Friday, September 14, 2012

Off-Grid Boosting - Responses

I had some good comments on my post yesterday  that I wanted to address, and as well Ripard Teg made a post after mine on the subject that I wanted to respond to some points as well. 

Iam Widdershins wrote:
Sure you can tell all kinds of stories and anecdotes about offgrid boosting and its evils, but here's the way I see it. 
There's really nothing that broken about off-grid boosting; ON-grid boosting has the potential to be even more messed up, due to the way grids are allocated. What people are REALLY complaining about is people boosting from inside POS shields. There's an easy solution here:
1. Make all forms of gang link impossible to activate from inside a force field, and
2. Make gang links somewhat decrease your sensor strength or otherwise make you easier to probe. 
You may at first complain that this forces Orcas and Rorquals to boost their lowsec/nullsec gangs from outside the shields, but I don't see what's wrong with that. It's quite doable and it makes the mechanic much more interesting. It also prevents people from just leaving links up all day. 
I have personally done a lot of fighting in highsec and I am extremely familiar with what it's like to have enemies with links you cannot possibly kill. In my opinion it is simply not as bad as most people make it out, and I think that a solution along these lines is very reasonable and easy to implement.

While I think not allowing warfare links inside POS shields is a no-brainer, I don't think that it helps the situation in low sec fights one iota. The second suggestion of having ship penalties also strikes me as a fix in search of a different problem. Neither of these will give a roaming gang any chance of even knowing what they are facing in a fight before its too late.

I have to admit I never even thought of the impact on Orcas and Rorquals. For Orcas, I'd say I don't care that Orcas suffer because for the life of me, I've never seen one in a mining op outside of High Sec. For Rorquals, I'd be fine with a special ability for that ship to be able to be off grid and still give boosts to any ship in the system.

Anonymous Pilot wrote:
I think the true problem here is the boosting tech 3 ships themselves. A ship that's basically a grown up covert ops with interdiction nullification is almost impossible to stop or destroy if the pilot doesn't wish to engage. Scanning it down while it is boosting is possible but a nontrivial task, and assuming the pilot is awake and paying attention (i.e. full speed aligned)tackling him even after you find him is near impossible as well, especially if the fit includes a warp stab or two for just that purpose. Add to that tech 3 boosts are better, and the ships are quicker to train for, than the tech 2 battlecruiser hulls that are supposed to be specialists in this role, and it's not hard to make a strong argument that tech 3 cruisers are outdoing two specialist niche classes of ships simultaneously, which says to me, "OP". 
Until other mechanics in the game change, removing the ability to boost from offgrid is an unfair and unwarranted nerf to ships other than the ones creating the problem. You may not realize that a Rorqual only applies its ship bonuses when it's deployed, otherwise you may as well put those links on a battlecruiser. Are you going to deploy (siege) a 3 billion isk capital ship, with a years-skilled pilot that has a 1 billion isk implant in his head, outside of POS shields? I didn't think so. 
Instead, why don't we make the command processor module a specialist item for command ships, along with reducing the boosting bonus of tech 3's to be more in line with command ships? What this does is force a decision between cloaky, near-unstoppable, with a single link, or a dedicated command ship for multiple links which is more vulnerable. 
Everyone I've heard speak on the subject (including CCP Fozzie  in an interview on Bringing Solo Back podcast (my current favourite BTW)) agrees that Tech 3 ships have a bonus to warfare links that is too good, especially in conjunction with their other abilities. 
And people should also keep in mind, when you go to beard lions in their den you should expect that defenders might be prepared. If you want to level your playing field with defending forces, then set up your own POS in the system you intend to attack and park your boosting command ship there. If you are just there roaming in a nanofag gang looking to farm kills from inexperienced pilots, then pick the single link you want most and run your cloaky Loki through the gate first as scout. 
Yeah, I can see the argument from your point of view and I'm not entirely unsympathetic to it. My major complaint is that it gives the static defenders too much advantage over roaming attackers and that in turns discourages dynamism in regions of space, especially low sec. The lions in the den already have the options of ships in their hangers, allies in system, premade safe spots, familiarity with the terrain (warp times, celerstials, etc) that I don't think giving them a hidden performance boost is really required.
Honestly, the way it's set up now things are in relative balance, other than the OP tech 3 boosting. Attackers can bring their links in on covert nullified tech 3's, defenders can park their booster in a POS. Putting the ships themselves on grid just assures their immediate destruction, leaving fleets without boosts and some of the interesting tactical options that they provide.... which would probably suit the BLOB just fine. I think this recent whining over offgrid boosting is a big smokescreen without a fire under it anywhere.
I've seen someone (Ripard Teg, we'll get to him in a minute) argue that even if they were on grid they would probably be ignored and you suggest that they would be targeted immediately and destroyed! :) I think the answer is in between but until we give the choice to the pilots we can't say for sure. What we do know is that there is no choice whatsoever involved now, and even worse no indication nor risk.

* * * * *

On to Ripard. He wrote a whole post and I'm not going to quote it all here except the parts I want to respond to. Assume I have no strong disagreements with the parts I don't comment on.

After an initial preamble where he discussed the difficulties in making on-grid boosting working, he wrote:
And sure, if off-grid boosting could be abolished and on-grid boosting made near-100% reliable, I'd also be completely in favor of that. 
But you people whining that you think it's going to make a difference should reconsider, because it won't. The only thing that's going to happen is that the off-grid booster will appear on your overview and keep his or her travels to the extreme end of the "grid", even assuming that the "grid" isn't a heavily-manipulated mess set up beforehand to keep the "on-grid" booster safe from you. Gate camps and the like, in particular, aren't going to change at all. There will be a booster, and he'll be too far away for you to do anything about. Just be prepared to see a Loki or Tengu or Legion 200km (or 300km, or 500km) away doing its thing.
I disagree. If my scout reports that the hostile fleet has a Loki 200 km away, I as FC can make intelligent decisions about what to do to counter that. A super-fast frigate can cover 100 km in less than 30 seconds; a warp off and warp back at 100 km range could put an inty within tackle range, we may be one of those prepared fleets that has bookmarks around gates in this region and the enemy booster could be near one of those; we could have a prober with us and when you know the area of a ship to probe you can do it in one quick scan and do an on grid warp; or we could decide to just not engage due to their boosted advantage. If we do engage, we don't necessarily need to destroy it, just make it warp off much like we drive off hostile Falcons. In other words, we have options even if the grid has been manipulated to crazy dimensions. Currently mechanics means our options are a lot more limited.

Plus, I have trouble buying the "its too hard to do because of grid weirdness" argument that preceded that paragraph. I'm not going to go into it as I don't think either of us is well versed enough in the actual design, code, and developers involved to speak with great authority.
And it's here that I have to part ways with the crusade... mostly. It's kind of entertaining for me because most of the people who claim boosting is over-powered can't do it themselves. As a result, they have no concept of the sacrifices that have to be made for boosting to work. Let's start with the basic one: a good boost pilot has to devote several million SP to the requisite skills. These are skills that have virtually nothing in common, attribute-wise, with any other skills in the game. 
I understand the sacrifices because I do have boost pilots, two of them. One of them is Ripard himself.(1) Ripard has something like 12 million SP devoted to Leadership skills, and another several million devoted to the associated ship and racial subsystem skills to put them into play. Most of those skills rely on the Charisma stat, which almost everyone reading this right now has set to its minimum value. Training these skills took a year. I wish I could say I was exaggerating, but I can't. Because I'm not. I spent a year of my life training these skills.
I invite you to contemplate that for a while because that year's worth of training is why there aren't more boost pilots in New Eden. A lot of people see that implacable granite wall of time in front of them, shudder, back away...

...and then they immediately start to claim that those skills are over-powered.
This feels like a strawman argument. The implication is that Ripard's opinion is more valued because he has invested time in boosting training while someone who has not invested such time has opinions that do not count as much. Also, he makes the claim that "most of the people who claim boosting is over-powered can't do it themselves" which kind of strikes me as not relevant as well.

I remember when nano-ships were all the rage, especially Vagabonds where the pilots had Snake implants. When the nano-nerf was announced they were up in arms because they had invested a lot of money to get the implants and the ships and they should have an advantage over the people that didn't invest that money and time. Besides, the argument went, they can get the same advantages by doing the same thing or they can counter us with this specific tactic and ship setup (and by counter they meant drive off, not ever actually be able to kill them). But the nerf went through and life goes on better for it.

My point is that the investment of players into a mechanic/module/ship that is unbalanced should never be a deterrent to addressing that problem. For the record, I too have trained boosting alts and I'm training another one right now, AND I have trained all the leadership boosting skills on Kirith. Yet I still call off-grid boosting overpowered.
If your FC identifies a link ship in the fleet you're fighting, except for a few special cases, he'll almost immediately relegate it to the very bottom of the threat list.

See? The exact opposite opinion of commenter Anonymous Pilot! :)

If the ships are over-powered, then why aren't they destroyed immediately when they are identified? Where does all this hate come from? That's easy. A single link is responsible: the Skirmish Warfare Link - Interdiction Maneuvers link in both T1 and T2 varieties. It kind of makes me smile. Even in EVE, people are inherently biased against tactics that they regard as "unfair". Getting blobbed is unfair. Getting tricked into attacking bait is unfair. Getting hot-dropped is unfair. 
And getting pointed and webbed by a non-bonused ship from 40 or 50 kilometers away is unfair. 
EVE players hate to lose ships and the entire reason for the existence of the Interdiction Maneuvers link is to make it more likely that EVE players will lose ships. The hate is therefore totally understandable. Here's the part where I simultaneously believe two incompatible things at once: I don't think boosting is over-powered. But I do think that particular link is over-powered. A Loki with an T2 Interdiction link makes it possible for the crudest battle cruiser pilot to keep a target pointed at more than 36km even before over-heating. The ship and link confer more than a 50% bonus to point range. It's more than double the bonus that's applied to the same battle cruiser from fitting a 120 million ISK Republic Fleet Warp Disruptor.
Sigh, and here's where Ripard nails it, and in the process makes me feel like a blowhard idiot. He's absolutely right in that the biggest problem I have with off grid boosting is the Interdiction Maneuvers warfare link. My own little anecdote in my original post was about this exact issue: insanely long ranged points and webs on an unbonused ship, simply using faction modules. I wish in hindsight that I had delved deeper into the issue and said this first. Oh well.


  1. OK so how about a system where you cannot boost if....

    You are in a pos shield
    You are cloaked
    You are in motion

    That way if someone is trying to scan you down then every time you have to run the fleet looses its boost. Add a little cat and mouse strategy.

  2. Actually in retrospect perhaps rather than in motion make it in warp?

    1. Other than the POS shield one, that is how it works.

  3. You cannot boost cloaked or in warp today.

  4. "I'd say I don't care that Orcas suffer because for the life of me, I've never seen one in a mining op outside of High Sec." In wormhole space mining fleets are common as are Orca boosting them inside a POS. Given the prevalence of hostile fleets and the high odds of someone in the hostile who is an expert at scanning* few people are willing to risk an Orca at a safe spot.

    *A scanning expert knows how to narrow you down via dscan so when they drop probes you only have a brief window of time to see them. I've seen fleet mates scan down a Battleship in a safe spot in under a minute.

  5. Anonymous3:34 pm

    Well as you already pointed out it is not the off-grind boost in generals but some special effects of it. So better fix that instead of nerfing everything.

    Now to the point of boosting in mining ops:
    you ever flown a rorqual? Or used it to boost? If you take a look at its boni you will see that an orca out boosts it as long as it is not in industrial mode (some kind of siege for those who don't know that).
    One cycle are 10 minutes and what your friendly rorqual pilot generally does is compressing ore to make it a bit easier to transport. Uncompressed ores can be very large as you might imagine.
    Though the rorqual has a major problem, it only has about 120k+ m³ cargo and a 250k m³ ore hold. To compress stuff it can not use the orehold and must pack that stuff in cargo bay. If you want to compress some million m³ of ore you use a CHA or LSAA to store the ore to collect the stacks.

    The short outcome is: Want to have bonus from rorqual and compression? you need 2, one in indu mode to compress stuff and one in indu mode for boost and the latter one is vulnerable to neuts in worst case 10 Minutes. Even Dreadnoughts have less vulnerability time!

  6. I have a feeling you have never fought across a split/stretched grid. Do not underestimate the shenanigans that will occur if it really is changed to be on-grid. I've fought people going back and forth across 5km of space where there was an invisible wall across which nothing could be seen, I've fought people off-grid less than 70km from Jita 4-4, and I've parked a shuttle on-grid yet 44,000km away from a station before.

    One other possible solution is to make links only work in a limited range, say 1AU, or 5AU. The Rorqual could of course have a massive role bonus, or a bonus in the operation of its roid-rage module, that massively expands this range.

    I don't think that this is a standalone solution, I think it would work well in conjunction with the changes I already mentioned - making linking ships easier to probe, and disallowing links inside force fields.