Command Links – The Bard of EVEAshterothi
As we all know, command link changes are coming “this summer”. However, we are almost into August, and we still have no real information as to what this will entail. We do know a few things, and here they are:
- Command links are going to be an AOE effect, and some command ships may have larger radii than others. Likely they will all be “on grid”.
- Command links are going to be limited duration buff timers where you get them for an amount of time if you are within range of them when the buff goes off. (It is unknown if the timer will be long/short or if it will be tied to the cycle time of the module.
From this we can see that there is a clear inspiration from role playing games, an archetype that the new command links may fit into, that of the Bard.
Rise of the Support Class
helps their team by increasing their abilities, while potentially disrupting enemy abilities
Gaining prominence in Everquest, the bard archetype has been successfully deployed in several game systems, and skinned in several ways. The idea being that the role is a non-healing-focused support role that helps their team by increasing their abilities, while potentially disrupting enemy abilities. Bard types often have various “buffs” they can apply, however, often they can only choose one, or perhaps a selection of buffs to apply at any given time.
A really good example of Bards come from Rift, where the Bard “soul” gets a continuous duration “Anthem”, a temporary, but long duration “Fanfare” and a short duration “Motif” that must be continuously refreshed by the Bard.
Each of these types have several options as to what buff should be in that slot, and the Motif in particular can and should be switched out constantly by a competent Bard to ensure his or her team is receiving exactly what they need for every situation. In many games, the best Bards can sometimes even dip into the disparancy between cooldowns and buff length to allow them to combine buffs together in a process that is called “twisting”.
While it is true that Bards often do not bring as much damage to the table as many other combat roles, nor bring enough healing to justify a healing role, great Bards can easily stand out as the cornerstone of a solid group. Sadly, many major MMOs, WoW in particular, have been historically quite bad at managing this archetype, and Paladins/Shamans have shifted more away from this kind of role over time.
In games that embrace this support class, truly dedicated Bards have been able to stand out and take a matter of pride as to the mastery of these unique mechanics. They understand that what they bring to the table is not their own numbers, but the collective power they give to their friends. These bards become the glue that can hold together people, leveraging their situational awareness to the benefit of all of those to busy fighting to even worry about what they most need at that exact second.
In Space No One Can Hear You Sing
EVE has put a lot of focus in the last year on individual piloting
EVE has put a lot of focus in the last year on individual piloting and player skill. Command destroyers can change the course of battles in the right hands, and can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the wrong ones, more and more features are being put in to allow players to be aware of their surroundings and make good decisions. Combat in EVE is more complex than ever before, which is the biggest reason why off-grid boosts have got to go. There is no real choice in the current booster system, if you can have them, you do. Furthermore, most link ships are just rammed full of links partially because the ships cannot perform combat roles anyway, but mostly because of the way that command structure in fleets work. At best you can only have 2-3 people bringing buffs to a fleet, and this is assuming everything is correct with the current command structure in the fleet. AOE-based buffs get rid of all that nonsense and allow support ships to do what they do best, support.
However, simply putting command ships as they are would be awful. Command destroyers show us the plan for what is to come. Not only do they bring buffs to the table, but they have a purpose on the field. Likewise, they cannot bring too much buffs individually, and so are less disruptive in a fleet. The future of buff mechanics in EVE could very well take what they have learned from command destroyers and apply them to all aspects of command links.
A Song of Ice and Fire
My vision for command links is simple. Remove all individual links and leave one module for each race. Take the link types we currently have and switch them to scripts. Keep the number of mods that can be running at one time to be the same, but make it so the command module puts out the buff it is currently scripted for (and have a default function for unscripted if you prefer). Give the module a 10 second cycle time, but a 15 second buff duration to everyone within radius (with larger radii for larger command ships). Add a 1 second timer to the switching of scripts and ensure that the ships at least have some purpose beyond just buffing.
This will allow command ships to feel like they can adjust as needed to the needs of their fleet, it empowers command links to truly make a difference for their group, and simultaneously allows multiple buffers to work together. Meanwhile, it also enforces communication in order to avoid redundancies.
EVE Online is a complex game, and sadly command links have not kept up with the times. Borrowing from the buff-based “Bard” archetype, CCP could enable a new style of gameplay within fleets, and offer new choices for FCs and pilots.