Putting the Cart Before the Horse: Tiericide


A significant part of any management program is based on knowing all the variables that can affect the desired outcome. For example, if a company were to want to design a fast car, they could focus on engine power, handling, aerodynamics, and weight. There are also a number of secondary factors that, although they might have an effect on the end result, are always going to be on the back burner because they'll never have the same impact as primary factors will. If the analogy with cars is continued, it would be like designers looking at designing bucket seats before they've considered the other factors previously mentioned. 

Game balancing is very similar. The idea behind balancing is that no given item selectable by the gamer will give him an unfair advantage over others. In today's complicated gaming environments, this becomes a difficult area as a single change can have rippling effects into other areas. Some games are more affected by this than others. In Real Time Strategy games, imbalances are immediately exploited as much as possible. Developers must then look at the most problematic area, change that variable, and then make further tweaks. What they don't do (especially the experienced developers) is make changes to less important variables first and later make changes to the larger variable.


Starting last year, CCP made the announcement that they would be revamping and rebalancing ships from the ground up. This is no small task, the number of ships in the game is rather huge and the potential ramifications could have significant impacts on both the in-game economy and sov warfare (and ultimately player subscription). CCP is to be applauded for this initiative: fleets being comprised of the same ships gets old very quickly, even moreso if you're one of the unfortunate ones to play this game for nine years or more. To boot, they added four battlecruisers (which are now some of the most used in the game), and more recently announced four new destroyers.

Unfortunately, CCP has decided to focus on smaller ships for their balancing and work their way up the ladder. It's clear to anyone that they're trying to cater to newer players. CCP also wants players to remain in small hulls for longer (once racial destroyer and battlecruiser skills are introduced). This is fine to cater to newer players (no point losing their first battleship because they have none of the appropriate support skills), but not for those more interested in the larger scale. While CCP have improved balancing (the the proliferation of Merlins in faction warfare and the apparent uselessness of the new Amarr destroyer show that they still haven't got it), they're putting the cart before the horse.


Supers. It is clear to anyone involved in both null and low sec that supers have serious balance issues to address. Their presence can be felt even when they aren't in the system, because whoever has more supers controls the field. In many cases they make the dreadnaught class irrelevant since they do more damage and are more mobile, they can project power over vast distances. The main issue with supers, however, is that no one wants to use them, and that when people get the balls to actually field them in combat, they're nearly impossible to tackle. The attacking side has to sacrifice endless numbers of tacklers (no surprise that any super has a hull full of dictors and hictors) to keep their target tackled. Since fighter bombers can easily alpha the ships in question, it's supremely easy for them to escape.

When he was still around, CCP Diagoras stated that over 2000 supers were built in 2011, and only around 350 were lost. At that time, there were a little over 4200 supers in Tranquility. While construction rates have dropped off, loss rates remain low, so Eve may well pass 5000 supers by year's end.

While the CSM 6 enjoyed significant success in their push to have supers nerfed into oblivion, little has been heard from the current CSM. More recently, Aleskeyev Karrde has made it clear that the current CSM have tried to promote curbing supercapital proliferation by way of nerfing mineral compression. The reasoning was that two things need to be done to tackle super numbers: fewer need to be built, and more need to die. Some have argued that CCP has done a good job at the first point, but the second remains unaddressed. For supers to die more, they need to either be used more frequently or be more prone to getting and staying tackled, preferably both. Several recent engagements with dozens of supers on each side have ended in few or no deaths, illustrating just how difficult that is.


CCP are doing things the wrong way around. The ships with the highest potential for imbalance in the game, and the largest current imbalance, are supers. While it is good that lower-tier ships are being addressed, EVE does not need a new destroyers that have few uses in current game mechanics (ganks, faction warfare) and little impact on the overall economy. Would CCP's time not have been better addressed designing an anti-super ship? Or do something to make them die more? Even a capital tackle mod that would enable supers to tackle other supers  (a very simply idea suggested to me by Mynnna) would likely fix the issue.

My main worry is that based on the current rate of ship balancing CCP will only get to the point where they will be able to balance supers in over a year's time. That's time for many hundreds of new supers to come into existence (with that number of subscriptions tied to those ships semi-permanently...) by the end of 2013. CCP will have a huge issue on their hands, as they would risk losing a number of subscriptions if they overnerf the ships involved (likely) or significantly affecting the balance of null sov and low-sec (more likely).

CCP need to move quickly, or they'll have a (super)pest issue that will be un-manageable! 


Member of Nulli Secunda. Have been playing Eve for close to four years, already hit by bittervet syndrome. I've played a number of games over the years and generally dab in every game that's fun.