EVE Evolved: Speed rebalanced

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In a previous article, I examined the nano craze and how speed-fit setups were taking over EVE Online's PvP landscape. In a recent devblog on the issue, CCP developer Nozh makes it clear that the nano craze will soon be coming to an abrupt end. In his blog post, Nozh outlined the current problems with speed setups and laid out his plans to address those issues. The proposed changes cover everything from stasis webs and microwarpdrives to warp scramblers and nanofibres.

The nano solution?:
The essence of the nano problem is that speed fittings allow some larger ships to perform the roles of smaller, more specialised ships. Heavy assault cruisers are routinely spotted using their speed as a complete defence, something ordinarily reserved for fragile interceptors. One of the core design goals of the change is to eliminate this ability entirely, forcing pilots that want high speed to use ships that were designed to have it. As was the case before the nano craze took hold of EVE, the new kings of speed will be interceptors and frigates rather than expensive heavy assault cruisers and recon ships.

With this potential solution to the nano problem on the horizon, PvP in EVE is facing some major changes. In this speculative article, I analyse how the upcoming changes will affect PvP if implemented.

Mass effect:
The nano craze has largely been blamed on the addition of mass-reducing Nanofibre Internal Structure modules and the similar Polycarbon Engine Housing rig. By reducing a large ships mass, it's able to fly as if it's a much smaller size class of ship. Under the current system, heavy assault cruisers can be seen outrunning frigates and the Vagabond is even faster than an interceptor. The proposed removal of mass-lowering equipment is one of the primary components of the nano fix, forcing a ship's speed to more accurately reflect its size class.

With a complete redesign of all tackling modules on the table, the role of the tackler is likely to change. Since larger ships will be more restricted in speed, the most effective tacklers will once again be smaller ships like frigates and interceptors as originally intended. In a controversial change, short range warp scramblers are planned to have the additional side-effect of shutting down the target's microwarpdrive. This will stop ships from using a microwarpdrive to escape, a change which CCP believe will promote the use of afterburners on PvP setups.

Players testing the patch on Singularity worry that tacklers, who rely on a microwarpdrive to function effectively, will be harmed by the coming patch. If speculation over microwarpdrives losing their autorepeat function turns out to be true, paper thin frigates and interceptors will be unable to use speed as a reliable defence. If the autorepeat function is kept and the cooldown period only applies on manual deactivation, the microwarpdrive will need to be run constantly. Depending on such a power-hungry module for defence will make interceptors a lot more vulnerable to energy neutralisers, making it trickier to keep them safe. In addition, short range warp scramblers will need to be avoided like the plague as they will deactivate your microwarpdrive.

These changes will encourage dedicated tacklers to use the long range 20km warp disruptor and stay outside the range of short range warp scramblers and stasis webs. As staying 15-20km from the enemy is how the ships are used currently, it seems very little is changing for frigates and interceptors. Short range warp scramblers will be used best by heavier ships that plan to get close such as those using blasters. Another potential use of the updated short range warp scrambler will be for small ships specialising in intercepting enemy tacklers by shutting down the enemy's microwarpdrive.

Impact on general PvP:
Beyond the immediate impact of slowing down nano-fit ships and making them more vulnerable, the rebalancing of speed will affect everyone. If a brief reactivation delay is added to microwarpdrives as planned, they'll no longer be the super-charged afterburners that they currently are. Microwarpdrives would become a specific tool for closing in on an enemy rather than just being an afterburner with a much larger speed bonus. PvP setups that choose afterburners over microwarpdrives are unlikely to become common as fast bursts of speed will still be preferable to the small speed boost that afterburners provide.

Of particular concern for players testing the new system is that ships using short range weapons like blasters and autocannons could be disadvantaged by the patch. These ships rely on using their microwarpdrives to stay within weapons range of enemy ships and there are fears that the changes may prevent this. Due to their extremely short range, blaster ships have always relied on strong stasis webs to keep their targets put and let their turrets track well. Depending on the length CCP chooses for the microwarpdrive reactivation delay and whether the module's autorepeat function is being removed, staying close enough to the target may be next to impossible. With stasis web effectiveness being cut and short-range warp scramblers disabling their microwarpdrives, blaster ships without a dedicated tackler on hand may find targets slipping through their fingers.

Fleet changes:
The biggest change to how fleets operate will be the removal of speed as a counter-fleet strategy. Previously, nano gangs would engage larger fleets safe in the knowledge that they could always disengage and warp out if they got into trouble. With the option to "nano up" and become invulnerable to standard fleet combat removed, PvP will be back to good old fashioned strategy with one fleet smashing into another. Having taken part in a number of traditional 0.0 fleet operations over the years and had similar fleet PvP experiences with the Gallente militia, I am confident that traditional fleet PvP is the most fun to be had in EVE. I firmly believe that it brings out the best in EVE and the sooner fleet warfare returns entirely to its intended form, the better.

A nerf to nano tactics has been on the drawing board for months and although the proposed changes do solve the core issues, a number of complaints and shortcomings have been noted with the plans. On the current test server build, interceptor pilots are finding themselves a lot more vulnerable without their previous speed advantage. In addition to the plight of interceptors, afterburners are still proving to be as useless on PvP setups as before and no word of changing how stasis webs modify a target's agility have been announced.

At this point in testing, it's clear that not all of the patch's design goals have been entirely satisfied and further refinement is expected before any changes go live. The changes announced so far are subject to change and rebalance as players give feedback of their experiences with the new system. Nobody knows for sure what changes will make it into the final patch or how the players will adapt to the new circumstances and updated equipment. One thing, however, is set in stone. The nano craze is coming to an end and traditional warfare will soon prevail in EVE Online.
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