October Update HICcups

Bill McDonough 2018-09-20

Art by Empanada.

Let me just get this out of the way, and I think you’ll understand where I’m going with this piece about the October Update: WHAT THE SCREAMING CHRIST, CCP?

Ok. Maybe that’s a bit much for an opening, and doesn’t really explain anything. Let me try again. JESUS FUCK WHAT KIND OF MORONIC IDEA IS… no… no… ok… third time’s the charm, right?

On September 17, CCP released the dev blog outlining its plans for the October Release. The changes include Heavy Interdictor changes, a complete gimping of ECM for solo hunters, an interceptor change that will be only slightly less underwhelming than the Ferox ‘nerf’, and moving a low slot to a mid slot on an armor-tanked frigate that already sits there staring at its utility high slots saying, “I don’t have the PG for these *and* my tank….”

The Players React

The reaction on the forums is predictable. Everyone and their grandmother is screaming about the CSM being a bunch of Goons, and CCP catering to nullsec at the expense of everyone else. But most of those changes are minor. The interceptor and Damavik changes will have very little effect on anyone’s gameplay. Heck, every group in null is already looking at “Ok, so Ares and Maledictions replace Claws. So what?” And nobody really uses the Damavik—that’s the thing CCP’s trying to fix by taking a low slot away to add a utility mid (rather than moving down one of the utility highs).

As you might guess, I’m not impressed. But those changes don’t really do anything so they don’t really cause problems. The ECM change, on the other hand, will completely kill ECM as a tool for solo PvPers. The Griffin Navy is basically neutered. The Rook, same. Falcons are now tanky-as-hell cynos, and Blackbirds are the pretty explosions you see in small gang fights.

But I’m not sure there’s really any fix for the ‘issue’ CCP sees with ECM: ‘Getting jammed is frustrating’. Yep. It is. So is clicking ONLY 180 times to set up a planet, or scanning 45 signatures in a system only to find it’s completely worthless for your group’s activities that day, or having a bunch of jerks cloaky-camp large swatches of space with a black ops gang deployed nearby, or chasing a fleet of Claws Maledictions around for an hour or so. Welcome to EVE, where frustrating the hell out of the other guy is a valid and time-honored play style.

None of that is really egregious. Clueless, yes. Egregious? Not so much. But then we get to the Hictor changes.

The Lurch Problem

The changes to Heavy Interdictors are intended to fix the so-called ‘Lurch HICs’. For those who don’t know, the Lurch HIC uses the interplay between the bubble module and the oversized prop mod to achieve a very short-term burst of perfect agility, massive acceleration, and insane top speed in order to pounce onto targets who come through a gate but manage to avoid being in the bubble (often due to the sheer size of the gate).

Lurch HICs are a niche use. They’re not really any use in fleets, because they’re either too fast (bubble down) or too slow (bubble up), and they sacrifice a lot of tank to get that oversized prop. A Broadsword has 1,338 PG. A Devoter’s got 1.5k. A 500MN  Y-T8 Compact Microwarpdrive eats 1.12k of that, compared to the 135PG used by the 50MN version. So they aren’t exactly survivable in a fight. That’s why they get used on gate camps; they’re hitting lone travelers, and they’re doing it with help.

People use the mass reduction of the bubble generator in other ways too, though, and CCP knows it. In the dev post, they indicate “wormholers will be unwilling collateral damage, as they often are, due to the incredible usefulness of HICs for rolling holes.” And that’s where the problem with the change comes in. Since I explained the Lurch HIC, it only makes sense to go ahead and explain the Hole-Roller, and how the usage differs.

They See Me Rollin’…

The hole-rolling HIC is fit in a way fairly similar to the Lurch HIC in that it has an oversized prop mod and bubbles. The Hole-Roller fits as many bubbles as it can, a probe launcher, and a cloak as well. Unlike the Lurch, which relies on the bubble and the 500MN interacting, the Hole-Roller is entirely dependent on them being used separately. Hole-Rollers use the bubbles (all of them) to reduce mass to an extreme degree so they can safely transit a critically-disrupted wormhole. This lets them leave their system without collapsing the hole. On the other side of the wormhole they leave the bubbles off, turn the oversized prop (AB or MWD) on, and gain 50,000,000 kg of mass (roughly +400% of the HIC’s normal mass) to maximize the chances of collapsing the hole when the re-enter the system.

The combination means wormhole residents can roll the hole in relative safety. It’s not perfect. It’s not 100%. And that ‘safety’ doesn’t take into account the actions of other players. The HIC doesn’t have enough PG (or high slots—they’re full of bubbles!) to fit any kind of tank/weapons, really, so it’s a sitting duck if it gets caught on the wrong side, where it will be alone without any support.

The safety involved is only a navigational safety, not any kind of “you cannot die doing this.” Nobody should assume for even a moment that that’s the goal. It’s simply to produce reliable, consistent interaction within a reasonable tolerance with the game engine. Nothing more.

Working As Intended?

The immediate response to this is, “Ok, but CCP didn’t intend for wormhole residents to be able to roll holes safely, did they?” And the answer is… no, they didn’t, because CCP didn’t intend wormhole residents to exist. CCP’s intention for wormholes was day-tripping. When wormholes were designed (including the variable mass and no way to know how much mass was left), CCP had no idea people would choose to live in them. Wormholers themselves are jetcans: a behavior CCP did not envision and was unprepared for, but one that the people in charge saw and went “that’s really cool.”

The intention was that the dangerous bit would be collapsing a hole with part of your group still on the inside, where the worst-case scenario (getting blown up) would put you back in k-space, where you could rejoin your friends, get a new ship, and keep playing. Instead, people living in j-space get locked out, leaving both them and the now-reduced number of people in the hole more likely to be unable to keep playing.

As a result, before Hole-Rolling HICs came along, wormholers used to be faced with, “Oh well, we were gonna play EVE, but the RNG said to get fucked today. Maybe tomorrow.” And it doesn’t take a whole lot of ‘maybe tomorrows’ to turn into “screw this game, I’ll play a game that doesn’t tell me I can’t do shit today.” So this is a change that actively works to hurt activity, both in the sense of ‘people being out in space doing things’ and ‘people being logged in to react to other people showing up looking to shoot their things’. And that hurts retention.

But it doesn’t stop there.

One Definition of Insanity…

Let’s take a look at the language in the dev post again: “wormholers will be unwilling collateral damage, as they often are, due to the incredible usefulness of HICs for rolling holes.”

“As they often are.” That’s a problem. That’s a serious problem. PI came to wormholes late. Moon mining didn’t come to wormholes at all until the revamp. The proposed fax changes a few months ago would have completely screwed wormholes. Wormholers get treated as an afterthought on a fairly consistent basis. No matter how you slice it, that’s bad. A company that consistently neglects a segment of its paying customer base is asking to lose those customers.

And a company that does that to one segment of its customer base will do that to other segments, too. A company that mistreats its customers is a company that mistreats its customers, even while it expects them to keep paying it for the privilege of being mistreated.

But hey, oversights happen, right? Things come up at the last minute that you didn’t expect and it’s too late to change. It sucks, but we all have to put up with it sometimes. Except, of course, this isn’t that.

Self-Inflicted Wounds

The first ‘this isn’t that’ comes in with the ‘unexpected’ part of this. CCP knew this was a problem. CCP knew this problem would need to be addressed. As they said in the blog, they were talking about fixing this problem back at FanFest. And back at FanFest they were telling wormholers, “Don’t worry, we know that you guys rely on the mass reduction. We’re not going to make a change that screws you over.” The devs were telling people that face to face.

And now those people feel like the devs were lying to their faces. The blog doesn’t even offer an apology. Instead, it offers a kind of offhand ‘wormholers are getting shat on, but you know, that happens a lot, so who cares’ feel. And where at FanFest people were being told CCP would definitely make sure it was ok, now they’re saying, “We may address this with a specific mass manipulation module at some point in the future.”

A charitable reading says that this may be the solution, or the solution may be something else, but coming immediately after the ‘yeah, they’re getting the shaft again, it’s how we do things’, it reads a lot more like ‘we might fix it, or we might not’. And that’s pissing wormholers off, too. And they didn’t need to do this.

An Easy Fix…

The solution here is relatively straightforward. It doesn’t even need a new module. Just put in a script for the bubble generator that has the mass reduction effects. No bubble, no agility modifier, no inertia mod. It scrams the HIC so not only can it not activate the MWD, any MWD that’s running immediately shuts down, just like any other warp scrambler would do. Poof, problem solved. No Lurches, no need for a new module.

And this has been suggested, too. At least one CSM confirmed that CCP heard this idea before releasing the dev blog. Obviously, he can’t tell us how they replied due to the NDA, but considering the dev blog makes no mention of this, it’s pretty obvious what their answer was.

But Is It Easy Enough?

There’s still a month before the October balance pass goes in. Putting this fix—or any fix, including a new module—should be easy to do in that time. Making this a script would mean changing where the logic check for the navigational effects happens. Instead of ‘this module activates, what are its effects?’, it would happen at ‘this module activates, what are the effects as modified by the ammo?’ The bubble generator already needs to check for how the ammunition modifies the module’s effects, mind you: focused scripts don’t create a bubble. So this isn’t exactly complicated.

But CCP’s devs have said many times that they take a ‘twist some knobs’ approach to balance. The implication is pretty simple: they’re not actually removing the navigational changes from the bubble generator, they’re just changing those numbers to 0. And if you’re comparing ‘we’re just changing some database entries’ to ‘changing where a function call is in this sequence and making sure that doesn’t break anything’, well, the database changes are certainly easier.

Patterns of Behavior

CCP’s approach to fixing problems is a problem. At this point, it’s probably the biggest problem the game has, overall. Band-Aid fixes applied on top of Band-Aids, again and again for years. Dev ‘rebalance’ ship classes in ways that make other ship classes completely superfluous.

Interceptors are a casualty of this: CCP wants people to use Interceptors in fleets, but other than 1-2 scouts, why would they? Assault Frigates do nearly everything better. The Assault Damage Control guarantees that. The only advantage the Interceptor has right now is bubble immunity. Half of them are losing that. The CSM has told us pretty openly that that was a first step to removing it from all of them. So what are Interceptors for, now? CCP doesn’t seem to know.

This came up with the proposed Fax changes in July, too. At the time, I said: “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.”

They’re still using that process, and my conclusion there still stands. “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.”

And to that I’ll add now: CCP also needs to take a long, hard look at how they treat their players. The attitude they’re displaying toward wormholers can just as easily apply to the rest of us. And it is just as offensive and tone-deaf as a memo about micro transactions saying ‘Greed is Good’.

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  • Icarus

    You had me eating out of your hand… right up until you resurrected “Greed is Good”. Incremental change made in ignorance isn’t comparable… Nay, DOESN’T HOLD A CANDLE to an internal memo outright stating that the playerbase is worth no more than the thickness of their wallets.

    September 20, 2018 at 4:23 pm
    • Arrendis Icarus

      It’s not made in ignorance, though. CCP knew this would be an issue. CCP knew this would cause problems. And these same devs swore to wormholers to their faces, in person at FanFest, that this exact thing wouldn’t be how they fixed it, not 6 months ago.

      September 20, 2018 at 4:33 pm
    • Erick Asmock Icarus

      How would you place a value on the player base?

      September 22, 2018 at 1:57 am
      • scott Lacey Erick Asmock

        by the love god has for them, and how enjoyable it is to spill their blood. preferably in nulsec,

        September 25, 2018 at 8:18 pm
  • Deni'z von Meanace

    God bless this article and put into their ears and brains.

    September 21, 2018 at 2:37 am
  • Renhox Deer

    Can we do interceptors with PANIC modules? so we can jump in Faxes when a dictor catches the interceptor on a gate with that OP mechanic.
    thats a balance change …

    omg this is fucked up, let’s try it

    September 21, 2018 at 7:26 am
  • Jin'taan

    “CCP’s approach to fixing problems is a problem. At this point, it’s probably the biggest problem the game has, overall. Band-Aid fixes applied on top of Band-Aids, again and again for years.”

    No, it hasn’t – CCP has historically just ignored problems. ECM has needed to be changed for 15 years, and your hyperbole that this ‘kills’ ECM is stupid. I’m sorry that your Falcon needs to be at 100km now, not at 0. The impact it has on small gangs vs fighters is something we discussed as a major downside w/ Rise, but at the end of the day that’s not a problem with ECM – That’s a problem with fighters (especially support fighters) and their ability to fight against small gangs without the need for subcap support.

    I’d equally like to call you out for both complaining that CCP only does bandaid fixes, but also doesn’t spend enough time on WHs – If you’d like CCP to start redesigning features ‘properly’, and spending 6 month to a year fixing them, I’m all for that, but it’s going to lead to places not getting re-worked stagnating horribly, as we saw during the Citadel related expansions.

    It’s very easy to say “Just spend more time fixing things” when you don’t have to find the time to fix things, which is a reality that CCP (and the CSM) are vastly more plugged in to.

    September 21, 2018 at 8:33 am
    • Arrendis Jin'taan

      Hang on a sec here, Jin.
      your hyperbole that this ‘kills’ ECM is stupid – I didn’t say it ‘kills ECM’, I said it kills ECM as a tool for solo PVPers. That’s an important distinction.

      Your solo Falcon, out at 100km. What’s he actually doing, other than throwing a jam at a random guy who warps off anyway, continuing on his way without even really noticing?

      The other bit… I’ll address on your article. 😉

      September 22, 2018 at 2:52 pm
  • General Thade

    Did you know that wormholers only have access to the lowest tier of moons, therefor there is no point to mine them?

    Thanks CCP 🙁

    September 21, 2018 at 6:26 pm
    • Carvj94 General Thade

      Moon goo is crap unless you have top tier moons. We get the best type of ores from the moons so the mining business is booming in wormholes now.

      September 22, 2018 at 3:01 pm
  • Moomin Amatin

    So CCP never intended for WHs to be residences. Then surely the issue with regard to living in a WH is that you should not be able to. But people did and then CCP supported this if only by virtue of not doing anything about it. CCP then went on to introduce Thera. An exciting concept that would ensure a thriving WH PvP culture. So just look at Thera on ZKIllboard and tell me what a thriving ecosystem that is.

    Class 4 and above WHs are locked down. Many whine about the blue donut for null and seem to completely ignore the blue donut that is WHs. WHers go on about having to plan for months and months on end in order to be able to gain entry into a “hostile” WH. This to me simply screams of how OP WH life is. So the fact that you lose a HIC with a hole collapsing behind you should be no big deal. A small price when compared to the benefits of living in a WH, which again CCP apparently never intended to happen. Additionally setting your death clone to your home WH citadel is not an option?

    The numbers to actually have a decent conversation are also missing. How many players rely on WH life and how and what do they contribute to the rest of the game? Because as a business if I were to spend 90% of my efforts keeping 1% of my customers happy then I am doing it wrong. Those 1% of customers I would be looking to “encourage” towards my competition and let them use 90% of their resources looking after them.

    During The Casino War we saw the CCP Security Team issue a bunch of bans that were then over turned by a CCP Exec. These bans were later enforced again once The Casino War hit a lull. As shocking as it seems the efforts of CCP employees will at times be overruled by CCP Execs. The CCP Execs are also likely to change their minds. So one day a CCP Dev is told one thing and they are encouraged to relay that position to the player base and then the next a CCP Exec tells them that the position has completely changed. This should be of no surprise to anyone and to give a Dev a hard time over it just seems foolish.

    Then we have an issue with the player base. Those who are upset about their sacred play style and income streams will be dis-proportionally vocal with their complaints. This leads to misrepresenting the actual issue at hand. Just flood Reddit with posts claiming that CCP are idiots and have no idea what they are doing in the hope that CCP will be forced into action or inaction.

    In all of this I am amused by the reaction of part of our community to in essence a minor change that could easily be worked around for those who are truly dedicated to living in a WH (which apparently was never intended to happen).

    Not wishing to feel left out of the “I know how to fix this” screeching I too have a solution. Make WHs instanced and to only pop up once scanned, just like a normal gated site. No more living in WHs. No need to worry about HICs. Gets more people into the New Eden population to interact with others rather than sit in an ivory tower generating stupid amounts of wealth.

    I’ll get my coat :-).

    September 21, 2018 at 9:12 pm
    • Erick Asmock Moomin Amatin


      September 21, 2018 at 9:41 pm
    • Arrendis Moomin Amatin

      Point the first: C4 WHs are not locked down. C5+ might be, but C4? Nope. I go into them on a fairly regular basis. There’s plenty of open ones.

      Second: No, you cannot set your deathclone to a WH citadel. You cannot jumpclone into a WH citadel from outside the WH. The only use for cloning in a WH is to jump between clones in the same citadel (for implant-swapping).

      Third: re: Numbers and 90% v 1% – Funny, that’s how they feel about null, too. The majority of players, as of the last time CCP communicated anything about this to their customers, live in high- and low-sec. Not null. And yet, the vast majority of tweaks and changes come fairly steadily aimed at null.

      Fourth: Dude, one of us talking about people making ‘stupid amounts of wealth’ while isolating that moneymaking from most of New Eden, in response to a patch that has a whole lot of inty pilots screaming about how Interceptor fleets are the only way to get past Theta BFGing them 2 gates into Delve? Really? Pot, Kettle?

      September 22, 2018 at 2:48 pm
      • Moomin Amatin Arrendis

        WHs were not supposed to be a residence. That was the big bit for me as CCP have done the decent thing in catering to that lifestyle.

        As I mentioned, I do not have access to the numbers so anything I have to add is pretty well much based on anecdotal evidence. And we all know the value of anecdotal evidence (at least most of the time).

        The class 4 WH and above comment was based on just some complaining I had heard. Probably a very good indication that just because someone is being vocal in their complaints in no way means that position is correct. The same applies to the wealth creation element of WHs.

        I did not know about the inability to set a death clone to a citadel within a WH. Thankfully I did put a question mark in that bit though which I hope redeemed me somewhat. But if this was the case then no more issue?

        The main purpose of my comment was to offer a different position. An extreme one of course but it did seem fitting given what I am seeing with regards to any type of discussion.

        Ultimately, and possibly more so with the recent acquisition of CCP, real life money will determine the fate of New Eden. So if your game play style is in the minority and you do not spend a load of cash then you can expect your game play style to disappear. Especially if it interferes with those customers who generate more income.

        September 23, 2018 at 8:43 am
        • Arrendis Moomin Amatin

          That last paragraph, I think, is a bit too cynical. PA wanted CCP because CCP’s making money, consistently (that’s why anyone buys a company, really). There’s good reason to believe that PA—a company that places significant reliance on microtransactions—is interested in CCP’s microtransaction model. CCP’s model is robust enough to provide a significant revenue stream, while also allowing players to continue playing EVE without paying a single cent in real money.

          Someone else pays for them. In any game with a heavy group or PvP element, having more players around will always be one of the important draws of the game. That ability for the whales to subsidize the gameplay of people they don’t know, don’t interact with, and don’t care about, is critical. Remove that, and I think you’d see a significant chunk of the playerbase vanish.

          CCP’s microtransaction model works. What’s more, while the EVE community is famous for complaining about literally every change, there are very few complaints about the current state of the microtransaction model. PA, on the other hand, has a model that fits well with Asian cultural expectations, but doesn’t export well to Western markets. And they spoke about having a lot to learn from CCP.

          So what is it they’re likely looking to learn? Well… unless they want to do single-shard server farms that run 4000-player battles extremely slowly… the big ticket item… is a robust, successful microtransaction model that doesn’t generally suffer from ‘pay to win’ accusations.

          September 25, 2018 at 4:34 am
          • Moomin Amatin Arrendis

            Perhaps ;-).

            But remember CCP now have a boss and a boss can change their mind. I will be here for a while though, so you always have that :-).

            September 25, 2018 at 7:45 am
    • Carvj94 Moomin Amatin

      Pfft ivory tower that’s a good one. Most wormholer make less that carrier ratters in null ya prick. You can’t compare C6/C5 site runners to the rest of us. There’s no blue donut either. There’s several groups and like five dozen independent corps/alliances that attack freely with no regard for territory. Null makes all the isk and gets all the attention and the 5-10% of the playerbase who operate in wormholes semi regularly get shafted by devs who want to push out a change to fix a none issue in null. Like removing Lurch HICs even though wormholes use bubbles to collapse holes probably about as often as bubbles are used as intended.

      September 22, 2018 at 2:54 pm
      • Moomin Amatin Carvj94

        What a wonderful way to gain my support in your dilemma. Well done you.

        I will continue my campaign to get WHs removed from the game. Luckily for you I will only put as much effort into this task as I do my posting.

        September 23, 2018 at 8:45 am
        • Carvj94 Moomin Amatin

          I wasn’t trying to get your support I was just telling you were completely wrong and specifying the different ways you were wrong.

          September 23, 2018 at 2:19 pm
    • General Thade Moomin Amatin

      Well, Hmm, Im going to have to stop you right there. I know we had a good conversation about this the other day, but here is a few things:

      Thera is shit, most PVP happens in populated holes.

      There is more small gang then you can ever get out of K-space out of fear of getting dropped on by caps.

      The nullsec population will have much more isk cause a) they arent constantly losing shit, and b) sites respawn which allows constant farming. In WH space it can take weeks. Yes we make great isk when there is sites, but we lose our ships and the sites take weeks to respawn.

      And also, we do plenty of interaction with K-space. Go look at a WH killboard, and look at all the K-space kills. On top of that, some WH alliances hold sov.

      Try it before you hate it dude.

      September 24, 2018 at 4:20 pm
      • Moomin Amatin General Thade

        I would like to give it a go one day. Ideally in a class 5/6 WH. So with that in mind who should I be looking to join?

        September 24, 2018 at 11:27 pm
  • Sorry, but you lost me when you were sad about nullification disappearing from interceptors. K-space doesn’t need invulnerable taxi ships any more than wormholes need purpose-built hole-rolling ships. This game is supposed to have risks and tradeoffs, not hand pilots perfect, risk-free options for every goddamn niche scenario.

    September 22, 2018 at 6:49 am
    • scott Lacey Ganthrithor

      ever heard of pipe bombs? Ceptors are not ‘immune’. I think they are cool. and no more OP than bombers which I love also.

      September 25, 2018 at 8:14 pm
      • Ever heard of “corp bookmarked perches on gates?”

        It’s literally impossible to kill an interceptor pilot unless they’re stupid enough to warp direct gate-to-gate with multiple hostiles in local. Dumb-as-rocks people don’t count: there’s always ways to kill stupid people.

        But while we’re on that topic, even assuming people are incompetent enough to get bombed– look at the dissymmetry of :effort: and ISK investment required: on the one hand, stupid guy brings his 30m isk ceptor and hits only the “jump” button and can cross EVE in 30 minutes. On the other hand, to bomb them you’ve got to have multiple guys lug multiple battleship hulls into the middle of nowhere, position them perfectly, time the bomb cycles perfectly, and then if you’re lucky enough to encounter someone stupid enough to warp direct to gate, you might get a kill. I love watching interceptors die– and occasionally we do actually do exactly this– but you can’t really argue that it’s a proportional situation from a mechanics perspective. You’re fielding like 600m worth of battleship (at least) to blow up 30m isk ships. Getting the battleships to the target area is a ~*massive*~ pain in the ass: they’re slow, they’re clumsy, they’re super vulnerable to attack. And they still won’t kill people who have the second braincell required to just use a perch or warp from some random celestial instead of going straight to the next gate.

        September 26, 2018 at 4:07 am