The Problem with Space Priests

A while back Murf was decrying the idea of DPS as part of the trinity of group roles.  He got an ear full in the comments about how this was really a WoW thing and how the essential roles have been different in various past games, with special reference to EverQuest and TorilMUD.

I also brought up EVE Online which, being a PvP focused game, doesn’t really have a “tank” role in its mix and where most everybody in a fleet its DPS, just to be contrary.  It is true, every ship in EVE has to either be able to take a punch or avoid one or they’ll get popped.

Fleet doctrines, at least in null sec, tend to be built around a mass of DPS ships.  Those ships also tend to be all alike so that they can deliver a specific type of damage within a specific engagement envelope, which determines how and where the fleet will want to take on hostiles.  The ideal location could be at very short range, as with the Fozzie Claws we were flying the other day, or it could be well out beyond the 100km mark with HML Tengus.  Guns, missiles, lasers, drones, they are what enable your DPS and you DPS determines your fleet tactics.

There is something of a trinity in EVE Online, the second leg of which is support.  That is a rather broad category and can be tacklers, interdictors, boosters, scouts, cyno ships, or even an ammo truck.  There are some doctrines, like our Hawk fleet, where DPS also webs and tackles, but they still get support ships as well.

And then the solid base on which this trinity rests are the space priests, the healers, the logistics ships.

Scimitar Logistics Cruiser in Action

A Scimitar Logistics Cruiser repping away… in 2012

I hate that CCP decided to use the word “logistics” for ships that specialize in remote repair, since the word generally means something else, but it is hardly the worst abuse of the language in their history.  And they still call space complexes “dungeons” now and again, which just hurts.  But I am going to use “Logi” because it is the term of art in the game.

The Guardian!

Logi, in the form of a Guardian, the center of attention!

DPS/Support/Logi is the space trinity though, as I noted, “support” is pretty much everything that isn’t the other two and you could easily break it down into sub-groups.

DPS blows things up, support makes the whole fight possible, and, as things stand today, logi makes sure you don’t lose.

The old hands tell of a time when fleets set out without any logi support and stood toe-to-toe at objectives with each side suffering staggering losses.  Victory went to those who brought the most ships or who could re-ship and return to the fight.  It was a time of bloodbaths, but at the end both sides could count kills as well as losses.  You might have lost the fight, put you could point at something to show you made the enemy pay.

Oneiros at a Cloud Ring POS

The old Oneiros ship model

Things evolved over time and, if the ancient space scrolls and tales told around the campfire are to be trusted, logi showed up for a while as an off-grid resource.  A few logi would be stashed away at a safe in the system and when you took too much damage you would warp off to them to get repaired and return to the fight.

Eventually doctrines evolved… players will always figure things out over time and tend towards the optimum solution… and logi took its place on-grid and in the fight.

Today all of our fleet doctrines include a logistics component.  They form up on the logi anchor whose job it is to keep his space priests in range of the main section of the fleet, the DPS, while keeping the DPS interposed between the logi and the hostiles.

Guardian repping

A Guardian getting off remote armor reps

When done right… with enough logi on the field, a decent anchor, pilots who are paying attention, and not facing overwhelming odds… logistics makes your fleet fairly invulnerable.  They cannot win the battle, but they take losing off the list of options.

Cap chaining in Immensea... Caroline's Star visible

Anchored up and cap chaining in a Basilisk

And so just about every fight starts with both sides assailing the logi ships of the other.  If you can destroy enough of the enemy’s logistics ships, the victory can be yours.  So you can get engagements where each side loses a support ship or two, or maybe a ship of the line where the pilot wandered out of logi range or didn’t broadcast for reps in time, or you can get fights where one side pretty much wipes the other side out with few losses of their own. (That staged fight with Ron Mexxico was a lopsided logi-fueled win.)  Both sides getting a bloody nose when logi is working well is a rare outcome.

So changing logistics has been a subject for a while now.  I’ve heard it come up a number of times over the last few years.  But now in the age of Fozzie Sov where lots of things are a changin’, revising the role of the space priest seems likely to be added to the list.

Being a logi pilot… not out of love of the position really so much as wanting fleets to undock, which they won’t do until they have enough logi… I am interested in what may end up happening to our space priest guild.  Some of the ideas I have seen so far:

Reduce Rep Range

Currently logi can remote repair out to about 70km.  Somebody at CCP [citation needed] spoke about either reducing range or giving remote reps an optimum range and falloff, so that beyond optimum they are less effective.  This would require logi to be closer to the main fleet and possibly put them in range of the hostiles.

Theoretically, that makes for a more interesting fight under some circumstances, but it is also one that is solved by simply adding more logi.  But then most of the changes get solved that way.

Make Repping Modules Less Effective

An easy one, but one that is also easily solved by simply adding more logi, is just to turn down the amount of reps available from the current remote repair modules.  The classic nerf scenario.  Again, solved by adding more logi, but each individual ship is less effective and it is a simple, easy to model change.

Diminishing Returns

A little more complicated that just nerfing reps.  Right now every remote repair module that hits you adds the same amount of boost to your shields or armor.  One potential idea is to set a point of diminishing returns or a stacking penalty where the first rep hits for 100% but that every rep that is hitting in addition to that is less effective.  Lots of calculations going on for each extra rep might make this an expensive change in terms of server CPU requirements.  And, of course, it is more math that I can’t do in my head.

Make Repping Modules More Expensive to Mount

Right now on the default Imperium fleet Basilisk, the favored shield logi ship, there are four large meta remote shield repair modules, which makes it capable of putting out a lot of remote reps.  The Basi needs a capacitor chain to keep that active, but as it turns out even Goons can manage that these days, so it can spread a lot of shield rep love.  Maybe it shouldn’t be able to spread as much.  Maybe remote repair modules should require more CPU to mount, leading to more significant trade offs when trying to get the most reps out of the hull.  The Basi fit is also a pretty tough nut to crack, so forcing a choice between effective hit points and remote reps might change the balance some.

Signature Radius

This one came from Boat during episode 4 of The Asher Hour podcast.  The idea would be to treat remote reps like weapons so that larger remote repair modules, especially the capital ship sized ones on a triage carrier, would be less effective on smaller hulls.  The Basi with four large remote rep modules would be good at keeping battleships and battlecruisers alive, still okay with cruiser class hulls, but wouldn’t be nearly as effective when repping destroyers, frigates, or other variations on the smaller hulls.  This would at least force logi to fit the fleet.  You wouldn’t want large reps with a Harpy fleet and triage carriers with subcaps would be less of a thing.  But other than doctrine fit proliferation, I am not sure that this works as a stand alone solution.

Remove Tech II Logi

The drastic fix would be to remove or repurpose Tech II logi.  Give Scimitars, Guardians, Basilisks, and Onerioses another role in the game or send them away altogether.  This would leave us with Scythes, Augorors, Ospreys, and Exequrors.  They can still remote repair and keep up with the fleet, but their repair output is much less and they are much easier to kill.  This would reduce reps available, but might also lead to wholesale slaughter of logi.  And then there are the faction versions of each of those hulls.  Do we end up flying those instead?

Remote Rep Heat Damage

There was an editorial over at TMC that suggested that applying remote repairs should cause heat damage, thus limited the amount of reps that could be applied over the life of a fleet.  An interesting way to add a cost to doing reps.  That got a response at EN24 declaring that ewar was the solution to remote rep woes.

Some Combination of the Above

I have learned in life that there is often no single right answer to questions with multiple factors, and so I tend to immediately distrust any answer that starts with, “All you have to do is…” as it tends to be mostly instructive as to how little the person saying it has considered the issue at hand.  So I suspect that we might see bits and pieces from this list, or from other ideas, going into any proposed solution.

In the end balancing healing is a pain.  Certainly it seems like a bigger deal than DPS.  It has to be available but not as a limitless.  And, in space, it has to make some sense.  Of course, we seem to take it on faith that remote capacitor modules are able to put out more energy than they require, so maybe making sense isn’t as important as I think.

What other options are out there to reign in the rampant space priests?

5 thoughts on “The Problem with Space Priests

  1. Klyith

    > Eventually doctrines evolved… players will always figure things out over time and tend towards the optimum solution… and logi took its place on-grid and in the fight.

    In particular, this wasn’t so much about evolving doctrines but a single massive change: removal of AoE doomsdays. Since old doomsdays didn’t care about sig radius or anything else to do damage a logistics cruiser could not live through one. As titans proliferated during the 2008-09 years, the standard fleet BS was tanked to survive one or even double doomsdays. Logi had to stay off grid being pit stops and waterboys because they had no other choice.

    It’s ironic that doomsdays, one of the worst things ever in the game, was the mechanic that kept the second worst thing in check.

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  2. Asher

    I think a combination of the 3: Boat’s rep size idea, remote falloff, and stacking penalties. The devil is in the details. I also like the idea that on top of mixing those that T1 logis would get a new role bonus where they can provide extra shield/armor resists (kind of like targeted boosts, although it sounds like that may be what they are doing for boosters which I’m not too keen on). It would give a nice role to T1 logi which would encourage people to bring them onto the field instead of what we have now which is all t2 logi after people are trained for it.

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  3. Chanina

    That’s a good collection of ideas. Many of them have potential to help solve the problem. I could live with a lot of them, but still want to add another idea of change.

    Over the years I’m playing eve everything seems to have changed towards more DPS, reaching a point where many battles are decided by either you can one shot that enemy or not (or kill it before logi get them). In my imagination battles could be a lot more interesting and engaging if all ships would last longer. Half the DPS currently projected, cap the amount of repair that can be done and increase shield / armour HP by 10x or even 20x. In my naive thought process that would lead to longer fights to tear down ships, increase reaction time to trying to get that ship out (ECM the pointer, kill the bubbler).

    Adding to this, as line of sight is not an option in current eve architecture, new “shielding” modules where ships in close proximity could take over some of the damage applied to their neighbour would required situational awareness of all pilots, to help and protect each other. A well organized fleet could than be a Spartan Phalanx of ships guarding each other. Giving the F1 drones a chance to grow up to a trusted battle companion.

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  4. flosch

    The problem I have with the most straightforward nerf scenarios is that we might, like you pointed out, simply end up with doctrines that have more logis. I’m not convinced that would make anything better, just slower. And not in a good way: slower to form fleets (because it’s always logi that’s missing, isn’t it?), and slower to kill things, dragging out fights longer. I’m not sure the fights would be better just because they went on longer.

    Then again, my experience with large-scale battles and doctrines is extremely limited, but I’d be afraid it would end up that way.

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