Post Vacation Thoughts
I'm back from vacation now. Actually it has been about a week now. What have I been doing since then? Well nothing terribly exciting I'm afraid, just fixing some stuff, talking to programmers and trying to get my big projects in order. But even though I haven't been working doesn't mean that I've stopped thinking about work. Well it's debatable when I'm thinking about work and when I'm thinking about play but that's one of the perks at working at CCP.
What I have been thinking about mainly is fleet fights. Of course that got me to thinking about my own mortality or more my in-game mortality. You see; in fleet fights ships are lost and although losing a ship is no big deal to some and you accept it as a part of EVE - especially part of fleet fights - it is a bit frustrating that not only did you lose your ship but it goes down before you can say pwnd (pwnd is a pretty tough word to pronounce though). What is the problem here? Some say its focus firing and I would have to agree.
What you have to understand about focus firing is that it's really effective. As soon as an opponent's ship is removed from the battlefield, the ship stops being useful for the opponent whether that's doing damage, EWAR or logistic (however unlikely). A ship half way to hull is every bit as useful as a ship with fully charged shields, so the key factor is getting it down before it can warp out and warp in again.
Now probably some of you are thinking, "Sure we can just give ships really high hull hitpoints and incapacitate them when they go 50% into hull". It might work but I don't think it would. Part of war is to inflict financial losses on your enemy and nothing does that better than destroying his property, in this case his ships. On top of that people would rather get a kill mail than boast about incapacitating a ship.
Besides that "fix" doesn't really fix the issue. I wouldn't really be more satisfied being incapacitated in five seconds than I would be at being killed in five seconds. When would I be satisfied then? By the time people can make strategic decisions both on the fleet commander level and on the individual level, that's when I'm satisfied.
Let's go back to the focus firing and what makes it possible. To be able to focus fire on something, the opponent needs to be in range of all the ships that are involved. The fleet formation that this results in is commonly known as the blob. I'm not talking about the blob that comes up on the map where you have 200+ ships crammed in the same solar system, I'm talking about the blob where those 200 ships are crammed in to the same 10km radius sphere. If a ship is range of one of them it's in range of all of them, ie. around the tight "formation" of ships is a "sphere of death" wherein anything hostile dies.
Whats the disadvantage of having a blob formation? Not much really, theoretically you could warp in a group of closer range ships and use your transversal to keep the blob's damage down and use the superior damage output to kill the opponent's ships. What we need is something to discourage this blob formation mentality. I don't blame people for blobbing, in fact it's only sensible to do so but that doesn't make it fun.
So splitting up the blob will fix focus firing? I don't think it will, there will always be areas in the battlefield where a fleet will get a good concentrated fire. That area should be considerably smaller though. If I would happen to wander into the area where the opponents fleet had the most concentrated firepower and get promptly blown away, I wouldn't feel that bad about. Why? I got killed because of my own inadequacies as a pilot and not by my characters position in the alphabet, size of my ship, how easy my name is to pronounce or some trivial thing like that.
Even if we split the blob, we still have a problem: the attacking range of ships today. Even with a fairly spread out fleet they still cover one hell of a range. The average ship running around in fleets today has over 200km range and that's one hell of a "Coconut of Death". The more CoDs you have overlapping, the bigger area you contain and the more concentrated firepower your fleet has in that area. You probably see where I'm going with this, the range of ships in fleet today is simply too great.
We're looking into ways to break up the blobs. Potent AoE weapons would definitly encourage people not to stay to close to each other. Formation flight will make it easier for people to arrange their fleet in non-blobby way. Any directional defences will incourage people to attack from more than one angle and then we could literally give penalties to ships being to close to each other.
Well thats it for now, sorry about the length.
P.S. Thanks to Hammer to teach me how to speel oppenent