Analysis: Spring Update Nerfs FAX, Capital Balance, and PVE

Guilford Australis 2019-03-18

Header Art by Major Sniper

CCP announced on Wednesday, March 13 a forthcoming balance update that will reduce the effectiveness of many popular ship types, make some easier to kill, and lower the insurance payouts on others. The largest changes will affect capital ships – including the Rorqual capital mining platform – but some subcapitals will also see significant adjustments. INN reported a summary of the announcement, and with more than 1500 comments on the associated forum feedback thread, this article will examine some implications of the proposed changes.

Force Auxiliary

CCP outlined possible changes to capital logistics platforms in the summer of 2018 after hinting for many months that such measures were under consideration. Response from the player community regarding Force Auxiliary nerfs was largely supportive, which may have contributed to the developer’s decision to weaken FAX effectiveness even further than was initially proposed. Whereas CCP had previously planned to increase both the duration and capacitor need of Capital Remote Armor Repair and Shield Boosting modules while reducing total bonus of the Triage module, yesterday’s announcement instead laid out a system of diminishing returns for all remote repair and capacitor transmitter modules.

According to CCP’s calculations, reps will be 80% effective with 15 capital repair modules (or five FAX) on the same target. Effectiveness drops to 50% with 38 capital reps (ten or eleven FAX). CCP have scaled the diminishing return to total repair applied so, for example, small remote repair modules do not negate the effectiveness of capital modules on the same target. This mechanic, though it was designed to address capital logistics balance, will affect subcap logistics as well. It is difficult at this time to determine how significant this impact will be, though CCP did need to clarify in the feedback thread that Remote Armor and Shield modules will have separate diminishing returns. As a result of this clarification, Goonswarm Military Director Asher Elias stated on the March 16 Meta Show that he feels this provides a significant bonus to the Erebus and a lesser bonus to other armor supercapital ships, as they can fit shield-tanking midslot modules without affecting their primary armor tank, receiving maximum benefit with very little downside.

Notably, CCP did not implement a change some players had anticipated to prevent FAX from repairing subcapital ships, so depending on how players adapt to these incoming changes, this may still be on the horizon.

Titans, Dreadnoughts, and High Angle Weapons

High Angle Weapons, capital-sized modules featuring high tracking capabilities for use against subcapital ships, are used by both dreadnoughts and titans to target subcapital ships. However, CCP suggested that the anti-subcap role of dreadnoughts is reasonably well balanced at present, whereas titans are able to apply far too much damage when HAW-fit for a similar role. The developer will cut the damage multiplier for all HAW modules in half, then offset the penalty for dreadnoughts by giving a 100% bonus to HAW damage while in Siege Mode. As a result, dreadnoughts will be the only capital ship type to retain the full damage potential of these weapons.

The effect on titans will primarily be felt in situations where pilots wish to clear hostile interdictors and other tackle without relying on subcapital reinforcements to do the job for them. This process will be significantly more difficult with HAW-fit titans producing half the DPS they used to – and applying only a fraction of that DPS to the small tackling subcapitals due to destroyer and cruiser signature radius and speed. In spite of CCP’s efforts to spare dreadnoughts from negative effects, an obvious consequence of this change is that dreadnought pilots will need to activate their Siege Module and sit motionless for five minutes every time they want to use these weapons effectively. This largely defeats the point of HAW-fit dreads, which are often deployed in a more mobile role than long-range fit dreads that can generally afford to park in Siege Mode while shooting structures or other capital and supercapital ships.

CCP also targeted dreadnoughts for a reduction in insurance payout, which previously had been quite generous. Indeed, Platinum insurance currently returns nearly the entire value of a dreadnought hull. This will be reduced by 33%, making losses more consequential. The days of disposable dread-bombs jumping deep into hostile territory to dunk a tackled supercapital, with Fleet Commanders and line pilots willing to suffer heavy losses due to the largesse of the insurance system, may soon come to an end. As an aside for anyone paying insurance for their titans, the associated insurance payouts will be cut in half, so you may want to consider whether this remains a worthwhile proposal.

Carriers and Supercarriers

Both carriers and supercarriers will experience the same insurance reductions as dreadnoughts and titans, with carrier payouts reduced by 33% and supercarrier payouts by 50%. As noted above with regard to dreadnoughts, these changes will almost certainly cause alliances to be more cautious with their capital and supercap reserves, only deploying them for objectives with enough strategic value to justify the risk of disastrous losses no longer underwritten by sturdy insurance policies.

CCP also added a nerf to fighter application that the developer claims is intended to handicap their effectiveness against subcapitals. Fighters will see an increase in explosion radius of 15% and explosion velocity reduced by 30%. In layman’s terms, this means that attack damage will more greatly disperse against smaller targets, particularly fast-moving targets. This will make it difficult for carrier and supercarrier pilots to continue applying damage effectively against tackle and other small subcapitals – and also many NPC rats (more on that later).

Finally, the Networked Sensor Array, a powerful module that increases the scan resolution of carriers and supercarriers, will now disable the ability to warp during its 60-second cycle. This too will have an impact on ratting capital pilots, who will now be forced to make a choice about whether they can justify such immobility, without affecting the large-scale PVP battles that tend to happen over a single location.

Rorquals

Judging by comments on the official feedback thread, players were very eager indeed to see CCP’s plans to nerf the capital mining ship. Citing long-term market instability, perhaps caused by inflation due to a flood of ores that were once relatively scarce, CCP has reduced the yield of ‘Excavator’ Mining Drones from 1000m3 to 800m3 and lengthened the harvest cycle of ‘Excavator’ Ice Harvesting Drones from 250s to 310s. Rorquals will become easier to kill and more expensive to lose with reduction of the PANIC module duration to a base of 4 minutes (6 minutes at maximum skills), 50% and 46.5% reductions to the shield booster bonus provided by T1 and T2 Industrial Cores, and larger volume for ‘Excavator’ drones – 1100m3 (compared to the current 750m3), meaning that only three will fit in a ‘Wetu’ Mobile Depot rather than all five. Rorquals using ‘Excavators’ will now drop or lose at least two of them when destroyed in space.

CCP attempts to compensate for this battery of nerfs by slightly boosting the mining foreman burst bonus (up from 25% to 30% for T1, 36% from 30% for T2) in hopes that more players will utilize the Rorqual in a supportive role for a mining fleet instead of viewing it as the endgame solo mining platform. This was, in fact, the role it performed prior to the introduction of ‘Excavator’ drones in the Ascension expansion of December 2016. It may be significant that this is the only section of the devblog in which CCP acknowledges that further changes may implemented if these ones produce unintended consequences for the mining landscape or the economy of EVE.

Subcapitals

Seemingly leaving no stone unturned, CCP fixed its gaze upon an assortment of subcapitals to which nerfs and buffs were applied for various reasons. All changes can be found in the announcement (linked at the top), but the most significant ones are the removal of the Vexor Navy Issue’s drone max velocity bonus, an increase in the VNI’s signature radius from 135m to 145m, and the reduction of the Gila’s drone HP role bonus from 500% to 250%. Many readers will note that the VNI and Gila are among the most potent and ubiquitous ships in EVE for PVE activities ranging from low-level ratting to Abyssal sites. Without offering any specific reasons, CCP expressed that changes to these very popular platforms are intended “to help make room for new options.”

Some other subcapital changes to note are the increase in powergrid for the Corax destroyer, which may be enough to provide a competitor to Talwar, and also a series of small nerfs to the currently-dominant Ferox battlecruiser. The changes to the Ferox will make it easier to hit due to an increased signature radius and decreases in base velocity and agility numbers, while the addition of a million kilograms of mass will see Ferox fleets become more difficult to maneuver through wormholes. However, the Ferox has not seen any reduced offensive capabilities, so it will still be a platform of choice to combat Heavy Assault Cruisers, and other battlecruisers.

Unintended Consequences?

CCP acknowledges that capital balance has been a persistent and difficult part of the game’s ongoing development, and most players who have spent a significant amount of time outside of highsec will recognize this to be quite true. Some of the changes planned for the spring balance pass are manifestly necessary: the insurance payouts for dreadnoughts and carriers have long been exploited by nullsec alliances to enable bold actions they would not have considered if the losses carried any real financial impact. Likewise, virtually all of EVE has risen in opposition to the current dominance of the Rorqual as a solo mining platform, and it is clear that continuing adjustments are necessary to bring the ship back in line with CCP’s expectations for it.

However, the proposed changes also broadcast obvious secondary effects and unintended consequences. For example, HAW nerfs change the role of dreadnoughts in spite of CCP’s stated goal of sparing them from the effects of a change in balance to titans using the same weapon type. It is difficult to imagine dreadnought pilots activating their Siege Module for a mandatory five minute halt every time they need to use HAWs without suffering a 50% damage penalty. Similarly, carrier and supercarrier pilots will find their ratting activities hampered by nerfs intended to make those ships less effective at opposing subcapital ships in PVP combat. The new warp-disabling effect of the Networked Sensor Array seems designed specifically to punish PVE pilots who use carriers to run lucrative nullsec anomalies (this is one specific change that may be intended to hurt the low-hanging fruit of the botting tree, by hurting those botters not willing or able to change their code, though of course CCP would never confirm such a thing). Along with adjustments to the respawn rates of such anomalies seemingly intended to make ratting less profitable, these adjustments may impact the engagement of players who make most of their money from such activities.

Such a conclusion is difficult to avoid considering CCP nerfed even the lowly VNI – a staple of ratting income for new nullsec pilots. Given the number of pilots who depend on the ability to fund the advanced subcapital ships and capital ship types utilized by nullsec alliances through VNI ratting, it is not difficult to imagine that many will feel that CCP has aimed these nerfs squarely at them and potentially disengage from pursuing opportunities in EVE at all. The skill gap – and cost gap – between VNI ratting and carrier ratting is high enough that this outcome seems likely, particularly considering that carrier ratting has been noticeably nerfed through this update. Finally, CCP’s nerf of the Gila – one of the most popular ships for running the Abyssal sites, in which the developer has invested so much time and clearly hopes for greater engagement from players – seems almost an afterthought designed to irritate the players who are working hardest to make Abyssal content successful for EVE.

As CCP acknowledges, time will tell whether the updates will achieve something approaching their desired effects. For now, players continue to contemplate what these far-reaching changes will entail for the balance of EVE Online.

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Comments

  • Menaiya

    Some of these nerfs seem overkill. The main reason vni are used is the fact they are cost effective.

    March 18, 2019 at 12:35 pm
    • Mick Menaiya

      Still will be. The nerfs are mostly, but not quite entirely, redundant and will not have a significant* impact on VNI turnover.

      * when I say significant, certainly not enough to stop massive bot farms abusing the things endlessly. A few percent at most, and most of that can be recovered via fitting adjustments and SP investment.

      March 21, 2019 at 5:10 am
      • Alaric Faelen Mick

        So what you’re saying is that once again CCP introduces changes that hurt individual players and have virtually no effect on botters?

        Color me unsurprised.

        March 22, 2019 at 2:19 am
    • Winston Smith Menaiya

      Well Myrmidons are probably more worth it now than VNI’s for ratting. Cheaper too. Ishtars will also be much more worth it since the ISK per tick will be much higher instead of only slightly higher. ROI will still be pretty high for Ishtar but if you are watching Intel you shouldn’t be losing Ishtars to Gankers. The Speed nerf shouldn’t be that big a difference in Hubs anyways since the Rats aren’t that far apart. You could always try smartbomb ratting and farming 6/10 escalations.

      March 21, 2019 at 5:54 pm
  • Lrrp

    I’ve been around too long to give credence to CCP. They have a long history of introducing something that they never really thought about the long term consequences and ultimately had to nerf. Titans being a great example. They were going to be so expensive that only a alliance pocketbook could afford them. Still true? Or the Titan AOE that was going to help reduce large subcap fleets…until we learned how to tank for 1 AOE blast and started killing Titans. Then CCP decided to remove the AOE and thus nerf the Titan. Many of you can come up with other stupid, ill thought out introductions that led to subsequent nerfs .
    What CCP doing now is just following a long history of their inability to fully think out a introduction of a item or the items in a patch.
    What they need to do is have input from knowledgeable players that are more capable of seeing the long term effects.

    March 18, 2019 at 1:13 pm
    • Falin Whalen Lrrp

      So like a council of knowledgeable players, that they [CCP] can confer with about upcoming changes, to see if they will have the necessary effect with as few unintended consequences? Make it an elected position. Heck even fly them out to CCP HQ maybe twice a year for face to face conversations. Since EvE is a spaceship game have this “council” have an appropriately SIFI name, like Galactic Senate, or Council of Stellar Management.

      Eh, It will never work. You will have people who think they know better than those on the council, griping on any forum that “THEY” know better than those idiots on the council. Another possibility people not on the council will complain about is; that those on the council are feeding upcoming changes back to the alliances they are part of, so that they are better prepared for those changes and have an advantage over everyone else. On the opposite end of things, you will have some complain that the council doesn’t do anything, or it is all a CCP PR stunt, why would CCP listen to “THOSE GUYS”.

      It’s doomed to failure, I mean it is CCP after all, they will probably half-ass it anyway, ignore the council and just go about implementing half-assed changes that this council warned them was a bad idea anyway.

      March 18, 2019 at 4:26 pm
  • Punky260

    I actually like all of these changes. They might have “side effects”, but I don’t think that CCP hasn’t thought about these.
    For example, the Siege + HAW problem. This seems very intentional to me. A dreadnought should only unfold it’s real potential in siege – why should that not be true against subcaps? It makes sense that, if you want to shoot smal targets with big cannons, you need to “commit” your cannon and have a risk. The siege modul is perfect for that and it is only fair, that the consequences of siege affect all areas a dreadnought operates in.

    For me all the other changes seem reasonable. And although I don’t like making less money with ratting/mining, it is a necessary change to adjust to the current meta.

    March 18, 2019 at 2:37 pm
  • porky75

    I would love it if CCP came out and just stated their PVE goals as opposed to letting us guess them on the basis of their changes. For PVP, CCP provides strong and detailed arguments for their attempts (even if people disagree wit their reasoning). For PVE, they sneak in changes and hope we don’t notice or kick up too much of a fuss.

    Porky

    March 18, 2019 at 11:13 pm
    • Alaric Faelen porky75

      I totally agree. I finally broke down and trained for a carrier because that seemed like what CCP intended as a progression for ratting in null sec. As soon as I get one, CCP decides that is bad and nerfs the things. Guess I missed out on that pot of gold.

      March 20, 2019 at 5:39 am
      • Winston Smith Alaric Faelen

        There will still be money to be made, might have to change the fits a little bit to compensate or just eat the reduced income. Since Rorquals are nerfed too it should all even out. I think they are trying to cut back on inflation isk inflation, while fixing the ore markets.

        March 21, 2019 at 5:48 pm
    • Arrendis porky75

      First, they have to have those goals.

      March 20, 2019 at 4:16 pm
  • Alot

    I assume the reduction in effectiveness of stacking capital repair modules on a target will not be procced by enemy vessels adding very smol repair modules to the stack. It would be very funny is there was a break point where a swarm of small vessels could weakly heal the target they were firing at to reduce the healing % provided by larger ships.

    March 19, 2019 at 7:52 am
  • I’m really sad they’re nerfing the VNI. I use them for PvP and that drone speed bonus is a godsend in the age of frigate hulls online. Pity that bonus is getting wrecked in order to discourage ratting (which it won’t).

    March 24, 2019 at 11:39 pm
  • Thund3r

    ccp is trying to make eve like it was back in the day when subcaps were king.. they havent realized the game has matured

    March 27, 2019 at 1:09 am
  • Thund3r

    #screwthelittleguy

    March 27, 2019 at 1:10 am
  • Politis

    VNI isn’t effected, so still the biggest ISK cutter in EVE. If CCP wants to nerf carriers and fix game inflation why they don’t erase nay ship bigger than dread from the game? Remove current standing system, killboards and PLEX (making the game one time pay). The rest is for me tutorials for new magicians who learn using our ISK and time.

    April 25, 2019 at 7:51 am