Reversal of Fortune

EVE Online


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Locking Onto Your Story

EVERYONE LOVES A GOOD STORY

Take a moment and think about your favorite epic film battle. The one where even after watching it many times – you still are at the edge of your seat. Perhaps it was the spaceship fleet battle from ‘Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’ that you grew up with. Maybe the chaoticness of when the Alliance and Reavers clashed in ‘Serenity’. Maybe something much older and less spaceship like; ‘They Were Expendable’ and the hecticness of the pacific sea battles. ‘Lord of the Rings: Return of the King’ and the legendary battle that leaves the viewer in awe. ‘Braveheart’? Or maybe even the Battle of Blackwater Bay in ‘Game of Thrones’?

We sit back and reminisce the amazing stories and conflict within those battles. It is the many intertwined stories and personalities that when woven together, is an epic clash of violence we are left in awe that lasts for a lifetime. Stories that touched our very soul so much that when you meet someone who has not witnessed the glory of your favorite film battle you insist that they stop everything they are doing and watch said film. You even revel in the idea of watching it with them all the while stealing glances at them to see their reactions during the film. And after you are so eager to talk about what they just watched, hoping they love it as much as you.

The same excitement can be found when you try, in your own unworthy words, to describe the battle scenes. Explaining the motives for such a thing. The drive of all the key characters and why each individual’s actions lead up to an amazing conclusion of human emotion in the ultra raw form of battle. You paint a picture down to the finest detail of all the actions, and either by the characters design or fortune causes amazing ripple effects across the entire battle.

To either hear or tell; everyone loves a good story.

ONE STORY TO RULE THEM ALL

EVE Online has some very interesting stories no doubt. From the single player who becomes greedy and steals everything not nailed down, up to massive scale battles that make major gaming news sites take notice. While the single player deciding to make big waves by theft, betrayal or some other non-combat method is very compelling to hear about. There is a major problem with the story telling for battles in EVE, In my opinion it is catastrophic.

A critical difference between those stories from the films and books we love is that the battles for EVE  can be summed up with one or two stories, which in many ways are devoid of anything exciting or memorable. These stories are for the most part told from the fleet commanders or those in a leadership position. For the remaining 99% of the players involved, they are just watching and listening to someone else’s story unfold in real time – or in 10% TiDi. Where are their stories? If they speak; why do their stories mimic everyone else’s so much? You line them all up and it is all but impossible to determine whose is whose. A book with a generic preface and when you turn the page to chapter one – nothing.

The honest truth is for the 99%, the line members, there is not much of a compelling story to tell. Much less one that reminds you of your favorite film battles or those found in a treasured book you have lovingly returned to many times over the years. The story they would tell is one of very little decision making, very little control over even their own spaceships’ actions! “I mashed F1”, they would say. “At one point I assigned drones, but now, now F1 is all that is in my vocabulary”. The story they would tell is about as compelling and engaging as a professor droning on in a monotone voice, lights dimmed down with their archaic slide show projector showing things on the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act of 1930.

The story that is told comes from the select few who are actually deciding who to shoot, what to fly, how to fly it and practically everything else involved in the battle. One decent story from hundreds and even thousands of players. To say we need more! we deserve more! Is the understatement of our lifetime.

THE PUSH AND PULL OF EVE COMBAT

It has been said several times from readers in comment sections, that EVE is more fun to read about than actually playing the game. We can take a large battle and dress it up with statistics of how much ISK was destroyed, how that translates to real life currency but in the end it’s just anything to help tell the story of how thousands pressed F1. Maybe spice it up with how some guy had his guns unstacked to kill mail whore so he pressed F1 through F8 without dropping his beer. What an amazing story. I completely didn’t notice the intermission or anything. Zzzzzzz.

When people hear those stories it really pushes them away from EVE. The story is bland and in a growing number of cases – meaningless. Battles for a good time now have been losing their distinction in the story of EVE, because the individual players are not telling their story. They want to, if they had one. Not only does the lack of individual storytelling keep new players from wanting to join in serious internet spaceship battles, but worse is more and more players are pulling the chain on the last bulb in the building and walking away from EVE.

When you talk to players and ask them why EVE? what pulled you into this game? They heard or read a story. On very rare cases saw a video or trailer of the game that told a story well enough to have them try it out. They came for the story. To interact with thousands of others and to not just help turn the page of the endless saga of EVE, but to create their own story. One they are excited to create and as importantly, share with others. While this has real possibility in regards to things outside of direct battles, it is a daunting talk to fashion a good yarn from the simplistic fleet fights. Orbit an anchor and then work your way down a list of targets someone else tells you to shoot. That most certainly does not pull anyone into wanting to play. Those who currently do it because it is the most efficient way to play decent sized battles and most certainly the large ones.

The line members stories of these battles are never told. It is a story from the fleet commanders and leadership. Everyone else is just an assigned sentry drone.

WHAT IS SPECIFICALLY MISSING IN THE STORY

A line members story is handed to them cannibalized of all the interesting parts. The parts that make their story interesting. Their individual decisions on what ship to bring, how to fit it, where on the battlefield to go and who to shoot and how. Just a bad cut scene with a script pulled out of a cereal box. Even the visuals are depressing to look at with nothing but tons of different colored square brackets and bubbles. We need the tools for players to tell their story, their individual story, to be given back to them.

Because the current mechanics you would be an absolute fool to not focus all firepower on a single ship from the enemy fleet and work your way down a list. It is razor efficient and allows for one person, a fleet commander, to make very sound decisions on who that should be. Because there is almost no environment in EVE and the absence of line of sight mechanics; it is very easy to do. One person decides who everyone should shoot, seconds later they are dead and the fleet commander points the death finger and the next person. Boom. Dead.

Also due to the previously mentioned lack of environment and line of sight mechanics, having the main force of your fleet flying identical ships makes it very easy for the fleet commander to have a finger over the pulse of their fleet. They know they engagement envelope of everyone in the fleet. Their speed, agility, tank, firepower – everything. As long as they for the most part do exactly what the fleet commander says, they are in full control and the only one deciding on the story to be told.

Fleets still need commanders, but the number of different and compelling stories should match closer to the number of players actually involved.

IDENTIFYING THE ROOT CAUSE

EVE Online has little to no environment that would create a battlefield that has hills, valleys, objects or anything that would create an environment that players would need to navigate during a fight. If a target is in lock range no matter the direction or orientation; they can be shot. It does not matter if the only two on the battlefield are you and the other capsuleer or there is over a million of you. It would be just as easy to shoot someone regardless of the population on the grid. There is no line of sight mechanics that come into play at all. No need to navigate around the thousand other ships in the fight. No need for the individual pilots to make their own decisions on how to fly or even who to shoot. Because of the simplistic nature of the mechanisms we march right off the cliff and free fall into zombie mode. We take all the decision making and hand it off to the fleet commander.

Due to mechanics such as broadcasting targets and orbiting anchor points; there is very little the average fleet member has to do. There is no hill to climb, no scary choke point to fly through. The thought of trying to get a clear shot on a target is non-existent. The vast majority of the players in these fleet fights is unwritten. There simply is nothing to write about.

I am well aware that fleet doctrines have been around for a long time. There is several advantages for having the main fleet fly the exact same ship. For the fleet commander it is extremely easy to know what the capabilities of his fleet are and with that information, can spend more time on all the details of the operation. From target calling to warp ins. The simpler the better. Not to be forgot is the Ship Replacement Program (SRP) that most all major alliances run. This involves pilots flying official sanctioned ships and setups. Anything that dies and does not fit the specific ship doctrine has their ship replacement denied. Individual imagination on what ship to bring and how to fit it is forbidden.

The reason why all of these aspects are held under tight control is because it is the most efficient way to win a fight. When you factor in things such as no line of sight mechanics, going down a list of names and having everyone shooting them at the exact same is the most efficient. After all, fifty ships in half armor or even hull are still just as powerful and maneuverability as fifty ships with full health. You would be a fool to not focus fire and work your way down a list. At least you will be removing incoming damage at a rate that is noticeable during the fight instead of see all the enemy ships explode at the very end of a long battle.

ALLOWING PLAYERS TO WRITE THEIR STORY

So how do we add dimension to the battlefield? Enough to break the mold without breaking the game? There has been talk over the years that it would be interesting if space had more anomaly stuff in it to help break up the mundane fights. Perhaps some clouds or debri that players would need to work around. Certainly would be more interesting than what we have now – nothing. But what about line of sight? If EVE had something that presented the challenges of avoiding friendly fire and or obstacles, it would shake things up enough where normal players can regain some of the control from the fleet commander.

While I’m going to avoid suggesting physical objects in space, I would like to address the line of sight part. I feel like if something could be done here, something to somewhat mimic the concept a bit, it would do the trick. No longer would everything be so simple that one person can fly around with effectively hundreds of drones assigned to them. I believe that it would go so far as to break away from the massive fleet doctrines. Perhaps we could finally touch upon what it is like to be in those massive battles we all love to hear, read and watch. The ones where it is not just one giant battle, but can be broken down into dozens and even hundreds of smaller battles going on within it.

The players will be allowed to tell their own story in their own way.

SENSOR IMPEDIMENT

The idea is rather simple really, but will have a very profound change on how we experience fleet battles in EVE. Especially the large scale ones. It should also be noted that this idea is not originally mine, but was suggested by someone from the old forums years ago. At a time before logistics could not fit large remote repair modules or even have the standard T2 resistance profile. Long before a thousand ships on a single grid trading blows was common place. Before super coalitions. I tried to dig up the poster several times, but alas I could never find the suggestion thread. I have however expanded on the idea and recruited a couple people to help with the formula and interactive graphs. Considering the range of reactions some of my articles receive and the extent some go to in order to express them; I am opting to leave their names out. They know who they are and I am grateful for their help. But I digress.

When a player goes to lock another ship, the time to lock will be determined by the current system of scan resolution and signature radius, but with an additional mechanic. There would also be a new UI addition to the overview that would effectively clue in the player how long it would take to lock the target if they chose to lock it. This could be hard numbers or preferably, a color scheme that can easily be determined how fast the target can be locked. Green for fast and red for slow. Not to be forgotten is the adding the ability to stop locking a target.

Let me dive into a few examples:

Currently a 250 man battleship fleet could all lock and fire on another single ship in just a few seconds at the exact same time. If they have enough, depending on the target and combined alpha, they destroy it. There wasn’t any effort or struggle as each one vied for position to get a clear shot. They had a clear line of sight the entire time with no interference. The target did not have the opportunity to fight off a few at a time or anything remotely interesting. One moment there and the next – erased. Out of the 250 involved in the destruction of that one ship, how many different stories were produced? You guess it, just one. One cookie cutter passage that perfectly describes the experience for everyone in that 250 man fleet.

Now let’s do that again with the Sensor Impediment mechanic

The 250 man battleship fleet are told to lock one guy, as the standard operation of current fleets by the fleet commander. Everyone starts to lock the same enemy ship. Now instead of achieving lock in just a few seconds, it takes everyone minutes to lock due to everyone deciding to go for the exact same enemy at the same time. Sure they can keep listening to the fleet commander as he continues to call targets one at a time, but this will take a very long time to do. There is of course, another option that would be far more efficient and dare I say – exciting for everyone.

What if instead of one person, the fleet commander, telling everyone who to shoot – they made their own choices? Crazy talk, I know. So these 250 individuals start locking and shooting whoever they think is the best target for them at the time. They are having to consider things they normally would not have to think about. They all start breaking off and going after all kinds of different targets. An insane amount of smaller battles erupt, all on the same giant battlefield. Why so many? Because everyone trying to focus on one target and work down a list is no longer the most optimal way to fight. Sure the first ship to explode might not happen for a little bit, but in the end far more damage was able to be applied faster than the old school target calling from the fleet commander.

BEAUTIFUL CHAOS AND EVERYTHING IT SPAWNS

Now that the battlefield has been broken up into many smaller scale fights, this kicks open many other doors. If ships are not having to be super brick tanked in an attempt to withstand the alpha of hundreds of other ships focusing fire, it means a ton of other ships can enter the battlefield and be useful. Not only a variety of ships, but the gold standard of buffer tank and tons of logistics is no longer the only way to fly and fit. Behold, local repairing ships now become an option. They were doomed before because you went buffer tank with logi backbone or was sent home in a pine box.

Logistics still have a useful role in fleets, but it is no longer the huge keystone we have now. Perhaps one is assigned to fly alongside a specific squad, maybe in addition a local repair. There is a lot of different things. A duo could retro fit a couple Oneiros to fly in tandem with each other sporting combat drones and blasters and use the remote repair bonus to help each other out. Crazy stuff.

Maybe you are a solo pilot and you jump through a gate and are greeted with a 30 man gate camp. Currently facing such a situation normally results in a gank. You never stood a chance at killing any of them before you woke up in a station. But now, with the Sensor Impediment mechanic, all of them mass locking you buys you some time. Perhaps you moonwalk out via the gate, warp off or even something more bold. You engage one of the soft targets and actually kill it before the rest of them finally lock you? The point is the gap between the vastly outnumbered and the blob just changed. No more engaging someone only to see a hundred logistics instantly erase any damage you did to the target in the blink of an eye.

Some ships feel balanced in very small numbers, but scale very badly. So much so that they become completely broken in mass numbers. EVE players are smart and quick to figure out what ships and setups take advantage of these. Everything from spider tanking Archons to navy Apocalypse to even mass numbers of Celestris. Now imagine these same fleet doctrines operating on their own, individually. Having to decide what is the best target for them and how to fly? Imagine one getting low into health and then broadcasting for repairs? Do you really think a massive amount of logistics will be able to save them in a couple seconds? Nope.

In almost all large fights, if you are unable to break the logi reps (cause more damage than the enemy logistics can repair) you have pretty much lost the battle. This is so prevalent that running the napkin math to find out of you can engage another fleet is common practice. If you know ahead of time your fleet will not be able to break the logi tank, you simply don’t fight. No stories written. Nothing exciting at all.

CCP could even add the scan resolution to all drones. Judging from the signature radius of a Garde II, I took a guess at what the scan resolution would be and placed it at 100 to plug it into the formula and see what the numbers would be. What would it be like for a massive Ishtar fleet or Slowcat fleet trying to operate under the same focus fire on the fleet commanders target we see today? 100 Ishtars trying to lock a single frigate at the same time would take a very long time. At first it sounds crazy right? But, if you think about the amount of ships and sentries – all trying to get a clear shot on this single frigate zipping around without accidentally blowing holes into someone in their fleet; things start to make more sense.

THE FORMULA

The currently the lock time formula:

Lock Time = 40000 / X * (ArcSinh y)^2

  • x = scan resolution
  • y = signature radius

Because there is no line of sight or anything that resembles obstacles an individual pilot has to make their decisions; we have severely reduced several things. If you can’t alpha a target, the enemy logistics will save it. The tank setup on ships is reduced to anything to give it the most effective hit points to compliment the logistics. Bombers can then easily obliterate these planet sized signature radius due to the plates and extenders. Flying small ships such as frigates ensures an early grave if the entire enemy fleet focuses fire on you in the blink of an eye. Jumping through a gate is an immediate loss mail if there is a massive gate camp. Many things that just don’t lend itself to enhancing the individual players experience.

Now if we alter the formula slightly to take into consideration everything targeting and or locked on that player, we get something like this:

Lock Time = 40000 / X * ArchSinh (y/n)^2

  • x = scan resolution
  • y = signature radius
  • n = number of ships locked and or targeting

By making this change to the lock time formula we are introducing the next best thing to real line of sight targeting. Large boring fleet fights are a thing of the past. Only a handful of acceptable ships allowed is also out the window. Finally, each pilot is actually having a meaningful impact on the battlefield in their own way. Every decision they make, no matter how small, will be putting ink to paper and weave a story as unique as they are.

GATHER AROUND THE CAMPFIRE

It is the stories that we remember. That we retell, relive as we dream and try to capture in a bottle like several fireflies hovering around. All the while you watch intensely wondering how this is possible. The stories of EVE battles will become robust and full of excitement. Not from just a select few, but countless players as they experience the unknown, grow as a pilot and ultimately become more than just a tiny cog is some ominous war machine. More than just some assigned drone. They will become the characters they grew up loving to watch. Fly around in a setting of endless conflict set in the vastness of New Eden. And each time they are asked what was it like. They will motion for everyone to gather around the fire and get comfortable. People will grab some popcorn and listen intently.

Because in the end – we are all storytellers.

INTERACTIVE GRAPHS

Below is each ship class with formulas based on average signature radius and scan resolutions. Keep in mind ideas and suggestions, even if welcomed with open arms, is always subject to balancing. If you would like a direct link to the Google Doc, click HERE.