Tech 3 Cruisers – Rebalance vs Redesign

 

Big thanks to Capri Sun KraftFoods who kindly agreed to read over this article before publication and discuss the ideas with me to make sure I wasn’t being a complete idiot. You should totally vote for him in the current CSM elections!

The fabled coming of the T3C changes is apparently on the horizon for the summer of 2017 but what shape will they take? What are the design goals for CCP? What do we want out of T3Cs as players?

Personally, I think that the changes will come in one of two forms, a rebalance, i.e changing stats on the ships and modules that we have, or a redesign fundamentally changing the nature of the ship class.

Let’s start by discussing the ~general~ goals, in as broad terms as possible, to have a reasonable level of agreement of what the issues are and why we the playerbase wanted changes for those issues.

The core complaint is as follows: T3Cs are oppressive in the role of being a main ship of the line, most notably in “AHAC” (Armour Heavy Assault Cruiser – due to Zealots being the origin of the fleet comp) fleets of LR Legions and Proteus due to their combined high tank and low sig and useable, if not extremely high, DPS. In this form they are on the less fun side of what i call the “not losing vs winning” scale, where the entire design of the concept is defensive. The optimal solution to fleet battles are slow, heavy F1 ships with little nuance to the pilot or the FC in terms of either availability, decision making or skillful piloting to achieve a greater result. They, to a great extent, eliminate the space for other ships types and methods of combat to exist in medium to large-scale warfare outside the most powerful cases of the rest of the subcap line, specifically pirate battleships. Pirate battleships which themselves are currently artificially boosted in relative power level due to their availability and comparative price they can be purchased at.

(Article gets rudely hijacked by Cosmo)

“I’m going to cut off Apothne’s talk of the PvP aspects of the T3C ship class and try to bring light to another role that it currently fills, that of a ‘best in slot’ top tier exploration and covops vessel. Between interdiction nullification, covops cloaking and probing bonuses in the same vessel and the modularity that allows you to hold at least another whole fit or two on you, the T3C is the Lexus of the wandering pilot. Considering ‘exploration’ can mean doing the puzzling and often deadly Sleeper Caches and Ghost Sites, relics and datas deep in wormholes with Sabres ready to pounce, destroying offline SMA/CHA’s as well as switching over to do a 10/10 you stumbled upon, T3Cs currently are unrivaled as the true nomadic exploration vessel.

A vessel which also demands a great deal of its pilot in order to be flown without a single mistake since any decision, that of switching fits at a depo at a poor moment, deeming a site ‘safe’ to run or a gate green to jump in the wrong fit, could potentially cost said pilot a few billion in hull, loot and extra fittings. Closing up my bit and summing it up, more importantly to mention is that there is nothing that can take their place if any of these abilities get taken away.
That said i pass the mike back to Apothne.”

The original design goal for the T3C line (which may be a contentious point) was for it to be a be high-skill ship class in terms of game knowledge as well as SP, giving the availability of versatility and intelligent decisions to advanced players, rewarding both on and off grid mastery of EVE, with the downside of mistakes being at a greater cost which ended up taking the form both of large amounts of ISK as well as some associated SP. Overall, to increase the ceiling of efficacy for the higher skilled player while requiring a higher buy-in in terms of resources and competency. I’ll leave the discussion as to whether SP loss and interdiction invulnerability should be removed for another time as it’s somewhat more of an independent issue to the overall discussion of balance and design space compared to the other ships, though my inclination is that we would be better off without either.

Broadly speaking, I believe that the progression of a ship’s ability should not just be one of superior speed/tank and DPS, balanced by an exorbitant cost while requiring no more skill to fly than a lower ship class. It should not be a progression from a 5 DPS sword to a 10 DPS sword to a 15 DPS sword with on other changes to its nature and so on and so forth if we look at traditional fantasy games. While good in part, true endgame and maximum efficacy should be found through a combination of inherently stronger stats, but that in order to get the most out of the equipment it should require an increasing skill component by the user.

In EVE, a good example might be that of active modules that are stronger than passive modules which perform the same or similar role, but to truly get the most out of them you have to micromanage them well, as well as their improved potential outcome being offset by the downside of greater risk of being able to be neuted off and thus performing worse than the passive hardeners. We have seen an expansion of this idea in the thought process behind T3Ds as a high-end small ship (ideally requiring using multiple modes at correct times to get the most out of any engagement) and in the rework of fighters in carriers being something beyond just drones which you have to micro as you would in an RTS. Even the new doomsdays are to some extent “skill-shots” which you have to aim and time as well as you possibly can for maximum effect.


Rebalance

When we discuss a rebalance, in my mind that means specifically that we keep T3Cs largely in their current format, with the current subsystem groups and changing their bonuses and perhaps the base hull stats themselves.

One of the most popular changes which crop up again and again in this form is to reduce the number of rigs a T3C can use. T1 ships get 3, T2 get 2, why should T3 not get only one or even no rigs? This drastically reduces their ability to have raw HP from Core Defense Field Extenders and Trimarks and I believe is a genuinely elegant and reasonable part of a solution. The only drawbacks are one of consistency with the T3 Destroyers (which also have 3 rigs) and that rigs often serve to extend the breadth of capabilities of ships, the removal of which would inherently reduce the versatility and potential specialised/interesting applications of the hull.

My core concern (which may be entirely circumventable) with simply rebalancing the subsystems is the given that you have to have at least one defense subsystem and at least one offense subsystem, there will always be a “tanky non-active” subsystem and a “projection/DPS” subsystem, which will either result in a useable ship of the line, or the subsystems will both have to be so weak that the ship is effectively unusable in other roles. Similarly, increasing the sig radius sufficiently may require too much of an extreme that they are as large or even larger than battlecruisers, which seems silly unless we go the whole hog and change them to being T3BCs in the same way that T3Ds are Destroyers rather than Frigates.

One of the fundamental issues with rebalancing subsystems is that you are balancing four ships with five categories of subsystem, each with four options, requiring you to effectively balance 4096 potential spaceships and that’s before you even fit them. Doing so without leading to oppressive configurations and having meaningful choices without losing your sanity may lead to just making each subsystem so homogeneous and bland that no possible combination could ever be extreme in any sense, making the entire class itself bland and inoffensive without andy real strengths, specialised or otherwise.

Finally, subsystems are decisions you make before you undock, they do not directly allow for any increase to efficacy through skillful decision making and execution after you have undocked. Instead of swapping out subsystems here and there for different tasks, I and I believe many just buy multiple T3Cs with different layouts for different purposes.

Overall, while I’m not saying I think it’s impossible, I do believe that rebalancing T3Cs through the current subsystem format and achieving the design goals and full potential for fun of the ship class is a gargantuan and extraordinarily difficult process, even for the most brilliant of us (which I am most certainly not). Further, this laborious task will have to be repeated every time every time you rebalance the ship line meaning it is a consistent pain in the ass.


Redesign

What I hope for T3Cs is that CCP follow on from their experiments with T3Ds and expand upon it. When I say redesign, i mean fundamentally changing the hull, going away from the subsystem format and potentially towards the mode system we have seen on the Svipul, Hecate, Jackdaw and Confessor. If you’ll bear with me, I’d like to put forward my thoughts on what I believe a potential solution to the initial design goals of T3Cs may be. To be clear, I am not advocating that this is the only or best solution, just one I believe is exciting and satisfies both balance concerns as well as the core gameplay of the ship class.

Six modes; two offensive, two defensive and two utility with fixed slot layouts and fitting room. To be clear, this is not making three choices of one of two, but one choice of six, ideally with a reduced delay to being able to change modes over T3Ds. The options (broadly speaking) would approximately follow the following. I have purposefully left out specific numbers, as my rough numbers would lead to EFT warrioring and distraction from the core idea.

Long Range Offense: Flat Damage & Optimal/Falloff bonuses, Targeting Range bonuses
Short Range Offense: RoF & Tracking Bonuses, Scan Resolution bonuses
Active Defense: Bonuses to local active tank.
Passive Defense: Some combinations of Resistance/HP bonuses
EWAR Utility: Bonuses to the Tier 2 EWAR of each race + Scanning/Probing
Speed Utility: Bonuses to speed/agility, perhaps even warp speed

Clearly, this makes the use of these vessels as “F1-monkey” ships of the line in large scale combat extraordinarily risky and even a huge liability in the hands of pilots who aren’t paying full attention to what they’re doing, and even in utility roles in those fleets a high-skill job. Note that in the damage bonuses, RoF gives less alpha but higher raw DPS, which should be the purview of closer range ships. The more you commit, the more damage you want to do, the more you should have to risk, which in itself is why i hated Cerbs and Ishtars before them as the relationship of power vs committal being so skewed.

Let’s move onto the specific hulls and get a little more detailed, though naturally I am even more open minded to debate and just using filler the more specific I get.

Proteus

  • LRO: Bonuses to Hybrid Turret damage and Optimal and/or Falloff. Targeting Range bonus.
  • SRO: Bonuses to Hybrid turret RoF and tracking. Scan Resolution bonus
  • AD: The normal Gallente % bonus to armour repair amount.
  • PD: Bonuses to Armour Resistance & Hull resistance.
  • EU: Bonuses to point & scram range, potentially warp disruption amount a la the Maulus Navy Issue.
  • SU: Flat Agility & Velocity bonuses, possibly also warp speed.

Legion

  • LRO: Energy Turret Damage and Optimal bonuses. Targeting Range Bonus.
  • SRO: Energy Turret RoF and Tracking bonuses. Scan Resolution Bonus.
  • AD: Bonus to Capacitor amount/regen OR cycle time of local repair modules.
  • PD: Bonuses to Armour HP & Resistances.
  • EU: Neut Range and/or amount bonuses
  • SU: Flat Agility & Velocity bonuses, possibly also warp speed.

Tengu

  • LRO: Missile Damage and Velocity/Flight time bonuses. Targeting Range bonus.
  • SRO: Missile RoF and Explosion Velocity/Radius bonuses. Scan Resolution bonus.
  • AD: Bonus to Shield Regen OR cycle time of local repair modules.
  • PD: Bonuses to Shield Resistance and raw HP.
  • EU: Bonuses to ECM Strength and Optimal/Falloff.
  • SU: Flat Agility & Velocity bonuses, possibly also warp speed.

Loki

  • LRO: Projectile Damage and Falloff bonuses. Targeting Range bonus.
  • SRO: Projectile RoF and tracking bonuses. Scan Resolution bonus.
  • AD: Shield boost amount bonus.
  • PD: Shield Resist and Sig radius bonus.
  • EU: Stasis Webification Range bonus.
  • SU: Flat Agility & Velocity bonuses, possibly also warp speed.

These examples are largely just an aside to give a little more clarity to the idea with a prototype of sorts, it would certainly require the super smart Devs and players to debate and test what the exact bonuses and numbers to go with them should be, but hopefully seeing it inspires some idea in what using them would be like and what situations and parts of evolving and changing fights would require certain decisions.

The main flaws I see with these specific design decisions is the lack of a cloaking device which is currently a huge part of the use of T3Cs, though it may be a blessing in disguise increasing the room for Recons as a ship class, and even making room for a whole new class of ships. I am also not a PvE/Explorer, so my inclusion of those roles may be somewhat haphazard and flawed, I would be very interested in hearing in the comments what the appropriate way to give usefulness in that set of roles in this design idea would be.

Going into the back end game design part of things, I would imagine this is a much easier system to balance and compare than the myriad of subsystems we currently have, as well as being a non-trivial and consistent expansion of ideas for newer players to learn and grow into.

Overall, I am hoping that this design ethic not necessarily in the solution i proposed but in the effect i hoped the solution i presented has in mind is one we will see in the forthcoming changes. It is a fantastic topic of debate, and far more fun and rewarding that the latest bit of dumb nerd drama and I have really enjoyed the nature and approach community’s ideas and suggestions thus far. I would love to hear your thoughts on my ideas in the comments section or on twitter @CallMeApoth.

Tags: apothne, balance, t3c

About the author

Apothne

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.

  • MordenGeist

    An interesting read, Apothne. It is apparent you spent time thinking through pro’s and con’s instead of haphazardly flaming the T3C’s like most I see without any cognitive attempt at a solution.

    I, like you, am interested to see where this line of thought leads. Bravo, sir.

  • asdfasdf

    more importantly than making them interesting, I want to see a massive reduction in general power. I’d also like to stop seeing them everywhere as tanky baity scout tackle ships

    and apoth m8, rof bonuses are generally worse than damage bonuses, and tracking bonuses are generally worse than range bonuses. eve needs more short range play and less easy mid/long range f1 blobs

    • Apothne

      Here I specifically chose the RoF for short range as RoF will give more DPS overall (for the same % increase) but less alpha.

    • Cesare

      They are not easy to train into, and were made to be the upper tier of Cruisers, to fill the game between them and higher end/slower ships. If it bothers you so much then train up and fly a TC3 and stop complaining about it. It’s always people who don’t fly a certain ship that want to see every other ship nerfed to useless. They are currently balanced fairly well, they do the job they are suppose to do very, very well. There are enough differences between the races that it matters which you choose to fly and each have their place different from the others. I trained all 4 because of this very reason and use them for different purposes.

  • Provi Miner

    hmm my first thought was “why not use SRO with long range weapons” as that would give you a decent Kite ship (not great as you do lose some range).

  • Hendrik

    T3 Cruiser/subsystem Production is vital to the WH economy. A redesign of T3C might take away a big chunk of Wh income, …..may it be via less demand for the changed hull or may it be via deleting the subsystems

    I myself have never lived in a whormhole, so i have no idea what (economic) goales a T3 rebalancing should have. I remind the author and the other readers of the big changes T1/T2 production have undergone in the last 3 years. The new structures and their modules for sure present new opportunities for T3 production

    • AMA

      You could always make subsystems a material instead of something you equip, and require them as part of T3C construction.

      • Muul Udonii

        That would be too complicated. There would be 125 different Tengus you could buy off the market.

  • Eve player

    Need another mode for RR and either some more resistance or capacitor recharge/ bonus to cap transfer. Would like to have T3 be as good as command battlecruiser in giving bonuses just less command bursts. IE native role bonus to have command bursts. Maybe a role that gives more command bursts. Just think command battlecruiser are to slow and have to much mass. Would be fun to fly with multi T3s all giving a command bursts out. Command destroyers are fun but they don’t have the ehp to live in a cruiser battle. if they take away cov-ops they need to fix recons.

    • asdfasdf

      there’s really no reason for them to do everything, it just makes them more likely to be a gamebreaking mess like what we have now

      • Illiander

        If they could do everything, but not as well as the T2 specialised ships, that would be fine.

        So when fit as a HAC, an actual HAC will outperform them, when fit as a recon, an actual recon will outperform them, etc…

        The problem is that they allow people pick their midpoints, so putting together something that is 1/3rd recon and 1/3rd HAC, and finding that in practice it’s more effective than either.

        • Rook Onzo

          I totally agree with this. I would love to see BC, and HACS filling more of the fleet front line role while th T3 cruisers provide adaptable niche roles that are good but not better than the T2 specialized ship roles that you are talking about. You must give up something to have that adaptability.
          Also moving T3Cs to the backburner I think would bring more content back into the game. I think the loss of skill points hurts peoples willingness to undock and do stuff more than they think. I would rather fly logi than a T3C due to cost and skill cost associated with the loss.
          Make the Drake and T1 battleships, Hacs great again. T3Cruisers should not fill all of these roles!!!

  • Illiander

    Explo player here, who was (and is) following the discussion about T3Cs very closely.

    T3Cs are currently the natural upgrade to the Stratios. As far as I (as an explo player) am concerned, I am looking at a T3C because it’s a nullified Stratios (therefore safer around gates) with the ability to run combat sites that the Stratios cannot.

    If you cannot fit the “new” T3Cs as an improvement over a Stratios, then there will be little reason for me to sit in one.

    Basically, explo players use T3Cs because they can switch between scanner-ship, Victorinox Luxury Yacht, ratting ship, and small ganking ship with one hull and a mobile depo.

  • What about sub systems that provide bonuses beyond the racial norm of the ship? HAM Legion, etc. Very good read, I found it very interesting.

  • Solaris Vex

    “Clearly, this makes the use of these vessels as “F1-monkey” ships of the line in large scale combat extraordinarily risky”. Won’t the FC will just tell people what mode to use?

    • Bad

      Of course not. You want people swapping modes on their own to dramatically increase fleet efficiency. Only people getting shot at should be in tank modes, anyone not should be in speed or damage modes.

  • Greg Boyd

    Stopped reading at “I don’t like T3’s being able to warp through bubbles”

    Take your shit idea and fuck yourself with it.

    • Foxstar Damaskeenus

      I don’t think you love Jesus.

    • Cesare

      Everyone that uses warp bubbles wants to catch every ship passing through. I agree, those people should take their shit idea and fuck themselves.

  • Lucas Grey

    These ships are not low SP to fly. Hull plus cheapest sub-systems cost more than the T2 equal. If you want to trash the WH community this is a great way to do it. WH do not have moon goo, why? Because of Null sec. Why screw the T3… because of Null Sec. Just make all of EvE like null sec and be done with.

  • Darkwing

    If removing the subsystems also increases server side performance dramatically its a no brainer. Maybe an option for a drone boat, and the ability to have t3c logi? I guess that is only really needed if they are still nullified.

    It would be really nice if they did a small balance pass on t1c (if they are needed) and/also HAC’s as well all at the same time.

    One thing I think we can all agree on, is regardless of what the changes are there will be huge amounts of bitching and moaning from all people.

  • Lugiathan

    What if T3Cs carried two of each rack type? For example, a Proteus could fit rails to it’s LRO high slots and blasters to it’s SRO high slots. Or a Legion could fit Pulses to it’s LRO highs and neutralizers to it’s SRO highs. To be balanced, they would have to be weaker than their equivalent HACs but make up for it in versatility.

    With this added on to your idea, I think it would be fair to allow T3Cs to have 3 modes active at the same time, one for each rack.

    If we really wanted to go all out on their versatility, T3Cs could have a 4th rack that can swap between a selection few default modules like cloak+probes / medium cap booster / 50m/bits worth of drones / etc.

  • Tilda

    I love the idea of reworking T3C’s. I don’t like the idea of modes, such as those we know from TD’s.
    A good rework should improve balance without reducing the options and choices.

    What if,
    – T3C’s can switch modules and rigs at a mobile depot but can switch subsystems only if docked or at a POS hangar?
    – subunits provide rig slots (some of them do, others do not); when you switch a subsystem the according rig is destroyed as well?

    Would that be enough of a balance?

  • Daytrip

    I should be able to fit an oversized prop mod on a ship with 200k EHP, it better do 600DPS, and it should have the same general sig radius as a cruiser! I also want to be safe from bubbles. And EWAR all the things. When I’m not cloaked of course.

  • Lekly

    The problem with this idea is once you undock, it is unlikely that you would switch between the settings. You would be fit for either long or short range, active or passive, agility or Ewar. At best, you would be choosing to focus on offense, defense, or utility while flying like T3Ds.

  • Skellytoon

    While I am by no means an expert in many areas of EVE, I did have some ideas back when T3D’s were added to revamp the T3C mechanics to match the new (and in my opinion fantastic) mode switching that came goth the T3D release.

    The rough idea is this:

    Rather than having a wide combination of predefined roles that are chosen during fitting by way of subsystems, or very little ability to diversify through fitting which is seen with mode switching, I would like to see a combination of the two. Perhaps the subsystems become the basic premise of the ship, like deciding if it will be passive or active tank, what offense it will have (guns, missiles, drones, logistics, etc.), what speed bonus it gets (AB, MWD, or gain nullification). These subsystems then translate to the modes that can be used in space, just like in T3D’s, except in this case you have the ability to decide the bonuses you gain in each of the three roles. I would even consider adding a fourth mode dedicated to ewar, or generally all of the other modules. This mode would be the place for exploration bonuses, remote tracking bonuses, and ewar bonuses, potentially allowing T3C’s to fulfill support roles in fleets in a more diverse way than the tinker compositions that found massive popularity in the AT. Obviously I’m no expert at game balancing, but I feel that one of the key parts of good game design is having variety. I don’t mean having a lot of options, I mean having variety. By limiting the amount of overall options T3C’s get in their fittings I feel that we will see more variety in the ships people are flying. I love the offense, defense, and speed modes that the T3D’s introduced, and I feel they should remain the main mechanic of all T3 ships, but that as they progressively require more and more SP they should also give more variety (hence the fourth mode). The final idea I had may be a bit too much of a change. As a logi pilot I’ve always really enjoyed the idea of the triage module, it adds important variety to logistics for experienced logi pilots, and while it has been changed a lot since the days of fit swapping triage archons I feel it is still a mechanic that adds skill to a relatively dull area of the game. I’m sure you can see where this is going, but I’d like to see something similar on T3 hulls. Obviously I’m aware of the dangers inherent in giving a subcapital that kind of power, but I feel the idea of giving massive burst healing at the risk of not being able to recover any support yourself means fights are more dynamic, and less of a pure battle of damage amounts vs repair amounts. This idea can be seen to a lesser extent in ancillary repair modules, where the bursts of HP are balanced by a long reload time. Perhaps having a similar idea to one of the two, giving logi the ability to stop a massive amount of damage for a short period of time, but with a downside (as an extreme example it could give bonus to repairs, remove repair capacitor requirement, but reduce your capacitor to zero either during use or for a duration afterwords).

    Obviously none of these are perfect ideas, but I hope they are enough to portray a good idea of one way to change the T3 hulls.

  • Cesare Borgia

    Not very happy about the suggested changes. When you pilot a ship for as long as I have, you have a certain play style you might have developed over years of time, years! You train specific skills to compliment the ship you sit in. When the Tengu was nerfed before, it altered my play style, I of course learned to change but it was not nearly as huge a difference as what is being suggested here.

    Perhaps a better option would be to create an entire new T3C for each race, and then phase out the old design over a year or maybe two. This would allow players to adapt to the new design while still being viable in the ship they sit in right now. Changes like these, specially in regards to T3Cs will affect a huge percentage of the players.

    It sometimes seems that CCP is more interested in new players and attracting them, than retaining the players who have spent years in the game. I understand we need new fresh players, but not at the cost of loosing players who spent so many years playing a game they love. Changing basic systems drastically like the new scanning system, or the browser specially when Dotlan was so useful is annoying, but these suggested changes seem far more disruptive and only really benefit people who will be training in the future.

    I think CCP should make it an option to redeem trained skills if players find they don’t like the new ships. If not, all those skill points will go wasted unless you spend a lot more isk/money to extract them. We as players shouldn’t be punished for our loyalty, in fact none of these changes would be able to be made without our subscriptions or plexing. I hope CCP does a better job considering these things than they have in the past. If not, I have a bad feeling that there will be an exodus of unhappy players looking for a new way to spend their free time.