So, CCP Fozzie is at it again. He's posted a thread with the tentative changes to EVE's eight older tech1 battle cruisers.
Let's get this out of the way first: given that the Gallente models are keeping what is widely regarded as a less-than-useful armor repairing bonus, I predict that we're going to see an Ancillary Armor Booster module shortly. You know what I mean: something like the Ancillary Shield Booster, a burst armor booster that uses cap charges. This prediction is bolstered by Hans Jagerblitzen being cute on the EVE-O thread. ;-) So, there should be that (or something like it) and we're going to see the announcement soon.
With that out of the way, let's talk about the changes.
First off, all of these changes strengthen the existing "tier3" battle cruisers against other BCs. The general "tone" of the changes is to nerf (sometimes only slightly) the existing "tier2" BCs -- the Drake, Cane, Harby, and Myrm -- in favor of buffs (usually good ones) to the existing "tier1" BCs -- the Ferox, Cyclone, Prophecy, and Brutix.(1) But since the "tier3" BCs -- the Tornado, Oracle, Talos, and Naga -- were already superior to the "tier2s" before these changes, this further widens the gap between the soon-to-be-re-branded "Attack" battle cruisers and the rest. The tier3s have gone from being better than the rest to being much better. But obviously, this is something that can be addressed with slight tweaks -- *coughsnerfscoughs* -- to the tier3s when that time comes.
Second, I think Fozzie and the rest of the ship balancing team are being far too focused on the issue of the number of slots -- high, mid, and low -- each ship has. Though it's never brought up in this forum post, you can see it ducking in and out of view with many of these changes. Each of these BCs has either 16 or 17 slots. That's having a large impact on the traditional roles of some ships. The reason the Hurricane no longer has two utility slots? Because the Cane had 18 slots and will soon have 17. There doesn't seem to be any other reason. In my view, that's a poor way to go about balancing the ships, or at least a lazy one.
You can see the same thing here and there in more minor aspects. For instance, all eight ships now recharge cap at exactly the same rate. That happens whether the ship really needs the cap (Brutix, Harbinger) or doesn't (Hurricane, Prophecy).
Third, the general tone of these changes further enhances EVE becoming more of a "twitchy" game: most of the ships have been given DPS buffs and nerfs to tank. The big exception is the Prophecy (which I'll get to presently) but in the general sense that's what's happened. Most affected by this aspect of the change is the Drake which while not losing its shield resistance bonus, did lose some shield HP and a good bit of maneuverability, as well as having its sig radius increased slightly. That last one happened to everybody, so BSs and the tier3 BCs are going to be hitting them harder.
Fourth and finally, these changes more or less verify the premise of my "Narrow the gap" post from a few weeks ago. Not only are the differences between the eight hulls reduced, but the differences between cruiser and BC, BC and battleship, and BC and Command Ship are all reduced as well. The fitting skills needed to get top performance out of these eight hulls are also reduced, most notably in the Harbinger, Hurricane and Cyclone (but affecting the Prophecy and Myrm as well). Actually flying several of these hulls becomes easier as well; the actual amount of player skill needed is going to be reduced. That's going to make getting into a BC easier for newer players.
But be clear about one thing: in the aggregate, these changes are a nerf to all non-tier3 battle cruisers. Sure, tier1s are getting better but they were poor performers. And the previously good performers are being brought down to their improved level. That means a bunch of 5s and 6s have become 7s, and a bunch of 8s and 9s have also become 7s. Overall? Nerf.
Biggest loser? Without question the Hurricane. Already nerfed pretty hard through losing 225 power grid late last year, I felt like the Cane had been hit by that slightly too hard. I currently have five types of Hurricane in my hangar: welp, ASB, armor, skirmish, and 720. I spent a lot of time after the grid change updating the fittings. When I was done, I was left with five ships that I couldn't think of a reason to undock in as opposed to some other hull instead. Welp Cane? HAM Drake does it better today. ASB Cane? Left with too little DPS to be that effective. Armor Cane? Ditto (and now the Harbinger is going to push it off a cliff entirely). Skirmish Cane? 720 Cane? Better done with tier3s.
So I haven't even undocked in a Hurricane since the grid change went into effect, and was hoping for the rebalance to back off slightly. No such luck and in fact, the opposite has happened. The Cane has lost one of its signature two utility highs, its drone bay has remained the same (making it much less versatile than its upgraded brethren), and its mass has been increased making it less agile. In short, what we're left with is a pre-changes Harbinger. Six guns, six-slot armor tank, slightly piggy. It's no longer a mini Tempest... matter of fact, if the cost of Tempests ever comes back down we're going to see Pests taking over the Cane's old roles. Needless to say, my five Canes are going to stay docked for the foreseeable future if these changes become permanent.
Second biggest loser? Drakes. CCP has had a hate on this ship for quite a while now and this nerf hits it where it had been re-tasked for PvP, namely as agile heavy tackle PODLA Drakes. Problem there is that mass and agility have been nerfed as well as base shield HP and cap. That's going to put the so-called cap-stable Drakes out of business and make heavy tackle duties a lot tougher. Expect to see that role moved to other ships, notably the Cyclone and Ferox. Meanwhile, the failure to convert the kinetic damage bonus to a ROF bonus, and the reduced toughness is going to see L3 missioning Drakes lose that role to the Cyclone and Prophecy.
In short, the two most-used BCs in EVE are about to become two of the least-used BCs in EVE for a little while.(2)
Honorable mention loser? Myrmidon. You'd think Prometheus Exenthal wasn't gonna be happy, but he seems quite calm about it.
Biggest winner? Harder to say, but for now I'm going to say the Cyclone. The Cyclone was already the best tier1 BC before these changes and while the flip from gunboat to missile boat will annoy some people, for most these changes are going to be a large net positive. The added low slot, additional CPU, larger drone bay, and enhanced shields are all pretty huge. Chances are pretty good we're going to see the Cyclone step into a lot of the roles that the Drake is filling now and the Hurricane was filling before, starting with a "HAMs plus dual neut" PvP model. That also means the Cyclone will be the premiere L3 mission boat in New Eden and I can't believe I just typed that. ;-) But it's true nonetheless: its tank will be able to handle it and its tunable missile damage and large drone bay is going to make short work of them. The additional low and CPU will make PvP Cyclones -- particularly ASB models -- easier to fit and to fly, and also means we're going to see the first armor Cyclones.
Second biggest winner? Amarr BCs. Both of them. Both of these ships were pretty laughably bad for most applications; the only Prophecy I've ever bought has moved from badly fit to cyno bait fit to LOL-RR-Prophecy fit and has never died. The Harbinger has long been regarded as a BC for players that didn't have the skills for a better BC... any better BC. The latter now becomes a "new player special." Though reduced by one gun, the increased damage bonus actually makes this a net positive to DPS. In addition, the ship will be easier to fit and easier to fly due to reduced cap issues from trying to fire seven lasers from it. Armor Harbies are also going to be a lot tougher. Don't get me wrong: it's still a bit of a pig but of all the tier2s, it's suffering the least and therefore looks good by comparison.
The Prophecy meanwhile becomes a better drone boat than either of the Gallente BCs and isn't that just the weirdest thing ever. Fit with HMLs and launching Sentries or Hammerheads, they're going to become quite effective mission boats. Fit with HAMs and using a broad drone mix, they're going to become quite effective PvP boats. The new Drone Damage Amplifier mod is going to be a huge boon to the Prophecy and the loss of a couple of high slots doesn't hurt it in the slightest if you get another mid and another low in the bargain. It becomes far and away EVE's toughest, most versatile BC. It's going to be doing both of the tasks above plus a fit that laughably, ludicrously out-tanks a brick Domi for bait cyno work.
Honorable mention winner? Ferox. Though it doesn't quite step into the PODLA Drake role as a heavy tackler, the extra low and the extra turret is going to make Blasteroxes something to fear again.
So all in all, this is a big huge change to the BC landscape. EVE's current two most-used BCs are going to lose their titles in short order, and we're going to all have to get used to a lot of new metas both in PvP and PvE. Should be interesting to watch!
(1) Ever notice how bad ships in EVE rarely have nicknames?
(2) Fozzie reports since Retribution launched, Drake usage is down 4.8%, Cane usage is down 3.9%, and HML2 usage is down 7.8%. These numbers will increase.