Ed Note: So, it seems that a lot of what I predicted ended up being true. I wrote this post earlier today, before CCP’s adjustments to their proposed changes, which reduced some of the resists. Rather than redo the whole post, I’ve decided to just post it in full.
Let me begin this post by stating that I generally don’t read the forum discussions about rebalances before posting my comments here. I try to form my opinions first based on my own play style and how proposed changes affect it, then move into thinking about others and what it all means for them.
This comes from my native subjectivity – I don’t believe there is an objective truth for meaning. So, why waste your time trying to come up with the “single best solution” in a detached, objective way? Every solution , even “successful”, every “right” needs to be tied to an objective, a perspective, or an agenda. When some says to you, “This is right!” you should ask yourself, “For whom?” If you hear, “This is correct!”, ask “In what circumstances?”
So, I’m going to write about what matters most to me… whether the recon changes will make my gameplay more fun.
I’ve mentioned before how much I love Recon ships. So, suffice to say, I’m personally delighted about these changes. As a hunter, I love the idea of dscan immunity for Combat Recons, because it brings low-sec plex runners into play for me in a way they weren’t before (Curse, I’m looking at you!) Wormhole pilots should be downright paranoid now, as a Curse or Huginn will be a serious threat and the harbinger of a whole fleet of buddies. I suspect we’ll find an entirely new set of tacklers next month.
On the frownie side, I think the price increases on Recons are here to stay. I’d say I should have logged in early the day the changes were announced to grab some profit, but in honesty I’d have simply kept all of the Recons I could buy and used them myself. So… meh.
As a sometime-ratter, it makes me much more cautious. And I truly do sympathize with those who are worried about their ability to pay for their game time with PLEX. Remaining aligned any time anyone enters local will be absolutely critical – more so if you don’t get a hit on dscan. You’ll need to pay attention to how long they’ve been in system, what their likely warp-time is, and how likely that they’re capable of flying a Recon with enough skill to post a threat. It’s going to be a much more active process than in the past, and I’m sure more than a few people will breathe a sigh of relief when that pilot leaves local. The question, of course, will be whether he logged off or truly left (hint: watch lists are your friend).
Large fleets will now have some element of hidden strength, but only in the short-term. A couple cycles of probes would identify any Combat Recons on scan, making cloaked Force Recons a much better option to truly keep your ewar strength a surprise. But for quick or “found” engagements, they can be a powerful surprise until a fleet of them lands on grid.
Also, Ghost Fleet and Spectre Fleet will need to rename themselves, unless they decide to swap out entirely to Recons. Otherwise, move over, because I sense a new meta coming.
As to the buff to the tank, I’m actually not a fan of it. I already enjoy flying Rapiers, and their tank isn’t the best. I saw it as an appropriate trade-off for being able to keep the enemy at any range I choose, likewise the case with the Curse and Lachesis, when I’ve flown them. I feel like their purpose leads towards being squishier, and I think it’s an unnecessary change (more on that later). I’m one of those people who would be okay with the dscan immunity OR the tank changes, but getting both seems like a free lunch – too good to be true. Where’s the condo you’re trying to sell me?
While I haven’t read much on the forums, I have heard several corp and alliance mates talk about these changes, and much of it has been negative. I’ve since come across some other arguments worth mentioning and countering, too.
The first is the argument that “Recons” as a class are not used according to the name, and that it – and the concept behind them – should be replaced with a different name and guiding design principle entirely. After all, how many people actually fly a Recon ship as a forward scout to gather intel on the enemy (the very definition of recon)? Sure, the Rapier and Arazu could be used as advanced tacklers, but generally speaking a better scout is either a CovOps frigate (for detailed snooping) or an interceptor (because of the accursed bubble immunity) for quick peeks. No one uses recon ships for recon anymore.
And I can’t fault that logic. However, I think it gives a little too much credence to names. And yes, I recognize the irony in ME saying this. Do people use strategic cruisers in strategic – as opposed to tactical – ways? No, they use them every opportunity they can in a variety of circumstances. The Tengu is a joke for how flexible it is. Are heavy assault cruisers used for… providing heavy assault to things? No, you use battleships for that. Mobile assault cruisers would be a better name. What about logistics ships? I haven’t seen a single logistics ship ever perform a logistics supply run. A better name would be repair cruisers.
Names have meaning, but only so far as we imbue them with meaning. Eve players as a whole are very good at using ships not based on their names, but based on their bonuses, and this won’t change. I highly doubt CCP will ever change Recon ships from having their ewar bonuses…, nor are those bonuses in any way attached to the name “Recon”. So I think this is a valid argument, but without much importance to the changes.
Next, folks have complained about the tank buffs. I can certainly see this one. Recons have a bunch of really special bonuses that make them very useful – the best webs, neuts, scrams, and jammers in the game. And as a result, they were a little more squishy than other T2 vessels. This makes perfect sense to me, and I don’t see why CCP needs to buff the tank. In exchange for these recon ships having special abilities, they’re softer targets than usual. Sounds fair to me.
Alternatively, large fleet FCs have argued that the tank buffs are much-appreciated since recons tend to be called primary in many fights. If you look at the CFC’s strategy, in general logistics and recon ships are targeted first to reduce the battle effectiveness of the enemy fleet. If you can punch through their ability to repair and apply effects to your ships, the fight is over… all that remains is mopping up.
But the addition of jump fatigue will likely reduce the size of all but the largest, longest battles (a B-R will likely grow as large, since it lasted 23 hrs – more than enough time for any force in New Eden to join the fight), so the number of fights in which alpha damage is sufficient to immediately pop recons are going to decline. Isn’t jump fatigue, in that sense, already a buff to recons, giving them a better chance of surviving until they receive reps?
I, on the other hand, think the tank will matter much more for small-gang environments. As will, interesting, the next bit.
I’m not going to bother with the reasons why the prey (read: high-sec pilots, null ratters, WH ratters) don’t like the dscan immunity feature. That’s fairly obvious. No longer can you ignore the pilot who enters local because you’re in a plex and you don’t see anything on dscan. Well, you can, but that seems to be an unnecessarily dangerous test of your alignment and reflexes.
What I find interesting are the complaints arising from null-sec residents. All of these complaints (that I’ve heard, at least) have fallen into the, “It’s gonna be harder to report intel!” category. And… yeah, for a very short period of time, it will be. However, switching your scouts to a CovOps ship with combat probes and parking yourself on grid (but cloaked) with the hostile fleet isn’t too terribly hard, now is it? I’m sure the people who brought you massive coalition-wide fleet organization and complex SRP programs can figure out that probes + cloak + on-grid eyes means effective intel.
The simple fact is that anything that increases ambiguity and provides the need for fleet commanders to actually count the number of hostiles in local and track the number of ships being reported is a good thing. Without mistakes, friction, and ambiguity, Eve Online becomes Rock, Paper, Scissors. If everyone knew everything and did everything correctly, there would be no need to actually fight.
And, incidentally, I’d argue that the number of fights – particularly smaller fights – has gone down specifically because players know what ships beat what other ships and simply choose not to engage. Recon ships not showing up on dscan provides a fun opportunity – not the whole story, but a nice part of it – for us to bring ambiguity back into the game.
You can argue that the uncertainty of not knowing if those other pilots in system are afk in station or all piloting Curses will cause pilots to avoid conflict. Maybe. I personally don’t think so. If you’ve ever roamed for twenty jumps before, you know that after so much time, you become desperate for a fight, and will take increasily slimmer odds in the interest of content. Mechanics won’t change human nature.
For small-gang and solo scenarios, this represents only opportunity. Small gangers are likely going to be the ones flying the Combat Recon ships, making them the aggressors, battle-dictators, and the side that maintains initial control over the engagement. That’s an advantage, no two ways about it. And if you’re solo roaming, you either have to plan to dictate range or be caught then spring a surprise of some sort. Fighting outnumbered is par for the course… just have your escape plan on-hand.
So let’s talk about wormholes and FW plexes. These two, I admit, are concerns. Wormholes are already very lucrative, but these changes make them much less viable for the very small sized corporation or the solo pilot. I don’t expect it should have an effect on larger corporations, who tend to have eyes on their incoming connections on an ongoing basis. They simply aren’t surprised because they know what they’re doing. This won’t change. Besides, if you live in a WH, you likely drop cloaky T3s on unsuspecting targets, and as such you naturally plan for this contingency when you yourself rat. So, no real change for larger entities, but a serious concern for smaller ones. Well, a concern, at least.
As far as FW medium plexes… yeah, you could easily take a medium plex gate or warp to a large plex only to land on a Combat Recon. Then again, from what I’ve seen, ships go into those plexes to do one of two things… farm them or hunt the people in them. If you’re farming, you’re probably stabbed already, right? And if you’re hunting… woot, targets!
Okay, I kid… but the real people I see being harmed by this change in regards to FW are LP farmers, and I simply can’t worry too much about them. They still have novice and small sites for risk-free LP generation, and the benefits to the game outweigh a slight reduction in their individual LP income (and that’s before taking into account second-order consequences like the value of LP increasing if the supply becomes reduced… which I really don’t think it will). I see this as an inconvenience for habitual farmers, a bringer of randomness for PvP, and a unique mechanic that will inject some variety.
And logically, the gameworld has locked itself into supporting unique roles for various ship classes. I don’t remember a lot of support for my position that the interceptor bubble immunity was a horrible, horrible idea (I still hold to that). A lot of that jubilation about interceptors was excitement about the idea of specialized functionality and roles for various ship classes. “Ships are useful again! Now we have a reason for flying this ship that was otherwise useless! Wee!” Well, now you have to lie in that bed you made.
Dscan Immunity and Sov 3.0
What intrigues me most about these changes, though, is what it augurs for the future. Dscan immunity really strikes me as a proof-of-concept test for something larger. I get the sense that CCP is preparing something with the sov changes that ties both into the Recon changes and the interceptor change.
Yeah, that does assume that CCP has a very clear plan for what they want sov mechanics to be and that this whole “What dos the community want” drive is more to confirm their vision than to guide it. If sov mechanics will be ready as a complete plan by the Winter Summit, yet they’ve had three years to really think about it, I have to assume that they had that plan in mind when they modified Interceptors, and now while they’re adding dscan immunity.
When you see a big footprint near your house, start looking up, not down. And the Recon changes are a mighty large footprint of something.
Both of these changes – bubble and dscan immunity – support the ability to disrupt. But the question remains, to disrupt what? Looking at them carefully, bubble immunity makes it easier to insert into a hostile system; interceptors are nearly impossible to catch. And Combat Recons will really shine when it’s not possible to account for every pilot in local – either WHs or in systems with large numbers of pilots already in it.
That tells me that CCP envisions warfare in the future (post sov-redesign?) to involve a lot of pilots in a system, but not necessarily limited to one grid. They’re creating the means for some pilots in Combat Recons to be lost in the shuffle, hidden in a busy local, and able to throw added weight to the forces on a grid. Pilots filtering in and out.
When you add the jump fatigue mechanics meaning that jumping in commits you to a system for a period of time, I get the distinct impression that all of these changes are meant to support more of a FW see-saw approach to sov control than the “pile-on” sov mechanics we have now.
So, I see this change, paired with bubble immunity and jump fatigue, as pretty clearly indicating that CCP intends to incorporate a FW-like control slider into null sovereignty. Whether it’s “Farms and fields” or something else, it’s pretty clear that CCP is seeding abilities in existing ship classes – all T2 – to disrupt whatever system they’re planning, and that this upcoming system is going to involve a variety of battles to control a system, not a timer-based or monolithic approach.
To that end, I highly doubt CCP is going to back away from dscan immunity, for those who wish it. I suspect there’s too much at stake and that it serves as a support beam for the overarching sov system that’s coming.