November 25, 2015

BB69: Citadels are made of Space Magic, and other stories

We had a double-barreled Blog Banter, which I'm a bit late to answering.  Normally I refrain from looking at other people's BBs before posting my own, but since I'm late that gives me a chance to pull some pieces together.

Drackarn asks:
CCP sometimes get stuck between a veldspar 'roid and a hard place when they try to blend realism with sensible game mechanics in our sci-fi simulator. Sometimes they create a scientific answer such as 4th dimensional drag to explain our 'submarines in space'. Other times, not so much. When a null-sec Citadel is destroyed players 'stuffz' is to be magicked to another station. Why should a citadel be different to a titan? Should CCP ensure that 'space magic' always has a plausible explanation or do we need just to say "Well, its only a game!" and engage the willing suspension of disbelief? How should it work when a citadel goes boom, how do we balance risk with reward, and how should any "space-magic" be explained?

Now looking at the responses you can see that this really tied up two different topics: "space magic" and the example and closing line about Citadels.  Most of the real energy in the posting jumped onto the idea of asset safety in Citadels, even if making a short stop along the first topic on the way.

I agree with the opinions I see spread around out there.  Gameplay trumps lore considerations, but lore adds a lot of depth that keeps the game vital.  I do particularly like Neville Smit's idea of ejectible space containers as a lore explanation, though it does make you wonder why you can't catch all those by bubbling up a station.  Perhaps the space containers are made with interceptor-class nullification technology.

What if ... when a citadel was about to go down you gathered all your friends around.  As the citadel explodes then you have a loot spray like the much-maligned hacking mechanics (now abandoned), but with your countdown being until they warp away.  You wouldn't need a mysterious loot fairy - either you and your friends can catch the containers or they whisk away to safety.  If you are well coordinated and have full control of the grid that the station is on then you get to pick up more of the candy from your pinata.  If you're the daring ninja type you can hang out near the station as it burns, angling in under cloak ready to grab something and warp away to see what you got.

Seriously though, we hit the root of the issue with a quote captured in Rhavas's blog banter:
"However, this introduces another problem: we want our structures to be used, but one of the deterrents against that goal is the fact they compete against existing NPC stations and player outposts." - from the dev blog "I Feel Safe in Citadel City"

This is the kind of problem you run into with incremental development.  If CCP was doing a huge "big bang" feature then they might have introduced Citadels right alongside the bombshell move that NPC stations would be destructible.  It would have been a giant step towards the stated goal of everything being player buildable and player destructible.  However, they aren't ready to make such a risky step, so the Citadels have to compare to the super-safe NPC stations that exist all through New Eden.

This is the opposite of future-proofing your plans, sadly.  The compromise means that once they make NPC stations destructible they'll face the tough choice of whether or not to revisit asset safety in Citadels.  That will then mean facing a player base that has sense gotten used to that idea and thus will be resistant to taking it away.  I don't blame CCP on this - neither of those two option were terribly appealing, particularly with all of Eve seeming to teeter back and forth in the eyes of the community over the past year or so.

A what if option here would be to have the loot fairy be of varying levels depending on the location that the Citadel is in.  The following table might be an example:

Deep Null (-1 to -0.7)40%40%20%
Mid Null (-0.6 to -0.4)30%30%40%
Shallow Null (-0.3 to -0.0)20%20%60%

Now again this still runs into the comparison problem with player and NPC stations.  So let's play around with that idea.  What if when an station was "flipped" some portion of the assets in that station were forfeited to the new controller of the stations?

Deep Null (-1 to -0.7)60%40%
Mid Null (-0.6 to -0.4)70%30%
Shallow Null (-0.3 to -0.0)80%20%

You notice I include lowsec there, as we could apply this to stations aligned to factional warfare.  When you lose control of the system, the rampaging hordes get control of your station.  Perhaps there some looting fairies there, in another sense of the word.

All these little experimental thoughts may well be something that CCP considered and set aside, but what this really means is that there is room to work with .  Nothing says the loot fairy has to always be 50/50 odds, nor that she doesn't have accomplices.

November 5, 2015

Nostalgia, blended to Eve possible futures

I know some of the older Eve players out there will remember Star Fleet Battles.  Yes, the game that had an amazingly thick rulebook rivaled only by Advanced Squad Leader, which was no small part of why you could spend an entire afternoon for a middling-sized fleet battle with a handful of friends.  If you were as lucky as I was, sometimes an entire day for a large fleet battle with 4-6 players a side.  Plot out your energy allocation, reinforce the #6 shield just so you could swing right and absorb the bulk of their anticipated alpha strike and still make it in to deliver overloaded photon torpedoes.  And then probably argue for a while about the rules concerning suicide shuttles interaction with drones.

As I sink back into nostalgia here, I'll try not to sigh too loudly at one thing from SFB that I do miss in Eve: that direction matters.  Eve ships can be flying away at an oblique angle and still fire all of their weapons at a target, and their defenses will be just as good from that angle too.  In SFB the angles mattered.  If you were in a nimble ship you could scheme and plot to make sure you didn't get into the angle that would lead your opponents massed weapons come to bear on you, and if you planned ahead you could make sure that your opponent didn't land his fire on your most damaged shields.  Many a nervous moment would stretch into eternity as your ship sucked up damage while you toughed out that last moment that would let you unleash your weapons into the downed sector of the opponent's shield.  But that's not Eve.  In Eve we shoot through asteroids and stations and friendly ships all day.  Yeah yeah, complicated physics engines.

So, what does that have to do with Eve?

Aaanyway.... depending on whether you were working from a larger Federation and Empire campaign, some home-built rules, or even some various scenarios, you may have had some ships like this.  Frigate Leaders, Destroyer Leaders, War Command Destroyers, etc.  These were slightly beefier versions of the light ships, but their real benefit was in the meta rules about bringing in ships that were within your command limits.  The idea was that these Leader variant ships could, well, lead.

I had been musing this over about turning into a post about the post-OGB world, but an Anonymous commenter kinda forced my brain along. His simple question: "so with no OGB, what ship will FW use to boost novice and small sites?"  The obvious answer is an FFL or DDL, of course.

What would these look like?  They could be an T2 version of the base faction hull with one of two possibilities that come to mind.  The simplest version would be to give them the ability to fit a single warfare link, with the promise of command processors to increase that.  Taking a different approach, there could be a hull bonus that magnified the Leadership skills of the capsuleer without bringing in the warfare link modules.  The latter would lower the variety of what to expect, but would also keep the boosting levels down overall.  Either way, we'd get new hulls that might not require all-new art assets, but could add more skills for players to train that don't require a huge pile of prerequisites to start with.

For these small fleets there might then be some interesting choices.  Primary the FFL/DDL to knock down those bonuses, or assume that the leader is going to be bricktanked and just start chewing through the usual targets.  The downside to such hulls is that they might only have value in small roams and factional warfare plexes.  For anything bigger you'll either forgo a command boost or bring along your T3C or Command Ship.  But a lot of the fun battles in Eve do happen in these smaller groups, so if the price wasn't prohibitive we might see a lot of usage beyond the plexes.

I'd even say that could be a role for the soon-to-be-rebalanced T3 Destroyers...

November 3, 2015

Off Grid Boosters:Training to the Nerf

With Brain In A Box now here (at least phase 1) and a bit of a tinfoil scare on booster nerfing, I have another skill queue screencap to post.  This time I'm not sure that I'll say I'll be sad if what I'm training gets nerfed.  But lets step back and look at this.

Yes, I have an alt account training up to be a booster.  The obvious joke when I started was that as soon as I finished training him the nerf hammer would come down on off grid boosters.  While that hasn't actually happened yet, certainly the writing appears to be on the wall.  There was a mess of tinfoil when the Parallax patch notes came out and it appeared that booster modules were going to be subject to stacking penalties on the ship level.  In this interpretations, your Skirmish module bonuses would stack with the nanofiber on your ship.  The patch notes were clarified to only being the basic Leadership skills and explicitly not modules.

I don't think anyone thinks that off-grid boosters are going to be too long for this world though.  CCP has consistently said they wanted these gone, and that the only reason they were still around was legacy code.  With legacy code now being cut down left and right, we can hope that OGBs will be on the list.  AFK and nigh-AFK boosters may soon be a thing of the past.

Yes, that means my booster alt as well.  So what to do if my booster is going to have to actually be on the field?  The logical thing seems to be to route the training over towards Command Ships.  I am not used to running two accounts, so an Eos with drones I can assist over to my main seems to make the most sense.  It certainly is a lot more risk to put that ship on the field, but I have to say that the risk is appropriate to the benefits of the boosts.

There's a possible throwback style to this training too.  I recall that people were quite happy with the ability of command ships to handle PVE, potentially including low-level WH PVE and maybe even L4 missions.  That would give me another ISK-making option if I ever didn't feel like jumping into PVP on my main.  Alternatively as a duo they two could probably run quite a few types of PVE.  Downside being my main's connection to FW, of course.

Another option would certainly be to rush to the character bazaar and try to offload the character.  A brief lookaround looks like the character might break 10B ISK in value, though I expect that value might get harder and harder to reach as more people process what the Brain in a Box and other advances might mean. The two courses of action aren't necessarily all that different either - I expect Command Ships will increasingly be a required skill for saleable booster alts.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of the masses of link alts as we move to a post-OGB world.  I'm not an expert here, so I'll be watching for long-time users of these to start chiming in to get some ideas.