Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Hyperion W-space Changes: An Analysis

CCP Fozzie has recently posted a dev blog about some changes to wormhole space and wormhole links that are coming up in the Hyperion expansion. As they are likely to have a significant impact on the larger picture of wormhole space I thought I would take a post to carry out a bit of an analysis, and try and put out another post in a few days with some predictions that can be disproved in the fullness of time.

CCP Fozzie's dev blog post can be found here and should be read in its entirety before proceeding any further with this post.

The changes form a package, and they really need to be analysed as a package as they all affect wormhole space in different but connected ways. Because they are affecting the same game play system it is difficult if not impossible to assess the changes in isolation, so I will be assuming that all of the changes are going to be made, and that they are going to be made together. I'm going to look at each set of changes in turn, but will incorporate relevant information from the other changes in each section. I will also be (trying) to analyse the changes from a neutral point of view, simply providing an estimation of what the results of the changes are and not judge whether those changes are desirable or not.

Bookmark Copy Restriction Changes

A minor change in the scheme of things, and the least interlinked with other changes; this is allowing players to copy larger groups of bookmarks, more quickly. This won't be at all significant for the majority of smaller wormhole groups, but alliances and less formally tied groups of corporations will find it a tremendous boon; their only method of sharing bookmarks is to manually copy them into cargo containers to move them from the 'Corporation Locations' of one corporation to another. Though this is a far cry from true alliance bookmarks in line with corporation bookmarks functionality, it will be a welcome stop-gap measure.

Wormhole System Effect Changes

Black Holes are having additional bonuses to missile velocity and missile explosion, alongside a bonus to targetting range and a reduction in the effectiveness of stasis webifiers. This will give a very significant bonus to people using kiting missile setups, especially 100MN afterburner cruiser variants as stasis webifiers will be significantly less effective against them. A typical method of engaging cruisers in Class 5 and 6 wormhole systems is to use heavy webbing support to bring ships to a near-standstill and then use the capital class guns found on dreadnoughts to obliterate (or 'blap') them - the tracking on capital class weapons normally being far too poor to cope with the movement of cruiser size targets. This change to stasis webifier effectiveness caused by Black Holes has a reasonable chance of completely invalidating this engagement method in those systems.

Magnetar wormholes are having a penalty applied to the effectiveness of target painters, which will make it slightly harder to run with the "blap dread and web" set-up described above, as target painters are often used to supplement stasis webifiers in making targets easier to hit. The missile explosion radius change will bring missile penalties in line with the tracking penalties applied in Magnetar systems.

Red Giant systems are having a bonus applied to the damage of bombs - but not to bomb hitpoints. This means that fewer bombers can be used to do the same damage in Red Giant systems. I'm not expecting this to be a major game changer.

Pulsar systems are having a bonus to Nosferatu and Energy Neutralizer drain amounts added to help counter the existing large bonus to capacitor recharge. Prior to this change capital ships were extremely hard to take down with neut boats.

Wolf Rayet systems currently have a bonus to armour resistances; this is being altered to be a bonus to raw armour hitpoints instead which will significantly lessen ship tanks when under logistics support. More significantly - given other changes that are lined up and that will be discussed later - the bonus to small weapon damage that already exists is being doubled, so the total damage bonus when in a Class 6 wormhole will be +200% of base, or, to put it another way, triple the dps.

Cataclysmic Variable systems will have their remote capacitor transmission amount reduced, and the penalty to their local capacitor level reduced from it's current level, giving them more local capacitor recharge. The intent of this change is to reduce the effectiveness of spider tanking carriers in systems with Cataclysmic Variables; as the efficacy of the change, I cannot comment due to lack of experience in that area.

More and New Randomly Spawning (or 'Wandering') Wormholes

This item is actually a pair of changes, the first of which is very simple - there is going to be an increased incidence of randomly spawning wormhole links. This should, on the surface, result in an increased interconnectedness in wormhole space, but due to other changes that consequence may not necessarily be as clear cut as it might appear...

The second change is a new type of random wormhole link - one that only allows enough mass per jump to get frigate or destroyer-class ships through it - or Heavy Interdictors using mass-reducing warp disruption bubbles.

This may provide a few new frigate-roam opportunities for wormhole residents, but as many wormhole pilots tend to use extremely expensive implant sets it might be fewer than would otherwise be the case. Where this addition will be most interesting is when there is a new-type wormhole link into a Wolf Rayet system where frigates will be doing three times normal damage - plenty enough to be seriously dangerous to Strategic Cruisers or possibly even players running capital escalations, given a significantly sized Assault Frigate gang.

Second Static for Class 4 Wormholes

With the Hyperion release Class 4 wormhole systems will have an additional wormhole-space static wormhole link. In the past Class 4 wormhole systems were well known for often leading into a seemingly never-ending chain of yet more Class 4 systems, frequently uninhabited. Introducing a second static link to all Class 4 systems will make them much more connected and very very appealing as a base of operations for PvP based groups that typically use their static wormhole link to look for targets to engage.

As this is a retroactive change being made to systems regardless of whether they are inhabited or not, a significant number of wormhole residents currently in Class 4 wormhole systems may find themselves with an undesirable secondary static link. CCP Fozzie has stated that the type of the new static in systems will not be announced and that players will need to identify what the new static link type is by using the test server ('Sisi') if they want to find out ahead of the Hyperion release.

K162 appearance only on first jump

A 'K162' is the 'out' end of a wormhole link, and historically has spawned when someone has initiated warp to the 'in' end of a wormhole link. Wormholes that have not been warped to only exist in potentia; warping to one end of the link is what actually creates the link between the two systems.

This is an extremely significant change with two obvious ramifications.

The first is that people inside the system that is being connected to will have significantly less warning that there is an inbound wormhole. Beforehand they had the length of a ship warp to the 'in' side of a wormhole during which the 'out' signature was visible but before anyone had jumped through. Post-Hyperion, the link will only appear after a ship jumps. This tips the scale significantly towards the hunters in wormhole space, particularly in higher-class wormholes where capital ships in siege or triage mode are frequently used in site-running.

The second is that pilots will be able to find out what an outbound link is before opening it. Currently you need to be on grid with a wormhole to verify where it leads - but being on grid with it means that you have warped to it, which means it is activated. After the Hyperion release, if you find that it is not a link you want to have active, for instance a wandering wormhole to higher-class space, you can just not jump through it, and the far end of the link will never spawn. This has the ability to significantly reduce the interconnectedness of wormhole space and counterbalance the increased number of wandering / random wormhole links.

Mass-Based Spawn Distance after Wormhole Jumps

This change will almost certainly have the most far-reaching consequences for the way that corporations that live in wormhole space operate. At the moment most PvP entities roll their wormhole relatively often when looking for new targets to fight and wormhole chains to explore.

Orcas and Battleships are the ships that are generally used to roll wormholes in lower class systems - and they have sufficient mass (and thus spawn far enough away) that they no longer spawn within range to jump back through the wormhole link. For higher-class wormhole links, capitals are often used to roll the wormhole links and they now spawn so far away from the link that the fastest way of getting them back to the wormhole link to jump back is to warp away to a safe nearby, and then warp back to the wormhole at point blank range.

This change will have two key effects on wormhole rolling; it will take longer, and it will be riskier.

It will now take significantly longer to roll wormholes; on the order of several minutes longer for rolling a hole using capital ships. A well drilled group in a high-class wormhole system can currently roll a wormhole every 2-3 minutes; most conservative estimates are suggesting that this will at least double. In lower-class wormhole systems the speed is generally dependent on how many Orcas you are happy to have floating around in space, but it will take at least a couple of minutes for an Orca to make it back from it's spawn distance to jump range on the wormhole link.

When trying to roll the wormhole with larger ships, especially capital ships, the risk will also be significantly higher. A capital ship will now be extremely vulnerable when jumping through a wormhole and there will be plenty of time for a hostile ship to get point on it and hold it in position until reinforcements arrive. At the moment when a less-powerful wormhole entity ends up with a link into a system controlled by a more-powerful group, they can take a risk and attempt to crash the wormhole link before the more-powerful group can marshal a response. Although the change to K162 spawning time will give a small initial time advantage to the group that is trying to roll the link, the time taken for even a single Orca or Capital ship to get back to the wormhole link completely eclipses that.

There is however a more concerning effect that this change may have on combat in higher-class wormhole systems. At the moment when ships jump through a wormhole link into a hostile force that is waiting for them, they are already at a significant disadvantage; in higher class wormholes in order to stand a chance the attacking force often has to throw through enough capital ships to collapse the hole. This results in a situation where the defenders are at their preferred range to targets, can re-ship if they take losses, can log on more reinforcements, and where the attackers have no-where to run.

Obviously the current situation is far from idea for attackers, and the home field advantage means that many groups will have to stand down instead of attacking and getting completely slaughtered. The new changes will result in a situation that is significantly worse for the attackers;

  • Ships jumping through will no longer appear in a coherent group that can support each other; they will be spread out according to their mass.
  • Capital ships will no longer end up in close proximity to one another. As refitting capital ships using a carrier is a well established part of upper-echelon capital combat, attackers will be at a significant disadvantage compared to defenders
  • Although larger ships will appear at random locations further from the wormhole, the lock times and maneuverability on those ships mean that they don't pose a significant risk to defenders who are caught by surprise if they appear closer than expected.

In the next post I'm going to take a look at what I expect the fallout from these changes to be.

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