My thoughts on scouting in EVE, and how it could be improved:
Greetings! I am Ashterothi and this is the first of what I hope will be several audio logs for my CSM campaign to give you guys opportunity to hear me talk about what I think, and what I believe in and kind of the game design direction that I think EVE Online is going in, where it should go in and where it can go in.
I think principally, one of the things that makes me different than a lot of the other candidates is that I tend to try to think of things very holistically. It’s important to me to try to see the mechanics for a whole and EVE Online as a whole. Because, unlike a lot of other games, EVE Online is not just one game, it’s not just one set of things, it’s a collection of sets of things and also, unlike a lot of other games, those things in general interact with each other in a very profound way.
A lot of other video games, such as World of Warcraft, has a lot of different playstyles and a lot of different mechanics, but in general those different things remain kind of separate from each other. Whatever you decide to do, that’s what you’re doing at that time. In EVE, each player decides how they want to play the game, and then that decision, and the decisions that stem from that, impact a huge amount of other players, many of which may not necessarily be deciding to play the same game. And so one of the things I often caution people to do is not think of changes or design decisions in a vacuum but you have to look at them as part far as the whole EVE Online health as a whole.
That being said, what I want to talk to you about today in particular is my feelings about Scouting. And the reason why is that because I, personally, if you could ask me, what would be the gameplay you want to play the most, what I would actually say is scouting. I was a scout in the military, I’ve written about it before, on The Mitanni when I wrote for them, and I teach people to do good reports, and do good scouting and what not. In fact, when i was in Nullsec, I was known for being pretty famous for being the only person that they had that’d be willing to sit on a gate and just watch and report every single thing coming in through the gate for like, four hours at a time - because I found that fun. Or at least engaging on some level. It brought me back.
So, scouting is something that exists in game, the gathering of intel is something that exists in the game, however, in my experience, generally speaking, the active scouting is something that’s relegated to alts. Which tells me that the active scouting - that game play - is not important enough to be its own playstyle. And really, that is unfortunate, because if you think about it, scouting really is the PVP equivalent of exploration, right, so with PVE you have mission running which leads to combat, with exploration it uses the same skills, it uses the same skillsets, but really it’s not as important, it’s not as interesting. So what I would like to propose an idea that might make it more interesting
Now, I want to give a disclaimer about this, and say that I do not think that this is the answer. I do not necessarily think that should be lifted whole-cloth and stuck into the game with no consideration for anything else, I think that this is just an example of a holistic idea that I’d come up with that might work out.
So, first of all one of the biggest problems with scouting is that it’s too easy to hide. So the cloaking mechanisms in the game are too perfect, in my opinion. --Now, there are still some cases in which having covert ops cloaks and cloaks in general are somewhat important. In particular like in blockade runners and such like that. There are reasons to have cloaks, but I’m not 100% sure if that has a place in scouting. And the reason why is two fold: One, if you can’t be found, then it’s very difficult to counterplay. And as CCP Seagull said in my interview with her it should be a game of play and counterplay so immediately you’re shutting down that immediately, because you can’t see me and that’s the way it works.
The other problem is that real-life scouting isn’t about being invisible. Now, admittedly I think that a lot of scouts would prefer it that way, but really it’s about maneuvering yourself and understanding the terrain and what’s going on enough so that you get information about the enemy without the enemy getting information about you. And more importantly, we have techniques that make ourselves difficult to see - but not impossible to see. And I think that the combat recon rebalance has revealed a very interesting mechanic, that I think that scouts can utilize, and that is that they do not appear on d-scan, I think that much better image of what camouflage can do than covert ops cloaks.
Furthermore, I think you can take that one step further and say the idea is that I see these scout ships as using tech superiority in order to break through enemy sensors, effectively, that’s how I see it as; almost as an ECM but a little different.
So, if I can’t be seen by d-scan, what happens if I also can’t be seen on grid? What if, I’m still visible, you could click on me in space, you could ctrl-click on me in space, if you see me, but, i don’t show up on your overview.
Now this is a mechanic that can be played with a lot. In fact, I actually had the idea that perhaps, asteroid belts, due to the new debris that you saw and the first thing I thought when I saw that new debris is why can our sensors continue to work in this environment? Wouldn’t it be cool if, the overview just does not work in an asteroid belt? And you literally have to use your camera drones in order to find and target the enemy. And then of course once you’ve targeted the them, then it’s game on, but it allows for the vigilant to be paid off, and draws us away from that ‘we’re just using our spreadsheets’, you know; sometimes your instruments just don’t work - and then you have to fly on observation. And while I do not necessarily think that Covert Ops should always get this ability, perhaps they could re-tool a module to be able to in part this ability.
As a follow up to that, Kyle Yanowski, actually had a wonderful idea that, for an alternative theory, for combat recons, where because of the fact you’re going back into this scouting thing and positions and what-not, it would be very interesting if combat recons simply had their dscan range doubled as their bonus. So now combat recons can see you further away than you can see them. Which means combat recons can sit there in a perch and kind of hunt for things. Which actually becomes really cool especially in gigantic systems like Thera, which is pretty new, so there’s a thought.
At any rate, so you’ve got this guy, he can’t be seen, or he can’t be seen on an overview, he can’t be seen on dscan. Well, a lot of people might be like, ‘Oh my god, that’s a huge thing’, well, it is, but I think there's a very good counter for this and I think this counter actually fixes a few things. And that counter is, let’s make combat probes take the same amount of fitting as normal probes. Right now, combat probes take a ridiculous amount of fitting and what that causes is it makes it so that any ship that wants to do combat probing is effectively just completely gimped. It can’t do anything else. The Astero can’t even fit it without fitting modules, the CovOps can fit it but basically that’s all they do, stealth bombers I think can theoretically fit it? but then they're basically ineffective and recon ship are kinda the same boat They just take so much fitting that if you want to do that, then that’s basically What You Do. So, the cloak problem and the combat probes problem, makes it so that scouting is almost always an alt activity.
So, I believe that by these two changes, what will happen is, combat probing will actually become part of a normal fleet in the same way you have an FC, and you have a logi wing and you’ve got EWAR, you’re also going to have your combat prober. And he will be with the fleet, maybe not all the time, but the idea is is that while the fleets are engaging each other in martial combat of gunfire and logi and EWAR, like we all know, there's kind of this secret war going on above the field as the combat probers are trying to probe out each other and the enemy fleet’s boosts. So the boosts are having to move around, because they have combat probers coming after them, the scouts are having to watch and try to get something useful for people, trying to get good warp-ins, and also trying to locate each other; there’s intelligence and counterintelligence; it’s that play and counterplay. Because remember, things that can’t be found on d-scan can still be probed down, so you can actually opt to hunt after the enemy prober instead of necessarily after the enemy assets. And I think that this fixes a huge problem and makes it very, very interesting. I mean, wouldn’t it be awesome if the first time you’re engaged in a fight and suddenly your combat prober is like, ‘I got him’, and the entire fleet just warps off and nails the command ship. And what are you going to do at that point? Does the enemy fleet warp in and try to help and therefore engage a fight where now they lost boosts? It just creates a very interesting scenario.
One other fix in order to make that happen is that I believe that scouts, I actually I believe that anybody, should be able to broadcast a coordinate to fleet members in system. So I should be able to be like, I’ve pinned down this person, I’m going to laze him, more or less, I’m going to broadcast him to the fleet the location of this thing that I found. Because that makes it so that scouts no longer have to try to be on field and inch their way while cloaked, because that’s not scouting. Scouting isn’t being cloaked and inching your way towards the enemy at 200m/s and hoping that you don’t get de-cloaked and then having your ally fleet warp in and then having somebody warp at zero and so you get de-cloaked and then -- That’s not what scouting is. I think it’s about watching, pointing, and then having the forces come in and blow them up.
So that’s pretty much what I think. I think that scout ships could have a primary role in fleets as opposed to an alt role in fleets, I believe that they should not necessarily get covert ops cloaks but they should somehow get d-scan and potentially overview ‘immunity’. I believe that combat probes should be easier to fit on a ship to make it so that it is a more standard-issue peice of equipment for fleets, especially that way if the prober doesn’t -- Sorry, I forgot to mention, if the prober doesn’t need to probe, they still have a ship that’s fairly decent because they’re just utilizing a utility high-slot or something like that, so you lose like a NOS, but whatever - so make it so that scouts can be combat effective despite having combat probes, make it so that people can broadcast to warp without necessarily having to be on grid with the anchor. I think that this would potentially really shake up the meta for how fleets interact with each other it may do a lot to fix combat boosters and it would generally open up a whole other dynamic of playing counterplay and kind of bring Exploration and Probing and all that stuff into a fleet utility purpose.
For extra credit, another thing I advocate is the usage for the hacking mechanic. I think it would be really cool if you could do something like hack their booster somehow in order to disable their fleet boosts or fleet communications, I don’t know. There’s all kinds of different things. You can hack a POS module to get it to shut off instead of just shooting it. But the point of the matter is, I believe that hacking should have some sort of PVP mechanic as well as just a minigame in order to get loot. I think that we have enough of those and I would like to see those kinds of things expanded.
So, there’s my thoughts, I’d would be interested in hearing any and all of your feedback, I have my post on the CSM campaign subform. I’m in the Tweetfleet Slack all the time, I am on Twitter all the time, I am very interested hearing what you have to think and I hope that you like what I have to say. So, vote for me!
This is Ashterothi, out!