OPINIONATED ANALYSIS: LOCAL MOBILITY IN NULLSEC

2015-10-04

Editor’s Note: This column represents the opinions of the author, and not those of TMC.

CCP has slipped a fair bit of interesting content regarding mobility into its roadmap for the near and semi-far future. I’m still not entirely sure what to think about the “Micro Jump Field Generator” proposed for the new destroyers this winter. What I can say for certain is that it shows that CCP is in fact working under a vaguely similar premise to the ideas that I am about to outline. As usual, we should start with the framework that we are operating under:

Fozziesov has emphasized localized content without enhancing localized mobility

The year or so leading up to the implementation of Fozziesov was full of (arguably) interesting changes that affected mobility. Iterative rebalances prior to the implementation of the six-week release cycle created a contrast in mobility between small and large ships, with cruisers being the cutoff between “pretty fast” and “Jesus Christ this ship is made of molasses.” In addition, interceptors became borderline impossible to catch when fit properly, and everything with a jump drive or connection to a JB was nerfed heavily, ultimately making long range travel much more time-consuming.

Unfortunately, these changes also caused localized mobility to suffer, with only logistics (not the fleet kind) ships even partially safe from the wrath of the Nerf Gods. Even with logistics being partially spared, there were some pretty solid arguments presented as to why they should have been receiving some love, rather than “less nerfing.” CCP’s understandable rationale appears to have been to make space larger through the mobility changes, including making it more difficult to import material from highsec all the way out to nullsec.

While I agree that arbitrary teleportation across half of New Eden within the span of fifteen minutes by any ship is a mechanic that we are better off without, I find myself strongly disagreeing with the larger idea of “making space bigger by making it harder to import goods.” In other words, the brushstrokes were too broad — CCP nerfed logistical work (an already daunting but necessary task) and localized mobility through short-range cynos and JBs, alongside of power projection, though admittedly not quite to the same degree.

This becomes much more important with Fozziesov, under which “local content” and fast-moving gangs take precedence over dropping the Finger of God in every fight. In other words, something approaching a halfway-decent hybrid between mobility and firepower is the paradigm of the day. And yet, with the exception of cruisers (and to an extent battlecruisers with the most recent patch, which is nice) there are no ships which can properly meet this paradigm.

Even prior to Fozziesov, with the slow nerf bat that struck at larger subcaps and capital ships, EVE had become Cruisers Online (or more pervasively for a while, Ishtars Online). While battlecruisers having some increase in agility with the most recent patch is a nice iteration (we’ve been seeing quite a lot of action in Cloud Ring, including heavy use of Drakes, for example), it is only a fraction of the potential that exists and is arguably necessary. In short, if we are going to continue to exist in a sov system which favors mobility, especially at the constellation/regional level, then ships and sov structures alike need to be tweaked at least a little bit, perhaps in the following ways.

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Variety is good, but must be functional

As we have already seen with the upcoming annihilation of the trollceptor, there are some ship classifications which are simply incompatible with the current state of sov. As discussed in the previous column, player agency, and thus the number of options open to us, must prevail. So far the only options which I have seen wide use for with Sov Lasers has been fast frigates for use when ninja-ing or faced with minimal opposition, or heavy brick-tanked ships when stiffer opposition is brought to bear. (I will admit on this note though that I could be missing something — obviously I have not been all over the entirety of EVE to see what everyone is doing.) Similarly, fleets backing the Entosis Link pilots appear to be limited to a few more doctrines than under Dominion Sov.

Personally I attribute this to the majority of ships in EVE remaining balanced for an older paradigm: lightweight ships such as frigates and T3 destroyers are almost game-breakingly fast (with the interceptor holding the dubious honor of being Too Fast For Fozzie), and heavyweights such as (formerly) battlecruisers, battleships, and capitals being slow enough by comparison to have their usage severely limited. Calling back to what we discussed earlier, this implies that the brushstrokes were too broad; in nerfing long-range power projection, CCP has also curtailed the number of viable platforms for localized nullsec fights. This leaves us with a number of ships which are almost useless for current-generation sov warfare.

While the recent battlecruiser upgrades and upcoming reduction in the Jump Fatigue cap are definitive steps in the right direction, a greater shift is necessary. It is most certainly possible to buff local maneuverability without removing the necessary nerfs to force projection made during Phoebe. Some of that should undoubtedly be done through ship rebalances: we already know that changes to capital ships will be announced at Vegas in a few weeks, and it would not be unreasonable to hope for some changes to make, say, battleships slightly more maneuverable. However, by the same stroke, there is no such thing as a class of ships that is totally worthless — ships which are not vible for sov warfare may find themselves useful for WH space or lowsec PvP. A full overhaul of every ship in the game to fit solely within the sov warfare paradigm is a little bit too extreme on the null-centric mindset.

I have already advocated that the impending structure overhauls should have features which are accessible specifically to sov-owning entities and create gameplay unique to nullsec. I maintain that player agency and the ability to customize both your “space house” and the terrain said house is built upon should be a cornerstone of nullsec life — and that includes mobility changes. As a result, we can instead argue for an increased role in structures and infrastructure in altering the flow of mobility:

Player built infrastructure should be able to influence the paradigms of sov warfare

One of my greatest criticisms of Phoebe was the fact that jump fatigue was applied to jump bridges. Now, with my discussion about how the nerfs to force projection also hit a bit too hard on local mobility, this stands firm as an example of an area where the nerf bat was misapplied. With the impending alteration to the max cap on jump fatigue, it is not unreasonable to call for an elimination of jump fatigue as applied to jump bridges. Considering the nontrivial cost required to operate a reliable jump bridge network in the first place, it would be nice to see them not accumulate fatigue, and perhaps even gain the ability to grow in infrastructural complexity with the upcoming structure changes, such as being able to place more than one jump bridge in your capital system, creating a “JB Hub” of sorts and feeling more like a true capital. This would be useful for both individual alliances to create a greater degree of centralization and thus agency over the terrain of your space, as well as for coalitions looking to expound upon possible highway options.

Once we factor in the promise of far more versatile structures in the pipe, the number of options grow exponentially. Player-built stargates are certainly not out of the picture, further expounding upon the aforementioned hub suggestion for alliances with the resources to fully utilize the potential that this system will hopefully bring. Another line that stuck with me from the initial structure blogs released back at Fanfest 2015 was the idea of being able to influence warp speeds in a system through the “Gate” structure, which would be a nice way to effectively enhance localized mobility, especially given how damn slow larger ships move. Ideally speaking, it would be nice to see some benefits solely for the “defenders,” such as the JB hub concept, and some alteration which is applicable to everyone in the area, such as the concept of warp speed alterations and player built stargates.

Unfortunately, there is little speculation that can be done on this matter due to the lack of information which we currently have. We could go off on tangents about how it might be nice to have broader uses for cyno field generators integrated into upcoming structures, or how a player-built stargate could serve as an out-gate to multiple different other stargates, or similar pipe ideas, but any discussion would lack substance. Thankfully, CCP is moving in a direction that I can get behind when it comes to their latest batches of changes, and I am certain that we will revisit these topics when additional changes are announced.

Stay tuned for next Sunday’s column, where we will discuss power projection!
Questions? Comments? Ideas? Mail Kyle Aparthos in-game or via kbrashear@themittani.com

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