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.
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’.