"Sugar," said the grizzled veteran as he leaned forward and eyed the hangar below. His heavy forarm was scarred and tattooed from finger tips to elbow. The other was cybernetic. I didn't know if it was choice or circumstance that had given him that synthetic arm. Capsuleer's can have odd tastes. But it was his voice, heavy with confidence and irritation that captured my attention. "You need to figure out a way to get real ships back in space." He looked at me for a moment, his eyes a startling bright silver under dark brows.
It was only a few weeks after I had been elected to the Council of Stellar Management. I was in a looking over a fleet of scared battleships in an atmospheric repair dock. It was not the first time that I had heard these words nor was this the more battle worn capsuleer I had heard it from. My own corporation was in system for repairs after a fight over one of ours mining starbases. That may have been what drew this veteran to come find me and deliver what he needed from me as a speaker on the Council. The only problem was...One of the things that I do not think some people realize about my Jaguar fixation is that I chose to fly Jaguars. I chose to fly them to fill a particular need in the fleets that we flew in after Retribution nerfed the game of battlecruisers online. Before Retribution, Jaguar's were my belt ratting ship that I used to grind up security status. They were sturdy enough to take down a battleship and fast enough for me to run away from anyone that came to hunt me down.
The nerfing of battlecruisers came with the buff to cruisers and frigates and Eve as a game changed. Eve's meta changed and Eve's players changed, kinda.
The thing about people who are good at the game is that they are flexible enough to work with the changes of the game. Battlecruiser use decreased while cruiser usage increased. The rebalance of faction cruisers and T2 cruisers only accelerated that and battlecruisers fell to the wayside. Battleships started to see less use now that they were going up against cruiser packs. Counters, hard counters, and ISK are factors to a fight as well no matter how much I may like it or not. A cruiser gang could take out a battleship pack. Then with Rubicon came warp speed changes and battleships were sent back to the dock.
Now, this is a very loose history of my understanding of ship use in the low sec space where I lived. Molden Heath is not faction warfare low sec so these changes meant that cruisers became king. I selected the Jaguar because properly fit I sacrificed DPS for speed and tank. I possessed enough EHP to hold a tackle on a gate under gateguns. I once did that very same thing in a battlecruiser but now we were not facing battlecruisers and battleships but other cruisers and we needed to be faster.
I started to fly a frigate. Later, I moved into interceptors for more strategic off gate fights and null sec adventures. It was not until my CSM run that I started having people come to me and sigh about the swarms of 'shit ships' and the lack of 'real fights'.
While I was living in Molden Heath, over in Faction Warland the rebalanced had invigorated them as well. Mixed with some actual attention for faction warfare and depths of space became thick with frigate and destroyer packs. The rate of ship destruction in low sec accelerated and and the size of hull decreased across the entire spectrum. There were more fights, more explosions, and more destruction than ever before.
Move forward a year to my CSM run and the grizzled vetrins that I handed a saucer of tea to as they came to visit my hanger. With more kills and targets then ever I was meeting grumpy, angry, upset people who kept telling me that they where tired of people flying shit ships and they wanted real fights.
"What," I asked, "Is a real fight?"
"Battlecruisers. Battleships. Something that matters. A fight a man can get into and commit himself to. Everything is frigates. But people are tired of them. There should be places where only battlecruisers and up can go. You can let the T2 logistics in. Then we'd have real fights. Real fights that mattered." He wasn't looking at me anymore. I don't think he was even looking at the ships below us. He was looking at his own memories. But those memories...How do you force mechanics? The most common suggestion that I have heard is for a restricted faction warfare complex. One that only allows battlecruisers and above and T2 ships. Real ships it seems cost a certain ISK value. If people want tackle they can allow T3s and recons in but they cannot have frigates.
What about exclusion? I've received some blank looks about that. In a game where we pride ourselves in horizontal gameplay when did we start slotting in vertical ladders? Can we beam in pride at the ability of a new player to get a few hours training and tackle something on field if we then tell them that they are not old enough/rich enough/fancy enough to come have this fight.
I don't care for exclusion. I understand that the core of the idea is to create the fight that the veteran used to have. It is not that they want to exclude new players but that they want people to fly something else. Something that is not a cheap, disposable frigate.
Now, I could dismiss them and for a while I was mostly shocked. However, as the topic kept coming back up and I started to listen a bit more I realized that they missed the past. In Eve's forward momentum it had left behind an era. It was an era that may not have been what CCP wished but it was an era of time where many current players grew up. And they have lost that and now have only memories.
I've been told that everyone wants these new battlecruiser and expensive only ship restrictions. I have not found any basis for that outside of the circle that wishes for a particular type of combat. And, as with every type of combat out there we have a few problems.
- We cannot make people fly and fight in particular ways, we can only encourage it.
- Sometimes some things do not exist in all types of space, equally. That includes our preferred types of fight.
One of the things that I miss most are the old blue explosions that ripped across your screen like a miniature super nova. They were gorgeous and the new golden puff swirls don't come close to the sheer brilliant instant of destruction that the old explosions once had. It is a little thing. Yet, over time, as little thing and little thing is whittled away we are left with a void full of intangible but fond memories and a reality of change accepted but not always loved.
The future is change and the past is behind us. Do we want to encourage people into bigger ships? I watched a four month old player plan his Vindicator purchase today for a PvP environment. To encourage larger ship usage through forced PvP game mechanics will only increase those types of situations. That is not a fight but a meat grinder of incapable pilots. If that satisfies the itch then I may not understand what a real ship is.
Fortunately, while I knew few who will say no to the meat grinder slaughter of poorly trained piloting, I do not think that is the over arcing goal of the requests that I have received. At the same time, I don't think they are fully fleshed out ideas insomuch as voiced desires and laments of change.
There is also a cost factor that I almost skipped. A few months ago I read a blog post that has sat in the back of my mind since then. The author was going to high sec to kill high sec players who did not expect it and destroy their corporations so that he could feel as if he had actual implact. Null sec. Low sec. Wormholes... all of those places expected loss and he gained no satisfaction from his opponents casual acceptance. In that I began to understand that expense, for ISK efficiency in combat is a much spoken upon topic, had become a measure. People were no longer hurt by simply losing they wanted to feel the destruction and gasp a bit when the loss totals slammed into their wallet.
But can we ever go home again? Back to the time when all loss hurt and all fights caused our hands to skitter across the keyboard? When the booming thud of capitals landing on grid echoed in the tunnel that our vision had become during combat? Can game mechanics ever bring that back?
In the end it does bring forward the fact that some ships are remarkably undesirable to pull out and fight in in low sec space. It may be balancing or environment, the meta or the market, but the rise of the cruiser and frigate hull has happened and they reign over our memories past.