TLDR: Give ECM the NSA treatment. Instead of affecting the number of targets a ship can lock, a successful jam now makes a certain set of modules cost more capacitor to activate than the ship can possibly have.
At Fanfest, a corp mate of mine asked Fozzie about the possibility of a fifth low on the post-rebalance Obfuscation Manifold Tengu. For background… the armor tanked ECM Tengu has been a staple of wormhole brawls for years. Last year’s T3C rebalance left the armor ECMgu with only four lows. It’s now far too squishy to even consider bringing on grid and this has contributed to the deterioration of the brawl meta. Fozzie provided my corpmate with a response that was curt and to the point, stating:
I will not do anything to buff ECM.
Fozzie’s opinion on the matter was understandable… but disappointing to hear. ECM has long been a hot button topic for EVE. Its manner of control, a hard denial of target lock and all actions dependent upon it, is frustrating for its victims and offensive to their gaming experience. On the other hand though… it can’t simply be removed from the game. It is the only ewar flavor for the Caldari Faction, numerous skills and ship types are built entirely around it, and… despite how irritating it can be to play against… it serves a unique and important function by allowing interaction and control in fights where damage alone is insufficient break the tank/reps of key ships (jamming out application, reps, tackle, etc…). In my opinion, this last point is sufficient reason for why ECM should remain in the game in a way that achieves this goal but in a more agreeable manner.
Rework for ECM:
Targeted ECM no longer has any effect on the number of targets a ship can lock. Instead, a successful jam will increases the activation cost of the following sets of modules by 10M GJ:
Remote Armor Repairers
Remote Capacitor Transmitters
Remote Shield Boosters
Remote Sensor Boosters
Remote Sensor Dampeners
Remote Tracking Computers
This change would allow players to still keep targets locked, to use turrets/launchers, to direct drones, etc while preserving the ewar interactivity of ECM. This also gives CCP a great deal of freedom to decide what actions it wants ECM to affect. Perhaps jamming logi is too strong? No problem, remove remote armor and shield reps from the list of included items. Maybe we don’t want ECM to be so binary? That’s fine. Instead we could simply double or triple the activation cost of remote armor repairers instead of denying use altogether. Or perhaps we’d rather attenuate performance by applying an effect strength penalty to the modules (other than scram/disrupt) rather than making the module temporarily unusable via a giant cap penalty. What if you decide it’s time to give Caldari that second form of ewar it’s always wanted? Perhaps two flavors of ECM are in order, one that interacts with ewar, and a second set of modules that uses the same mechanics but interacts with a separate set of modules (turrets / launchers, tracking / guidance computers, etc…)
Long story short… changing the mechanic away from target lock and towards the ‘networked sensory array’ treatment would ease the frustration of the mechanic, preserve its core functionality, allow for more minute balance, and open more gameplay possibilities for CCP to implement if they so desire.