Last week I stated that moving the unscannable cargo hold from the Orca to Blockade Runners was a good decision and lauded CCP Greyscale for unapologetically breaking the news. However, not everyone celebrated. Jester, in his post Plastic wrap all the things!, had little good to say about the reason given by CCP Greyscale for the change. To be clear, Jester does not come right out and say it’s a bad idea – directly. Still, the overwhelmingly negative vibe in that post draws the reader to such a conclusion like a gravity well draws mass.
So I did some more thinking on the subject. I admit my first post was an immediate reaction. I’ve thought about the Orca’s role on many occasions. I’ve always felt the ship is too good at too many things. But I hadn’t thought about it recently; not really since CCP took away the ability to use it as a deep-space mobile POS (aka a ninja salvager’s wet dream). I needed to confirm to myself that I truly did feel CCP made a good decision.
They did. It is. This post will discuss why I think so.
The first thing I want to discuss is barrier of entry into the transportation game. There are two of them. The first is cost. When I bought my Keiko over a years ago, it cost me a half billion credits – modules and all. That is a lot of ISK. It took me a long time to afford to fly that ship. Today the cost is double. The hull alone costs 30% more than my total price 16 months ago. An Orca hull is now selling for over 700 mISK in Essence.
The Viator by comparison, though it saw about the same percentage price increase, recovered better and is far more affordable at around 130 mISK for the hull.
This not only reduces the buy-in cost of the transportation game, it also reduces the inevitable replacement cost of ship and cargo. Though the math is simple, I’ll spell it out anyway. A pilot can buy five (5) Viators for the price of an Orca.
As Jester pointed out, any well fit Tornado can catch and kill a Blockade Runner not perfectly flown (and maybe even then). But that same Tornado poorly fitted can tackle an Orca. And, it makes no difference that it can’t finish off the Orca before CONCORD arrives. As much as we’d like to think they do, gankers do not fly alone. The good ones will have as a minimum an alt in a Prowler with SEBOs to assist their Tornado. Whether you fly an Orca or a Viator; if they want to gank, you they will. Nothing you can do will abrogate that fact. However, you can reduce the cost of the loss. With a smaller hold and a much lower price, the Blockade Runner does just that.
The second barrier to entering the transportation game is training. It takes over 50 days to train into an Orca from scratch, and that includes none of the necessary skills to fly it properly. It takes around 35 days to train into a Blockade runner. That 15 day difference may not seem like much, but to a new EVE Online player it can be the difference between making it and giving up. But, really, who’s going to train either of those two ships straight out of the gate except an alt? Nonetheless, it’s a valid point.
But neither of these are the elephant in the room. For me the biggest issue is roles. An elephant should be an elephant; not an elephant, a rhino and a giraffe all in one.
|Image by ManipUL8|
This is what made me immediately approve of this change. I have always thought the Orca had an identity crisis. Is it an Industrial Command Ship meant to bring substantial bonuses to mining fleets? Is it a mini-freighter? Is it a mini-carrier? To date it has been all three of these things and all at the same time. With capabilities like that, who needs the transport class ships at all?
The Blockade Runner also had a role issue. In its case, it wasn’t that the Blockade Runner was being used for roles outside it’s intended niche. It wasn’t capable of filling its niche. What good is a stealthy cargo ship that lets any noob with a scanner find out what’s inside? It makes common sense to this industrialist that the ship intended for stealthy hauling would keep it’s contents secret. This makes far more sense than ORE designing a ship to keep asteroid dust and mining bits a secret.
CCP’s balancing effort isn’t only about combat ships. The industrial ships are out of whack too. Just as many players, including Jester, have pointed out. All ships should have a unique and beneficial role to play, industrial ships included. And what’s really cool about industrials is they can be modified more on the fly than the combat ships. It makes plenty of more sense for CCP to make these changes one attribute at a time because they aren’t affecting anyone’s balance of power.
Easing these changes in over time gives industrialists time to alter their production processes. Unlike PvP, industry can take months to plan and execute. If you rely on the Orca to facilitate that production and CCP changes it all over night, your entire business could be endangered. With incremental change over time, you’ll have a much easier time of adapting your processes and maintaining your margins.
Eventually, when CCP finishes all these changes, the Orca needs to be the queen of the mining fleet as it was meant to be. When ring mining comes, each fleet must have an Orca leading it to boost the survey scanner strength enough to find the residual Technetium left in that pile of rubble that was once a moon. This is what the Orca was designed by ORE to do. That is what it should do.
And while I’m on the matter of fitting the Orca to its proper role, why does it have that big fat cargo hold to begin with? I can see why it has a ship maintenance bay. That’s to get more barges to the asteroid field or even a swarm of mining frigates (Oh yeah!). I understand why it has a drone bay. The ore hold is self explanatory as well. But how many crystals does an Orca need to carry for its mining fleet? Surely not the 1260 it currently can. How many spare drones does it need to take? Can a fleet even lose 6300 Warrior IIs in a single fight (unless it’s the Orca that gets popped)? Does it really need to haul around 1,260,000 rounds of Antimatter Charge L? Why can it haul more cargo than an Iteron V, a ship designed to haul cargo? I vote the next change for the Orca is to reduce the cargo hold like CCP did with the other mining barges. Maybe even give that space over to more ore capacity!
Considering all this, CCP Greyscale was absolutely correct. The Orca was never intended to do what it is routinely used to do. That is not the players fault. Players press every advantage, it’s their nature. CCP should never have made the Orca such a strong all around ship to begin with. It has a specific purpose and it isn’t to make the Jita run in 12 parsecs. But hindsight is 20/20 and I can’t waggle my fingers at them now. After all, no one was screaming at them for doing it back then.And lastly, the fact CCP Greyscale didn’t take the time to point all this out has nothing to do with deception. There was no incompetence, idiocy or deliberate thump-nose-finger waggling. CCP was within a week of a major update to EVE Online. They ALL had better things to do than mollify bitter vets viewing events through the perfect lens of hindsight.
He’s been around the block a time or five. With over 15 years of MMO playing under his belt and a memory that reaches back to pencils and dice, he offers his insights into the not so virtual reality we call EVE Online.