Header art by Redline XIII
Three weeks ago, Dirk Stetille and I interviewed CCP Masterplan, of Team Talos. During that interview, we talked about how Talos sees Fleet Logistics—remote assistance—as a thing that’s inhibiting conflict in EVE. At the time, I said (in the interview, not the final published article) that “I am not going to go off on any sort of lengthy rant about just exactly how badly my preferred specialisation is, in fact, the cancer killing the game”. Today, with ‘Saviors’ showing up as a new implant set in Hoboleaks, I am.
To answer that question, first we have to be clear about what the question is. Why am I going off on a rant, or why is logistics a thing that inhibits conflict (aka: ‘the cancer killing the game’, ie: an agent of stagnation)? The answer to the first of those is simple: CCP’s about to put Savior implants into the game, decreasing the cycle time of remote armor repair and remote shield booster modules. As it happens, I think it’s a pretty bad idea.
The answer to the second part? Well, that’s the rant, now isn’t it?
Why Is Logi Bad?
Fleet logistics (as opposed to actual logistics; you know, hauling crap all over the cluster in freighters/jump freighters/DSTs/etc) is, in theory, an essential part of the MMO structure. Every MMO uses some form of it. It’s right there in the Holy Trinity: Tank, DPS, Healer. Even in PvP, they’re still out there, keeping the group alive. No matter what you call them—Priests, Clerics, Shamans, Minstrels, Rune-Keepers—every MMO’s got healers, right?
Except EVE isn’t every MMO.
EVE’s PvP mechanics are a lot more complicated than most MMOs’. Most MMOs don’t care about missile flight time, or target’s signature radius, turret tracking vs transversal velocity, speed vs explosion velocity, etc. In most MMOs, you push button, do damage, mitigated by a set % based on defense like armor. So a simple model of remote assistance makes perfect sense. But that’s not EVE.
In EVE, a simple model of remote assistance yields exactly the frustration we’ve seen for well over half a decade in null: If one side brings enough logi, their enemies need to be able to kill ships in a single volley… or they’re not killing anything at all. If you don’t bring enough logi, you will lose, period, full stop. So why bother showing up?
It’s why little guys can’t even bleed larger foes, and can’t fight a war of attrition. There’s no point in making a “Last Run”-style charge against overwhelming odds. You won’t take anything down with you. The logi catch it, and your whole attack becomes an exercise in futility. One side is bored, and the other is bored and frustrated.
Gaming the Meta
This is also why the meta is what it is right now. You need to kill things in a brief window before the logi can catch it. This means you need tightly-grouped deliveries of a lot of damage: volley-fire. DPS becomes completely secondary to ‘how hard does it kick when it does fire?’
On the other side of this, the most important part of your tank isn’t necessarily how big a buffer you have. It is more important that your resistances are as high as humanly possible, and even that’s not the same at all times. After all, nobody cares about your resist profile when you’re not being shot at. And once the logistics catch, exactly how high those resists are isn’t the sole determining factor for if you live or die. But during that window before the first reps take hold…
On the offensive side, you need high alpha-strike. On the defensive side, you need high resists. Is it any wonder Muninns—Artillery-laden ships with an Assault Damage Control to provide godlike resists for a short period—are so prevalent? They’re literally the perfect vessel for the meta created by remote assistance.
Help Me, Obi-Wan Kenobi…
Enter Savior implants. Saviors make remote repair modules (armor and shield reps only, sorry hull!) cycle faster. So the first cycle of armor repairs happens sooner. The second cycle of shield reps comes faster.
The window of vulnerability gets even smaller. Damage has to come in even more tightly-packed. It only exacerbates the situation, and pushes more people toward a smaller number of ships: Muninns, Hurricanes, Ruptures, Tempests. If Rapid Fire was meant to give autocannons a boost… well, this guts them. Missiles have a similar alpha-strike capability to artillery—in some ways, even more so—but flight time means you can just warp away from them.
Put bluntly, this new implant set, absent fundamental changes in the way remote assistance works, funnels people into a very narrow selection of hulls, on both sides of the coin.
Tons of Choices, Most of Them BAD
I’ve already described the basic picture for offense. On defense, it’s just as bad, and by defense, I mean logistics. The Savior set means you get more reps/second out of the same module. That much is obvious. And you wind up using more capacitor/second. This is obviously intended as a balancing factor. You need capacitor to run your remote repair modules, right?
Not always. The Oneiros and Scimitar will see their capacitor requirements spike with these implants. Fits will need to be adjusted, and tank may be weakened. But how bad is it? After all, because of the constant change in targets, remote repair modules are deactivated and reactivated all the time. Logistics don’t need cap stability. They only need about 3 minutes of capacitor life, and most of the people designing fittings for doctrine use know this. However, they do need those 3 minutes of capacitor life.
Reducing the cycle time on remote repair modules means increasing the capacitor demand from those modules by exactly the same amount. For a Large Asymmetric Enduring Remote Shield Booster, with perfect skills, that change works out to 1.19 GJ/s. One an AB Scimitar with 3 large and 1 medium rep, the total comes out to an additional 4.15 GJ/s, on a ship that’s already running at -6.28 GJ/s. Just the implants create more of a capacitor hit than running a second afterburner.
Is that an insurmountable issue? Of course not. But it does mean sacrificing a lot of tank—and that’s on the afterburner version of a Scimitar. The MWD version already tends to run tighter on capacitor and tank. The only real reason it gets used at all is due to the difficulty in getting Basilisks to keep up with Muninns.
The Chain Keeps Us Together.
While building a Basilisk that keeps up with Muninns can be difficult, it can definitely be done. This is especially true in light of the recent reduction to the Muninn’s speed. 2594 m/s is a far easier goal for the slow Caldari hull than 2750+ m/s. As a result, the Basilisk, and its armor counterpart the Guardian, are well-positioned to abuse the hell out of these implants.
The only real drawback to these is, after all, the additional hit to the ship’s capacitor. But the Basilisk and Guardian don’t much care about that at all. They have what the Oneiros and Scimitar don’t: the Cap Chain.
Cap chains are the capacitor version of spider-tanking: each ship locks its two designated cap buddies, and sends them cap. In turn, their partners send cap back. It should cancel out completely, except, well, CCP like to contradict themselves. And since even my alts have trained Thermodynamics, I’d like to take this opportunity to frown in annoyance. Or, you know, rant.
Remote Capacitor Transmitter modules pretty much break the prohibition modern physics has against perpetual motion units. They conjure gigajoules of energy from nowhere, producing (and transferring) more energy than they consume. Put simply, they cheat in ways Isaac Newton would be extremely put out over. That lets Basilisk and Guardians, which are on their own completely incapable of running all of their systems for more than 30s in most builds, run everything, forever. In fact, with just a little bit of coordination and managing the cycling sequence of your modules, these ships are basically immune to neuts.
The end result? Basilisks/Guardians—already the preferred logi cruisers—can use these implants with no downside. Using these implants, those ships can provide more reps, for longer, without sacrificing tank, than their non-chaining counterparts.
Sticking Both Halves Together
In a game where the meta quickly boils down to ‘which 1 or 2 ships is absolutely the most effective in the majority of situation?’, the total impact is clear. The meta entrenches even more heavily on the DPS side toward artillery, HACs, and combining those things, the Muninn. On the defensive side, ship selection tightens as well, with existing pressures toward the Basilisk and Guardian only getting stronger. And in combination, what you end up with is a meta where—more than ever before—the force multiplication power of logistics ends up choking conflict in its crib with those two simple truths:
If you have enough logi, nobody dies.
If you don’t, you lose. Why bother undocking?
Fix. Yo’. Shizzle.
Seriously, now. Logistics is broken. Players widely recognize FAXes as apex-level ‘broken’, but the problem exists in subcaps just as surely. It has for years. It has needed to be fixed for so long that it needed to be fixed ‘for years’ over four years ago.
In that time, CCP’s tried a few times to make minor changes to how logi works. They introduced fall-off range, where the effectiveness of the remote-repair modules drops off. They introduced diminishing returns, and may—according to Masterplan—be revisiting that at some point to adjust how much of a hit they are. The problem is, none of their solutions really address the problem.
Look, balancing logistics is hard. We get that. It’s PvP. If you make it so the healers can save everyone, then nobody fights. If you make it so the healers can’t save anyone, then they get frustrated and pissed off. That pissed-off-ness slowly permeates out and you’ve got whole swaths of players mad at you for nerfing things into the ground in a callous way. Worse, they’re getting mad at each other because some people like logi, and some people like logi getting nerfed into the ground. It’s a difficult balance point to find. But there’s a whole lot of mechanics out there to be explored.
Who’s In Command?
A lot of the fixes to logistics might lie in looking at the Command Boost system. Both the current and older command bonus systems provide examples of remote assistance. But those bonuses don’t create the kind of frustration that the current logistics mechanics do.
Current Command Bursts provide additional HP and increased resistance in an unfocused, area-of-effect method. The original system provided the same in a more focused, and more far-reaching way. Boosters passively applied throughout the system, but only to members of the booster’s squad, wing, or—in the singular case of the FC—fleet. Something like this could be the way forward for logistics.
Boy In A Bubble
One of the mechanics other games make good use of is Temporary Hit Points. EVE previously used these in hilarious and backwards ways. In the old Fleet Boosting system, having FCs/WCs in ships with the right skills and the right implants could provide a massive number of temporary HP to ships. These Hit Points were, oddly enough, effectively stuffed in at the bottom of your HP totals. This led to some hilarious things, like titans spontaneously exploding when their pilot moved out of Wing Command because that one thing made his armor HP go negative.
The reason it worked this way is, to oversimplify, that they weren’t tracked separately. It was all tracked as ‘here is the amount of total HP in the Hull/Armor/Shields’, and ‘Here is the amount of damage Hull/Armor/Shields have taken’. Move the WC, and suddenly the second is bigger than the first, so Boom.
But that’s the old system. In the new system, the way they’re tracked appears to be basically ‘applied on top’. So when armor boosts drop off, damage can go away. When shield boosts apply, passive regen jumps up. It gets weird, but the new system works a lot better, and I certainly haven’t heard of ships spontaneously exploding when the boosts turn off.
Applying This To Logi
So how do we take those lessons and use them to fix logistics? The first step is in acknowledging that the standard ‘I lock you up and undo the damage you’re taking’ mechanic is the problem. Off-loading the actual repairs to remote assistance makes the tank maintenance distributed, and that scales. And that’s the issue: what happens at scale. And as we address that, we need to also maintain the viability of the system in small-scale fighting.
Reps Come From Within
This is the simplest bit to understand: everyone needs to carry their own repper. The advantages of this are that people need to pay attention to their own status. You can’t just get watchlisted and assume the logi will notice you getting shot. And yes, that happens now. Requiring a local repper expands the number of ways logi provide remote assistance, without the ‘complete shutdown of destruction’ that happens now.
Meanwhile, other modules could function as remote repair augmentors, like a remote counterpart to the Shield Boost Amplifier that functions for both shield and armor. These would increase the amount of HP restored by local reps, while also subject to (less extreme) diminishing returns.
Other variations on the theme exist as well. Remote modules that improve resists, on a separate set of stacking penalties than local Hardeners and Command Bursts—perhaps made to diminish weakly with the DCU/RAH stack. One single module of this type wouldn’t improve resists by much, maybe 1%, or scripted to improve a single resist by as much as 3%, but they’d add up… though of course, never to 100. Ideally, never even to 99.
Still more might accelerate the cycle time of local reps, similar to Crystal implants. These don’t even need diminishing returns, given the clear downside of a module cycling too quickly. Instead, they wind up requiring allied counter-play of their own. Maybe the pilot uses a Cap Booster. Or someone else uses a Remote Capacitor Transmitter, or a new set of remote assistance modules to reduce the capacitor costs of local repair modules. And those, in turn, could be subject to stacking penalties.
That creates more combinations. More options. And more ways to seek solutions… but things still blow up.
Throwing Band-Aids From Afar
CCP could even retain direct remote repair modules. Just make them subject to normal levels of diminishing returns: The first three are worth it, but after that it quickly becomes pointless. Maybe these modules’ effectiveness actually have to deal with tracking and signature radius. One way or another, though, these can’t be the first line of defense. They have to be something that augments local reps, at best.
Another option for remote repair might be that the remote assist module simply applies a bonus of (X) HP to the appropriate buffer (hull/armor/shield) while running. Turn off the module, and that temporary HP pool goes away. Burn through those temp HP, and the module shuts off. Yes, the pilot could be re-apply the module. However, as long as diminishing returns apply, and the temp HP pool remains segregated from the normal pool, these only buy a little time for the local reps to work.
Doubtless, other approaches to the problem exist. CCP could come up with other modules. No matter what, though, the most essential part of this is breaking the current structure that offloads tank maintenance to a large, distributed group of logistics ships. As long as that remains the case, this cancer just keeps metastasizing.
Closing Thoughts, and Thanks
A lot of this article came out of discussing the issues and problems with the new implants with on-again/off-again INN contributor, and fellow logi pilot, Alizabeth. She probably had the best, and most concise statement of the conversation: “Yeah, they could fix the problem. They just need to actually FIX the PROBLEM.”
Much of what came after that—and a chunk of what came before it—was looking at ways to fix it, including many discussed here, but the basic meaning remained unchanged; Just looking to tweak a few numbers here and there won’t do it.
The mechanics of logistics in EVE Online fundamentally work to minimize destruction, and make conflict futile. A new implant set that makes logi more effective, faster, while simultaneously narrowing the ‘best’ choice of which logistics hulls to use… that doesn’t improve the game. It just makes things even worse.