Sunday, June 19, 2016

Flagships or Bodyguards?

At the expense of getting two posts out of a single topic (I'm totally shameless enough to do it), I figured a different take on the "flagship" concept (covered in this month's blog banter) deserved a second post.

The blog banter itself was a reaction to CCP's suggestion about adding a new class of ship to the game, a flagship, which would be highly durable and serve the purpose of allowing a pilot to stay on grid for a significant period of time, specifically to counter headshotting by the enemy fleet.

Suffice to say, this provoked a bit of discussion.

One reader in particular was skeptical about having a special ship class have permanent effects tied to it, and suggested an effect that would buff the FC's ship instead:
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.
This line of thinking tied in so perfectly with a comment my wife made that I wanted to explore it a bit further.

Eve is a highly philosophical game, and the way players interact reveals a lot about humanity. From time to time, my conversations about Eve with my wife will elevate beyond the "so this is what happened" variety into the "ain't humanity funny?" variety. I was talking with her about the idea of flagships, and she came out in favor of CCP taking some steps to keep FCs on the field for longer, much for the same reasons I do.

Then, she made a comparison to bodyguard units throughout history that really got me thinking about a workable mechanic change. Sure, she glazed over as I started rattling off some possible applications, but she had put the idea in my head nonetheless.

In the past, generals who took the field started out fighting with their soldiers. "Commanding from the front", as it were. Caesar, Alexander, and Hannibal all did it to varying degrees. But one of the side effects of this tendency was that generals tended to die in battle quite often. Hannibal and Caesar didn't, but Alexander and Richard the Lionheart succumbed to wounds, and several of the generals who opposed Hannibal suffered that fate too.

Losing a general was a devastating morale blow to an army during a battle, and when that general also happened to be the mastermind, figurehead, or head-of-state behind the nation fielding that army, the consequences could be catastrophic. Over time, generals began to realize that the benefit of fighting at the front didn't make up for the consequences of dying, and they moved to the rear to oversee the battle from a better vantage point.

With this change came the advent of the bodyguard unit, which usually consisted of a cavalry unit that would protect the general in case of a breach in the line of battle, and would occasionally sally forth and keep the general alive during those times when he did charge into battle. In the Battle of Bosworth, for instance, Richard III and his bodyguard charged Henry Tudor and his bodyguard in an attempt to "headshot" the rebel army. It ultimately failed, but despite Richard's loss, it was a success for the concept of the bodyguard unit. It bought time for both Henry and Richard to receive reinforcements; only the decision of Lord Thomas Stanley to join Henry's side secured the victory.

So, it got me thinking... what if we introduced the concept of bodyguards to Eve? Establishing a hull bonus to a flagship clearly has the potential for abuse and unbalancing in solo or small-gang combat, but we can accomplish something similar to a bodyguard unit surrounding a general with modules.

Here's how it'd work. Any fleet member could fit a module that, when activated upon the FC, would provide a small (2%, perhaps?) bonus to either armor or shield HP. For armor tanks, it'd be a low-slot module; for shield tanks, it'd be a mid-slot module. You could potentially even use the same module, and allow it to do different effects depending on where it's fitted (if CCP's capable of coding it that way). So, if it's fitted in a low-slot, it buffs the FC's armor, if mid-slot it buffs shield.

Because it would be fit in a "same tank" slot, fleets would have to make a choice. They could fit the module to assist their FC, but as a result would lose some individual tank in the process, since the assist module would take up a slot otherwise earmarked for local tank. You'd have a trade-off that would limit the application of the module in non-fleet environments. This would also serve to limit the functionality of bodyguard ships, just as bodyguards were limited in battle historically, as they had to stick near the general.

But, that's only one half of the equation. To receive nay benefit from the boosts, the FC would need to fit a special module that completes the equation; without it, no boosts are given at all. For the sake of argument, let's say the module is "always on", and a ship fitting it can't "shut it off" to avoid the downsides.

Those downsides would be a drastic limitation of its offensive capability. Perhaps a 75% reduction in dps from all sources. The goal here would be to limit the functionality to large fleet fights, where headshotting is more common. However, FCs need to have accurate information for things such as lock range, optimal and falloff range, and speed, all of which provide vital intel to the decision-making process and directly influence how the fleet operates.

I can see a number of advantages to this kind of system. First, it scales according to fleet size, but not in an overpowering way. Yes, a larger fleet would provide more benefit to the FC, but the individual fleet members would have a lower tank (from the slot use), which would allow a smaller fleet to successfully score kills against it. Such a system might actually increase kills... just not of the FC.

Undoubtedly, for smaller fleets, an FC would still benefit from using an adjusted fit or a different fit that yields a greater tank, and that's okay. Plus, we do get the trade-offs that make Eve so interesting. I can see the arguments on the forums now about members of a defeated fleet complaining about dying to save the FC!

Surely, it'd need some more fleshing out, but the possibility was intriguing.


  1. Perhaps if the FC module was a passive High slot? If you have it fit, the FC module is having it's effect. It takes a High Slot, so it won't affect either tank, but will affect offensive capability not only by it's module effect, but by taking up an Offensive/Utility slot.

  2. With grids as big as they are now.... do we need this?
    I would prefer to run the risk/reward dice for fc on top of the fight and not adding a invulnerability mechanic

  3. What does grid size matter when the FC needs to be in the thick of it to judge ranges and similar? Never mind that it would make probing the FC down incredibly easy, and would allow them to be headshot without any conceivable defensive measures. If the FC had any part of the fleet with them on-grid but away from the fight, they're keeping potentially valuable DPS / Alpha and Logi out of the fight where they're needed.

  4. I have given this some thought as well. I was thinking a better way of approaching it would be to have a fleet commander module that significantly reduces the FC's aggressive capabilities, but adds a small percentage bonus to tank and eccm.
    In effect it would work like this...Passive high slot on FC would give a percentage bonus to both tank and ability to target based on number of people on grid in fleet. As fleet members die off on grid the fleet commander would become more vulnerable to head-shotting, and being jammed. This would i think allow the best of all worlds keeping it from being a mechanic easily abused, and providing the benefit desired without as much risk of being able to be gamed. This could possibly be expanded to allow for wing commanders and other lead spots (ie: logi anchor) to be able to recieve a boost as well if they are in that slot and have the module equipped...allowing them a little more protection but not to the same degree as the man fleet FC.
    I think that by making it a passive module that gives a very small amount per on-grid fleet member and being passive, allows FC's to take advantage of it even if they just jumped a gate in heavy tidi as is prevalent in most large fleet fights. Also by heavily reducing its offensive capabilities but buffing ability to continue targeting would be invaluable to an FC in doing his job.

    -Sargeant Summers-

    1. While I like where you're headed, I also like the idea of making the fleet members pay a bit for the benefit of having their FC stick around longer. That way, it requires fitting discipline from the fleet members, too. And there's a way for spies to disrupt it - even if a little bit - by saying they're fit with the modules, then conveniently never activating them!

  5. Haha... this is funny. CCP have trouble keeping things in balance now let alone adding another feature/ship that ends up on the scrap heap.

    There is already a feature that will stop the FC from being head shot. He can navigate himself within the appropriate distance of his fleet to maintain his overall command presence.

    It is call a cloaking device and one of the many covert ships.

    1. That's certainly an option, but not a viable option. Without being physically with the fleet, it's impossible to understand where the fleet is positioned relative to other targets. I'd be fine with that option if CCP introduced a way to tell how far one object is from another object.

      Simply saying, "Cloak up!" is the equivalent of asking a general to direct battle strategy from within his tent in camp with a telescope.

    2. Yes I agree that a commander needs to be the field. I think a feature to allow look at to be extended to more than 100km or even to just position your camera anywhere.

      If not that then a extra feature that allows a commander the in a map view to see the battlefield.

  6. Cloaking in the way that cloaks currently work simply isn't an option. You need to be able to target things, the FC (who much of the time is also the target caller) needs to see if a target is going down, or if the target is catching reps and how well. choose secondary and tertiary targets and other important information.

    This needs to be done fast and pragmatically can't be done by relaying that info from another player.
    Arguably they also need to know other shooty information like how often they're missing, how well they're applying damage etc, but in the case where you want a super tanked FC with little to no offensive capability, that'd be a trade off, an interesting choice.

    Also, if the fleet is using using anchors they need to see the FC or you need to use another player to be the anchor, who then gets headshotted?

  7. Personally, I don't think there's a need for new magic mechanics to buff FCs. FCs getting headshot gives the opportunity for other FCs to step up. You always depend on the same famous FC and don't have any other FCs, junior FCs, or line members who are willing to give it a shot? Well, don't you deserve to lose to a better prepared opponent then?

    Fozzie Sov attempted to add some much needed maneuver to fleet flights, including the need to actually organize subunits. Wing and squad commanders shouldn't just be something you need so everyone can get link bonuses. They should be skilled players who can be detached and take independent action (or step up to a higher post to replace a casualty). The game mechanics need to encourage that more, not less.

    If you DO insist on having your fleet absolutely depend on one person, you should have to compensate for that, either with creativity and skill or decreased effectiveness. Of course you can FC cloaked, bomber FCs do it all the time. Need to know ranges? Assign a range caller to tell you (as bomber FCs often do). Or have target callers in the main fleet and the famous FC stays back from the line (cloaked or uncloaked) and commands based on reported information, like a modern commander does.

    The FC wants to be on the kills and doesn't want to fly a brick tank because he wants top damage? There's already a whole ship class that can act as "bodyguards" to buff the FC. Logi. Assign a portion of the logi to constantly rep the FC. Yes, it decreases the amount of logi you have to rep everyone else. As it should.

    FC protection mechanics are desired by FCs who want to be heroes. There's a reason modern armies don't have Alexanders or Achilles' leading them. The hero leading the rabble paradigm gets crushed by organization and training.

    1. That's a pretty compelling argument.
      The logi thing doesn't stop the FC from being alpha'd off the field. Though as you say, why the FC doesn't fly a bricktanked whatever or something is the counter argument to that.

      I'm torn.
      Ok there are Jr FC's that need to step up, and that would be a better solution, but that isn't happening enough and it's hard to implement a mechanical system to encourage it.
      There are still plenty of fleet fights that end with a significant lack of engagement from many of the players in those fleets, because of headshotting.

      I think there is a problem to solve here, or at least an opportunity to improve the system, why not try and come up with ideas to try and resolve that?

      Don't like the idea of fixing it with a dedicated ship though. Unless making a ship is for more creative space, just hooks to hang other mechanics on at a later date.

  8. I like some of these. I saw someone mention it being a setting in the fleet window. Why not have a setting that adds a second layer of shields to the FC's ship like the Drifter BS's FC "overshield". You could even tie it in lore-wise as discovered Drifter technology.

  9. If this were a medieval combat game, where there could be guards that could legitimately protect a person from harm, sure. Why not? But this is a modern naval game in space where it's pretty much impossible to deliberately protect a ship (other than with logi). Incoming fire is either at the speed of light, or even if not, moving so fast that the chances of being able to deliberately block incoming fire approaches nil.

    As one respondent has already said, FC can fly cloaked.

    1. The same type of argument you raise to support your point could be used to undermine it... Guards protecting a person would be done so by obstructing the path to that high-value target. There is no means in Eve to obstruct a ship from attack.

      If we bring in line-of-sight restrictions, then I see your point. But as it is, there's no way to prevent a high-value target from being hit by the enemy. No other ship can "throw itself in front of the bullet", and the FC can't hide in a protected area.

      Cloaking has its obvious and significant limitations (Is your fleet within range, or out of range of the enemy? Who knows!) that render it useless.

      The best alternative option is, "have more FCs", but this doesn't address the underlying problem, only create another N+1 scenario, this time for a factor - FCs - in which large and established alliances have a distinct and overwhelming advantage.

  10. Having the ability to route your overview data from another member of the fleet would totally negate the need for the commander to be physically with the fleet. I'd prefer totally removing the the benefits of a FC headshot in stead of making is slightly more difficult to do.