Friday, September 25, 2009

ECM

European Christian Mission? Enterprise Content Management? East Coast Mechanical? Nope, nope, nope. Today we will be talking about Electronic Counter Measures. For a quick background on what this means in real life, take a look at this wonderful Wikipedia article. All done? Good. Now let me throw you against a giant wall of text about ECM as it applies to Eve and what needs to be changed.

Just in case anyone is not quite familiar with ECM in Eve-Online, it is a chance based mechanic that causes the targeted ship to lose its lock and ability to lock on other ships for an extended period of time (20 seconds to be exact). A ship that fits ECM modules can basically target another ship (or ships), activate it's modules and then prevent it (or them) from keeping or obtaining a lock on any other ships. The discussion as to whether or not it is overpowered or balanced is certainly not a new one and tends to be very polarizing. The truth is that ECM is the most ridiculous form of electronic warfare in Eve and that there is absolutely no place for it in the game in its current overpowered state.

None of the forms of race specific E-War are really overpoweringly effective when used on a ship that is not designed to specialize in it and this includes ECM. The problems and imbalances really begin to manifest when we discuss Recons or other ships that are specifically designed via ship bonuses and module layouts to take advantage of that races electronic warfare. Let's start with a rough estimate of what all the recon ships can do:

(1) Arazu/Lachesis: Can scramble from longer range which provides an advantage against faster ships, especially those utilizing a microwarpdrive. Can disrupt the targeting range or targeting times slightly to multiple ships or significantly to one ship (assuming a standard fit with three remote sensor damps). Does low DPS. Can generally operate around 30km to 40km from the target.

(2) Rapier/Huginn: Can half the speed of two to three targets or can nearly stop the movement of a single target. I generally do not ever see people fitting target painters to take advantage of the bonus as the mid slots are better used for other modules. Does moderate DPS. Can generally operate around 20km to 30km from the target.

(3) Pilgrim/Curse: Can cap out any single target or seriously hurt the capacitor pool of multiple targets. Can significantly effect the optimal or tracking of a turret boat or two (depending on how many tracking disruptors are fit). Both cap warfare and tracking disruptors are very effective but their effect is extremely limited to only certain types of ships that are active tanked and require cap to fire their guns (lasers/hybrids). Very vulnerable to missile ships or anything with a passive tank. Does moderate DPS. The Curse can operate from around 20k to 30km while the Pilgrim has to operate inside of 12km in order to take advantage of it's neutralizer bonuses.

(4) Falcon/Rook: Can jam any type of ship but is weaker to those that have a naturally high sensor strength or have ECCM fitted and running. All ships are significantly affected by the inability to lock as they cannot keep points, webs, remote armor repairers, guns or other targeted modules running and drones cannot be instructed to attack once the lock is lost. Depending on the skills of the pilot and the fit of ship, can equally affect several ships. Jammers are chance based and can fail. Standard fits do very low or no DPS. Can generally operate around 40k to 50km away from it's targets.

Reading over these, it might sound like things are pretty balanced but in practice they are not. The problems? There are a couple:

(1) ECM is a much more effective and abstract form of electronic warfare than the rest. Damps only have a fairly small effect on the targeting abilities of a ship. If you're in close or someone has already targeted you, they are generally useless. Webs only slow ships down to 50-60% of their speed and it does nothing to prevent drones and guns from still being fired. Neuts give cap dependant ships a hard time but there are plenty of ships and fits that do not rely that heavily on their cap to be able to fight and many ships fit capacitor boosters as they are effective and useful modules in many situations. By comparison, ECM has a much more blanketing and devastating effect. Losing lock has a negative impact upon every single target in the game. There is no ship or ship type that will not be very significantly affected by it. All other forms of electronic warfare target a specific aspect of their opponents capabilities and effects them in a narrow or limited way.

(2) ECM ships can neutralize too many targets at once. Most other forms of E-War can either disrupt several ships to a small degree or one to a high degree. ECM can impair several very significantly, almost to the point of them being completely useless. ECM and it's associated Recon ships need to follow the same pattern as all other Recons.

How do we fix it? It isn't easy to understand how any of these would work without some significant testing but possible solutions include:

(1) Add stacking penalties. If a ship is targeted by more than one jammer, have each jammer beyond the first become penalized in its effectiveness. This would encourage pilots flying ECM ships to stop filling every mid slot with an ECM module and perhaps fit propulsion, tank or other forms of electronic warfare similar to how other Recon ships do.

(2) Make ECCM more effective. Of the top of my head I can think of a case where a Falcon permanently jammed three battleships that all had ECCM modules running and overheated during the entire duration of a fight. It is absurd that ships can fit a module specific to countering one very specific type of electronic warfare and still not have it make a difference. ECCM should either make a ship immune to ECM or should be increased very significantly in strength.

(3) Remove or redesign ECM completely. This is probably my favorite suggestion because frankly, ECM is a lazy excuse for E-War and simply does not contribute towards generating fun and/or interesting engagements. As to what it could be changed to, the possibilities are endless. Modules that considerably reduce the velocity of missiles? Modules that lower a targets armor or shield resists? How about a module that creates duplicates of your own fleets ships in space and on the overview, similar to how chaff would function against radar? Your guess is as good as mine.

The bottom line is that ECM is too powerful and too generic of a capability to exist in Eve. People can argue all they want that it is chance based, that Caldari only gets one type of E-War instead of two and that there are counters to ECM (like fitting ECCM kitted out snipers) but the actual real in-game experiences and results don't lie. ECM ships and Falcon's specifically are overused and cause fights to become extremely imbalanced, uncompetitive and frustrating. There is no place for such a mechanic in Eve.

I expect a couple whiny responses to this about how I am crying or I should just bring my own Falcons or about how my penis is small. All I can say is that this is my opinion and... well... it's right.

31 comments:

Robert said...

As I was reading your post, expecting you to tear into ECM as pure evil, I was all ready to comment with 'Just use ECCM to counter'

Then I read your note about how ECCM seems to be near worthless.

Wow.

How come people are not screaming like mad about this?

Latrodanes said...

I think of all the counters I've heard to the ECM "problem" in EvE, globally strengthening ECCM seems the best answer. Maybe, even add a remote-ECCM module to actively engage jamming vessels. Taking it a bit farther, perhaps an ECCM-bonused hull. Another T2 destroyer option or a ship based on a logistics-hull. If one side brings jammers, the other could have a dedicated counter-jammer vessel to shut them down and/or have better capabilities inherent in their own ECCM modules. Remote ECCM would be odds-based.

Kirith Kodachi said...

I wrote on this before with my thoughts:
http://www.ninveah.com/2009/01/problem-with-ecm.html

f0st3r said...

You are a crying baby with a tiny penis.. This I know..
But its a cute little penis..

Lachesis said...

Falcon in 11 days \o/

Also, Cerberus (great Anti-ECM platform) in 20 days \o/

But yeah, ECM is overpowered, even though I love flying ECM boats now. Bottom line, even though it sucks, is that we *have* to start bringing ECM on every roam.

Somewhere in Space... said...

Easy fix: ECCM not only boosts sensor strength but lowers the duration of the jam effect.

Fixes ECM being overpowered, fixes people's incessant whines over how OMG GAMEBREAKING ecm is. (Which it isn't)

I mean hey, the sooner all tactical depth to fleet composition is removed the better right? This way every battle is just a brainless slugfest.

Omgah said...

ECM makes me proud to be Caldari, that and missile spam. Also love the hybrids.

I think ECM should be changed so that it randomly deactivates a module on the ship. And stops it from being reactivated for x amount of cycles. Add a diminishing return and you get a interesting Ewar mechanic.Then when the ECM cycle again it picks a new module to disrupt.

Kyle Langdon said...

I came expecting your usual humor. I felt it was lacking. This post was too informative to actually be Spec. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO OUR SPECTRE!?

Andrea skye said...

Yeh, ecm needs to be removed. Cant think of the amount of times we have lost a fight because they had a falcon and we did not. Its also same other way around too weve won fights because we had a falcon and they did not.

Ive got several anti ecm ships now, but the problem is, how do you know when to fly them? you dont meet a falcon everytime you go out, so why bring a ship to specifically counter one kind of ship?

You dont really have to do that with any other kind of ship, so why a falcon?

TokageChan said...

I like Somewhere in Space's suggestion, especially the lower duration. Maybe a little more difficult to implement, but lowering your jammed duration means even if jammed there will be a small window where you can relock and perhaps fire before they get their next jam attempt.

Toka

Xavied said...

Just to keep things in some sort of perspective according to Sollan Dyl's jamming calc a max skilled pilot flying a fully rigged and fitted falcon has a 43.2% chance of jamming an average BS with 2 Multispecs (57.1% if using 3). So, unless my maths has failed me, the chance of jamming out all 3 BS simultaneously with 7 multispecs is only 10.7% so your experience is by no means the norm.

If ECM has to be changed however I much prefer Kirith's ideas. Instead of nerfing ECM boats to the point of uselessness, simply change how they are flown. If a falcon can only fit a maximum of 4 ECM modules it makes trying to jam 2 ships risky and 3-4 near suicide but at the same time leaves the ship with spare mid slots to fit some sort of tank or speed module and as such not negate the ship to the scrapheap.

At the same time I would also look at improving ECCM but wouldn't make it a boost to sensor strength. Right now the main problem I see with it is that the module takes up a valuable fitting slot whilst not giving any other bonus. The counters to other forms of E-WAR boats (microwarps, cap boosters, etc) generally have further applications too. As such I would look at having ECCM modules boost something else aswell, perhaps increasing scan res or decreasing sig radius.

Kovorix said...

I agree with pretty much everything in this blog, but I think perhaps the greatest 2 issues with ECM are these:

1. It's absurdly easy to fly and use (boring, i would never want to fly an ecm boat)

2. There is no essentially no counter-piloting you can pull against ECM, unlike with all other forms of electronic warfare.

TDs, you move closer, minimize transversal, switch ammos. Neuts, you time your cap booster correctly. Sensor damps, you move closer. Ect. ect.

With ECM, there is nothing you can do in a fight to keep from being jammed apart from killing the jammer, which can happen only if they goof or miss a cycle (in which case they should warp out anyway).

Nick Riddick said...

Interesting read, I was in the middle of posting this before I read your post. Let me know what you think.

http://thechroniclesofriddick.blogspot.com/2009/09/ecm-and-why-it-does-not-need-more-nerf.html

OJ said...

I wouldn't scrap ECM, as there is nothing stopping either side in a battle from bringing it, but I do think that it is overpowered.

To fix this, I would make ECCM modules more powerful, and I would also add more ways to attain ECCM effects. ECCM rigs, ECCM drones, and remote ECCM would all be great. The ECCM module should also decrease the ship's signature so that it's not a wasted module where there are no enemy ECM ships.

00sage00 said...

Agreed. When ECM is so powerful that in Celebrity Death Matches we have to ban them, that's a problem. When ECM is so powerful that ships fill all their TANK slots with ECM, that's a problem. No one fills their mids with tracking disruptors or webs the way they do with ECM. It's ridiculous.

Lars Lodar said...

I think ECM is more or less fine the way it is at least in the mechanics.

I do however agree that ECCM needs a boost and possibly a second benefit such as high scan res, etc.

As annoying as it is to be jammed, the balance is in the fact that ECM ships have little to no DPS like you stated. They are also very fragile and slow to boot. If you miss a cycle you can't do anything for 20 seconds with that module.

Any perceived threat is enough to make most ECM pilots GTFO even if it's a frig because they can pin you/provide a warp in.

Spectre said...

SoS: ECM adds tactical depth? How? By removing the ability for half the people on the field to even be able to participate in combat? Your argument is silly.

Skye: Exactly. Having to intentionally bring ships specifically fitted just in case you encounter a gang with a few "I WIN" button ships is really ridiculous.

Xavied: Nobody really uses multispecs... their chances were probably a bit better thanks to having specific racial jammers for our ships. That being said, I realize that ECM is chanced based and that one specific encounter isn't the complete norm.

Nick: I posted a reply to your post on your blog.

Nick Riddick said...

Thanks, I posted a rebuttal =)

Htrag said...

meh... damps are awesome. ECM has been already been nerfed from hell to back. Anything used as a force multiplier.. ECM, logistics etc can be debated as overpowerd especially if one side is fielding them and the other is not. The fact that a debate on the subject is so polarizing could be indicative of their balance and effectiveness.

Compared to a web recon though.. yah thats not quite fair.

OJ said...

That's a good point. Where's the outrage about remote reppers?

Anonymous said...

When I'm heading into a fight, and see a couple rapiers or arazus - I often think 'damn, wish I hadn't brought my vaga'

When I'm heading into a fight and see a couple pilgrims, I think 'shit, brutix is not good'

When I'm heading into a fight and see a couple falcons, I think 'fuck, shoulda stayed docked'

antithaca said...

Not buying it spec, and your post is late. All "because of Falcon" jokes and whines have already been nerfed by CCP.

It sounds to me like you [all] need to come to grips with reality. If you're a roaming pirate, intel is going to be tought. Ie, you never know what you're going to meet or need shipwise.

"Hope for the best, plan for the worst" Right?

The best anti-ECM platform? Your very own ECM.

Deal - you don't all get to roam around in trick DPS-doers all the time and kill noobs. Sometimes, you'll need to run support (like ECM) to make your fleet effective.

Life.

Helicity Boson said...

The solution is very fucking simple.

ECM SHOULD BE LIKE TRACKING DISRUPTORS FOR MISSILE BOATS.

TADAAA

A working, balanced option.

Kovorix said...

No, Helicity, cause then missles would go from tied as the worst weapon system to the absolute worst weapon system.

And nobody whines about logistics because you can target and kill logistics, or even dps through it's reps.

And @antithaca, I don't think anybody will debate that fleet diversity is an excellent thing to promote and a great aspect of EVE online. But when your fleet is better off fielding 4x falcons than 1x falcon 1x rapier 1x arazu 1x pilgrim (or any other support, I'm just naming the other cloaky recons) then there is something wrong with the game. period. on another note, your name is anti-my home town :(

Yankunytjatjara said...

I have a suspicion that pirates' opinions are skewed against ECM simply because they love small ships, but these have small sensor strengths. For every case of a falcon jamming three BS there's a case of ships keeping the lock against multiple ECM boats - see the many ECM failures in the tourney, for example. Even PL lost a rook, one shotted by a baddon I think.

Perhaps you guys should invest in those new +7 strength implants, that'd make a frigate immediately half as likely to be jammed. They'll be expensive for a while but then they'll settle down to acceptable levels, they're a low grade implant.

OJ said...

I think that some of these concerns and suggestions are really great. Why don't you start your own (or find an existing) thread on ECM on the CSM Assembly Hall forum? If enough people complain, CCP *considers* fixing it!

http://www.eveonline.com/ingameboard.asp?a=channel&channelID=752166

Yargok said...

Easy proof why ECM is too good.

Take a look at the Alliance tournament 7, ROOK ROOK ROOK ROOK ROOK ROOK ROOK ROOK ROOK ROOK.. oh look.. A ROOK!

Koolaid said...

For anyone who thinks ECM isn't overpowered: watch the alliance tourney. Just watch it. I dare you.

Personal Fix for ECM?
Keep it so it still breaks target lock, but allow the ship to immediately begin targetig again. This perma-jammed buisness is brutal. Then you can lower the cool-down/cap cost etc. and fiddle around with various aspects to make it effective and balanced again.

Koolaid Man

is python recruiting? ;p

Anonymous said...

For anyone who thinks ECM is overpowered, just look at the alliance tournament 7.

Apart from Pandemic Legion, having a Rook in your team was pretty much inviting the kiss of death. They're the first ship to be primaried, they have pissweak tanks, and the counter to them is trivial (call them primary, or use ECCM). Pandemic Legion won due to their use of bombs and attention to the Circle of Two's destroyers, the ECM was just a side dish.

The reason ECM pilots fill all their "TANK" slots with ECM is that they have to in order for the ship to be useful. If your ECM ship only removes one enemy ship from combat, you may as well have brought along another DPS ship instead. DPS wins over ECM, every time.

If you encounter an ECM ship, the counter is DPS. They have paper thin tanks, so they have to flee the moment they get targeted. You cannot stop an ECM module half way through a cycle in order to start jamming the ships targeting you.

If you fit ECCM you drastically reduce your chances of getting jammed (reducing chance to jam by 50%, meaning the ECM ship has to use twice as many jammers on you). With two fitted you are practically immune to jamming (a Scorpion would have to use all eight jammers, assuming no AB or tank). ECCM is a mid slot, which is not needed for armour tanking RR fleets.

The only thing "wrong" with ECM is that the effect is immediately visible. Since brainless PvPers think that they're the most important person in the world, they figure that if they can't target anything, the game must be broken - regardless of the fact that the rest of their squad is just fine, and shooting the wrong target (shoot the Falcon/Rook/Blackbird, not the Abaddon that is currently receiving RR from three fleetmates).

If you're not fitting ECCM and you're not calling ECM ships as primary targets, you are going to get jammed. Tracking disruption is just as bad as ECM, with the added bonus that you get to waste ammo trying to shoot close-orbiting Curses in the meantime.

Set your drones to assist a fleetmate, you don't need a target lock to use your drones.

Please folks, go and use ECCM and then come back and complain that it's no use. One single ECCM module means that you halve the effectiveness of any ECM boat - ou can't say that about tracking computers. ECM also has to be chosen specifically for the race you're attempting to jam. People using tracking disruptors and neuts don't have to worry about the race of ship they're attacking.

daniel said...

ECM is to easy to beat, its just everyone wants to lock>shoot>kill. anything that stops that apparently requires an instant nerf.

If your a missile boat, bring FOF missiles and laugh as his jamming does bugger all.

Drone boat? even easier, either target them with drones before he jams you or like someone else said set them to assist.

Gun boat? Ok turrets dont have a immediate way to deal with ecm but most gun boats do have drone bays so you will still win against ECM.

O and this doesnt even include using eccm which by the way isnt useless like everyone makes out to be, maybe people should try using it?

Like someone whined ecm ships fill their med slots with ecm while other EW doesnt, er well maybe thats why its so effective? ecm ships are using 4+ ecm modules and other EW ships are 1-2.
How effective do you think 4 webs would be? or 4 sensor damps?

To many people jump on the bandwagon and dont do their own research.

Anonymous said...

While you have every right to have your opinion, I think it's crap. Sure, ECM makes the life of one (or more) pilot(s) hell, consider that these ECM ships, because of their strength at locking down a target, have -crap- for EHP and do almost nil for DPS. I can't take a blackbird or falcon on a mission unless I've got a BS/BC/Cruiser to go with and do some DPS. ECM by itself, without a fleet, is worthless unless you're running away. Frankly, I appreciate that aspect: without ECM to break target locks, I'm as good as space dust in any fight. Consider -that- before you say "woe to the ECM targets, for they can't pew pew."

I agree with the previous anonymous poster - modify your tactics accordingly and buck up (e.g. primary the ECM ship.) You can't win every fight and you never will. Sometimes, you just don't have a chance. Welcome to the world.