Thursday, October 02, 2014

Contraction and Expansion

CCP Greyscale released a dev blog yesterday titled Long-Distance Travel Changes Inbound that has stirred the pot of the EVE community to a degree that I have not seen in years, perhaps ever. I spent most of the day on Twitter, Skype, and Slack channels talking about it (and one Google Hangout conversation) and the reactions of it.

Since this is a dev blog, this means it that CCP is a lot more solid on its decisions here than it would be in a trial balloon dev post on the forums. So while feedback may mean some tweaks and modifications to the details, the overall thrust towards a goal end-state indicated in this blog is coming whether you like it or not.

I'm going to parse the majority of the dev blog and comment on inline it here, but first I want to toot my own horn from a couple of blogs I wrote back in 2010 and early 2013.

First off, talking about the tactical flexibility of supercarriers in 2010 before they got their own nerf, but the same arguments applied later on to the carriers and dreadnoughts:
With NCDOT living in low sec in Yong and with jump range of all of our operations here in CVA, their super capital fleet hangs a shadow over everything we do. It has led me to think a lot on the power of supercarriers and Titans and whether or not they lean to far to the overpowered side of the balance spectrum. There is certainly a lot of opinion in the community that this is so, but this is not a "Nerf Supercaps!" post. Instead I simply want to look at the current situation and discuss it.
First, let's look at the range of a supercarrier with Jump Drive Calibration IV based out of the Yong system.

As you can see, there is 153 valid destinations in range in eight regions, including most of Catch and Providence regions. All the supercarrier fleet in Yong needs is one alt with a cyno beacon and fuel to hotdrop anyone even though they are many many jumps away. This means that any small or lone capital operation in 153 systems has to be extra vigilant of any neutral or hostile coming through because NCDOT has a lot of supercarriers and it only takes a handful to obliterate a fleet of capital ships.
And then, in January of 2013 I wrote in response to a article this:
That image [Edit: referring back to the image in the previously mentioned blog post above - KK] shows how many systems a Wyvern supercarrier with a pilot having Jump Drive Calibration IV can reach in a single jump from the system of Yong in Amarr space. The problem with jump capable ships is that the range they have is not in a straight line, its in a sphere from their point of origin. This tactical flexibility means than they can project power equally over all those system with only need of a small scout with cynosaural beacon as the requirement.
And I suspect this is why large alliances are so hesitant to use those super capital fleets: because they know their opponents have the same tactical flexibility.
If jump ranges of supercapitals were reduced dramatically, the power projection of capital fleets would be reduced and their tactical flexibility would be lowered while still maintaining most of their strategic influence. Yes, they would be able to cross space quickly with planning and organization, but their ability to stand on overwatch of a region or two would be hindered and might give small entities more opportunities to make use of dreadnoughts and carriers without immediate fear of super capital hotdrop.
In other words, I've been a critic of the tactical flexibility of capitals and supercapitals for about four years now and have advocated some sort of effort to reduce their ability to dominate large scale PvP over vast swathes of territory. Now, let's go to the dev blog! All emphasis in the following quoted text is mine.
Hi everyone,
We are about to make some significant changes to how long-distance travel in various forms works in EVE, with the aim of significantly increasing minimum travel times between two arbitrary distant points, most particularly in regards to jump drive and portal based movement. The overarching reason for this is that the current ease of movement has shrunk the practical dimensions of New Eden considerably, to the detriment of the game experience.
Everything you need to know about this dev blog is summed up here. Another way to put it is that jump ships will not be able to cross the cluster as quickly as before.
Why this?/Why now?
Nullsec is stagnant and needs a change. This is the first of many steps in our plan.
Big fights are cool, but they’re crowding out more accessible and more frequent smaller ones.
"Stagnant"! Take a drink.
These changes have positive implications for people not involved in sovereignty warfare, for example making use of capitals in lowsec less risky.
That would be interesting. As has been pointed out, capitals see a fair amount of use already in low sec but primarily by the big low sec entities, and the engagements have to be short and sweet or else they attract the attention of the big boys, Pandemic Legion, Black Legion, and their ilk. Nothing like a drop of a fleet of supercarriers on a party to say "the fun's over, everyone go home".
We expect the impact of these changes to be emergent, and as a consequence are unpredictable and will take a while to develop on TQ. This plays into our longer-term plans, as you’ll see in a second!
How do these changes fit into the Nullsec plan?
As we’ve previously discussed at Fanfest, in our recent forum post, and in the premiere episode of The o7 Show, a group of developers here at CCP has been working on Nullsec and associated game systems with the goal of releasing a series of changes to shake up the status quo and improve the overall state of Nullsec. We are planning to deploy changes over several phases, which will each provide specific improvements individually while also fitting into one greater whole.
Phase One contains the long-distance travel changes, as well as some other associated changes planned in Phoebe in November. These changes are not intended to be a silver bullet to fix all of Nullsec’s issues in one fell blow. Instead, they represent a significant improvement to specific areas of concern for Nullsec (and Lowsec) while also setting the stage for the later changes.
I'm glad there is recognition about the symbiotic nature of the two areas in terms of capital ship mechanics.
Phase Two is focused on medium-term changes to the ways that organizations capture and hold Nullsec space and infrastructure. We are working with the CSM as we firm up our plans for this phase and as we develop internal prototypes. It is during this phase that we expect to make greater progress towards smaller and more diverse Nullsec holdings. It is too early to go into great detail about what these changes will contain, but currently most of our conceptual prototyping has loosely fallen into categories that could be described as “occupancy-based” systems and more “freeform” systems that decentralize sov to focus more on control of the individual pieces of infrastructure. As we continue this investigation we will be working closely with the CSM and following all appropriate player feedback.
Phase Three is the stage that CCP Seagull discussed in the EVE Keynote at Fanfest this year. This stage is intended to build upon the changes that we are planning for starbases/structures and corps/alliances in 2015, changes that will open up new possibilities for more dynamic warfare and more granular control of territory. This phase is also intended to lead quite deliberately into the future through our vision for player-built stargates.
By splitting the task of improving Nullsec into manageable chunks, we are ensuring that we get you the best changes as quickly as possible rather than holding back needed updates. We’re happy to be getting the first significant chunk of these changes out to you all later this year.
Where's that image again? Ah there it is.

So phase two as discussed in the dev blog is that "Sovereignty & warfare" arrow on that image. These changes to jump drives, aka Phase One, probably fall in that area as well. Still no words on what will happen in "Corps & Alliances" yet though.
What is changing?
We are going to allow capital ships to use gates in lowsec/nullsec, and we are aiming to make gate-to-gate travel take less time than jump travel over distances of more than ~20 LY. We've run simulations for capital ships travelling between arbitrary pairs of systems, and settled on the target movement speed of no less than 3 minutes per lightyear for travel over 20 LY. This should allow us to bring about the main change we want to see – less sustained use of jump travel – while still preserving its value for short bursts of movement.
Holy shit! I never imagined the possibility of allowing capital ships (later confirmed to inlcude supercapitals) to use stargates for travel. But its a clever solution to the problem of how to limit jump travel while not crippling jump ships to the point of uselessness.

How is this going to be achieved?
The primary change is the addition of a new mechanic, called "jump fatigue".
Jump fatigue is tracked for each character, persisting between play sessions and over downtimes as appropriate.
Every time you use any jump drive, jump bridge or jump portal (hereafter all treated as "a jump"; note that this does NOT include stargate travel!), you will accumulate jump fatigue. If your fatigue is below 1 before a jump, your fatigue will be 1 + (light years travelled) after the jump. For subsequent jumps, the fatigue is multiplied after each jump by 1 + (light years travelled). This stays on the character as mentioned earlier, and decays at a rate of 0.1 per minute.
After a jump is complete but before your fatigue is increased, you gain a jump cooldown timer. The length of this timer is a number of minutes equal to your jump fatigue (before being increased by that jump!), and you are unable to make another jump of any kind until this timer expires. Note importantly that, because fatigue decays at a slower rate than a cooldown timer, you will retain fatigue for a length of time after your cooldown timer expires. (See Appendix A for examples.)
The status of both your fatigue and your cooldown timer will be displayed in the timer bar in the upper left corner of the screen:
I expect this part will be the most to be tweak between the release of the dev blog and implementation on Tranquility. The problem as the math currently exists is that you could quickly make a character useless for capital operations for too long a time if you did many long range jumps in a row since its exponential growth. While I appreciate the goal, we don't want to make capitals so rare as to become unusable. Expect this to get capped or have a higher rate of cooldown depending on the amount of fatigue at a certain point.

UPDATE: In a tweet CCP Nullarbor says they are going to "cap the maximum jump fatigue to 30 days (and therefore jump activation to 3 days)".

In addition:
Almost all jump-capable ships will have their range reduced to 5 LY after skills; this is both necessary to allow us to not penalize short-distance travel in a cleaner way, and also as a goal in and of itself to constrain the distance covered in single hops. . (Note that jump portal range on a ship is always the same as its own jump drive range.)
As above, capital ships will be able to use stargates, but will for the time being they will still be barred from entering Highsec (that is a larger discussion that we would like to revisit in future).
Huge fan of this change. One of my biggest bugbears was simply the element of tactical surprise the range and speed of capitals had over any other ship type. I refer back to my post old posts showing the sheer power of being able to go many light years in any direction in an instant.

What else?
You will only be able to move your medical clone to the station you are currently docked at. This prevents obvious movement workarounds with suicide-cloning. (If your clone contract is revoked by the station owner, we are keeping the current behavior that it is moved to your home system as defined in the character sheet.)
Another spot of a lot of questions to be answered is jump clones and if fatigue timers are carried over. I suspect they are but the question remains.
Hitpoints and resistances on various sovereignty-related structures will be revisited, to balance out the reduced ability to use Supercarriers against them. Stay tuned for a follow-up blog on this.
We will be releasing a collection of other smaller changes in Phoebe that will be of interest to many of the same people who are affected by these travel changes. These include a rebalance of starbase weapons, a rebalance of stealth bombers and heavy interdictors, enabling of lowsec doomsdays, and changes to interdictor bubble mechanics. More information to come.
Lots of words, no details, yet these have a lot of impact on how this jump range nerf will play out.
What's not changing?
Starbase jump bridges already have a 5 LY range, so they don't need range adjustments.
We are hoping to leave skills as they are for the initial release; we will likely readjust them in the near future, but we want to see how behavior settles down first.
Jump clones are being left alone for the time being. We are likely to want to revisit them once the initial changes shake out, the use of ship caches becomes clear and so on, but they serve a diverse enough set of purposes (null-null movement, null-highsec movement, implant swapping etc.) that we don’t want to make major changes too quickly.
So this is one of the complaints I've seen bandied around the social media about this overall change: rich coalitions will play caches of jump capable ships all around the galaxy and simply jump clone to them to use them locally as needed. Therefore, the argument goes, the nerf does not actually accomplish its goals.

Unless you actually read the goals, of course, in which you see the aim is to see "less sustained use of jump travel – while still preserving its value for short bursts of movement". In other words, yes agencies can setup depots of jump capable ships and use jump clones to get to them and jump all over an opponent, but they can't do it continually forever every day. There will be decisions to be made and consequences other than the normal risk of undocking and ISK for fuel. I like this, it makes strategic decisions regarding use of capitals and supercapitals more important and limits the "hot drop supers on lone targets in low sec for lolz".
What's being special-cased?
Jump Freighters and Rorquals will gain a role bonus: 90% reduction to effective range jumped for the purposes of all these calculations, but will otherwise get all the described changes. This means that, for all the math we’re doing on this feature, whenever we use the range jumped as a variable we first multiply it by 0.1. We will still likely want to revisit the logistical power of these ships in future, but for now we want to bring them into the new system without nerfing them too hard.
For the record, a perfect skilled jump freighter pilot can go 11.25 lys right now, so their range will be more than halved. This will greatly impact serious null sec logistics even ignoring the jump fatigue. Of course, we have not talked about what the building of player stargates entails and that may address some of the issue (e.g. highway jump gates from shallow null to deep null) or it may have nothing to do with null sec logistics. Short term, I see two major fallouts here: deep null sec is going to lose value in terms of desirable space as logistics to it will be that much harder (more jumps required and jump fatigue) and a possible contraction of null sec populations to shallow null sec where jump freighter logistics will be less disrupted.
Black Ops ships will have their range unchanged, but will otherwise get all the described changes. This also keeps the range of their jump portals unchanged. We don’t feel that Black Ops range needs adjustment right now.
Black Ops current perfect skilled range is 7.875 lyr giving them more tactical flexibility than any other jump capable maneuvure. Interesting.
What are the anticipated consequences?
In the short term, we would anticipate a reduction in the degree to which the average non-trivial capital fight escalates, and the number of parties involved. This seems likely to increase the frequency of capitals being deployed in small-scale engagements, in both lowsec and nullsec.
I can't say for sure if their changes will facilitate or not this vision. On one hand, the odds of people willy-nilly committing their capitals to an emerging fight will decrease, but on the other hand there is an apparent less risk for actually doing so. It *might* work out like they want or it might evolve into an abandonment of capitals altogether.
Over the medium term, we see the potential for more substantial changes in the nullsec status quo as the various competing parties work to adjust their internal objectives to the new situation;
In other words, "we're gonna wait and see what happens and if it gets bad we'll try something else".
[I]t seems plausible that the general reduction in travel capabilities will lead to more localism, but we don't want to make any firm predictions in this area.
"We hope there will be more localized fighting as a result of these changes but really we can't tell."
We're confident that these changes improve the overall system of lowsec and nullsec gameplay and take them in better directions, but any set of changes that would allow us to accurately predict their consequences would by their nature be too simple to be interesting for very long.
"We had to go big or go home."

Another way of stating that paragraph is that the game in null sec has stratified to the point that nothing short of explosives is going to break the calcification. Whether its dynamite or plastique, its gotta be destructive enough so that people are actually disrupted enough to allow a new normal to form before the old normal re-asserts itself.
What's next?
We will be actively participating in the comments thread of this blog and listening elsewhere around the internet.
These changes will be appearing on the Singularity test server in the next couple of weeks.
We anticipate shipping them in Phoebe, which comes out in November.
We are expecting to make follow-up adjustments in Rhea, in December.
The medium-term shake-out of these changes will be very impactful on sovereignty-system changes we are anticipating making next year, so we are expecting to revisit all this again as the work on those changes progresses.

I'm sympathetic to those in null sec looking at what these changes will do to their current empires but the fact of the matter is that I can see why CCP feels that any smaller change than this will simply be absorbed into the current null sec culture and nothing will change with the status quo. I myself expressed doubt that any mechanics change would shift the null sec tectonic plates but I stand corrected as this dev blog is the most dramatic change to the game I have seen in eight years, excepting perhaps major features like Dominion sov or Apocrypha wormholes.

As for my predictions, expect battleship fleets to become even more popular than they are now, including in low sec as they will be less threatened by sudden carrier / dreadnought escalation. I also suspect that usage of carriers and dreadnoughts in low sec will increase (the former more than the latter) at least in the short term while everyone figures out the new normal.

It will be interesting to see how the ability to jump through gates will impact cap ship usage. Are Capital ship roams or logisitics runs in the future as the carrier acts like a low sec and null sec Orca with a cyno emergency exit a few systems away? I can't wait to see how this plays out.

Overall, I'm a big fan of the changes. I am worried that a mass exodus is potential but I hope that players currently addicted to the ease and power of jump capable ships and starbase structures choose to adapt rather than quit. Shorter tactical ranges and greater strategic cost for jump capable ships means there may be spots for smaller entities to fit under the coverage and spark some content which is good for everyone.


  1. My gut says that CCP is going to have to throw super cap pilots a bone before this goes live, like being able to dock supers in stations or some alternative method to escape their giant space coffins. Or maybe a super buy-back program, or a coupon for a one-time 100% reprocessing of your might space ark into component parts. Something.

    After working (or spending) a lot to get into the apex ships in the game, you want to be able to use your shiny toy. Doubly so when you essentially have to commit a character to be forever in that ship. So this nerf has to be something of a punch to the gut. The reasoning is there for it, but feeling like your already lightly used giant space ship is going to be even less likely to see action has got to sting.

  2. Anonymous4:58 am

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  3. Anonymous5:02 am

    This is so refreshing. Honestly, being able to shrink null will be fun in the long run. It opens up so many new tactics that were once viable in the early days of the game. The fatigue thing is being blown super out of proportion. This change perfectly outlines one of the main things that make EVEs player base different from other MMOs. Adapt or die or go back to WOW. It is going to be tweaked a bunch after seeing how everyone reacts once it is implemented anyway. But shrinking eve is going to make null so much more fun and will force many alliances to find other tactics. I am excited.