Every expansion or major patch for a while now, I’ve been listing my favorite and least favorite features. Odyssey 1.1 (patch notes here) is the first expansion that I’ll be able to do this for which I had some input into the proceedings. I’m finding that makes writing this kind of post ticklish. So let’s get two ugly ones out of the way first so I can enjoy the rest of the examination.
First, I continue not to be all that big of a fan of the Infomorph Synchronizing skill as it’s currently deployed. This is ironic because I argued for this skill strenuously. The famous Lily Tomlin joke goes “I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.” When I argued for this to be a skill, I wanted the benefits to be significant and for the rank of the skill to be pretty high so you had to work for the high-end benefits. I personally was aiming for a 16 hour JC timer, or perhaps even 12 hours, with the idea that people could be in their Slave implant set on Friday night and get into a RvB Ganked fleet or a Failheap Challenge frigate roam Saturday early afternoon.
In the course of discussions with CCP, I was shown reasons why a 12 hour timer would be a bad idea. For example, during multiple reinforcement timers (something I obviously don’t work with a lot), very short JC timers gives the defender tremendous advantages in terms of mobility and changing fleet compositions. So I have to admit that the reasons preventing shorter JC timers were good ones.
But now it means that the skill is rather lackluster in terms of benefit per skill level. I think most of us that train it are going to train it to Level IV and leave it at that, for a 20 hour JC timer. TAGN, whose blog I respect a lot, jokes that this means we now have a World of Warcraft-style 20 hour lock-out. I know nothing about WoW and the comparison still makes me laugh. But it does beg the question: did we really need a skill for this? Couldn’t the default timer just been set to 20 hours instead of another multimillion ISK skill-book? The one bit of good news is that at least the skill itself is a short train, with less than two days needed to get to Level IV.
So yeah. I got the skill and trained it, but I’m not really all that enthusiastic about how it turned out. I may try again for a 16-hour top-end to this skill later in the term.
Let’s move on to the one that’s going to get me (and has gotten me) yelled at, the nerf to fleet boosts generally and the mind-links specifically. On this one, I’ve been getting yelled at because when people ping me about this, I’m not shy about saying openly what a lot of us have known for a long, long time: skirmish links and mind-links were wildly over-powered. I’ve been writing about skirmish tactics on this blog for a while now. The simple fact is that a T1 battle-cruiser with a T2 point has no business being able to tackle an assault frigate at 36-37km. Overheated skirmish Sleipnirs have no business being able to move around the battlefield at 2500m/s. We’ve all known it, we’ve all taken advantage of it, and I count myself among the sinners here.
The other links were nearly as bad. I’ve got a Damnation that pushed 600k EHP and T3 cruisers that could approach or beat 300k. I was toying around with a info-linked damping Proteus fit where each single damp was bonused to nearly 75%. It was getting seriously silly out there, particularly if you added a cloaked titan providing its bonuses on top of the inevitable off-grid Loki and Legion alts. Sooner or later, that bit is going to have to be dealt with too.
It was quite literally getting to the point where if you didn’t have a full spectrum of links in every single fleet regardless of purpose, you were being dumb. Anytime anything in this game morphs over from “interesting choice guided by emergent game-play” to “required just to be competitive”, you can bet that’s going to draw the nerf-bat’s attention. We’ve seen it again and again in EVE Online development. And this was swiftly escalating to rather ludicrous levels. We’re routinely seeing off-grid expensive T3 link ships being dragged around by LOL-T1-fit cruiser fleets, for Heaven’s sake. That means when the nerf bat hit, it was going to be a hard swing.
So I quietly watched the F&I thread about the links and mind-links and waited for it to explode into a threadnaught, which didn’t really happen. CCP Fozzie dev-blogged about it, still no threadnaught. Here’s a little secret: the CSM’s influence is cut by about half to two-thirds when there’s no player revolution behind it. I nudged forward the industrial rebalancing because I helped create, guide, and shape player reactions to the first pass of those rebalances. But if there was going to be a revolution on this topic, I wasn’t gonna be the one leading it.
Keep in mind as I say this: I’m someone who respec’ed my main character to Leadership skills for a full year and as someone whose play style is being nerfed the hardest by these changes. After all, it’s Rote’s 5- and 10- and 15-man gangs that are most affected by the choice between…
- “bring links” (and lose two ships worth of DPS out of an often limited number); and,
- “don’t bring links” (and risk getting out-ranged or out-tanked by a fleet that did).
We’ve often used links — particularly in skirmish fleets — to help us even out the odds and take disadvantageous engagements. That extra range helps us pick off a few stragglers from a much larger fleet then slip away before they can counter. Trust me: I know what we’re losing. I’ve had a number of people, right up to a former CSM member(!), argue with me about this issue and I tell all of them the same thing: we’re going to have to be better pilots. To a man, all of them essentially reply “but that’s too hard.” Uhhh… OK.
Now don’t get me wrong. This is going to have an impact out there. We’re going to see fewer up-engagements and fewer fights in general as this change shakes out. The advantage in this game is being thrown even more to the side of numbers and asymmetrical warfare in EVE is taking yet another hit. But I have to look at the benefit to the game rather than my individual play-style and for the game, this is an overall small net positive in my opinion. The other thing that’s going to be shaken out of this are a lot of “solo” PvPers strutting about with their one DPS ship, their massive-bonused Falcon alts, and the plethora of boosting Lokis and Legions. Rote Kapelle is based in Placid/Black Rise just now and one of our guys is killing a boosting Loki or Legion almost every single day, sometimes more than one.
EDIT (5/Sep/2013): Just in case there’s any confusion, I want to make it clear. I’m not saying “I didn’t bitch about mind-links more because players didn’t bitch about mind-links more.” I am saying “I didn’t bitch about mind-links more because I agreed with Fozzie’s approach on this subject and though it was the best thing for the game overall, despite the impact to my particular play-style and to that of my constituents.” Just in case that was ambiguous…
So yeah, I’m not overly upset about that one. Yell at me if you must.
Next up: the rest of Odyssey 1.1 and I promise that post won’t be as long per point as this one…
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