FIXING LOGISTICS – COMPLEXITY WHERE IT COUNTS

Bill McDonough 2015-09-05

(The author is the leader of the Imperium’s RepSwarm Logistics group, and has no idea how many hours he’s spent in thousands of engagements anchoring the Logistics in fleets ranging from 20 to 200, under conditions from ‘normal chucklefuckery’ to 10% Tidi+Soul Crushing Lag and ‘turkey shoot’ to ‘you’re the turkey’.)

Logistics is broken. We hear it all the time: Logistics ships are too powerful. Logistics ships are ruining fights. Logistics ships are a single-point-of-failure for fleet comps. My personal favorite was, “Arrendis, you are literally the cancer that is killing EVE” by an FC whose ass I have saved more times than I can count.

They are all absolutely correct.

Most of us, in fact, know this. We know that we’re often going to be the deciding factor of a fight – and of whether or not a fight happens. A smart FC doesn’t undock without sufficient logi numbers. If you’ve got the logi, you won’t lose a ship of any size or significance. If you don’t, you won’t live, and the odds of finding that sweet spot, where you can keep your fleet alive long enough to put a hurt on theirs, is vanishingly small. That’s why logi gets shot first: we’ve typically got a smaller tank, and if you start killing us, you’re pushing the enemy fleet toward the point of withdrawing.

In small gangs, a few Logistics or Support cruisers can be the difference between winning and losing, but they’re also not all that difficult to counter. ECM, Sensory Dampers, neuts, even webs and scrams that pull them away from the fleet and one another can be disruptive enough to disorient one or two (especially one) Logistics pilot(s) and render them ineffective.

In larger engagements… this becomes something far more difficult. For the most part, the meta for the last 3+ years has been long-range fleets that have enough mobility to control their engagement distance. This means that the EWAR ships – Griffins, Blackbirds, Celestes, etc – have a tough row to hoe. If the range on your EWAR is roughly 100km, and the enemy dps has a 70km range, there aren’t a lot of places where you can get into range on the Logistics 40km behind them without being cut to ribbons. One of the new developments, ECM-burst interceptors, has the potential to be extremely disrupting to enemy logistics, but only briefly, as they warp back out immediately. Additionally, the upcoming fleet warp changes will make it far more difficult to use these ships accurately, as the range on their ECM burst isn’t terribly good.

The Imperium’s answer to this problem is one we’re uniquely positioned to use: FuckYouFleet (FYF). Rather than including EWAR elements among the DPS and logi of our combat fleet, the combat fleet is packed to the gills with DPS, logi, webs, and points. Sensor damps, tracking disruption, ECM, and the like are all handed off to a secondary fleet: an entire fleet of EWAR. We have, on multiple occasions, supported a full BaltecFleet (Megathrons) or DomiFleet with an equally full FYF.

Two hundred EWAR ships, primarily concerned with shutting down enemy logistics – drone triggers too, of course, but those are far fewer in number. Mostly, it’s the logi.

To even consider that necessary demonstrates just how painfully broken remote repair ships currently are.

So what do we do about it?

There have been a lot of ideas floated. Mostly, these are intelligent, well-reasoned ideas put forth by intelligent, reasonable people. All of them have significant flaws. I’m going to give you another one, and you’re going to get to rip it apart the way we know our commenters love to do. But after all, what doesn’t kill you makes you… weirder. So let’s start with a look at some of the ideas, and where they have problems. And then we’ll get all weird. You know you love it.

Diminishing Returns

One of the most frequently offered ideas is to just give remote repair modules diminishing returns. It’s got some good points. For one thing, it fits in with the existing mechanisms. Other remote assistance modules, like Remote Sensor Boosters, already have diminishing returns. For another, it’s simple! A code-side change and voila! Logistics ships are all fixed!

Except… no. Remote Sensor Boosters, to continue the comparison, have diminishing returns because all Sensor Boosters have diminishing returns. Shield Boosters, Armor Repairers, and Hull Repairers don’t. So why would their remote versions have them? Should the local versions get them, too? That’s going to make some of those dual-ASB fits out there very unhappy, and a lot of the small gang guys who float this idea get really, really defensive when you even suggest expanding their idea to local boosters.

The other big problem with diminishing returns is: you can’t tell when you hit it. So fleet logistics can’t coordinate very well at all, which is going to mean everyone’s going to get hit with incredibly inefficient reps, and those won’t be effective. As a result, you’ll see the meta shift – instead of more reppers, you’ll be seeing more effective reppers.

In some cases, this will mean absolutely crazy builds, like eschewing Logistics cruisers for Support cruisers. Once diminishing returns is in play, a Scythe with a Large Remote Shield Booster II is more valuable than a Scimitar with one – the Scimitar’s LRSBII delivers half the reps before reduction. Sure, the Scythe is paper thin, but it’s also working out at 80-90km from the fleet, making the problems of catching it even harder.

More often, though, this will mean using triage – which is completely immune to even the dubious effectiveness of EWAR now. And of course, when the triage comes out, the dreads come out. And when the dreads come out, the full-on capital fleet comes out, and suddenly every damned fight is escalating to supers. Again. Suddenly, nobody’s willing to field more than a small roam when they’re outside of the range of their supers. Again. Nobody fields a significant fleet for anything but a strategic objective where there’s likely to be capital coverage now, and we haven’t even nerfed remote repair yet.

Yeah, let’s avoid that.

Reduced Range

Another idea that’s been muttered about has been to reduce the range of remote repair modules. More accurately, reducing the range bonus on Logistics and Support cruisers. This brings the logi closer into the fleet, making both more vulnerable to bombs and giving the EWAR more room to move in.

Reducing the range bonus of Logistics makes the logi more vulnerable, which in turn means that FCs will re-work their math on how many they need. Or, of course, just dial up the ships that were already shorter-range, powerful remote repair platforms. And then we’re just back to ‘just bring in triage’, and we all know how that plays out. You might see some T3 logistics platforms used, but I doubt they, or Nestors, will see widespread use at all.

Get rid of cap transfer bonuses? This only neuters two of the current Logistics cruisers, so…yeah no. Not even making this a subsection.

Heat ‘Em Up

One of the more unconventional ideas we’ve gotten recently has been ‘receiving remote repair overheats your modules‘. On the surface, this one’s got some interesting possibilities. It would make remote repair ships potentially useful for unconventional warfare. It would give line pilots something to worry about – no more just ‘Press F1’, now you’ve got to watch the incoming heat.

I’m actually kind of in favor of this, with some of the tweaks that have been mentioned in the comments on the article – keeping the increased heat generation very low for each repper makes it more manageable for the fleet you’re in, or only generating heat when you’d be overfilling the tank. Of course, reducing the heat also diminishes the usefulness of putting 40 hostile logi on someone to try to burn out their tank, and making the heat only apply when the tank is full means the enemy just turns off his hardeners and starts swabbing everything down with Nanite Repair Paste. I reallylike the aspect of this idea where you make fleet combat something that the line members need to pay more attention to than just ‘ctrl-click broadcast, press F1, repeat’.

The problem is that I’m a cynical bastard, and I’m pretty sure they won’t. They’re not going to remember to tell the logi to ‘stop cooking me!’ and even if the heat only applies when the tank is overfull, the logi is still relying on the next guy broadcasting quickly, or they won’t know damage has shifted. Which means instead of ‘broadcast early or die’, now it’s ‘broadcast early or die and kill the guy before you who did broadcast early’, which I dislike. I don’t mind a mechanic that penalizes the people who aren’t paying attention. I do mind one that penalizes the guy who did everything right except realize he’s not the primary target anymore. That seems excessively harsh.

All of this puts more pressure on the logi to pay attention, focus on what’s happening, and keep up with the changes. But hey, didn’t I just say I like the idea of making people pay more attention?

Yeah, minor thing: I want everyone to have to pay attention. Not just the guys who already have to watch everyone else like a cast of hawks.

The logi is already playing a game of chainsaw-juggling whack-a-mole. If we’re slow, people die. If we click the wrong broadcast and try to lock up an interceptor who’s 300km off the fleet but damned if he doesn’t want his 3% shields back…someone might die. When the bomb spam comes in, we have to be able to ascertain quickly who’s really primaried and who’s just panicking from one freaking bomb…again…or people die.

We’re already busy out there.

This one also feels like it hurts the small gang pvp logi pilot – or makes them hurt their buddies. Things happen fast in small gang fights, and it’s here where the logi and the regular fleet members are probably about at parity for ‘how much attention am I paying?’. Small gang warfare is already ‘everyone overheat all the time’. If you leave a repper on the FC, you’re literally killing him. Leave one on the other logi, same. The margin for error in small fights is significantly slimmer than in big ones. Let’s try not to break them.

So, like I said, I like some aspects of this one, but it feels like it’s just going to make the parts of logi that aren’t broken break in different ways, and the parts of logi that are broken…are just going to get more frustrating and annoying and nobody-I-mean-nobody will get into these things except masochistic maniacs like me.

Logi Isn’t Broken

Yep, we hear this one a lot. To be fair, it’s usually from guys in small gang warfare who have a legitimate reason to be very wary of any of the other solutions that all cripple their ships over a problem they’re not creating, because they’re notthe problem. Small gang logi pilots aren’t the ‘cancer that is killing EVE’. Any solution we come up with for the problem of remote repair modules in large-scale combat must preserve the function and usefulness of these ships in small-gang warfare.

So Really, What Do We Do?

One thing that’s important to remember here: EVE is life. What do I mean by that? New Eden is the savage garden, a cluster where the only thing keeping everyone from going full dog-eat-dog, all the time, is the social bonds we form to protect ourselves from one another. Everyone in EVE is predator and prey, all the time. Even those miners who can’t fight back – they’re just not very successful predators. Everything in EVE is like that – market trading, mining, running plexes, it’s all subtle PVP, and it’s all very kill-or-be-killed. Which brings me to the other aspect of ‘EVE is life’.

No, it’s not Harden The Fuck Up – though I do still put the Permaband tracks on some times just because. It’s more basic than that: Adapt or Die.

Whatever the changes are, EVE players adapt. It’s what we do. The big orgs, the ones who are fomenting my cancerous activities, they’re the ones who are best at adapting. The Imperium’s got a 2500+ word long guide on logi anchoring already. We’ve got an entire sub-organization for logi anchors (regular logi pilots are welcome, but most of the people who join seem to want to be anchors) that has a couple hundred people. We’re successful because we adapt.

Shut Up and Get to the Point

Right. The point.

We dispense with logistics as we know it. No, really. It’s time to completely rethink how this stuff works.

EVE is an incredibly complex game. We all know that. There’s good complexity – the kind of thing that leads to move/countermove – and there’s bad complexity – the kind that leaves people going ‘OH MY GOD WHY DID YOU ADD THESE EXTRA STEPS THAT DO NOTHING??’ Generally, something that adds options is good complexity. Something that adds tedium is bad complexity. So we want to add options, not tedium.

Let’s start off by removing 3 types of modules: Remote Shield Boosters, Remote Armor Repairers, and Remote Hull Repairers. Get rid of them. Leave the capital modules in – but make them something that only works in triage mode. Make triage something special. (Alternatively, establishing a similar triage mechanic at smaller scales might be interesting, but we’ll set that aside right now.)

In their places let’s do real remote assistance modules: Remote Shield/Armor Hardeners, Remote Repair Accelerators, and Remote Repair Augmenters. One of those categories is self-explanatory. The other two, I’m sure, create some confusion on some folks. All of these are used  in conjunction with active, local tanks on everything, including the other logi.

Remote Shield/Armor Hardeners

Like I said, this is pretty self-explanatory. Subject to diminishing returns, these modules function similarly to an Adaptive Invulnerability Field or Energized Adaptive Nanomembrane: they raise the target’s resists across the board. By being subject to diminishing returns, these modules would be tuned so they are kept from being able to bring people up to 100% resists, but should be able to provide suitably impressive performance. I really don’t see these being the most common modules used.

Remote Repair Accelerators

Like the Nanobot Accelerator and Core Defense Operational Solidifier rigs, these modules reduce the cycle time on local reppers. Again, diminishing returns apply, to a degree that would require significant fine-tuning and testing, but I’m inclined to lean toward a minimum cycle time of 50% of normal. This would, of course, put additional strain on the capacitor, but that too is ‘options’ – fitting complexity can always be rejiggered with a little bit of tweaking to capacitor rates. And let’s face it, if we’re going to be rebalancing a section of the game as undeniably pervasive and omnipresent as logi, it’s going to need a lot of ship rebalancing work anyway.

Remote Repair Augmenters

By now, you’ve guessed what these babies do. They’re your Shield Boost Amplifiers, your Auxiliary Nano Pumps. These make your local repper rep more. I’m on the fence about diminishing returns with these. On the one hand, it does seem kind of nutty that they wouldn’t be subject to diminishing returns – enough of these, and you can put small local reppers on every ship. On the other hand, it’d be nice to make sure logistics were actually able to save ships when faced with middling-to-large amounts of incoming damage. If used with Remote Repair Accelerators, of course, you’re doubling whatever the final rep amount from the augmented local repper is. So that’s likely to be quite a lot.

And let’s be honest with ourselves here: the amount of diminishing returns can always be adjusted through ship bonuses, if nothing else.

“But wait!” I can hear some of you grumbling. “Didn’t you say diminishing returns would just lead to groups bringing more effective reppers?”

Glad you asked! Yes. Yes I did. And this likely means triage use. Which may mean dreadnoughts. But since spider-tanked ‘Boots’ or ‘Slowcats’ will still be subject to the same ‘fit a local rep, you loser’ and diminishing returns, even the arrival of a supercapital wrecking ball will not stop subcapital fleets from being able to inflict casualties.

Beyond the Module

One thing I heard multiple times from people when I was working on this idea can be summed up as ‘I want to be a healbot, not a buffbot’, and it’s a legitimate concern. Obviously, it’s a change in the playstyle and in the observable results – we can see when our reps help someone stabilize. It’s a lot harder to see when someone’s improved resists amount to anything and when they don’t.

There’s already something that can provide that direct ‘healbot’ gameplay, and it’s another big chunk of potential that goes to waste in a lot of cases for logi: logistics drones. Sure, most of us dedicated pilots carry full hull/armor maintenance drone loadouts. They’re really nice for topping up interceptors and frigates. But right now, they’re under-utilized because of the mechanics, and that’s a shame.

Right now, logi drones take too long to get to a target, and when they arrive, they don’t really do much. Taking too long to get there can be addressed with the addition of a local repper as a stopgap – it, especially when combined with remote assistance from the tender ships, can provide enough time for the direct reps to get over there and land.

Not doing much? That’s another issue. Five Heavy Shield Maintenance Bot IIs deliver the same reps as one Large Remote Shield Booster II. So it takes 20 drones to match the reps from one Basilisk – which is carrying one drone. So right now, they’re pretty clearly unsuited to do the job.

Instead, I propose turning logistics/support ships into mini-carriers, in a way. Set up a good-sized drone bay, enough to hold 25 drones, and give the ships the ability to control 5. This drone bay would only accept logi drones – include a separate bay that’ll hold a flight of warriors if you want to give the logi the ability to get on kills. But the logi bots available would scale with the ships – T1 logi frigs would be able to launch light drones, T1 support cruisers could carry mediums, and T2 logistics cruisers would be able to use heavy bots. It also helps to reinforce the idea of logi ships as stepping stones on the path to flying carriers, rather than just ‘ever bigger and bigger hulls’ – carriers don’t have weapon hardpoints, but to fly one, you’ve got to be able to fly…battleships?

So you’ve got mini-carriers now, with multiple flights of drones. You’ll need multiple flights too, because logi drones are pretty much lost as soon as you launch them. Bombs, smartbombs, fleet warps…yeah. You put your bots out to save some poor bastard…and the drones are pretty much lost. So multiple flights, and maybe the Remote Repair Accelerators affect logistics drones targeting the target as well. It’s not unreasonable, considering the capacitor hit makes the RR Accelerator a mixed blessing on the local tank of a ship. And it helps out our poor logi drones, and let’s face it, they’re brave and selfless little soldiers running over to save lives, but, right now, they don’t really do much. They could use the love, and they’d be the subcapital logi’s primary ‘I am a healbot’ tools. Even if you double the repping power of the heavy drones, you wind up with a subcapital logistics ship that puts out half the reps it does now, but also provides bonuses to local tanks that capital remote repair ships don’t.

Either way, the intent here is to find a way to rein in the power of logistics in large fleets, without hurting the power of logistics in small gang warfare, where it’s not broken. So the answer really does have to, in some real sense, make the logi’s life more difficult, make our job an impossible one. We have to be able to find ways to keep ships alive that aren’t necessarily just piling more and more indestructible reps onto the ship. Why indestructible? Because when you attack the logi in a large fleet, one of two things is true. Either 1) they’ve got enough reps to keep one another alive, or 2) they didn’t bring enough logi to take the fight.

So these ideas look at changing that math – give the logi tools to make it harder for enemies to kill a ship, but at the same time, make sure that a group that’s willing to die, if that’s what it takes, is still able to inflict losses. EVE should be a game not of total evasions and flawless victories, but of dying in a glorious orgy of destruction, and pyrrhic victories that leave the victor wondering if they’re really safe.

Welp a cruiser gang to kill a huge number of battleships: even if you don’t win, you’ll still be able to fight the war of attrition that might let you make progress in your strategic objective. Welp a hundred Dominixes to kill a titan – you’re still coming away feeling like you got the better end of the deal. Large fights stop being an ‘all or nothing’ game – you can get in, bloody the nose of a fleet you can’t actually beat, and run away laughing. Best of all, there’s no additional focus needed for the already hard-working logistics pilots – but the line DPS pilot gets more to be alert for, and to do, even if it’s only clicking one freaking button.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Remote assistance is coming in. Your hardeners have been overheated awhile. Now you can turn them off to break out the paste while still being primaried, because the logi is taking up the slack. That Dual-ASB Sleipnir is potentially a madly-repping god.

And the logi can be configured to match the fleet, especially for small- to medium-sized fleets. Let’s take a look at that ASB Sleipnir (single or dual, doesn’t matter). One thing you don’t necessarily want is to chew through your cap boosters in a heartbeat and need to reload for 60s. So your logi fits more Remote Hardeners and more Remote Shield Boost Amplifiers, and goes light on the Remote Shield Operational Solidifiers.

So that’s the idea. Is it perfect? Of course not, it’s my idea. But I think it’s got potential. And once you guys start tearing into it, it’ll be stronger and better. So, go ahead. Get weird on it.

Also, a T2 Noctis as a Logi hull… for hull tanking? Honestly, the stuff RepSwarm thinks of…

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