Monday, May 19, 2014

There’s Small, and then there’s ECM

Kaeda wrote a very interesting post regarding small gang warfare, pointing out that the term “small gang” is somewhat relative in EVE.

In addition to this relativity, I often think that people don’t factor fleet size at all in some balancing discussions. For example, (and I unfortunately cannot find the exact forum post) a few months ago I read through a rather lengthy forum post regarding ECM, where people were adamantly claiming that ECM was balanced, while others were adamantly claiming it was completely game breaking. There was all sorts of *math*, and discussion surrounding the ‘balance’ of the math of your chances, and etc.

No one ever mentioned fleet size, which I believe is a very important factor in any discussion regarding ECM. There is a significant difference in having a 30% chance of removing someone from a fight where 100 people are involved, and having a 30% chance of removing someone from a fight where there are 6 people involved. 

Like Kaeda touched on, small gang pilots in low-sec often employ strategies and a gameplay style where each member of their gang is important on an individual basis. This also means that the chance of having a member taken out of the fight by being tied down with ECM is an even more devastating prospect then it would be in a situation where you may be at risk of losing the firepower 1 of 30 Caracals, or etc.

It is for this reason that ECM seems to be disliked most by members of the low-sec community. In my experience, ECM is more or less an anti-conflict driver in small gang warfare, where you have very small numbers—such as less than a dozen pilots. The threat of ECM will often cause a fight to fizzle out and never begin, and the arrival of even a small amount of ECM on field will often cause one side to disengage and remove themselves from the situation.

Someday, I hope CCP revisits the mechanics of ECM, taking into mind its effects on various gameplay. I understand the ‘numbers’ and how it could be argued that ECM is not as unbalanced as people think, given the chances involved. However, when you see the consistent, negative effects that ECM has on your gameplay, year after year, it’s hard not to think that something is a little amiss.


  1. ECM is indeed much more critical in smaller-gang fights (15 or fewer) than in larger ones. You also have to balance the factor of an FC comping an ECM ship versus having DPS or perhaps a logi in that slot instead. Example: a six ship fleet can benefit more from having one jamming ship along than one logi ship along in fights that such a fleet will actually take. If the opposing fleet is also six ships but includes one logi, a well-fit friendly jammer can knock out the enemy logi and one other ship. That makes the effective fight five ships on your side versus four on the other: an advantageous outcome! Two logis facing each other instead will result in an effective 5v5 fight, throwing the outcome more in doubt.

    It does mean that there are limits to what fights certain ship classes are any good at, though. For instance, Rooks are all but useless in fleets of more than six ships. A Rook brings both some jamming and some DPS but can only knock one enemy ship out of a fight, less than a Falcon, Blackbird, or Kitsune. Its DPS is quite marginal which means in fleets of seven ships or larger, a DPS ship is a better choice than a Rook.

  2. YES YES!!! , I didnt believe this day ever come..but i agree you! :D

  3. There is also the individual-level frustration of, once jammed, you are a lump of meat sitting behind a keyboard. Being taken completely out of the fight is simply not a fun position to be in, and the threat of having zero participation in a conflict raging around you can easily be enough to deter an individual's involvement.

    1. "you are a lump of meat sitting behind a keyboard" every miner and goo hauler that you PREFER to hunt and tackle. :P

  4. Just seeing an ECM bonused ship around is enough to make one side disengage? I'd say ECM is working pretty darn well as it has clawed it's way into people's heads and strikes fear into all!

    "The Mighty Griffin! The Indomitable Blackbird! Just landing on grid will make your foes tremble in fear!* Fitting ECM modules is optional!"

    The idea that just having an ECM bonused ship around will make a gang reconsider attacking reminds me of this scene in the Godfather:

    *and will likely get you primaried and blapped off the field first.


    In a more serious note, I've been trying to formulate how to compose my thoughts about the rage against ECM. I personally think ECM is a good concept: it can allow a smaller gang to take on a larger gang. Apparently it can discourage opposing fleets to the point they don't want to engage. It can give you tactical advantages. Yet, unlike every other EWAR module, or warp disruptor/ scram/nos/neut it is chance based.

    It seems to me that the problem with ECM comes more from the frustration of being jammed, than actually being jammed. I can appreciate the frustration of being jammed, but then this game is full of frustrations when you are the one on the losing end.

    Which leads me to this, which I guess, the root of the question I have about people who don't like ECM - should ECM be changed because of how people respond to it?

    As a concept, I think it's fine - but games are played by people. And if the response is causing problems, should it be changed? Or are people simply overreacting and changing things that one group (ahem!-aggressors) find annoying would make things off-balance? I dunno.

    -"I Use ECM to Harvest Tears" Amari

    1. The frustration comes from not being able to make a counter play.

      When you get tracking disrupted you can still affect whomever does it (with your own e-war or by piloting to counter the effect). When you get neuted you can still manage your capacitor by being selective about what models you cycle and when you cycle them, your capless mods work fine too. When you get damped you can pilot to counter the range effect and you don't necessarily lose existing locks. When you get webbed or scrammed you still have options too.

      When you get ECM'd. Well you can leave (provided you're not tackled). The only exception is if you have drones which were set to aggressive *prior* to getting jammed. Or if you are one of those odd balls that carries auto-targeting missiles. Neither of those options allow you any control either though and rely entirely on luck (so you're still unable to make a counter play).

      And in this ECM is different from all other e-war mechanics, it allows no counter play. It is also why I think it's fundamentally a bad game mechanic.

    2. "The frustration comes from not being able to make a counter play."

      Wait a sound just like a miner...

  5. Its ironic how people who take delight in killing a defenseless miner or transport pilot will whine when the tables are turned and they are the helpless ones.

    1. What you seem to have missed Anonymous (19:20hrs 19 May 2014) is that when you enter LowSec you should understand you are prey, all of us who live in LowSec are somewhere on the PvP food chain. You the guys who just ganked you and the fleet that flattened them five minutes later should all be looking over their shoulders for the next predator up the chain.

      As to taking delight in it that very much depends on the target, not much joy in ganking a miner or hauler but if your there its better than doing nothing after all a kill is a kill is a kill. We would rather have a good fight but you don't always get one so we tend to take what EvE offers us.

      As to the original article, not everyone runs when there is ECM on the field. Usually you can burn it down or chase it off before it has to much impact if its only a ship or two but of course if the you opponent is particularly ECM heavy and your not set up to counter it then running is just sensible. They lose a fight just as much as you do.

  6. If you are jammed you can always warp away and come back. ECM is not anywhere near as powerful as for instance warp disruption mechanics which are 100% effective against an unlimited number of ships for an unlimited amount of time unless you are nullified. ECM can also be countered - using ECCM or FoF missiles. Meanwhile putting 2x range damps and/or tracking disrupts on a ship can render it effectively jammed.

  7. I suggested this on the forums a while back, but I like the idea of an anti-ECM deployable. It detects use of ECM and shoots missiles at the source. Single use, but could be used by any ship. Probably needs to have relatively low hp.

  8. I think ECM ships are hated not because of their actual power. If they were too powerful, every gang would have them.

    Having an ECM ship in the gang is a signal of a philosophy that most small gang warriors hate: "we don't care about good fights, we are here to win". It's like cynoing in carriers, without the chance of a carrier kill.

  9. The only problem with ECM is that it offers no illusion to the receiving player that they are a fight participant. If you tracking disrupt a dps ship to oblivion with a Crucifier, they are just as useless as if they had been jammed, but they still get to cycle their guns, so they're happy.

    By the way, do you want to counter ECM? Bring damps. You can completely neutralize a 250M isk Falcon with a 10M isk Maulus.

    Eve is a game of rock-paper-scissors where a minority of self-important scrubs play rock every time, and cry foul whenever someone else brings out paper.

  10. I think the main point of the blogger was that ECM is really only good in small gang (<dozen, ideally 6 or less) and thus having ecm be an all or nothing mechanic is technically unfair to gameplay (aka enjoyment of everyone involved)

    Yet, what is the solution? It's all well and good to say something is bad, but what is better (without having the fix being worse)? All you're really accomplishing is a nerf, yet as Anon6:43 pointed out, sensor damps do just that - paper tiger ecm boats best defense is range.

    So what could ECM do instead? certainly couldn't be an area affect weapon (say decloaking things or what have you...that would be silly. you'd have jump autocloak ganks all over new eden) since what attribute would it lower? targeting range and scan resolution are both taken (damps), as is signature radius (painting), and tracking speed & optimal range (disruptors)
    What about falloff & target count: ECM had scripts for both lowering falloff or target management by a percentage?

    OR how about going outside the box completely and deconstructing tracking disruptors? Why the HELL can a module actually lower the physical attributes of a turret rotating? seriously!
    If we're going to have an EW that hampers the actual turret on enemy ships from slowing physically down, why not go all the way and say, "look, if we're physically going to fuck with turrets speed why not turn the disruptor into something that affects (via script) either turret speed or reload time...i mean, think about it for more than 5 milliseconds.
    So if you remove optimal range from disruptors you've got to think about the tracking computer as'd have to fiddle with that too.
    So what do we have then to fill the gap? You'd need a module that dealt with optimal AND falloff range. You'd now have a range disruptor/booster, yes? So a new module, or a change of an old one that drives people crazy currently? How about ECM to lower optimal/falloff (aka screwing with targeting chances to do damage)...i mean Caldari are missile based right? They'd want to fuck around with turrets, whereas Amarr do disruption that could affect missile based weapons finally (reload times)

    So ECM would be optimal/falloff affecting, Disruption would be tracking/reload, Damps would stay the same for sensor res/targeting range, Target painters would....well, increase just the signature radius?
    Then targeting computers would be tracking speed and reload boosting, range computers would be optimal/falloff boosting.

    So...what do you think?

    1. "I Use ECM to Harvest Tears" Amari here...

      Regarding "OR how about going outside the box completely and deconstructing tracking disruptors? Why the HELL can a module actually lower the physical attributes of a turret rotating? seriously! " not go there. There are oodles of modules that don't make one darn bit of sense in this game, if you think about it logically.

      And I dunno if Sugar is saying ECM makes the gameplay unfair. If so, I'd have to ask, "what game are you playing?" Un-fun? Okay. A game that isn't fun is a game that is soon abandoned, so I'll give you that. But un-fair? Dude. This is Eve. It *isn't* fair, and players go out of their way to make it so.

  11. A lot of typical whinage by players who can't PVP.

    An ECM boat is easily countered by even just one ship equipped with ECCM. And, once countered, an ECM boat is easy prey, even for a ship with half-assed DPS - because ECM boats are utterly predicatble, both fit and tactics, and can't tank worth s**t. Especially in small gang PVP.

    1. I frequently engage and kill ECM ships. But even ECCM still makes it a dice roll, you either get jammed or you don't. Furthermore ECCM does nothing for your ship when there's no ECM on field. Unlike say tracking computers/enhancers or sensor boosters or capacitor injectors.

      Werther individual people are good at PvP or not has nothing to with if it is or isn't a well designed mechanic. Take your strawman elsewhere :)