Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Brainstorming - Results

Before I went on vacation I asked people for ideas to "make it advantageous to have a smaller group to do an operation instead of as many pilots as you can gather". I got lots of comments so we're going to visit some of them and add my own feedback.
S.W. said...
Create minor sov-realted harassment targets, and give those targets a very small sig radius, so large weapons aren't as useful to them. Maybe they require hacking or codebreaking modules to enable for a limited window.

I like the idea of some targets requiring non-DPS attacks to neutralize.

Gabrienne said... here's a two-part, simple to implement idea; the code for the first part already exists, and the second isn't terribly complicated

1. add wormhole bonus/penalty anomalies to all space i.e. shield boosting, armor resist, drone damage, etc. you'd do this on a inverted scale tied to sec status, so the penalties/bonuses in 1.0 space would be 0, 0.9 space would be 10%, 0.0 would be 100%, and so on

2. you add new anomalies that make either
a) big ships bad
i.e. make a 50 man fleet of frigates able to compete with a 20 man fleet of BC's
b) small ships better i.e. a scaling tracking modifier where bigger guns, using bigger ammo, don't hit as hard; call it nebula sludge that slows the rate of speed of the ammo. but of course smaller ammo with less mass can pass through it unaffected
c) and this is likely the most effective one, have an effect with a scaling penalty, i.e. if there's 500 people in a system, then everyone suffers a 50% reduction in rate of fire
-these kind of penalties would have to be offense related, or they'd give an advantage to whoever was in system first i.e. alpha down an enemy fleet jumping in on a gate as their defenses get penalized
-making these offense related and tied to # of people in a system instantly makes it bad to bring too many people to fight in one place, as you may gimp your dps to the point where you can't break the enemy's tank (and he can't break yours) creating an instant stalemate
 I like the idea of more varied battlefield terrain to mix things up. Not so sure about scaling penalties though, seems overly complex.

Tom said... Greetings,

if you saw the movie 'Jumper', a jumper ( warper in our case ) creates a rift in space and jumps through. What if groups of more than 15 ships create a rift large enough that they leave rifts behind which can be used by other ships to follow them wherever they go. Rifts would phase out after 5/10 minutes.

This would make hit and run harder for larger groups since the run part is pretty impossible until they split off.
 Interesting concept, but I think I would prefer that your signature is enhanced by number of ships on the grid or in the system such that large fleets are easier to probe out in safe spots. At the same time, I'd make a change to prevent short range scanning for those on grid warp-ins that has killed the sniping battleship, but that's just a pet peeve.

Joost said...

- Small scale titan-like portals which only allow for a certain mass to pass through. Maybe module that can be fitted on a fleet command-ish battleship or something?

- Area of effect weapons. We all know how devastating 40 stealth bombers can be to a 100 (or 500 for that matter) man fleet. We might want more down that lane. My personal favorite: suicide bombers (fly somewhere and hit 'detonate' to do 10% hull (or perhaps a % of EHP would be fairer?) damage to everyone in a 10km radius. Maybe even with cloaked warp capabilities but with only freighter-like speed. Would be awesome, trying to sneak through the bubbles as far as possible into the heart of an enemy fleet, all while running the risk of being devloaked. But if you succeed in getting 10-ish people in, the hostile (supercap ;D ) blob is gone for the day

We already have Black Ops covert portals and they encourage small gang hot drops already, perhaps more modules like that for other ships is worthwhile. As for the second point, area of effect weapons tend not to break up blobs but simply change their composition. For example, in the day of the AoE doomsday, super-tank battleships and heavy interdictors were the ship of the line. I much prefer the varied fleet types we have no in contrast.

StevieTopSiders said... I think Meatay touched on a key point. It's not that there are so many pilots, but that there are so many pilots who can field effective ships. I know it would be very un-fun to have pilots say, "I can't afford to fleet up, so I guess I'll ship spin," but currently, fielding a fleet-fit BS isn't that big of a deal.

Anyway, my pet "small-gang objective" is the CONCORD Relay Station. This is a celestial object in every 0.0 system; it is easily seen on the overview. Canonically, the CRS is a CONCORD outpost that runs coms for the CONCORD vessels and capsuleers who roam null-sec. The Outpost is indestructible, but it has two stages of reinforced.

In the beginning, the CRS is not reinforced, and Local chat displays both the number of people in the system and their names. Suppose, however, that an alliance sends a small roaming gang into enemy space. This roaming gang can attack the CRS and put it into reinforced 1. This will take the structure to armor. At that time, Local ceases to show who is in the system. It only details the number of capsuleers in the system and names people who have talked in the past 15 minutes.

The CRS remains in reinforced for 15 minutes. After that, it can be attacked again, and when its armor is destroyed it enters reinforced 2. At this stage, Local either a) goes offline or b) shows only the people who have spoken.

Reinforced 1 mode lasts 2 hours, and the shields slowly begin to recharge after the 15-minute timer. Reinforced 2 mode lasts 4 hours, and armor/shields begin repping immediately after being taken to structure.

I think reinforced 1 should take about 10 average-DPS frigates to make it come about. Reinforced 2 should require a slightly larger/more powerful gang. I imagine 20 average-DPS frigates, or a smaller number of Cruisers, Assault Ships, or something else. Somewhere between 5-10 minutes of shooting should do the trick.

Additionally, I think the CRS needs to broadcast in Local (or in the sov-holding alliance's Alliance chat; not sure...) when it is being attacked. That gives the inhabitants of the system warning, so they may either mount a counterattack or call in reinforcements to keep the CRS from entering reinforced 2.

So why is this helpful? It allows small gangs an objective that is useful to larger fleets. An invading alliance could send gangs into various systems, destroying their Local. The defenders would then not be able to rely on a ratter in his POS telling them, "300-man DRF fleet in UMI-KK," but instead they would need to have defensive scouts in the system, scanning and watching for fleet movements. On the other hand, reinforcing the CRS will allert the defenders to a coming attack.

This kind of ties into the "terrain effects" idea from  Gabrienne. Having areas of space where the rules do not apply the same definitely creates room for more tactics, and having such a target that assists the larger fleet seems like a good start.

A few comments after Stevie's post were directed to it so I'll jump over those and go right to this:

Talinthi said...

Not sure if this was mentioned yet, but why not make some sov targets similar in style to incursion sites?? I know it doesnt directly relate but the scaling of isk making in incursions is directly related to the number of people in the fleet, why not make some sov targets based on that same scaling??
I don't know how to make it work but having multiple objectives that have to completed at the same time or some sort of pre-programmed scaling defence might slow down a large blob faster than a small one.

* * * * *

So all of these ideas hinge on changing the objectives of fleets or the terrain they fight in. While these ideas have merit, I do find them to be full of potential problems and unintended side effects and would probably take a few iterations to find the right balance of incentive and penalty to encourage small fleet warfare.

When I was approaching this question myself, I asked the potentially foolish question: how does real life apply here? I know Eve <> Real Life but we can draw some parallels and inspiration from it.

So why does a Navy not consist of nothing but Aircraft Carriers, currently the king of the seas, but instead has a pyramid of ship types with small destroyers being most numerous? Well, there are several reasons.
- It takes a lot of manpower to operate a carrier.
- They are slower to get where they need to be.
- They are expensive to construct.
- Their operational costs are a lot higher than smaller ships.

I'm sure there is more but I'm writing by the seat of my pants here.

So in Eve, the comparison is obvious:
- a small ship, large ship, the manpower requirement is the same
- smaller fleets move a bit faster but not enough to be an issue most of the time
- usually ISK is not a big consideration as each pilot is responsible for their own vessel in most cases
- The operational costs of all ships is laughably low, big or small.

So there are several avenues of attack we could take to make Eve fleets face the same limitations as real navies, but all of them fly in the face of fun in my opinion, and fun should always win out. And any limitation or cost you put on an organized fleet structure will be circumvented by smaller fleets working together via an FC on teamspeak.

No, the answer lies in the objectives and terrain.

I started playing around with the idea of more acceleration gates in space with ship size limitations and/or mass limitations with recharge rates. But you need something on the other side of those gates to make pilots want to try to get through with the limited fleets. Sov structures? industrial targets? Both possibilities.

Perhaps inspiration from Wormholes and Incursions is in order, system wide effects that make different sized hulls more preferable. Perhaps there can be sov structures that induce these effects and require the unusual fleet sizes and compositions to take out.

In the end, the point is this: CCP needs to take some action to stir up the pot. Its not lack of ideas holding us back, its lack of development will.

6 comments:

  1. Good stuff Kirith, and everyone. Interesting ideas.

    I love the small gang objectives shifting influence. Personally I'd suggest the penalties/bonuses described above are a bit over-powered though. Rather, maybe a combination of smaller things:
    (1) Make many more services and stuff vulnerable - ie at planets or within beaconed, gated deadspace pockets, not deathstar poses. Jump Bridges (@planets), iHub upgrades, Local Broadcast Node (that preserves or communicates local to the defenders, but suppresses it for the attackers), maybe even a 360-scanner suppressor. All are vulnerable, but many only to smaller gangs (accel gates) or need to be hacked for temporary disablement.
    2) Create an 'influence' or siege process, similar to incursions. As the attacker gains influence through sustained pressure (plexing, hacking, repeated timers, etc) in a system or constellation, the invuln timers on the station, ihub, and maybe even POSes, become less predictable. This shouldn't be instant, of course, but if an attacker lays siege for long enough, over several days, the randomness would increase on the timers, to the point where TZ superiority is not insurmountable. Of course, this works in reverse too - defenders can push back in their timezone.
    3) Mix in some farms and crap that generate passive income for the alliance with sov but can be robbed by roaming gangs.

    The biggest flaw to the small gang arguments is that bombers will run rampant, and competent bomber gangs are all but impossible to catch / kill when just in harassment mode (not bombing run). Two suggestions for mitigating the annoyance:
    1) T3 frigates / destroyers able to warp cloaked and drop a bubble; and maybe special bubbles or pulses that decloak duders within 50km. They'd be expensive. But used correctly, they would be effective for catching bombers, although maybe OP as well.
    2) Self-healing structures. Repping sucks, and if bomber gangs run wild, the amount of repping will explode. So make structures slowly regenerate. You can, of course, rep them to accelerate this. Or, let them just regen. Regen timers vary by size of structure - small ones faster, larger ones slowly - like 1-4 days for 100% regen, maybe with functionality restored @50%. Not just shield like today, armor and structure too - completely passive so people don't go mad - but slow.

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  2. What if CCP were to introduce a new type of scanner: A passive Gravitometer.

    As the size of a fleet increases, the ammount of mass per cubic kilometer (kg/km^3) increases. As a function of combined mass divided by distance, the gravitational output of that area increases as well. An advanced Gravitometer would be able to measure the gravitation pull on your ship. This would allow a ship to pinpoint a large fleet.

    When a fleet pings on the sensor, it would be added to the overview as a Gravitational Disturbance which can be warped to. In order to keep under the collective radars of all the ships in a system, an FC would want to run smaller gangs, or separate the fleet into smaller gangs to prevent detection.

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  3. I like where you're trying to go here Kirith but one thing you put forth at the end is incorrect. Carriers are not slower than their escort ships. In fact, a nuclear powered carrier is faster than its escort ships or at least as fast. They are large but that also have large engines!

    I'd like to weigh in on why navies have several ship types. I've had extensive studies of military science and though not naval specifically it was thorough.

    The carriers are the power. They have the reach and the punch. But they are also big, fat, juicy targets. They are easy to hit and easy to put out of commission. Just hit the flight deck or even tip it (water through a torpedo hole) a few degrees and they're nothing but a barn. The carrier not only projects power but protects the entire fleet from airplane threats with its combat air patrol.

    Escorts come in two basic sizes: large and small. The large escort is the Aegis cruiser. It's role is to protect the carriers from incoming missiles. It has advanced radar, missiles and phalanx guns to deal with both surface skimmers and ballistic type missiles. They also provide protection against hostile surface ships using ship-to-ship missiles and cannon.

    The smaller escort provides protection against submarines primarily. The larger ships are not agile enough to do this. Every ship is as fast as every other ship but only smaller escorts can "turn on a dime" and race to a sonar contact. They carry anti-submarine warfare helicopters and lots and lots of sonar buoys to detect them with.

    Now, that is somewhat simplified but the basic premise is that all ships have strengths and, more notable, weaknesses. Carriers are powerful but have poor missile and submarine defense. Aegis cruisers can take almost any missile out of the sky but jets cause them trouble and they too are practically blind to submarines. Frigates and destroyers are good at combating submarines and are more difficult to target with missiles (though not impossible so they too have phalanx guns.) A jet can take them out though and be back home in time for supper.

    In EVE, CCP needs to reflect this strength and weakness issue. Stealth bombers should be should be able to cripple a carrier so it is not useful in just a few (one) blows. Frigates should become bomber hunters (and any other stealth ship.) We need a new type of sniper firing a modified torpedo or something that can reach a carrier well out of the carrier's range. We need BCs that can possibly intercept those sniper missiles.

    In short, CCP needs to look at their ships and design these sorts of considerations into them. There are many things they could do. Whatever they do, they need to be smart about it.

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  4. @Stephen: What you're describing is exactly what Caldari ships already use for sensors. :)

    @Mabrick: Perhaps something along the lines of a 'Defensive Command' ship (like a Ticoderoga-class Cruiser in the USN)? Give Fleet Command Battlecruisers the ablity to use a sort of 'phalanx coodination' command link that permits ships receiving Leadership Bonuses from the FCBC to fire Defender antimissiles against incomming that targets any fleet member? This both gives Defenders a boost and allows more gun-centric ships to make use of the occasionally superfluous lone launcher slot to toss in a rocket launcher and some Defender for fleet ops.

    @Kirith, re: Joost
    I've mentioned it before elsewhere, but I'm in (biased) favor of adding an "Covert Jump Calibration" skill that functions in addition to Jump Drive Calibration to extend the range of Black Ops force projection. Four Lightyears really isn't enough to get 'behind the lines' of an established defensive perimeter of a large alliance and target the economic pilots; the miners and ratters that put ISK into an alliance wallet. Or that's my experiance, anyways.

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  5. I'll preface this by admitting that I know very little about SOV mechanics.

    One thing that seems to be currently missing in SOV warfare are system wide networked defenses/logistics. If there were a number of defenses that could only be deployed as multiple objects strategically placed throughout a system, that might create more incentive for small gang skirmish style attacks. Particularly if, as previously suggested, there were alternative ways of knocking them out (for example: small guns only, hacking, jamming).

    A variation on a previous suggestion would be for local to be dependent on a network of 5-10 broadcast nodes deployed throughout a system. The number of nodes needed to cover a system would naturally depend on the system size. A deployable cyno blocker network could be another type of deployable network. Another idea might be static scanning arrays/probes that reveal enemy fleet composition and position. Perhaps even a gate traffic control network that limited the number of ships using incoming gates, in 5, 10 or 15 minute cycles?

    I'm imagining that deployment of these defenses would have to be done cooperatively by 3-6 cruiser, or smaller sized, ships. Perhaps they would even need to fit a construction/repair type module (crane? construction grade tractor beam), with the appropriate parts carried in their cargo holds.

    One aspect of this that would be crucial would be that the any given network could still be partially effective, even if one node were knocked out. Having it be an all or nothing mechanic would make this approach pointless.

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  6. I am not a huge fan of allowing small gangs too much power in sov-warfare. I believe that could easily go too far if one side sents out lots of small gangs and whatnot.
    I think they should stay out of the actual sov-combat but i would love them to harrass the locals in different ways.

    1.For example there could be objectives in the system that upon completion LOWER the indizes of the system (millitary and industrial, that is). These would not be important enough for a CTA fleet to attack and thus not get blobbed (as the blob could as well attack the sov) but add a meaning to roaming gangs. Maybe these objectives even pay acceptable to give more incentive to do them except annoying the locals. The incentive for the owners to attack such a gang is obvious however.

    2. The 'farms' were already mentioned before. Have the planets (or just some, populated ones) pay tribute to the owning alliance. These tributes could amass in cans orbiting the planet (or use the existing custom offices) and they produce increasingly worthy goods. Like lets say, first they fill up one amount of space with something wortless, maybe livestock, than another one with something slightly better and so on. If they get emtied, they generate a mail to people with certain roles of the sovholders so that members of the sovholing alliance can not empty them without their bosses noticing. And after they are emptied, they begin again with the worthless crap.

    That should make the sovholders leave someting in them, so that they get to the better stuff and create a great target for roaming gangs (who of course should escort a transport or two to them) with the obvious reason to defend for the defenders to not loose their stuff.
    Of course could they as well emergency empty them, but that would make their gains smaller (of course you cannot put stuff back in) and require emergency hauler to be available.

    Imho both of these create a good fightingground for smaller gangs without having them dip into the sov too much, because imho it is right that the sov gets decided by enormous fights and by who can project more power into the system.

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