Formation flight: four birds with one stone

In Eve, we put the summary at the beginning!
Especially in realllly long posts…

TLDR: In large scale fighting, we’ve stripped almost all of the player selected choices away from the players and reduced them to “F1 Monkies”. The facade of individual choice in scale fighting needs to be addressed, and in order to streamline larger fights, we need to adopt formation flying and install this new mechanic of Squadrons. Players can go afk, make dinner, babysit the kids, do some homework, all while watching the battle unfold, ready to take the space-tesla off of autopilot in the event of a failure. FCs get to play space chess, people get to enjoy non-laggy fleet fights. Everyone is happy.

Concept
After participating for many years in all scales of combat as both a line member and a fleet commander, I’ve found certain aspects of the largest scales of combat to be the most prudent in bringing new players into the game, but also the most misleading in terms of how much compelling gameplay exists there. My idea is to bring several issues to the forefront of discussion, and then crush them all with one (hopefully possible, technically speaking) sweeping blow.

I will hope to address the following:

  1. The intrigue and appeal of large scale fighting (media, news, etc)
  2. The issue of server loading, necessity for calculations, (and TiDi)
  3. The actual strategy (and tools of strategy) for these large scale battles
  4. Individual pilot choices during, and gameplay enjoyment of this aspect

Preface: What are you trying to accomplish here?
I want large scale fights to be exactly as they’re marketed. I want a lag-free experience, at full, real-time speed, and I want to be able to control my fleets (sometimes multiple) with pinpoint accuracy. The overarching goal (and issue) is this awkward juxtaposition between a wide sandbox style of gameplay where every individual’s choices have an impact, and the necessity to take every single action away from players during large scale combat. In trying to accomplish both goals, we not only misrepresent the game to people, but we overload servers, crash nodes, drag battles out and make them particularly un-fun, and also out of reach for many players.

From a server’s point of view, we’re individually calculating every ship’s topography, movements, and actions, including some very complex calculations, only to have them all fit the same ship, with the same skills, approach the same person, and shoot the same target. This is madness.

This is how we can fix it:

  1. A new UI element is introduced to fleet menus: “Join a Squadron”
    (except this label has been used, alternates maybe like: section, brigade, division, regiment, suggest others as needed cause I feel these are all awful)

  2. A new mechanic is introduced, the Squadron
    (Again, it’s been used but we’ll work on it!)

    a. Squadrons accept ships of similar archetype, perhaps by weapon type or something, and the server then groups them together for calculation in every aspect. Imagine they’re something like individual fighters of a squadron of fighters, the squadron is calculated as a unit, while representing individual segments adequately in terms of the effectiveness to the whole (hp, damage, etc).

    Note: This might get tricky when it comes to certain actions like docking and undocking, movement across gates, how logistics ships fit in, etc. For now, I’ve imagined this weapon-type based grouping which only encompasses your mainline DPS ships which make up maybe 80% of most large fleets. By grouping these, we will reduce a lot of calculations.

    b. Squadrons are manipulated by a fleet commander on a live battlefield grid in terms of positioning, with the introduction of a second new mechanic: the Formation. One FC can also preside over the positions of multiple fleets, in an RTS-style (or existing fighter control style) UI.

    c. Weapons systems control can be split off to an additional fleet commander, who controls the targets of the group.

  3. New marketing is released for Eve Online: Squadron Age
    Focusing on new player experience, highlight the largest possible battles in history and illustrate single ships as part of a formation/squadron. Use terms like “Don’t just watch the battle unfold, man your station.”, and describe in detail how your character becomes part of a massive battle, with full featured autopilot and auto-targeting options

What have we just done?
For a lot of people, nothing. By requiring an opt-in, we haven’t really taken anything out of the hands of players, that wasn’t already removed. Only on the largest of scales, those so-called “potato-mode” fights, the FC would request that everyone opt-in to the relevant squadron, at which point calculations can be significantly streamlined. Extremely complex large battles can be made-up of completely beautiful formations of ships clashing with one another, and topography can be generated, rather than reported by individual pilot’s movements.

We can take this concept as far down the rabbit hole as we like, I do think even logstics ships, support ships, gate jumping, docking and undocking can be included by design if it’s possible technically speaking to create, without really removing anything from the otherwise “compelling gameplay” that making these actions based on the guy screaming at you already hadn’t removed. In other words, we’ve already stripped almost every player action from the player in these large battles, this change only brings it out into the open where we can look at things like:

  1. How many actions do we want to leave up to the player on these battles
  2. Are there certain ships or roles which benefit from still being under their own command
  3. Would smaller scales of combat also see this as a beneift, by enabling a better game/life balance?

My predictions, if this were to be implemented
Alpha weapons for fleet fighting would continue to reign supreme (again, nothing new here, see also: Muninns online), TiDi would still be required, although the scale of battle would have gone up, potentially several folds depending on how many factors are able to reduced to group calculations and procedurally generated topography of movements based on formations. A lot more people would be available for larger battles, knowing they could simply step away, take care of the kids, shower, empty your battle bottles. Fleet commanders would have an elevated level of control over the battlefield, and the “3d chess” aspect could also be well marketed, it fits well with the overall design of the game anyway.

What do you think we should call the formations?

I honestly can’t tell if this is trolling or satire on the level of gameplay in fleet fights or a serious suggestion… so bravo for that.

I’m gonna assume this is serious though, and offer some serious points:

First off, like 99% of what goes on in an Eve fleet fight is not a “complex calculation”, in fact the only reason we’re able to have these big fights is because everything that actually goes into the actual flying and fighting mechanics is super simplified. The most complex piece I can think of is probably the tracking calculation on turrets, and even that’s a matter of a few clock cycles for each shooting ship. Everything else is spherical ships in a vacuum with speed limits.

As to your actual idea, it’s basically never gonna happen. If CCP wanted to make an Eve RTS they’d just do so, but giving over control of your ship to someone else is just inviting botting and/or mass multiboxing, among other things CCP has already banned.

Not to mention that this all only works to reduce calculations if you can somehow hand-wave the range difference between ships and their fits and skills are exactly the same. As soon as someone has a tiny difference in ship stats they need to be calculated separately.

Not to mention all of the various fleet roles that aren’t just “push F1 in Battleship” like tackle, bubbles, bombers, ect.

Other problems:

  • The existing simulation doesn’t support any of this, CCP would need to do a massive amount of work just to make this work.
  • For any formation other than “follow my ship” gun range quickly becomes a major factor. In an actual formation of ships with thousands of participants the range from one side of a formation to another would introduce falloff and tracking as major differences between ships.
  • Most people like to actually play the game when they, you know, play the game.

There’s more, but that’s more than enough for now.

If you want more engaging fleet fights there surely must be better ideas…

2 Likes

You say there isn’t much to do for players during a fleet fight as though it’s not a good thing, and then propose an idea to take away what little there is to do and have the FC control it via input broadcasting.

Needless to say this idea, this very concept, is a non-starter.

Serious!

A few clock cycles for say, 6,000 ships ends up being quite a lot, in the past it’s been discovered that all sorts of these “small operations” taking place can have a massive impact: calculating decreasing security status, calculating many individial drone locations or entities, and in brutal TiDi, even calculating a module’s status multiplied by that number of ships becomes a challenge. My system suggests we group them, and make these checks a breeze.

Average them. The same thing happens in every fight anyway, when you consider one group versus the other. No significant change in the outcome would be observed.

A person could repurpose sections of the fighter control mechanics pretty easily

My point is exactly this: they already don’t “play the game” so much during these very large fights, the facade that they do is causing grief by one way of looking at it. Pretending that most players in these battles fly their own ships is all we’re hanging onto here.

It’s not great, but it can be dramatically improved if we embrace it (the idea that players dont have much to do during large fleets). Right now the universe pretends that absolutely every one of thosands of pilots are required to use brain power to win fleets, and that’s far from the case already. This just deals with the consequences of that better, allowing more players to at least “experience” large battles, and makes large battles more enjoyable, overall.

By saying

‘over to you FC.’

And then putting the kettle on?

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No, not at all. It’s a massive undertaking because neither the servers nor the client are or have ever been set up to allow another player direct control over your ship. Lots of internal server-client checks need to be either re-written or created.

And frankly, you’re proposing to make a massive and major chance to a fundemental aspect of the game, this is never ever going to happen when small QoL changes and balancing takes a couple months to be pushed through CCP.

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OP basically wants CCP to implement Input Broadcasting and is trying to disguise it with talk of “formations”. Call it whatever you want, at the end of the day, it’s just input broadcasting.

3 Likes

Doesn’t work. Certain fits only work when you hit certain breakpoints on a stat. If you average them then the fit ends up performing significantly worse or not at all.

Not to mention that this completely eliminates the potential for a single key person to be late broadcasting or applying DPS or Reps and turning an entire battle.

Oh and does this mean that I can make a Battleship move 600m/s with a 50m sig radius if I “squadron” it with a bunch of Frigates? What if it’s still Battleships but I make half of them low sig and half of them MWD fit?

This just flat out doesn’t work. Fighters are Fighters, they don’t work like ships in most respects, and the whole setup isn’t designed to allow you to control actual ships.

I actually work in software for a living and trying to do stuff like this can more often than not create more problems than it solves, because you’re now trying to force a system to do something it was never designed for. You might do it, but it’s more likely to be buggy and have issues if you want to expand it any further in the future.

Have you ever actually been in one of these fights?

Sure they can drag on at times, and it was way worse before TiDi was implemented, but most of the people I’ve talked to about these battles talk about them like a fun war story. Something that was impressive to experience.

Not to mention that the proportion of these fights vs all other PvP, PvE, ect in Eve is tiny, and what you’re proposing would be abused to hell and gone across all of it.

It really sounds like you just shouldn’t play in Null. If you don’t enjoy the feeling of being part of a group and being part of something big then Null probably isn’t for you.

Try Wormholes or Low Sec.

1 Like

You’re describing the process of forming doctrine, something every major entity already does. Squadrons need similar ships to the archetype to be accepted for this reason (the example I used was grouping based on weapons or something)

Simulating some human error can be done, it’s not impossible, but one person forgetting to broadcast swinging a battle wouldn’t be the case, maybe an accidental self-warp instead of a fleet warp, etc. Again, we’re looking on the largest scales, and maybe the fleet would have to exceed a minimum size just to turn it on?

Squadron requires tighter control over fittings is a fair point, but see above for explanation on minimum requirement: same weapons to start.

For individuals in the scale of fight i’m looking at, being able to jump in, fight as you like, then jump out (or maybe die and choose not to reship or something), as long as these experiences are not super often, yeah, they’re really fun to take part in. Everyone needs a few TiDi brawls under their belt. However, it’s not compelling gameplay to approach an FC for several hours, while fighting with your modules trying to get them to fire (this is the average experience still, in full TiDi fights).

The other issue is the setup involved for the FCs and coordination teams that make this happen, is atrocious. The TiDi makes the hours of setup, pre-forming, staging steps absolutely look like a two-minute jaunt (those alone are weighty enough), and adds another level of drain on FCs and campaign commanders that absolutely has lead to some of the great leaders in Eve history departing.

I don’t feel the need to brag or anything, but as a person who has both built and campaigned with an extremely large group of dudes, I can tell you that the size of the group is not really the issue, I’m speaking directly to a set of factors that make the largest scale of fights, (I called them “potato mode” fights) absolutely a fraction of what they could be!

I’m not proposing any actual change here from an available freedoms of the member perspective, subcapitals are already very restrictive in terms of the mechanical freedoms afforded to them during these fights, I’m suggesting that server archetecture, and core elements of the game maybe aren’t quite to where they can really drive the rich immersive experience those largest fights should be, at least not when so many ships are given those freedoms to begin with.

This already happens in literally every large engagement, we’re just looking through a window into an Eve where maybe that can be embraced, in the right context, leading to new and more interesting types of gameplay.

Translated:
“I’m suggesting CCP implement Input Broadcasting so I can fleet up with my alts and broadcast commands to multiple clients without worrying about getting banned.”

Please, if you’re gonna come up with bad ideas, at least be honest and upfront about what you actually want.

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Except unless you institute strict checks then this will be abused. Well, abused more than it will be anyway to effectively bring back input broadcasting or by botters.

“Simulating human error” isn’t fun or exciting. There’s nothing fun or interesting there.

As to this sort of thing never swinging a battle, it absolutely happens. Especially in actually medium scale engagements on the order of a few hundred people. If one Logi screws up, or a DPS fat-fingers their broadcast and doesn’t clear it fast enough then you can start losing ships and in an already relatively even fight that can be enough to start a cascade. Especially if the ship that screws up is Logi or some other key role.

Also the “minimum size” thing doesn’t really work here. You can get this sort of issue with fleets that hit the cap of 256 members. A fleet fight with 500 people in it, while large, isn’t even enough to trigger TiDi some days.

Isn’t much of a requirement. Does that mean I can bring my Tornado to the Alpha-Mael fleet? It’s got Arty!

Not to mention that the difference in range between someone with fully maxed out skills and someone with minimal skills is up to around 25%. More on some fits.

If everyone’s averaged out then with the way Falloff works you could end up dropping the fleet’s DPS significantly because if half the fleet has great tracking and range skills and the other half has poor ones then instead of half the fleet hitting for full DPS and half of it hitting for 50% DPS you now have everyone hitting for about 60% DPS because everyone’s range curve got moved in 15%. (numbers are very approximate)

Sure, but what you’re proposing has tons of knock-on effects in other areas, has a high potential for abuse, and is just codifying bad gameplay rather than trying to fix it.

Sure, burnout is a problem, but I don’t see this solving it. If anything it would make it worse, and ensure that these fights are now so utterly boring for everyone involved that there are no young up and coming players to replace the people who eventually get bored.

Which, I would like to point out, is a pretty natural thing in games. I’ve taken tons of breaks from Eve over the years, and basically everyone I know or have ever known rotates through games over time, they don’t just stick with a single game forever and never quit or get bored.

You really kinda are here. You’re codifying a problem instead of trying to solve it, and in a way that will almost certainly have knock-on effects and some pretty massive ones at that.

If you want this stuff to change then bring it to the CSM and have them push for a revamp of the things that cause large fleet fights so they can split over several systems. Or have CCP push to expand their tech so the TiDi and responsiveness improve.

Ultimately though what you’re proposing here isn’t a solution, it’s just a different and much larger problem.

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No it doesn’t. This is what a few people do during 10% tidi or long structure bashes.

But it is NEVER what the entire fleet does.

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Short-quoting for emphasis. I was going to say all of the same things, but you’ve already said them.

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Neither is there anything fun about misclicks in full TiDi environments, you keep bringing up these points as if the existing (not fun) experience trumps the (also not particularly fun) fix, and I don’t think you’ve quite thought through the logic there. Maintaining an un-fun status quo is part of how we got to where we are today.

This isn’t meant to do anything for that scale, which doesn’t need help and doesn’t incur TiDi typically. Did you actually read the post?

256 people don’t incur TiDi, again, not meant for this scale.

Again, weither calculated individually or as part of a scaled average, they would have the same effect on the battle. This “averaging” already happens when you consider the one complete size versus the other.

You’re exactly right, and this is exactly how regular fleets work now. Nothing changed, thank you for illustrating my point.

In eve, I guess everything has a high potential for abuse, but as long as this is locked to the largest scale of engagements, perhaps not even allowed unitl TiDi or a certain number of people are in a system, the abuse cases are very small. “Codifying” bad gameplay just isn’t the case either, this is just how eve plays out. Fixing something like TiDI requires these sort of steps, and so ultimately, the opposite is true, this will actually fix it.

Again, (I’m feeling like a broken record here), its not fun to press F1 (if you’re even so lucky to have working modules) in fights of this scale. All of your points about making it less fun hold no weight, because there is already no fun in the tank, as it were. If something has no fun, and you try to make it less fun, it’s still no fun, as that is how removing things that don’t exist work. The otherwise un-fun experience can be replaced at least with discussions around the battle, streaming and talking about your role in it, looking at individual ships in the large amorphous blob of battle actually does sound more fun than struggling with module lag for several hours.

There is no solve, other than this (and I would point out that I am trying to solve it), supercomputers have been introduced several times during the history of the game and have not improved the overall effect other than letting more players inside the grid, to be ultimately trapped by the same experience. The solution is actually this.

The key difference there is that the existing issues are just that, issues. Bugs. They’re not intentional, they’re something CCP is trying to fix.

Your “fix” doesn’t actually fix anything, it just says “this is now a feature, we’re not going to try improve it anymore”.

Yup, I did, and you said this works on the scale of a “fleet”. A fleet maxes out at 256 people, so even if we say your “feature” only kicks in when you have more than 200 people in a fleet and we’re at a 400-500 person engagement we’re still miles off of triggering much if any TiDi but your “feature” can still be used and abused by all parties involved.

Like, again, to be fully clear here. 256 people is the maximum fleet size in Eve. Increasing this starts to cause problems because it means things like boosts are affecting more people, and various checks that happen as part of being in a fleet start to take longer and longer because they have to be run across more and more people.

The math doesn’t necessarily work out that way though, because of break points and the nuances of the mechanics that make up Eve’s ship fitting and combat.

Throw two equal fleets of people, one that’s 50% maxed out pilots and 50% bare minimum pilots against another that’s entirely at the average skill level between the two and I’d put my money on the one with the veterans most of the time.

I feel like you didn’t check the math there… those two sets of numbers aren’t equivalent.

At which point you’re asking CCP to make a massive reworking of the game’s underlying architecture and systems and put in a massive number of man-hours, all for something that’s going to be used maybe a couple of dozen times each year and actively makes the gameplay even worse…

I would literally get laughed out of the room and possibly fired if I proposed a feature like that.

“There’s no fun in the tank” is entirely your opinion, and while that opinion is probably shared by a decent number of people most of them either don’t play in Null or suddenly have to walk the dog or change the baby when a major fleet fight kicks off.

This doesn’t actually solve anything though. It’s just taking the bad experience and making it part of the game.

And those improvements have actually improved things. I remember when a fight with under 1000 people used to cause problems, and now the servers barely hiccup. Yes the absolutely largest fights have continued to cause issues, because those fights have continued to get bigger and bigger, but it’s miles better than it used to be.

Do you even remember when jumping your fleet in to a deep safe 5000 AU from the sun was a tactic because it meant that you had 30 minutes to load grid, and anyone warping to you would then be stuck loading and you could just kill them? I do! Lemme tell you, this stuff is so much better.

So yeah, no, this isn’t solving anything it’s just giving up. We’ll probably always have lag of some kind, but it is getting incrementally better, and throwing in the towel is a shitty excuse for a solution.

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We need this also, but I didn’t ever suggest it in this post. 256 v 256 is considered a small engagement in the terms I’m selecting, and again, has nothing to do with the actual size of the loaded grid which is the problem.

Being realistic and throwing in the towel are two different things. The thing is, accepting that we’ll always have unbearable TiDi, is actually throwing in the towel. This is a possible solution, with granted, some issues that need addressed before it can go live (obviously, IDK who would assume a thread here is already ready for deployment), However, this stands to address that issue as a whole, and I’m not sure what logic you would like to apply to make it seem like throwing in the towel, but well, you are certainly free to live in any alternate reality you like, this is Eve afterall.

Yes, but the system you’re proposing would have to be implemented at this scale. Again, knock-on effects.

This isn’t being realistic, it’s just throwing in the towel.

You’re asking for CCP to spend a massive amount of time and effort to create a niche system all for the purposes of actively making things bad for players. No fixing stuff, just saying “yeah, this horrible series of bugs are now a feature”. For the cost in time and technical expertise to make this work they could redo several other systems in the game, or make some small amount of measurable progress on the actual issue here.

You’re literally saying “CCP may as well stop trying to make these fleet fights more fun and less buggy, just make it all a feature”, how is that not throwing in the towel on all of these problems?

As the hardware gets better and the tech gets better these problems will become less prevalent. Sure people will always find a way to cram more folks onto a grid, but that will always be difficult and rare, and the more people it takes to cause massive problems the better the experience becomes on average.

This does none of that, it just turns fleet fights into an bad RTS for a few people and makes an official feature out of the bad gameplay you’re actually complaining about.