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.
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