CCP Rise recently made a Tweet, loosely throwing around the possibility of making a new ECM type which reduces your drone bandwidth while you are affected by it, I think this is a bad idea and I’ll explain why.
First, we must look into why drones are currently favored and powerful in the current metagame.
- Bonused Drones often do close range turret DPS to at least 60km with 3 Drone Damage Amplifiers. This is almost exclusively the only modules that drone ships actually have to fit to achieve this. Normally a bonused drone ship will then possibly use either a low or mid (although this is not necessary) to improve drone tracking. Leaving them with almost the entirety of their resources to fit tank, speed, energy warfare, oversized prop, or a combination of these. Often the Drones do so much damage that killing them before they kill you is not feasible versus most bonused drone ships. Most Drone Platforms can do DPS to all significant ranges. Drone Travel time has been made significantly less of a drawback with the recent boosts to Medium and Heavy drone speed, And T2 Drone Navigation computers which were introduced to the game fairly recently.
- Drone DPS is independent of your positioning, which means Drone Ships can more easily mitigate damage through both tracking or range since their positioning is irrelevant to the damage that they deal, the only real drawback is that your drones being shot can’t be recalled sometimes at range.
- Drone DPS persists through most control and positional options like Damps. Moving away from a drone ship when you have drones on you often also does nothing, as they will chase you well beyond the Drone Ships actual control range, only breaking off after around 30-40 seconds.
- Drone DPS, for the same reason why Rapid Lights are dominating the meta, is that they deal with Frigates and downsized ships very well, often close to rivaling dedicated anti-support options. Rapid Lights tick all the same boxes. Low Fitting Requirements, check. Applies to all relevant small-med sized ranges, check. Tracking Independent, check. Deals with undersized ships, check.
- They are a very easy weapon system to actually use effectively, much lower (player) skill requirements. You don’t know what you’re doing? No problem, Assign your drones to a Recon in fleet, orbit anchor at 500 or desired range, and go AFK!
However, I feel like the vast majority of these benefits only really apply to bonused drones. Drones are an important part of ship balancing and giving options to larger ships to protect themselves against smaller ships. I don’t think there is any problem with the 30m3 (25m3 bandwidth) of drones on the Hurricane, The problems only really materize when you have 2-3 Drone Damage Amplifiers and a 50% Damage+Health bonus on drones. I fear that such an ECM mechanic will just be used to make other non bonused drone ships like the Hurricane even more helpless, if this mechanic works off sensor strength, guess what ship has more slots free than any other HAC for ECCM. Hint: It’s the Ishtar.
ECM is a terrible mechanic that has needed to be reworked for a long time. I think ECM is perfectly balanced from a power perspective, however, the chance based nature and how completely dominating it is with nothing you can to do to mitigate the effects while in space is awful. Modules without any counter-play that take away all your options while you’re successful is an awful game design mechanic.
I also disagree with shoe horning in an extra module for balance. Bonused Drones are OP if you don’t have X, but if you do have X, they are balanced/underpowered, is a terrible way to balance things. We don’t need more ‘not in space’ hard counters, this is why eccm/ecm is a balanced, but bad mechanic. ‘Blighted Heavy Assault Launcher of Medium Railgun Slaying’ no thank you. How you perform should be more to do with decisions and positioning in space, rather than what modules you have fitted before the engagement takes place.
Remember when the counter to 8km/s Ishtars and Scimitars was get to get a Rapier yeah…
My Approach to this problem is just nerf DDAs to their pre-inferno stats. DDAs were released in Inferno, if Drones did less damage than they do now, there would be more opportunity to kill drones, and more turret/missile ship options would come to light. The reason why Zealots aren’t flown right now is that Ishtars outdamage them at all ranges with none of the balanced weaknesses the Zealot has to go with it’s strengths, while also requiring none of the skill that a well flown zealot needs. Simple Solutions to a Simple Problem. Eve is already complex enough as it is.