Welcome to The Morning Toast, an occasional column where I write about… things. My goal is to inform or amuse by writing on a variety of topics; one column might be on interesting things, the next on informative things, perhaps the one after that will be meant to start a discussion about things, and then I might use five hundred words to set up a dick joke. You just never know!
PvP Ship balance is one of the core components of EVE. It touches almost every player at least indirectly. Getting it right, having each ship be ‘balanced’ relative other ships, is the underpinning of making PvP fun. With a balanced ship lineup a counter exists for any given setup and this brings an element of unpredictability to combat that encourages risk taking since an outnumbered force can still effectively counter their opponents. Without fleets of the ‘best’ hulls are unstoppable and N+1 gameplay becomes the only road to victory.
The above makes it most unfortunate that balance is also impossible for the commonly used definition of the term; there is simply no way for the game design team to achieve perfect harmony among all hull types in all places. Many players fail to understand this and it leads to a great deal of discontent which crowds out constructive input from the community. Players need to understand that a ship cannot be truly balanced in EVE; instead it can be balanced for an EVE.
CCP Fozzie and Team Five-0 have been diligently working on different classes of hull to bring them in line with their respective roles, but their work has met with mixed reviews. A brief perusal of the thread linked above will show a lively discussion about each proposed change. For example TrouserDeagle commented on the frigate changes proposed in the December rollup,
rifter is still unusable trash due to bad slots and bad weapons. if you’re going to let me fit an artillery brawler, you should give the tracking bonus back. I don’t really want to kite with it since it doesn’t have the warp disruptor cap bonus.”
“tristan does need nerf, but I’d prefer it to be specifically targeted at kiting tristans. if it were me I’d be setting different drone control ranges for different classes or something. getting 50-60km range for free on a frig is crazy.
His feedback is representative of the more coherent objections raised by the community each time another rebalance pass is posted, it is not bad feedback at all. To CCP’s credit objections like these are sometimes taken into account, but there are plenty of players who go away unhappy when their favorite hull meets Mr. Nerf Bat in a dark alley. Unfortunately there is simply no way to avoid this. There are so many different scales, environments, and styles of play that no ship will ever be optimized for all of them.
Consider the number of different scenarios that a member of Team Five-0 has to consider when trying to balance a ship. Nullsec fights play out differently than lowsec because bubbles and bombs are disallowed in lowsec. Faction warfare complexes add their own constraints in the form of gate restrictions; highsec ganking is completely different from anything else anywhere. Then there are wormholes, which are simply a world unto themselves.
Then comes scale. Fights range all the way from 1v1 to thousands on grid at once, and this has huge implications for how they must be balanced. As an example take a hypothetical cruiser with only a single midslot but eight lows, eight turrets, and tank/DPS bonuses. It would be utterly unable to solo due to its inability to tackle anything, except in highsec where it could play station games without a propulsion module fit. However in a fleet with interceptors this cruiser would be absolutely savage; they could out tank and DPS any other ship in their class and tackle would be simply be outsourced. So the ship would be broken for two uses at once, overpowered and useless at the same time.
There are other less extreme examples available in game. A single logistics in a small gang is powerful but can be countered; massed logistics scale so well that they are the defining feature of the modern fleet. Rooks, Falcons, and Scorpions are all incredibly powerful against small numbers of opponents but don’t work particularly well in huge fleet fights. Then there is PvE, where specific ships can have a major impact on the economy even if they are not outstanding at PvP.
In fact one of the warning signs that a ship might be overpowered is if it shines in every role; the pre-nerf Drake was brutally efficient at killing rats, small gang PvP, solo baiting work, and it was a fleet mainstay for many nullsec alliances. Many lamented its nerfing, but it was so powerful before that few denied it was necessary.
This is not in and of itself bad. Having ships around with fairly niche roles is countered by the generous provision of niches for them to fit into. With that in mind, while players should absolutely continue to provide feedback on any proposed changes, some of the more upset ones need to take a step back and consider if their objections are really justified. For example Shp3 said the following about some nerfs proposed in the December thread,
so about that Orthrus… current DPS with 2 BCU: 525. After that: 393,75
cant even fight a caracal in it anymore.. gg ccp
cap was way too bad and the ship was way too squishy already to be OP…
In terms of niches the capacitor objection overlooks ancillary shield boosters and their short-term capacitor neutral tanking. The “not being able to fight a caracal” comment ignores the fact that a Caracal is meant to be slow and tough while the Orthrus is meant to use speed and boosted point range to fight on its own terms. Before declaring a set of changes to be bad a player should pause a moment and ask themselves, “Does this make the ship useless or just less useful? If less useful, what is it still good for?”
With balance in all things impossible the question then becomes, “What should CCP be aiming for?” The safest bet is probably to balance for small to medium scale fights, in the range of five to fifty players. True solo-PvP players in EVE are like endangered tropical butterflies floating along a highway; beautiful, majestic, and rare due to frequent encounters with speeding trucks in the form of gangs. Trying to make solo ships powerful or fast enough to stand a solid chance against roams would likely just make them overpowered in any large numbers. At the far opposite end of the spectrum, huge coalition level wars are not really decided by ship type. Instead organization and leadership are the deciding factors.
Finally balance is always going to be a moving target. New ships, changes to the meta, and a player base that is constantly growing better at the game will continue to present challenges to even the best designs. As CCP tries to keep up with all this, and continues to solicit player feedback, the player base needs to retain an open mind about the changes they are presented. Some changes will be bad; game designers are just as prone to error as anyone else. The community is crucial to fixing problems before they go live on Tranquility and keeping EVE as enjoyable as possible. That being said, players posting about changes while exaggerating the impact of justified nerfs, or expecting one hull to be able to do every job well, represent white noise that CCP will have to filter out to get to the useful information. The fewer posts wasted on such nonsense the better the game will be overall.
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by FearlessLittleToaster.