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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Industrial Ship Rebalancing and Roles

Last week I stated moving the unscannable cargo hold from the Orca to Blockade Runners was a good decision and lauded CCP Greyscale for unapologetically breaking the news. However, not everyone celebrated. Jester, in his post Plastic wrap all the things!, had little good to say about the reason given by CCP Greyscale for the change. To be clear, Jester does not come right out and say it's a bad idea - directly. Still, the overwhelmingly negative vibe in that post draws the reader to such a conclusion like a gravity well draws mass.

So I did some more thinking on the subject. I admit my first post was an immediate reaction. I've thought about the Orca's role on many occasions. I've always felt the ship is too good at too many things. But I hadn't thought about it recently; not really since CCP took away the ability to use it as a deep-space mobile POS, aka a ninja salvager's wet dream. I needed to confirm to myself that I truly did feel CCP made a good decision.

They did. It is. This post will discuss why I think so.

The first thing I want to discuss is barrier to entry into the transportation game. There are two of them. The first is cost. When I bought my Keiko over a years ago, it cost me a half billion credits - modules and all. That is a lot of ISK. It took me a long time to afford to fly that ship. Today the cost is double. The hull alone costs 30% more than my total price 16 months ago. An Orca hull is now selling for over 700 mISK in Essence.
The Viator by comparison, though it saw about the same percentage price increase, recovered better and is far more affordable at around 130 mISK for the hull.
This not only reduces the buy-in cost of the transportation game, it also reduces the inevitable replacement cost of ship and cargo. Thought the math is simple, I'll spell it out anyway. A pilot can buy five (5) Viators for the price of an Orca.

As Jester pointed out, any well fit Tornado can catch and kill a Blockade Runner not perfectly flown (and maybe even then.) But that same Tornado poorly fitted can tackle an Orca. And, it makes no difference that it can't finish off the Orca before CONCORD arrives. As much as we'd like to think they do, gankers do not fly alone. The good ones will have as a minimum an alt in a Prowler with SEBOs to assist their Tornado. Whether you fly an Orca or a Viator, if they want to gank you they will. Nothing you can do will abrogate that fact. However, you can reduce the cost of the loss. With a smaller hold and a much lower price, the Blockade Runner does just that.

The second barrier to entering the transportation game is training. It takes over 50 days to train into an Orca from scratch, and that includes none of the necessary skills to fly it properly. It takes around 35 days to train into a Blockade runner. That 15 day difference may not seem like much, but to a new Eve Online player it can be the difference between making it and giving up. But really, who's going to train either of those two ships straight out of the gate except an alt? Nonetheless, it's a valid point.

But neither of these are the elephant in the room. For me the biggest issue is roles. An elephant should be an elephant; not an elephant, a rhino and a giraffe all in one.
Image by ManipUL8
This is what made me immediately approve of this change. I have always thought the Orca has an identity crisis. Is it an Industrial Command Ship meant to bring substantial bonuses to mining fleets? Is it a mini-freighter? Is it a mini-carrier? To date it has been all three of these things and all at the same time. With capabilities like that, who needs the transport class ships at all?

The Blockade Runner also had a role issue. In its case, it wasn't that the Blockade Runner was being used for roles outside it's intended niche. It wasn't capable of filling its niche. What good is a stealthy cargo ship that lets any noob with a scanner find out what's inside?  It makes common sense to this industrialist that the ship intended for stealthy hauling would keep it's contents secret. This makes far more sense than ORE designing a ship to keep asteroid dust and mining bits a secret.

CCP's balancing effort isn't only about combat ships. The industrial ships are out of whack too. Just as many players, including Jester, have pointed out. All ships should have a unique and beneficial role to play, industrial ships included. And what's really cool about industrials is they can be modified more on the fly than the combat ships. It makes plenty of more sense for CCP to make these changes one attribute at a time because they aren't affecting anyone's balance of power.

Easing these changes in over time gives industrialists time to alter their production processes. Unlike PvP, industry can take months to plan and execute. If you rely on the Orca to facilitate that production and CCP changes it all over night, your entire business could be endangered. With incremental change over time, you'll have a much easier time of adapting your processes and maintaining your margins.

Eventually, when CCP finishes all these changes, the Orca needs to be the queen of the mining fleet as it was meant to be. When ring mining comes, each fleet must have an Orca leading it to boost the survey scanner strength enough to find the residual Technetium left in that pile of rubble that was once a moon. This is what the Orca was designed by ORE to do. That is what it should do.

And while I'm on the matter of fitting the Orca to its proper role, why does it have that big fat cargo hold to begin with? I can see why it has a ship maintenance bay. That's to get more barges to the asteroid field or even a swarm of mining frigates. (Oh yeah!) I understand why it has a drone bay. The ore hold is self explanatory as well. But how many crystals does an Orca need to carry for its mining fleet? Surely not the 1260 it currently can. How many spare drones does it need to take? Can a fleet even loose 6300 Warrior IIs in a single fight unless it's the Orca that gets popped? Does it really need to haul around 1,260,000 rounds of Antimatter Charage L? Why can it haul more cargo than an Iteron V, a ship designed to haul cargo? I vote the next change for the Orca is to reduce the cargo hold like CCP did with the other mining barges. Maybe even give that space over to more ore capacity!

Considering all this, CCP Greyscale was absolutely correct. The Orca was never intended to do what it is routinely used to do. That is not the players fault. Players press every advantage, it's their nature. CCP should never have made the Orca such a strong all around ship to begin with. It has a specific purpose and it isn't to make the Jita run in 12 parsecs. But hindsight is 20/20 and I can't waggle my fingers at them now. After all, no one was screaming at them for doing it back then.

And lastly, the fact CCP Greyscale didn't take the time to point all this out has nothing to do with deception. There was no incompetence, idiocy or deliberate thump-nose-finger waggling. CCP was within a week of a major update to EVE Online. They ALL had better things to do than mollify bitter vets viewing events through the perfect lens of hindsight.

Fly Careful


  1. I mostly agree with you, except for "Whether you fly an Orca or a Viator, if they want to gank you they will.". You seem to be neglecting the "no loot drops from the corporate hangar" bug. If an Orca shows nothing valuable on the cargo scan, you let it fly along. If a Viator shows nothing valuable on the cargo scan (now), you pop it and hope for some loot! Orcas flown correctly were never profitable to gank. Viators may well be.

    (Also, I just set up my production chain for Viators a few weeks ago, so... yay me!)

    1. So right on the loot drop bug. I'd completely forgotten about it. It is another reason why Orcas were pushed out of the role intended for them. Sooner or later though, CCP was bound to correct it and then Orcas would be back on the menu. I'd be interested to know if that bug was stealth fixed with the changes they made. Anyone care to get their Orca blown up? *LOL*

    2. Nothing stealthy about it, Mab, it's fixed and it's right there in the devblog. Unless I read it wrong :)

  2. You are simultaneously wrong and not-wrong. The Orca can't be messed with in its current incarnation until there is an alternative ship class that can take on its ancillary role, the movement of rigged ships. There absolutely SHOULD be a separate series of *industrialist* ships as opposed to *mining* ships. Once that's done, the Orca should be given the same restriction the Rorqual has: mining ships and haulers in the SMB only. Until that's done, no touchie.

    Meanwhile, you missed my main concern with the unscannable Blockade Runner: it incentivizes gankers to either shoot ALL BRs or NO BRs. Since you never know what you're going to get when you bite into the creme-filled chocolate candy, may as well take a nibble off them all since it's so cheap, right? As a game design choice, that was quite silly.

  3. It is definitely possible to make a Viator align so fast that with it's cloak it can get through most camps. Sure some people will target Viators just because they might have something in them, but it's not easy.

    Me and a friend tried to catch a Viator in lowsec once, and he moved past us three times without us ever getting a lock. I am sure it is possible, but what then? In highsec you might be betting your gank fleet on a ship that is hardly worth your loss.

  4. The real issue is how bad the Deep space transport is. Blockade runner has a role. Orca has a role, but the DST are just a more expensive tier1 hauler as far as it matters.

  5. I gotta say I agree on several points...
    Jester: Yes, we need am Indy for moving rigged ships; then more closely define the Orca's Ore role.

    Emegent: Expansion Reaction Refit... all this does for me is change my fit a bit... lose some cargo mods for align mods, rigs and lows... cost of doing business as 'twere...

    Tahna: You SAID it. The ONLY time I have used my Mastondon effectively was moving our POS and mods out through a long lowsec run. BUT, I had set warpable BMs at every gate and several stations on the run. And I was doing the "jump > break jump cloak > cloak/MWD > change vector" and creep outta range of the badguys thing... and I had to do that more than a few times... and I was lucky as I only had soloists make attempts on me... even a pair woulda done for me.

  6. A lot of good points, so I won't waste space by restating them. Especially regarding the DSTs.

    I pose that the Blockade Runner did have a role even before pre-Retribution: it was (and is) much faster than an Orca. The time savings alone made it worthwhile to use.

    And to expand on what Jester said: a better improvement for the Blockade Runner would have been a reduction of its inertia, or of its natural cargo space. The unscannability of the cargo bay is more liability than advantage.

  7. The huge cargohold is where more ore is stored, this made it easier on the 2 poor bastards that ran back and forth between the orca an the nearest station in itty 5s.
    There is nothing worse than having a full orca with a cluster of jet cans because the hauler has to go afk, and you never wanted your boosting orca to leave the field.
    Of course now we can use an obie to haul 8)
    (yeah I'm talkin' hisec)


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