Friday, June 17, 2016

BB76 - Are Fleet Commanders Special?

This month's blog banter asked a compelling question, one that touches on the importance of content amplifiers within Eve:
At fanfest CCP Fozzie proposed a potential new ship class. Let’s call it the fleet commander’s flagship for now. This is to try and prevent “FC Headshotting” where the opposing fleet knows who the FC is and alpha’s them off the field leaving the rest of the fleet in confusion and disarray. Fozzie mentioned a ship with a great tank but no offensive abilities. Is this a good idea? Is FC head-shotting a legitimate tactic? If CCP do go down the route of a “flagship” how might this work? Also is a new ship the answer or is there another way of giving an FC the ability not to be assassinated 12 seconds into the fight without letting players exploit it?
Boy, this question only scratches the surface of the deeper issue beneath it. Too often, we as commentators choose to focus purely on raw numbers. How many players live in high-sec vs. null? What's out average PCU? What's your killboard efficiency?

We're taught to think with mathematical efficiency. In school, we're taught to quantify and substantiate with X number of proof points or number of paragraphs. And too often, we try to port this tendency over to rhetorical arguments as well.

Put simply, we make the mistake of believing that the purpose of the argument is to make the more logical argument. This, as anyone knows, is foolish. Logic has little to do with human nature and the current of human passion. And far more aspects of this game are based on emotion, perception, and narrative than any of these writers would like to believe.

Then again, maybe I'm more of an adherent to the German philosophers than they are. Our world is "will and idea" more than it is fact. Facts fail to capture all the really exciting parts of life that make it worth living, and very rarely does the optimal or ideal mathematical, factually predicted result occur.

And that's the foundation of my pretty strong position on this point.

I "grew up" reading players like Ripard Teg and Gevlon Goblin try to quantify the health of the game, the relative importance of one statistic over the other, etc. While their analysis was insightful, ultimately, I always found their attempts to quantify misguided. At my heart, I'm far more Roman than American - numbers don't matter as much as quality.

Is it better to have 50,000 players logged into the game spending all their time in high-sec or market trading in station, or 10,000 players flying around in low, null, and WH space serving as high-likelihood content for each other? I'd always opt for the latter.

Nor am I going to spend any time blathering on about this group or that group having X number of new players joining their ranks as a sign of their war supremacy. Grasping at that stat is a sign of desperation, not confidence. This just in... the winning side in an Eve war attracts a bunch of "dead weight" who want to benefit from null space without really contributing much.

Statistics can be twisted to any real purpose. To understand the reality of a thing, you need to get a feel for it and understand what really matters, then look at that. You want to know which area of space you should pay attention to? What do people talk about the most? If you see no chatter about a mechanic, there's a reason for it (hint; "those players just aren't social" ain't it...). If one side is losing all it's space, they're losing, pure and simple.

So, it's with that background that I say - as I've said in the past - that some players are more important to the gameworld than others. Philosophically, these players - FCs, alliance logistics teams, doctrine managers, diplomats, POS fuelers, industrialists - need to be cultivated and listened to more than others. While a random player (like me) is responsible for his/her own subscription(s), these content generators listed above not only own their own subscriptions, but also heavily enable others, which significantly influences their subscriptions too.

There's a reason Roman generals would get very upset at the loss of centurions, but not front line soldiers. There's a reason the captain, navigator, quatermaster, doctor, and carpenter received extra shares of booty on pirate ships. There's a reason executives make more money than specialists (sorry, 99%ers...).

Philosophically, it's important to ensure that these players can continue to exert their influence on the game, on their alliances, and even on battles. That argument supports the need for a flagship class in Eve. Headshotting puts an end to fleet battles, in some cases before they even begin, which stifles engagement, enjoyment, and the duration of fleet actions.

Now, this might sound like a frustrating tactic for a fleet when fighting a good FC. But I urge you to elevate your thinking to encompass both sides. Take yourself out of your one-fleet mentality and consider the overall engagement. Evenly matched wars are the most engaging ones, resulting in regular and frequent fleets, lots of destruction, satisfaction for all involved, and fun for a period of time. From CCP's perespective, they also keep players logged in, playing actively, and paying their subscriptions. One-sided slaughters tend to reduce overall logins, which hurts everyone.

So, from the perspective of considering an entire grid as a source of entertainment, it benefits everyone for those sources to be rich veins, not shallow outcroppings. Enhancing FC survivability does exactly that.

Yes, we'd have to keep the bonus to the ship (so the player is just another player when he/she flies as a fleet member), and we'd have to limit it to a single ship per fleet, or perhaps per alliance in space at one time (now that'd be grand!) as a way to prevent abuse. But consider what we'd gain - the ability for an alliance FC to maintain the same mobility as the rest of his fleet with the advantage of a huge ehp benefit, which would allow that FC to coordinate a very difficult job for longer.

The biggest downside is against groups who depend on headshotting, and even that downside will be mitigated by them being forced to improve.

But, will this ever truly come to pass?

For it to do so requires not only CCP, but the community to recognize and accept the fact that all players are not equal. That they don't equally contribute to the gameworld and that the differences in that contribution should warrant some consideration. That's a hard truth to accept in our modern age, despite the fact that it's obvious evidence. Perception, after all, creates reality, and we're very good and ignoring perceptions when they're inconvenient.

Now, I did mention that word multiple times... "philosophically". While I like the idea of helping improve the survivability of FCs, I can't say I've spent all my time thinking of ways it could be abused. What's to prevent a one-man fleet from fling a flagship into a FW plex and obliterating an entire fleet? Should there be a minimum fleet size requirement? If so, doesn't that counter the push towards smaller fleet sizes to allow smaller alliances to compete against the behemoths? How do you balance out all the factors to prevent their use in small gang action (or, do you?) or solo action, yet still make them viable in large fleets?

I don't know the answer to that, so I can't say I can fully endorse the application of the idea, even if the theory of the idea seems to make a lot of sense. But I have my doubts on whether it'll ever see Tranquility; it has too many implications that lead to uncomfortable places, and could potentially result in a lot of balance issues.


  1. I don't think the core idea is a bad one.
    It makes me wonder what fleet fights would look like if there were no FC's on either side. Free fire chaos?

    I'm not sure I like this proposed solution.

    What we'd like to achieve is a way to keep an FC on field, able to target and watch the action.
    -but not be abused by smaller/solo groups to gain an unfair advantage.
    That sounds tough.

    If it were up to me, I wouldn't do it with a specific ship. I'd have it be a more nebulous mechanic born out of the Fleet window which applies an effect much like a Links but to only one pilot.
    The real trouble is bracketing this effect to only occur in 'real' fights where headshotting is an issue.
    Could you do it with a vote mechanic in the fleet window? and you need (say) +20 votes from fleet members? And it only occurs when you have all/most of them on grid with you and expires after X minutes.

    the effect gives you a tonne of ehp, or makes you cloaky but able to target?

    I'd also have this effect completely bar the use any offensive system too.

    1. I like where your mind's going. My wife actually had an interesting comment that got me thinking. She was supporting the argument for some sort of FC protection by saying, "Historically, generals had a bodyguard unit with them."

      And that cuts very close to the kind of solution you describe. Perhaps a new high-slow module that fleet members can apply to an FC to buff the FC's raw shield and armor hp? You could probably put whatever restrictions you want on it (need a "receiving" module?). The effect would be similar to a bodyguard unit protecting the general. As those ships die, the safety of the "general" would decline, until he _could_ be headshotted.

  2. I saw this question come up before and i was thinking that it would be easy to set up so it isn't abused (although I may well be wrong on that)

    1: dont allow the ship into plexes
    2: the ship has absolutely no cargo space or drone space.
    3. Ship cannot fit any weapons whatsoever

    To my thinking that would counter any potential abuse as it was basically just be a very tanky pod essentially.

  3. I like the module solution, the recieving module is the kicker I think, just like some other mods it should seriously tank the FC's ability to do certain things like no shooting, ewar or remote repping while it's paired.
    However it'd need some serious thrashing to make sure it's not usable in a tactically offensive way. Or allow you to have a quick and dirty invulnerability button for logi.

    Some time ago I used to play World of Warcraft, and the phrase that got me quit that once and for all was "Can I get Blessings of Kings" and we all sat around waiting for all the correct buffs to go up and whatever, we'd be waiting, the FC at the time would be raging and unwilling to start the content until everything was optimal. I've seen links do a similar thing to fleets in EVE before and it grates on my soul. Another buffing mechanic gives me pause.

  4. I too thought initially of the Captain's Guard concept only I immediately did what I try and do in these situations... How did it work IRL, and how can that effectively translate IVR. Following that though led to to The Commanders Guard.

    When a player is made Boss (FC), that player when flying a Fleet Command Ship (Cruiser/BC/BS/?), and this player ONLY, will acquire the ability to field 5 Commanders Guard Drones.

    The CGDs are cruiser sized drones.
    These drones are not carried with/inside the FCS but undock/dock/warp/etc. etc. with the FCS.
    They constantly fly in a tight protective orbit around the FCS.
    They must all be killed before the FCS can be targeted.
    They each have a MASSIVE buffer armor tank and interlocking shields... Yes, interlocking shields.

    The idea is simple... 5 specialty super defensive drones who create a massive yet defeatable external tank for the FC. As they are drones Caps and Dreads would be ineffective against them, small sig and fast they would need to be taken down by BCs or smaller ships.

    The huge downside is how to mitigate abuse... some form of limiting mechanic would be needed... and I am not a nullsuc player, I live on the other side of the sky and care little for how anyone in Empire treats anyone else... so meh.

    Just an idea I really like the feel of though...

  5. 1mil ehp, no guns or offensive capabilities, speed and Sig of frigate. Only thing to decide is whether heads hotting is cancer or a valid tactic

    1. It's certainly a valid tactic to win the battle, but CCP - and all of us, when not fighting - need to think about more than just a single battle. We need to think about the health of the gameplay as a whole. That's hard to do when the option to headshot is staring right at you.

  6. I am neither a FC nor involved in NullSec fleet ops, so please excuse my stupid question: If you want your FC to be on grid while being nearly invulnerabe and are ok with him losing all offensive capabilities in return, then why not simply use a Covert Ops ship and cloak up?
    That way the FC could be on grid and would be invulnerable for the enemy fleet. The only downside would be, that he'd have to keep a distance to his own allies, too. But that could be - since you like historical references - the equivalent of a commander's hill.

    1. Some key FC decisions are based upon the distance between targets. A lot of what the FC does is positioning. Getting in position to shoot enemy logi can be difficult, and the only way to know when the fleet is in range is to be with the fleet itself. Typically this is done by anchoring (the fleet approaching the FC, who moves around the grid and drags everyone with him.

      There are several doctrines that require your fleet to be within its falloff range, but outside of the enemy targeting range (slippery pete Tengus, for instance), and the only way an FC can do that is to be right there with the fleet, uncloaked and vulnerable.

  7. Rather than propping up a given individual in the FC role, I would prefer a line of succession in which a current FC designates up to three other pilots, who would in order take on the role automatically when each predecessor leaves the grid. The role could even transfer back when a former FC returns.

    This means other players fitting for the role, with links coming and going during a protracted battle. But it also provides for seamless training opportunities and the development of the FC skillset across many toons.