Thursday, February 11, 2016

Huge Module Changes in March (an analysis of damage control, ewar, and other changes)

CCP released a bomb shell—or more like a bunch of little cluster bombs—to the meta, coming in the March release. Over a dozen module tiericde passes are coming, and to many of the most important modules in PVP--damage controls, damage amplifiers, webs, scrams, EWAR, and so on. The module rebalances coming in March look small but they are actually some very big changes for the meta across the board.

Module tiericide might seem like it does not heavily affect ship fits and the PVP meta, but many of the small changes CCP has made to modules have had greater impact than the ship rebalancing itself. For instance, the buff to shield extenders (lower fitting requirements and higher overall HP), especially the buffs to tech 2 versions as well as navy versions like the Republic Fleet shield extender line, has proven to be a significant buff to buffer shield tanking. The relatively low fitting and huge HP given by two Republic Fleet MSEs is part of what makes the svipul so powerful given its bonuses, for example.

So let's look at some of the more significant upcoming changes (keep in mind they are subject to revision) and see how they will affect PVP fittings and balance (solo and small gang fits in particular).

Let's look at the biggest change first: Damage controls will now be passive modules, and all ships are getting a base hull resistance of 33%, and the bonus provided by all damage controls is going to be reduced by around a third. That. Is. Huge. Put the contentious issue of freighter ganking aside and focus on how major of a buff this is to the many powerful ship fittings which do not use a damage control currently.

Here are some very common pvp fits which do not use a damage control: Kiting Slicers (e.g. Chessur style), kiting Tristans, Jackdaw fits with 2 BCs, Flycatcher fits using 1 BC, pure armor tanking ships that do not often fit a DC such as are common on the Enyo, Retribution, Punisher, Maller, and so on. All of these fits and some others are powerful right now, and getting an added base hull resist makes them quite a bit more tanky. The Slicer and kiting Tristan in particular would be pushed from tier 1 class to overpowered in my opinion.

Oh god, I almost forgot to add the RLML Caracal (in addition to a few other RLML kiting setups) which already does not use a damage control (on 2x Nano 2x BC fits) and is insanely powerful and quite tanky already. It would be a huge stealth buff to many already OP ships.

My suggestion (one I made on the forums) would be to only add a 10-20% base hull resist, or to have tech 1 ships have a base hull resist of 10% and tech 2 ships have a base resist of 20%. In any case, 33% across the board is probably just too high.

But let's assume that CCP adds some amount of base hull resist—that is a huge buff to ships that do not fit a damage control, and the potential fittings that run without a DC increase tenfold. It would give more options for kiting setups—making more sense to sometimes swap a DC for another damage or speed mod—as well as some dedicated armor tanking setups that could better use another armor resist module.

What about the addition of faction damage controls? Solo PVPers who fly big stuff should be rejoicing at this news in particular. Regardless of the final cost of a faction DC, it would be a nice buff to battleship level solo PVP fits. If they are cheap enough, it may even make sense to put them on smaller ships as well, as the added resist bonus above the Tech 2 provides a worthwhile boost. Once this change is finalized I will go back over which fits in particular benefit the most, but I have a feeling CCP will be adjusting the numbers with damage controls soon.

Oh, and my mouse and hand thank CCP for making the damage control passive! <3

Tech 1 damage modules are getting a (significantly) lower CPU variant and a buff to the damage in order to bring them closer to tech 2 versions. Some meta damage mods currently have more CPU than tech 2 versions, making them worse than useless right now.

First of all, this is a nice buff to new player PVP. Currently, tech 1 damage mods have high CPU costs and low damage output, meaning new players both have more fitting issues and much lower damage than they would if they could fit the tech 2 version. Over the years CCP has made many small balance changes that bring new player fits closer in ability to tech 2 or higher SP fits, and I am happy to see this trend continue.

Second, there are a few PVP fits I can think of off the top of my head which have CPU issues and would benefit from dropping a damage mod to a tech 1 version in order to not have to fit a CPU mod or rig. For instance, one of the most common Tristan fits is the kiting MSE version, but it has CPU issues which force it to lack a damage control or fit a CPU rig. Dropping the tech 2 DDAs to the (new) compact variant would let you either fit three DDAs for a small DPS buff at the expense of less speed from losing the nanofiber, or allow you to add a compact damage control for decently better tank. There's really nothing too major that will change with damage modules, but there will be some added options for fits that are tight on CPU.

The important change here is that Tech 2 modules here will now be better than the Meta 4 versions of scrams and webs, a nice change not only because Meta 4 versions of these items have skyrocketed in price but also nice simply to have a reason to use Tech 2 versions if the fitting space is available. Faction disruptors are being split into three categories based on their respective strength: those with the lowest fitting and cap use, those with the longest range, and those with a balance of stats. I still think the disruptors with longest range will remain the most used and expensive, simply because the fits that tend to use faction points do not generally struggle with small amounts of CPU or cap use.

When it comes to fitting non-faction scrams or webs, I think the priorities are generally going to remain favoring the highest range that can fit. So, Tech 2 webs and scrams are going to be preferable when they fit, and if they don't the compact version will probably be necessary. The lower cap use versions just don't make a big enough difference to be preferable in any case—unless, say, you are fleet tackle and expect to face neut pressure and want to have the lowest cap using tackle possible, but even then it is questionable how much the lower cap cost would really matter.

Some players have pointed out that the overall CPU requirements for current fits are going to increase, making some past fits tight on CPU need reworking. Gorski Car has a very nice post on reddit about how to adjust certain current fits after these changes, but the overall result is going to be that some fits will need to lower the meta level on one more damage control, web/scram, or even damage module, compared with how they currently fit. On tight setups, which module you keep as Tech 2 (the prop mod? DC? damage module? scram/web/point?) is going to be a more meaningful decision than it is now.

I love the proposed revamp of currently useless cap batteries, making them both add a base amount of capacitor while also adding a resistance to neut/nos pressure. Even though mid slots are extremely valuable, I can think of a few armor tanking fits I would love to use these on if the numbers were right. For instance, the Tech 2 medium compact battery would add (on the current numbers) 500 capacitor and -25 cap resistance. That would be reasonable to fit on a dual rep Myrmidon (the triple rep really needs the 2x cap booster), for instance and would be slightly more resistant to neut pressure and could do slightly more damage than a triple rep Myrm.

But, using a cap booster is going to provide better resistance to neuts in most cases anyway. And, on some ships that could really benefit from the battery, there does not seem to be a way to usefully fit the battery in the first place. On a dual armor rep Deimos, for instance, the battery would be incredibly useful, but with only 4 mid slots there's nothing you can get away with replacing.

The other big problem is, the CPU is too high on all of the sizes, and the PG is too high on the small variant. I think they would only be worth using if they had roughly the same fitting requirements as cap boosters (or maybe with slightly more CPU but similar PG). To be honest, to really be worthwhile instead of a cap booster, the battery needs to provide more resistance to neut pressure—such as in the range of 30% or more.

Oh yes. Oh hell yes! I and other solo PVPers have made this very suggestion, and let's just say that this is probably one of my favorite small changes CCP has made in recent years. One of my biggest complaints about ECCM modules is that they provide no real use unless you are facing ECM, and the use they provide when you do face ECM is purely chance based and is not worth the slot for the module.

ECCM modules are getting merged with sensor boosters, and sensor boosters will get a script which specifically boosts sensor strength. Signal amplifiers will also be getting an added sensor strength bonus, which actually makes them useful to fit on some battleships for the added scan res as well.

ECM is still terrible game design, there's no gameplay or skill involved in it, and the range at which ships worth less than 1m isk can perma-jam virtually any other ship in the game is absurd, but this is a small step in the right direction.

The only downside to this change is that it is a stealth buff to the arty svipul. Now it gets another buff, an extra resistance to ECM. To be honest, with the added functionality of sensor boosters, their CPU should probably be quite a bit higher. 16 CPU for a Tech 2 sebo is insanely cheap given the added functionality it will be receiving.

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