Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Revamping ECM

With one more post before my 400th (and the typical "past 100" review), I thought I might as well raise another thorny problem. What to do about ECM?

Each race has its own special electronic warfare abilities, of course. For instance, the Gallente warp disruption ability was absolutely vital for many fleets - albeit not as much now with the Orthrus - particularly for any fleet that focuses tackle ability on only a couple ships. This powerful ability was paired with the relatively useless sensor dampening. With the Minmatar, target painting is nice, but rarely makes a difference in small gang or solo fights, whereas the webbing range can help dictate engagement range in a meaningful way.

Perhaps owing to their status as the oldest of the four current empires, the Amarr have the best and most useful advantages for small gang and solo, the neuting range, neuting amount, and tracking disruption bonuses. Those three abilities make the Curse and Pilgrim fearsome beasts, able to hold down, suck dry, and render impotent any turret or missiles ships (with missile disruptors). Really, they only need fear drone boats.

And then, there's the Caldari ECM, the bane of nearly any fleet, of any size. If the other ECM ships can be considered a force multiplier, ECM is really a force halver. For, unlike the other abilities that all diminish the combat or defensive capability of a ship or a fleet, ECM completely annihilates it.

Or, it doesn't. An ECM ship either entirely removes an enemy vessel for the fight for the length of its successful jam, or it has absolutely no effect. It's effectiveness is based purely on chance. Even good fitting techniques - fitting the right jams for the kind of ship you're facing - only increases or decreases that chance. Ultimately, random-number generation determines the success.

That fact alone put ECM on the rebalance block. So, what should we replace it with? I certainly can't say for certain, but there are a few options being suggested.

ECM Prevents Remote Module Activation, Not Lock

This suggestion posits that ECM shouldn't prevent the victim ship from locking the target, but only activating any modules that affect another ship - both offensive and defensive. Some variants of this suggestion propose that modules should be able to activate, but never reach their intended target. An example would be that your missiles are firing, but if they fire while you're the victim of a successful ECM hit, your missiles would veer off track, your guns would start tracking the sun or a nearby asteroid, and your drones would identify a piece of passing debris as the greatest threat.

Rebalancing ECM in this fashion would create some interesting gameplay opportunities.  With a "mild application", you'd have to pay attention to the icons and notifications to be aware that your weapons aren't doing the damage you think they should, and in cases where a pilot misses it, it might lead to them wasting ammo. But, the victim ship would also be able to benefit form an overall ECM nerf by no longer needing to reacquire a target lock - which can sometimes cover an ECM ship through nearly an entire jam cycle, meaning you only need to land one of every two to keep a ship effectively perma-jammed) and the victim pilot wouldn't need to remember to cycle guns; following the end of a successful jam, the guns would continue to cycle, just begin to apply damage.

This kind of rebalance could create some interesting opportunities to confuse enemy logi, as well. Seven ships may attempt reps, but even though they cycle, some may miss the mark if they're jammed. With CCP's apparent desire to disrupt cap chains and reduce overall survivability, this could create some interesting opportunities. You'd attempt to rep, you'd use cap, but when you're successfully jammed, that energy never reaches its target.

Defensive ECM

Unlike the previous suggestion, this proposal suggests to change ECM from preventing an enemy ship from locking anyone to preventing a friendly ship from being locked by anyone, similar to the way ECCM modules make it more difficult for the target ship to be jammed. This option would almost require the elimination of racial jammers; keeping them in the game would create a "no-fail" scenario, since you would only ever fit the kind of jammer that supports your ECM buddy.This option has a number of good things going for it.

  1. The ECM ship couldn't project defensive ECM on itself, requiring at least two ships mutually protecting each other to create the chance for true invulnerability (but a chance only; it'd still be susceptible to chance.
  2. No enemy ship can be removed entirely from a fight, and no pilot will be reduced to complete impotence; they can always shift damage to another target that isn't ECM-protected.
  3. Enemy ECM protection can be disrupted by first killing or driving off the ECM ships, which is already standard practice in fleet fights.
  4. ECM would retain an offensive function - albeit a significantly different one - to break logi chains and prevent defensive scram chains to counter command destroyers.
  5. Drone doctrines would benefit significantly; an FC could primary a ship, have the fleet set drones on the target, then ECM-jam it to prevent reps from landing.
  6. ECM could serve in a savior role to extract pointed/scrammed ships to help them escape the field (though we'd need to create limits to prevent ECM ships from being last-chance options to extract caught capitals).

Jam Duration Adjustment

Would ECM be as overpowered if its jam duration was only half of a jam cycle, leaving the ECM ship exposed for the other half of even a successful jam cycle? In between cycles, the target ship could - with a good enough scan resolution - lock and fire at the ECM ship, eventually driving it from the field even if every jam hits. To counter, the ECM ship would either need to stagger jams, bring additional ECM friends, or fit specifically to reduce its signature radius and increase enemy lock time. This option proposes exactly that - that while jams themselves don't change how they operate, a rebalance would decouple the cycle time and jam duration time.

This option would retain the ability for a very small ECM ship to keep its relative immunity - again, assuming all jams land, which is unlikely - from large targets with low scan resolutions, but would allow evenly sized targets a chance to retaliate in between cycles. Though, this option may require some upward tweaking to the jam calculations to allow jams to hit more frequently to offset the inherent vulnerability between cycles.

ECM Affects Targeting Maximum

Right now, ECM works by reducing your maximum locked target count to zero. But does ECM need to work this way? What if ECM reduced your effective locked target count by half with each jam that lands? A ship with a an 8 targeting max would be reduced to 4 with a single jam, to 2 with two jams, and to 1 with three jams landing. That ship could still fight, but would see its ability to split effects decline significantly. Recons like Curses, in particular, which frequently split effects against multiple ships, would be heavily affected, as would logi and enemy ewar wings.

This creates a neat little solution that allows ECM ships to have a role within fleets, but also maintains a counter; even with one locked target, the ECM ship can be vulnerable. Likely, this change would require a general buff to ECM ship defenses and perhaps signature radius to help them survive a little longer on field.


So, what other solutions do you see for ECM? I'd love to hear your ideas.


  1. What would people think of ECM reducing the signature radius of all ships (friendly or not) in a sphere? It would do odd things like making it hard for logi to lock things in time, reducing damage of big ships vs small ones and making combat probing harder or even preventing it. It might overlap with the planned command link changes though.

  2. Personally id rather ecm being removed and caldari getting a bonus to smartbombs. My thinking is what is the one of the best defenses against drones attack in a close orbit around your ship? Smartbombs.

  3. I think it would be cool if ecm worked as a pulse disruption instead of a continuous beam of disruption. More specifically, since the Caldari ECM breaks lock by interrupting the targeting computer, it should be more as if the time that you can no longer lock be related to the time the targeting computer takes to reboot, clearing data corruption or correcting for external disruptions. The time it takes to reboot could be related to ship size (1 (noobship) through 10 (titan)) in some equation like [2(seconds) * x(ship size) = jam duration] representing both the size and complexity of restoring large scale electronics to working order. You could also add a multiplier to that equation from bonuses to electronics upgrades modules (and possibly engineering modules) such as co-processors that reduce the amount of time it takes to reboot your targeting computer. they could also add a skill called "Information Processing" or something similar that helps recover from ecm.

    Ultimately this makes it so that smaller ships, which are easy to jam, have a fighting chance when ecm is fielded while larger ships, which are relatively hard to jam, spend more time recovering but tend to have the hp to survive it. This would be a massive nerf to ECM, but would also be more balanced (imo) while maintaining the original flavor of the ECM Modules.

    Make ECM jam duration scale with ship class
    Give bonuses to Eng Upg mods to reduce jam length
    Add skills to reduce various ECM effects

  4. Why does "effective" = "Overpowered"? It isn't. ECM is (1) chance based and "0%" effective when it misses and (2) the reason ECM breaks target locks it because that's what it DOES IRL.

    You want to let your opponent keep a target locked but screw with his ability to hit? That's what disruption and dampening are for.

    Like so many who do not like that there are effective (read overpowered = I can't shoot them) counters to being attacked, I say... HTFU.

    I started copy n pasting line after line from this post with counter after counter argument and I finally gave up... But I will say this, I hear stuff like " rather ecm being removed and caldari getting a bonus to smartbombs..." crap all the time. But ONLY from guys who feel the end of every single engagement MUST end in a ship kill or it was a waste of their time. Really? go play CoD or whatever, EVE is deeper than that.

    I personally vastly prefer a game where the outcome of ANY engagement can be just AS frustrating for the PVPbear as it can be for the Carebear...

    And I live and die in Anoikis, and I usually fly tackle and Light and Heavy 'Dictors.

  5. Currently I see Damps as being a watered down version of ECM.

    I don't particularly mind ECM in it's current form, it's a drag when it happens but so is neut when you're unprepared, so is a Orthrus,

    but currently it's effects when successful might as well read "targeted player stops playing"
    Some kind of recourse would be nice, something that lets you make a choice and do something about your situation other than wait for the jam cycle to end.

    -FOF missiles looked like a fun solution, but they suck.

    -Drones /rant on keep hitting the target, but currently I hate drones drones can suck it, they get to be effectively immune to ewar, are excellent at applying damage and allow big, turreted ships to be fairly fearless against small fast things
    So they're not just good agains ECM they're good against everything.
    /rant off

    Solutions though?
    Well... if it were me. I'd have ECM targeted at a ship prevent that ship from activating any module that usually requires targeting, but not actually break the lock. The victim player CAN activate such modules under ECM if the thing they're trying to use those things on has a target painter pointed at it. So if you're already target painting the ship that's ECMing you, you can shoot right at it, if you don't have the painter on it yet, you can't activate the painter on it.
    Also gives target painters something else to do which they desperately need, at least I think so

    1. "...but not actually break the lock." problem is that is what ECM does. ECM is not one or just one meta of modules, it is like guns a range of modules.

      ECM, Damps, Disrutors, Painters, Neuts, Webs, Scrams are ALL "Electronic Counter Measures". They are ways of affecting an enemy ship that is "electronic" in nature not "physical".

      This is like saying I'd have Damps targeted at a ship prevent that ship from activating any module that requires an active target, but not actually reduce the targeting range... silly.

    2. I get what you're saying. But I remain unconvinced.
      I still think ECM deserves a hot from the Nerf Bat. But mixing up how it fundementally works strikes me as more interesting.
      Honestly my suggestion above was just spitballing ideas. I'd also love to see ECM do wierd things like remove entities from the victim's overview and brackets from space.
      or even add Ghost or false entities to space. With brackets so you're trying to lock those.
      You could have the lock break but not prevent the re-locking immidiately. And reduce ECM cycle time.

      Using the real world as a reference for creating a model is a good way to go. Makes things more convincing.
      But I don't think we're gonna be able to arrive at that complexity. Also this is still supposed to be a game. When I'm a victim of other Ewar modules it doesn't piss me off nearly as much as ECM. Other people feel the same way so why not explore why that is and shake things up?

    3. OK, I do get that. And yes, ECM does piss people off... you think it's bad in game, it really sucks IRL. I personally believe using IRL as a reference for EVE war modules is the best model to work from and I believe that we can not only match the RW complexity but because it is VR, we can go beyond what is possible IRL. I don't mind Ewar changing, I mins all the calls for it to be nerfed.

      CCP walks a very fine line between the PVPbear and the Carebear... that have to please both enough to keep both sides balanced in the game.

      IMHO, if a module is effective and pissing people off, like ECM, yet again IMHO, not overpowered and counterable (at a cost as all such things are in EVE)... well, it's probably working as intended. =]

      I would like to see a chaff type of EWar, or a spoofing type or Ewar that does some of the weird things you suggest... just not NERFED.

  6. I didnt see this in the OP and might have missed it in the comments but make ECM like a link. The jamming ship applies a jam and blocks all targeting attempts besides on itself. This way you have the opportunity to force the ECM ship off the field while keeping the basic functionality of jams.