Monday, September 24, 2012

Variety Does Not Always Lead To Diversity

I've seen various complaints about the balancing / tiericide / overhaul that CCP has been doing with ships and modules lately.

In Bringing Solo Back podcast episode 20 CCP Fozzie talked a lot about what he and the team is trying to do and how they are trying to find the happy path between bringing ships and ship classes into line so that they are attractive options compared to other ships and going too far and creating all ships the same. I've seen comments and complaints that CCP is veering too far to the latter end of the scale and Eve will suffer for it.

When I played Warhammer 40K for 15 years, I saw this argument pop up frequently when new editions came out. (Hey, you hate CCP changing things on you? Try playing a game where you have to go out and buy the changes or be out of date with the community.) People would get up in arms over simplified mechanics or removal of special rules that a weapon or unit had with the cries that they were watering down the game and making it simpler to draw new people in, but screwing the things the old vets loved about the game.

The games may change, but the complainers still complain about the same things.

In Warhammer, the vets always eventually were won over as they realized that the new cleaner mechanics allowed for better faster games, but more importantly, the mix-max evaluations had been made less imbalanced and units once thought of as useless had a new chance at life on the battlefield. Ultimately, variety did not always lead to diversity.

Back to Eve.

I've been playing for over 6 years and I can tell you the one and only time I saw a Bellicose in space was about 5 years ago. I can't remember if I ever saw a Scythe. Up until recently I've only seen newbs in Slashers and Tristans and Tormentors. And Omens I only knew as the base hull of the Zealot. The fact of the matter is, and has been, that variety in Eve ships did not lead to diversity. The min-maxers set upon the best ships for any given situation, perfected the setup and techniques, and eventually most of the population followed suit. Overtime the ships you see in space are all the same with the occasional newb or expert flying something different, everything else was very predictable: Rifters, Stabbers, Thoraxes, Drakes, etc.

The tiericide has changed that and its refreshing to see the actual diversity of empires' ship line's reflected in the choices of pilots. It gives you a lot more to think about when seeing a Slasher or Tristan on the grid other than "easy prey". And I don't think that the slight homogenization that is occurring as part of that is too high a price to pay.

* * * * *

The changes to missiles and tracking disruptors/enhancers is a lot more difficult to digest at first because it goes everything we knew in Eve from the beginning. But from the developers point of view I'm guessing they were faced with two very real problems with no easy solutions:

1) If Defender missiles are improved they will still be useless in any situation that is not 1 versus 1 (and even then its iffy at best unless you make them overpowered) and the computational effort to track yet more missiles in space gets to be daunting; and

2) Tracking disruptors are useless against missiles making the Amarr base electronic warfare useless against most of the Caldari ships as well as a few others.

If you were to go just with lore then the second point is not a big deal as the number of Minmatar missile ships is fairly low. But since lore is practically disregarded in almost all player corporations and pilots can fly any ship at any time once trained in them, it was a significant issue for Amarr electronic warfare ships.

The answer CCP has decided to use is radical, but addresses both issues. Defender missiles can be ignored and Amarr EWAR can have some impact on missile using ships.

It remains to be seen if the changes to these mechanics radically alters the balance of power in weapon systems but judging by the changes to frigates and hybrids over the last year I'm willing to give CCP some slack (which they may use to impress me or hang themselves).


  1. You know, from a purely _technical_ standpoint, what you're saying about TDs working on missiles now makes absolute sense, except for one thing:
    These are the guys who brought us the "technically impossible" single-shard game-universe.

    Yet dynamic missions, working "anti-missile" batteries, which seems to be fairly easily solved by the "mega-fratricide" anti-missile effects you see in anime, and would absolutely KILL the supposed "server lag" issue, or perhaps why not an "anti-missile turret" sorta like a CIWS on modern naval vessels, if the "missile" workings are too server-intensive for other reasons... those things, those things are too :hard:, so we'll just cobble something together, stretch this to fit here, slide that to fit there... \o/ and hail it as the Next Coming(tm).
    There's all sorts of work-arounds to consider, that would ACTUALLY add diversity, instead of just taking the "easy way". :-/

  2. The problem I see is that TDs will become the new ECM.

    Unlike ECM, however, TDs *always* hit - and, now, they hit everything except drones (well, also bombs, and smartbombs).

    Is there any reason why someone would NOT fit a TD?

    1. Agreed. As it is, a TD is almost instant win vs. a turret-fit ship in 1v1s. Knowing that they will be effective against any ship means now they'll be much more common.

      I foresee the ships that have the ability to fit them (i.e. at least 4 mid slots) will ALWAYS fit them. Certainly means the death of amarr frigate hulls that won't be able to fit them (and also a LOT more arbitrators, already a great hull).

  3. Excellent post, this tension is not a very obvious limitation in game design.

  4. As an Arb hull user, I'm a bit dubious of TDs needing a buff. They are *really* good, and I find only working on turrets to be a fine tradeoff.