2017: The State of WormholesAshley Traynor
Last April CCP released the Citadel expansion to New Eden; complete with new capital hulls, a replacement for the POS system and a shakeup of the cap meta. 7 months later we saw Ascension go live bringing new fleet boosts, alpha clones and a much-needed buff to both the Rorqual and mining as a whole. To say 2016 was an interesting year for Eve Online would be an understatement.
Since many of these features look to be developed with known-space alliances in mind it can be easy to forget that these changes can affect Wormhole space too. Coming from such a unique gameplay perspective, it can be refreshing to take a look at how the other half lives.
Fully Operational Battlestations
As of right now, relatively few Keepstars exist in our universe, four of which can be found in wormhole space. They belong to Lazerhawks, Inner Hell and Hard Knocks; the latter of which is fortunate enough to not only have two but to have the first one ever built.
many have said that CCP should never have allowed for this to happen
Since their introduction, many have said that CCP should never have allowed for this to happen, that they are simply too difficult to kill. It’s easy to see the point there, you’d need nine or ten dreads to even think about hitting damage cap and killing it in a reasonable timeframe. Those dreads that you do have will then need to tank at least 50,000 DPS with an extra 4 million alpha every 10 minutes from the doomsday. Go ahead and seed another 30 dreads just to be safe anyway, triple that if you want to have a small chance against the defending cap fleet.
On top of a vast cap fleet, an assault on a defended wormhole Keepstar is going to need some serious backing from subcaps. Given the mass limitations on entry holes, k-space style battleship fleets aren’t likely to be on the cards. You’d need a good couple hundred pilots in command ships or at the very least T3’s to pull this off. Next throw in half a dozen FAXes, a rolling team, Sabres, logi, support ships and as many scanners as you can get. Now you’re probably just about ready to brawl for the next two weeks straight.
Of course, this is never going to happen, but feel free to call me out if it does 5 years down the line. These supermassive structures aren’t going to budge for the foreseeable future and the only point of contention here being if this should be allowed.
Prior to the release of Citadels, it was never really possible to actually be safe in your own wormhole system unless you held a lot of power. Even then you weren’t invincible. You could say that this is literally game breaking, that cementing your place shouldn’t be allowed as it encourages stagnation. I’d argue though, that given the dynamic nature of wormhole space connections, a group staying in one system doesn’t have the same impact as out in null. In nullsec, a power bloc can hold onto a chunk of static space for months at a time and keep the content feeling ‘samey’ unless the meta gets mixed up. Someone like Hard Knocks is unlikely to have that issue since neighbours change every day. Evicting them just means they would do the same thing from another C5-C5 wormhole, albeit with a side of revenge planned.
Let’s also remember that the defence of a citadel relies wholly on the defenders. A Keepstar provides an excellent fortress from which to throw fire, but without a decent showing on grid you can expect the walls to crumble eventually. Evicting one of these groups a year ago would still have been a gargantuan task with the numbers of skilled pilots they can field.
When force auxiliaries were introduced to the game, they replaced the old triage function that carriers had. Alongside this move to a more specialised hull, they became a class of ship which can provide great support in supercap fights with their brilliant tanks and a solid capacitor. By taking this role and scaling it down to what we find in wormhole space, you often end up running into a brick wall when one is fielded. Unless you choose to go all-in with your own dreads you’re looking at just packing up and going home.
This problem is exacerbated in low-class space where they present such a huge home advantage. An opponent can’t drop any dreads whatsoever and most holes won’t support fleets as large as in high-class space. To take on even a poor man’s T1 Lif for example, you face the repping power of over 21 Scimitars with a sustainable local tank approaching 50k DPS easily. It’s safe to say that barring pilot mistakes or alpha doctrines, few ships are breaking under the wing of mama-FAX.
Finding a solution to the FAX problem isn’t a simple one
Now it isn’t all doom and gloom; of course, there are ways to combat a hostile force auxiliary without caps on hand. You can for example beef up on light tackle when forming fleet, bringing lots of extra command destroyers and Sabres. The idea there being to force the subcap fleet away from their logi entirely until you can focus solely on the behemoth in centre field. Another option is to sit around for half an hour of cap booster chugging and try to starve them of 3200’s. Other than that there honestly isn’t too much you can do without being able to cyno in your cap fleet. It isn’t game breaking, but smaller groups can’t help but let out a sigh when they see a Ninazu on scan.
Finding a solution to the FAX problem isn’t a simple one. The ‘easy’ fix is to just apply a flat negative bonus to wormhole space, simply make them perform worse in Anoikis. The problem there is that it’s difficult to justify balancing the game by changing just small parts. Imagine if T1 frigates suddenly had 20% more damage in Faction Warfare space purely because so many newbros and alpha-clones hang out around there. The only reasonable way to do something like this would be to swing it the same way as current system effects. It might work to add an increasingly negative bonus to triaging capitals as wormhole class decreases. It’s still problematic, but at least it fits with how cap warfare is typically only seen in high-class space.
The most elegant solution is going to be one that affects the ship class as a whole instead. Something which still lets them perform their job admirably, but with deficiencies in certain situations. To take an example, we could consider just reducing the volume of capital cap boosters. With fewer charges, this would force more reloads and therefore more stress on the triage pilot. Another option, although an unconventional one, could be to introduce a new logistics disruptor module. This could be a stacking penalised, one-per-ship, high cap usage midslot that reduces the amount a hostile can actually repair.
There are all sorts of different ways to go about this issue and many might say that nothing needs changing, that CCP hit the nail on the head first time. In my opinion, it’s interesting to see how players adapt tactics according to gameplay changes so I’m all for a balance pass.
Switching over to the other side of Eve, mining rocks is about as far from cap brawls as you can get while still locking up a target. For the longest time, wormhole space mining has been lackluster at best. Without the intel channels or local chat for immediate threat warnings, miners are often in a much more precarious spot than they would be in the centre of a null empire. To add insult to injury, the ores we find in here only generate in the regular varieties and not the special dense or concentrated variants.
the fact that null is so much better in that regard that it makes it pointless
This isn’t a cry to say that wormholes need even more ISK generating opportunities. It’s simply the fact that null is so much better in that regard that it makes it pointless to do as an activity. As a result, very few people actually mine in wormhole space and many passers-by run into desolate systems with people docked up, afk in their Citadels. If something could be done to add a niche for miners then over time we’ll certainly see more barges floating around in ore sites. As more groups move to make use of the resources, we could start to see more use of the recently-buffed Rorqual and as such, more escalations into proper brawls.
As for what CCP could actually do to encourage more mining, in my eyes there are two ways to go about it. The first would be to make it almost as good as nullsec mining for the few ore anomalies that do exist. To reach this level we really just need a sprinkling of the denser ores and slight bump to the anomaly spawn rate. Perhaps there should be even more access to ABC’s than null, given the relatively small amount of places to mine and more difficult rats.
The other option is to perhaps add some sort of niche. It might sound weird, but why not some new ore? Anoikis is supposed to be separated from New Eden by thousands of lightyears so it’s easy to imagine that different elements could have come together to form unique minerals. This could be taken a step further with something akin to the hazardous environments of k-space gas sites. More for flavour than anything, it would make mining operations seem so much more specialised than warping in and hitting F1.
On the other hand, there is the argument that wormhole space already has the best gas available; why should there be more harvesting opportunities? To answer that, consider how much of an escalation to expect from a couple of Ventures compared to a fleet of Exhumers or a Rorqual. Balancing Eve PvE isn’t only about the economy, it needs to also weigh in the risk of these dangerous areas and consider how that can generate PvP content for everyone.
Historically wormholes have always been one of, if not the best areas of space to make ISK. They probably still can be if you know what you’re doing, despite the changes made in Citadel. To summarise how combat anomalies are different now: The valuable Sleepless Guardians were changed to be Avengers, you can no longer escalate again each day through to site despawn and a tough drifter boss now holds a good chunk of the loot.
A key point I want to focus on here is the fact that risk vs. reward no longer scales as well as it used to. With the old system, adding more caps would mean more Sleepless Guardians. Each extra wave of them spawned would see both a bigger challenge and more cash in hand for every kill. The new way of doing things means that we are instead fighting Avengers, a heavy neuting, high EHP opponent; one who drops very little.
You could say that the benefit of using HAW dreads and being able to kill the drifter boss quickly outweighs worthless escalation waves. In reality, though, it leaves you spending an extra siege cycle or two stuck in site for minimal improvement in ISK per hour made. In fact, any new wormhole dweller might as well jump on the tinker Rattlesnake bandwagon. Using that method can still net over a billion per hour if done right. What’s better still is that with MJDs being a thing, 3b of Rattles running a site run no real risk at all, especially when compared to committing 12b of dreads for 15 minutes.
it’s about creating a healthy ecosystem in which both the predator and the prey exist
I’m not saying that a nerf wasn’t needed. It was so easy pre-Citadel to hero-dread for a couple of cycles and walk away with a chunky wallet after your krab session. At the very least, though, this meant people actually did it. It meant there were always helpless targets out there, ripe for the picking by any PvP group. Ideally, we want to see a balance between risk and reward which actually encourages people to jump on in and actually use their caps in site. A good start would be to make each consecutive escalation wave harder and more valuable; make each rat worth popping.
It has to be said that none of this really has to do with greedy wormholers fueling their next blingy ship. Going back to what I said about miners in sites, it’s about creating a healthy ecosystem in which both the predator and the prey exist. It just doesn’t work if the prey have an easy access panic button to escape scot-free; nor if they don’t start krabbing in the first place since it’s too dangerous.
In closing I want to mention that despite balance issues, wormhole space still operates as a fantastic niche in itself. Eve as a whole is a constantly shifting organism and there are always going to be problems both prior and post expansion releases. We can only really hope to make the best of the sandbox we have and help CCP keep on improving it.
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