Header art by Smultar
As with every session at Fanfest 2018, the session began with a cute recollection from a CCP dev about their first experiences with EVE. For Ships and Modules, we had CCP Rise talking about how he first heard about the game (terrible mining in beta) and then showing some clips of his own videos and some small-gang PvP. Anyone interested in Fozzie’s story will have to watch the structures presentation, though—apparently, we only get one CCP origin story per session.
The beginning of the presentation proper was a discussion about balance. What balance is, why it’s important, how CCP approaches it, the tools and information CCP has to work with, and how these decisions are made. Game balance, for those of you who are unaware, is changing stats or mechanics to ensure the game is relatively equal for the players and provide them with multiple options to achieve their desired outcome.
CCP’s philosophical approach to balance is to consistently create change and support diversity for the players so that one ship or setup doesn’t always win. Of course, they don’t always achieve this, and to prove it, we’ve been playing Machariels Online for a couple of years. Ultimately though, CCP wants to create a situation where every ship has value in some way, and they spent these first few minutes demonstrating that recently, they really have shifted gears and made balance a higher priority.
The Year in Review
Following their sermon on balance and how to achieve it, CCPs Fozzie and Rise took us through the last year in terms of ships and modules. The past 12 months have seen a huge amount of ship and module changes, including but not limited to Assault ship changes, the Strategic Cruiser redesign, the introduction of new Faction Capital ships, and the introduction of the Monitor, which was the first in a new line of Flag Cruisers.
This review was accompanied by large amounts of graphs, which are generally some of the best things to come from CCP presentations. Here, have some graphs:
As the graphs were displayed, Fozzie and Rise also commented on the continuous nature of game balance. What this means for us going forward is that CCP is actively considering how they keep creating change in the ship and fleet meta of EVE Online, and they dropped multiple hints during their walk down memory lane. We should all expect a balance pass to the Loki, as one example. The Loki went from being the least used to the most used Strategic Cruiser because of CCP’s redesign, and it’s currently the most used T3C by a very large margin. This will likely receive nerfs to place it in line with other ships in its class. Personally, I’m hoping that pass will also buff the Proteus slightly because right now, it’s just too damned slow.
Another class of ship that will see a revisit is Assault Frigates and the Heavy Assault Cruisers that have yet to be touched by the nerf bat. These ships have become much more popular in the wake of the Assault ship balance pass, and the Assault Damage Control that was introduced is a very powerful module on its own. What this means in practice is we will see the Retribution nerfed to bring it in line with other AFs, and possibly slight buffs to both the Vengeance and Ishkur as the lowest-performing AFs. Any HAC rebalances will likely first touch the Zealot and Vagabond, as both hulls are hugely under-utilised at present, with possibilities for an additional Eagle buff to make it more attractive, and it also seems likely we will see some kind of change to the Cerberus, which remains the only HAC continuously present in the large-scale meta of recent years. Amusing comments include CCP Rise on the huge increase in the use of the Retribution: “It’s balanced, you’re welcome”.
In addition to these balance passes, Fozzie also discussed the imminent release of the Praxis battleship, a ship that will fall under the Special Edition categories. The Praxis is a Society Of Conscious Thought hull; it will have bonuses to all weapon platforms and tank styles in the same vein as its sister ships, the Gnosis and the Sunesis. This battleship has a 7/7/7 slot layout with 6 turret or missile launcher hardpoints, providing players with a lot of fitting options and room to play around. Additionally, the ship reportedly has a large agility bonus but, trades away raw speed for that agility. This hull will be provided to every omega account as a redeemable gift on Capsuleer’s Day, otherwise known as May 6.
The Triglavian Menace
New to EVE Online in the May release will be new “Abyssal” dead space PvE instances. More information on the new sites and AI can be found in our article here, but of more interest to many players are the new Triglavian Collective faction ships and weaponry coming in the new patch, as well as the ability to ‘reroll’ statistics on certain modules by using of Triglavian Mutaplasmids. CCP Rise ran through as much detail as they could give us. The new hulls and weapon groups will require skill books found in the new instances and will fall under a new class of ‘Precursor’ skills. The new weapon type, the Entropic Disintegrator, will require two skills to be trained – “Precursor Weaponry”, and “Entropic Disintegrator Specialization”.
The ships themselves are coming in the same class flavors as all other faction groups, meaning that there will be a frigate, cruiser, and battleship available. These ships will be heavily armor-focused, with slot layouts to support this, and a base tank ratio of approximately 20%/80% (shield/ armor). Additionally, their slot layouts provide a lot of utility options due to a restriction of one turret slot per ship, a function that makes sense given the information on the new Disintegrator weapons. They can also use drones, but with average performance – don’t expect Dominix performance from the Leshak, basically.
The frigate, the Demovik, has a slot layout of 3/2/4 (high/mid/low), with initial bonuses for Disintegrator damage and optimal range bonuses, in keeping with the single-turret restriction. The Vedmak has a 4/4/6 layout, with the same bonuses, and the Leshak has a 5/4/8 layout with a damage and rate of fire bonus, to differentiate it as a ship. These layouts obviously show an armor-tank preference, as well as strong utility options.
Every hull will also have a wide range of utility bonuses. These include buffs to remote repair module range and capacitor use, Nosferatu and neutralizer capacitor consumption, and smartbomb capacitor usage. Some suggestions offered up by CCPs Rise and Fozzie to use these bonuses included remote repair battleships (RRBS), an old meta that could potentially be given new life with these incoming ships due to utility hull bonuses, as well as the possibility for these ships to shake up the capital-killing meta given their neutralizer bonuses. Both seem viable, though I personally consider the subcapital vs. capital meta shift to be more likely.
These Entropic Disintegrators have some new mechanics making them an interesting change to the meta. They have a damage spool-up mechanic, which adds 5% additional damage output per cycle up to a maximum of 50% additional damage, have a ‘medium amount’ of capacitor usage (think rail guns), and fall under Gunnery skills for additional support skills, meaning they operate in a similar way to any other turret weapon system. To balance this, these weapons only have an optimal range and no falloff, which prevents people charging the weapon before getting in close, and the tracking formula of turrets is applied, meaning the weapon can miss small or particularly fast ships.
Additionally, these weapons are restricted to a single turret per ship due to the additional damage over time mechanic. The new Disintegrators will be unique in their damage types as well, inflicting a combination of thermal and explosive damage in an as-yet-undisclosed ratio. This new damage split will be interesting to play around with, providing players with the ability to hit into standard resistance holes of both shield- AND armor-tanked ships without changing ammunition.
The weapons also require ammunition in the same way current weapons do and will be affected by benefits and drawbacks of the ammunition charges. CCP Rise mentioned that these ammunition charges will affect the total damage output – the small weapon system will have roughly the same damage as three standard small weapons, the medium will be equivalent to roughly four standard medium weapons, and the large will have the same as approximately six standard large weapons.
One possible immediate counter to this weapon system I can see is EWAR – jamming out the Triglavian ship to prevent the damage spool mechanic from being effective would be a method to prolong the engagement and either get help or be the difference between tanking and not tanking the incoming damage. No doubt players will come up with the best ways to counter the new ships, but these new systems will be an interesting change to the overall meta, and that’s positive given CCP’s current balance philosophy.
What are: Mutaplasmids?
Mutaplasmids are, rather basically, an item that changes attributes of a module based on RNG. There is a set list of modules that can be altered, as well as there being restrictions on the attributes the Mutaplasmids can affect, with a maximum bonus to any one attribute of +40%. The module types available for modification are listed here:
Fozzie and Rise did not specify which specific attributes of the modules will be affected by these random changes, but they will always be the same. So if you alter a micro warp drive, there will always be an impact on capacitor use and total speed boost, as one example.
These mutaplasmids will have three tiers: Decayed, Gravid, and Unstable. These tiers come in the order of their usefulness and are designed to be random or unpredictable. They will be available to loot from the new instanced environments and are designed to provide more change and variation to the map, as stated in the initial balance overview.
There has also been a focus on individual responsibility in CCPs shakeup; these Mutaplasmid-rolled modules will have limits but will be able to create a large impact on the solo or small-gang fights in EVE. One of the stated goals for the module alteration system was to provide players who like to take really deep dives into ship theorycrafting with new tools to push their ships to the bleeding edge of what can be done. It is unlikely that the large-scale fleet meta will be seriously impacted by these modules due to their unpredictability, but for solo PvP these altered modules could be the difference between living and dying. As such, these changes and the accompanying possibilities represent a release with possibilities for a major shift in the solo or small gang meta.
These Mutaplasmid-altered modules will also have trade restrictions. The Mutaplasmids themselves will be market tradeable, as they will only come in three different forms. Any Mutaplasmid-altered module, however, will only be transferable via the contract system, which makes sense given that there isn’t any way to guarantee that players receive the same thing every time they buy. As a small tangent, CCP Rise also mentioned that the contracts UI element is currently targeted for an upgrade in the near future.
One thing players should note before altering any modules they can’t afford to write off is a comment made by CCP Fozzie at the markets roundtable session, where he disclosed that mutaplasmid alterations will be skewed to have more negative than positive outcomes on average. You have been warned.
Other Future Plans
CCP Fozzie then discussed some items CCP will be paying some level of attention to going forward. Firstly, balance passes on the mutaplasmid system will be happening, in order to ensure it doesn’t cause too much of a ripple in the overall meta. CCP are also already conceptualizing more new items, ships, and modules to fall under the ‘Precursor’ banner, though they aren’t entirely sure what form that will take yet.
He also confirmed the balance passes mentioned earlier, for Assault Frigates and Strategic Cruisers, so hopefully, we won’t have to wait another three years for T3Cs to be tweaked. As well, they will continue to focus on the HAC and faction battleship situation, ensuring they remain in a good place for the game.
He rounded off the session by mentioning some unfulfilled promises so far. Firstly, the community fittings project is still ongoing, and ISD are now collating some more fittings, so maybe we’ll see that finished before EVE enters the third decade. Additionally, further weapon tiericide will be happening, in the continuation of a project that’s been “in progress” for years at this point.
He also mentioned you guessed it, shield slaves. They are coming, and they are coming Soon™, but Fozzie also told us that these new implants won’t come in until the shield and capacitor recharge mechanics are revisited by the new balance team. Apparently shield regen tanking a Leviathan could be a bit OP.
All told, this session was probably the biggest information dump of the weekend, as demonstrated by the fact I wrote more than two thousand words for this coverage. I’m also quite excited to see these new items come to New Eden following this session, and I really want to get on SiSi when the release is deployed there for testing. That said, please remember to take the incoming mutaplasmid RNG with a grain of salt, because this is CCP, a games company that accidentally broke ratting bounty payouts when changing the chat system.