Friday, September 21, 2012

HMLs, HAMs, and The Crazy Physics of Eve

There is a fun little debate over heavy missiles spawned CCP Fozzie talking about reducing range and damage of HMs.  Read the comments of that blog post for fun.

At the crux of the argument seems to be the underlying strengths of various battlecruisers, the weapons they fit, and range.  In the interest of full disclosure, I fly Drakes and Tengus a lot, and usually they sport HMLs, either T2 or Faction flavors.  And I think the hatred of those two ships using missiles comes not so much from the damage projection as from the rather outlandish interplay of slot layout, cap usage, and the location of armor and shield tanking modules.

I'm a relentless fit experimenter.  I love trying to come up with crazy tanks while still putting out enough DPS to complete L4 missions in something resembling a sane amount of time.  A common thematic problem I run into is the fact that a shield tanked ship, on average, can almost always get a better tank and a better gank because of the slot layout when designing to PvE activities as compared to an armor tank.  Some ships buck this trend when you factor in drone bonuses, but overall, a Drake will do more damage, around 300 dps, and have a bigger tank, by a lot, and not run into cap issues when compared to other BC hulls.  This is most apparent in the BC classes, where marginal trade-offs are not always so marginal.

The imbalance is such that I have focused my training almost entirely on sub-BS hulls, and poured SP in two accounts into the Drake > Tengu pathway simply because it makes the most sense from a time/isk/risk perspective.  The extra time training into BS sized hulls and weapons, for a new-ish player is just silly.  I appreciate the idea of tiericide, as I would love to be able to justify flying more ships with the same relative effectiveness.  But the HML debate brings to mind considerations of how the various weapon systems work, apart from any game balance considerations and I have always been left confused.

Space is a vacuum.  Once you fire an object, it will keep going at the speed you fired it in a straight line until it hits something or gravity deflects the trajectory.  Weapons in Eve do not follow this logic.  Lasers mysteriously disappear, which is ludicrous.  Projectiles and hybrids have some weird optimal/falloff artifacts that function the same way.  But there is no fundamental reason why up to 20km a solid slug would fly, and then at 20.1km it would vanish from the universe.  Missile collision detection apparently fails after the fuel runs out.  I don't know how real missiles are designed, but that also seems silly.  It's all pear-shaped in the name of game balance.

So maybe, when looking at weapons attributes, the focus should stop being range, and should instead change entirely to fitting, targeting, tracking, damage type and cap usage.  I recognize that the limitations of technology and game balance require grid size limitations and some sort of range limitations.  Perhaps class weapon range to the grid, and make up for the other factors?  For example, frigates only have enough computer space to accurately track vessels to a certain range, but if a target is stationary, as long as you point in the right direction, boom.  This is a wholesale redesign of the game, but it could take some weight off of weird justifications of range, and focus it back into ship modules and piloting strategies.

Yes it's crazy, and this will never happen, but the physics of Eve weapons have always nagged at certain portions of my brain.

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