Reversal of Fortune

EVE Online


62 Comments

Cancers of EVE Online: Teleportation

Everyone wants to win. No one logs in wanting to get their teeth kicked in. Entering the game and being surrounded by bad guys on your front door is not appealing and neither is spending 99% of your time looking for someone to shoot. So players keep their enemy at arm’s length. No closer, no further. There is a certain amount of effort they are willing to spend to get to a fight. The effort is not measured in gates, jumps or bridges; it is measured in time. If players are willing to spend an hour or more to get to a fight and you factor in all the teleportation mechanics available, the arm becomes incredibly long. So much so that it crosses the map several times over during that hour. The jump sphere on the map not only is the places you can attack, but the places that can attack you. A spherical two-way street. If anyone in the game can descend upon you before you are done killing a POS tower, onlining a System Blockade Unit, done invading and taking over a system; what is the only real defense against it? Numbers.

As this formula plays out over the years, we finally arrive where we are today. Null security space is now one super coalition versus another super coalition. Now before you go trying to show off a Verite Influence Map mesmerized by the colors and activity; remember that the political landscape of EVE on an alliance level has been irrelevant for many years now. If you take the same map and view it as coalitions, there will there be vastly fewer colors and far less movement. When it comes to strategic objectives, coalitions group up and create super coalitions. The following map is from the 6th of February 2014 and based on known standings when a strategic objective is happening:

Some things have happened in the last couple of days such as Black Legion’s assault on Circle of Two, a CFC alliance. But in the grand scheme of things, it is not a dramatic change. Due to everyone dog piling into one war you are always trying to put everyone into one system and mostly into one grid to fight over a goal. We are not talking about a few hundred players anymore; we are talking thousands and thousands. One system, one grid, one node. The server has multiple strokes and sometimes falls over dead. The technology CCP currently has simply can’t handle it. Sure TiDi often times kicks in and it does help, but it makes for a very poor gaming experience. Often times while stuck in an uncool version of Bullet Time from The Matrix, they long for the joys of smaller scale warfare. Even if the technology did exist where lag was no longer a problem, the bigger issues remain. There is a severe lack of Triple Constraint when traveling across the game.

Lack of Triple Constraint

The Triple Constraint consists of usually three aspects. If you want two of the three to excel the third suffers. You find this in a variety of things from production to war. Or when it comes to EVE, balancing. The normal three points is cost, time and quality. You cannot have a high quality project that is also fast and cheap. When you look at sub-capitals in EVE you see this in full effect. Especially after the last few years of balancing passes on most of the ships and the warp speed changes. If you want to take a sub-cap via the gates to get to a battle that is a decent amount of jumps away, you need to make choices. You may have higher firepower and resilience on the battlefield with a battleship, but getting there will be slow going. The Triple Constraint in effect. You could decide time is of the essence and choose smaller, faster warping ships, but either your firepower or resilience on the battlefield will suffer. One could find a ship that does all three decently, but not excel at any. Currently that rarely exists. You hop in the ship that will be the most influential at the destination and teleport there utilizing a variety of methods, avoiding the risk and decision-making that comes with gate travel.

Currently the Triple Constraint does not apply to teleportation mechanics and because of this; removes it mostly from ships. The time aspect is tossed right out the window because everything happens so fast. Bringing even sub-capital ships to a fight is mostly just sitting on a titan inside the safety of a POS and teleporting directly to the grid where the battle takes place. All in about ten to fifteen seconds. I use the word teleportation because that is exactly what happens. Jump drives, clones, bridges, doesn’t matter. It is essentially being teleported from one place to another in about ten seconds. Right now very few factors that are a bottleneck for the forms of teleportation and most of them are easily hurdled. Make no mistake – it needs to be nerfed.

The Usual Suspects: The Problem

Take a look at Jump Bridges and Titan Bridges. There are obviously differences, one being a structure that is locked into teleporting players to another specific bridge in another system. The other being a ship flown by another player who teleports other players ships to any cyno within range. Vastly more flexible, but of course more costly on the rare occasion of miss-clicking.

We have ships with Jump Drives. Essentially every capital ship sans the Orca and T1 freighters. Not to be forgotten, the Black Ops battleship can bridge and jump as well. As long as the isotopes flow and the cyno chains are intact; the largest ships in the game can go from one extreme side of the game to the opposite extreme side in under 15 minutes. This is not an exaggeration. I personally timed several of these cross map trips on Tranquility which usually is related to having to reclaim sovereignty that was recently dropped from an ally.

Even losing your capsule to enemies or suiciding your capsule is a form of instant travel. Granted being podded comes with a cover charge to keep your clone updated, but players death cloning to get somewhere is an often used method. Set your clone spawn via the medical station, undock and then self destruct or ask a friendly to pod you if you don’t want to wait the two minutes. A related teleportation mechanic is jump clones. With the right standings and trained skills, they can have up to eleven different clones spread across all of New Eden. Out of all the teleportation mechanics, Jump Clones do come with a hurdle that can’t be avoided by throwing ISK at it or trying to meta-game around it. Even with max skills, if you jump clone, you must wait nineteen hours before you can jump clone again.

Take the above into consideration and even the mildly organized groups can get anywhere with almost anything very, very quickly. Most certainly long before any system or POS suffers any real harm. It takes days to invade and conquer a system. Crossing the map with capital ships – minutes. Teleportation has made our New Eden into a tiny universe.

There is no magic bullet to fix all the problems of sovereignty and power projection. There is many layers and will need time. There is one change that will have a significant impact on how players and organizations project their power. It is time to change the teleportation mechanics from constant teleportation across the map endlessly into things used more strategically. And because of this it will have a healthy ripple effect on future battles, invasions, defending, the list goes on.

A Not So Little Experiment

Theorizing is one thing, witnessing things first hand with your very own eyes is something else. So I decided to see the difference between several ship classes when tasked to travel across the game map.

I researched a bit and arrived to a set of testing guidelines. Each ship class would start at the sun of one system and end at the sun of another. 373Z-7 to either SVB-RE, 3KNA-N, or BU-IU4 are the furthest systems and when taking the shortest path it is 99 gate jumps. I decide on the 373Z-7 to SVB-RE route. It is a route that starts in the Stain region and hooks west and circles clockwise to the north into Branch. Another decision was to not include time lost to warp disruption bubbles or hostiles one would encounter along the way. The fastest a standard fit ship could go. With the rules in place, I began the race of ship classes.

Super Taxi

The first ship I choose is a Crow. It is easily one of the most popular interceptors in the game right now. Instead of going with a standard fit, I wanted to see what would happen if money was no object and how fast I could make the trip. For implants I set myself up with a full set of high-grade Ascension implants. The are a new set of implants found in Ghost sites that increase the warp speed of any ship you are flying. Realizing warp speed is only part of the equation, I pick up a +6% to agility hardwiring and fill the low slots of the Crow with Local Hull Inertia Stabilizers for maximum agility. With my super taxi ready, I start at the sun and put the pedal to the metal and tear across system after system in record time.

Time to complete: 55 minutes

Crow

Now that the least likely Crow setup has been tested. I move on to a Crow fit that is the most common found in combat these days. No implants and the only item fit that actually affects anything is one Nanofiber in the low slots. I set back up in the same starting system on the sun, plot the same path to the end and off I went again. Granted the interceptor is immune to warp disruption bubbles it is important to remember that these runs also do not include time spent engaging the enemy. The fastest to make the trip with a standard fit.

Time to complete: 59 minutes

What the deuce?

What is interesting is only four minutes separates the standard fit from the super travel version. I was assuming the difference would be dramatic, but then I took a moment to break it down. Nothing affects the ships time to reach full warp speed or from full warp speed to out of warp. Also unaffected is the time during the gate jump, jump tunnel and grid load. Sure you might enter warp a second or two faster with the crazy agility of the super setup, but in actuality the time you are at full warp is very small measured in 1, 2 or maybe 3 seconds. Multiple those few seconds over 99 jumps and you only end up with just the 4 minutes. I digress.

Sacrilege

I move on to a heavy assault cruiser. This ship offers significantly more firepower and resilience to have better staying power on the battlefield. However, the warp speed is lower. The Triple Constraint in effect. Although a 1600mm armor plate can easily be used for gangs of HACs when logistics is present, I opt for the non-buffer fit. Real men dual rep their Sacrileges! Turns out nothing on the fit affects agility or warp speed. Still keeping using a clone with no implants, I make the journey again.

Time to complete: 1 hour and 32 minutes

Megathron

Time to try a battleship. Extremely common in a variety of fleet doctrines and found in all parts of the game. Also what is commonly found is buffer fit battleships rolling with a nice logistics backbone. Although I will not have the luxury of such things, I still fit two 1600 mm plates slowing down my agility a bit. Again, time does not include warp disruption bubbles and or dealing with hostiles along the route. The fastest possible.

Time to complete: 2 hours 31 minutes

As you can see, the more firepower, the larger and stronger the hull; the travel aspect suffers. If I really had to make that trip to show up for a battle, several decisions would need to be made. Sure I could bring a battleship, but it would be a long road to travel and what are my odds of getting there in one piece? Go with a smaller and more nimble ship that can make the trip faster and maybe successfully engage and defeat some of the smaller ships that would have killed my battleship? Decisions, decisions.

Archon

If you thought for a moment I would not include a capital ship, you are insane. Obviously I will not be taking gates to go from 373Z-7 to SVB-RE. Time for some cynos. I look up a jump plan that will take me the distance, pack all the fuel needed and begin. A few things to be noted is the time it takes to hit the jump to button, enter the warp tunnel, load grid, dock and undock again with full jump capacitor is about 32-33 seconds. If you are travel fit with cap rechargers and capacitor flux coils, very common, the time it takes to hit the jump button, enter the warp tunnel, load grid and have enough cap to jump again is about 50 seconds.

Cyno’s go up and I begin my run. I purposely do not use the convenience of a station to dock in to add more time to the route in an attempt to add more time. Having enough isotopes for the full trip already in the carrier and no cynos are destroyed; I also take into account that before I make the last jump into the destination system I refit for combat. Once again, a standard method of traveling with capital ships in the game. After I am refit and ready to go, I jump to the final system and check the stopwatch.

Time to complete: 7 minutes

That is not a typo. Also not to be ignored is the Crow, Sacrilege and Megathron were in danger to be slowed down and or killed 198 times during the trip. The Archon? Just 7 times. Did I mention I put the other ships I used for the test into the ship maintenance bay and brought them with me? The Triple Constraint the other ships would normally be subject to are tossed right out the window.

In Reality

Sure you will hear horror stories of capital movements taking a long time. There will be the occasional one that bumps or is tackled. Maybe the cynos were not put in place prior to the move. Someone forgets the Liquid Ozone to light the cyno. The more and more people you involve it does affect the time. Of course TiDi rears its ugly head. But remember, the sub-capitals that took gates did not take into account warp disruption bubbles or dealing with hostiles along the way. The biggest ships in the game, the ones with the most firepower, with the largest hulls and sustain on the battlefield – are the fastest traveling ships in the game.

Why would anyone choose to bring a ship with less firepower, less sustain, is 28 times more likely to run into trouble and more importantly; 9 to 21 times slower to move? There may be the occasional system that is jammed where dropping in a capital is out of the question, but taking titan bridges and jump bridges across the map is not. I did not have access to 15 titans to set up a daisy chain, but considering at most you will spend is one minute per bridge; you can in theory make the same trip in about 15 minutes. Effectively, everyone is your next door neighbor.

travelchart

Everything is Connected

It is difficult to make a large change when there are multiple other aspects of the game connected to it. Even when all are broken in their own way, it is hard to change just one and leave the others as is – broken. What to remember is sovereignty mechanics and power projection go hand in hand. We have structures with millions and millions of hit points to grind because if they were easier, people would just steamroll through everything.

Of course by making the hit points so high to keep groups from doing that, you start excluding smaller groups from being able to. If anything the more hit points you add, the more incentive there is to increase the number of blues so the task can be completed faster and faster. The sovereignty system reflects what is needed due to the current power projection and vice versa.

The following is my idea on how to reintroduce the Triple Constraint back into all ship selection and how to travel with it. I can not stress enough that when reading it, you must remember that current mechanics for sovereignty and other things like industry can not be assumed to be the same. What this change does is open up the door to make logical changes to them based on this new mechanic. Just like you; your enemy is not immune to these changes. Something to remember.

Tough Love in the Cure

Each individual character will have a Power Projection Pool (PPP). This is a pool of light years that replenish over time and has a cap to the amount of light years it can hold. While aspects are subject to balance, all numbers I will be using are pulled out of my ass for the sake of having numbers. Keep an open mind and remember that this change not just affects you, but everyone in the game, including your enemies.

The following teleportation mechanics will draw light years from the PPP to do the teleportation action you use in the game right now.

  • Jump Drive

  • POS Jump Bridge

  • Titan Bridge

  • Covert Bridge

  • Jump Clone

  • Being Podded

The PPP has a cap of 24 light years with a recharge rate of 0.5 light years per hour. If the PPP is 100% full and a player uses one of the above teleportation mechanics the recharging of the PPP starts at once.

Each teleportation mechanic will not necessarily have the same pull on the PPP as the distance they are teleporting. i.e. a titan bridge that is 10 light years will drain the PPP by 10, but traveling 10 light years via a POS jump bridge will pull 8 light years from the PPP. This is due to the titan bridge being a more powerful form of teleportation for obvious reasons. This allows each teleportation to be balanced individually instead of a blanket change that affects them all.

If the amount of light years to be used from the PPP is not available for the teleportation mechanic the player wants to use, say a jump drive. Then they will not be able to jump. i.e. The distance between their carrier and the cyno is 10 light years, but their PPP only has 8 light years available. The exception is being podded. You can always be podded and return to where your medic clone is set.

With no timer restriction on jump clones, it is possible for a player to have several clones in the same station. While this is currently limited to two per station this could easily be increased. Each implanted differently to take advantage of the vast variety of fitted ships and fighting styles. There will always be a minimum of 1 light year consumed no matter how close the power projection action is. While this no doubt would open the door for players to always make sure they log off in a +5 implant set, it does offer the chance they might forget they are in them and lose them. Perhaps lose them on the way to the staging station.

Currently, anyone who is online (and anyone who is offline and at their computer among alliances who use Jabber or any other program to ‘ping’) can just hop into their capital ship and bounce all over the galaxy at a moments notice; or zerg out an engagement that is 45 regular jumps away by utilizing several titan bridges to bypass everything in between within minutes – as long as the isotopes flow and the cyno alts are staged. And if the battle is ongoing for over an hour (it usually is when it comes to sov objectives), any player who loses their ship can use the same route to return to the fight in a new ship very quickly. It makes the galaxy much smaller, and a majority of solar systems go completely unused as a result.

The proposed new PPP system will restrain this problem and encourage entities to take more serious consideration over owning solar systems that they actually care to use. Effectively breaking the trend of one alliance owning one or several entire regions by default. Hyper-Escalation of any battle anywhere in the galaxy suddenly requires much more strategic organization to invoke. And new alliances who want to be a part of the sov war game can more easily gain footholds in pipeline or constellation areas, rather than blueing up with the most popular coalition in the area. Generally making Eve itself as large as it should be. All of this with the help of a new UI feature to graphically illustrate your PPP status, of course.

Cliché Solutions

Some argue that having just a flat cool-down timer is the way to go. “Just make it one hour between jumps.” This will not work at all. You will still see capitals zerging across the map, but instead of ten minutes, they will take a few hours and in the end; still be able to heavily influence the course of a battle dramatically. After all, if you know when a timer is coming out, you can just start your route earlier and show up with an armada of capital ships. Even having it up to six hours will not be enough. Any alliance or corporation that is time zone heavy will have their timers at zero ready to go when they all log in. Meaning everyone could just bridge on top of someone from the start. Sure it will mean waiting six more hours for a second bridge, but that does not create any variation in ships brought to a battle from the start. It just means the first wave will be the most powerful and most likely the battle will be decided immediately from that first wave. With the PPP every one’s level of light years will vary across the board. So even at the start of the battle you will not see everyone in an alliance dropping something with carriers or being titan bridged. A part of the fleet might, but most certainly not everyone.

Just removing a ship or two will not be the solution either. Why remove the jump freighter when other types of teleportation mechanics will take its place? Players will find the path of least resistance. People in general do that with most things. By keeping the jump freighter and addressing teleportation in general it allows the player to keep the tool and reserve it for important decisions. Raising the cost to open cynos, use jump bridges and jump drives is not the answer either. The one to suffer from that change will be the younger and smaller groups. All the while the larger and richer alliances will be completely unphased.

Dynamic Fleet Battles

The number of players who want to be part of a battle may stay the same, but the ship they bring and how they get it to the battlefield will be dramatically changed. Even the term battlefield will take on new meaning as it will span beyond just a couple of grids in one system and spread out from the epicenter of the main conflict into many systems around it. Having everyone available to get to a bridging titan, undock their carrier or even log in their super capitals will become a thing of the past. Due to the PPP, not everyone with a carrier will be able to jump to a cyno, they will need to bring a sub-capital. Everyone will not be able to snuggle up next to a titan and wait for a cyno to go up, bypassing dozens of gates with their entire fleet. Even having a super capital in a fight will not result in anyone available in the game to log in their super capitals to cyno on top of you for a gank.

The fleets in a battle will start to become more mixed in sizes, especially as the battle goes on and players are re-shipping to get back to the fight. They may have to travel far via gates and thus ship down to smaller, faster ships to get to the battle. The number of capital ships used in a fight will go down. The speed in which massive numbers zerg across the map will drop dramatically. Most will run into fights along the way. Perhaps their plated up battleship is no match for the locals along the route. Some might make it back to the battle, but decided to bring assault frigates due to the distance. Deciding where to attack, where people should stage from, where to defend; all of these things will come into play. The Triple Constraint in effect. This is not some giant wall that will prevent players from going where they want. They just have to make a decision on what to bring that will get them there.

Summary

This is most certainly a game changer. Everything from how fleets are composed, to how they are deployed and even to how a battle is influenced. There are groups who focus on hyper deployment with capitals who will hate this. But, there are groups who will enjoy not having to deal with the earlier group. They can enter a cycle of siege on a low sec tower and not have to worry supers from nine regions away zerging across the map to drop on them. Yes, this actually does happen. They will still need to consider what could drop on them from the local area. Just not from the entire game map. Also large bloc leaders and fleet commanders will oppose this idea. It will complicate how they view the political map. They will have to reconsider deployments and even fleet doctrines. Very few ruling over very many will become more difficult and require vastly more effort. This of course will see the surge in small to medium level leaders and fleet commanders. Currently there is no need for them when it comes to strategic objectives. Why have a small time fleet commander lead an invasion when the big time bloc level fleet commander is on? Why should an alliance level leader decide on their own where they want to live when a coalition leader tells them where to live?

There is no denying it. A capital group can move from one side of the map to the other in fifteen minutes or less. Although it has been the case for years now, it is now becoming all too common. Especially with TiDi. A large battle erupts and everything in that system slows down to a crawl. Meanwhile everything not on the same node is effectively lightning fast in comparison. What normally would have taken a fleet from the other side of the game fifteen minutes to reach you, actually feels like two minutes for the system you are in.

With the PPP, the range of ships with jump drives are not affected at all. Players can still use them how they see fit, but the odds of everyone doing it at the same time will of course drop – dramatically. If a large entity wants to have a capital ship presence in a battle, they will need to have their capital force spread across their empire. Strategically placed for defending and attacking. Staging all capitals on a distant front is still very possible, but opens the door to being invaded on another front and having to defend without any capital support. Some players may have multiple capitals in different areas, the PPP still has an effect on how they get from one to the other and how it is used outside the system. The player might be podded while they travel or they jump clone, or take a bridge back. All of these actions drain on the PPP. It is possible they finally arrive at their second capital ship and have no PPP to jump it anywhere.

There is of course the possibility of trying to work around each persons PPP by using alts, but it is impractical to be doing such things. The positive side is it could open up the market for having capital ships on the market near fronts. After all, a capital ship very near a war front will sell for far more than one no where nearby. Maybe paying a group to move your capital ships? Again, a possibility, but this involves more effort and trust becomes an issue. Regardless of how some players try to avoid being subjected to the PPP with capitals, you can’t have someone take a jump bridge for you or eat the light year cost if you are podded.

While there is still a vast amount of work to be done to the game such as a more robust industry in null, how intelligence is gathered and even how a player engages in large-scale combat; the PPP will allow needed breathing room for new blood to enter the sovereignty conflicts and go great lengths to make the wars far more numerous and far more frequent.

Advertisements