Thank you very much everyone for placing me on CSM 6 and now on CSM 7 where I am currently serving as the Chairman! If you would like to contact me directly, do not hesitate to just send me an eve mail in game. Keep your eyes here and watch for new posts.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Balancing Costs & Benefits

The Nerf Wheel
Nearly one hundred and twenty pages and counting of rage / discussion / trolling after two days says a lot about how ~passionate~ some folks in EVE are about their big toys. I am, of course, talking about the latest balancing pass on Titans, also known as the Supercap Blap Nerf. I'm going to break my response to all this into two parts - what I think about the 'nerf' itself and the bigger, more dangerous problem I see coming out of this whole affair.

Titans here and now

I'm going to run with three assumptions here that I think most people agree on:
  1. Supercapitals should be very powerful (hence the price tag / training commitment).
  2. Supercapitals should not be able to operate effectively solo, or in groups of only supercaps.
  3. Supercapitals have no viable, cost-effective counter other than more supercaps.
There are many times where people opined about 'broken gameplay' for years with no action being taken until a proper solution was decided. While I believe most players agree there is a problem here, the jury is still very much out in terms of exactly what the final solution is.

AT PRESENT, nearly every subcap fleet doctrine in the game right now can be countered by another subcap fleet doctrine. Even capital ships can be relatively easily countered by subcaps. Supercapitals, on the other hand, cannot. Even a relatively small group of supercapitals is a very hard nut to crack for subcaps, and in big fleet fights, the moment one side deploys supercaps en masse, the fight is effectively over unless the other side is ready to properly counter. There is no subcap ship that is designed to kill capitals. This is not consistent with real world military advances where each time something appears too powerful, a counter is eventually invented. Does CCP have any plans for this sort of thing?

As for the proposed changes, the tracking changes are about what I expected and anyone thinking this was never going to happen has been overdosing on mindflood. The number of lockable targets is arbitrary and a bit silly but hardly an issue. The scan res is pretty much the one thing everyone who is upset agrees is over the top. Aside from all the arguments about Cormack SBs, I mean, what are Raggy or Levi pilots supposed to do here? For crying out loud, a base of 5 is just nuts. Why not just halve it to a base of 20-25? When you factor in lag / TiDi, etc..., 30-40 seconds to lock anything is still a looooooooong damn time.

This path of action by CCP feels to me like a ‘race to the finish line’ for folks (both Devs and players) that just want the subject to go away. My perception is that it essentially shelves titans indefinitely in terms of iterative balancing while the design team works on things they would rather work on. Is just nerfing things really all there is left? Going for the easy win by nerfing the guns or whatever just seems a cheap way to go. What happened to using IMAGINATION to solve these kinds of problems?

The larger problem

What's ironic about this 'nerf' or whatever is that, despite cries of 'victory'', it's not what even Mittens really wanted - he got the bare minimum. The members of CSM6 ALL wanted a proper re-vamp and we now have no idea if or when that will happen. My problem with this whole thing isn't even so much about ~titans~ as it is that a thing is being dealt with by kicking the can down the road (again). We've all heard these arguments about lack of resources before and now that there are more resources, the high end stuff is being shelved in favor of using a hammer instead of a scalpel.

Many of CCP's replies on this subject reveal that much of the problem is in how "Agile" development is a big influence on why we're not getting a proper solution here. Basically what's happening here is that "Titan Balancing" has been added to the backlog list of things to do soon(tm). For the sake of argument, every item in the backlog gets two scores - an "Effort" score, which describes how hard it is to do and a "Benefit" score, which says how "good" the end product will be. The ratio of Effort / Benefit becomes the priority given to every item in the backlog. The higher the priority, the sooner it gets done.

Until somebody actually sits down and does some engineering design, allocating an "effort" score is notoriously difficult. Often it gets set far too high because nobody feels like doing that particular job (especially when it comes to THIS topic!). The result is that anything with a low ratio gets pushed to the end of the queue. If the Benefit and Effort 'scores' aren't correct, important stuff can end up so far down the queue that it NEVER gets done. How many times can you kick a can down the road? This is the situation we are looking at AGAIN.

This level of play is something that many of CCP's most loyal customers spend years working toward. Frankly, once you hit 90M skill points per toon, finding something new to train is - well there pretty much isn't. Like many older players I have multiple alts, and my total skill points from just 3 characters are over well 250M, which means that at the bare minimum I have Industry & Trade, one racial supercap and all four races subcaps covered. After nine years in the game, there's nothing new to train for and the 'end goal' for a lot of people (be it anything from a carrier to a Titan) continues to be put aside so the focus can be placed on things whose 'benefit' is certainly debatable. I'd love to see the Bellicose do something useful, but at the cost of shelving a proper re-work of one of the most visible goals / isk sinks in the game? 

For those of you that have not seen it, Shadoo posted a few ~words~ that sum up a lot of my frustration: it's not that I'm mad about this particular nerf, more in what it represents for the (non?) future of proper iteration on the class:

Shadoo 1

Shadoo 2

Wise words to be remembered as we go forward:
"Short term fixes have a nasty habit of turning into long term features, which simply serve as a time-delay for the problem at hand. And I think you will find there are too many of these things today in active use or in active build to be able to deal with this in any "quick fix" capacity without simply making the problem worse to solve in the long term."
In closing, I do not like the precedent this sets for iteration of game play that sits stagnant for years at a time. CCP needs to do more than look at simple cost / benefit and consider the larger issues from a player perspective before committing to making simple 'number tweaks' when what is needed is a proper overhaul. This is the same kind of thinking that has allowed things like Factional Warfare and Industry to linger in apathy for ~millions of years~.


  1. It seems bizarre to me that they would nerf scan res so easily in the database when there is a perfectly reasonable way to nerf scan res already in the hands of players. How fast is your Titan going to lock on anything when it has a few Celestis/Arazu recons damping its scan res with scripted TDs?

    How much fun is locking small targets going to be when you have a bunch of Scorpions sitting at extreme range unlocking all your targets faster than you can retarget?

    Oh hang on, that's right, super caps have that special flag set where they're immune to EWAR.

    Interesting also to see CCP Soundwave claiming that there's no mechanic in game to reduce damage based on signature radius, even though it's right there in "signature resolution" which every turret weapon in the game already has.

    I'll just continue to sit on the sidelines being too dumb to be employed by CCP, pointing out what look to me to be obvious solutions to this problem.

    Remove EWAR immunity, increase sig res of XL weapons to reflect the size of XL ships. As a salve for dreads, modify the siege module to double their tracking and half their weapon sig resolution. You want to blap smaller ships? Fly a dreadnought and enter siege mode.

    But no ship should have EWAR immunity.

    1. Agreed Mara, there are a thousand different ways that CCP could re-balance Titans quickly.

      But all of them are no different those which we've been offered by CCP today - a bodged fix, rushed out because CCP game design cannot take the time required to properly design Supercap warfare.

      We all agree Supercap warfare is broken(tm) but until recently, players have been arguing about more important stuff, like the Incarna clusterf*ck and the complete neglect of FiS. Now that CCP are back on track again, its time to push for PROPER fixes for poor game design. CCP have already announced that Inferno will be a major update to "Warfare" in eve. It seems bizarre to me that POS bashing and Supercap balancing don't seem to be included in this expansion.

    2. Are my ideas too simplistic? Perhaps we need to start a thread in F&I where the developers won't interfere for a few months while the players nut out the purpose and role design of titans and super carriers - we know CCP isn't going to do it ;)

    3. That's how I think it should be handled. Remove EWAR immunity. Plus instead of changing XL weapons, just copy/paste those entries, graphics, ect and make new Titan class weapons with the correspondingly lower tracking, worse sig res, and why not, even higher damage. It really can't be that hard to do if they keep the same models for now, they can fiddle with them later if they want.

  2. Shadoo 1 contrasts an EHP fit titan against a DPS fit, sieged Moros. Surely, if you want to compare DPS roles, compare DPS fits?

    Shadoo 2 complains (again) about the ability for enemies to see the doomsday being fired, and react by overloading their hardeners. This can be worked around by either applying doomsday damage at the beginning of the firing animation, or having the more visible doomsday effects applied later in the firing sequence.

    Why would you be doomsdaying a ship that isn't tackled, though? Wouldn't you be doomsdaying a ship that everyone is shooting, including the HICs? How is a tackled ship going to escape a bubble by warping? What is going on here that warping out is a viable strategy for evading a doomsday?

    Why would you be doomsdaying a ship that you're not certain you'd be able to kill, overloaded hardeners or not? Remember, overloading hardeners means you have to wait until the next cycle for the overloading to take effect. If you expect that the target might survive one doomsday, wouldn't you coordinate two doomsdays on the target, or at least focus full fleet DPS and use the doomsday to break the target's back?

    How is the target keeping those hardeners turned on? Why aren't you nesting it?

    Sorry, I really don't understand Shadoo's arguments except as very distorted propaganda from a titan pilot. I love his sound board, but I'm still looking for his sound argument.

    1. Bear in mind that Shadoo and many others have argued that they would like to see Titans completely removed from combat or at least have the option to do something other than be another layer of shooting things. But in order for that to happen, CCP would have to commit to expanding the game in other areas as well.

    2. You're pretty fucking retarded son. Firstly, shadoo was not comparing dps fits for the Moros vs. the Erebus, but standard combat fits - which is a very fair comparison.

      Secondly, if you hadn't noticed titans can only doomsday capital now, which means that a killing blow is not guaranteed. And while his point about the doomsday was a bit obscure, it was certainly valid and understandable.

      Thirdly you're stupid cause you addressed two of many points he stated, tried to counter them (which you were wrong in) and then stated you couldn't see his sound arguments. Get your head out of your ass (or the ass of whichever propagandist you follow) and try to think logically next time before hammering on your keyboard.

  3. It's almost impossible to resolve.

    Supercaps (due to all the problem as mentioned above and elsewhere) should never have been introduced as they have been. Overpowered and beyond the progression and r-p-s mechanics of every other ship class.

    But they are there now - and in numbers.

    Sucks, but i sure can't find a way to get them a new role that doesn't suffer from similiar problems, unless

    a) they get significantly reworked downwards, lose their ewar-flag (while also getting cheaper) and get a sub-cap counter (think cruiser-sized stealth bomber) --> that could make a nice ship class that fits into eve pvp (basically just another capital, no supercap), but it would be a big kick in the guts for every current supercap pilot/owner/builder.

    b) they get reworked into a different role, that simply isnt spaceship PvP. Still might suck for the current supercap-people, but - depending on how well done - probably less so than a). But I think there is no need for the numbers of them currently around then. So I'd still argue in favor of a subcap-super-killer, and a significant prize tag on supers (raise it!). Yes, FC/boosting/logistics/planet-busting(dust!) ++.

    Mind you, i have even less ideas on what do to with supercarriers, I lack the knowledge.

  4. Selene:

    I take exception to the assumption you made, that most people agree with your three statements.

    While I agree with 2 and 3, I do not agree with 1. Yes, supercaps should be powerful, but "very powerful" ? Yes, they are a bugger to train for. OK. Yes they are expensive. Compare the cost and training for a pirate faction BS to a generic BS. Oh, supercaps are a class above regular caps?

    So say comparing a generic cruiser to a pirate class BS? is a Macharial 60 times as expensive as a rupture ? yup even more so.

    I don't have the skills to check, but does the EHP for a titan to carrier scale evenly to machariel/rupture ?

    1. Yes, I think Titans should be 'very powerful', but that doesn't mean in just terms of combat. I'd like to see them be powerful in other ways as well but that would mean CCP would have to look at them as something other than just big gun platforms.

    2. They should be (dockable) mobile stations for Alliances.

      Your blog ate my other response :(

  5. CCP kicking the can down the road on supers is not new. It's actually an EIGHT year old habit. Vast majority of MMO games have the concept of leveling. Once the character reaches maximum level (relatively quickly) character-based development stops and the player has reached "end game" status. Character progression now takes place through other means. Until a critical mass of characters reach this stage, the game developer does not need to provide "end game" content; no one can use it. But, for most MMOs, this is not a very long period of time, and the threshold (critical mass of players) before "end game" content needs to be provided is very low.

    In EVE, there are no levels, but there is training. Skill training-wise, the "end game" is super caps. It takes a long time to exhaust "pre-end game" content. The threshold before proper "end game" content needs to be provided is very high. Even just one super cap in the game is useful just by itself, so they can remain very unbalanced for long periods of time.

    Eventually though, more and more players reach the "level cap" of EVE, with nothing else to do except train and fly super caps. As more and more players are able to buy and fly super caps, they become a larger and larger factor on the battlefield, until their outstanding issues and neglect can no longer be ignored.

    We are there. Like all other MMO developers out there, CCP has been prognosticating. They are a business. They do not spend money on things which need no work, which is defined as the game being successful and players having fun. Like all other MMOs out there, CCP needs to develop "end game" play. The sandbox only goes so far. The sandbox requires rules and toys, players are not able to create those themselves. A critical mass of players have already tired of playing with the same toys, and are eyeing the curious stack of toys laying in the corner, largely unused. They find those toys do not play as nicely in the sandbox as the old toys. The more players pick up those toys, the more apparent the problem.

    CCP "simply" needs to step up and provide what players need. A continuation of character progression. They have had literally years to think about this, and develop a killer EVE "end game". Let us hope Incarna was not it. Expanding the game horizontally, as has been done since day 1, is now a delaying tactic.

    Players want to fly ships. Preferably in space. Although some might be diverted away from super caps, as the game grows the threshold and lack of "end game" will again make itself heard soon.

    Or maybe the expanding sandbox and new toys (WiS, DUST514) will prove to be a huge hit, and the "end game" aspect will again become small enough that it can hobble along for a few more years.

  6. The supercaps should NEVER have been ships meant for combat.

    The Mothership is OK to some extent (functioning like the real-life aircraft carriers), but the Titan should have been a mobile station providing pure logistic support (reshipping, docking, jumping, clones etc). It should have been a corporation asset in the way posses are.

    It would serving as a frontline command posts for big alliances or mobile HQ for small alliances. There would be no reason to have thousands in the game. No reason to make them a personal endgame objective. No reason to make them a hammer while trying to balance rock-paper-scissors.