Updated Tue, Jan 26, 2010 by The Mittani
News is beginning to leak about Eve Online's upcoming expansion 'Dominion'. Some of the rumored changes to the Titan's Doomsday attack has gotten the Mittani 's attention and in the latest Sins of the Solar Spymaster, the Mittani talks about the imbalance the Titan's Doomsday brought to Eve Online and why the rumored changes are a good thing.
Things reached a breaking point in the invasion and conquest of Delve, between February and June 2009. Titans have become so commonplace by this point that the loss of a Titan in combat doesn't impact the course of a war, yet the power of a doomsday to annihilate a fleet hasn't changed. Small gangs of even five or eight ships found themselves being doomsdayed by the ever-more-ubiquitous 'bored Titan pilot' with nothing better to do. At the victory celebration in Delve, 25 allied titans doomsdayed a carrier in a demonstration of both raw force and hilarious game imbalance.
News is beginning to leak steadily about the upcoming Dominion expansion and its planned changes to the sovereignty mechanics, both from official channels like the CCP blogs, and from conversations with developers at events like PAX. Of all the radical shifts contemplated, such as de-linking sovereignty and pos war (at long last!), it is the rumored removal of the hated doomsday weapon from Titans that excites me the most. Allegedly, "...in the expansion this weapon is being changed from an area-effect to a single-target one."
When we had last heard from CCP regarding doomsdays, it was back in May in Vegas and CCP NotSeleeneAnymore (I forget his official name) was discussing a range of options for superweapon changes, but an explicit removal of doomsdays wasn't yet on the table. In the intervening months, it appears that good sense has triumphed over caution, and now the lead designer of the expansion is heralding their removal to the press.
This is a big deal. Not only because doomsdays themselves were a terrible thing, but the rise and fall of the Titan as a power in EVE correlates strongly with how sensible or foolish the dev team is at managing the game. If I was to pick the three most unbalancing and ridiculous things that CCP has introduced, based on their impact on New Eden, they would be (in no particular order): Hiring CCP T20, introducing the Tech 2 BPO lottery system, and doomsdays. T20 not only helped invent the T2 BPO lottery, but he was caught in the developer corruption scandal which kicked off the Great War; the tech 2 bpo lottery created a persistent and egregious market imbalance that lasted for many years, and Titan doomsdays have wreaked havoc on fleet combat ever since their introduction. T20 is gone, the T2 BPO lottery has been replaced quite successfully by invention, and now at long last doomsdays are on the chopping block.
It probably sounded like a great idea, years ago, after quite a few beers. Capital ships were already there, why not make supercapital ships! And the mighty Titan, largest of them all, to be a centerpiece of nullsec warfare! And let's give it a REALLY BIG GUN. And that big gun would evaporate an entire fleet at the press of one button, which, while amusing at first, grows tiresome after the two hundredth time.
Even before the first Titan was produced, the rumor of these ships had a profound influence on the politics of 0.0. Alliances like Band of Brothers and Ascendant Frontier would invade and destroy the supercapital assembly arrays of their rivals simply to prevent a Titan from being produced. The famous siege of EC-8PR, where G/IRON/TRUST lost their supercapital production facilities to a combined BoB/ASCN/5 force, foreshadowed the future of large-scale powerbloc alliance warfare. Similarly, Mercenary Coalition was hired against The Big Blue in Geminate purely to remove their CSAA.
Once Ascendant Frontier created the first Titan, all hell broke loose. Band of Brothers had hoped to make theirs first, and promptly invaded ASCN. Balance issues were immediately apparent: doomsdays could be fired remotely, with the Titan in a safe location, the weapon activated and transmitted through a cynosural field opened on the target fleet. In this era Titans did die, but never while piloted actively in combat. Titans could only be destroyed through trickery or accident, either the pilot logging out of the game incorrectly due to incompetence or using a spy to trigger a similar broken logoff. This was before Heavy Interdictors were introduced, and it was essentially impossible to tackle a Titan or otherwise prevent it from escaping any combat.
Against the backdrop of the escalating Great War, the Doomsday came to represent everything that was wrong with the game. The efforts of hundreds of people would be rendered irrellevant in one button-click, and the Titans themselves were completely untouchable. Something had to be done. In May 2007, Bein Glorious began to write the Titan Manifesto, a 30 page document summing up every conceivable argument in favor or against the Titans as they currently stood. While the suggestions of the Manifesto were not explicitly used, CCP considered the document at length, and in the June 2007 Revelations II patch some balance was restored to the game. Remote doomsdays were removed entirely; now, if a Titan wanted to vaporize a fleet, it had to put itself at risk.
The impact was immediate. The first Titan killed in actual combat died two days after this patch; Shrike's first of four Avatars was destroyed by Goonswarm in 46DP-O. Yet while the gross imbalance of the remote doomsday was restrained, the number of doomsday-bearing ships was rapidly proliferating. Revelations II ushered in the era of the "Nano Titan", Titans which could fire a doomsday and align to warp out within fifteen seconds. Since individual Titans could be caught and killed, alliances began to use Titans in tandem. The "Double Doomsday", and in some cases triple-doomsdays, became de rigeur. One imbalance had been removed, but more arrived every day.
Things reached a breaking point in the invasion and conquest of Delve, between February and June 2009. Titans have become so commonplace by this point that the loss of a Titan in combat doesn't impact the course of a war, yet the power of a doomsday to annihilate a fleet hasn't changed. Small gangs of even five or eight ships found themselves being doomsdayed by the ever-more-ubiquitous 'bored Titan pilot' with nothing better to do. At the victory celebration in Delve, 25 allied titans doomsdayed a carrier in a demonstration of both raw force and hilarious game imbalance. In addition to being a pretty light show, the video of this may have been the final straw for the CCP.
Regardless of what ultimately moved CCP to remove the doomsday, this news is a great indicator of competence on the part of the dev team. The invention system took an utterly broken part of the game which was obviously unfair - the tech 2 lottery - and created an interesting, balanced profession out of its ashes. Titans are a cool concept and have a vital and interesting purpose - flashy weapons and jump bridges - but the idea of the doomsday itself is unsalvagable. There has been a lot of discussion of possible replacement superweapons that won't ruin fleet combat, such as Freespace-style capital beam lasers; done intelligently, supercapitals could be a source of interest in the game, rather than disgust.