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Why HACs Have to Die

 

Before I go into the main thrust of this little tirade, I’d like to lay out my personal thoughts on what the various ‘Techs’ of EVE should achieve to properly differentiate themselves. These kinds of distinctions must be made within the game to ensure inter-class balance, and to prevent balancing from consisting of simple, general buffs.

Tech 1 ships are relatively well cemented within the game. They’re cheap ships that can perform the tasks that are fundamentally necessary to the game’s function on a basic level. They do damage, take some damage, and thanks to T1 logi, can repair it as well.

Navy faction ships should be similar to Tech 1 ships, but be improved along the lines of what the race expects or needs for fleet or solo combat. This is another goal that has been relatively well met in the current balancing paradigms, with Apocalypse Navy Issues and Tempest Fleet Issues being well regarded as capable nullsec doctrines, as they provide the benefits of their T1 counterparts in addition to a greater tank (and room to fit utility modules in the latter).

Pirate faction ships should break some fundamental rule of the game, and for a most part do this well. The Sansha, Angel Cartel and Blood Raider lines being especially notable in this regard, with “An AB should be slower than an MWD”, “Nosferatus only drain when you’re below the targets cap” and “That Battleship/Cruiser/Frigate warps slower than my Cruiser/Frigate/Interceptor” being the rules they break. Note that these aren’t specialisations. They don’t take an existing role and advance it, they create entirely new and divergent roles for themselves by breaking said roles.

Tech 2 ships should take an existing role, be it repairing other ships, providing E-war, or tackling and specialise in that one specific area at the cost of others. This does fall apart somewhat when one considers stealth bombers and black ops battleships, as they specialise in completely new areas, but given that their main focus is on being stealthy at the cost of all else, they do fit into the ‘specialist’ role I assign to Tech 2’s.

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Tech 3 ships should be adaptable, customisable vessels that can be changed either on the fly, or just prior to combat, to be able to fill many divergent roles, whilst doing so somewhat worse than a specialist ship in the area.

Seeing as Tech 3’s in general are in the crosshairs of the infamous CCP Bat once again, with many solutions aiming to bring them back in line with a vision that is – according to the minutes from the last summit – similar to my own preferred place for them, we must consider what impact this will have on the fleet composition meta of EVE. Assuming that the nerfs will most likely take the form of the removal of rigs, and are compensated with something that more greatly benefits their adaptability, such as an inbuilt mobile depot to change subs/mods in space, many will be looking for a new cruiser doctrine to take to the skies with.

Battleships will not suddenly become the roaming ships de jure because Tech 3’s are nerfed, as the current state of strategic mobility through wormholes or gate travel precludes Battleships getting to fights due to either mass, or sheer time constraints in both respective cases. Plus, once they do arrive, they lack any meaningful way of forcing an opponent to commit to a fight. This being the case, people’s sights will inevitably return to a long problematic class of ships, the heavy assault cruiser.

“What is bad, however, is that there is no specialisation inherent to the class.”

HACs have historically had a lot of use, for the same reasons that strategic cruisers and tactical destroyers are prevalent now. They fill a very bland role, having a good balance of DPS/tank/signature/projection, and being able to get to fights. That’s not a bad thing, as recons are used in nearly every combat fleet (the exception being when Tech 3’s overshadow them due to tank reasons). What is bad, however, is that there is no specialisation inherent to the class. And whilst individual ships have evolved to fill very specific roles through fits and their existing bonuses, the class itself has no clear goal.

There were attempts to remedy this by giving it a role bonus to MWD bloom, with the intent of making the class revolve specifically around low signature kiting, which ended up being yet another shot of steroids into the monstrosity that was the 2014/2015 Ishtar. It also seemed useless to the previously strong, but now hilariously underutilised AB-HACs which were popular since, well, when I started playing.

Some of this is just the tides of nerfs and buffs that inevitably roll through the game, with innovations and changes in weapon strengths or other ancillary factors all of which make a comp viable within the meta game, but I believe at least some of it comes from the lack of direction for the class. If you asked most people what HACs specifically were intended to be, it’s my firm belief that – unlike with Tech 3’s, where the intent was undermined by degenerate fittings and proliferation – most would simply answer to the effect of “better cruisers”. This lack of direction means that they have become a ball of stats, which are tweaked to bring each individual HAC in and out of relevance as its weapon system is buffed or nerfed, without fulfilling a specific role for which it can be balanced to achieve.

sacrilege

What I propose to solve this is the splitting of the HAC class into two separate categories (hopefully sharing the HAC skill), fire-support HACs & anti-support HACs. Through this, different role bonuses and balancing thought could be applied to each to allow them to fill their own specialised role within a fleet composition, or pulled together as the mainline ship of a doctrine built to revolve around a more specialised style.

Fire-support HACs comprise of an existing class that’s already baked into the HAC lineup. The Ishtar, Eagle, Munnin and to some degree the Zealot fill this role. Though they all have different fits at the current time, their most notable strength is in one area: their ability to project damage at long ranges. Grouping these together within the HAC class and giving them shared, new role bonuses to represent this would provide both a contrast to the other HACs, and give a specific direction to them. Whilst I won’t talk numbers specifically, as that’s something that could be endlessly pulled apart in the comments, and rightfully so, I’d consider something along the lines of a tracking penalty combined with the continuation of their existing (and somewhat loathed) double range bonuses, whilst keeping their MWD Bloom reduction and great slipperiness to provide a perfect kiting platform, along with buffs to their base stats (lock range/sensor strength) to reduce their susceptibility to E-war.

Anti-support HACs on the other hand would come from the other end of the scale, being built with close range, high application weapon systems in mind. This already exists in part with the Vagabond. However, changes to the Sacrilege, Cerberus and Deimos would have to be made to suit this role. Their bonuses would have to be adjusted or replaced, and they would lose the MWD bloom bonus, to be replaced with a baked-in tracking bonus. These ships would not gain the same buffs to lock range or sensor strength as fire-support HACs, instead gaining more base HP and scan res, to provide (as the name suggests) a dedicated, specialised anti-tackle and anti-bomber platform for fleets. Alternatively, a low projection, high application based doctrine ship which can commit to a fight hard in the way strategic cruisers did previously, but without being meta-chokingly overpowered.

“I believe that these changes would help curb the projection creep that Tech 3’s introduced to the game”

I believe that these changes would help curb the projection creep that Tech 3’s introduced to the game, without completely removing the ability for groups to third party on fights without directly committing to the assault (something I personally do not like, but recognise as a part of CCP’s current direction), by locking the projection given into specific hulls, with reciprocal bonuses that specialise them in that exact area and role. In addition, anti-support HACs help fill a role that has been somewhat lacking in the game, as well as providing a new, shiny alternative for those who want to go balls deep in a fight when compared to the (assumedly nerfed) Tech 3’s.

I welcome feedback and criticism, and hope that we can have a discussion on what role HACs should play within the meta, as well as what each tech level should aim to represent.

Tags: balancing, HAC, heavy assault cruisers, Jin'taan

About the author

Jin'taan

Jin'taan has had a long and somewhat varied career in EvE, starting just after the release of Tyrannis and pretty much never stopping. Currently he resides within CVA and the Providence region, having considerable experience with both FCing and (poorly) solo PvPing under their banner.

  • Talvorian Dex

    A worthwhile article. I’ve felt for a while that we need a class dedicated to clearing tackle that won’t be immediately smote off the field. Perhaps that’s the role for assault frigates, though. For my money, “heavy assault cruisers” should be more simply divided into two categories… ones that deal the heavy assault (but have a light tank) and once that can take the heavy assault (but do minimal damage). Hard tackle, anyone?

    • no way

      Hard tackle…do you perhaps mean a HIC…which exist and recently got buffed in that very role.

    • Jack Jomar

      Or HAC = glass cannon, and HIC = tank’n’tackle.

  • wild things

    Complete garbage

  • alfius

    That’s a lot of pretty tenuous instances of ‘should’ up there mister.

  • A Merc

    To be honest I kind of like the whole flexibility that the class has to offer, sure there a couple that could do with a buff, (odd enough the Vaga seems expensive for what it is when compared to other navy skirmish ships.).

    I would argue that you can still effectively use a HACs fleets against the T3s, (HML Cerbs) the advantaged is that the T3s have such strong tanks so they scale much better.

    I think the issue with the ship eco-system is finding a role for the larger sub cap classes, (BC, none command / BS) in null-sec warfare when bomber wings and poor mobility means you risk getting pinned and annihilated. Although I open up the possibility the meta hasn’t been explored there for a while.

  • N0Taqua

    Disagree with the overall premise. HACs don’t need some major change to make them fit a definition of T2. Their specializations are “combat” in whichever type of combat they’re good at. Recons are the specialized E-war T2s, Logi are the specialized repair T2s, and HACs are the specialized “shooting” T2s.

  • Jasek Steiner

    I would have them put Zealots into the “Anti-Support” category, only because of their sister-ships, the Omen and the Nomen, both of which are very well known for wiping frigates and destroyers off the grid with relative ease. So the Zealot should further specialize in this area.

    • Jasek Steiner

      I would also like to point out, that with the new grappler webs, I think BS’s will suddenly find themselves in a revival across Eve, now that they can apply damage alot better to close range frigates, destroyers, and cruisers.

  • HVAC Repairman

    i thought this said “Why HVACs need to die” and was going to mad post

    • Fearlesslittletoaster

      But doesn’t that keep you in a job, since you are essentially an HVAC necromancer?

  • Christopher Gargani

    I mean, their role seems to be “deal and take damage well”, same as a Assault Frigates but cruiser class. That said, I really like this idea. It takes that general idea and specializes it more.

  • JZ909

    Good discussion starter! I like the idea of splitting HACs into two categories, but when it comes to finding roles for those categories, I think it’s important to make sure that the role is unique, and that it has strong counters.

    The idea of a short-range, heavy-tanking, fast-tracking ship is good, but it overlaps quite a bit with navy battlecruisers. I would emphasis one of the key strengths of cruisers over battlecruisers in a short-range fight: Better damage mitigation through sig tanking. I would give these ships a low base speed (so they don’t become oppressive kiters), but an afterburner bonus to increase their survivability. They would easily be able to stay under the guns of enemy battleships or long-range battlecruisers (unlike navy battlecruisers), and would be able to kite short-range battlecruisers when using long-range weapons if flown carefully. Their hard counter would be navy battlecruisers.

    I think the idea of a long-range, heavy hitting cruiser is a straight higher tier replacement for combat battlecruisers. Instead, I would focus on another cruiser trait: High speed. This one is going to sound radical, but I would give these ships a high base speed (think Vagabond) and a role bonus where scrams don’t turn off their MWD, they just reduce its speed bonus by a % amount. This would be balanced by giving them too little fitting to be effective with long range guns, and stripping them of all other bonuses except a damage or rate of fire bonus. Basicly, these ships would serve the role of heavy tackle, and would be able to force brawls, but they would be vulnerable to any group of ships due to their giant MWD bloom.

  • jedi2015

    I think you are reading a bit more from the minutes about the removal of the rigslots on t3 cruisers, then can Be Safely assumed. The minutes read more to me that they Will allow existing rigs to get replaced instead of the current destroyed before replacing rits,, with a afterthought about removing rigslots altogether.

  • Kamar Raimo

    Interesting article despite the clickbaity title. However, wouldn’t it make more sense to use the AF class as anti-support? I like the sig-tanking focus though. That would make them viable as ships to use in nullsec fleets and useful against heavier ships while potentially retaining a lock-speed parity with frigates in combat against them.

  • asdf

    T1 destroyers are what’s supposed to kill frigates the best. but it’s so easy to kill frigates in this game that you don’t need them, and also they die instantly because they’re slower than cruisers and have frigate hp. I think we should be going for fleets with a mix of classes. I don’t want to just see a bunch of different cruiser varieties, all conveniently with the high resists and hitpoints so they can form part of a logistics blob. that shit’s boring.

    I think tracking bonuses are not so good in blobs. nobody is going to want a fleet of ships with tracking bonuses over a fleet of ships with range bonuses. you can get 1 guy to fit 1 target painter, and it effectively replicates a tracking bonus for every ship in fleet. and webs are effectively +massive% tracking, it’s just so easy to hit stuff.

    I don’t think T3Cs really have more range, the problem with them is their design is really boring and shit, and also they have something like 3x the hitpoints of other cruisers.

  • Fearlesslittletoaster

    This would all come down to one question, namely would there be a way to reliably stop the fire support HACs from evading all attempts at getting tackle? Making an entire ship class of better Slippery Petes is just a recipe for hate and insanity.

  • Mikelovskij

    Kind of like the idea, but isn’t there the risk to make these new classes a bit too omogeneous between various races? I’m thinking for example at how covops and bombers are, where since they have a very specific role they also have only small differences between the various races variants.