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Balance Update Frequency

 

Game balance persistently sparks some of the most heated debate in the EVE community. From reddit discussions to articles, memes, and everything in between, players exhibit extreme passion for balance issues that they see affecting the health of the game. While new features and events serve as the centerpieces for expansions, game balance updates frequently comprise the most anticipated part of patch notes and devblogs since they affect day-to-day gameplay. Getting the details of balance right is a tremendous task, involving multiple development teams as well as the CSM. However, I am writing today to address a larger problem that has overshadowed the subject for many years: balance update frequency.

For many years, EVE only saw expansions roughly twice a year, and balance updates in the earliest years of the game generally only addressed large topics, such as the great nano-nerf, or reworking Nosferatus. As EVE matured, reworking ship classes and tierciding modules became a necessity as new ships were introduced and older ones were revamped to keep pace. Nerfs to modules like tracking enhancers and buffs to things like siege/triage timers resulted in massive shakeups in the meta and tactics.

balance changes have felt extremely irregular and have manifested frustratingly slowly

Recently, however, balance changes have felt extremely irregular and have manifested frustratingly slowly. A prime example of this  in recent times was the Ishtar, which took several painfully incremental changes to bring back down to acceptable levels over several months to a year. Although I fully understand the fine line CCP has to walk in these situations, striving to find the acceptable middle ground between underbalancing (letting unhealthy things fester) and overbalancing (being reactionary and interfering with with the player-driven meta), sometimes this restraint feels more like neglect than enlightened self-control. EVE players are a generally patient bunch, and tolerate balance problems for far longer than many other gaming communities, but even this patience has limits.

A major part of the problem is that there has never been a structured format or release cycle specific to balance updates. This pragmatic approach allows flexibility for developers with packed schedules and dedication to other priority features, but leaves players in the dark as to when they can expect their grievances to be addressed. Balance has been relegated to the gaps in development time, being addressed when there is time left over rather than taking higher priority.

The solution to this frustrating chain might be simpler than we think

Given how strongly the playerbase feels about balance issues, there should be a concerted effort to have them addressed quickly and adequately. This also limits the ability of the CSM to inform balance decisions, since the lag time between balance proposals and the next available balance patch can often be several months. In turn, this limitation feeds some players’ perception that the CSM is not delivering immediately in response to player feedback. The solution to this frustrating chain might be simpler than we think, allowing CCP the flexibility to address what they can, while providing players a more tangible schedule for balance updates.

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quarterly or seasonal balance update schedule

Going forward, CCP should commit to a quarterly or seasonal balance update schedule, independent of content and feature updates that they already have planned. This does not mean that every ship and module will be rebalanced every quarter, nor that an issue that arises between updates will necessarily be addressed in the next one. What this means is that players and developers will have a framework in which to place issues on a timeline, and then use the months leading up to that to monitor the issue, gather both CSM and player feedback, and then be committed to addressing it. This would allow players to see what is on CCP’s radar in terms of issues, and know that there will be some kind of balance change to address the problem.

Furthermore, quarterly updates would also provide a regular enough schedule to minimize the problem of micromanaging and overbalancing, while also giving a regular enough change schedule to avoid the opposite. An added benefit is that this would also allow the freedom for more liberal and experimental adjustments, since going too far could be toned back in a few short months, and not going far enough could be addressed equally quickly.

This approach would, for example, help CCP avoid situations like the current issue with T3Ds. which have been introduced, balanced once shortly after release, and then left untouched for close to a year. Lastly, regular dedicated balance updates also mean that we would avoid these infinite discussion cycles on issues that never seem to see fruition, and the community dialogue could see some thematic focus rather than being as random as it is now.

I plan to bring this proposal up during CSM XI’s first summit in roughly a month, and hope that both CCP and the community see the value in my idea. EVE is an aging game, and I think that being overly conservative and cautious in the field of balance will only cause players to take breaks or leave if they feel that their concerns have not been addressed fast enough. Reinvigorating the meta on a regular basis could also see veteran players with specific grievances return, and underused ships receive fresh attention where they would previously be left gathering dust for years. I am interested in hearing your thoughts and feedback on this proposal, so please leave a comment or feel free to shoot me a message on Twitter/Reddit/Slack.

 

 

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Tags: balance, csm, development, Mr Hyde113

About the author

Mr Hyde113

Mr Hyde is a 11+ year veteran of the game and is an avid solo-pvper and video maker. He currently serves as a permanent attendee on CSM XI and enjoys discussing PvP & ship balance with the community.

  • Apothne

    Yes.

  • Seraph IX Basarab

    TLDR: CCP should do better at updating stuff.

    There, saved you some time.

    • Ingo Knito

      Please put “Reading (1x)” and into your skill queue: I’m not sure you understood the text properly.

    • Dexter Lofe

      Actual TLDR: CCP would do well for all to get on the ball with 1yr+ neglected cancer metas that cause long term player frustration.

      Come on, it was a good succinct article that nailed an important point.

  • Free Can

    Would help if 9 out of 10 balances weren’t all nerfs.

    • Suitonia

      You can’t buff everything everytime because otherwise you cause huge amounts of powercreep and have to balance a lot more stuff, the potential to fuck something else up increases a lot too when you have to commit to more changes in less time.

      For example, the Ishtar was overpowered in 2014-2015. CCP can choose the following
      1) Nerf the Ishtar
      2) Boost every other HAC in the game, and then, boost battlecruisers/command ships etc. now that the new powerlevel for HACs exceeds them, then you have to boost Battleships because BCs/CSs obsolete them with new HAC power. etc. You also have other problems too with PVE content becoming much easier with more powerful player ships throwing balance off there.

      Obviously 1) is the better option.

      • Free Can

        It wasn’t OP, it was squishy and got one-shot by the right counter and the fight was over once the drones got bombed, but this still made it miles ahead of other hacs which were true dogshit. Now all hacs are equally terrible and everyone just uses t3s.

    • phl0gist0n

      Just pretend they buffed EHP and damage on all the other ships and it’s the same difference.

  • Suitonia

    At the very least, it would be really nice if we could get some more dialogue and metrics from CCP at regular intervals, even if there are *no* changes, them being more vocal about trends/community concerns would go a long way to helping with player balancing issues.

    For example, with say, the Svipul, There was the T3D focus group, which then got put on hiatus because CCP were too busy and didn’t have the hours to commit to balancing T3Ds at the current time when the focus on the Citadel expansion was a higher priority, it would have been nice if there was a seasonal reminder of “yeah the Svipul is obviously overpowered, when we get the time to commit to a balance pass we’ll look into rebalancing it”

    • Cerian Alderoth

      A (dedicated) focus group for ship balances would be nice: This persistency could also address Mr. Hyde’s concerns adequately.

  • Bill Bones

    The issue with having a *scheduled* framework for balancing is that at some point there will not be anything sensibly suited to be balanced, and yet the framework itself will create the need to balance something, like a solution in search of a problem.

  • Afkforum

    Offcourse yes

  • trollsroyce

    Yes. Also please get them to deploy decent reactionary nerfs.

    It’s never a bad idea to shake up the meta. It shakes the economy and keeps it going. Not that many actually care which ships are strong, as long as several are.

  • callduron

    Is this an investment issue? Could it be addressed by hiring extra developers?

  • ccp does shit with money I pay

    Beat me with sticks for having zero faith in CCP, but I think if we force this idea down on them, they’ll end up changing Bellicose’s or Blackbird’s speed by 1-2 m/s(or doing some other irrelevant changes) and never address the actual problems like Orthri and Svipuls.

    • NerfBoat

      Orthrus was already nerf, i would see more for more juicy killmail.

  • Thorn

    To be honest, I really miss the experience of other MMOs and especially MOBA games, where there were constant updates and balancing patches. At first, this felt annoying as you had to always be up-to-date with the changes, but in the later stages of playing, when you were comfortable with all there was to know about the game and its mechanics, it gave it the juice to keep me interested. In EVE, you can be quite sure that the meta from last month will still be there in the next one or two. I am a relatively new player, but everytime there is a patch, I eagerly read it through, hoping there will be some fitting changes, small balancing of modules or ships, but usually come out dry.

    I understand that in a game where your overall success and “well-being” depends on investing your ISK in the right way, it is quite comforting to have stable (stale) long-term conditions, but I cannot help the feeling that there simply isn’t anything fresh when it comes to ships. What I am saying is that in a way, any change is good, even if it proves useless later, as long as we players have a feeling that the developer takes care and TRIES to improve the game. Rant over.

    • sorry kid

      What you forget is that in EVE, flying a ship requires learning a lot of skills, so if something stops being imba and something else becomes imba, you will have to learn 3 months worth of skills before you can fly the next cool thing. That was the actual case when EVE was young, and it was hella frustrating for newer players

  • Cerian Alderoth

    I second this. *kudos*

  • Bozo

    Grea idea.

  • CCP could/should have a guy with enough power to touch hull numbers regularly (which is fairly easy to do I guess)… so yeah completely agree there sir.