Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Assault Frigates - Squeezed Out of the Meta

The main problem with Assault Frigates is nothing to do with the ship class itself directly, but more a problem with the overall meta and realities of EVE Online.

* * * * *

How many things can you do in a ship? Off the back of my hand, you can:
- do damage
- tank damage
- heal damage
- do electronic warfare
- tackle
- scout
- hack
- transport stuff
- mine
- probe

Lots of stuff right? Most of those roles have a cheaper tech I version and a more specialized tech II version. But the first two, causing and absorbing damage, tend to be extra overloaded, even if we break the "causing damage" into two for short range and long range damage, and another 3 for small/medium/large ship sizes.

Take for example the Gallente line of ships:

Small short ranged damage: Incursus, Comet, Catalyst, Enyo
Small long ranged damage: Tristan, Algos, Ishkur, Hecate

Medium short ranged damage: Thorax, Deimos, Phobos, Brutix, Proteus
Medium long ranged damage: Vexor, Vexor Navy Issue, Ishtar, Myrmidon

Large short ranged damage: Megathron, Hyperion, Megathron Navy Issue, Kronos
Large long ranged damage: Dominix

I've taken some liberties classifying the ships as obviously the role of ships is largely determined by how they are fit and many of the ships can fit in both roles. And I'm ignoring specialized ships that cause damage as well as performing another role like Command Bursts or Interdiction.

Overall there is a decent balance between cost of a ship, its damage potential, its tanking potential, and its flexibility. For example, the decision of taking a Tristan frigate or an Algos destroyer is based on whether you want a cheaper ship with more speed or a more expensive ship with more damage and tank.

So here's the problem with Assault Frigates. They are supposed to help straddle the divide between Tech I frigates and Tech I cruisers by providing more damage and tank than frigates while still being faster and more mobile than cruisers, but the advantages of being smaller and more mobile are outweighed by the fact that cruisers are 50% to 66% cheaper than assault frigates while having better damage and tank (most of the time). In other words, they are not worth the ISK for the upgrade over Tech I frigates compared to cruisers. Meanwhile Tech I destroyers offer damage and tank upgrades over frigates for a modest price increase, and Tactical Destroyers offer a huge boost in damage and tank and capabilities that is worth the large price tag vis a vis cruisers.

Do Heavy Assault Cruisers suffer from the same issue? After all, they are positioned to be the stepping stone from Tech I cruisers to Tech I battleships, and are in competition with Tech I battlecruisers and Strategic Cruisers. To a large part, yes, HACs suffer from the same squeeze but get a little relief from the price of battleships only being ~25-35% cheaper than the Tech II cruisers, as well as having enough module slots to make up for some of the shortcomings.

Also, while both assault classes have a bonus to reduce micro warp drive signature bloom by 50%, giving them some unique advantages over their competitors, the advantage for frigate classed ships is not very noticeable while the cruiser class in certain situations and fits can boast a decent gain.

The end result is that Assault Frigates are at the bottom end of the usage profile for ships in EVE. How do we address that?

CCP has three options:

1 - Leave them Alone

There is nothing that says that Assault Frigates have to be worth it in the game at all. CCP could leave them alone and concentrate on balancing the existing ship classes that do see frequent or moderate use. The downside is that it would leave a decent concept languishing and CCP still needs to update them for art assets and code changes regardless, unless they choose to simply remove them.

2 - Lower the Build Cost

If Assault Frigates were closer to the cost of Tech I cruisers they would be able to compete with them more. It would be a trade off in damage and survivability of the cruisers for more speed and agility and smaller signature of the assault frigates without adding in the huge extra cost.

3 - Increase their Stats

Another option instead of lowering the cost is to make the cost more worth it by simply making them deal more damage and/or have even more tank. This approach is the least appealing because if you increase the abilities of the assault frigates to make them worth the 25 million ISK, you run the risk of obsoleting Tech I cruisers completely if they can't compete at all with the upgraded ships, and even making them obviously preferable over destroyers and Tactical Destroyers.

4 - Give me a Unique Ability

I mean beyond the current unique ability that reduces MWD sig bloom by 50%, which as I discussed has less value for a small sig ship compared to a larger cruiser. The trick here is finding an ability or set of abilities that makes the ship class have a unique role or niche without butting into the role of an existing class. For example, longer range on warp disruptors/scramblers or some immunity to stasis webifiers and they start to look better than interceptors. Another idea bandied about was having their MWDs immune to being shut off by warp scramblers but that runs the risk of making them near impossible to catch without a specialized counter webbing ship.

Whatever CCP decides to do (if anything) they will have to be careful in the packed meta that assault frigates live in not to push something else out in the shuffle.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Burned Out

At the end of June my wife had elective surgery to remove some organs that were causing more hardship than they were worth. It was a decision multiple years in the making and not made lightly, but the hope was that short term pain would be returned in long term gains.

In this instance, short term is 6-8 weeks recovery time from a successful operation (which it was).

I was perhaps a little naive about what that time period was going to be like. Being told she could not lift anything heavier than 10 lbs for about 2 months didn't prepare me for the absolute incapacitation she actually found herself in due to pain and discomfort. She can't be on her feet too long, can't sit up straight at a table, can't drive, etc.

As a result of this inconvenience at lot more responsibility has fallen on me (and a little bit to the 3 boys in our house) including all my jobs I was responsible for before the surgery, and a lot of jobs that were not in my area of concern like laundry, mopping, vacuuming, driving kids to dance classes, groceries, etc. Its not that I was incapable of doing them before (I am a modern man after all), its just that my wife as a stay at home mom had more time during the week while I was at work to deal with those jobs.

Anyway, I'm very busy both on weeknights and weekends. My downtime has shrunk and it was not very generous before. On the upside, my wife praises how I am working so hard and taking it in stride and not complaining.

On the downside, however, I am burnt out. Emotionally and mentally wiped almost every day.

Right now its hard to log into EVE and have to deal with other players, even if they are friends and allies and good people. Its hard to get the energy to do anything more complicated and demanding than Clash Royale.

I need a vacation.

Fortunately, I have one planned in a couple weeks where I take the family camping. Unfortunately, if my wife is still in pseudo traction it could be an exhausting trip.

All of this to say that I'm sorry the blog has been light on meaty topics this summer. Unavoidable circumstances have put me at a disadvantage for writing engaging posts. I'm hoping once my wife returns to some semblance of functional that I will as well.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Project Vulcan: Progress Report

I'm not doing a full audit of the project until November but I can do an eyeball guesstimate based on where I was at the end of May and where I am now.

Production has been going solidly on Moros dreadnoughts and all three structures: Azbels, Astrahus, and Raitarus. At the end of May I had one of each in stock/production and ~19 billion ISK in the wallet.

Right now I have:
- On market: 1 Azbel, 1 Moros, 1 Thanatos. Estimated combined value: around 7.5 billion ISK.
- In Production: 1 Moros, 1 Azbel, 1 Astrahus, 1 Raitaru. Estimated combined value: around 7.7 billion ISK

And in the wallet: ~19 billion ISK.

So rough guess? Made about 7.5 billion ISK profit since May. Solid increase given my rate of production. Remember the large profit in the Nov 2016-May 2017 period was mainly due to insane profits from Azbels and Raitarus being released, so I have hopes for another solid winter once Refineries come a-knocking on New Eden's moons.


Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Null Sec Blues

Its been a long time since I've been in null sec. I moved to low sec and never looked back years ago.

Low sec PvP and Null Sec PvP are very different. The presence or lack thereof of gate guns, warp disruption bubbles, and faction warfare plexes all make minor contributions that combined change the feel of the space.

So it was with great trepidation I prepared a fleet for Sunday night out of our deployment system adjacent to Cloud Ring region, flying frigates and tactical destroyers on a roam looking for fights and kills.

Overall it did not go so well. For example, at one point we decided to engage an Orthrus on a hostile citadel and lost a few ships to point defense guns that his buddy activated once we were within range. We have them in low sec but so rarely engage near citadels, it seems fighting on hostile structures is maybe more common in null sec?

Warping from gate to gate, sometimes forgetting about drag bubbles. Later on warping into a fight an ally had started and getting stuck in a bubble and I didn't even realize it. *Groan* Dealing with bubbles used to be so second nature for me, years in low sec has dulled those skills.

Overall it was not my best fleet I've run. Hopefully enough rust has been scraped off to make the next fleet more productive for my members.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Capital Domination

There was someone selling a Minmatar Lif FAX capital in our militia Discord channels the other day for an unbelievable low price so I decided to buy it despite not ever flying a FAX nor having the Minmatar carrier skills.

I have the Caldari Carrier skill from when I skilled up for my first capital way back in the day, the Chimera. Later I picked up the Caldari Dreadnought skill for the Phoenix. In recent years I decided to skill up for the Thanatos and Moros to align more easily with Gallente armour doctrines and currently own Thanatos and Chimera.

I bought the Lif mainly because it was a steal at that price but I want to move it to another station to sell if on public markets instead of in the Fortizar, but lacking the skill to sit in the beast makes that difficult without asking a corp mate. So I decided to pick up the Minmatar Carrier skill book since I've still got billions from my share payout in May and cross training is always fun. While I was picking that half billion ISK skillbook, I decided to complete the collection with the Amarr Carrier skillbook as well. This will give me the ability once trained to fly any of the carrier and super carrier ships properly (I have the Fighter Bomber skills from when I owned a Wyvern).

I think after November's payout I'm going to drop for the Minmatar and Amarr Dreadnought skill books too just to round out the combat capital ships. Excepting Titans of course. I'm not that space rich.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Great Moon Mining Operation Migration of 2017

The devs released a blog detailing more information about the upcoming Refinery structures and the changes to moon mining:
For anyone looking for a TL;DR here’s your convenient summary:
 Refineries coming this winter
 New Moon Mining Paradigm
Must extract ore from moon to space, mine and reprocess it to get the moon materials
Refineries use exclusive moon drill service module to extract ore from moon to space
Only one Refinery can mine each moon at a time
New Ores
20 New moon ores that are mined from moon extraction
Reprocessed into 1 main moon material and other minerals (moon or regular)
Only available in asteroids created from moon drill process
Moon Composition and Distribution
Moon composition to be a percentage of different ores
Mix of moon ores and existing ores
Full reset of moon distribution on Expansion Release
Moon Survey Improvements coming in August
Friendlier looking UI for results of Moon Composition
“Copy to clipboard” function
Indication of probe missing target
Timer for results from each probe
We can look at the provided information and make some predictions.

1) The current profit centre of buying raw moon material and refining it in a POS to resell on the market for a profit will cease to exist for all intents and purposes due to the ease and security of setting up a Refinery. No more dealing with POS  mechanics like setting them up, fueling them, and silo micro management. When ease of production comes into play, profit margins decrease.

2) The redistribution of moon ores will cause some upheaval in null and low sec space, not only because the location of valuable moons will have changed, but moon mining operations requires actually miners to extract the wealth for refining, thus alliances will need to be close enough to guard the structures and pilots using them.

3) Small groups (alliances/corps) making money from moons will be more difficult as the number of trusted people needed to run a moon mining operation increases. I.e. operational security is easy when its two people running it, but loose lips/spies will make it harder to extract the wealth without more cost.

4) It will be easy for smaller groups to get into low end moon mining as mid range value moons will actually be profitable. Right now a moon is either valuable or not, but the new model where many ores of different types and amounts will make more moons feasible for mining.

I plan to exploit this moon land rush by building as many of the refineries as I possibly can this winter.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Time to Revisit My Strategic Cruiser

The revamp to Strategic Cruisers has come and gone and today I finally checked my hanger to see what happened to my sole Proteus.

As you can see, it was a cloaky combat cruiser with multiple long range tackling mods and a decent offensive capability, basically a sneaky heavy tackler.

Now it has two more turret hardpoints but loses the two magnetic field stabilizers. It has also gained a 50m3 drone bay (25 mbit bandwidth) it didn't have before. Here are how the subsystems shook out:

I'll have to sit down with a ship fitting tool like Osium and see if I need to get new subsystems. At first glance, the ship is still the same heavy tackler but now with more guns and less stabs, probably shaking out to similar DPS in the end. I still have the range boost warp scrambler and disruptor, but I might see if there are better propulsion modules available to me. Overall, not too bad.

Now to actually use it.

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