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Sins of a Solar Spymaster #76: Titanic Imbalance

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Titans are the nemesis of balance in EVE. Conceived in a fit of ‘wouldn’t it be cool’ in ancient times - an era where a billion isk was actually a lot of money - Titans have continually needed ever-more drastic nerfs as they have proliferated, like a bad cold or a Ke$ha single, from a trifling handful to an exploding population of 800+, with roving gangs of these laser-armed bad decisions vengefully wiping out even newbies in afterburning Rifters, persistently refusing to die except in the face of freak accidents or ganks. If there is one safe bet in EVE, it is this: the game’s quality gets better each time CCP nerfs Titans. We now find ourselves on the threshold of yet another attempt to bring Titans under control; seven years after the beastly things were first invented.

Doomsday

One cannot avoid a feeling of deja vu. Almost three years ago I wrote about the proliferation of Titans and their grievous impact on the game; that was just before the removal of AoE Doomsdays in Dominion. In patch after patch, Titans have required ever more stern nerfs.

The Titan Timeline:

12/2005: Titan blueprints introduced in Red Moon Rising

9/2006: First Titan built

6/2007: Revelations II removes the Remote Doomsday and adds a 10 minute ‘no jump after Doomsday’ timer. Two days later saw the first combat loss of a Titan.

12/2009: Dominion removes AoE Doomsday, replacing it with a single-target nuke.

11/2011: Crucible limits single-target Doomsday to only impact capital ships, EHP cut.

4/2012: Titan scanres, tracking, and targets drastically cut to prevent subcap ‘blapping’.

Before the first combat loss of a Titan, there were less than ten of them in the game. As of March 13th, 2012, there were eight hundred and eighty.

Whenever players in a competitive game are given a powerful tool, they will use that tool to the utmost to win - ideally with the least possible risk. At release, it was possible to fire a Doomsday through a cyno to land anywhere within a system; Titans never left the shelter of POS shields - peeking out of the edge, firing a DD that would wipe out an entire fleet, and then scuttling back to safety seconds later. When Remote Doomsdays were removed and a 10-minute no-jump timer was added in Revelations II, Titans fit nanos and Nomad implants and began doing rapid-align drive-by Doomsdays - warping in, DDing, and aligning to escape before they could be tackled. When players facing Titans began tanking their ships against Doomsdays, these drive-bys stopped being solo affairs, with two or more Titans firing consecutive grid-blasting doomsdays. When the Doomsday was changed to be a single-target attack, even Interceptors werenÂ’t safe; logistics ships and command ships, the backbone of every subcapital fleet, would be sniped down in seconds. After Crucible changed the DD to only impact capitals, the blapping began.

EVE's Powerful Tool

One Titan, alone on the field, is incredibly vulnerable. But there are now so many supercaps in EVE that the safest place for a Titan is in a fleet with 20 or more other Titans. Should the Titan fleet get tackled, the Titans can create a blistering array of fire around them using capital turrets, and ‘scratch the backs’ of their companions. By stacking tracking computers and using Strong Drop boosters, Titans can easily hit even interdictors with no need for a subcapital support fleet - the usual ‘support fleet’ for Titans consists of as many webbing and neuting supercarriers and carriers as can be found. With enough remote rep and Strong Drop, the only thing a Titan fleet has to fear is a larger Titan fleet.

Once this latest way to abuse Titans was worked out, an all-too-familiar pattern reasserted itself. Just as with Titans using AoE Doomsdays to kill small handfuls of players before Dominion, Titan Blobs began to drop on anything they could cyno on top of. The only Titans who were killed during this period were either victims of bad luck due to being bumped away from their fleetmates due to physics glitches, or those dumb enough to be caught alone and ganked. The apologists of Titans - who were growing in number as the number of Titans spiraled out of control - claimed that the lack of actual Titan losses was merely a sign of the inferiority of everyone else, a refrain that has remained consistent since 2006 regardless of the iteration of Titan imbalance.

When news of this latest nerf was announced, the reaction from Titan pilots was immediate and hysterical - it was also (as are so many things in EVE) My Fault:

My Fault

“Dear CCP if do this nerf then gief back to all pilots titan skills cuz we spend 5 bil for skill and 100 bils = for titan and wasting like 3 month + for make skill AND NOW WE CANT USE THIS SHIP cuz this MITANI not have skill and isk to take titan

MR MITANI go play PREPELIX ONLINE and stop cry to CCP cuz u guys (goon) cant fly titans

OR MAKE SERVER FOR GOONS AND LET US PLAY FAIR

And CCp what prefer to have 6-7k players( goons) or 60k players ??????

Think before do wrong changes”

The hard fact is that the fault lies with the people who used Titans to annihilate subcaps en masse, and then had the poor judgment to laugh about it, congratulate themselves, and keep doing it. If the blappers hadn't gone whole-hog abusing an obviously broken mechanic, this nerf would have never happened.

They may tell themselves that the inarguable imbalance of blapping Titans was a sign of their 'skill' or 'superiority' - the same excuses offered forth throughout the history of the Titan, justifying Remote Doomsdays, AoE Doomsdays, etc etc.

Ultimately, the nemesis of titans was the poor impulse control of their own pilots - the inability, when faced with what amounted to a free bar, not to drink themselves into blundering violence and to assault the other guests.

Will This Actually Help?

EVEplosion

The changes are explicitly intended to stop Titans from being used as a counter to subcapitals, leaving them more focused as an anti-capital counter. Their gun tracking is reduced to that of a dreadnought in siege mode, the number of targets they can lock is reduced to three, and most importantly their base scan resolution is set to 5. This appears to be an ‘emergency nerf’ as it’s outside of the usual expansion release cycle, which demonstrates the intensity of the abuse.

The scan resolution hit is an interesting choice on CCPÂ’s part. Scan resolution governs lock-time, which scales based on the size of the target. Even stacking sensor boosters, it will now take a prohibitive amount of time for a Titan to lock a smaller ship. While a triple-boosted Titan might be able to lock a battleship in thirty seconds, the most offensive cases of blapping - the losses of frigates, interdictors and cruisers to Titan guns - should become a thing of the past. The tactical implications of Titans no longer being able to kill dictors is significant, as dictors are the most common form of supercapital tackler on the battlefield. That said, the scan resolution change can be gotten around by stacking target painters on the supercarriers which inevitably support Titans; if they stack target painters on a target before a Titan locks them, weÂ’re back to blapping.

Many commentators are coming to the conclusion that Titans have no business on the battlefield whatsoever, and should be revamped into a new, entirely noncombatant role, or have the ability to lock subcaps removed entirely. The most significant advocate of this reform is - perhaps ironically - Shadoo from Pandemic Legion, one of the pioneers of blapping. Personally, I don’t object to Titans being limited to an anti-capital role and still fielded in combat, but I won’t shed a tear if something as drastic as Shadoo’s plan ends up eventually implemented. The past six years has proven that abuse from Titans is as inevitable in EVE as screwups on patch days.  

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