Setting the Scene
A Keepstar under siege. Attacking forces muster their carriers a few thousand kilometers away, launch fighters, and bridge sub-capitals close in to apply damage. The defending fleets tether their carriers to the besieged citadel and launch fighters of their own. In the beginning, the attackers have the upper hand, but as time and TiDi wears on, battleships are dying too fast to be replaced, and fighters cannot be loaded fast enough. In the end, the repair timer runs out in real-time, and the defenders win the day.
Sound familiar? Yes, I too was at the battle of 9-4RP2. However, I speak not of the largest gathering of players in Eve history here – I am talking about the battle of A24L-V, which took place just days earlier. Although A24 was a much smaller affair over a mere shield timer, the tactics were strikingly similar. Having been present at two nearly identical battles in such a short timeframe gives me a unique perspective of how the player base in Eve is thinking at this moment. Allow me to give insight into the current “meta”, why the timers are how they are and my thoughts on how to break this monotony of TiDi victory.
Let’s start with how these battles reveal the “meta” that is present, but wrong, in Eve today. In both instances, the attacking force relied on its sub-capital fleets (which in both case were heavily Machariels, but that is a topic for another time) to apply initial DPS on the structure in order to pause the repair timer and begin the fight. The carriers deployed a fighter screen to shield the battleships from defending battleships and fighters. That tactic, in and of itself, is perfection and working as intended. The might of a carrier is not its ability to rain down massive destructive power on a single target, but rather to establish space-superiority and allow heavier-hitting ships to deal the direct damage.
The issue comes about when the attacking force loses space-superiority and, rather than scaling up the attack, begins to rely on the carrier and supercarrier firepower to attack the target. Under light or no resistance with no TiDi, this is acceptable, but carriers have two major weaknesses: their damage dealing ability can be removed without destroying the vessel, and their damage is not immediate. Fighters must be launched and burn to the target before applying damage. Once destroyed, a new fighter squadron must be loaded and then take the same time to target. Under TiDi, this results in the loss of the timer since TiDi does not apply to the repair timer. Again, as we saw in both 9-4 and A24, the fighter cycle is simply not fast enough to keep the timer paused without space superiority.
So why are the repair timers not affected by TiDi? I have seen calls for this in the last 24 hours, and the reason is actually very simple and shows good foresight by CCP on the matter. Imagine an Eve where the repair timer runs on the same clock as TiDi. Two smaller entities are fighting over a Fortizar. One entity is primarily EU/US, the other primarily AU/RU. The AU/RU group is on the defensive, and the final timer comes out closer to the end, but still within their time zone. The attacking EU/US group does not have the numbers to take on the defenders and their structure during that time, but since the repair timer is affected by TiDi, the EU/US group sends the people they do have to the system with fully loaded drone sub-caps and carriers. They find a nice safe, and spam the node with as many fighters/drones/containers/etc. as they need to go to full 10% TiDi. The fifteen-minute repair timer now takes two and a half hours and forces many of the defenders offline. With the opposing numbers slashed and their own numbers bolstered by the change in time zone, the attackers have control of the timer. Imbalance in this case becomes even more apparent when the entities are not evenly matched in the first place or the attackers’ staging is a mid-point jump away.
Change ourselves, change the game
Even with matching the timer to TiDi out of the question, it is still rather simple to fix the TiDi victory issue. The first thing that needs to change is the idea of carriers being the end-game for fleet engagements. Fleet Commanders as a whole need to realize that each class has a function to play in a large engagement. Carriers are great and can fill many roles in smaller battles, but Keepstar fights are on a whole other level. Dreadnoughts have instant damage application, can be dropped on a cyno on their own, have greater survivability than battleships, are very cheap to make, and are easy to fly. They cannot do space control like carriers, but they deal instant and precise damage that cannot be removed without killing the ship. I have to laugh a bit when I think about capital turrets and launchers having the word “siege” in the name and then not being used for sieges. Dreadnoughts hit the hard targets, sub-capitals interfere with the dreads, carriers interfere with the sub-caps and each other to establish space control and allow their own fleet to win the day. Escalations follow as needed – this is the logical way to fight large fleet battles. Throwing carriers at everything obviously does not work.
“But muh killboard!” This is the second change that need be made. It’s high time to stop treating zKillboard as if it is zScoreboard. Entities across New Eden have adopted an ideology that zKill tells them if they win or not, and therefore are unwilling to commit resources to fights which may negatively affect zKill. Ergo, when the promise of a large fight does present, 6000+ people flood the system and TiDi increases like Entropy. If people get the idea of zScoreboard out of their definition of victory in Eve, then the number of large battles would increase, making more content across the game, and meaning less people to overload servers for the promise of a single battle. Less people = less TiDi = more chance for the pilots to determine the outcome of a battle, rather than a game mechanic.
Are there things CCP can do to help these situations? Of course, but for too long we as the players of Eve have looked to CCP developers to hand us perfect content on a silver platter in a sandbox world. The ability to beat the TiDi defense is already in the game. It is up to us as players to change our understanding and adapt as we are so well versed in doing.