Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Force Auxiliaries - The Path Forward

We finally got a glimpse on how the transition from the current Jack-of-All-Trades carriers to combat carriers and support Force Auxiliaries (aka Force Aux) is going to go down. From a dev post  by CCP Larrikin

We're seeding the 4 Racial Force Auxiliary skills in February, along with skills for Light Fighter Squadrons and Support Fighter Squadrons. 
Any character with Tactical Logistics Reconfiguration, a Carrier and Force Auxiliary skill (of the same race) injected when the citadels expansion launches, will have the racial carrier skillpoints refunded as unallocated skillpoints. These skillpoints can be reallocated instantly as the player desires. 
If you start training the Force Auxiliary skill after the patch tomorrow, you can reallocate your refunded skillpoints right back into your racial carrier skill so you can fly both ships. Or spend them on anything you like! 
There'll be a dev-blog going into more details about our transition plans for Carriers, Force Auxiliaries and a bunch of other stuff, coming out later this week.
This tells us that players who have no interest in carriers going forward can switch their skills to the corresponding racial Force Aux skill just by buying the skill book and injecting it prior to Citadel. You won't get your money back for the carrier skill book if you plan to never train that again but hopefully you got your money out of it.

That answers the question of how will players quickly ramp up to the new triage platforms, but it does not answer the question of whether CCP plans to allow players to get an automatic upgrade (read: replacement) from the current carriers to the new Force Aux.

There are three obvious options for an automatic upgrade:
1) If you have the Force Aux skill injected and you are sitting in your carrier when the expansion comes, your carrier becomes a Force Aux.

2) Any carriers with triage module fitted become Force Aux.

3) Combination of 1 and 2: any carriers with triage module and owning character with Force Aux skill become Force Aux capitals.

I'm sure there are other ways to do an auto-upgrade, but the other option is to simply allow the market /industry to deal with the issue. After all, carriers can be reprocessed down to capital components which can then be used to build the new ships. The turn around for the first Force Aux would be a mere ~10 days. Surely that's a blink of the eye to any EVE player with a capital.

Of course, this leads to another line of questioning: is the build costs in terms of components going to change for carriers since they are losing a significant function in the Citadel expansion? And are the Force Aux going to be comparable to current carrier build costs or lower? If carriers drop in build price significantly, there could be a rush on reprocessing carriers prior to the patch to extract as much wealth from them and rebuild at the cheaper price point post patch.

Personally, for my capital building enterprise I plan to put on hold any further Archon builds after the current one in progress until after some of these questions are answered more fully.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Refitness - Comments

Last week I posted about the upcoming proposed limitation on refitting (i.e. can't do it with a weapons timer) and there were some comments I wanted to address directly.

Talvorian Dex said:
Easy solution to logi... implement a stacking penalty to incoming logi reps, similar to what happens with webs or target painting. Done and done.
Leave small-gang or WH combat refitting where it is.
Interesting, but does he mean in addition to the weapons timer limitation for refitting? If not you're still left with the problem of capitals and super capitals refitting at will to tank as needed or do pure damage when desired. If not, and he's proposing wormholes get special rules, I think that is an awkward compromise.

As for the stacking penalty, there is currently no mechanic that acts upon another ship that stacks with the sort of exception of webbing which naturally stacks based on order of applied webs. If you do the stacking wrong for logistics you could completely make logi useless in almost any scenario.

FriendlyManagement comments:
There is an extremely easy way to let WH and small gang pvp to remain potent and fun and at the same time remove the slowcat doctrine. The answer is to only allow refitting while in TRIAGE, SIEGE or BASTION mode. This literally fixes all the problems. With the introduction of FAXes we'll not longer have massive blobs of massive dps dealing and remote repping carriers and this change would mean only ships who cannot receive remote reps would be able to refit.
Lots of people in the community are writing stuff like this blog which kinda goes "Oh yea it's not the best change but it'll remove slowcats so good enough". No. We have a simple and elegant solution to this issue and anything left is imo frankly unacceptable.
Since a single ship can service many and taking turns in triage mode is pretty standard already for carriers, I don't see how this is going to impact anything in the problem space of multi-defense-offence mode capitals. And I never said it was good enough, I said CCP will probably go ahead with it.

Rob Kaichin responds:
[...] The combination of Reps, Refitting and DPS will die with FAXes, which aren't even mentioned in your post. CCP must know this, since that's exactly what the FAXes were intended to achieve. Even so, there were more thoughtful changes which could've been implemented to nerf Slowcats: let Capital Repair modules impact Drone control abilities. -1 drone per capital RR would strip 2 drones (40% of the firepower) from an Archon.
Instead, CCP is flailing around in confusion. They're going to remove Slowcats with FAXes, but to make doubly sure they're aiming to remove the idea of refitting.
I agree Force Aux and triage changes will severely hurt the slowcat doctrine. But the problem of capitals refitting to tank the damage the best at all levels of defense (and then switching back to combat damage when no longer in danger) still exists. Its not just slowcats; its all capitals.


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Refitness

Let's go back to that Capital Dev Blog from October for one of the more controversial aspects, namely that combat refitting is going away:
You will be unable to refit while you have a weapons timer
The incredibly talented and endlessly creative players of EVE Online have taken combat refitting to its extremes. With some capsuleers refitting during combat from maximum shield resists, to max armor resists, and finally maximum hull HP to ensure they last as long as possible. Currently if you're shooting at carriers in a large group, whichever carrier you're shooting will refit to maximum tank to ensure that the remote repairs of its fleet-mates are most effective, while the other carriers fit to provide maximum remote repairs. Bring jamming support to counter this? They will refit ECCM on the fly. 
The Swiss-army knife nature of refitting capitals makes trying to balance them impossible. Anything you bring to fight them can be countered in seconds.
After the Citadel expansion, no ship will be able to refit while it has a weapons timer. The fittings you chose before the battle began become a lot more important and counterable. It is not impossible to refit...but you will have to wait out your weapons timer and, effectively, be out of the battle while you do so. We're considering adding a weapons timer to triage & siege modes...but we'd like your feedback on that.
These two paragraphs definitely hit a nerve in some circles as its a direct attack on a certain style of PvP, one that the practitioners feel is more elite. But before we get there let's look at how we got here.

In The Beginning...

Now, I don't have inside knowledge here so this is all speculation and assumptions but I feel it holds up.

When capitals (dreadnoughts and carriers) were being conceived back in Red Moon Rising expansion the developers envisioned creating ships that were not simply bigger and badder super-battleships, but true multi-purpose and extended deployment combat support vessels. Carriers especially were envisioned as a multi-role command centre of deployed fleets, providing command link bonuses, fighter assisted combat support, and extra combat ships and modules with a fitting service to allow pilots to reship on the fly from the close-to-front line carriers.

In other words, refitting was intended to be a Strategic ability as opposed to tactical and this role the carrier (and subsequent super carrier and titans) did adequately well to various degrees. It didn't fit the conditions to be a tactical ability so well because the sub-caps that were the intended consumers of the functionality would not survive very long on the battle grid.

But Then...

Like all things in EVE, the massive capital proliferation across all of New Eden changed the equation and soon fleets of capital ships became the norm instead of the rare exception.

It turns out capital ships like carriers have enough hit points to survive in the line of fire long enough to make use of another carrier's refitting services and smart players were quick to pick up on this fact to start to exploit it, as described in the above quote which I will quote again for emphasis:
Currently if you're shooting at carriers in a large group, whichever carrier you're shooting will refit to maximum tank to ensure that the remote repairs of its fleet-mates are most effective, while the other carriers fit to provide maximum remote repairs. Bring jamming support to counter this? They will refit ECCM on the fly. 
The problem only gets compounded when you bring in the massive hit point numbers of super carriers and titans.

So as part of the ongoing War on Logi CCP decided to open another front on ship refitting by making it illegal while the pilot has a weapons timer. To clarify, from EVE's Helpdesk:
Also known as Weapons Flag, this flag becomes active when you activate any offensive module (weapons, stasis webifier etc.) upon another player. Some non-targeted modules, such as smartbombs or Bastion Modules, will also cause a weapons flag when activated. Regardless of the Security status of the solar system, having an active Weapons Flag will prevent you from docking in any station, jumping through stargate, ejecting from or boarding another ship while in space, and storing a ship in a corporation or fleet hangar. This flag lasts for 60 seconds, starting from the moment you open fire, and will renew each time you take further offensive action – meaning that you will have to wait a full 60 seconds after the last offensive action before being able to dock, jump etc. (even if you lose your ship).
In other words, in order to refit at a Ship Maintenance Array on a capital ship you will have to do pretty much nothing for 60 seconds except take whatever abuse the enemy slings at you.

On The Other Hand...

At first I thought I was all for this change but the guys on Down the Pipe podcast had a fair and balanced discussion about the issue despite most of them being strongly against it. They felt overall that it was a step in the wrong direction even though they agreed there was some argument that the Slowcat Doctrine of massed remote rep carrier fleet was definitely a problem. They argued that the more common use case (or possibly more common to them) of a small engagement with a handful of capitals using refitting as a skill differentiator/force multiplier was a case of good complexity and allowed extremely skilled players to get an advantage over merely average or even good players in PvP.

While I was not 100% swayed to their position against the weapons timer for refitting purposes, I was placed firmly on the fence on the issue. I still think the stated issue in the dev blog of capital ships refitting to match any need on the fly is a problem and simply reinforces the axiom that "the only counter to a capital fleet is another capital fleet", but I now share concern that the small gang refitting capabilities add a level to the game that we should try to preserve.

At The End of the Day...

I suspect its not going to matter and CCP will enact there weapons timer limitation if only because it a direct arrow at the heart of the logistics problem facing the game today. CCP may see it as the larger problem of massed carrier blobs needs to be addressed for the health of the game for many pilots even if it hurts the elite game play for fewer pilots.

Monday, February 01, 2016

After Action Report - I didn't Want That Proteus Anyways

I don't often talk about my PvP efforts on this blog but last night was a great night for the fleet so here is the After Action Report from last night:

Last night I called for Black Ops again to improve on the issues we experienced last week and right out the gate I want to say we were much better organized and successful, despite fewer targets of opportunity this week. 
We formed up with a nice core of Nemesis Stealth Bombers and a few recons, and two Proteus cruisers. was cyno baiting in a Myrmidon and I had my alt out in a Rupture again. In order to free up my main for another proteus  assigned an alt to Black Ops jump portal duty. 
Our first drop was on a Shadown Cartel Myrmidon in Vifrevaert (role reversal!) and as the cyno wore down we caught a snooping Harbinger and killed it just as his friends in a BC fleet arrived. Everyone got out fine except for me, since we were fighting at the Sun and I tried multiple times to warp out... to the sun. FAIL. So my proteus was destroyed in an otherwise perfect couple of ganks. Oh well. 
As we reset in Fliet on the pig  and  (in a Breacher scouting) engaged a Templis frigate fleet in Abune that they spent 13 minutes destroying (at one point for the last Harpy we needed to send   over to help finish it off as it killed all of  drones). 
Later, my alt was back in Tama and hanging out 100 km off station looking juicy and after a few sniffs a trio of neutrals in dessies burns towards me, lead by a Magus command destroyer. He jumps me (for whatever reason, I dunno, to get farther from sentries?) and I point him. I tried to make sure I had a good point before lighting the cyno as I didn't want him to get away once I was immobilized, but by the time I lit the beacon and the Riders of Rohan came in I had almost solo killed it (Open with the late web https://zkillboard.com/kill/51750072/) and the other two got away :( However, they came back in a Corax, Caracal, and Phantasm which we killed (Open lost his Astero though) and the Phantasm kill was quite juicy: https://zkillboard.com/kill/51750154/ 
It was getting late and the number of target to drop on was low so we went back to Fliet and reshipped straight up into Armour Destroyer fleet with 4 frig logi. We went back towards Nagamemen and got into a fight in Oto against some neutrals at the sun killing 7 ships including two Hecates, a Vexor, and a battle Nereus. We then went up to Tama, found nothing, and while heading home to Fliet we crossed paths with a CalMil dessie hull fleet including a few Tactical Destroyers. We had about equal numbers, maybe we had a few more, but we had Logi and they did not. We played cat and mouse a couple times with both sides trying to get a favourable engagement and finally in Deven they were 100 km off and burned in fast on us and started shooting at two of our logi. 
Fortunately, without weapon timers and right on the gate they (Ash and Nyjil) jumped into Fliet, repped each other, and jumped back. Meanwhile we lit up the enemy fleet (good job Griffin hunters) and blew up four tactical destroyers and a Bifrost command destroyer. An amazing result for a fight that could have gone badly. 
Big thanks to all the important pieces that allowed the fleets to work so well, and a big thanks to the GalMil Bros from RDRAW, Red Horde Rising, and Spaceship Bebop would dropped into Mumble and joined us! Overall an amazing night for the fleet.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

BB71 - Analysis Paralysis


Too Many Ships Spoil the Sandpit?
We all like important internet spaceships right? The more spaceships the better right? Or are we getting too many to be easily to remember them all. A Mastodon on scan? That the hell is that and what does it do? Oh! Never mind!
Are we getting too many ships. Is it too complicated to remember them all and what their traits are? Do FC's these days need an encyclopedic knowledge of ship types unless they want their fleet to DIAF. With more and more ships being released each year will we ever reach "too many" or do you think there can never be too many important internet spaceship types?
* * * * *

There was a time in EVE's past where the number of effective combat ships one might run into was pretty low.  Rifter and Merlins for frigs, Thorax and Rupture, Hurricanes and Drakes, etc. Sure, you'd run into the occasional newb in a Condor or Vexor but overall the meta was pretty static, enough that I can't remember during that time if I ever saw more than one Bellicose in space.

It was not a great situation. It was too static and predictable, too stratified against newer players, and wasted numerous hulls that were lower tiers and passed over so easily with quick skill trains.

Tiericide was the process to rationalize the ships, especially tech 1 ships, and bring about more defined roles other than "Combat" and "More Combat", introduce tech I logistics ships (remember the Osprey/Exeq/etc were originally mining cruisers!), and generally make the progression from frigates to battleships more intuitive and balance out the vast gulf of difference between tech II and tech I.

It was widely regarded as a success and the number of ships you could run into in space on a regular basis bloomed three or four times.

But as part of the Crucible era atonement CCP hit upon the fact that players loved their ships, LOVED them! And always a big hit with players was adding more ships. Tier III Battlecruisers, Faction Battlecruisers, Mordu's Legion pirate ships, Navy Faction frigates, Tactical Destroyers, Command Destroyers, Sisters of EVE ships, ORE mining frigates, not to mention an ever-growing list of Alliance Tournament prizes, gift ships, Tech II Logistics frigates... did I miss anything?

Now in PvP situations many of these ships are rarely seen due to unsuitability with combat roles or simple rarity but the fact remains that the number of ships a player must know the basics of in order to make decisions on a consistent basis in PvP has grown three fold if not more in this time. And there are more on the way in the form of the new Force Auxiliary capitals.

That's the current situation. The question is if we have reached the limit of too many ships for an average player / Fleet Commander to keep them all straight in the head now, or if we are close to hitting that wall in the future.

No and yes.

No in the sense that an experienced and competent Fleet Commander should be able keep track of the basic abilities and threat levels of all possible combat ships with the notable exception of Alliance tournament ships which are rarely seen in space. As new ship types get added its expected that the current FC cohort consumes the new data and integrates it into their OODA loop. Similarly, experienced pilots should also do the same to make sure they are up to date on the possible battlefield conditions.

However, I say yes in the sense that for a new player and new aspiring Fleet commander, the current array of possible ship names, classes, and threat levels to assess is staggering and daunting. I have concerns that this is going to recreate the stratification effect we had to begin with and make it difficult for new players to get into PvP or commanding fleets.

The new overview with icons per hull class help a little bit, but only a little. You can tell a frigate from a cruiser, for example, but you can't tell a combat frigate from an exploration frigate from an assault frigate without knowing the ship names and their classes intimately.

What I think should be added is a one click button on the overview to get a ship info card (not the whole Show Info window) that gives the basic information on a ship: its image, Faction, size, role/class, and if applicable main weapon types. That would help a lot for newer players and even older players that got rusty (or are just bad).

One thing is for sure, more ships in the future is probably the rule of the land.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Citadel Blueprint Thoughts


After my recent windfall and discovery that the price of Utu frigates has climbed far beyond my means, I put the ISK aside to save for the coming of Citadel blueprints which is coming a lot faster than I expected. From the dev blog "The First Citadels: HELP UPWELL CONSORTIUM BUILD THE WORLD OF TOMORROW" we find out that some BPCs are coming very soon:
From January 26th, Intaki Bank’s special accounts manager Lee Brinalle, will accept contracts (https://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/Contracts_guide) from capsuleers for the item ‘Research Component’ to help build the citadels in 5 locations in New Eden. To reward you for your efforts, each Research Component contracted to Lee Brinalle, will entitle you to one entry in to an Upwell sponsored prize draw. The lucky winner of the draw will receive a unique token that can be exchanged for 1, fully researched, Astrahus citadel BPC.   
But wait there’s more! Upwell would like to create 5 prototypes in different locations, so as capsuleers manage to provide the Research Component quota  needed for the first citadel, Upwell will increase the rewards for each additional prototype citadel:
Citadel 2: One additional Astrahus BPC
Citadel 3: Two more Astrahus BPC’s
Citadel 4: One more Astrahus BPC and Upwell Branded Apparel for every capsuleer who contracts a Research Component
Citadel 5: 1 Fortizar BPC
(All BPCs will be fully researched)  
So the more ‘Research Component’ items you contract to Lee Brinalle, the more chances you have of being selected during the prize draw.  There will be a draw for 1 Astrahus BPC after February 9th, where all capsuleers who donated Research Components will be automatically entered and in with a chance to win.  If all 5 are completed, the draw will be for 5 Astrahus BPCs and 1 Fortizar BPC. In addition, the top contributor plus all prize winners will have their names immortalized on the descriptions for the prototype citadels they helped construct.  As the prize draws will happen at the end, all entries from January 26th - February 9th will be a part of the draw for each reward.  
You can start collecting Research Components any time, but starting January 26th, remember to contract them to “Lee Brinalle”, for your chance to be in the running.
So at least one BPC will be rewarded on Feb 9th for a Medium Citadel (aka Astrahus) and maybe up to 5 of them, and possibly one Large Citadel BPC (aka Fortizar). I don't know for certain if the BPCs will be released close to that date or awarded once the Citadel expansion goes completely live, or what lead time they will have on BPOs will be.

Speaking of BPOs, I looked into the earlier dev blog "BUILDING YOUR CITADEL, ONE BLOCK AT A TIME" and found the relevant information there about costs and availability:
Regarding the blueprints themselves:
- Like all Tech I blueprints, they will be seeded from specific NPC corporations through various areas of space, including high-security areas.
- The price tag will be ten times the hull cost, thus 6b ISK for a Medium Citadel, 70b ISK for a Large Citadel and 700b ISK for an X-Large Citadel.
And further on:
Details on the Citadel blueprint themselves are available below:
So the Large Citadel BPO is definitely out of reach without completely liquidating my capital BPO collection and I have no interest in that at all. However, the Astrahus BPO is within the price range, low enough that I'm considering buying two and putting one immediately into ME research while building with the other.

Another alternative is to invest in some of the Structure component blueprints, or the more expensive service module blueprints like the Market Hub which is estimated at 7 billion ISK for the BPO.

Lots of places to fit in but its hard to determine where the most bang for the buck will be.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Capital Changes are On The Horizon

Check out the video from Uriel Anteovnuecci showing the new Force Auxiliary capitals from Duality test server.


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