A Tale of Two Keepstars: Time to Change the Meta

2018-01-27

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.

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Comments

  • Hideo Date

    Finally an acknowledgement that the playerbase has a responsibility as well! You are making some good points 🙂

    January 27, 2018 at 7:14 AM
  • Dark Spite

    Excellent article, really pleased to see some of my thoughts mirrored. Meta in EVE has a tendency to become stale and accepted as gospel. I can understand risk mitigation, having worked as a project manager, but risk aversion keeps fun and cool things from happening. That is the current state of citadel attack and 9-4 a very good example of.

    January 27, 2018 at 7:47 AM
  • Doughlas MacAlister

    This is wrong on so many levels …
    Firstly, there is nothing easier than oblitterating any dreadbomb you drop on a keepstar with a few BFG Titans.
    Second, even if you drop dreads in small groups all around the grid you can still fail horribly by virtue of lag and uresponsive modules. Lets say 3 out of your 10 cyno guys DC and cant log back in, 2 more get unresponsive module 1 cant undock. Not to even metion that the same can and will happen to dread pilots.
    Third, even if you sucesfully destroy a keepstar it is worth about 250 bil. By feeding it 100 dreads and about 200 subcaps. You lost the ISK war by 3:1 ratio but you removed a strategic objective. Next day the deffender drops another keepstar. Rinse and repeat.
    Fourth, complaining about players playing with TIDI and timezone wars is flat out ignoring the entire history of EVE. These things are part of the game and we know how to deal with them. Timer that realisticly repairs in 90 seconds in heavy TIDI is just bullshit.
    Fifth FCs are not idiots, they know how to use dreads and they know what a “Siege” is. Many of them are doing this for years.(and all of cap FCs certainly do. ) If FCs across multiple alliances agree that the best way to attack a citadel is by fighters, it is probably because they have run the analysis and this came out as the best possible solution.

    January 27, 2018 at 9:00 AM
    • Bryan Frye Doughlas MacAlister

      So bring your own Titans? The Keepstars are supposed to be defended and this one was very well. With one organization alone bringing over 200 Titans to defend it.
      This goes back to the zScoreboard he was talking about.
      Then you are not going to war with the right reasons and you are zScoreboarding.
      Tell your friends and I shall tell mine stop fitting ecm maledictions and bringing them to fights for the dank Scoreboard.
      Yes ‘MOST’ of the big names do. But sometimes you find yourself in a echo chamber and you don’t know how things will turn out till you do it. Just like how NC. whelped 3 titans last time to save the Keepstar to try methods of engagement.

      January 27, 2018 at 10:27 AM
      • Doughlas MacAlister Bryan Frye

        Oh jeez. Yes, drop your titans on the KS (only armor ones since shield titans get rekt by voids) Now you have Titans DPSing a keepstar, while they are getting shot at by enemy titans, enemy dreads, enemy SCs, fucking citadel doomsday, citadel anti capital weapons. You cannot counter drop dreads because of void bombs. You can try and kill enemy fighters while they are killing your Titans. With a good enough numbers FAXes dont matter since you can poop a Titan before they can get reps to him (I know we killed NC titans in space between my guns cyclying) . If you are super sucsesfull they may just kill 10-20 of your titans. Congrats, now you have whelped 700-1400 bil vs 250 bil and you still havent even shot enemy ship . Its about efficiency, you wont win anything by bleeding yourself to death.

        January 27, 2018 at 12:03 PM
      • Sixth: even if you disregard all of the above mechanical problems, there’s the ultimate problem of their being no real strategic incentive to blow up some Keepstar on the other side of the map.

        Keepstars don’t affect Sov. For that matter, specific sov-ownership doesn’t impact a player group either: since all space is upgradeable to ridiculous productivity levels– and thus equally “valuable”– there’s no incentive for a bloc to risk any kind of large capital or supercapital fleet to defend any particular swathe of space other than bragging rights. See: WWB. All of EVE: “we kicked your asses out of the North.” Goonswarm: “So what?” ~*moves south and is the most productive entity in the game again three weeks later*~.

        January 28, 2018 at 7:09 AM
  • CarlGustav

    And yet what are the options.

    Your looking in to the HS issue and there we don’t have the issue with the keepstars and short timers. The mechanics is fair in hs but utterly devastating in nullsec.

    Either you comit 300-600 dreads on the sceen and risk getting boson to death. Losing as Mutch as a keepstar. Not to mention that dreads have a history from BR-5 and earlier not to fire/refuse to cycle guns under heavy tidi.

    Because like it’s now the effort to evac someone in eve take 6+. Months. Think of it. We are making it static online.

    If the keepstars needed dps was scaled with tidi I think it would be fair.

    Another option Is to treat NS different from HS/LS no auto repair…. you need to burn it down and they have to repair it. Then we get a new meta of killing faxes for defender while they kill off dps.

    Another way would be to treat timers/tidi different on a reinforced node this would treat those big fights differently. As it would t damage the rest of the echo system.

    Anyway just switching the meta will not be sufficient as a th defender have to break the dps chain for 15m while the offences need to play perfect for 7+h.

    January 27, 2018 at 9:18 AM
  • Bryan Frye

    Solid Article and very good points. It surprises me as well coming from the Imperium forces of using carriers, I think we have found that the Carriers in eve are rather balanced (being support not front line especially when you use them as such 1,000 km away). But time will tell.

    January 27, 2018 at 10:18 AM
  • Erick Asmock

    The dread option is a terrible option. It isn’t used for a reason. First, damage is capped so you are forced to sacrifice too many dreads to achieve victory. Second, a dread lasts 2 minutes. You can’t put enough dps on the keepstar efficiently.

    January 27, 2018 at 12:22 PM
  • xearal

    While you make good points in your article, I’m afraid that you’re arguements about ‘muh scoreboard’ are flawed. Bigger entities don’t care about their scoreboard, but they do care about the overal picture. Spending ten times what it costs the enemy to hold an objective to remove it is simply bad for a war. Something you cannot sustain.
    It all comes down to ‘What is the price of a mile?’.

    January 27, 2018 at 6:32 PM
  • Goonswarm is possibly the least-killboard-stat oriented group in the game, with a long, LONG history of trying to destroy our enemies by clogging their guns with our Rifter wrecks.

    Even if you ignore the repeated, misleading statements about things like the efficacy of dread-drops in a Keepstar fight, you’ve failed to address the core problem here: there is no good reason to welp expensive ships (caps, supercaps, ten-billion Rifters, whatever) to blow up a Keepstar or do just about anything else in EVE right now. At some point there may be another engagement where one side drops the proverbial ball and a bloodbath ensues: at that point, a bloc will require its capital and supercapital fleets much more than it requires any particular citadel or even region of space.

    If an attacker commits a super fleet to an objective like this and then loses that battle, they’re finished– out of the game for a significant period of time. If the attacker wins, they kill a structure worth as much as two or three Titans. Why the fuck would anyone all-in over that kind of objective unless the defender had already screwed something up and was likely to lose their own super fleet?

    January 28, 2018 at 7:24 AM
    • Tyler Cook Ganthrithor

      What was the old incentive for strategic conflict?

      January 31, 2018 at 6:40 PM
      • A handful of systems within each region that hosted moons worth billions of isk per month. Moons were generally nationalized, and were the main source of alliance income. People went out and took whole new regions because they wanted (or needed) more R64s.

        At the individual level, people also needed access to good PvE territory. This sounds like a joke now, since literally any sov-null system in EVE can provide a metric fucktonne of ore and bounties, but back in the day ratters could only hunt bounties in asteroid belts. The spawns in these belts were determined by two factors: the true security status of the system (lower is better), and player-interaction through a technique called “chaining”: basically, if there was a spawn in a belt and you killed everything in the spawn, the belt would sit empty for fifteen minutes and eventually a new set of NPCs would spawn. But, if you cleared only part of a spawn, a few minutes later the ships that had been destroyed would re-spawn to repopulate the belt exactly as it was before you blew anything up. So players would spend hours each day (after the initial, random post-DT spawns) “preening” their ratting systems– warping from belt to belt, clearing low-value spawns, waiting for the belts to re-populate with high-value, multiple-battleship spawns, and then clearing only the battleship rats from each belt in order to get all the belts spitting out high-value BS rats every few minutes.

        Because truesec heavily affected the likelihood of high-value battleship rat spawns in belts, and because the number of belts in a system also had a massive effect on system productivity (You can imagine clearing all the belts in an 8-belt system, then going away to have coffee while waiting for those belts to re-spawn would not make much isk. Even with good spawns in 6 of those belts, you’d be spending a lot of time on your hands), some areas of space were vastly more profitable for PvE than others. A -1.0 system with 20 belts in it was a ratting haven, while a -0.1 system with 20 belts was pretty awful, and a -0.1 system with 5 to 8 belts would’ve been considered utterly worthless to all but the poorest, most desperate players. Even an ideal system (low truesec, tons of belts) could only support a handful (2-4, maybe) of concurrent users effectively. So organizations needed an immense amount of space to sate their members’ hunger for NPC bounties.

        So, you’d have alliances coveting other alliance’s space for a few now-nonexistent reasons: better moons for more alliance income (this is how SRP and other alliance programs were funded), and better space to keep line members happy. Now, neither of those concerns are really a factor: CCP redistributed moons more evenly and introduced an artificial mechanism (alchemy) to prevent bottlenecking of moongoo supplies and the resultant high moongoo prices, significantly devaluing moons. Now as a bonus they’ve made moongoo effectively impossible to control in a top-down fashion, since the goo itself flows into the hangars of individual alliance members rather than being collected by a handful of alliance logistics alts.

        The ratting question has been removed from the game entirely: you can now pop ihub upgrades into any shithole nullsec system in EVE that will make it spit out multiple Sanctums on a five minute respawn timer, along with massive asteroid anomalies for mining. Are some systems sill “better” than others? Sure, but only by a few percent. The difference between a good PvE system and a bad one used to be the difference between rolling in cash (relatively-speaking– you still made less than you do in anoms now) and living in absolute poverty. Now the difference is marginal– you might get more +10% ores or an extra Sanctum or two in the lowest truesec spots, but the difference is not worth fighting over. Members in garbage space still have access to practically-unlimited resources.

        February 1, 2018 at 9:45 PM
        • Pretty much that.
          Even with alchemy and upgrades, CCP made truesec meaningless when it rolled out Aegis sov (the current sov system) in 2015.
          CCP has that policy of giving the players extra resources, hoping it makes them happy. 15 years in, they still haven’t figured out that players don’t want more ISK, they want to be rich (not the same thing) and they want bragging rights.

          February 8, 2018 at 12:30 PM
      • Bozo Tyler Cook

        B-R happened because the game had a bug (that CCP quietly patched later – see the patch notes at the time) that made automated payments stop sometimes.
        One side accidentaly didn’t pay for sov in a system, losing control of the station where all their alliance assets were. So they sort of had to fight for it. Even then, the CFC (the Imperium under its previous name) only committed after its allies already had, and because its main FC sort of blindsided Mittens into taking the fight. My point being that this was something of a fluke.

        February 8, 2018 at 12:23 PM
  • Brandon Evans

    The timer not tied to tidi is an issu

    January 29, 2018 at 7:08 PM
  • It’s just depressing when you realize you’ve been playing for over ten years, yet despite all that developer time, all the forum-warrioring, all the suggestions and feedback etc, the game would be more fun if they pressed a magic button that sent the core mechanics back to 2009. Like yikes: you worked on a thing for ten years, made lots of great technical progress, and yet your game design team has actually made the game less fun to play despite the fact that it’s exponentially prettier and works better than ever before.

    January 30, 2018 at 8:37 PM
  • Bozo

    Also, good argument about zScoreboard, and it’s used as such by everybody. Including the Imperium: much as they boast that they don’t care about being good at eve, they won’t fight if they don’t think they’ll win, and will have a generally conservative stance.

    However, in the absence of anything else, zkill and net worth are the only scoreboards we have.

    February 8, 2018 at 12:37 PM