dangerous territory, make a complicated series of visits, […] or just plain use capital ships at all: a better tool is needed.”
GarpaUI is a tool to take one character's settings and overwrite other characters' settings with it. It supports a variety of copy options: you don't have to copy "from one, to all." You can copy "from one, to various" using the 'selected folder and server' and 'specific accounts' options. This gives flexibility to a player who, say, has 14 mining alts, 3 PVP characters, and a supercap. In short, it's a tool designed to make life easier for multiboxers and other highly involved EVE players.
GarpaUI should also be a dream tool for anyone who is performing a clean reinstall of EVE. You can backup your settings to the Cloud or a USB stick, reinstall Windows, reinstall EVE, and then import your settings. You can propagate your pvp settings to other pvp chars, and mining settings to mining characters.
GarpaUI was initially designed by pmchem and implemented by Psykzz, and is currently maintained by Postal Dude, who implemented the improved UI and feature set for version 2.0.
GTS was originally created by Lhyda Souljacker as a basic navigation tool. It was an excellent gate router and supported Goonfleet's needs in routing through jump bridges and using capital ships. When pmchem came on board, it had the basic filter interface as well. Over the years, he and his team have acted to implement user-requested features and react to the structural changes from EVE expansions.
A perfect example of this is the introduction of incursions. “Being able to gracefully handle avoidance of incursioned constellations for both sub-caps and capital ships was an important new feature required by an expansion,” he says.
“Other features, such as optimization of a large number of waypoints or being able to quickly load complicated favorite routes, were user requests.” He estimates a significant new version is released every 3 to 6 months.
In the future, the team plans to implement features such as hybrid jump/gate routes for Black Ops, Titan Bridges, and Jump Bridge planning. Other upcoming plans include further polishing of the in-game browser interface and map coloring for sovereignty, standings, and jump ranges. Those are all many months down the road, however, with the current public release of 2.2.1 intended to be stable, long-lived, and bug free.
Because the project has had so many contributors over the years, and the core application was originally developed for Windows XP and an early release of .NET while using the static data export in a format provided by CCP half a decade ago, one of the largest challenges has been management of the project. “When someone else on the developer team – who lives on another continent and who you've never met – is having trouble reproducing a problem,” pmchem says, “and it involves legacy code from someone who no longer plays EVE, it can be some effort to resolve the issue.”
It's important to keep current developers on the same page in terms of feature roadmap and quality assurance. Using distributed version control and issue tracking software has helped things go more smoothly.
The GARPA programs have spread across all areas of EVE with thousands of dedicated users who have been enjoying them for years. When a new version is posted, the team often finds the post and files are quickly mirrored by other null sec groups. People use it to find hostile ratters to kill, do complex multi-waypoint routes with capitals, and basically anything you can imagine.
“It's remarkable,” pmchem says. “Our users are the sorts of players who really enjoy logging in and playing EVE. That's part of the user base that we enjoy seeing smile. When we're not shooting them.”
A large team is behind GARPA, led by pmchem. In EVE, aside from leading GARPA, he has managed to become very ISK-rich from patch speculation and nullsec PVE. “Hint to players still in highsec,” he says, “the game becomes more lucrative and fun once you leave, even if you occasionally lose a ship to another player.” He's hit on the trifecta of getting on killmails at Asakai, 6VDT, and B-R5RB, even having his Titan survive Asakai. He started playing by flying Rifters and destroyers in Syndicate back when Goonswarm lost Delve due to forgetting to pay its sov bills.
In real life, he's a computational chemist and has to deal with a variety of programming and scripting languages. The background helped with learning C#/.NET and problem solving for GTS. His work involves high-performance computing, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, and thermodynamics.
GARPA has many professionals on its roster. Bittey Blackmoon, the main programmer for recent GTS releases, works in electrical engineering and communications technology. Postal Dude, the man behind GarpaUI 2.0, is an OpenGL developer working on flight simulators and avionics. Van Solanum, part of the Australian computer science & IT contingent, has also contributed to design and implementation of those projects. GARPA includes other talented people, such as Luigi Thirty, “The King of Internet Hats”, and Chickenwing, who uses GARPA for homework help. Some members of the Goonswarm Economic Warfare Cabal, such as Aryth, are also members of GARPA. Weaselior, a white-collar professional by day, pokes at EVE for fun and profit by night. Overall, it's a diverse group in both ages and careers.
If you want a powerful set of tools, both GTS and GarpaUI are incredibly useful to players in all segments of EVE.
You can find the latest version of GTS for Windows here (md5sum for those who want to check if a mirrored version has been modified or not: ec166cb37dc4f32f964c890edcb85de7). If you prefer the archive version, you can get that here (md5sum: 5dba5ec078ca6901f1d3cb6a99674144). The Linux archive is here (md5sum: 17ceae85114f366323f2f7fb7f7b4508), while the OS X disk image can be found here (md5sum: 7255d0f30f790639fcaf12dba06d8132). The manual can be found here.