CZ Minutes: Assistance Necessary?


We have a new weekly column running here on the weekends catchily named ‘CZ Minutes’. This was HVAC’s idea so you can all blame him. We’ve found that over the past few weeks, all the CZ writers have been debating the issues of the day in the site Skype channel. Each Monday, we’re going to pick a particular topic and open a Google document and move all the conversation on to there. We’ll run the document from a Monday to a Saturday then post it up over the weekend pretty much unedited. 

Things to bear in mind when reading this… Try and remember that different writers are coming at this from different angles whether it be PL, CFC, lowsec or high sec. Editing has been kept to an absolute minimum. Unlike our normal articles during the week, this is a pretty ‘raw’ feed with writers expressing their views, blemishes and all. 

Please give us your feedback on what you think of this as a concept and also feel free to suggest topics of discussion for the site writers for the next week!

Xander: So guys, we’ve found that we have an insatiable number of words to launch upon one another in the CZ Skype channel. It makes sense that we try and take advantage of that for a bigger conversation on the topic du jour each week.

The current subject raging throughout the Eve community is that of drone assist and whether it is fundamentally broken, should be removed from the game, is fixable or is just fine as it is. Dabigredboat from Goonswarm and Grath Telkin from PL have already duked it out over on TMDC while the thread on Kugu grows ever larger.

What are our thoughts team? We have three CFC pilots, two from PL, one from high sec (who happens to be on CSM8) and one from low sec. We should have most bases covered when it comes to broad opinion. Fine as they are or does the nerf hammer need to come down from almighty Thor on high?

Niden: Someone else better say something first, so I don’t come off as an idiot.

Niden: All right, fuck it. Wouldn’t a simple restriction on the number of drones be a solution?

Forlorn: While the mechanic of assigning sentries clearly is a problem for some of the current events it is not a game breaking moment. Sentries themselves seem to be ok. Nerfing sentries will also break many other fleet options for small and medium sized ganks, CVA-alike battleship doctrines as well as many PvE players. Even CFC’s premiere afk ratting Ishtar. Assigning might be broken, but as far as I understand it the game mechanics are tied into the fleet mechanics. Bonuses or fleet warps might be affected.

HVAC: Just a correction, AFKtar hasn’t used sentries in a while, though the ability to just shoot rats for 20 minutes while you’re taking a large shit is stupid.

Niden: Jesus, TL;DR Forlorn. What’s wrong with the idea of simply only allowing one wing of drones to be assigned to another pilot?

Forlorn: PL usually does that already. We limit ourselves to 1 or 2 wings per drone assist guy. In many situations it would be overkill to hit something with 5 wings while 1 wing is enough.

Niden: So how about making that a game mechanic?

Forlorn: You can still have 5 drone assist guys that broadcast one and the same target if needed. You just need 4 good guys more, if you look at a 250 man fleet.

Niden: The fleets being smaller in my neck of the woods I’ll admit I haven’t given this as much thought as some other people have. But. What would the arguments be for not removing the drone assist mechanic altogether? I’m about to get shot down, I can feel it.

Forlorn: There would be no downside to remove it. Slowcats and Dominixes can still manually target a broadcasted target. I just not sure if CCP can remove it without breaking other game features.

HVAC: The problem with drone assist asks the fundamental question, of just how much control of your ship should you be willing to surrender to the fleet? Having flown both the Slowcat and the Dominix in fleet battles before, it does feel relatively stupid.

Forlorn: It is definately not as challenging in a 1 vs 1. There are still many things to do while you pilot an Archon. Looking for your cap transfer channel, reassigning drones constantly, remote repairing fleet members, aligning, ewar vs baddies and so on. Same applies to fleet warps btw.


HVAC: Should a single ship have the ability to be able to deliver an effective weapon system, fit a stiff tank, and have the ability to effectively remote repair the others in the fleet? Boat’s point was that the Archon is broken (which I don’t agree with), but maybe more of a problem with capitals in general. You don’t see that with subcaps — dps and logistics are fairly balanced in that one ship can’t do both very well.

Forlorn: The Slowcat or Slowmeras DPS is pretty bad compared to dreadnoughts or even BS doctrines. They are pretty good at being a defensive strongpoint and they have enough dps to volley through dictors as long as CFC is willing to waterboard. As far as sub-cap logistics are concerned I have to disagree. Their tank is too weak in the current meta.

HVAC: Sentry drones are anemic when compared to sieged Dreads, but the carriers aren’t as vulnerable as Dreads are. The Dreads really are only useful in siege (unless the Dread is performing a very specific task). A carrier fleet can still deliver their DPS while having a large buffer due to the reps, while a Dread will sit their vulnerable. Triage was supposed to be the counter, but you don’t see that anymore.

Niden: I’m slow. Are you agreeing that the mechanic could be removed? This is nothing like the Skype channel.

HVAC: It should, but capitals in general need to be expanded and changed.

Forlorn: I have personally flown Triage at least half a dozen times in the last couple weeks in smaller skirmishes. Back to sentries: the power of sentries in both carrier and battleship doctrines come from the overpowered drone modules for low, med and high slots. If CCP rebalances them, this talk might be void.

HVAC: Well, that’s the problem. Capitals were designed thinking that any entity would be able to field about ten at any time. So they work when you have a few, but not so much when you have a few hundred. It was the same shit as when they introduced titans, they had no idea that they’d be all over the place in such a relatively short time.

Niden: Wouldn’t that just be collective punishment, rather than removing the problem itself?

HVAC: Modules in general have needed a big overhaul, so if they decided to rebalance all of them that wouldn’t be a bad idea. That doesn’t mean that the ability to shoot pure alpha without user input should stay, though.

Niden: Sure. But asking for a rebalance and the commenting out of a piece of code are two very different things. The first step arguably being to simply switch off drone assist.

HVAC: I understand legacy code is dogshit and that it’s a bitch to mess around with, but if drone assist stays a thing while they continue to add other things to the game not many people care for, that’s definitely a problem. Hell, they said forever the POS code was a nightmare and then later delivered an entire expansion based around quality of life improvements in Odyssey. At this point if the summer expansion were a change to drone UI and the removal of drone assist, it could be one of the most popular expansions received by existing customers.

Forlorn: But not only another pile of rebalancing features for the summer expansion, please!

Niden: Aye, legacy code is a bitch, but depending on how it’s written it may be possible to simply leave it where it is and remove the options to activate it from the UI. It’s not the best practise, but it does solve the immediate problem.

Forlorn: I wouldn’t mind that but again: that doesn’t change much for me as a carrier pilot. If I have to right click the drone window every 30 sec to re-assign or to lock the broadcasted target and hit a hotkey to volley with the sentries – it really doesn’t matter. The same applies to other drone doctrines

HVAC: It doesn’t change a lot for the individual pilot, but it does change a lot to the math in combat. Instead of perfect alpha now you’d have pilots shooting at the wrong targets, trying to assign remote reps to the people you’re fighting, and shooting the people who are broadcasting from reps. Maybe not so much on the PL side, but you’d definitely see that in CFC fleets. Which is cool, I love anarchy. The perfect alpha volley is the thing though. That needs to go.

Niden: Now we’re talking, I second that. Half the fun comes from the mistakes people make, as well as when people, together, manage to pull something off.

HVAC: Yeah, exactly. If you force the drone assist fleets to actually target the people that they need to shoot, it makes it harder to rep by nature. That’s why the remote rep battleships never took off before Tidi, because unless you were in a tiny fleet it was just pure anarchy. You only have so many locks you can do in a carrier, and if you have to split them up for targets as well as reps that definitely will be a thing.

Forlorn: The drone assign mechanic is far from perfect alpha. Especially in TiDi it is very common not to shoot the assigned target but instead hitting some random ghost target or your cap buddies.

HVAC: Well, it’s about as perfect alpha as you can get. The other weapon systems in EVE do not come anywhere close to what drone assisted sentries can do under the same conditions.

Niden: A thing that must be considered is that this is mainly perceived as a problem with sentries, removing drone assist altogether will affect other areas of the game were it is perhaps not desired. Are we saying remove drone assist only for sentries, or remove it altogether anyway?

Mangala: Yeah thats where I am torn. Obviously assist as a mechanic does have some issues when tied with sentries – which also have major issues due to perfect alpha/modules used to support them. Removing assist could well affect sentries enough they perform lower on the power scale, but at the same time small fleet/gang’s using drone bunny inties get done over and so on. And as someone who has been helping move RvB towards a sentry setup as it does make FC’ing the purple herd much easier, I don’t think I could cope with going back to all the targets taking damage at once!

Mangala: Maybe a limit to who can be assigned/how many can be assigned as a start while waiting on potential module rebalances etc would be a good enough start. At least more people have to participate in a fleet & actually control stuff?


Niden: Why not just remove it for sentries?

Forlorn: At this time of the discussion I want to quote my favourite all time CSM Elise Randolph: “Oh no, this is for the nerds that like to pretend there was a time in Eve where everyone had to pilot their ship. Ѕpoiler alert, this never happened and you’re just making it up. But w/e w/e dream on you little dreamers, don’t let me crush your memories.” Just because you don’t hit F1 it is not like you don’t take part. Sentries still have a valid role in EvE besides the current meta problem. I don’t see them as a general problem.

HVAC: Sentries as a weapon system on their own are fine and are very comparable to anything else, it’s just the boost it gets with assist that makes it the problem. The drones themselves are actually in pretty good shape. Except for the hull repairing drones.

Niden: Yeah, I think we’re all in agreement about sentries themselves being fine. But I say: why not just remove assist for sentries?

Jeg: I don’t think drone assist is broken, or that sentries are broken. I think that you can have essentially unlimited sentries in a carrier and can launch 10+ at a time from what is a very robust platform is what is broken. Drone assist in that context is almost ridiculously overpowered. Unless I am somehow not getting my facts right..

HVAC: If you factor in the cost of replacing them, it’s not a big deal. I don’t have a particular issue with how much can be held as much as I do with the passive damage output.

Forlorn: The dronebay on the carriers is so large to hold fighters, which are useless in pretty much all roles. As fighters are as large as a cruiser and they don’t have proper tracking and dps there is no need to have them in your carrier at all. That is why there is so much place in carriers for sentries. The supposed to main weapon of carriers is broken. Also I consider 600+ T2 sentries not as cheap weapon.

Jeg: The cost is really irrelevant to most pilots in this sort of fleet – just need to see what is normally left on the field to see that. Its not a big deal to replace them. They are effectively treated like ammo because of the number that a carrier can take with them on an op. And that is not even considering that you can restock the drone bay from a corp hangar while in space. fighters are (in my head) what carriers are about. Just as mom’s are for bombers. Not that I would want it limited to that because that would be too much of a nerf.

Xander: Surely the fundamental issue here isn’t actually one of balance. There will always be imbalance in Eve. Always. And that will be exploited by one entity or another. Surely the issue is that 255 pilots giving targeting and firing powers to the 256th guy is just bad game mechanics fundamentally? You are literally asking 255 guys to sit there and do nothing for hours at a time harvesting killmails and convincing themselves they are actively playing a game. F1ing is bad but it’s a fucking mental Rubik’s Cube compared to drone assist.

Jeg: I think that in and of itself is not really so bad, assuming that there is some way to neuter the effect. If you have 255 carriers assigning 10 drones and losing them is really irrelevant. With non carrier’s on the field you can simply bomb their sentries away, carriers remove even that as an option since you have effectively unlimited numbers. and yea.. drone assist is braindead work, but its even more so when you are in a capital where you literally only need to launch moar or reassign. – oh look, a bomber on grid.. meh, who cares.

Niden: What are you saying Jeg? Leave the mechanic as is but nerf the platform?

Forlorn: Bombers are part of the reason why Slowcats became popular. The pretty much effectively killed sub-cap combat. The danger of 5 guys in ISBoxer setups with 8 bomber alts are a danger to any fleet doctrine unless you can tank that. PL’s strongest BS doctrine could survive 3 bombrun before getting send back to the cloning bay. This is not a proper answer if you really want to achieve your tactical goal in combat. If you are willing to use a trillion ISK in ships in either sub-caps or caps I rather use capitals as long as bombers can control ANY other sub-cap fleet concept.

HVAC: It’s a different argument, but I don’t think anybody realistically disagrees that bombers killed the subcap meta.


Jeg: RE: Niden – I really don’t think the platform should be nerfed either, I really am not sure of how to address the issue.. Perhaps some sort of hard limit on how many drones of a particular type you can put into your drone bay? Of course, that simply means carry more in the corp hangers, but I guess at least that would add some complication to things. Carriers themselves are not OP, nor is drone assist, I dont even think that the two together are. The complete lack of real risk is the issue. Though I guess arguably there is a lot of ISK on the field. Its a tough problem to fix thats for sure, and one that when solved is going to generate outcry without a doubt.

Forlorn: The ISK number doesn’t really is an issue. People are willing to fly 500 mil ISK frigates, people are willing to commit a slightly pimped Archon for 8 bil ISK and some are willing to commit 35 bil ISK supercarrier or a 120 bil ISK titan. The price is not an arguement for or against a ship. A supercarrier for example is 35 bil ISK grind machine that doesn’t work as “I-win” button anymore. You need an environment that helps you to use those. A 8 bil ISK Archon fleet can tank until downtime, but it will not be able to kill anything after a couple hours due to TiDi induced module/drone lag. That is the nature of the game, that anything can be countered as long as you use the best counter. There are counters to sentries as we already agreed upon, some work better than others obviously.

Niden: I don’t believe making it ISK-intensive is the answer either, that simply gives more power to the haves, and less to the have-nots, skewing the problem even more.

Forlorn: Especially since all larger null sec entities have large funds to replace whatever their leadership agreed upon.

Niden: The glaringly obvious solution, in my head at least, is to remove drone assist for sentry drones. Null combat already suffers from that just-another-brick-in-the-wall feeling, anything that puts the fight back in the choices made by individual pilots and makes it more dynamic is a good idea IMO. FC-ing and following orders should be based on communication between people rather than understanding of certain mechanics and bringing the right tools to facilitate the use of said mechanic.

Forlorn: As far as activity is concerned listening and communicating for 7 hours constantly with different FCs and squad leaders like in DY- recently is a large workload for any pilot. There is a lot of ~myth~ created around sentry based doctrines. Just because you don’t move often and warp around every 5 minutes doesn’t mean that you can tab out and do other things. That happens only when you hellcamp somebody in their staging system.

Niden: So in other words: you’re mostly there to just provide the drones but you are also unable to do anything else. Sounds a bit rubbish to me.

Forlorn: As far as Slowcats are concerned: yes. But they are not the only fleet on field, they just provide an anvil and are the center of combat. Other fleets around them have other purposes and shiptypes obviously.

Sindel: I have nothing relevant to add. What are drones?

Tags: archon, cz minutes, drone assist, drones, slowcats

About the author

Xander Phoena

The good looking, funny, intelligent member of the team, Xander set up Crossing Zebras with Jeg in April 2012 mainly because he was talking too much about Eve on his other podcast. Playing the game for almost five years, Xander still has absolutely zero clue about how to actually play Eve but somehow still manages to talk a good game.