(Editor's Note: As always with balance discussion, the opinions contained in this article are those of the author, not of TMC.)
In my previous article, I examined the impact of remote repair modules and hulls with repair bonuses on player behavior, and why that impact was a negative force within EVE. In my opinion, the game is being driven toward larger fleets, fewer fights, and a limited set of fleet compositions for any fight involving a timed objective in nullsec. Because these timer fights determine who gets to enjoy the benefits of moons, stations, and sovereignty, they have an impact on the metagame that is disproportionate to their frequency, and can be said to be driving the meta. In this article I propose a fix for these issues: the introduction of a module called the Remote Logistics Disrupter (RLD).
So What is it?
Mechanically, this module would be identical in all respects to a Stasis Webifier, except that instead of reducing the speed of the target, it would reduce the amount that the target was repaired by incoming reps. The RLD would have no impact on the logistics ship, only the target of the repair disrupter. A ship with an RLD de-buff placed on it would receive a reduced percentage of all incoming reps regardless of how many ships were repairing it.
Following the normal stacking penalty progression incoming repairs would be reduced to 50% for the first RLD then 28%, 20%, and 17% with each successive tech one disrupter placed on the target ship. For tech two the progression would be 40%, 19%, 12%, and 10% respectively. As with stasis webs, after the 4th modules stacking penalties cause additional modules to have minimal further impact.
Why not a hard nerf?
New modules are a wild card. Why not simply directly nerf remote reps, or the hulls which bonus them? I think remote reps bring very good things to the game. Logistics reward well-organized fleets over kitchen sink ones, and add diversity to the game by enabling a combat role other than pure DPS. Crippling logistics would leave combat in Eve a poorer and less interesting place. Without effective and reliable repairs during battle, fights would become straight DPS matches where each side simply tried to obliterate the other more quickly than their own forces were reduced.
There is nothing inherently wrong with ships getting repairs in combat. The current issues stem from the fact that there are only two counters to hostile logistics: namely hitting the magic DPS number, or in some situations remote sensor dampers. Introducing the RLD would give fleets a whole new set of options for what to do when confronted with an enemy force supported by logistics.
At its most basic level, the RLD would allow for far greater diversity in the fleets and tactics used for major fights. Under the current system there are only three roles that need filled in a fleet outside a few niche boost ships: High EHP damage dealers, logistics, and interdiction. Ewar may sometimes make an appearance but for the most part any pilot not sitting in a battleship (or maybe a signature tanking DPS cruiser), a logistics hull, or some kind of interdictor represents a straight loss of combat power. The current metagame forces fleet compositions that roughly resemble “175 Battleships/cruisers fit with long range guns, 55 Logistics, 20 boosters and probers or stay docked.”
With the introduction of the RLD this would change. Currently a new player flying a Slasher is more or less useless. With the RLD they would be a valuable asset. In fights where both sides lacked the massed firepower to volley enemy ships off the battlefield, having an effective and well-coordinated wing of fast tackle to prevent the primary target from receiving effective repairs could decide a battle.
Taking that one step further, many ship classes that currently see very little use in significant battles would have major roles to play. Assault frigates, interceptors, destroyers, waves of expendable T1 frigates, even heavy tackle cruisers or battleships would suddenly have a key role to play. Keeping RLDs active on the primary target, or clearing them off to protect your own ships, would become key jobs.
From One Answer to Many Answers
With the introduction of the RLD fleet commanders would have more choices to make regarding how to engage. Right now the requirement for maximum alpha strike restricts fleet composition to fits that use long range guns at medium ranges. Because sniping from extreme range lowers damage significantly, and because it is extremely hard to apply short range damage in one massive volley, this is the only setup that really makes sense for fights with large numbers of logistics.
With the ability to stop reps from working, even for short periods of time, this would change. A fleet could choose to snipe from 150km and use coordinated passes by a half dozen interceptors to RLD the primary target. Alternately, a fleet could just fit the RLDs on blaster Rokhs, crank up Klendathu Drop, then warp to zero and settle things like men.
None of this would fundamentally change the fact that the larger and/or better organized fleet would still win the battle most of the time. It would simply add new layers of tactical decision-making to how to win those battles, and more importantly change the scale of victory in many battles.
Death by a Thousand Cuts
The greatest problem with the current state of the meta, and the problem that the RLD is intended to correct, is that losing a fight against a superior force usually results in a near cost-free victory for the winners. As a result, it seldom makes sense to fight; unless a fleet has the DPS to overcome enemy repairs there is no point in undocking. Over the course of a campaign, two competing major powers will deal with dozens of timers and hundreds of possible encounters. Very few of these encounters result in a meaningful fight. One side will arrive with logistics superiority. The other side will be unable to scramble the necessary numbers to break their rep due to time zones or a limited window to catch the target and so will simply stay docked. The only time this changes is if the objective is of such importance that it merits a mass formup.
The RLD would change this. It would give an inferior force the means to inflict damage on a superior one by lowering the minimum required DPS. If the smaller fleet thought they were better lead and organized, had a composition that could counter the enemy fleet, or were simply willing to die then engaging would make sense.
More importantly for the bigger picture, the entire calculation of cost and benefit would be altered to incentivize engagement. The current power of logistics encourages maximizing the power and therefore expense of ships in major fleets. The most common limiting factor preventing fights is the number of pilots that can be found to fill a fleet. Since the most important requirement for getting in a fight is to hit the required DPS to overcome enemy reps, getting the maximum possible power out of each fleet member is critical. Ironically this makes flying expensive ships the cheapest way to win battles. Confront the enemy with massed logistics, repping DPS ships that require huge alpha strike to destroy, and watch the enemy choose to stay docked. Objective achieved without any loss whatsoever!
With the RLD one fact that is irrelevant to the logic of fleet compositions right now would become important when an FC was looking at fighting. Very roughly, as ships move up in size and tech level damage increases in a linear fashion while cost increases exponentially. Damage also becomes easier to apply as ships get larger, but if a player is willing to burn they can usually find a way to get a few shots off before they explode.
For example a Rifter fit with 250mm artillery, sporting a meta 2 Damage Control, and flown by a pilot in a low-level clone with ship mastery at level III costs somewhere around 1.25 million isk with rigs and ammunition. It deals 70 DPS from turrets and has 1700 EHP. Due to the current inability to impair logistics it would take approximately 25 of these Rifters to out-damage a single guardian repairing a Baltec Megathron. With the introduction of the RLD, assuming that the targeted Megathron had 4 tech two RLDs on it, it would only take 3.
A Baltec Megathron costs around 270 million isk, does about 500 DPS, and has 165,600 EHP. Assume a full Baltec fleet with 50 Guardians to rep the numbers play out like this:
- Assume only 200 Rifters are firing at any given time because of boost ships, pilots not targeting the primary because they are dumb, and all the other reasons things go wrong. The total DPS for the Rifter fleet would be somewhere around 14,200 at 8km.
- If all 50 guardians are one target, and that target has 4x RLDs on it, the total effective amount repaired each second would be 8,650.
- That means each second the Baltec Megathron is being shot will take 5,550 damage after reps. With a total EHP of 165,600, it would explode in 30 seconds.
The Rifters would probably be obliterated by the Baltec fleet, but the chances of their taking a couple of battleships with them are near 100% as long as they are allowed to get in range.
A T2 fit artillery Rupture, filling roughly the same niche as a the Rifter above but two sizes larger and fit one tech level higher, costs around 35 million with ammo, plus a couple million more for a clone with enough skills to fly it well. It does 325 turret DPS with Quake and has around 14,000 EHP. If this ship was targeting a Baltec Megathron with 4 RLDs applied, it would out-damage a Guardian by a factor of 1.8.
A 7:1 loss ratio of Ruptures for Baltecs still works out in the Ruptures' favor. With the same numbers as above, they would be melting a Baltec Mega every 4 seconds. For some context, under the current system neither the Rifters nor the Ruptures could break a 50-Guardian tank under any circumstances.
While it seems from the examples above that the Baltec Megas would be doomed, keep in mind that it all depends on the RLDs being kept on the target ships. If the Baltecs had a capable anti-support wing keeping tackle off the primary, or their interdictors were good at positioning bubbles and allowed the Baltec fleet to dictate range then the Baltecs would clean house. The outcome would depend on coordination and FC skill rather than being a simple mathematical equation dictated by the number of Guardians on the field.
Objective Valuation and Power Projection
Alliances such as Brave Newbies Inc. (BNI), Red vs Blue (RvB), and Eve University have all demonstrated that it is possible to organize huge numbers of low skill point players. However, until Brave Newbies joined up with Test Alliance, they had not tried to have an impact on nullsec. A rational desire to avoid losing fights to the overwhelming force fielded by a major coalition was a factor in that that decision. If BNI had tried to take an R64 “money” moon owned by Goonswarm, even one located in the BNI staging system, they would have been confronted with a wall of remote reps they could not break. The Goon fleet would show up with the assets to win not just the first fight, but every fight that BNI could possibly bring, so there would be no point in fighting.
With the RLD, this would change. Goonswarm could bring 180 Baltec Megathrons supported by 50 Guardians, but they would rapidly find out this was not the guarantee of effortless victory it used to be. Every few minutes a suicidal blood-crazed horde of T1 cruisers and frigates would descend, likely pulling a few expensive battleships or precious logistics into oblivion with each wave. Unless the Goon fleet had an open and rapid route for reinforcements, they might even be faced with annihilation as compounding losses depleted their combat power. BNI on the other hand would benefit from staging close to the fight in a way that they do not under the current mechanic, as they could simply undock reinforcements and threw them into the fight immediately. Attrition, currently a non-issue in most fights for the side that can out-rep incoming DPS, would become a consideration that could not be ignored.
More broadly the cost/benefit analysis would change for many objectives. Is an R32 moon or customs office 30 jumps away from your staging system worth holding if the people putting it into reinforced can bleed you for billions every time you show up to defend it? Bloc leaders and fleet commanders would have to do an assessment of what they were willing to lose in order to hold the field, rather than just “have enough reps, will win for free, jump.”
The new FC decision making flowchart would look like this:
The RLD would greatly expand the tactical choices available for a fleet commander looking to pick a fight. It would allow small but well organized or large but low skilled entities to impose a price on massive fleets. It would cause the proximity to the objective to matter, as both sides would expect to take losses and therefore need rapid reinforcement. It would make many lower-skilled roles useful, from fast tackle to anti-support, creating a fleet niche for newer a player that currently does not exist. If the RLD worked on super capitals it would give subcap fleets a realistic chance of pulling down a supercarrier.
Adding the RLD to the game would shake up the current meta, and give any organization that wanted to break into nullsec a reason to expand its numbers with new players as well as high skillpoint veterans. Numbers, attrition, and smart ship choice would matter far more than they do now in both individual battles and longer conflicts. While the RLD would not be a standalone solution to the problems of nullsec and bloc expansion, it would incentivize content generation in the form of fights on a whole new level.