Rock, Paper, Scissors

 

New Eden is in the Post-Phoebe phase and the landscape has changed dramatically. Clearly, change is happening, but not it may not be what many had hoped for.

Eve has always been a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. At almost every level of the game, there is a counter to strengths that create a balance, or at least the opportunity for balance. The world of solo PvP is all about understanding how to counter what the opponent has prepared.

In most spaceship encounters, the use of counters is at the core of the game’s alluring complexity. The hatred of the Warp Core Stabilizer in the pirate and faction warfare community is well known, specifically because it is an effective counter. The powerful sniping battlecruiser can be damped by a single Maulus or Celestis. A logistics cruiser can be jammed into uselessness with ECM, allowing a fleet to be cracked. Properly placed ships with smartbombs can ruin the day of entire fleets, from frigates to battleships. Getting ‘under the guns’ of artillery equipped ships with fast, close brawlers leads to many amusing lossmails.

This complexity and ability for FCs to adapt to the situation with counters, and counters to the opponents counter, is what makes Eve such a remarkable game. When the rock, paper, scissors balance is working well, fights are complex, interesting, and fun for those involved.

Forums and blogs are often filled with rants about specific ships or fleet compositions that are ‘OP’ (overpowered). I would argue that the issues is not about being ‘overpowered’ as much as it is that there is no effective counter. Without a counter, FCs make the logical choice and use these compositions to win fights repeatedly, much to the dismay of their opponents.

As an example, look at the ‘Slippery Pete’, a brilliant fleet design based on the Tengu T3 strategic cruiser that can operate at extreme range with powerful DPS that is almost impossible to scan down. Fleets of Slippery Pete’s can operate with near impunity, only fearing a scanning pilot with perfect skills and clone full of Virtue implants. If you could actually catch one, the ships themselves are paper thin, easy to destroy. But it is almost impossible to catch one, or even get close, when properly FCed. It is the lack of effective counter that leads many to declare the fleet concept to be overpowered.

tengu

Another ship oft discussed as OP is the stealth bomber. With the ability to fly cloaked and deliver huge damage with little warning, the stealth bomber is feared by all FCs, and a driving factor in all null sec engagements. While EFT warriors will claim various methods to counter bombs, no real ones exist. Theories abound for firewalls, instaCanes, instalock destroyers, and other ideas on how to stop bombers, but in reality, they are rarely stopped. Occasionally a bubble will catch a fleet after they drop bombs, but this is more luck than anything else. The lack of counter to bombers is so apparent, it’s has lead to the reality that battleships are rarely used in null sec combat and if they are, they are devastated by bomber fleets. It is the lack of an effective counter that leads many to declare the fleet concept to be overpowered.

The Dev Team has traditionally responded to OP ships with a combination of nerfs and increased counter power. Currently, the Ishtar is in the crosshairs of the balance team as they try to find a way to allow opponents to counter the Ishtar rather than nerf it to the point it is unused in fleet combat. Look to the beloved Drake to see what happens when a ship is nerfed hard enough to relegate it to sitting in hangars, lovingly spun by pilots and hated by FCs.

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Bringing the discussion back to Phoebe, let’s take a look at the most powerful ships in the game, super-capitals. Many would describe the Phoebe patch as a nerf to super-capitals, since their jump range is so limited. And it is true that super-capitals cannot jump all the way across New Eden with a chain of mid-points. But I will argue that super-capitals have been buffed by Phoebe.

The hard truth is that there is no counter to a super-capital fleet other than another super-capital fleet. This is really inarguable. Yes, you can kill a lone Nyx, but when 20 appear, there is literally nothing to be done without dropping your own super-capital fleet. The power of a super-cap fleet is an order of magnitude more powerful than any other fleet composition. They can reinforce an entire region in a single day without breaking a sweat.

Pre-Phoebe, the main restraint on super-capital fleets was the fear of a counter drop and escalation on the scale of another B-R5RB battle. The fear of this factored into each super-cap drop, limiting their use.

Previously, the only other defense against supers was to cyno jam a system, preventing them from getting in. This defense of last resort could force fights back into sub-capital fleets, but ran it’s own risks, making friendly resupply an issue.

Post-Phoebe, the effect on super-capitals is to free them up from the fear of a counter drop. The major powers that can deploy super fleets can be counted on one hand, and have consolidated into defensible areas that don’t overlap. Without overlap, there is little risk of counter-drops.

And so we find ourselves today with super capitals roaming systems with complete impunity.

As previously stated, there is no defense against a super-capitals other than an opposing fleet of super-capitals. With the jump range changes putting most super fleets out of range of each other, and cyno jammers no longer able to prevent their arrival, a super fleet is an “I win!” card that can be played over and over.

The goal of creating a balance where null sec is filled with a variety of alliances and coalitions with reasons and opportunities for good fights is admirable. But currently the new entrants to null sec exist only based the whims of the powers-that-be that can ROFLstomp at will without consequence, all for lulz on a boring Saturday night.

We are told that Phoebe is only the first step in a glorious new future of null sec, but not a single idea has been discussed on an effective counter to super-capitals. There is no paper available, so the rock continues to dominate. And it will continue to smash, unstoppable, until balance is restored in this area.

Tags: Dunk, hotdrop, phoebe, supercapitals

About the author

Dunk Dinkle

Dunk Dinkle has played Eve since 2008. A life-long gamer, he's played MMORPGs since the first days of Ultima Online. In Eve, he's taken a path from high sec mission running to factional warfare to null sec. After the battle of Asakai, Dunk landed in Brave Newbies where he annoys FCs with an extensive soundboard.

  • OhTakashawa

    Dreads, neuting BS, there are plenty of counters to supers. The reality, for your group, may be that you lack the resources or willingness to do what’s necessary to counter supers, but “well it’s too hard for a bunch of low SP players to neutralize” should not be the basis for “balancing” or establishing some new “counter” for expensive, hard to skill for, hard to acquire, and hard to replace hulls. Balancing things so taht everyone, no matter the SP, has a way to wipe out any given doctrine, is how we end up with bombers that are as broken as those you describe – because hey, how else will “newbies” participate in nullsec pvp if 25 5mil sp characters can’t bulldoze a battleship fleet?

    • curious

      Tell us about the last time PL took down an enemy super fleet without using supers.

    • Ranamar

      If I’m reading this correctly, it sounds like the biggest problem with supercaps is actually the capchain: it makes neuting them significantly harder than it would be otherwise, because it effectively sequesters a portion of your cap on another ship, not to mention their energy-generation capabilities. With non-supercaps, capchains are vulnerable to electronic warfare, because you can knock out the connections generating the capchain energy. On the other hand, with supercaps, you have to wait for someone to screw up… and to capitalize on it for any significant time you probably need to fully neutralize every supercap on the field at once.

      Getting together a bunch of welpclones actually seems pretty doable, tbh, but how would you suggest dealing with the nigh-unbreakable capchain?

      • Xary

        They are adding nute bombs that might help. Maybe a eccm burst bome that only works on caps.

  • Nicholas

    Excellent article,

  • lowrads

    Short of implementing an effective counter to stealth bombers in the form of destroyer-based anti-submarine warfare modules, it might be reasonable to give the bombers a different target.

    If the bombers themselves were a bit larger, had a longer firing window, and were aimed at being a counter to supers or anything deployed, we could give them the EVE equivalent of weapons of mass destruction. These could either be weapons with such huge explosion radius (smaller is better in the arcane world of EVE missile mechanics) that they are only really a threat to capital ships, or they could be intense weapons with extremely small area of effect. Maybe they could be like smartbombs, only with a damage formula that follows the inverse squares law, but I can already hear hampsters squeaking with terror.

    Most players would not be happy with the idea of invisible fleets one shotting capital ships, then cloaking up until the next target is lined up though. Most likely, we need a weapon system that disables capital ships, or at least weakens them and eliminates their ability to disengage from a fight. Alone, that won’t do anything about the n+1 problem though, so we really do need a hard counter to the current iteration of bombers. As is, I think the smart bombers are supposed to function more as a counter to large fleets. Increasing their utility against anything else would again necessitate a hard counter.

  • boomer
  • Great article!

  • Challenged

    If anything the hard counter for supers is time. For any new alliance/coalition generally what they have is numbers, and they utilize this with guerrilla warfare or blob warfare. All the while the SP of the group is growing, fielding more advanced fleets comps until you reach the status of the current power-blocs.
    The hard counter for time than is boredom/bitterness/meta-gaming. If there are no interesting fights than the players get bored with the alliance and leave the group or game entirely. If they get rofl-stomped continuously than they get angry/bitter, and leave the group or game entirely. Meta-gaming could fit somewhere in-between by sowing discord amongst the ranks or at a higher level via disbanding/thefts, though harder to achieve.

    What was once destroyer fleets became cruiser fleets, which became assault frigate fleets, which became HAC fleets, which became battleship fleets with entire wings of ewar support, anti-bomber support, logistics support, will become tomorrows Super fleet.

    • Scott

      While I agree in principle my station timer isn’t going to wait for my SP to build up to the level required to be useful. Also this effectively shuts down sov null for anyone that isn’t already a block. They have already have more isk to buy toons, more people to increase SP at the same rate and generally more experienced leaders which allows that SP to be used more effectively. There is no counter to this other than a certain type of donut or metagaming spais.

  • Saint Michael’s Soul

    Super-cap counter? Simple. X-Wings dumping bombs down exhaust chutes. Its the only solution

    • Dunk Dinkle

      I used to bull’s-eye womp rats in my T-16 back home. They’re not much bigger than 2 meters.

  • Loggerhead Murphy

    What if cyno jammers also blocked supers from taking the gates in that system, either in or out?

  • Xary

    Challenged has the right idea it is time. Hes taking the long view of it. The change gives you time to have your fight without cap involvement. With the fatigue you have to wait out one time to jump and another if you don’t want to wait longer. This in effect mean of caps are dropped at long rang they have to take time or sit out for a length of time. Mean that next fight they may not make it to the fight. Also sub caps can then move to a different front. I see a huge advantage to sub caps in fighting on the borders of a region. Because you can move faster then they can. Forcing them to fight you with sub caps. Leaving chances for a super left behind at a gate. The thing about big weapons are slow. To beat them you most be fast and flexible. Big null sec alliance have big long plans and objects in wars. If you want just to take from them you wait tell they commit and move in on another front. I think small alliances will play a part in wars with large wars.