Monday, June 15, 2015

Goodbye Fleet Warp, I Hardly Knew Ye

Last week on the o7 show it was announced that some major changes are coming to fleet warp mechanics:
As announced on the o7 show we are making some changes to fleet warp. Fleet Commanders, Wing Commanders & Squad Commanders will no longer be able to warp to anything a fleet member couldn’t warp to on their own. This includes –
- Probe Results
- Bookmarks
- Any private deadspace item (missions, etc.)
Commanders will still be able to warp their fleet to other fleet members, and all other ‘public’ objects.
The goal of these changes is to encourage more individual fleet member participation and reduce the speed at which fleets can get on top of targets (e.g bombers).
This will have an immediate obvious impact on how fleets operate in the short term, and a less obvious impact on fleet dynamics as a whole in the long term.

First, the short term. As a small gang Fleet commander in low sec, I admit I don't make very much use of fleet warp mechanics for no reason other than with a small group of pilots I work with on a consistent basis, I don't need to worry that people don't warp to where I specify. To assist with the smooth operation of the fleet, I try to give clear and concise instructions multiple times to avoid any mistakes.

But other FCs may operate differently, either out of personal choice or necessity. A large fleet with lots of newer players or inexperienced PvP Pilots can use fleet warps to ensure pilots don't warp in at the wrong range or to the wrong celestial or bookmark. These changes will make the herding of cats more hazardous and fraught with mistakes. Even if a person only makes a mistake 1 out of 100 times, a fleet of 200 pilots is going to have 2 pilots going off the reservation every time.

Another advantage of fleet warping was that it made all the ships in the warp travel at the same warp speed of the slowest ship class in the warp. With that gone, its another factor to play into sending your fleet at a target where you must be concerned parts of your fleet do not arrive too much sooner than others.

However, let's look at the long term implications of this change.

The death of the Sniper Battleship fleet really started with the "New Probing Mechanics" of Apocrypha. Prior to that, getting a warp in on a target enemy took far longer and a lot more skill. After Apocrypha, getting warp ins on enemies took merely seconds meaning often battleships were still locking and aligning when the other fleet landed on top of them. This forced engagement ranges shorter than 150 km to avoid on grid warps as much as possible but this in turn allowed smaller and more mobile ships the ability to fight at range. The battleship simply became too big and too slow to compete.

But now? An FC can no longer both probe and fleet warp the ships onto the enemy in one smooth motion. At the very least, the person doing the fleet warp has to put himself in harms way to warp to the probed target and then wait while the fleet warps to him. More likely you will have two pilots, one doing the probing and another leading the fleet. Plus the mistakes that can occur when ordering the fleet to warp the prober at the right range and angle.

Does this mean the return of the sniper battleship fleet doctrine? I don't think so, mainly because there have been a lot of changes over the years that impact that class of ships and simply giving them a reprieve from insta-probing fleets landing on them does not address all of them. But its interesting to watch the outcome nonetheless as the big Null Sec doctrine masters apply their trade.

Overall, I see why CCP is making this change, its part of a pattern of taking control from centralized actors and moving it to individuals so that the emergent gameplay is not dictated as much by a handful of people. Drone Assist, fleet warps, and soon I am willing to bet off grid linking.. its all part of a design to give player skill and training more of a factor in a group's overall success.

1 comment:

  1. Time to spend some time trading bookmarks until all my characters have all bookmarks any other character has.