Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Armor Tanking 1.Fail

Once again I arise from the dark void bereft of light or fun called RL and come to give thoughts on something that I feel could be one of CCP Fozzie's few failed balance changes thus far, armor tanking 1.5.  I say this with all do respect of course, as Fozzie has made so many great improvements to Eve that not only work wonderfully, but have made the game far more enjoyable.  As is well known, I am a Gallente supporter and once I saw the title and proposed changes needless to say I was very excited.

First let's look at what armor tanking 1.5 was supposed to do: Make armor ships (in particular active tank ships) go faster.  This was done by adding a new skill called Armor Honeycombing that would shave off 5% of the mass of armor plates per level, reducing the mass of certain plates, and removing the speed penalty on active armor repair rigs and putting on a powergrid penalty instead.   On top of this, CCP added the Ancillary Armor Repair units allowing more tank (in certain circumstances) from less modules and reduced the PG need of  medium and large repair units to offset the PG increase of the new rigs.  All of these changes are good in theory, but in the details, the theory was lost on all but one account.

Let me start off with the good (and somewhat ironic) thing about the tank balance that I like: the changing of active armor repair rigs to take away from PG and not speed.  This is huge for Gallente ships. As an example, our beloved Brutix* with an MWD on and a 1600 plate goes from 963m/s to 1091m/s.  Quite an improvement, as it allows a plated Brutix to actually catch a Drake without nano's on.  As I have said in other blog posts, speed is perhaps the Gallente's biggest (as there are many) Achilles heel.

What Gallente need more of.

But now comes the ironic part, this is exactly what armor tanking needs and yet all the other changes do about as much to fix this as trying to put out a campfire with a shot of whiskey.  Lets look at the same Brutix with and without armor rep mods and apply the Armor Honeycombing.  The Brutix with the trimarks now goes from 963m/s to 991m/s and with the active rep mods goes from 1091m/s to 1122m/s with AH to level 5.  A net gain of 28 and 31 meters per second.  Needless to say this is terrible.  But oh, you may say, smaller ships will benefit more.  True, a 1600 plate Thorax now goes a whopping 50m/s faster with the MWD on but this is still laughable.  A ship with the same fitting before 1.5 will have no better a chance at catching anything, and what's worse, is that it is a rank 3 skill.  Why is this important?

CCP had been making an effort to add content for both noobs and vets alike, adding new skills, isk sources, new player experiences, ships, etc. and to some extent have done well.  This skill (as it currently is) fits into no category of usefulness at all. Being a rank 3 skill it would take someone without implants nearly 18 days to train, in which time the noob could have almost trained two racial frigates to 5 (which is FAR more useful).  To the vet, spending 12-14 days training a skill that will make only a handful of my ships go slightly faster than getting bumped by a shuttle is entirely a waste of two weeks.

What then would make this skill worthwhile?  I have three ideas but would only ever suggest implementing one at any given time.
1. Change the skill to rank 12 and change the bonus to 20% per level.  60(ish) days of training for removing the mass penalty of plates.  This would have far reaching affects so I will mention the other two before going into details.
2. Change the skill to rank 1 and leave the bonus as is.  This gives the option to spend 5 days to train a skill that does almost nothing to increase my speed.
3. Change the skill to give a proportional increase to speed on ships fitting different sizes of plates.  This would involve the most coding and thus I don't think is very viable, however, by at least allowing a flat rate of speed increase (say 50 plate gets 10, 100/25 200/50 400/75 800/100 1600/150, note that while exaggerated these numbers prove a point) it allows more options and speed for MWD's and over-sized AB's.

Now to explain my first (and preferred) idea.  By changing the rank to 12 you prohibit every noob from training to 5 quickly, meaning that most pilots will have rank 3-4 before moving on to other things.  Vets on the other hand, who may have almost every sub-cap skill trained to 5 already, can spend 45 days training a skill that actually has benefit.  But wouldn't this make armor ships indistinguishable from shield ships in terms of speed?  Not at all!  Again lets look at our Brutix.  By removing the plate entirely, the trimark Brutix still only goes 1087m/s and the active rep version goes to 1232m/s.  This would allow armor ships to actually have a chance to catch shield/nano ships in a fight, not simply by a shield ship derping into an armor gang or by having boosts when the target doesn't.

The other reason why this would NOT be OP is becuase of a little module known as a Nanofiber Internal Structure which, go figure, is best used with shield ships due to the tank.  It doesn't take long to train for and allows a drake to go from 1003m/s to 1187m/s without sacrificing much tank or DPS (depending on your preferred flavor of Drake).  How do those numbers compare?  With my proposed skill change, the trimark Brutix gains 94m/s, an active rep Brutix gains 110m/s whereas the increase in the Drake, by adding two nanos, gains 184m/s.  Tell me how training 60 days to make that happen with a much smaller total speed bonus is somehow OP?  For the record, I am using these two examples as the Drake is now one of the slowest shield BC's and the Brutix "should" be one of the faster ones with the recent mass reduction.

Who would win a footrace?

Undoubtedly, CCP will release stats in the upcoming months showing how certain hulls are being used more now than they were before the tanking changes.  While I certainly don't doubt there will be noticeable changes (I myself have picked up two new Brutixes) I believe these stats will be skewed rather hard as, I believe, the changes in the ships themselves will have made more of an impact on their usability than the armor tank changes as they currently stand.  The AAR is kinda... meh, especially since you can't fit two and the PG changes in the reps themselves aren't that big a deal to existing fits.
I think that CCP has missed the mark here, rather than balancing active armor tanking (let alone armor buffer tanks and not considering the natural passive tank inherent from shield ships) I believe this has succeeded more in appeasement than in real change.  I didn't comment hard on this prior to the patch as sometimes CCP will have a little surprise change at the last moment or they will re balance things within the first week.  Neither of these have happened and thus, I am once again, left to continue lobbying for improvements to the ships themselves, or at least for a armor tanking 2.0, rather than being able to hail the tank changes as the improvements that so many of us have been wanting.

"When they see an advantage but do not advance on it, they are weary."  Sun Tzu

*Note that all stats were made in EFT with all skills at 5 (except for Armor Honeycombing) and do not include boosts, implants, or overheating unless expressly stated.