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.
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.
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.
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.
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.