Friday, July 10, 2015

God's Work Against the Great Enemy

“Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind.”
- Orange Catholic Bible, Dune

Regular readers of this blog may have picked up on my extreme and fanatical disdain, one might say bordering on paranoia, about the prospect of artificial intelligence.  I firmly believe that, any way you slice it, an intelligent biological species would represent a dangerous variable in the calculations of any AI intelligence, and dangerous variables require elimination.  If we develop AI, I believe we’re creating our own executioner.

(Side note: to those who would argue that an AI would be bound by programming rules and that we could simply build in a killswitch, I submit that any computer program that cannot reprogram itself is by definition not an AI, but rather only a sophisticated program.)

In Eve, AI is in many ways our great enemy.  We have the sleepers, the circadian sleepers, and the rogue drones, all of whom represent a notch of difficulty over normal NPC rats.  In fact, the only relaly dangerous human enemy within the Eve universe is the Sansha, who utilize slave soldiers whose will is suppressed entirely.  What is it about free will that we so delusionally deem “safe”?  The most powerful forces in the history of humanity have been dedicated bands of passionate people freely dedicating themselves to a cause.  But, I digress.

Among other players, still, we find AI to be the enemy.  ISBoxer and botting are considered blights on our gameworld.  And while those who used the former maintain a firm and solid defense of its usefulness, the latter is universally hated for its negative effects on the gameworld.  In both cases, though, they provide an insurmountable advantage to the user… an advantage that demonstrates the danger of automation to the human experience.  Even if that experience is just space fun.

So, it will likely surprise no one to hear that I have a visceral, positive reaction to Drone Damage Amplifiers taking a punch to the face in the form of a reduction in bonux from 23% to 20%.  And yet, on the other hand, I do feel it’s the wrong change for balance.

Damage boosting modules for turrets and missiles apply a 22.9% boost for the first module (10% damage boost and 10.5% rate-of-fire reduction… the math works out when you multiply these together).  It only seems fair that drone ships receive the same bonus for their damage mods.  If you take issue with the extra 0.1%, consider it compensation for the drone “charges” being able to be shot and killed.

After all, I’m certainly capable of repressing my real-life revulsion for AI for the sake of in-game parity.  And this change strikes me as the wrong change, overall.  The issue that throws drone ships out of balance, after all, is not the drones themselves, but the bonuses applied to the ships that use them.

Consider the most popular drone ships in the game, the Ishtar, the Gila, and the Tristan.  The first two possess very strong drone damage bonuses.  The Ishtar gets a 50% bonus, and the Gila gets 500% bonus, but only two drones.  That’s 7.5 effective heavy drones and 10 effective medium drones respectively, before module bonuses.  No wonder they’re so popular, given the amount of mid-slots they have (or, in the Ishtar’s case, had).

But these are not the only ships that use drones, nor the only ships that leverage Drone Damage Amplifiers to augment that damage.  I have a DDA on my Rapier.  Others fly with them on a wide variety of ships, and each will suffer as a result of this change to make the drone damage module less effective than other damage modules.

Aren’t we missing the real solution here?  If CCP is concerned about the dominance of a couple ships, nerf those couple ships.  Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Reducing DDA damage modifiers lessens the viability of the drone weapon system.  And that may be okay if drones are considered too strong.  But don’t create an inequity among weapon systems as you adjust it.

But what about that last popular ship, the Tristan?  The drone fit that dominates faction warfare is the maxed dps (ie. many DDAs) MWD, long-point kiting fit that relies entirely on drones to inflict damage.  This fit produces around 180 dps under optimal conditions, but it does so with unbonused drones.  But this ship is already well-balanced and defeatable.  It has two key weaknesses already.

The first, of course, is the engagement range.  This fit must use an MWD to maintain range from its targets, but it’s vulnerable if the enemy also fits an MWD or is able to enter scram range (10.5 km for a T2 overheated).  And if this Tristan fit is caught, it’s dead.

But the second way is for targets to simply shoot its drones.  Drones cannot be overheated, so there’s no way to artificially elevate their damage.  Any active tank can tolerate the drone damage for long enough to kill them.  And, in fact, when fighting a Tristan, you should immediately overheat your scram to catch him at the onset.  If you succeed, you’ve got him.  If you fail, immediately switch to your drone overview and begin targeting the drones.  Eventually, he’ll run out of dps.  Then, switch to your long-range ammo and plink away as you watch dscan for his friends and pull range from the acceleration gate/button to make it hard for any enemy reinforcements to reach you (can’t warp to a fleet member in a FW plex, remember).

The Tristan is an example of a ship that this DDA nerf will utterly annihilate.  The drone Tristan’s damage was already meager, but with a 5.5% reduction (stacking penalty, two DDAs) the variety of ships it can kill before it runs out of drones is now quite limited.  So limited, in fact, that its use will almost certainly flatline.

This Drone Damage Amplifier nerf strikes me as the wrong tactic to achieve the very appropriate goal of bringing different ships in line.  If two are the problem, why weaken 100?  I’d think we would do better by reducing the bonuses on the ships that are overpowered to bring them in line.

1 comment:

  1. You make a compelling point. I do admit that so far my concern about these changes didn't go any further than "now my bounty ticks with the gila will suffer".
    I fly a DDA Rapier and a faction warfare Tristan as well, but i have been a little busy lately to take them out. Maybe I should, find out how hard these changes actually hit me.
    In general, i very much agree with your assessment: if there is a problem with a few ships, fix them. Not the weapon system they have in common.