In looking at the cruiser re-balancing, I'm going to start with a bunch of seemingly unrelated statements, then tie them all together. Stay with me. This is one of those posts.
If there's one thing that EVE players of all stripes are obsessed with, it's DPS. That's the first (and sometimes, the only) thing we want to know about our ships: how much DPS does it do? When we build a new ship, first we maximize its DPS. Then we look for ways to improve the range and time in which it projects DPS, or the likelihood it will apply DPS through tracking. Then we add a bunch of drones to improve it still farther. And usually only after all of this is done do we start to think about how we're going to tank the ship.
It's the pretty rare EVE ship where we start with a tank and then add the other stuff onto that. Drakes. Dominixes. Fleet Command ships. Capital ships. The occasional bait ship. But that's about it. With the majority of players and ships, DPS far outweighs tank. A lot of ship classes in EVE aren't flown at all either because they can't generate DPS or they can't sufficiently project it. That's number one.
Second, I'll remind you of something that I said about the Ares FOTW last week: "Quite often, a beginner will be killed in a T1 frigate in a single volley without even realizing they've made a mistake or what that mistake was. That makes learning from one's mistakes a lot tougher. Sure, you can lose a dozen Rifters, Incursi, or Merlins casually, but if you don't learn why you lost them, you're not going to get better at the game." Keep that in mind. It's about to become important.
Number three: one of the nicest EVE players I ever played the game with was a guy in his mid-60s in LAWN. He was retired... a relaxed, friendly guy who was apparently way ahead of his generation in terms of computer savvy. Still, he admitted freely that his reflexes weren't what they used to be and he appreciated the fact that EVE was a game where one's reflexes were secondary to ones skills, tactics, and instincts.
Finally, compare and contrast that to some of the more recent EVE trailers, starting with the Dominion trailer through the Crucible and "I Was There" trailers. Whenever CCP shows EVE from an individual pilot's perspective, there's generally some attempt to show the game as fast-paced when those of us who play it know that it's usually anything but.
Reading through the threads on the new "attack" cruisers and "EW" cruisers (and even the "existing destroyer re-balance" thread), the thing that has been striking me is how CCP is falling into line with how players look at their ships. Virtually every weapon is seeing its grid requirements reduced and ships across the board are either getting additional grid, additional low-slots and CPU (which will invariably go to damage mods), or both. Across a wide number of ships, utility bonuses are being dropped in favor of damage bonuses or damage projection bonuses.
Granted, we haven't seen the "combat" cruisers yet but the "combat" frigates provide some clues as to CCP's thinking. And it's pretty consistent with what's above. Way back in March when this journey started, we were told there would be "combat", "attack", and "bombardment" ships. Later, "bombardment" went away but it seems to be making a come-back in a big way. By the time CCP is done with it the Tristan, previously the premiere get-in-close-and-slug-it-out ship, is going to have exactly two turrets and a bigger drone bay than most cruisers. "Stand off" and "skirmish" are replacing tank. "You will also see that the direction we're going with these frigs means that our plans have changed somewhat since the dev blog a few months ago," CCP Fozzie says, rather blandly.
Yeah. Got that, thanks.
"Shield-tanking Gallente ship" was a joke at Alliance Tournament IX. But I strongly suspect the Thorax is going to be the most commonly shield-tanked ship in EVE by the time 2013 starts. Those Thorax low-slots, meanwhile, are going to be damage and projection, projection and damage, DPS DPS DPS. Armor tanking is for... well... someone. Somewhere. Go away and stop bothering me. I'm trying to fit my ship here.
Net result of all of this? With all of this new DPS, I think we're going to see this round of ship re-balancing start to deliver on that implied promise of EVE being a bit more action-packed and -- dare I say it -- twitchy. "Good!" I can hear a lot of you saying out there and yeah, I don't suppose I disagree too much. But one of the things that EVE's always had going for it is the tactical nature of play. If you are primaried by an opposing fleet, you usually have some time to decide on the best course of action. The amount of time you're going to have for that is going to be reduced now: the ships firing at you will be able to fit bigger guns, with more damage mods, firing at longer range and with better tracking.
The industrialists will be happy. More stuff to build and replace.
But as EVE players realize this, will we see even more risk aversion? Will we see even more unwillingness to get into a fight because once you start to lose, you'll tend to keep losing, and keep losing even faster than before? That's going to be a big question in 2013, I'm thinking. We'll have to see what sort of whirlwind CCP reaps from sowing the wind.
Next up, Canes and Drakes.