No Brakes - Ship and module balancing in Retribution 1.1
Hello and happy Valentines Day from Reykjavik! This is CCP Fozzie, one of your friendly neighborhood Game Designers, and I’m here to share with you all our plans for Ship and Module rebalancing in Retribution 1.1 scheduled for February 19th!
First let’s take a moment to look back at the road we’ve travelled together thus far. March 2012 seems like a lifetime ago in terms of EVE development, so it’s hard to believe that it has been less than a year since CCP Ytterbium released his Dev Blog entitled Rebalancing EVE, One Ship at a Time. This blog laid out the high level plans for a radical rethinking of ship balancing in EVE. It described changes to ship progression and training (important updates and changes to this plan are discussed below), as well as the creation of ship lines as a way to communicate the differences between ships. Crucially it introduced the concept that would come to be known as Tiericide; that we would be phasing out the old “Tier” system of balancing ships that had mandated weakness from many of EVE’s ships and endeavoring to make every ship viable and fun to fly in its own right. This is of course a massive long term project, with implications for most facets of the game.
Since that fateful day we have rebalanced Frigates, Mining Barges, Destroyers, and Cruisers. In total fifty nine ships have been either added to the game or received the Tiericide treatment as of Retribution 1.0 last December, and the feedback we have been receiving surrounding these changes has been extremely positive so far. We hope you are all enjoying the newly rebalanced ships and are taking advantage of them to improve your EVE experience.
There are a few quick but important notes to make about the rebalancing process before we continue:
I won’t be going into more detail about the plans for the skill changes in this blog, because they are covered in detail in CCP Ytterbium’s recent dev blog. Just know that the skill changes (including the Battlecruiser and Destroyer skill splits) will not be taking place in Retribution 1.1. They are scheduled for the summer expansion.
Although the Tiericide project has a clear end point (which is on the horizon) the job of rebalancing ships in EVE will never be completed. We will be continuing with a rebalance of Tech 2, Tech 3 and Capital ships (none of which are afflicted with traditional “Tiers”), and we are committed to balancing on a regular basis to keep things fresh and to follow up on reactions to the earlier passes.
I want to make it clear that one of our goals in this rebalancing pass is to somewhat narrow the gap between higher cost and lower cost ships compared to the canyon that existed in the past. We are not planning on buffing the high cost ships to the same degree that we did with the T1 Frigates and Cruisers, as this would simply create direct power creep and leave us right back where we started. We want to reach a place where cheaper ships are more than just something you fly when you start the game, but instead present a viable and interesting option to be chosen by people of many levels of experience. Our vision for cost-balancing is that cost should play a limited part in balancing ships and that obtaining a roughly linear increase in effectiveness should require an exponential increase in cost.
When the recent dev blogs from CCP Unifex and CCP Seagull unveiled the new methodology behind our expansion planning I have heard some questions about where the long-term rebalancing plan fits in with this new world order. The answer is that we will be looking for opportunities to fit interesting new ships into any and all themes as they are decided going forward, and that rebalancing of current ships will not be ignored in any given release. Rebalancing is something that continues forward with every expansion, in the same way that server performance and player experience are continuously being improved.
I’m proud to say that CCP’s player poaching ability continues to improve. We have a new addition to the team coming soon who brings with him a great deal of gameplay and community experience. He hasn’t arrived yet but once he does I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot of him on the forums.
Ok enough with the preamble, let’s get down to the real purpose of this blog: our balance changes coming to a computer near you soon in Retribution 1.1!
There are three main areas towards which we are focusing our balance changes for Retribution 1.1: Combat Battlecruisers, Armor Tanking, and Black Ops.
All of the changes listed in this blog have already been covered in our sticky threads in the official Features and Ideas forum. If you’ve been following those threads closely none of this will be new to you, but we want to make sure we communicate the changes to a wider audience than just the dedicated F&I fans. As usual I want to thank all of you who have participated in the F&I threads so far and I hope that you will continue to let us know what you think about these and all future changes as we go forward together.
For Retribution 1.1 we are implementing the first part of the Battlecruiser tiericide, hitting the former Tier 1 and Tier 2 ships. These are being rechristened the Combat Battlecruisers (yeah we realize the name is somewhat redundant) while the former Tier 3 Battlecruisers are being renamed Attack Battlecruisers and will be rebalanced in a later update.
With these eight ships we are faced with a unique balancing challenge compared to the smaller classes. With Cruisers and Frigates the gap between the highest and lowest tiers was rather immense, and the plan called for bringing all of the ships up to around the power level of the highest tier. With the Battlecruisers we have a class that has a few dominant ships and a large number that were in need of significant help (although to a lesser extent than the Cruiser and Frigates).
We also must be wary of creating ships that are simply superior Cruisers in every way and completely undo the benefits of the Retribution 1.0 Cruiser rebalance.
Finally we were thankfully able to resolve some of the outstanding balance issues with the two most problematic Battlecruisers (Drake and Hurricane) with specific adjustments to Heavy Missiles and the Hurricane’s powergrid in Retribution. This was preferable to leaving the problems festering but it also means that we have not seen the metagame completely settle yet. With the pace of our balancing this kind of challenge is inevitable but it does mean we must be even more vigilant than usual and ensure that we are ready to make rapid follow-up changes as necessary.
To give a glimpse of the state of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 Battlecruisers, here is a chart of the number of each Battlecruiser in use during weekly snapshots of EVE’s users over the last eleven weeks.
Click to enlarge
As you can see, the Drake remains in a league of its own, the Hurricane is very popular and even the least common Tier 2 BCs have a large popularity advantage over the four Tier 1 BCs clustered at the bottom of the graph.
Finding a way to make all the Combat Battlecruisers viable and interesting choices is not going to be easy, and will likely require multiple iterations over time. Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s dive in to our plan for 1.1!
It is no coincidence that the Prophecy is the least used Battlecruiser in the current meta. The combination of anemic damage and slow speed left the ship relegated to the role of obvious bait with the occasional creative fit that relied on the element of surprise rather than competitive performance.
The Prophecy was in dire need of a completely new role, and it has now found that role as the next step in the Amarr Empire’s expanding drone carrier program. The energy weapon capacitor bonus is being replaced with a 10% bonus to drone damage and hitpoints per level, and the drone bandwidth is being increased to 75mbit (equal to the current Myrm) with a giant 225m3 bay to hold a wide variety of drones in the tradition of Amarrian drone doctrine.
The Prophecy is also seeing two highslots removed to make room for an extra midslot and lowslot, and the addition of missile launcher hardpoints alongside the turrets to give plenty of fitting options for the creative pilot.
The Harbinger has suffered from challenging fittings and severe overshadowing from the Oracle and Hurricane. The situation should improve as we rebalance its competing ships, but we’ve also given the Harb a refresh by swapping one turret for a doubled damage bonus. The end result is more DPS at high skill levels, lower capacitor use from the guns, more free fitting space and lower cost of equipment.
The Harb is also seeing its HP dropped to the new standard levels for Combat BCs and gaining a backup flight of light drones to go along with the current wing of mediums.
The Ferox has been failing at its previously intended purpose as a railgun sniper for a long time now, both because of the weakness of medium railguns and the role overlap with the extremely powerful Attack (Tier 3) Battlecruisers. We do not have the time to fix all these problems in 1.1 but we are focused on getting the Ferox into a place where it can perform in its adopted role of shield/blaster brawler while also preparing for that bright future when medium rails are viable again.
To reach this goal we are increasing the damage potential through an extra turret and extra highslot, adding CPU and Powergrid to fit the big guns and adding hitpoints to ensure that the Ferox can take a beating and keep on going.
The Drake is one of the most popular ships in New Eden with good reason. The combination of a stout shield tank with excellent damage projection through missiles has made it the default Battlecruiser for many pilots. We took steps to solve the imbalance surrounding Heavy Missiles in Retribution 1.0, so the current Drake is much closer to a place of balance than it was before.
In 1.1 the Drake is trading one launcher for a doubled damage bonus, gaining slightly increased potential damage and lower ammo use at the expense of less damage flexibility. It is also seeing HP reductions to bring it in line with the other Combat Battlecruisers and a moderate mass increase.
After these adjustments the Drake will still be a very effective and popular ship, in line with our vision for a battlecruiser class that provides a strong middle ground between cruisers and battleships without obsoleting either.
The Brutix carries the dubious distinction of being the most popular of the Tier 1 Battlecruisers, supported mainly by the strength of blasters since the hybrid weapon rebalance. However as a Tier 1 BC it was still crippled by fragility and a lack of usable module slots.
It will be experiencing significant changes, including trading a turret for a doubled damage bonus, the addition of a lowslot, and significantly improved speed with a microwarpdrive thanks to lower mass.
Our armor changes releasing at the same time in Retribution 1.1 will also be key to the new Brutix, and it is very well suited to take advantage of the AAR and active armor rigs that are free of the old speed penalty.
The Myrmidon has been a serviceable ship thanks to an extremely powerful potential armor tank, and could deal solid damage through a combination of drones and turrets. However it lacked as a pure drone ship, with no bandwidth advantage over the smaller Vexor.
It is now gaining more drone damage through the addition of 25mbits of extra drone bandwidth and 50m3 more dronebay. Even with the loss of one turret this leaves the Myrm with more damage than before, and a stronger focus on its primary weapon system.
The Cyclone built a niche for itself thanks to the ancillary shield booster module, but since the ASB rebalance it has struggled to stay competitive. With the shield booster bonus being the only thing preventing the Cyclone from being simply a worse Hurricane, there was a severe lack of variety in the weapon systems of the Minmatar Battlecruiser lineup.
In 1.1 we have revamped the Cyclone as the Minmatar missile Battlecruiser. It has swapped the old projectile rate of fire bonus for an equivalent missile bonus, and seen a highslot move to a low. Along with the addition of extra shield HP and the continuation of the successful shield booster bonus, this creates a fast and flexible missile ship that can dictate the terms of many engagements.
The Hurricane has long enjoyed a position on top of the Battlecruiser heap, as one of the most popular PVP vessels in New Eden. The combination of high speed, strong and easily applied damage, and room for excellent capacitor warfare has made the Hurricane a default choice for many PVP activities. It received one change in the Retribution expansion that reduced available powergrid alongside a reduction of the powergrid need of artillery, so the changes being made in 1.1 can be relatively simple.
The Hurricane is losing a high slot that had often held an energy neutralizer, leaving it with one utility high. It is also facing a slight reduction in hitpoints, and an increase in mass that will slow down align times by two tenths of a second. These changes should leave the Hurricane as a strong peer to the other members of the Combat Battlecruiser class, compared to its previously dominant position.
Armor Tanking 1.5
An example of the new Ancillary Armor Repairer loaded with paste and running
As we are rebalancing larger and larger ship classes, the imbalances in EVE’s current tanking systems become a larger and larger hindrance. The solo and small gang PVP metagame (as well as much of the PVE balance as well) has been skewed towards shield tanking for some time now and we need to start taking steps to rectify that imbalance.
In Retribution 1.1 we are working to reduce some specific issues with armor tanking:
- The fact that active armor tanking rigs slow a ship down, making it unsuitable for many short range weapons
- The fact that the mass penalty on armor plates is much more damaging than the signature radius penalty on shield extenders in most situations
- The lack of effective burst tanking options for armor PVPers
In response we are making some changes to the way armor tanking modules and rigs work, and introducing one new skill and three new modules.
We are removing the ship velocity penalty from active armor tanking rigs (Auxiliary Nano Pumps and Nanobot Accelerators) and replacing it with a 10% penalty to the powergrid requirements of local armor repair modules. This serves to allow active tanking armor ships to more easily close range and use short range weapon systems, and also fits more elegantly with the concept of supercharging a ship’s armor repairers.
Alongside the change above, we are reducing the base powergrid needs of medium and large armor repair systems. All medium armor repairers will need 20% less powergrid, and all large armor repairers will need 10% less powergrid.
We are introducing a new skill called Armor Honeycombing, that reduces the mass penalty of all armor plates by 5% per level. This skill provides an avenue for reducing the downsides of armor plates to those pilots who wish to specialize in passive armor tanking.
We are also making a separate change reducing the base mass penalty on all 800mm, 200mm, and 50mm plates by 20%. This provides pilots a choice between the larger plates which are popular due to their larger hitpoint bonuses, and the relatively smaller plates in each pair that will now be more mass-efficient.
Ancillary Armor Repairers
The Ancillary Shield Booster that was released in the Inferno expansion provided a new dynamic to shield tanking, by allowing pilots to choose a method that would tank very effectively for a short time then require a reload to work at full efficiency. We wanted to capture this gameplay for armor tankers as well, while also keeping armor tanking’s unique flavor and avoiding some of the balance problems that the ASBs presented.
So we are adding new Ancillary Armor Repairer modules, in small, medium and large sizes. These modules use a very different mechanic from the ASBs, but still provide the same style of burst tanking gameplay.
- The AARs use the same cycle time, fitting and build requirements as a Tech One armor repairer of the same size. Their blueprint copies are found in all the same places where other blueprints for prototype modules such as the ASB can already be acquired.
- Unlike the ASBs, AARs always use the same capacitor as a Tech One armor repairer to cycle. This cap use does not change when the module is loaded with charges.
- AARs can optionally be loaded with Nanite Repair Paste to increase repair amount, using a similar system to the way cap boosters can be loaded into ASBs, including the same 60 second reload time.
- When not loaded with Nanite Repair Paste, the AAR repairs 3 / 4 the amount of a normal T1 armor repairer. When loaded with paste this repair amount triples, causing the AAR to repair 2.25x the amount of a T1 rep.
- Small AARs use 1 paste per cycle, Mediums 4, Larges 8. If less than the normal amount of paste is left in the module, it will use what is left and scale the repair bonus proportionally.
- Each AAR can hold 8 cycles worth of paste before either running at reduced rep effectiveness or requiring a reload.
- Unlike the ASB, AAR modules are limited to one per ship. You may run one AAR alongside as many normal armor repairers as you wish.
We expect that this new module will become popular with all kinds of armor tankers, especially PVP pilots looking to get the most out of their ship in a rapid engagement.
In light of all these active armor tanking changes, the armor repair effectiveness bonus on the Incursus frigate will be reduced from 10% per level to 7.5 % per level. We believe that it will remain a very powerful combat frigate after this change.
Black Ops Tweaks
There are a series of black ops gameplay changes that we have wanted to make for a while now. These changes are not the final rebalance for Black Ops Battleships, they are a set of usability changes to serve the ship class and the gameplay style until we have time to do a more thorough rebalance.
- We are increasing the base jump and bridge range of all Black Ops Battleships to 3.5 lightyears, giving them the same jump range as Titans.
- We are decreasing the fuel cost of all Black Ops bridges by 25%, as well as increasing the size of the fuel bay of all Black Ops Battleships by 25%.
- We are enabling Strategic Cruisers to fit and activate Covert Cynosural Field Generators if they use the Covert Reconfiguration subsystem.
As mentioned above, these are not the full rebalance of Black Ops ships, but simply a set of smaller but still extremely valuable changes we could make in the time available. We want to ensure that the opportunities for those pilots that prefer covert gameplay remain strong and we can’t wait to see the creative ways you come up with to take advantage of these changes.
We're looking forward to getting all of these changes to you in Retribution 1.1 next Tuesday. Alongside some of the other great features and improvements that have been outlined in previous Dev Blogs, we think 1.1 will continue the tradition of excellence that we achieved with Retribution's release last December. All of these changes are active now on our Singularity test server if you want to try them out.
Good luck and good hunting!