Monday, 29 June 2015

BB64: New E-War not needed, and Defenders against drones

Torpedo! Torpedo! Torpedo! With the Aegis release we will see missile boats get their own version of the tracking enhancer and the tracking computer. On the forums there have been calls for new 'missile defence eWar' to counter these new modules. Is this needed? Are smartbomb 'firewalls' enough? Do defender missiles need an overhaul to make them actually worth using? Do we need the missile version of the remote tracking disruptor? Or do we go all Star Trek and have Point-Defence Phaser Banks? Banter on!

Effect of the new modules

I've always found missiles to actually be the best weapon system... with a caveat attached to it.

Now, I understand that on paper they don't compare with the raw firepower of turrets, nor the engagement range of drones. There's the issue of travel time, which I only consider an issue for large fleets and their insta-pop philosophy.

The caveat is that I nearly only use frigates and small weaponed ships, and most of my missile fits tend to be rockets. Travel time is rarely an issue when you're within spitting distance of who you're unloading at.

And missiles are intensely reliable, and the new "tracking" modules make that even more so.

Provided you can maintain lock and range, you will always be putting out the same damage onto your opponent. This gives you great wiggle room in engagement range. You can go point blank, or kite out to scram range without changing ammunition. This little Rifter-style trick is a lot easier to pull off with missile boats.

They will also keep firing without capacitor. Neuts are fairly redundant against missile boats, particularly if they're running buffer or ancillary booster fits. Again, this makes missiles reliable under cap warfare.

It doesn't end there though. One of the most underused ammunition types are Friend or Foe missiles. FoF missiles are great to keep in your hold for the annoying jammers and sensor dampers out there. They'll keep pumping out missiles even under ECM, meaning your kiting Condor still has a chance of taking out something, even if you can't target back. Just, er... be careful if you're in a gang.

That reliability in most situations is balanced out by the middling damage output. Caldari compensate for the fairly low firepower by massive hull bonus or lots of launchers. Minmatar balance them with drones. Khanid ships balance it by being bricks.

These new modules... aren't really going to do much to affect that balance. They're going to make a slight difference in firepower application, making them even more reliable than ever, and it'll be nice to finally get the full damage application out of the Talwar running a target painter. More important than that, it'll give an extra option for the lows rather than a full ballistic control unit. That'll be nice, considering how tight CPU fitting usually is on missile boats.

Of course, this is spoken as a small ship pilot. I'm sure someone driving bigger boats will get more mileage out of these new modules. But as far as little ships go, I don't see much changing in the way we will fit or fly. I don't think we'll need a missile specific E-War to counter them.

Defender missiles

That said, Defenders could do with a more general use. Right now they're too niche. I've seen a few suggestions thrown around, and one I think has the most merit is giving them a role of shooting down drones too. Seeing as how a number of frigate hulls now carry one or two drones as a secondary, it might see a bit more use, particularly on Rifters with their utility high slot. That would go a long way towards addressing the Tristan dominance, and balancing the advantage kiting drone users enjoy.

It would also make the idea of escort frigates/destroyers more viable. A single frigate with Defender missiles in its highs could support cruisers by picking off drones, all while still contributing in the usual way of tackling and applying firepower. Since all cruisers carry at least a few drones, this would be quite significant... assuming they simply aren't primaried off the field. In which case at least one salvo is wasted on a frigate popping drones.

I don't see much wrong with that, unless programming them to target drones is a problem. If a ship simply loads only Defender missiles to exclusively counter drone boats, they'll still need to spend the time reloading back to normal missiles to apply firepower again. Even a Tristan without drones can do significant damage in that 10s reload time. And if that Tristan has Neuts instead of turrets, well, that's just the fitting roulette we all play.

Actually, having written it out like that, Defenders targeting drones seems like a really good idea...


  1. I'd just prefer Defenders to be a point-defence like system. Auto targetting and launching while the module is active. micromanaging incoming missiles is just ridiculous. Give'em a long reload time, if necessary and make def. missile size matter.

    Defender missiles targetting drones - I'm no so sure. I'll have to think about that one. Interesting idea . . .

    1. make that auto-targetting incoming missiles received from the targetted ship. i.e. you target a ship, you set your defenders against that ship. they don't do anything unless that ship launches missiles, then the defender missiles will do their thing. if you loose lock on that missle boat, your defenders can't take their missiles. in fleet engagements, you can only stop specific missiles if you target that specific ship. You can't have defenders trying to stop any missile

    2. I agree with you about the auto-launch. Trying to time your defender salvos against incoming fire would be a micromanagement nightmare in a dogfight.

      I'd leave it as any missiles fired against your ship though. As they are a defensive module, I don't see why they should be limited by locks, when shields and armour aren't. The balance would be to have a lower rate of fire compared to launchers, so you can't negate all firepower.

      And of course, they'll be tweaking missile HP anyway, meaning that slower, larger missiles could take more defender hits, allowing for longer refire times.

  2. I'm a missile/drone boat pilot, gunnery skills will come later. That said I like the idea a automatic defender missile system that while active will engage hostile missiles and drones. If you are willing to give up a utility slot for the module and stock ammo it should be worth having. RoF and DPS will be what balances it, especially if it only targets things hostile to you and not your whole fleet. If it will be a fleet wide defense then it should be targeted against 1 enemy and their missiles/drones or non-automated.

  3. I could see defenders as a point defense system, but I'd have few suggestions:

    create a highslot module with no turret or missile requirements called "point defense" in small medium and large sizes with capacitor use/fitting equivalent to those hull sizes. While active it consumes defender missiles or some other point defense ammo (racial flavor?) which automatically attacks ships in the following order: Missiles/Drones targeting the ship, Missiles/Drones targeting other ships, nearest hostile ship. It does damage big enough to kill small missiles in a single shot, and drones in several. Point defenses should scale as the size goes up so that large point defense systems can handle the larger missiles/drones, but suffer with vulnerability to smaller threats like small drones or light missiles. At the same time CCP should introduce some destroyer or cruiser hulls that can fit medium/large point defense systems and are designed for the point defense platforms (alternatively, give bonuses to existing hulls for this)

    The reason to use them over say smartbombs is as follows.
    1) target discrimination
    2) point defense systems should have a range of roughly 40 KM, making their effective defense range cover entire small engagements, but short enough that manuverability or redundancy is required to cover an entire fleet.
    3) They don't require webs as a way to pin down drone targets. The draw back is that they're limited as to use.

    1. I'd prefer defender missiles to be actively targetted. i.e. you need to pick the ship you're defending against. Sort of like now a sensor damp only hits the ship you're targetting but helps anyone who is being affected by it. In this way, you pick a ship to defend against for anyone subject to its attack. But missiles coming from other ships aren't affected. I'm also not sure about drone defense, but that's just me.

    2. The only issue I have with the lock requirement is that it makes Defenders less effective than a sensor damp or ECM. Not really a big deal, so I agree on that now. And if they're kept in standard launchers, you can always swap out for FoF missiles, making them more flexible.

      The drone defence is all about making it more worthwhile than just fitting more firepower. The reduction of some incoming DPS against some hulls is not really a compelling reason to fit Defenders. The majority of ships have drones though, giving Defenders a vastly improved application... and whilst giving some more hard counters to sentry drones.