Reppers, Spacepriests, Force Multipliers. Call them what you will, but Logistics ships are a crucial element to any fleet. From PvP to PvE, Logistics pilots find themselves in demand wherever they go, so why is it that their role is relegated to such an anaemic repertoire of functionality? This will be part 1 of a 2-part series looking at expanding the role of support ships in EVE. In this first piece, I'd like to present, for your consideration and feedback, a list of new functionality for logistics vessels that I feel will benefit the game as a whole, and also expand the role that Logistics pilots can play in game.
However, I would like to put one note before I begin – while I make no claim to be an expert in the field of logistics in EVE Online, my multiplayer curriculum vitae should qualify me to at least speak on the topic. Over 1500 hours as Medic in Team Fortress 2. Max level characters in end-game level content with different healing classes in several popular MMOs, over 500 hours respectively in Support and Medic classes in Battlefield 2 alone, and of course, countless hours as a Basilisk pilot and Logistics Commander in high security space Incursions. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it should make my point – I like to heal things.
One thing that often surprises me about EVE's logistics portfolio is just how basic the functionality they provide is. For example, the natural progression of logistics in this game now (post-Retribution) is to enter a logistics frigate, followed by a logistics cruiser, graduating to Tech 2 logistics cruisers, and finally ending with capital ships and their triage modes. Looking at this progression, we see a very linear progression that is at its core: small, medium, large, and capital repair modules; essentially a thought train that goes like this, “the only way I'll be a more effective logistics pilot is by flying the next ship up in size.” This is somewhat desirable as the hull prices speak for themselves, and it does allow small gang PvP to access logistics capability without needing Racial Cruiser V or the possibly prohibitive price tag. But let's explore some new options that may allow us to make logistics, as a role, more exciting, and combat as a whole, more interesting.
For the record, the ideas I propose are not novel; though they may be derivative, I have modified and adapted these ideas for EVE Online's unique combat environment.
MORE THAN REPAIRS - MITIGATION
One of the greatest areas for improvement is the idea that a Logistics vessel should be capable of doing much more than repair – they should be able to prevent that damage from occurring in the first place.
It's no secret that in large fleet PvP that known FCs are primaried first to remove them from the battlefield (which has spawned its own meta game in and of itself). Imagine then a logistics vessel being able to grant a ship an extra layer of protection, capable of absorbing a certain amount of damage, before the first strike even touches shields. This could be in the form of a high slot module that activates instantly, lasts a set duration of time (let's say 10-15 seconds), or a set amount of damage, and is followed by a cooldown period of 2-3 minutes preventing its overuse and abuse and the caveat that the target that has received the extra layer of protection may not have that module activated on it, may not receive the benefit again for the same 2-3 minute cooldown period. In this way, we may preserve the ability of combat fleets of still being able to kill whatever it is that their primary is should they be absolutely resolved to do so, but allowing logistics pilots the flexibility of being able to instantly stop damage on a target as they triage their fleet and juggle the broadcasts coming in. A module such as this should take the spot of a repair module with similar power grid and CPU requirements.
SURVIVAL - A FUNCTION OF TIME
One thing that any pilot that interact with logistics pilots will tell you is that time is of the essence. After all, they don't call it triage because you can take your sweet time to repair everyone. So why is it then that repper modules are all the same? Instant activation followed by a cycle time and then a once per cycle increase in shield/armor integrity. Can we not provide a solution that gives logistics pilots more flexibility with regards to how those reps are applied?
Consider that all Tech 2 Logistics cruisers have a maximum of 10 locked targets. Glossing over the fact that the Basilisk and Guardian may need to have 1 or 2 of those targets locked just to keep a capacitor transfer chain up to stay cap stable, and we have 8 to 9. But you'll notice that most fits only include about 3 or 4 repair modules per ship. So while it is fortunate that a typical logistics pilot will be able to view the status of 8 or 9 ships at once, their ability to do something about it, is about half that (though repair drones do count for something).
Imagine, then, the proposed idea of being able to activate an “alternate activation” of your typical repair module to switch away from traditional repair to a charge based , instant activation, alternate usage that would provide a target with repairs over time, albeit with more repairs than standard repair modules. The trade off is striking – more repairs, but over time. This means that in combat, a ship can still be burned down, but if left neglected, gains an advantage. In addition, logistics pilots can quickly select a pilot provide a top up repair, or a temporary repair (until more repair modules free up), not having to wait for long cycle times to end (thus providing a more responsive experience for logistics pilots), and all the while being limited to charges that they can fit in a cargo hold. After all – what is the purpose of all that space in your cargo hold anyhow? Charges would need to be a separate item, unlike the Ancillary Shield Boosters, and would need to be large enough so as to restrict their usage, but small enough that they are not hindering logistics ships that may need to carry extra flights of logistics drones or are running out of charges in longer engagements.
SPREAD THE WEALTH - AREA OF EFFECT
Area of Effect has been in games since time immemorial, and while one might argue that AoE is not all that applicable in a three-dimensional game such as EVE, I have a few words for you: bubbles, smartbombs, and bombing runs. AoE is a significant part of EVE, and it's high time that it be used for more than just exploding things. For this I have two suggestions: a sub-capital AoE triage module and an anchorable structure that would provide damage mitigation to the ships within its field for a set duration of time and damage.
For the first suggestion, I imagine a triage module that would go into the high power slot of the ship. It would allow the Logistics vessel the ability to gain the current triage module benefit of a large bonus to repair strength. But, it would also allow the closest set number of ships within its radius of effect to be repaired for roughly a half of a standard repair, within the same cycle time as well. The trade-off being a longer cooldown like 5-10 minutes.
The second suggestion is fairly straight forward, a damage mitigation shield for a set radius of effect, for a short duration of time and damage, and instead of taking up a module slot, would be an anchorable (only in 0.0 and WH space) item that would need a short period of time to anchor (during which time it could be destroyed), but with enough HP to survive a sneeze. This would allow for group mitigation of damage, but would not be available to protect against mistakes such as finding yourself in a trap of smartbombing battleships or being slaughtered by a well-executed bombing run, it again, gives more tools to logistics pilots to use for the purpose of keeping more ships alive.
LEAVING LOGISTICS - CONCLUSION
In summary, logistics ships are a significant component to combat in EVE. And by expanding their roles as support ships, we have an opportunity to shake things up in the world of combat in EVE, and also provide a more interesting experience to logistics pilots in the game. While everyone loves having a logistics pilot in their fleet, not everyone loves being the logistics pilot. It is my hope that the suggestions I've put forth today will at least start the discussion of expanding their role so as to make them a more attractive and sought after role to play. And while some may say “isn't combat hard enough?” or “why would you want to make it harder for ships (and thus ISK) to get destroyed?”, I would reply that change is the lifeblood of EVE. War never changes, until it does.
Then it gets more interesting.