Ship balancing summer update

By CCP Ytterbium
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It has been a while since our last Dev Blog about ship balancing: we´ve hosted Fanfest 2012 and released Inferno in the time that's passed. We deployed the first batch of overhauled frigates with Inferno, collected a lot of player feedback and thus gained experience in the process.

Now that we've had a good glimpse of how the new balancing system works in practice, we want to speed things up and deliver the following for winter.

Heavy payload delivery

As part of the effort that started with Inferno, we want to keep working on frigates as a whole; we are fairly satisfied with the iteration work we did on the Tormentor, Punisher, Merlin, Incursus, Rifter and time has come for the other hulls to receive the same amount of love. Here is a brief summary of our current vision:

  • Executioner, Condor, Atron, Slasher: role dedicated to fast interception with weapon systems that support it – in order, energy turrets, missiles, hybrid turrets, projectile turrets.
  • Navitas, Bantam, Burst: long range offensive platforms. The Navitas is being overhauled as a drone boat, a role currently lacking among tech 1 small hulls. The Bantam will replace the Merlin as the long range dedicated Caldari sniper. Finally, the Burst still is bit blurry at the moment – considered roles are mobile artillery platform, drone boat or a mix of both.
  • Inquisitor, Breacher, Kestrel, Tristan: missile based ships – tank, speed, damage will depend on the missile system they use. Two choices on that front, short range with rockets, or long range with light missiles. Race fighting philosophy will most likely dictate engagement range.
  • Magnate, Heron, Imicus, Probe: strengthening current roles as support frigates. Which mainly means scanning and possibly mini-profession operations, like hacking and codebreaking as well.
  • Crucifier, Griffin, Maulus, Vigil: truly refocus their roles as disruption frigates. The Cruficier is being changed to a mini-arbitrator (swapping useless turret capacitor use bonus for drone damage). The Griffin has a fine role already, but like the others, will receive a boost. The Maulus improvement consists of having a look at sensor dampening, which was nerfed too heavily in the past, and possibly making it rely more on drones than turrets. The Vigil could be the most combat oriented of the disruption frigates by improving its target painting bonus and creating synergy by coupling it with missiles.
  • Impairor, Ibis, Velator and Reaper: let’s not forget rookie ships, as they also are lacking at the moment. We want them to be very versatile ships, able to give new players a good taste of what their race ship philosophy is all about, without reaching the efficiency of other tech 1 frigates in any given role.

Barge in on me

Changing the mining frigates to have combat roles made us realize that we need something to replace them. Which lead us to realize how outdated mining barges are. That’s something we want to tackle over the course of the summer as well.

Our goal is simple: each and every single mining barge (and their tech 2 variant) should have an appealing role, and not just be a stepping stone on the way to something better. Players should'nt only aim for the Hulk without considering anything else when doing some hard rock and roll mining. That means playing with the following variables:

  • Mining output: first and most visible balancing factor, plan is to increase all barge mining output to be within an acceptable margin of the Hulk, not miles behind as it is currently.
  • Autonomy: mining barges should have proper cargo holds so they not always have to rely on jet cans (without turning them into industrials however). That means giving them large, specialized ore bays where all the ore will automatically go into when mining.
  • Resilience: another point is to give some of them proper EHP not to be one-shot by anything that even remotely sneezes on them.

As a result we thus get:

  • New ORE frig: we want this ship to replace current mining frigates as low barrier of entry vessel, but also fulfill high-end gameplay expectations by providing a very mobile platform for mining in hostile space. Lowest mining output, decent ore bay, little to no resilience.
  • Procurer/Skiff: primarily made for self-defense. Better mining rate than the ORE frig, good ore bay, but capable of having battleship-like EHP.
  • Retriever/Mackinaw: made for self-reliance. Has the largest ore bay, similear to the size of a jet can, second best mining output but less EHP than the procurer mining barge.
  • Covetor/hulk: ore bay is identical to its current cargo hold, little to average EHP, but best mining output. Basically made for group operations when players have industrials and protection to back them up.

Concept schematics of the new ORE mining frigate - Click picture for full size version

Before we forget, part of what players now call “tiericide” is to look at skill requirements. We are not pleased with how they work specifically with this ship class, since the Hulk is currently only a few hours away from the Covetor in terms of skill training. That is why, after the change, all tech 1 mining barges will now only require the Mining Barge Skill at level 1.

We will most likely add the new ORE frigate skill at 4 as a Mining Barge nested prerequisite though, but remember our motto: if you could fly it before, you can fly it now.

Due to how nested skill requirements work, players who already have the mining barge skill trained WON'T need to train the ORE frigate skill to keep flying their Covetor for example.

Destroyer of Worlds

Destroyers are the next ship class on our to-do list. We acknowledge that they were already tinkered with in Crucible, but they still need some love as a whole. We want to make sure they are balanced against each other before moving on, as the Thrasher and Catalyst seem to stand out over the Coercer and Cormorant as things stand.

We also have another plan with destroyers: just like battlecruisers are used for gang warfare support, we are thinking to provide destroyers with an additional role. Since DUST514 is approaching and we want to forge both games into the same universe, they will receive some advantage for planetary bombardment, which should make them even more popular that they currently are.

But wait, there is more. More ships that is, as we think the destroyer class currently is a little small with only four hulls. That is why we want to introduce new tech 1 destroyers to fill roles that are not yet covered – as such, Amarr / Gallente would receive additional drone boats, while Caldari / Minmatar would be more missile based.

They rebelled, they evolved. They have a plan.

So, when all of this is going out you ask?  These changes will be out by the time the winter expansion hit, which will leave us in a very good shape to start overhauling tech 1 cruisers and battlecruisers next year, possibly earlier if things go well.

As an additional note and a follow-up from our previous balancing Dev Blog, we believe it is good for you to know we will not be changing the Destroyer / Battlecruiser skills for the winter expansion – such changes are to come only after these two ship classes have been properly rebalanced.

That’s it for now people, as usual, we will post feedback threads in Features & Ideas Discussion sub-forum to gather your input when the time comes, so don’t hesitate to drop by and post (constructive) feedback.