Links and Other Bad Game Mechanics

Every game has its own set of bad mechanics that infest gameplay. Recently, Mayrin Hawke wrote an article about the competitive mindset and how players should aim to improve themselves in the game. Eve has its own issues with mechanics toxic to that competitive mindset. Often, these mechanics divert players into a dead end where the player becomes too reliant—or in some way addicted—on them, as they become the sole reason for their success and progress. Likewise, they can be a hindrance to the players who face them, thus skewing the outcome of the fight. EVE is deeply affected by bad game mechanics. Partly, this has to do with the age of the game, but the main reason is CCP’s inability to deal with them in time. Due to CCP’s failure with Walking in Stations (WiS) and the subsequent loss in players, they are now careful about angering the player base . In this way, bad game mechanics are allowed to linger and grow deeper into the game and community, thereby making it incredibly hard to weed out as it is the gameplay players know. Dealing with this type of problem often makes CCP extremely unpopular, as the solution usually involves nerfs to the play styles that take advantage of inherently bad systems. However, if CCP doesn’t deal with it, we can expect to see our game slowly corrode from within. Luckily, CCP has realized this and grown the balls needed to address the elephant in the room even though this means a massive amount of player protests. Over the past few years, they have dealt with many of the issues, but there is still a significant amount left, and one of them is the current state of warfare links. In my opinion, this is the next blight on the game CCP should deal with, but first, let’s take a look at how bad game mechanics have affected the game in the past.

The bad old days

Before the changes in Phoebe, relatively small groups had a huge and oppressive impact on the PvP field. Eventually, capitals and supercapitals had their force projection nerfed, and large cap forces were no longer able to cover the entire map, giving much more room for smaller groups to participate. Although the force projection of capital ships was not a problem in the beginning, the rapid proliferation of these ships meant that one of the main balancing factors (their cost) was no longer relevant. Since CCP didn’t deal with it while it was still developing, it became a much larger and entrenched problem by the time the nerfbat finally swung. In most large-scale fights, the majority of the responsibility is placed in the hands of the FCs leaving little piloting for the individual players. Drone assist not only further shifted the responsibility but also made it a direct disadvantage for the individual players to involve themselves in the combat. With drone assist it was suddenly possible to deliver perfect volleys while diminishing human error and countering EWAR and low scan res. With the combination of this and the incredible strength and versatility of sentry drone ships, Ishtars and the like often ended up as the go-to doctrine for many alliances. This created a meta where people weren’t flying their ship, which ended up boring everyone and becoming extremely noxious to the competitive mindset. So CCP stepped in, first nerfing Ishtars repeatedly and then sentry drones themselves. The most recent toxic game mechanic to receive an arrow to the knee was the ability to easily warp a fleet on top of another with the use of on-grid combat probing. This meant that long-range sniping setups could be hard countered (especially battleships) by a single player with a set of combat probes. The exception, of course, was Slippery Petes, which are naturally hard to probe. While it is natural gameplay that some mechanics counter others, it becomes bad gameplay when there is no player skill involved in it. Spamming probes and warp does not involve much skill, especially when the FC could do it thanks to fleet warps, essentially creating the same problem as drone assist.

The alt problem

One of the main issues that EVE currently struggles with is the alt problem. A fair amount of the gameplay in the otherwise rich and complex sandbox can often be bypassed by just having an alt, which lowers the interaction between players. Market alts, hauling alts, ganking alts and so on are everywhere. Alts in EVE work differently than many other MMOs for multiple reasons, the main one being the unique form for character progression. Removing alts would certainly shake things up, but this will never happen as they are such an integral part of the game. Some of these roles would be mind-numbingly boring if filled by individual players, for instance, the role currently filled by cyno alts. Although alts should be a part of the gameplay, there are also situations where they become too dominant in comparison to actual players and create bad game mechanics. multibox-title EVE is a game that scales incredibly well with multiboxing. Multiboxing itself isn’t that big of a problem as there is a natural limit on how many clients among which a player can divide his/her attention. Unfortunately, programs like ISBoxer made it easy to multibox a ridiculous amount of clients as you could easily duplicate the commands across clients and still get near the full effect of focusing on a single client. Running 2 mining ships essentially doubled players’ yield and multiboxing two identical DPS ships in many situations had the same performance as two dps ships run by two players (unless we are talking about high level play). In most other MMOs this is simply not the case. Each client will require unique inputs in most situations and multiboxing usually ends up as a gimmick. Another thing that sets EVE apart from most MMOs on this front is the PLEX system, which allows players to run many clients without having to pay all the subscriptions with real money. ISBoxing was oppressive both to the PvE field and PvP field. ISBoxed setups like mining fleets or incursion fleets could cause some severe competition against players who ran with one or few clients. It made it harder for CCP to balance these activities, and it drove PLEX prices up. In the PvP field there were ships like Ishtars that could easily be multiboxed, allowing people to stack up larger fleets. But the biggest problem was still ISBoxed bombing runs where a single person could devastate large fleets making bombers extremely oppressive in nullsec blob PvP. While the ability for players to fight against superior numbers is great gameplay, it becomes bad gameplay when it is facilitated by ISBoxing, the massive AoE damage of bombs and low player skill. Likewise, PvE shouldn’t be about stacking as many clients as possible.


I’m going to say this straight out: The current state of warfare link mechanics is incredibly bad for gameplay. I was once among the crowd that supported off-grid links and their mechanic. I supported it as it was a tool that small groups could use to fight against large groups; however, the truth is far from that. The fact that the game has boosting mechanics like that isn’t a problem. After all, it is common in MMOs to have support classes that give buffs. The way they work in EVE, however, is a problem. First of all, links promote the alt problem. Having an off-grid link ship is only suitable for alts due to its completely passive nature, but it is usually the best option for gangs. No one in their right mind would introduce a game mechanic which primarily uses alt accounts. CCP just didn’t expect it to turn out this way. As was the case with supercaps, off-grid links have undergone a considerable proliferation and are found everywhere. Where links were once something only used by the most dedicated and organized players, they are now almost mandatory in order to be competitive. The only way to deal with them (aside from just playing better) is by having either your own links or an alt (with a suitable scanning ship) to scan them down and gank them. In addition, it is incredibly boring gameplay to ferry an alt around and it gets even worse if you roam in ships with high warp speeds. People may see links as tools for small groups to fight larger groups, but in most cases links are used either as a crutch for bad players or as an extra boost for large fleets. When both the small and large groups got links, we ended up back where we originally started. Now, pilots and FCs use links as a substitute for actual player skills when they just want to prey on easy targets. If links were suddenly removed, it would separate the sheep from the goats as they create a severe problem for the players who are reliant on them. Good players, on the other hand, will be able to adapt without any problems. Links are just another tool in their arsenal, not a requirement for their success. There are already successful small-gang groups that are used to fighting without them. Since pilots use an alt account to provide off-grid links, they also don’t have any impact on the actual fleet composition. They can be applied to everything ranging from large organized fleets to single T1 frigs, and there are no ways to tell if they are present or not until it’s too late. In a game where killboard stats matter in most people’s minds, links are a touchy subject as it is hard to tell if pilot skill or the Loki sitting on station is the deciding factor in a fight. Therefore, links are often used as a justification in the typical mudslinging and smack talking in local, and the discussion about solo PvP and links could fill an entire article by itself. On the other hand, links in their current state are extremely inaccessible for players who still want to optimize their fleet but are not interested in investing in alt accounts. Although large fleets can have their FC in a command ship with links, it is rare for small gangs to have actual players fly with links on grid. One of the main problems is limited options. Not everyone can fly or afford command ships and they don’t necessarily fit smaller gang compositions with cheaper ships. Roaming gangs in particular struggle with the sluggishness and low warp speed of command ships. T1 battlecruisers are a cheaper alternative but struggle with the same problems and generally perform poorly in PvP (hopefully the balance pass will improve them), and since they don’t get any bonuses to their links, they will give an inferior bonus to the off-grid ones. Combat T3s with links are just bad for their cost compared to command ships. In FW space the problems get even worse as these ships will be restricted from most FW plexes. I could go on with reasons why links in their current form are terrible for the game as a whole, but I hope you are getting the idea from the brief thoughts I’ve shared above. Instead, I will refer to Suitonia’s blog, where he has some additional points from other perspectives. Likewise, I am not going to discuss any solutions as that would be an article in itself. Suitonia has suggested some changes that have both pros and cons to them. I am not sure how much CCP are working on links at the moment, but it is their intention to iterate on their mechanics. Rise told me two years ago that when they are done, we will barely be able to recognize them.

The path to a better game

It is safe to say that we are all interested in EVE becoming a better game, but we have different ideas about which path is the right one. It is hard to see it in a broad perspective, which often leads to bias from players who only push their own agenda. CCP’s inability to deal with bad game mechanics has made it even worse, but now they are working hard to make up for that. Links are, in my opinion, the next mechanic they need to look at as they are a major factor in the PvP environment and generally uninteresting gameplay. Our feedback is highly valuable, and CCP needs it. In order to provide good feedback, however, we need to understand their motivation for making changes. That means thinking big picture. So before your next angry post on the forums or threat to unsub, take a deep breath and think about the reasons behind the change and how it benefits the game in the broad perspective.
Tags: game mechanics, links, Mizhir, off-grid boosting

About the author


Mizhir is a devout small gang PvP:er and EVE video maker, mostly known as the producer of the One Man Crew solo PvP contest. He flies with Turn Left.

  • asdf

    so when are links getting fixed/removed? does ccp or the csm even talk about it?

    they’re also the #1 reason why non- light/rapid missiles are garbage, which is pretty huge

    • l0rd carlos

      When new dogma engine is live they can start to implement new fleetboost mechanic. There already was a masstest with it, expect more soon.

      • asdf

        they could’ve reduced command bonuses by 80% years ago and 80% solved the problem instead of leaving the game in an unplayable state for so long

  • bob@wormholes.com

    Lol, what a useless article, ccp(CCP soundwave) said loads of time that they want to get rid of offgrid links.
    And that the only thing stopping them are technical reasons… .
    I rather had more indept over the other things that need changing… .

    • jonsnow1

      Soundwave left ccp ages ago brah

      • Justin

        That’s how “not new” this discussion is.

  • GetLinksJewNoob

    Another shitblog barking uselessly about ‘links too OP!’. Original content – Zero. Fresh perspectives – Zero. Donkey got dunked, made shitpost. End of story.

    • Mizhir

      Well, initially I wanted to make an article more genereal about bad game mechanics, but it turned out rather thin so I expanded the part about links as it is still one of the problems the game is dealing with. Please noticed that:
      1) I never called links OP.
      2) I have been using links myself as well but chose to sell my alt.

      Despite, if the solution to links is that everyone get links what is the point then?

  • CamelNerdWhiningAboutLinks

    Posting for Irony filled douchepost: “take a deep breath and think about the reasons behind the change and how it benefits the game in the broad perspective.”
    a) Camel duder talking about links, is like Lance Armstrong preaching how doping is a cancer in professional sports
    b) Please attempt to think two steps further before making asinine capt. obvious, regurgitated shitpoints e.g. Command ships/T1 BCs aren’t flown due to slow warp speed and sluggishness. So youre saying if they warped faster, they would be found in Camel gangs? You are aware a Hurricans with 3 x T1 warp speed rigs goes 4.2 and a Sleipnir with 2 x T2 does 4.6 au/s warps? How much faster then before theyre ‘viable’. Oh right, their warp speed and ‘sluggishness’ has nothing to do with them NOT being used as on-grid booster – So WHY make the fuking asinine point?
    c) Link alts are completely passive – ya, for Camel I can actually see that, given how often your alts get probed and killed, I can believe that your dual-boxers do actually just sit passively in low sec safes/gates/station and boost. That’s not what all of them do btw. An active and engaged off-grid boosting alt can provide invaluable combat probing, scouting, exit probing for a null/low gang. Again, what was your point?
    Here is my question to you. You seem like a semi-intelligent and semi-competent pilot, even if clubbing FW seals is your ‘thang’. How are links, as an ingame ‘boost’ benefit, different from
    a) Faction mods: Enemy cant see you’ve fitted them. You paid isk to get a benefit that’s not visible. (im repeating points you made against a linked ship)
    b) Pirate implants: Enemy cant see you have them plugged till its too late. Your malediction at 8kms is happily orbit tackling my Cynabal singing tralalala. Oh noes, you go had snakes, what a bad game mechanic! Invisible benefits!!
    c) Drugs: by now you get the point
    TLDR: Any game, the top 1% will use every tool made available by the game designers to get a competitive edge. Links, implants, faction mods, drugs. A ship using these 4 ‘boosts’ v/s the exact same ship not using them gives hugely different combat performance – why is this such a fuking surprise?
    Your complaint is, oh noes, its no longer the 1% who are using these, so CCP plox, remove them. So that I Mr. Camel can win v/s the bads using the other 3 tools (Implants, faction mods, drugs) and my superior knowledge of EvE mechanics, combat awareness and piloting skill (arguably).
    Working as fuking intended nerd.
    Get Rekt.

    • l0rd carlos

      If we are not allowed to talk about links because we see how strong they are and thus using them, then only people who don’t use them are allowed to talk about them? Why?

      If you warp speed rig a cane it’s still slow ongrid. You can put 2x Nano and an overdrive on it. Then it would warp fast and be ok’ish ongrid. But would not be usable for anything else but giving link. I would like to see some kind of T2 distroyer hull with link bonus that also does damage.

      I use my OGB “activly’ as in probing, scouting and so on. It’s still an alt that does nothing else most of the time. It’s just not a good game mechanic.

      Why do you think that Matari Exodus is clubbing FW seals?

    • Mizhir

      Wow, I must have really touched a sensitive topic here. Anyways to adress your points:
      a) Doping in Tour The France is illegal while links in EVE are a part of the gameplay. How can you even compared those two? And we haver denied that fact that we use links.
      b) So if you are going to sacrifice rigslots for warpseed and lowslots for speed and midslots for Command processors what point is there in bringing the ships on grid? If you are a small roaming t1 cruiser gang you only option is to use a OGB if you want links. Because the options for on-grid ships are bad. So in my opion the new system also needs something for small fast gangs to carry links.
      c) We do lose a fair bit of lnks, but we also use them often and it carries a higher risk to roam with them than just having them sit at a friendly pos. As for probing and scouting. Nothing stops you from continueing the use of an alt for that.

      Clubbing FW seals? Isn’t that more of a behaviour that can be expected from someone who wants to keep links as they are? We can kill FW players perfectly fine without links. But the high amount of riskaverse tryhards who uses links for their t1 frig obviously can’t.

      As per Suitonias blog you will see how huge the bonus is from links compared to faction mods, HG implants and drugs. Also worth mentioning that these 3 options don’t require any alt acount. Faction modules are also lost upon losing your ships and pirate implants carry a risk of being smartbombed and a way more expensive that a full link ship. Drugs come with drawbacks and are easily accessable to everyone.

      Sure, we stack the odds in our favour. But links in the current form are just an annoying mechanic for that and it creates more problems than it provides actual interesting gameplay. We will be perfectly fine without links.

      • Sootsia

        From the drivel that was written, I nominate you as Captain Oblivious, to the depth, breadth, and scope of what it entails to become an effective off-grid booster for large scale fleets down to the small “squad” fleets. Your statement “Having an off-grid link ship is only suitable for alts due to its completely passive nature,” is such a load crapola, I am amazed you can even look at yourself in the mirror.

        Sitting in a Command Ship, is no simple quick feat such as a disposable cyno alt, its a good stiff bit of training….and then, the long slow slogging grind of all the leadership skills,,, it was quicker to train a Nyx Pilot.

        Then you have to train up further to use those nice things called implants…. wow, what a difference they make….then all the skills to protect your capsule (ship) and allow you to boost your mates by being able to FLY the ship and survive the endless hunt for you by the enemy. My hat is off to you the fabulous diligent dedicated 1%’ters whom fly boosting craft.

        From the lowly Hurricane, Drake. Mrym, etc… up to the Orca;s, Rorquals, the Command ships, the capitals and Super Capitals, there is a niche for every pilot to use their skills to give their mates the edge, as it is designed. ” only suitable for alts due to its completely passive nature,” my arse. Quit crying about flying up against higher skilled, better trained pilots and getting dunked

  • Ben Ishikela

    Nice Read.
    Would like to see Suitonia’s ideas to ongrid modules for low SP pilots.
    For WarfareLinks: (just a brainstorm)
    – sigbloom or sensorstrength=0. (or other penatlies to make them probable by unbonused ships like the T3Ds.)
    – weapons timer so it cannot dock instantly.

    – inability to warp for some time. (like bastion, siege, triage). (so that if your recon/T3D lands on him, he can actually hold him)
    – warp stabs make warfarelinks effects worse. but only so much that its still a choice safepower. (linkhunter can just fit 3scrams?)
    “What if (in addition to the above)”: boni of links were very weak (like 2%), but every ship in fleet could contribute to that (stacking penalised ofc). But only Ships without active links would benefit from it?

    • l0rd carlos

      Some of those ideas will also make ongrid links harder to use. Not being able to warp would be one of them. Dirty work around.

      Rather make it a clean cut.

  • fornost

    Nice read.

    CCP spent and continues to spend a lot of time in ship balancing, and with OGB people can put more speed, more point range and a lot of more tank (via both ehp and sig radius) to an entire fleet… Fucking up all the balancing work.

  • Justin

    Oh god, cry about combat probes when they appear on DScan and they are easily HARD COUNTERED by… warping.

    • Reading is hHard

      uhhh… I think the fleet warp aspect of probing is what he’s talking about.

      • Justin

        Uh huurduurdurrdurrdurr, warping still defeats combat probing.

    • Mizhir

      If you paid attention you would see that I wrote on-grid combat probing. It basically allowed FCs to deploy probes and then get instant result on something on the grid and then warp their fleet of f1 monkeys on top of the target. Luckily the fleet warp mechanics changed that and it is no longer possible to directly warp the fleet on top of the targets anymore. Which means that people actually have to get into position by thinking.

      • Justin

        It doesn’t matter, on-grid, or off-grid. Combat probes appear on your overview or dscan, you warp to your next perch – you were aligned, weren’t you? You HAVE another perch, don’t you? Right? The hard counter is still the same. It really pains me to see people in EVE whining about things which are easily dealt with but instead getting CCP to change mechanics, all because they’re too lazy or to… unskilled… to implement the simple counters; in this case, multiple sniping perches/safe spots, stay aligned, etcetc. I mean we deal with this sort of thing constantly in WHSpace, but you don’t see any of us crying for CCP to change anything.

        You’re just one of those “~elitepvpers~” who thinks everything in the game should come down to “player skill” and not “team play”.

        BTW, nothing has changed as far as warping to the hostile fleet. Combat probes hit 100% and a cloaky warps to within 10 or 20, and then the FC warps fleet to member. 2 mouse clicks were added. Good job. Large fleet battles are no more engaging than they used to be.

        • Mizhir

          How can it be teamplay when there is only one person spamming probes and fleetwarp? The changes promoted teamplay by forcing people into positioning. Now you need some good pilots in fast ships to provide warpins rather than just probes on the FC ship.

          Good nano pilots can easily deal with the warpins by being alert. But it does create incredible boring gameplay for both sides as one of the sides will be bouncing back and forth (by fleetwarp) between pings and probe warpins without actually fighing.

          Edit: And yes I think that player skills matter, but team play is just as important as well. But taking warpins and shooting primary from 1 FC isn’t exactly what I would call teamplay. Teamplay is multiple people collaborating and communicating rather than just top down control.

          • Justin

            One person probes, the FC calls warp, the fleet warps, bubblers bubble, and DPS applies DPS. That’s a lot of teamplay going on. All that’s changed now is that the probers are off-grid and instead of taking a fleet warp to a signature, it’s a fleet warp to a member.

            And it’s still defeated by the hostile fleet if they warp to a different tactical.

            Your definition of teamplay is very myopic.

          • Mizhir

            You couldn’t warp to another person’s scan results. So usually what happened before was that the FC probes, then press fleet warp and then the bubblers bubble when they land and so on. So only 1 person who has to think.

            Now you are forced to get one ship in position either with or witout the use of probes making it harder to execute a perfect warpin.

  • Dan

    Even people who use them regularly, except the most boring, admit that links are broken. They ought to be nerfed and they ought to be on-grid. As a kinda sorta workaround preliminary solution, CCP could disallow boosting for any but squads (which would imply the need for one link ship per squad, which is a huge cost) or limit boosting to one-squad fleets or similar. Neither of these quick fixes is going to solve the problem entirely, but it would mitigate the pest links have become.

    • Justin

      If combat boosts only worked on-grid and they got rid of Command Processors so that the boosting role was just another combat role, then it would be more or less fine. I also think links should be partitioned between Destroyers and Battlecruisers. This would give small, mobile gangs the ability to use links, thought not as effective as if they brought a BC.

      • Mizhir

        That is some of the ideas I have in mind as well. Notcie that I said that it was the current form of links that was a problem.