Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Drone Problem.

Much has been said of drones, some good, mostly bad, with a dash or two of good ideas.  In my continuing series on the failings of Gallente, I bring to your attention that which is one of the many failings of that has lead to Gallente falling behind other races while still having some impact on other races as well.

But first let us consider if this is a problem by what we see: are drone ships used?  Yes.  Are drone ships ever pure drone fit?  About 1% of the time.  Are drone boats ever used in mass?  No.  I think it is safe to assume from this that pure drones are not a viable form of primary damage and thus need fixing.  Why?  Because in Eve, Gallente have been given drones as a primary damage type and not just for one or two ships  (like Amarr).  The Dominix, Myrmidon, Ishtar, Vexor and a Proteus subsystem all have been given drone damage upgrades and ALL Gallente ships rely on drones to some degree (even the Catalyst destroyer has one) and yet, such ships are rarely used outside of very specific scenarios.  True, drones are supposed to be able to be destroyed, but they should still somehow be considered as a possible fleet doctrine in their own right.

Current Gallente drone fleet doctrine.

Every race basically has two types of weapons: high damage with short range or long range with lesser damage (as the base values, prior to ammo or skills).  The ideal  of these IMO is that of the Minmatar.  Even their close range guns can hit out a ways (especially with Barrage ammo) and the artillery is a great weapon in and of itself without much loss in DPS in comparison with other "long range" systems.  A T1 fit arty Tempest can nearly keep up with the DPS of a T2 fit rail Megathron so why then would I use a mega?
I digress...  back to the matter at hand.  The Gallente (and certain other ships) have a third option in drones.  Unlike other races, there is a lot of effort placed on the importance of said drones from both an RP viewpoint and the gameplay perspective.  Yet you never see a a gang of drones boats killing anything other than a bunch of NPC's.  I believe this is because the game designers have failed to consider drones anything other than in a supportive role and not an option for primary even though numerous ships and a whole race are supposed to rely on them as such.

Let us first what it takes for a drone boat to give good drone damage: a couple of drone damage amplifiers. These take low slots which, also happen to be the primary tank of Gallente and Amarr ships. I must now consider if it's better to give damage bonuses to things which can be destroyed with relative ease or give a bonus to my high damage close range guns. Usually (of course) players will give it to the guns. So why then do Gallente ships have a fairly large number of mid slots on their drone ships? Why it must be so we can use omni-directional tracking links right? *sarcasm*
So I want to upgrade the guns on my ship.  I can do this with modifications or modules.  Modifications, let's say a damage augmenter, will affect any kind of that weapon I put on it, regardless of meta or size.  Additionally, all the module upgradse (save the tracking computer) are fit to the same slot (lows).  This allows shield ships to more damage and tracking upgrade than armor ships.  Why then doesn't CCP use those mids to make drone boats worth bringing and being able to utilize them instead of forcing them to shield tank or have a greater focus on guns. By placing the damage mod in the lows they have only compounded the problem instead of jump starting drones as needs to happen.

Now consider drones.  Only sentry drones can benefit from a damage modification and should I want to use modules, I must use ALL kinds of slots to fully give upgrade.  This makes it difficult to fit a ship for full drones.  My lows are gone due to damage amps, my mids are gone to navigation and tracking enhancers, and my highs are gone for link modules.  Even if I fit a ship that has a tank while still having these things I am disadvantaged by the fact that my drones can still be destroyed quite easily by smartbombs or other drones.

Here then are my ideas for solutions.  First, change drone and smartbomb ranges.  This should be done if no other changes are made.  It seems entirely unbalanced to have a micro smart bomb able reach my heavy drones.  Having to fit just a medium smarbomb on a cruiser to take out ALL the drones on the field is also overpowered. Just like bigger guns, bigger drones should reach farther.  If I had my druthers I would like to see something like this:

Heavy drones: 4000 optimal, 6000 falloff.
Medium drones: 2000 optimal, 4000 falloff.
Light drones: 1000 optimal, 2000 falloff.

Large smartbombs: 6000 (no change)
Medium smartbombs: 3000 (down from 4000
Small smartbombs: 1500 (down from 3000)
Micro smarbombs: 750 (down from 2000)

As you can see, drones would still be vulnerable to the size of smartbomb they are UNLESS I fit some omni-directional tracking links or some range modules.  This would give me a reason to fit them in addition to not making even a MICRO smartbomb able to clear the field of all drones.  This is something that could be put into place right away, without needing new modules or overhauls (like some of my other suggestions).
Alternatively or even in addition to the above changes, I would propose a new module that would make drones invulnerable to smartbombs (or at least decrease it to the point where only a large would make any difference).  That's right, make your targets have to ACTUALLY SHOOT at your DPS just like anything else that could hurt them.  Note that this would only affect combat drones, not fighters or EWAR drones.  But if the ranges are changed then at least larger EWAR drones would stand a chance.

Another idea I have is a little more complex and would require a fair bit of coding.  As drones are AI's and thus could have different *spoiler alert* SCRIPTS, it makes sense as to why we could do the following:  instead of having 4 non-capitol drone upgrade modules, why not condense them down to one.  Make a drone upgrade module that would require a script.  One for each of the different options: damage, speed, range, or control distance.  In order to change the scripts your drones muse be docked.  This module would go in, you guessed it, the MID slot.  This way I can actually use multiple drone modules and still have slots for other things instead of having to use slots from ALL parts of my ships in order to make even small changes to drones.  Gallente would of course have a drone advantage (because of all those mids while armor tanking) while still having the option for other races to use them.

Using all of the above changes let's look at the following scenario:
I have a Dominix.  I decide to armor tank it with an MWD, and 4 drone upgrade modules (since I know other will have points and webs).  I launch my Ogres at a battleship and notice he has a large smartbomb.  Should I want to, I can either let my first wave die OR recall them, change one or two of my damage scripts to range scripts, relaunch them and laugh as the battleship must now shoot them in order to destroy them.

Granted this scenario is a little off when if comes to fleets of ships with at least one smartbomb, even small numbers of drones will eventually get hit (unless I force them to shoot them manually with said module). But at least with the above changes drones in general (and Gallente in particular) will be useful as at LEAST a secondary source of DPS, and maybe with the right fleet comp, a primary source. Once again, Gallente could have an option, as a race and fleet doctrine, to be full of win.

Make it so...

"As an army has no constant formation, water has no contant shape; the ability to change and adapt according to the enemy is called genius." Sun Tzu

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