Countdown to EVE Online Fanfest: Tiericidal Maniacs
There is truth in the assertion that EVE Online was based on the principles of three game concepts; Elite for the grand sci-fi backdrop, Ultima Online for the brutal multiplayer sandbox and Magic: The Gathering for the intricate spaceship fitting/card deck options.
Strip away EVE Online's science fiction trim and what you're left with is an incredibly complex version of Rock, Paper, Scissors. But instead of three choices, the player has hundreds of thousands.
Every one of the 200+* spaceship types have unique qualities and attributes defining every aspect of their performance, from speed, mass and manoeuverability to the number of weapons and defence modules it can have fitted. Add to this a host of other equipment options, varying ships sizes ranging from agile frigates, through destroyers, cruisers and battlecruisers to battleships and then factor in ship sub-classes with different roles and variations and the sheer number of permutations starts to become clear.
[*I once asked spaceship savant CCP Fozzie for an exact number and even he wasn't sure. Addendum: CCP Fozzie has since contacted me to provide more solid figures for the total number of ship types in EVE Online. There are 290 player-pilotable ships and a further 49 which are either CCP ships or "half-finished concept ships".]
Even after that we've barely scratched the surface, having failed to take into account that each of the four primary factions; Amarr, Caldari, Gallente and Minmatar, each of whom have their own equivalents.
Then there's additional faction ships, from enhanced naval variants to outlandish pirate ships, advanced Tech 2 ships, versatile modular Tech 3 strategic cruisers and rare limited edition hulls (often prizes from tournaments).
And these are only the sub-capital ships. There's still the gargantuan capitals and super-capitals to factor in.
There can be no mistake: EVE Online is all about the spaceships in all their countless combinations.
I Remember When This Were All (Asteroid) Fields
It wasn't always quite so complicated. When EVE Online first shipped in 2003, each of the four factions had a small selection of frigates, cruisers and battleships (and non-combat industrials). There were no destroyers, no battlecruisers, no capitals. There was no such thing as Tech 2, let alone Tech 3. Ship fitting was simpler too, with far fewer module options to choose from.
But ten years of iteration has seen many changes and additions to New Eden's flying platforms of mass destruction. Earlier tweaks saw nerfs and buffs aplenty to specific elements; stacking penalties were introduced to combat outrageous low-slot damage enhancements, the nano nerf of '08 put an end to big ships being flown like interceptors and more recently, adjustments to hybrid weapons stopped Gallente ships from playing second fiddle to everything else.
But now even the balancing process itself has evolved.
The Great Balancing Act
Over the past year, an initiative first presented by CCP Ytterbium at Fanfest 2012, set out out to completely overhaul the entire rock, paper, scissors dynamic; mainly because everybody was flying a variation of scissors whilst the rock and paper just gathered dust.
The problem was that in each ship class, there were one or two ships which were clearly superior to the rest. This saw only four or five of the twenty or so Tech I frigates ever really being used - most frigate combat pilots swore by the Minmatar Rifter. The same problem extended throughout the other ship classes too. This was considered dull and predictable.
So it was, with the dream of the rock, the paper and the scissors once again being equals, that CCP Ytterbium set off on the herculean task of revamping every single ship. Along the way, he was joined by CCP Tallest (mining barge specialist) the aforementioned CCP Fozzie--who, in his previous incarnation as an Alliance Tournament competitor and subsequently a commentator, had shown a peerless understanding of EVE's vast stable of ships-- and more recently, another former commentator, CCP Rise.
As each class of ships was stripped of its stratified tiers and each hull was re-purposed with an optimal role in mind, the gameplay impact was significant. EVE's core combat was given a new lease of life. Suddenly, every ship posed a potential threat. The PvP combat rulebook had been torn up and thrown out of the airlock.
With Fanfest now imminent, the initiative the playerbase dubbed 'tiericide' nears completion (at least for the sub-capital classes) as new guy CCP Rise works on the battleship rebalances. In Reykjavik next week, those combat pilots benefiting from the shot in the arm EVE Online's PvP is currently enjoying will likely be queueing up to shake the hands of the stat-juggling geniuses from Team 5-0 and Team Game of Drones.
[Check out our other daily Countdown to Fanfest features for more information and speculation on EVE Online's Second Decade and the Party on Top of the World.]
Image Credit: EVE Sub-Capital Starship Chart by Davik Rendar