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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Getting Round to Make Eve more Real

A week ago CCP karkur posted a dev blog on changes to the targeting system titled, "Stay on Target!" In it he presented this:
Now, if you go back and look at my post No Going Back, I warned everyone the coming UI changes would be dramatically different. I think this qualifies and it's about time. I find nothing as unrealistic in Eve Online as the combat now that they have resolved warping through planets. Now settle down and hear me out because it's true.

Currently, when I am running a Sleeper engagement or when I watch a fleet battle on YouTube, what I do and what I see others doing is selecting targets using the Overview window. CTRL-Click or F1 and Click does the trick quickly and efficiently. There are many things to like about the Overview. I see perfectly well all my "enemies" in the list. I can see their ranges from me precisely. I can exactly see their velocities relative to my ship. I can see them equally well whether they are in my field of view or are behind me. Perfectly, precisely, exactly, equally: we have all become used to managing our violence in this way. Since when have any of these adjectives ever described combat?

And another thing, the Overview is rather like a spreadsheet isn't it? Sortable rows and columns make Eve combat more like balancing the books than a fight. Those FCs with the skills to parse this spreadsheet quickly and efficiently do best. But this isn't really warfighting. It's list management. When you have all the information in front of you and your rules of engagement are clear, all you have to do is apply a pivot table and voila, you're an FC. Does that make you a good leader, or are you simply a better accountant?

Furthermore, perfect intelligence about who you are fighting is terribly unrealistic. In no instance of the military art can I think of any situation where the unknowns did not outway the knowns. War is an uncertain business and to pretend it isn't is to lack a basic understanding of war's fundamental nature. Had the Japanese known the carriers were not in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 they would not have attacked. Had Hitler understood the resilience and determination of the Russian soldier on their native soil, he'd never have abrogated his treaty with Stalin. The entire war would have been very different. Eve Online has always lacked the basic reality known as the fog of war when it comes to combat.

I hope the above picture is the second step introducing the fog of war into Eve Online combat (CCP has already said Dust Bunnies will be able to take down local for brief periods.) I hope they are taking us away from clinical engagements where all threats are seen, immediately assessed, prioritized and blobbed. Can you imagine what a Goonswarm attack would look like if local and the Overview was gone? It would be pandemonium in space! And that is precisely what it should be. Isn't that what we all long for? To be Han Solo taking the Millenium Falcon through the asteroid field while Tie fighters chase us rather than the primary that pops in .23 seconds?

I cannot recount the number of complaints I've read about the application of blob tactics. But why does such a thoughtless tactic work? It's because the spreadsheet and instant local count makes it possible for it to work. When local spikes, the blob FC goes to his spreadsheet, immediately sees the threat, knows the priority targets at once and broadcasts them for all to kill straight away. Perfect battlefield intelligence combined with perfect communications makes this fantasy scenario complete. Combat becomes a simple matter of who can kill whom quickest based in spreadsheet and formula. There is no warrior skill required.

"But Mabrick, what about the engagements where a smaller fleet triumphs?" you ask. Sure, DPS potential and proper fits may come into play and allow a numerically inferior fleet to win. But that is less a statement about the capabilities of the outnumbered pilots, than it is a statement about the poor fitting prowess of the other side. Only in that regard is it not fantasy. It was still done with perfect intelligence and perfect communications.

Whether it is a small fleet on a roam or a capital engagement, allowing the fog of war to creep into the contest will end the fantasy. CCP can't really stop the perfect communications. Not unless they make Teamspeak a bannable violation of the EULA. But they can kill local and the Overview. Doing those two things will make combat far more realistic. It will bring out true combat leaders. Leaders who win through intuition and insight will become the new FCs of choice. A numerically inferior force, properly deployed and committed to the battle in a tactically sound fashion, will mean more than a thousand  Drakes. And in the end, Eve will become more real for it.

Fly careful

15 comments:

  1. I see your point. However intel is rarely 'perfect', and I have yet to fly with a 'perfect' FC.

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  2. If getting away with the overview is more realistic I would doubt. Recall that this is a SciFi game, where we can savely assume advanced warfare electroncis to be available. I would expect my tactical processors to come up with as much practical information as available. Presenting them in a list seems to be not such a bad solution, compared to a cloud of icons in space.

    However, I like your "fog of war" idea. So my proposal: replace the current ECM modules with a set of new modules that affect the overview and fleet communication. There could a comms-jammer which disables fleet broadcasts (area of effect?). There could be modules which affect different parts of the overview, e.g. remove a random number of entries. There could be even camouflage modules which present the enemy with a fake ship signature, so that the overview entry shows a wrong ship type (while the look-at-function will still show the correct hull) .....

    This would put the issue very much in the hands of the players and opens a whole new set of tactical options. Admittedly, though, I would not volunteer to balance such game-mechanics. :-)

    Fly smart! Chira.

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    1. Love the idea of new modules. I was hoping someone would bring it up! As you say, this is Sci-Fi and we expect advanced technology. However, advanced tech works for both sides of the equation and the net result is they cancel each other out. If they have a perfect communications system, I have a perfect jammer. Then we are back to hand signals out the canopy. Awesome!

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    2. "However, advanced tech works for both sides of the equation and the net result is they cancel each other out."

      Huh? That's nonsensical. Realistically, advanced tech works for both sides of the equation, and the net result is that depending on the physical realities of the particular situation under analysis, the most likely result is that advanced tech will end up favoring either offense or defense, compared to not having the advanced tech. Them "canceling each other out" is the least likely result, and I find it hard to believe that you are being serious here.

      "If they have a perfect communications system, I have a perfect jammer. "

      Currently, our communications and jamming technology is much more advanced than it was hundreds of years ago. Are combat pilots back to hand signals out the canopy? No, because if you look at the physics, with directional communication, codes, frequency switching, etc, the physics favor communications and disfavor the jammer. Jamming power strength decreases as the cube of the distance from the jammer source, that's a physical law. Directional communications barely degrade in power with distance. Frequency hopping allows you to concentrate your power on a single frequency, which changes fast enough so that the jammer can't anticipate which frequency to jam. The portion of the graph from no tech, to our tech, doesn't follow the curve from no tech to EVE-level tech which you postulate.

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    3. Kurt, from the original comment by Chirality, "Recall that this is a SciFi game, where we can savely [sic] assume advanced warfare electroncis [sic] to be available." It is Science Fiction. I think nonsensical is manifest in the concept.

      Regardless, I could cite countless historical examples of one side gaining a technological advantage only to have the other side quickly counter it with another technology. As technologies have become more advanced, the time needed between measure and countermeasure has only shortened. And personally, I cannot say whether combat pilots use hand signals or not but I can guarantee you that Army Rangers and SEALs do, all the time. I can also tell you that Navy ships still use blink lights to send messages to one another - even with all their high tech gear. And as for awesome frequency hopping radios with directional antennas, they won't do you a damn bit of good after the EMP makes their circuits into slag. And I don't even need a nuke to generate that sort of pulse. Oh, and my EMP is narrow band and directional too. You see, I don't have to jam your signal. I just have to melt your equipment. Better brush up on those hand signals.

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    4. "Regardless, I could cite countless historical examples of one side gaining a technological advantage only to have the other side quickly counter it with another technology. As technologies have become more advanced, the time needed between measure and countermeasure has only shortened."

      Yes, always. Of course countermeasures will always be in great demand...but assuming that they will exactly balance out is an assumption as bad as most assumptions.

      " And personally, I cannot say whether combat pilots use hand signals or not but I can guarantee you that Army Rangers and SEALs do, all the time. "

      ...what? Are you arguing that SEALs use hand signals because their voice and radio comms are jammed? ~_~ Cause that would be amusing, but if you're not, then this red herring is one stinky fish. Using hand signals when you're in visual proximity, as a means of communicating quickly and quietly, is not an instance of jamming relegating best practice back to historical norm, but merely an example of the low-tech method having yet to be replaced by a technological alternative, because the low-tech method is highly effective and so no technological alternative has yet been produced. Eventually it will, rest assured, and then we'll see if it gets jammed back to oblivion. Probably won't.


      "Oh, and my EMP is narrow band and directional too."

      That's a funny imaginary scenario you've constructed, but we both know that if you could hit the target with your imaginary narrow band directional weapon, destruction of the target would be easier and more commonly chosen than melting their circuits...also, I think if you could melt the circuits of this hypothetical modern-day (but apparently now 50 years in the future) aircraft, the only use of these hand-signals would be to signal the nearby seagulls the important message "I'm going down and the eject button won't work, guess I'm about to die". Very handy, I'm sure. Again, I'm not saying that a prudent military wouldn't have backups ready, and make sure to train its members in their use. If you think I'm arguing against that...why? I'm arguing against your very strong and specific point: "However, advanced tech works for both sides of the equation and the net result is they cancel each other out." You're making tons of arguments now supporting to much weaker claim "advanced tech works for both sides of the equation, and the net result is that sometimes you have to go back to earlier tech". That's a waste of your time, no one is arguing against that claim, it's self-evidently true.

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    5. p.s. If you'd picked say "armor/defense", and said that historically pretty much armor system has quickly been followed by weapons systems designed to be able to destroy things with that armor/defense, then I'd have said, sure, physics as it exists dictates that destruction is easier than preservation, and the tanking abilities of EVE ships are a patently unrealistic choice in favor of gameplay over plausibility. That's why I don't understand you raising the realism argument in re: communications--the communications in EVE are probably the most physically possible thing out of everything in the damn game, picking on that aspect with a realism argument is basically comically inappropriate. Stick with the gameplay argument, you make a lot of great points there.

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    6. I like Chirality's ideas for new ECM modules. I have similar ideas too, which I mention in a reply to Mabrick, and would love to see them implemented in EVE one day.

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  3. This is exactly why after 2 1/2 years in EVE I remain an Industrialist. The Combat aspects of the game are a joke and broken.

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  4. This is becoming a thing with me… I start to comment on this post and a few hours later I find I have written a post of my own... sheesh. =\

    Methinks you pushed a button of mine here... LOL.

    http://turamarths-evelife.blogspot.com/2012/10/its-muggy-out-thar.html

    And James, combat is not BROKEN!! It's just not what YOU prefer. Quit misusing the word broken, I can asplode ships and die perfectly well TYVM.

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  5. One thing about the Overview and Local: they provide you intel on a TACTICAL level, not a STRATEGIC level. You've still got a lot of "fog of war" out there, especially if you've got enemies out there with Titans backing them up.

    It makes roaming around places like Black Rise ... interesting. A few cruisers tackling a Drake might have been an interesting combat early on; add the possibility that the Drake's carrying a cyno in its utility high, with half a billion tons' worth of Tier-3 battlecruisers waiting to drop on your head, and suddenly Local and the Overview aren't as perfect as they used to be. You depend on scouts in other systems, keeping eyes open, looking for the hostiles' known bridge locations, and if you hear an intel report that the enemy's brought a Titan online, you get an odd sense of foreboding and relief ... because at least you can be ready for an incoming hot drop...

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    1. Good point. "Technology" (in this case the cyno) to create the fog of war is a time honored tactic/strategy. =]

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  6. Mab, yes local is not necessary as well as your 2nd, 3rd and 4th paragraphs in your post. FC has to to know a lot about any EvE ship fitting, role and it's capabilities and quickly to asses which to make primary targets and you are saying that overview gives him that... No mate, you are wrong, overview for FC is just a little help, there's so much beyond that.
    Moreover, it's funny how compare WW II and some future space combat. Even now military forces have like 1000% more intelligence and info about their targets compared to they had 70 years ago... EvE doesn't have perfect intelligence, you can never know if someone have a cyno fit and have 100 friends sitting on titan, you can never know if 10 falcons will uncloak in your small gang pvp brawl, you can never know what awaits you on the other side of wh and the list goes on, EvE is not even close to perfect intellingence...

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  7. "FC has to to know a lot about any EvE ship fitting, role and it's capabilities and quickly to asses which to make primary targets and you are saying that overview gives him that... No mate, you are wrong, overview for FC is just a little help, there's so much beyond that"

    You're either confused about the difference between necessary and sufficient, or you are unaware of what "applying a pivot table" means in this context, or both. Suffice it to say, everything you think is missing from his post is actually there, you just don't see it.

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