For those who are going to just skim so they can be angry at me in the comments, here’s the tl;dr:
Do I support the incoming fleet warp changes? Yes.
Do I think they’re as refined as they need to be? No.
Do I think they’d have a net positive on the game were they implemented as currently stated? Yes.
Okay, now that’s done and I’m left with the three of you that want to read my spiel on the topic, let’s get down to it.
CCP has proposed a plan to cease FCs warping their fleets to bookmarks and probe results. Unsurprisingly—for such a fundamentally game changing patch—people are up in arms. On the last episode of CZTV, a spirited discussion between Chessur and Dunk Dinkle—who are about as polar opposite as you can get in terms of gameplay style—occurred. Both of them brought up good points, as well as many members of the EVE community on reddit and the Eve-O forums. There have been a bunch of awful ideas, but that’s not really surprising either.
As in my Navy Cruiser article, I’m not going to pretend to know a damn thing about PvE or the intricacies of wormhole space. Having listened to the soundcloud of the meet between CCP and some WH reps, and some discussion with my hole-loving capsuleer friends, it appears that the vast majority of the serious issues WH:ers face with these changes can be fixed by implementing alliance bookmarks. CCP has already stated they want to do that; so CCP, get on with it.
CCP says that a significant motivation for this change is to make fleet members be more involved in what’s going on. With disclaimers and qualifications to cover my ass done, let’s talk about game design philosophy.
On CZTV, Chessur represented the idea that EVE is for hardcore players. Those that are unwilling to put significant time and effort into the study and practice of basic flight mechanics of are not welcome in New Eden. He’d go as far as to remove orbit and approach commands. Chessur comes from a Brood War background, where mechanics, practice, and devotion to the study of the game were everything; positioning, reading your opponent, ekeing every last ounce of value from every action to defeat your opponent. It was a beautiful game and I genuinely would play an EVE where orbit/approach did not exist. It sounds like a lot of fun.
Dunk spoke for the line member; the “casual” player. The guy who gets home from work, helps his kids with their homework, then after they are off to bed just wants to relax by pewing spaceships for an hour or two before the end of the day to unwind. He stated that Chessur’s vision for EVE would effectively kill any hope of having these players play the game, that it’s these players who make up the vast majority of the subscription base, and without them EVE would curl up and die. Dunk is of the opinion that these changes would make EVE too difficult, make fleets take too long, too laborious and preclude our family man from playing.
Me? I don’t think the changes directly affect the line member of fleets that much, if at all. FCs will still be able to warp their fleets to gates and to other fleet members. Travel in K-space will be largely unaffected. Personally, as a FC, I’ve rarely made use of the fact that I can warp my fleet anywhere. When I joined PL, people were expecting me to warp them about; I didn’t. They realised I don’t do fleet warps, and we got on with our lives. “But Apoth!” I hear you cry, “PL are elite spaceship pilots, experienced, full of ISK and SP. We’re talking about the newbros here!”
Here’s the thing: the argument that these fleet warp changes kill the newbro are—in my opinion—completely baseless. It may be the case that BNI have their FCs drag their pilots around nullsec by the short and curlies, but that does not mean newbros cannot get on without them. I FC:ed in EVE University for upwards of 8 months. There, we don’t have bloc FCs like Blue Ice, and we didn’t have the SP to be in those command positions. I’m not saying fleet warps for general travel never happen, but we got by without it just fine. Newbros do not need to be warped from gate-to-gate like children being crocodile-lined between their primary school and the playing fields. Clearly say where you want them to warp, and after their first few times it becomes second nature. In terms of bookmarks, the same holds. Have your bookmarks clearly labelled in a well-thought out organisational system. If a right click drop-down menu for bookmarks is too difficult for a newbro to use, then I have no idea how they had sufficient cognitive ability to join any fleet, or even install the game in the first place.
What’s the bottom line? These changes mean line pilots need to do one or two extra clicks when they want to warp sometimes. If anything, it’ll make me more likely to not be alt-tabbing to reddit and instead paying attention to my spaceship. I do not think that the line member is affected that much by these changes. What they do affect are the tools that the fleet as an entity has to maneuver and engage. The effect individual pilots will see will not be inputting a wild amount of additional effort to fly their ships in a fleet. They will, however, see some changes to how those fleets operate and what the fleets are capable of—thus a shift in meta and tactics. The only individual piloting changes I see would be that good interceptor (and interdictor) pilots in null become far more valuable in providing good warp-ins. I would love there to be more focus on tackle in all fleets; right now it’s just tank, DPS, and projection. I love any changes that will force tackle to be more important. It’s a role that can massively affect the effectiveness of a fleet, so requiring a heavier role that does this is great.
Before we go into new and obsolete tactics with these changes, it’s worth mentioning what I think the skill level of the game should be on the Dunk-Chessur scale. Even though it makes me feel dirty, like a schoolteacher settling an argument, I agree with both Chessur and Dunk’s vision of who the game should be designed for, but without Dunk’s compromise for balancing for the “average” player. The “average” EVE player does not exist. I would make an assumption that the only average that even makes sense would be some modal class, probably line members of null-sec blocs, but designing the game around them would make people like FCs and alliance level logistics managers, who actually provide them the fun in the first place, quit the game. EVE should absolutely have content that the aforementioned family man can come home to and play, that anyone can just log on to and relax with their spaceship friends while playing and not putting too much effort in. However, EVE is a wonderful and beautiful game not only because of the sheer variety of things you can do, but also the variety of approaches you can take. EVE should absolutely be a game that has a high ceiling so players who do put the time and effort in can be rewarded for developing their skills and knowledge, and it should give them an advantage against the player who has not done that.
I won’t bother discussing creating room in EVE for sniping doctrines or “the bomber problem”, it’s covered well enough elsewhere. One of the consequences I haven’t seen discussed, but that in my opinion will be a big gamechanger, is the sudden defensive advantage for organised groups who share bookmarks. If you live in a space and produce bookmark packs (common practice already for a few), and a marauding group comes through your sphere of influence, you suddenly have a massive advantage of maneuverability over them. Without the ability to near-instantly warp onto your opponent, taking the time to create and distribute bookmarks will give fleets in their home space a huge advantage over roaming groups who will not have them. It will give the home team (not necessarily a PvP focused organisation) great potential for choosing how to engage, and provide a challenge for the roaming group (much more likely a PvP focused organisation) to surmount. It creates space for new doctrines and ideas, adds some asymmetry to the warfare, and rewards groups who organise.
Current combat probing mechanics are so good that for all the skill in the world you might have, it takes one other guy to drop probes, hit scan, and he can endlessly warp fleets right onto you, in some cases while you’re still landing (see bombing runs). Because of this, it stifles a large array of tactics and styles of pewing spaceships. By making players so powerful, they’re actually made weaker and forced into a smaller box of option, reducing the room for creativity and good decision making, negating the ability for pilots and groups of pilots to have the skills to be a cut above the rest. Removing these tools will not suddenly make a ball of 200 Moas ineffective, but it will move us towards allowing another blob of 200 Moas, or whatever, to have the creative space to potentially outfly the first and be rewarded for playing the game more skillfully. The direction these changes would take the game is one where we don’t just have to focus on tank and DPS meat grinders, but to a positioning war as well, removing some of the need for a critical mass of logi/DPS for FCs to even consider bothering to undock.
All that having been said, the proposed changes reach far further than the positive of what I have discussed here. A more focused nerf to bombers and combat probing would deal with the vast majority of the issues that the PvP:ers supporting these changes are espousing, without causing the myriad of issues that everyone else is screaming about.
Is this change perfect? No.
Would I rather have it than nothing? Absolutely.
It is my hope that CCP will do as they have shown to be doing so much more over the past few years, and that is to take the overwhelming community response and iterate on the ideas put forward. Fleet warps and combat probing are cancelling out the skill differential that skilled players should be able to show, and restricting a ton of interesting variance on the meta of spaceship violence. It is a fundamental mechanic that needs to be addressed, but let’s do it without screaming at each other.
Tags: apothne, fleet warp
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.