This last Fanfest was the first one I’ve ever been to, and one thought that occurred to me was man, I wish roundtables were recorded, because occasionally some neat shit comes out in them.
I only actually made it to a couple of round tables, but one of them was the second ship balancing round table. It fits the bill, though. There was definitely some neat shit, and it’s neat shit that only about fifty players (if that) heard, that I’ve not really seen commented on anywhere else.
First thing’s first – Dogma. If you’re not aware, Dogma is the system in the game that handles your ship, its attributes, and how your skills modify those attributes. You’d think this is a simple and straightforward task. Take number, multiply number, viola! But as it turns out, it’s something more like this:
Yes, to my slight shame, I used to play WoW.
CCP Veritas gave a more in-depth explanation during his presentation at Fanfest, which was recorded and is available here. The part about Dogma is at 37:40, but really, take the time to watch the whole thing.
If you’ve watched the presentation, you might be wondering how, exactly, Dogma relates to ship balancing. In hindsight, it’s actually really obvious. Veritas even obliquely references it in the presentation, talking about how they want to “make the system more flexible for Game Design” and how “adding to their attributes table is something they’d like to do.” But I wasn’t at the Gridlock presentation, so it wasn’t until that ship balancing session that it all clicked together.
First thing’s first. When asked “What is your vision for Titans?” CCP Fozzie answered “To find a vision for Titans.” We’ll come back to that one.
From another player, “If you could snap your fingers and fix Command Ships and gang bonuses, what would your ideal solution be?” A likely direction, at least, apparently a module that generates a point-blank AOE effect, applying a temporary buff to any ship in gang. The boost would persist if you moved out of range, but you’d have to get back in to refresh it.
Unfortunately, it seems, such a thing isn’t really technically feasible. At least, not right now. Echoing what Veritas had said, Fozzie went on to note that it might be possible after Team Gridlock finishes the Dogma rewrite.
If you think about it, that’s not that surprising. Gang bonuses are nothing but a stat change after all, exactly what Dogma handles. Given how CCP Veritas cited session changes (during which all your stats have to be recalculated) as one huge factor in server load, it might not be entirely accurate to say that it’s technically infeasible. A more plausible scenario features CCP Fozzie proposing this mechanic, only to be told by Veritas (after he’d finished hyperventilating) that he would murder him in his sleep if he tried to implement it now.
If gang bonuses are just a beneficial stat change, then effects like webs are obviously negative ones. This is how Supercarrier and Titan balancing comes into play. If the Dogma re-write opens up more and new ways to apply stats, we’ve got a whole new realm to work within for those. What if instead of guns and a Doomsday, a Titan fielded giant targeted AOE webs instead?
Just an example, probably a bad one, and one very much born of thinking inside the box to boot. It’s easy to imagine the upsides for the purposes of supercapital balancing, though. Perhaps the largest is such an ability could easily be made to be stacking penalized. That would address what’s always been the largest difficulty in balancing them (“How do we do this without making 50 of them together too good? What about 100? 200?”) That in turn does something about the ever widening power gap between established and existing alliances and the currently mythical “newcomer little guy”. Such bonuses would also likely mandate the use of a support fleet of some kind, which is probably a desirable outcome as well.
Basically, if you’ve been wondering what’s been taking CCP so long to rebalance gang bonuses and Supercapitals, this might just be the answer.
There’s one last upside here as well. One complaint cropping up more and more lately (though still not too often, to be fair) is that as we add more and more ships to the game, they’re just crammed into the same niches, where they either obsolete their competition or are instantly useless. A bit melodramatic and generally incorrect, but there certainly is a kernel of truth there. Just think of the Mordus ships – the Garmur instantly compared to the Crow, the Orthrus to, well, any of your favorite skirmish ships, the Barghest to the Machariel. Given a limited number of roles to work with, it’s not all that surprising. But if – when? – the Dogma rewrite lets the game designers go off in completely new directions, create entirely new roles or radically redefine old ones? Well then – sky’s the limit.