Saturday, 26 September 2015

Capital Rebalance : A structural decision

The recent Devblog on Citadels (you know, the one where CCP climbed down from Entosis) hinted at the long overdue capital rebalance. Exciting times!


As said previously, when it comes to Carriers, the Archon is king. Hands down, it is king, because of capacitor. It inherited a larger capacitor pool that the other carriers due to a ground-up initial build out of ships in the early years of EVE, back when racial traits were simple, streamlined and had no iterative balance-nerf-balance-buff feedback loops. This saw the familiar ratios of basic ship stats carried up from subcaps to capitals; Amarr got armour, best capacitor, armour resists. Caldari got shield hitpoints, sensor strength, shield resists. Gallente got drone damage, armour, hull hitpoints (sorta) and hybrids. Minmatar got fucked over. Sorry to say, but they did.

Now, you should go read the previous post, I suppose, where the pecking order of Carriers got sorted out top-to-bottom. I still stand by the Archon-Niddhogur-Thanatos pecking order, because it is still utterly a truism that capacitor equals life, for caps. This is true regardless of whether it's Slowcat blobs, triage, or Pantheon fits, although the terrible range of energy RR on the Nidhoggur does nobble it a little for Pantheon fits, but Nidhoggurs excel as solo triage shield carriers. You just have to invest heavily in blingy CPR's.

Carriers haven't really been balanced at all since ntroduction, except to nerf fighter assist to deal with Skynet carriers - which was way overdue, and no one in their right mind would militate for that festering pile of shit to be reintroduced. As I said two years ago (how time flies) as a disaffected Nidhoggur pilot when there was some sniffings of rebalance discussions about the place, the key ship parameter that needs dealing with is, in fact, capacitor. With a much flatter cap pool and cap regen rate between the carriers, this alone will rebalance the meta.

Other possibilities involve addressing the meta of the game as it stands, and to get to grips with the culture of the capital game more than anything else. This involves addressing the whole


Dreadnoughts are, now there are missile guidance modules, becoming a less skewed and ridiculous space to be in. It used to be split along two modes of metagame; k-space and w-space, the the two flavours of capital game never mixed.

K-space dread warfare was dominated by Moros and Revelations (occasionally tracking Nags or armour nags), and the other two largely absent or not included in SRP by the larger alliances. This was fed, at least partially, by the predominance of Archon slowcat blobs. You needed Revs and Moros to catch armour reps from Triaged Slowcat support, if they survive being primed. In large B-R5RB battles, to be honest, it didn't really matter. In smaller engagements it probably did.

The other advantage the Moros held for many years was its double to triple DPS versus the competition. Revs got the nod only because they would tank slightly better, and hence dread fights got down to relatively simple attritional maths; could you DPS down the enemy DPS before they got your DPS knackered, and was it better to deploy more Revs or less Revs, etc. It was all done at (relatively) close ranges to maximise Moros DPS, and because Dreads are so abysmally slow, there was no real option bar dropping in and hoping to win.

W-space dread warfare initially evolved asan offshoot of the k-space dread philosophy. But then people began to develop their krabbing, got astoundingly rich, and started firing up EFT or Pyfa and not feeling guilty when they made dream fits using blue modules everywhere. They started shield fitting Moroses, even if it required T2 rigs (another recent development), or the rare and not-forgotten Shield Revs. Then some bright spark in Blood Union spent 6 billion on a Naglfar with shield fit and realised it would tank 3 Moros flat out (with appropriate A-type hardeners) and the Swaglfar got entrenched in the meta as the dread to take on multiple enemy dreads.

The greatest revolution in Dread warfare has, truthfully, been the Depot and the Nestor, allowing refits on the fly and under fire. In the (usually) small scale capital fights you get in w-space quality is key, and ISK is a third priority to having a) competent pilots, b) with proper fits. Or vice-versa. Cheaping out is unacceptable.

The red-headed step child of the Dreadnoughts has been the Phoenix, but even before MGC's and MGE's there were a few niche metas such as Lords Servant demonstrated. This just goes to show that doing the maths is utterly vital in dread design, fitting and gang layouts. There's a couple of examples, eg; Iso 5 vs Krannon of Sherwood where solo Swaglfar-Moros-Bhaalgorn gangs can take out six enemy dreads in one sitting. Not very amazing; just illustrating the fact that some people know what they are doing and do it well. Likewise, there's definitely a mathematical argument being wages about the phoenix, and it will come out soon that it is, actually, far and away the pre-eminent blap dread. You just have mathematical illiterates and know-nothing fucktards making a lot of noise about the Swaglfar.

Rebalancing Carriers
The interesting thing will be seeing how CCP wants to go forward with the carriers.

As I've demonstrated (see above, and previously) capacitor has to not be such a major issue for carriers, going forward, or it will just perpetuate the status quo; armour begets armour, begets armour. As shown, the ability to field solid triage Archons and an inability to do so with other races, puts a heavy skew on strategic doctrine choices towards armour, away from Minmatar and Caldari carriers.

Nidhoggurs get relegated to POS repping - so this will soon be obsoleted as well, given the Citadel mechanisms inbound which strands the Nidhoggur entirely, except for some micro-gang opportunities in W-space.

The Thanatos used to have a lot of use in Slowcat blobs due to it's DPS advantage, and in Skynet. Nowadays it's just the ratting carrier of choice, for this very reason.

The Chimera is OK, but with the cost of shield pimp the way it is, no one really uses Chimeras for anything in or out of w-space. It hasn't got the capacitor or tank or energy-RR to really prop up shield dreads in a meanngful fashion. not that you see blobs of phoenix running about much.

If capacitor levelling assists with removing the skew in carriers towards Archons, great. But we also have to look at other factors at play as well.

Firstly, it is fairly unexciting to play a carrier in PVP battle as you are always the glorified logi bitch. Be as that may, this is because of the terribly slow pace of capital movement. It is worth questioning why large ships remain so stubbornly slow on the field of battle, which bogs the whole fight down and defines limits on capital engagements to set piece battles where you commit and win or die. There's very few capitals that ever skite away from tackle (seems to be my leprechaun touch). The maneuverability and speed of caps is definitely worth discussing.

Rebalancing Dreadnoughts
Unlike carriers, Dreadnoughts require a fair bit of work to balance properly. This is because there's quite a lot of interplay between the metas in and out of wormholes, and some of the key strengths and amazingly collossal weaknesses of dreads.

Dreads are, currently, a rock-paper-scissors ship. You play your hand, and either win or don't. There is no scuttling away, no dodging, slingshotting, nada. This may be seen as a fulsome quirk of their niche role, where their extreme power (versus structures) is traded off against...immobility, virtual immobility, very restricted set of targets (2 or 3 with a 40 day train to T2 Siege) and abysmal scan resolution.

It is worth questioning the appropriateness in Cruisers Online, where Gilas can pack Battleship EHP and DPS, the wisdom of restricting a dread to 3 targets. This seems abnormally and unfairly low. To my mind, either the Dreads need higher scan resolution or more targets.

Secondly, when you compare the Dreadnought to the Marauder, which uses a Dreadnought-lite Bastion Module, the Dread loses lock when it fires up Siege and the marauder doesn't. This dropping of locks means that versus some low-sig cruisers, you can take up to 2 minutes to achieve a lock. This is incredibly frustrating and lacks logic now. I would prefer to see the Siege module work more like Bastion. Likewise, we have to question whether the 5 minute cycle is appropriate. It is, as they say, a Conversation that has to be had.

Getting down to tin tacks, the DPS of the Revelation and Phoenix in particular (on paper) appears relatively low. In reality, as I have said above, the Phoenix DPS is probably not that terrible versus subcaps in the right hands. Unlike gun tracking, there is no either/or with Phoenix DPS, it's a continuum from "fuck all, add more webs and TP's" to "LOL". It tips from fuck all to LOL incredibly quickly.

There is also a lot of work to be done by competent-minded maths-inclined individuals on tracking formulae for gun dreads. The problem is mostly to do with long-range gun types, which are generally so woefully inadequate at doing anything (even versus structures) that you almost never see them. As above, this then perpetuates the brawling meta for Dreads, which feeds down to raw DPS, and skews toward Moros-Rev k-space meta and Moros-Swaglfar w-space meta.

Indeed, it is arguable that the objective of Dreadnoughts should be to threaten structures in Siege, and subs when out. Arguably, the DPS should be the same in or out of siege. Initiating Siege should move the mode of the Dreadnought from tracking with low tank, to tanking with low tracking. The Dreadnought could then, realistically, become more mobile out of Siege and we could develop a meta around treating Dreads like gigantic Marauders; take them through gates and fight other Dreads and subcaps, fly them up to the gates of the Citadel, and Siege up to blast through the front doors while taning the Citadel's withering fire.

Final thoughts
I don't think this kind of radical thinking - making Capital warfare much more mobile, much more interactive, and less "hotdrop and pray" - is really on CCP's radar. But it should be. True, deploying a Capital should be a special thing. Throwing a Dread through a gate should be a thrilling "oh shiiiiit" moment - you should scatter an ill-prepared gang before you, not just siege up and die slowly because you can't hit a fucking thing and they hold you down until they effect their counter-hotdrop.

Dreads should be flexible, deadly adversaries. They should cruise about the battlefield absolutely trashing their foes. They cost close to 4 billion to deploy, for fucks sakes. They need defences, including drones and the ability to fit tackle. The game has evolved to the point where peak players will do this, not just in C5 and C6 space.

Carriers need to be more than just Archons. There needs to be something going to the Minmatar, Gallente and Caldari carrier pilots beyond being suitcases with space-AIDS fatigue. Again, maneuverability may be the key to unlocking the meta of capital fights and reinvigorating warfare.

What do they have to lose? Nothing - they've already lost plenty of subscribers over neutralising, nobbling and nullifying the capital warfare game. Replacing the rock-paper-scissors attrition fights of old, and making it more like the ships of the line, might be what the doctor ordered.

Here's a video of what EVE Dreadnought combat could look like.

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