In a new dev post released to the EVE Online forums this week, CCP Rise unveiled plans for significant changes to the way Force Auxiliaries work. CCP and the CSM have agreed that the capital-scale remote assistance platforms are too powerful, and pose the potential to unbalance gameplay on a number of scales. As a result, Rise is soliciting community feedback and ideas for changes and tweaks that can be made to the Force Auxiliaries, while unveiling a few of the ideas already on the table.
According to Rise, the specific goals of the rebalance are:
- Reduce remote rep/s from triage substantially
- Increase duration for remote reps (to create larger time windows for target switching)
- Reduce local rep/s from triage substantially
Changes to Force Auxiliaries:
This is to be accomplished, at this point, with the following tweaks:
- Remote Rep Duration (all) reduced to 65% (was 75%)
- Remote Rep Amount (all) increased to 500% (was 450%)
- Local Rep Amount (armor/shield) reduced to 75% (was 120%)
Capital Remote Armor Repairer:
- Duration increased to 15s (was 12s)
- Capacitor Need increased to 2440 (was 1950)
Capital Remote Shield Booster:
- Duration increased to 20s (was 16s)
- Capacitor Need increased to 3300 (was 2640)
According to CCP Rise, “Overall, these changes would result in roughly 37% reduction in both remote and local rep output for FAX with almost double the cycle time for remote reps in triage. This is a very large change, but internal investigation and CSM input indicate it is warranted.”
Community reaction was swift, and rather voluminous. Only twelve hours in, the thread was at over 350 posts. And quite a lot of it was negative. That’s to be expected from EVE players, but the general consensus seems to be that CCP is just making changes without really understanding the deeper problems.
My first question is: what’s the problem CCP wants to fix, exactly? It can’t be the big fights. Leaving aside the issue that there really haven’t been enough of them to judge the ‘OP’-ness of faxes in massed supercapital combat, these changes won’t do a damned thing.
These changes won’t do anything about the survivability of Force Auxiliaries in large-scale/capital/supercapital warfare. After all, the only survivability they have in there is ‘someone else died first’. Remember, faxes for capital use don’t use local reps. And they can’t receive remote reps. So the only effect this has in large-scale warfare is that it reduces the reps available to the supercapitals. So what does that mean?
It means that more Force Auxiliaries hit the grid at once. That’s it. Some people are saying ‘but we already tell everyone to have a fax alt, how can you have more?’ Well, the answer is: you have the same guys in fleet, and each guy has multiple Faxes. Nobody drops all their Faxes at once. So how many you have? It’s not what keeps your titans alive. It’s how many you have on grid. And every large group can add 37% more, no problem. When they die… reship. Set your deathclone to the Fortizar you jump in off of, and keep 1-2 extra ships in staging.
And that means it’s likely that usage doctrines for supercapitals means you don’t go unless you have at least a Fortizar one jump out of target for staging your FAXes. So supercapital brawls become less spontaneous, and people become even more risk averse.
In subcapital fights, Force Auxiliaries can absorb a tremendous amount of damage. This is where the changes will make the most difference in normal operations. However, there are two flavors of this kind of combat: large fleets and small gangs.
In large fleets, FAXes are primarily used as a supplement to subcapital Logistics cruisers. Subcap triage pilots also already assume their ships are dead the moment they undock. So what effect will these changes have? Really, not much. Instead of bringing 10 triage and dropping them in pairs, subcap fleets might bring 12 and drop three at a time. They’ll be more vulnerable to incoming damage, but they were already that, and losing them is expected. Every moment the enemy is shooting the fax, they’re not shooting the dps ships. And as any logi pilot knows, that means you’re doing your job: the rest of the fleet is surviving another moment.
In smaller groups, one or two local-rep FAXes might be the entire logi wing of the fleet. It’s durable, powerful, and it frees up more guys to fly DPS. That’s really where these changes have an impact: More of the small group needs to shift back to logistics work. So instead of 1-2 FAXes, you’ll see 3-4. And they’ll make sure to trade off triage cycles and throw a rep at the guy coming out of triage. Is this going to reduce their survivability? Maybe a bit, but in the big picture, you’re still going to need to do 1-2 dreadnoughts’ worth of damage to kill them, especially if they can get out of triage.
In J-Space, the FAX is one of the most powerful tools available, especially for system defense. Offensively, you can only bring one in, unless you plan to stay in the target hole overnight. And there’s no jump drive usage. On the other hand, wormhole mass limits provides a check on the size of subcapital fleets. As a result, much of this will likely be similar to the effects in small gang K-space subcapital warfare: bring a few more on the defense. On the offense, you won’t waste the mass at all. Instead, you’ll use Nestors, Basilisks, or T3 Cruisers.
As a result, the balance of power moves more toward defense. Wormhole combat becomes more static, with less room for really good fights. Any serious push to get a brawl will run into defensive logistics the attackers really can’t counter. That means that if you know the enemy’s got FAXes, to be competitive, you need to invest eviction-level resources to the attack. And that’s not going to happen much more frequently than it does now, if at all.
The problem here isn’t the math, it’s what the math describes, and what the math doesn’t. The math describes how the systems work, but the systems aren’t the problem. The problem is that the systems aren’t designed with people in mind. Balancing out the numbers is easy. Predicting how people will react to that balance, though, is also fairly easy. They’ll do exactly what the devs are doing here: take the path of least resistance.
What that looks like in a game like EVE is that they’ll get more friends. Some proponents of these changes have said ‘well, where are they going to get those friends?’ and the answer is, the same place the current megacoalitions got theirs when they were starting out. They’re going to blue up the guys who live right next to them, and join forces to go smack around someone else. As a result, that group will blue up their neighbors, and they’ll start snowballing. It’s the same course as the ‘blue donut’ groups that so many current and past small-scale EVE players hate and despise for exactly that behavior.
Instead, CCP needs to stop using the same ineffective, broken process they’ve been using for years. They see a problem, look at a few edge cases, and then make ‘tweaks’ to fix it, without considering the unintended consequences of those changes. Then they take forever to iterate and revisit that problem. That’s why Ishtars were so overwhelming for so long, even after successive rounds of drone nerfs and nerfs aimed directly at the Ishtar. Now, with the Assault Damage Control, they’re once again one of the most dangerous ships in the game, and able to punch well above their weight.
Similarly, these changes result from the capital changes and capital module changes that took place in the wake of Jamyl Sarum’s death in Amarr. Once again, CCP is looking at tweaking one tiny little thing here or there to address a problem with edge-cases. But they’re ignoring the rest of the use-cases. CCP needs to take stock of the entirety of EVE, and start working on a clear vision for what they want the unified whole of it all to actually be. From there, they need to work out where each piece fits in that big picture, and how to make that piece work within the context of the big picture.
CCP’s been groping blindly at the elephant for years. Someone needs to get it through their heads that the wall, rope, snake, and tree trunks are all the same animal. They need to take care of all of it, all at the same time. Running EVE is like playing EVE: it’s an endurance test, and focusing on the short term too much will only make things worse.