A week ago CCP karkur posted a dev blog on changes to the targeting system titled, “Stay on Target!” In it he presented this:
Now, if you go back and look at my post No Going Back, I warned everyone the coming UI changes would be dramatically different. I think this qualifies and it’s about time. I find nothing as unrealistic in Eve Online as the combat now that they have resolved warping through planets. Now settle down and hear me out because it’s true.
Currently, when I am running a Sleeper engagement or when I watch a fleet battle on YouTube, what I do and what I see others doing is selecting targets using the Overview window. CTRL-Click or F1 and Click does the trick quickly and efficiently. There are many things to like about the Overview. I see perfectly well all my “enemies” in the list. I can see their ranges from me precisely. I can exactly see their velocities relative to my ship. I can see them equally well whether they are in my field of view or are behind me. Perfectly, precisely, exactly, equally: we have all become used to managing our violence in this way. Since when have any of these adjectives ever described combat?
And another thing, the Overview is rather like a spreadsheet isn’t it? Sortable rows and columns make Eve combat more like balancing the books than a fight. Those FCs with the skills to parse this spreadsheet quickly and efficiently do best. But this isn’t really warfighting. It’s list management. When you have all the information in front of you and your rules of engagement are clear, all you have to do is apply a pivot table and voila, you’re an FC. Does that make you a good leader, or are you simply a better accountant?
Furthermore, perfect intelligence about who you are fighting is terribly unrealistic. In no instance of the military art can I think of any situation where the unknowns did not outway the knowns. War is an uncertain business and to pretend it isn’t is to lack a basic understanding of war’s fundamental nature. Had the Japanese known the carriers were not in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 they would not have attacked. Had Hitler understood the resilience and determination of the Russian soldier on their native soil, he’d never have abrogated his treaty with Stalin. The entire war would have been very different. Eve Online has always lacked the basic reality known as the fog of war when it comes to combat.
I hope the above picture is the second step introducing the fog of war into Eve Online combat (CCP has already said Dust Bunnies will be able to take down local for brief periods.) I hope they are taking us away from clinical engagements where all threats are seen, immediately assessed, prioritized and blobbed. Can you imagine what a Goonswarm attack would look like if local and the Overview was gone? It would be pandemonium in space! And that is precisely what it should be. Isn’t that what we all long for? To be Han Solo taking the Millenium Falcon through the asteroid field while Tie fighters chase us rather than the primary that pops in .23 seconds?
I cannot recount the number of complaints I’ve read about the application of blob tactics. But why does such a thoughtless tactic work? It’s because the spreadsheet and instant local count makes it possible for it to work. When local spikes, the blob FC goes to his spreadsheet, immediately sees the threat, knows the priority targets at once and broadcasts them for all to kill straight away. Perfect battlefield intelligence combined with perfect communications makes this fantasy scenario complete. Combat becomes a simple matter of who can kill whom quickest based in spreadsheet and formula. There is no warrior skill required.
“But Mabrick, what about the engagements where a smaller fleet triumphs?” you ask. Sure, DPS potential and proper fits may come into play and allow a numerically inferior fleet to win. But that is less a statement about the capabilities of the outnumbered pilots, than it is a statement about the poor fitting prowess of the other side. Only in that regard is it not fantasy. It was still done with perfect intelligence and perfect communications.
Whether it is a small fleet on a roam or a capital engagement, allowing the fog of war to creep into the contest will end the fantasy. CCP can’t really stop the perfect communications. Not unless they make Teamspeak a bannable violation of the EULA. But they can kill local and the Overview. Doing those two things will make combat far more realistic. It will bring out true combat leaders. Leaders who win through intuition and insight will become the new FCs of choice. A numerically inferior force, properly deployed and committed to the battle in a tactically sound fashion, will mean more than a thousand Drakes. And in the end, Eve will become more real for it.