Is there any explanation as to why all T1 Caldari frigates, destroyers, and cruisers (and perhaps most of the T1 Caldari ships in general) have the best numbers in the explosive department? This type of damage is very infrequently dealt by NPCs in the Caldari space, whereas kin and thermal are the bread and butter. Isn’t it somewhat counterintuitive? In order to see the ‘correct’ shield resistance profile, you need to go up to T2 ships.
General rule: Shields protect against “physical” damage types, armour against “energy” damage types - sort of: “armour can be damaged by a rock or explosive, but not by shining a light on it”. Shields being a sort of magic effect thingie that magically blocks physical things moving through it in a hand-wavy nonsense way.
There is a cost to changing the fundamental characteristics of those systems - so “adding better EM resistances to the shields that naturally handled physical things” needs engineering: either a module (hardener of some sort) or an upgrade to the underlying hull to support it - that’s where T2 hulls come in. A T2 ship isn’t a “generally better ship” it’s a “more specialised ship” optimised for a specific task - in the case of Caldari ships part of that specialisation is to be “better against the specific threats they face”. Hence a shield resistance profile that has a built in hardness towards the local rats. If you notice they still have no natural shield resistance to EM in the T2 ships.
Sometimes things do work out: A common threat to Amarr is from Blood Raiders and the Sansha - they both do EM/Thermal damage, something that armour will handle quite well. Which is nice since Amarr favours big slabs of armour.
The issue of Caldari ships against Guristas isn’t as bad as you make it sound: for example, while the Drake does have a 50% shield resist to Explosive, it’s 40% to Kinetic which is the significant part of the damage from a Gurista rat (about 80% kinetic or so). Fling on a Hardener or two - making that T1 ship more specialised - and you can be a better ratter against Guristas.
To add on:
The resistance profiles are partly based on “this makes sense” the way Terak explained it and are based on the game’s lore.
The base (Tech 1) resistances for ships are:
A small increase (+10%) is added to the T1 resistance profile based on who the racial “enemy” of that faction’s ship is.
For example: Since the Caldari are the “enemy” of the Gallente, all Tech 1 Gallente ships have a slightly higher resistance to Kinetic damage (because that is the “preferred” damage type of the Caldari).
Conversely, Caldari ships gain a little bit more Thermal resistance as that is the “preferred” damage type of the Gallente.
The same paradigm is true between the Minmatar (with a preference for Explosive damage) and Amarr (with a preference for EM damage).
Tech 2 ships take this to the next level by introducing large resistance bonuses against the primary and secondary damage types their respective “enemy” faction.
As far as NPCs are concerned… I am not sure why they are set up the way they are.
If I had to speculate?
I would say the DEVs, in the midst of a chemical haze, simply said “yoooooooo… this faction deals this damage type, this pirate faction… -sips beer- … is based on that faction! So now make that pirate - BURP- faction deals that same damage and weak against it at the same time! Brilliant!”
Honestly… don’t think too hard about this. It is a VERY OLD paradigm that dates back to the beginnings of EVE. Asking for it to change now so it “makes sense” in the way you are framing it would be about as futile as asking for our submarine physics to be changed to zero-G.
See: It was originally done for “flavor” and “gameplay” reasons and now so many people are used to it that it is effective “baked” into the game. Just go with it.
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