Fourteen Years of Spaceship Meta

Another year has gone by since I started playing EVE Online.  Fourteen years ago today I rolled up my first character using a name I had originally made up back in 1986 to play another online spaceship game.  This pre-dates the launch of the blog by two weeks, so EVE Online was the last new game I started playing before I started this mess.

New Eden Me

I don’t really have much to say for this anniversary.  I think I have told and re-told the tales of my early days enough and I barely do anything new anymore.  New Eden is like a story that keeps going, a book I cannot quite put down.  Some chapters were so good that I can put up with some more pedestrian times in the hope of something interesting coming up again.

Like a war.

Well, we have a war, a good one, with lots of stuff blowing up and potentially a climactic ending.  A last stand in 1DQ1-A would be something… though I thought a last stand in VFK-IV would be something as well, and we didn’t get that.  But I’ll write about the war some more later.

Today I thought I would reflect on something else.  In looking for something to write about I started thinking about all the ships I had flown and how the meta of the game dictated many of those choices.  Even early on, when I was wandering about solo and chasing the goal of mining perfection, there was an optimal path forward.  You went from the Bantam to the Osprey to the Retriever to the Hulk.

Oh, and you totally needed a Mammoth to haul ore on your alt.  That was the optimum configuration.

Mammoth and Retriever… with jet can… back in 2007

That all got shaken up later on.  They redid the mining barges and exhumers, then added mining frigates.  You need never mine in a combat ship any more as you climb the ladder to the Rorqual, the current mining pinnacle.

But change is the way of things.

Early on the Rifter, the icon frigate of New Eden for so long, was what you flew.  Now you don’t.  Maybe you fly a Kestrel instead, or an Atron, if you want to go do some frigate PvP.  Just not a Punisher.  Two mid slots are never enough.

It is fun to think about the cycles over time, of balance passes bringing one hull or another to predominance and then further tweaks casting that same hull down.  When I came out to null sec, the Maelstrom was the CFC ship of the line and the Hurricane the battlecruiser of choice.  I had a Digi-cane at one point, though I couldn’t tell you what that signified.

Then there were some changes and the era of the MWD Drake came into being, moving along at 1,300 m/s and spewing heavy missiles.  That was good because back then I had few skill points, but I had invested heavily in shields, heavy missiles, and the battlecruiser skill. (Back when it and destroyers were just a single skill for all empires.)  Then some counters came up and then heavy missiles got a nerf and we were on to something else.

Meanwhile the Malestroms gave way to the Dominix when drone assist was the thing.  Then came Megathrons then the Apocalypse and then a mix of the two.  We were hot on the Machariel for a bit, then the Typhoon off and on, and then back to the Megathron.  The Rokh and the Abaddon show up now and again as well for special tasks.  Oh, the Rokh showed up again just last week in a new doctrine:

To this day I remain mildly amused at the spot the Ferox now plays in null sec fleets.  To have suggested it as a doctrine back in the day would have been met with derision.  I remember an early attempt to form a doctrine around it had to be called the “non-ironic Ferox doctrine” just to indicate that it was serious.  Now you can’t show up to a fleet fight without tripping over Ferox wrecks, while a Drake on the field is a rare sight indeed.  We actually blew up an NSH Drake the other day and I was practically shocked.

The a balance pass comes, the meta shifts, and a new ship becomes the doctrine flavor of the month.  How many times have people complained, at least out in null sec, that the game has become Ishtars online, or Lokis online, or Feroxes online?  If we’re talking destroyers then it is Cormorants online for sure.  Or maybe Jackdaws online.  Caldari hulls seem to be doing pretty well.

The only sure things are that eventually something will change and that somebody will start complaining about the new meta, whatever it ends up being.

Well that and that some ship will remain left out.  The balance pass doesn’t promise every hull a chance.  I’ve never flown a Hyperion, for example.  The Harbinger was popular for about five minutes during a break with the Ferox.  But the Ferox came back and I never got to fire the lasers on the Harby in anger.  And we had a Cyclone doctrine for about 15 minutes one summer afternoon years back.  I know because I have a screen shot.

Orbiting the customs office in some Cyclones

Cruisers also seem neglected, save for the Caracal.  But they tend to be fragile.  I think every Rupture I ever flew ended up getting pipe-bombed.  So heavy assault cruisers rule the day.  I have at least flown some of those in combat.  The Ishtar, the Cerberus, and the Munnin seem to always have a place.  Eagles were popular for a season, and Zealots seem to come and go.  The Sacrilege is a hot item currently, and I see a Vagabond now and then, but I don’t think I have ever seen a Deimos in the wild.  Probably not suited to the kitey bullshit… the term of art these days… that FCs favor.

And then there are the faction ships, especially faction battleships.  They come and go or have special roles.

The nice thing is that after fourteen years I think I can fly any subcap you throw at me.  I even trained up the EDENCOM hulls to V since they were released.

The story of the game and your own history with it can be told in many ways.  Expansions.  Skill points.  Battles.  ISK.  Or even the ships you flew and when you flew them.

Addendum:

The Greybill linked to some videos about ships and their popularity over the years in EVE Online.  You can find the videos listed below:

Those graphs are for the game overall, so don’t always reflect the null sec meta.  In battleships you could see the drone assist era with the Dominix at the top.  But after that the Machariel rules the roost, likely based on low sec, as it is a fairly rare doctrine in our corner of null sec these days.  Though, that said, null sec is also Feroxes and Munnins online most days, so battleships do not get that much weight out where I live in any case.

3 thoughts on “Fourteen Years of Spaceship Meta

  1. Mailvaltar

    What a great (and very quick) journey through time!

    I haven’t trained up the Edencom ships yet as I’m not specced for Perc/Will right now. Other than that we’re in the same boat. Feels pretty good to know that whatever the FC might come up with, you’ll be able to say “yup, have pretty much perfect skills for that!”, doesn’t it? :-)

    Like

  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Mailvaltar – I try not to be smug, but I can fly pretty much every new doctrine or twist. I don’t even need the drugs sometime because I have Armor Rigging V trained, so often I am as fast or faster than people who take the drugs in an armor tanked fleet.

    Liked by 1 person

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