Making structure timers more linear and less frustrating

As they currently stand, structures can be an immense pain to deal with. This is particularly apparent in medium structures, moreso than others. The ease of deploying structures and lack of any real ceilings on quantity make them into fairly large time-sinks. They not only can serve as a tactical threat and an HP wall, but serve as to create a rigid and frustrating system that attackers must slog through with the reward of a fight being mostly up to the defenders.

In addition, structures also have little to no progression in terms of how their timers work. The difference between destroying a Raitaru and a Keepstar essentially boil down to how many pilots and what kind of ships are necessary to do the job effectively. Even then, what difference there is relies entirely on fittings and damage cap.

While addressing the two points above, I’ll also suggest some changes to some other pain points that will help keep these structures in a reasonable progression path. The idea is to keep structures somewhat in line with their current design philosophies where possible.

Note 1: to clarify, I will use the terms “Timer” and “Event” to describe different aspects of timers. A Timer is the period when a structure is actually reinforced. An Event is when players are attacking/defending the structure; essentially the periods of vulnerability in relation to timers.

Note 2: Since wormholes timers are the only outlier, consider the arguments as dealing with K-space unless WHs are specifically mentioned.

So let’s get started…

A - Introduce progressive timers based on size

All structures share the same timer mechanics: 2 timers and 3 events. Regardless of structure size, you will always have to spend (at a minimum) 3x the time to remove shield/armor/hull and 2x waiting periods during RF where nothing of effect can be done to the structure itself. I’m disregarding low power at the moment for simplicity.

The maximum possible time to kill a structure is 14 days for HS, 11 days for NS/LS, and 9 days for WH. The minimum (given proper intel) is 7, 4, and 2 days respectively. Looking at the extreme examples; this means it could take 14 days to kill an Athanor, while also allowing for only 2 days to kill a Keepstar. All of this is the result of the same system.

This is what I consider to be a clear example of structures being designed around mechanics, rather than mechanics being designed for the structures. The current system is fairly rigid. It does not allow for much difference in pacing. From the pilots’ perspective, spending the same amount of time to clear an Astrahus and a Keepstar just makes the whole grind feel much more…grindy.

In my opinion, 14 days to kill any structure is just way too much. On the flip side, 4 days (excluding wormholes for different philosophies) is well down into the low-end of what I might consider reasonable for what is essentially the paragon of fixed fortifications. Aside from that, the huge difference in possible times certainly messes with any feeling of consistency in this system.

While my memory is foggy (and my google-fu lazy) I do recall a major design principle of structures being that different sized structures would be progressively better for defenders. The current timer system has no allowance for any form of progression. Any given medium structure gives the defender the same amount of time to prepare a defense as it does to any XL structure.

Ok, so most of the rationale is out of the way, here is the suggestion:

Structures will have progressively more timers.

Medium - 1 Timer
Large - 2 Timers
XL - 3 Timers

I’ll discuss the second-order changes that would follow this as well in a moment. Keep that in mind while reading the list below.

The Benefits:

  • This will produce an indirect advantage to choosing different sizes. It also partially mirrors how structures were treated before the Citadel release. POSes has 1 timer, Outposts had 2 timers (excluding Freeport cycle in fozziesov), with only XL structures having no direct comparison.
  • The pace of play over a course of a few weeks can feel much more active and rewarding (not to be confused with the “fun” experiences during the “Events”).
  • Smaller time-investments make smaller structures more appealing as a target. This adds a bit of downward pressure on the existing rate of structure proliferation as well.
  • This also impacts certain tactics utilizing structures as foxholes during a siege. Unless you emplace an equally large structure, the defenders have more opportunities to destroy or interdict these ‘offensive’ structures. Though this could be argued as a negative in some circumstances.

The Drawbacks:

  • Smaller structures used for smaller efforts or campaigns (BLOPs, small-gang harassment, temporary logistics) become more vulnerable with shorter lifespans. This could also be argued as a positive depending on your view.
  • This system conflicts with other penalties related to things like structure service offlining, structure fitting, and industry jobs.

2. Reduce precision of exit timer choice by defender.

This is a tricky one. Timers are a necessary evil in A single-shard universe like Eve. The inability to even try and defend a structure can have major impacts on a player’s willingness to invest themselves in a structure or the conflict around it.

I do believe the current system goes quite a bit too far. Being able to choose the exit day and time with no trade-offs leaves the initiative entirely in the hands of the defender. My biggest issue is with the day selection. Day selection is also the primary reason that total kill times can even get up to two weeks.

For this I have two suggestions that are contingent on another change I will suggest later.

The first suggestion is a reversal of the system previous to constant vulnerability. A specific number of hours will be allotted to choose an exit window on given days. In addition, every given block of time will add hours to the front and back of that time block depending on a given formula.

This time, instead of choosing vulnerability periods, the owner will choose exit windows.

To illustrate, we’ll give an owner 7 hours to select, and then add %100 to both sides to triple it evenly: (DAY - Allotted / Window)

THU - 1hr / 3hr
FRI - 2hr / 6hr
SAT - 3hr / 9hr
SUN - 1hr / 3hr

As you can see, there is a conflicting relationship between trying to choose a specific day, and trying to keep a window too small. On the other hand, spreading your hours out as evenly as possible also means the minimum time to kill any given structure shrinks, as the final timer no longer has to wait for a specific day, it will simply choose the next available time.

The Benefits:

  • Increases strategic uncertainty for the defender.
  • Given proper intel, attacker also has influence on when timers exit.
  • Structure owner must consider tradeoffs if attempting to “timezone tank”.

The Downsides:

  • System is very complex and still has possible gaps for abuse.
  • Does not mesh well with progressive timer counts.
  • Reduces owner flexibility (obviously)

This idea could work with some tweaks, but it’s complexity may become difficult or unintuitive to deal with.

My second suggestion is much simpler and one I’m more inclined to pick as a favorite:

Structure owners will designate a preferred time of day, and all timers will come out +/- 2 hours from that time (4 hour window total).

When a structure is RF’d, it will come out during the second next available exit window. Defenders will have 24 hours notice to prepare, at a minimum.

All follow-up timers will then adhere to this rule. This means the max time to kill any given structure will be under 6 days (roughly 2 and 4 days for M/L structures).

The Benefits:

  • Extremely simple, low potential for unexpected gimmicks.
  • Time to kill any given structure size is reduced and minimum time for larger structures is increased. Time invested is proportionate to structure size.

The Downsides:

  • Does not address “timezone tanking”.
  • Highly rigid system.

All things considered, I believe that the current system is a major point of frustration for anyone who participates in structure combat. While structure weapons and damage caps are often grumbled about, it seems to me that having to deal with significantly more timers is an even bigger problem.

One positive thing about POSes that I think doesn’t get mentioned nearly as often as it should: POS warfare was faster paced and more fluid. We no longer have the constant back-and-forth struggle over the course of a week that POSes could offer. Unfortunately, once POSes are gone there will be nothing left in the gap.

The previous system was terrible, picking a hull timer and everything coming off that works.
There is nothing wrong with Keepstars only having a 2 day timer & 2 timers, Keepstars have the best self defence.
And there is nothing wrong with Medium structures having 2 timers, not everyone is an epic sized corp/alliance, for some people it is all they have, and making them have only 1 timer makes it far worse on smaller groups.

Basically, the current timer system is fine. It gives defenders a window where they have declared “This is when we can make our stand due to RL”. If the Defenders tried to timezone tank and actually can’t make their stand, well that’s their problem.
Highsec could probably use shorter timers on the order of low (Or both on the order of Null), so it’s possible to get through a set of timers for a Citadel in a single week of war dec if you do your research.

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The biggest problem I have with this reasoning falls along two lines of reasoning.

The first probably goes the line on “don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose”. Regardless of how easy or hard the system becomes, there is always going to be a group or person who is investing everything they have into this one structure. If someone chooses to invest their last penny in an Astrahus, it’s on them to defend it given the mechanics and circumstances. If you don’t mind living without rigs, it’s always possible to unanchor it if you won’t be around for an extended time. If the structure does, that’s fine. Lessons learned now back to the planning phase. Loss in Eve should always be considered a ‘when’ question, not an ‘if’.

The current system moved from vulnerability windows to permanently vulnerable. Letting the defender choose the specific times their structure can be attacked down to such a degree made them miles more frustrating to deal with. However, the current system barely took a half-measure

On the other side, keeping a system like this as it is also detracts from small groups’ ability to fight each other and larger groups. The same mechanic that might deter a bigger group from spending time on a structure also helps them maintain power and influence over areas much more easily.

And the number of timers is only partly consequential. Like you pointed out, under the current system the number of timers could be irrelevant to the preparation time given. A Keepstar could have 2 timers over 4 days while an Athanor has 1 timer over 6-7 days. Or the exact opposite could be true given the circumstances. This part of the structure system is specifically not tiered.

Well, that’s surely one way to put it. However if you look at all of the reinforcement systems that have existed so far, it’s less of a “this is when I can be online” and more of a “here’s a little chance to defend yourself”. Timers at their core are meant to slow down the pace of play or progression. It’s not specifically meant to tailor the game to your preferences.

Even the first system wasn’t this specific in how much control you had. No other system allows that kind of fidelity either. POSes, Sov, Customs Offices, not even Mobile Depots give the kind of specificity of day and time. Hell, Mobile Depots are basically solo structures at their purest. All you get there is a chance to evacuate your junk.

And My only real concern with timezone tanking is it gets stronger the more specific a timer system is. Even with POS and Customs’ Offices it’s bearable since there is a decent window to work with. The only thing that can shorten that window is defender activity which is absolutely fine.

I’m not trying to Harry on too much on any of the specifics. I’m just well aware of how citadels essentially moved all of the investment and difficulty up and it’s leaving lower-end stuff in limbo.

That being said, I would agree that some structure purposes have been left behind and should get something to work with.

No, it’s meant to create a fight of ships in space.
The way to create that fight is to let them declare a time when they will be online to defend it. If they aren’t online it’s just a boring mound of HP, it doesn’t even shoot back unless they are online any more.
I disagree it’s moved the lower end stuff up because the lower end stuff never got fought over. A Full POS with guns set up was already on par cost wise or more than a Citadel is now, of course it actually did real sub cap DPS also… but that’s a different issue.

If you go this way you end up with a horrible mess which is hard to understand simply for the sake of things. Keepstars have bigger defences, bigger EHP, so they ALREADY have a significant advantage for timers, they don’t need MORE timers as well.

There is nothing wrong with the current system, it could be tweaked to be the same in every area of space, and a bit more power given to low/high sec Upwell structures since they lack some of the defensive power the Null/WH ones get due to no AOE weaponry which makes a significant difference. Examples could be more equal bonuses, command links without skills and large range, launchers being able to target say… 5 different ships at the same time, etc.
But the current system is as good as we are going to get for defenders being able to put a fleet on grid.

I don’t know if we’re going to agree on this one, but I’ll try one more angle.

My view on timers is that they are necessary limitations on how gameplay might otherwise work, not a mechanic with a specific intent like fight generation. I can understand how fights and timers can be seen as so closely related, but the fact is neither one needs the other. Timers can and do influence the likelihood of a fight, but that influence can be positive or negative.

In short, Reinforcement as a mechanic wasn’t added for pilots to target specific playtimes for content. It was intended to give the defenders a chance to defend, and even at that it wasn’t a guarantee of enough time or the best time.

Yes, and this is true of any reinforcement system. Timers do not promise fights. It is entirely up to the defender to decide what to do. It’s even possible the defender never actually wanted to defend the structure, or feels they cannot and then tries to use what mechanics they have to prevent attackers from killing it. This is only really possible where the two groups are just too far apart in time to interact meaningfully, or where structures allow too specific control for one side or the other. Too loose, and attackers have advantage. Too tight, and defenders can prevent a fight from even being possible. And this happens quite a bit.

I’m not referring to cost or power here. Sorry, I was a bit vague since it’s a weird category to describe. I’m more referring to the kind of effort investment that individual players each give for any given system.

So, for example I’ll list some differing minimums and maximums that have changed:

  • Time spent on-grid has been fixed to damage caps. Generally this means more time spent on-grid during each event. Absolute minimums have gone up and absolute maximums have gone down.
  • The minimum and maximum time to kill a structure has increased, in some cases the minimum is now higher than the previous maximum. Exceptions include Freeport-mode under fozziesov and FLEX structures.
  • Time and resources required to repair structures has gone down, process is now automatic over a much shorter time than passive regen used to be.
  • Structures cannot be remote repaired (not to confuse with the above). A structure can die even under heavy defense.
  • Timers for most structures remain relatively easy to manage as they were before. POSes and strontium counts being the exception that has been removed. Process is now automatic after setup.
  • Ability to influence a structure services/functions outside of the regular RF process is almost entirely gone.
  • it is now impossible to affect a structures timer. Not all structures could be influenced before, but POSes and fozziesov structures both had ways for attackers to influence final timers.
  • Number of timers for smaller structures has gone up. Fozziesov may not be the best direct comparison for some, however it is worth noting that even TCUs and IHUBs only had one timer and the second timer on an outpost was after a Freeport mode.
  • POS auto-defense is gone.
  • Placement restrictions almost entirely gone.

Also to contextualize, the above list mostly compares trends in dominion sov, fozziesov, POSes, and Customs Offices. Also, I’m not including specifics like weapons as those do not directly affect the RF process.

One thing that is clear is that the advantages have overall shifted toward the defenders’ favor with a dramatic improvement for the structures that now occupy what was previously POS territory.

So when I say that the lower stuff has been moved up, I’m referring to the fact that the new RF process puts all structures in better positions than their equivalents were in before. It’s not so much the material cost that matters, it’s the gameplay role they fill.

The first system I suggested could be considered more complex, but it’s not much more complex than previous. And considering it’s essentially a one-time complexity for either side to determine/find out, it’s not wholly too consequential. With ACLs, it’s super easy to replicate. Also, the specific rule I mentioned is just an example. It could literally be any other number or equation. The point was to illustrate a system with less precise control.

The current Day+Time system is just too rigid and specific. There’s little reason not to set the timer up at a time disadvantageous to your enemy without essentially relying on an atmosphere on consensual PvP. Sure, you risk not being able to show up for your timer, but now you have defenders doing nothing, attackers doing nothing, and opportunists having no fun grinding an undefended structure. A 1 v 1 has somehow managed to get 3 losers.

But I’m getting off-topic…

The second system I suggested is just as simple as the current one. The only new complexity is just the M/L/XL timer count which is hardly something to sweat over.

I have to disagree on that point again. There has been a strong decrease in the pace of play and a massive increase in the freedom to build structures. They take more time to kill, and there are now way more of them with no upper limit. The system is going to become complete unsustainable or non-reversible at some point in the future. I would not say the RF system is fine, especially not while they all share the same one.

You could place the phrase “they already have more” between any of the items on that list and the argument would be just as valid.

And again, they have no advantage on timers. They have combat advantages, but not timer advantages. If you have enough to attack a KS then you have enough for an Astra. The inconsistency is that they both could take the same or wildly different times to kill. Which is part of the frustration that many feel.

I imagine that adding an extra timer to XL structures might make some NS blocks groan a bit, but considering the vast majority of structures are Mediums, I’m willing to bet the trade-off is worth it. Of weapons need rebalancing, so be it. I’ve always thought The level of damage on Forts and KS were arbitrary anyway. Everyone was so worried about destructible stations that they felt “can kill everything” was a safe margin for power.

But I digress.

Not giving highsec a time advantage lowers the ceiling, but they weren’t so drastically far from NS/LS as to make them the only problem.

NS/LS weaponry may be strong but it’s absence is not totally without benefit. One thing that highsec doesn’t have to deal with is surprise attacks or third-parties. The wardec system gives a decent advance notice to possibility of attack and prevents those not included already from interfering. Of course if you get attacked by overwhelming force there’s nothing you can do, and AOE DDs weren’t going to save you then either. Hell, you don’t have to worry about AOE weapons or caps either. That can really open up options on the table and really levels the playing field for groups of different resources.

Granted the wardec system needs some work, and I’m not wholly against the idea of HS specific features, I just don’t think they are at all necessary to make the system work. More importantly you don’t actually have to give up the time advantage. HS could still have a longer RF cycle than other places. It would even use similar rules to what exists now, so no real added complexity.

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