Fleet PvP: Control II

This is part two Apothne’s two-part series “Control”, where he talks about the value of field control as a design space and game mechanic. His proposal on altering the dynamics between long-range and short-range weapons is certainly an interesting one, especially coming from someone that puts as much value in providing interesting choices in combat gameplay as Apothne. We recommend you read part one first, but it’s not a prerequisite. – Niden

100% welpage is bad, mmkay?

Given everything I mentioned in part one, winning a fight and being guaranteed a slaughter would be AWFUL for the game. It disincentivises everyone, including FCs to take the fight in the first case. If you fuck up, everyone is dead, every time. New FCs, even with cheap fleet comps, are already terrified of welps. This would only serve to further that. Experienced FCs would only be willing to take fights when they had a guaranteed win as the ISK value of a modern fleet is far more than the value of the asset you’re fighting over. The only way fights would still happen if this became the norm would be if the outcome of the fight were far less clear, if there were more parts of the fight undecided before the engagement happens. With reinforcements from the other side of EVE being continually nerfed, being aware of who could be coming to help is far easier to manage, which means this can only be done through piloting skill. To allow for piloting skill, CCP needs to provide the tools for players to both have that skill, for there to be a potential skill-gap with those whom you are fighting, and for those tools to be the optimal way to increase your ability to win fights over raw DPS/EHP. Currently, large fleets are flown optimally by line members with very little to no real skill on the part of a large portion of the fleet members. CCPs proposed intent with the announced fleet warp changes are the first step towards that, but there are several mines to avoid. You wouldn’t want to make ALL roles in a fleet more difficult. Flying logistics already consumes your full attention, and is thus a really fun role for many players. Playing at a low skill level also needs to be valid. As per my discussion in my Fleet Warps article, there should be a way for newbie and/or “casual” players to have meaningful involvement in fleets. They’re one of the biggest draws for new players, and I wouldn’t want it any other way; however, I think it would be an improvement for mid to high level alliances, those who can field those full HAC/T3/BS fleets against each other, to be able to have that creative space to win based on the playing of the game rather than the N + 1 meta that exists currently. Not that I have the golden solution ready for you here, of course. I offer an idea in the next section, but it is not fully fleshed out and probably terrible for reasons I can’t think of. The ability to hold your opponent down would not only need to be more reasonable to include in your fleet, it would require a skilled contest. Even if we got to a place wherein the act of fighting towards tackling the other fleet or not getting tackled yourself depends more on the fleet as a whole rather than a few heroes, it would need to be something much more dependent on the decisions made during the fight or it would be a welp every time. The only place this currently happens is in the small/micro-gang setting. I won’t pretend to know where to start scaling this up to larger warfare. The point I got to at the end of the last paragraph is not just a question for EVE, it’s a fundamental issue of game design itself, one that has been dealt with in games to some extent since the inception of multiplayer. Before that, it was inventing those tools in real warfare back to the dawn of civilisation. As much crap as we throw at CCP sometimes for the problems we have in the game, it is not an easy job to fix them. CCP members like Fozzie and others have both my greatest respect for the work they do and my sympathy when something doesn’t quite work and the community rallies against them. epmegasonthemove

An idea

A few disclaimers before everyone starts shouting at me. I do not believe this idea is perfect. It’s just one I haven’t immediately found to have of game-breaking problems. I think it’s an option to consider, not necessarily the option. Having written so much about the topic, it feels important to offer something to the discussion moving forward. The proposal: Make short-range, medium and large guns do significantly more damage than long-range guns, allow them to apply better damage out to 10-20km while reducing the ability of long-range weapon systems to apply at short ranges. Specifically, the signature resolution of long-range weapon systems should be higher than their short-range counterparts, the DPS differential should be much larger, smaller long-range guns should be more viable and T1/2/3 fitting viability should be addressed. 10% hull bonuses to range should go down to 5 or 7.5%, in line with other bonuses. Currently, I am fairly comfortable stating that the balance between long-range and close-range weapon systems is quite out of whack for medium and large weapon systems with close-range weapon systems only being viable for smaller fleets or solo. Making short-range weapon systems more powerful would serve to help overcome logistics as a critical mass limiting factor, and provide incentive to fly fleets with more emphasis on the factors mentioned earlier. I believe signature resolution is an untapped but brilliant value to iterate upon to balance the different weapon systems. Okay, so this may seem a little out there to most people, but let’s look at some examples; the first being your standard Tengu Shield HAC. Here is one with rails and here is one with blasters. The downside for the range of the rails is that they require more fitting and track far more poorly than blasters. As you can see, on the Tengu at least, there is zero difference to tank as it has ample fitting space to do a full rail fit without a single fitting mod. What’s more, the existence of Javelin ammo means that should the opponent close range, you can still track very well for the same DPS as antimatter. The optimal range bonus effectively works as a tracking bonus as the further away from something you are, the less transversal it can gain, so you’re still applying more damage to the target.The only benefit of using blasters is a paltry 15% DPS increase, and with a normal null-blob amount of people in fleet, half your fleet won’t be in good DPS range of the target, even if you are right on top of the bad guys and utilizing the Tengu’s optimal range bonus. Another example is the Zealot. Here is a fairly normal beam fit, and here is an equivalent pulse fit. Yes, I know I’ve left a mid empty, but that can be used for whatever flavour we want. Firstly, note that with the same ammo the beam version inherently does more DPS. Sure, its tracking suffers significantly, but fleets such as these always carry sufficient webbing support to make that a non-issue for singular targets. The further down the tech levels we go, the more the extra fitting starts to cause difficulties. As we can see here, the pulse Zealot gets an extra 10k EHP. Pulses are fine in the 10-15 km~ish ranges unlike their blaster counterparts, but the inherent increased damage for using a long-range weapon system doesn’t seem to make sense to me from a balance perspective. That’s enough cruisers for now. For our final example, let’s talk Battleships. Here are some tanky Megathrons: Rail and Blaster. Here, the DPS difference is good, and the large guns project well enough in close-range fleet fights to make sense with large numbers, but as with the Tengu the tank is unchanged. Sure, I had to use a few cheap faction hardeners for an extra few mil, but the tank is the same. The easier fitting of the blasters really only gives a slightly better choice of mid-slot modules. The only close-range weapon system battleship fleet we’ve seen perform well in years is that of the Navy Apocalypse, due to its crazy optimal/tracking bonus combined with the awesomeness of scorch. If not for that hull’s specific bonuses and that type of ammo, it would have had to be beam fit, and even then sometimes fleets had to refit for beams. As you can see, there are drawbacks, but they’re often lopsided and always insufficient to make the choice between long-range and short-range weapon systems a difficult one. 2015. More generally speaking, even ship hull preference show us that longer range is preferable to anything else. Pick a mainline DPS hull used in end-game nullsec blob warfare in the past two years. Here’s a shortlist of contenders:
  • Tengu/Eagle
  • Navy Apocalypse
  • Legion
  • Dominix
  • Ishtar
  • Cerberus
  • Tempest Fleet Issue
  • Harpy
The only exceptions I can think of are the Rattlesnake and Typhoon, but cruise missiles have insane range anyway. I’m not saying this is the only reason these fleet comps are good, but ALL of them have a significant bonus to range. With the new missile modules I think it’s fair to say that we’re seeing that the 10% hull bonuses to range on Caldari hulls are crazy good. Range is the uncontended king in the way of bonuses, of what you MUST choose for your doctrine to be viable. This suppresses so many other hulls, tactics and options. Were both tactics viable, close vs. long-range weapon systems could be a real decision for FCs, and it would also provide more types of larger fleet warfare than the current system, which involves floating around each other at 50-100 km with ABs and long-range vs long-range weapon systems. Close Range vs Long Range:

Here, the close range fleet has to get on top of the enemy fleet and hold them down, but when they do, they have a huge advantage. The long-range fleet has a general advantage of being able to shoot the enemy without being shot back, but it’s a constant game of cat and mouse.

Close range vs Close range:

Old school hardcore brawling. All of my yes. Everyone is tackled, and there will be many explosions.

Here, we’ve added value to positioning, with a risk/reward system that can be iterated over time as the meta further develops as well as adding some much-needed variance into the large-scale PvP meta. If you want the upper hand in an engagement you have to put in more risk for your fleet, rather than the strongest fleets being the ones that can get out in a hurry (Ishtars, Tengus, etc).

Now, we do have to be careful. A huge flat buff to short-range weapons system damage output would be terrible on its own, and a hard nerf to the damage of long-range weapon systems would make critical mass vs logi issues even more problematic. This is partly why I suggest not changing the DPS values too harshly and combining DPS potential with a signature radius differential. The impact to PvE and small-gang would need to be carefully considered. This would be a complete reconsideration and balancing pass to all weapon systems, turrets and missiles (drones are weird), take a crapton of dev time, a lot of testing and require a lot of iteration. Would it be worth it? I think so, especially if it changes the meta in the way I’ve predicted.

Holy crap shut up already

Overall, the above is my main dissatisfaction with modern-day, large-scale warfare. In order to make your fleet absolutely stronger, you have to go towards fleets that sacrifice key elements of control. In (my) ideal internet spaceship world, being able to hold your opponent down would be much more important to your chances of  winning the fight rather than the current emphasis on alpha/EHP. From what rumours there are from the CSM, I *think* CCP have their own plans for how to resolve the issues I have discussed, they’re almost certainly much better than my own and I very much look forward to seeing them when they are officially announced. Control is one of those factors that take FCs a while to learn how to recognise, and even then, most can only do it in the scale of warfare they’re most familiar with. I’m pretty decent when it comes to 10-40 man lowsec-brawls, but I’m still very much a newcomer to the null-bloc scene. To add to the complexity, it is a very viable tactic to fool your opponent into believing they are the one with control, that they have more non-lethal options and thus cause an engagement. Equally, if you have a clear advantage and your opponent is unwilling to fight you, repositioning your fleet to a weaker position after repeatedly dancing around each other may be enough to cause the opposing FC to see it as their best shot and go for it, forgetting their other disadvantages until the bubbles are dropped and the points held, and it’s too late for them to realise their mistake. Take the time, be you FC, line member or curious observer, to try to work out who has the control before and during engagements you come across. I can guarantee you’ll be surprised a good number of times and probably learn to love EVE more for it.
Tags: apothne, fleet, pvp

About the author


Apothne is a proud member of Sniggerdly and an experienced roaming FC. He is a Guest FC and Lecturer for EVE University and anyone who invites him to ramble on their comms for a few hours. He is currently one of the most active and experienced player commentators for EVE Tournaments, including hosting and casting AT XII-XV and all #EVE_NT leagues, as well as the Amarr Championships on stage at Fanfest 2016.