CCP announced their winter expansion “Rubicon” this week and while the twitch was highly entertaining, it was – predictably at this stage – low on hard facts.
But thank god, we live in the bloggosphere where hard facts are icing on cake and absence of data has never stopped anyone from having an opinion. That alone should have prompted this post but the trigger was a quick exchange of comments in our alliance forum – bitter old vets rating this expansion as “meh” whereas my friend Thf and I have become paralyzed with joy and anticipation. In this post, I shall explain my expectations of the new features as they pertain to WH dwellers. I will freely hypothesize, so if you, dear reader, look for facts, contact your nearest soothsayer.
First up. Rubicon is a river in Italy that has historic relevance during Caesar’s insurrection. Wikipedia does a fine job explaining it, suffice to say that nowadays “Crossing the Rubicon” means to pass a point of no return. You are committed to a certain path of action that – in general – will alter the future. I believe this title was deliberately chosen – CCP has finally emerged from the “summer of rage” that followed their totally amateurish Incarna expansion and strategy. Post incarna, the company did not seem to have the spine to come out with new features and contented itself with ceaseless ship balancing rounds and tiny tweaks that really should have been inline-patches rather than called “expansions”. Nothing expanded since “Incarna” until now.
CCP has learned their lesson – gone are the days are massive announcements of huge game-changing features (Walking in Station, modular POSes). Instead, CCP Seagull explains her bigger strategy in vague terms (thats ok, strategy is vague) and uses the expansions as stepping stones into the direction of this strategy. This is of course what every technology company should do but I had not seen it from any game corp, Blizzard included. CCP has – in my opinion – crossed the Rubicon from being a overgrown garage start-up to a mature software development house. Bloody hell, I did not think I’d see that day.
While this was a wordy introduction, I needed to frame my assessment of Rubicon’s features since I actually believe that a) Seagull can deliver and b) that what she will not deliver in this expansion, she will in future releases.
Onward to the features (from a WH perspective)
Destructable High Sec Customs offices
Everyone in null / low / WH space already can blow up COs and the mechanic of it stands to no surprise. Assuming CCP keeps the mechanic of CO removing the same, this feature really has 2 phases. Phase 1 is the destruction of Interbus Customs offices – quick, painless and without risk. Player corps will place their own POCOs and set the taxes to not offend anyone too much to go to phase 2, the removal of POCO from other players – without capital ships something that is painful and only for the well-organized. The sov holding nullsec blocs are likely not going to be interested in participating so, this will be a fight between high sec corps and their hired mercenaries. I see POCO removal going to be the biggest contract drivers for mercenary corps at least until Christmas. For WH dwellers, not much of a change other than that the market will stutter, at first all commodities prices will go up and speculation will go rampant. Later – around Christmas, prices will settle down and likely even be lower when POCOs are installed that charge less than the exorbitant Interbus rates. Start stockpiling POS fuel especially.
Personal Deployable Structures.
One of the big issues during the last expansion cycle was modular POSes. The concept was introduced by CCP at fanfest and I believe CCP underestimated just how many people want to get rid of that damn POS we current live out of. POSes were out of bounds for the last expansion which caused a fair amount of malcontent. But in Rubicon, CCP is releasing 4 personal structures that I see as their first attempt to replace POS entirely but in stages. What we are looking at is Phase 1 of POS removal and there should much, much rejoicing from the WH community – maybe not about these specific modules but the strategy in general.
The first unit discussed was the Siphon unit - or whatever they will end up naming it. Parked next to a POS, it will steal resources from moon mining or reactions. I am not a real industrialist, so I don’t know what specifically it can steal but for WH players, the use is very limited. We don’t do moon mining (or do we?) and I don’t now if they intend to include “gas reactions” as well. In that case, they could in theory be used in WH space as well. It would not be a big deal but we could place them in our neighbor holes near their gas-reacting POS es and pull them in when our holes go EOL.
More interesting opportunities exist in nullsec for these Siphons and we frequently have routes that land us on the very edge of the universe in virtually dead constellations. Traffic there is minimal and if they do come through its likely some bot, not a real player. Dropping these Siphons there for a few days then scout our way out via WH routes sounds like a phenomenal low risk way to earn lots of ISK. All you need is the ability to get navigate a cloaked hauler and a scout through WH space – something we are very good at.
The Depot is a different beast altogether. It serves as an anchorable personal storage unit with the ability to refit the ship. The usefulness in general and for WH pilots specifically absolutely depends on the details of things thing – this could go from awesome to useless depending on how much it can hold, how fast (if at all) it can be scanned down, how long it persists, whether it can be used like by the fleet (like Orcas) or by corp (CHA).
They likely will show up on D-scan and hence are useless as a way to stealthily prepare an invasion or as a defensive stash of mods or ammunition. If they need a hauler to be tugged around, they can’t really be used by a single Data / Relic site raider in null and low sec. If they allow fleet refit (or corp, kinda), they would be useful as a means to refit from PvE to PvP and vice versa when raiding a neighbor hole or low sec system.
The third anchorable mod CCP presented was an loot and tractor module. Aimed at High Sec mission runners, it is to speed up the looting of wrecks. While quite is bit is unclear (range of tractors and cargo requirements), its pretty obvious that this thing could be awesome for WH PvE. The shooters warp in, drop a couple of these things on either end of the combat field and fire away at the sleepers. The loot mod tractors them to one space, gets all the content from the ships and leaves the wreck in one neat ball, ready for a catalyst with 8 salvage mods (no tractors required, remember) to suck them up. I would carefully estimate that this halves the time for the salvage operation, maybe even more. In empire space, the same will work with the addition of salvage drones, this is kind of the end of a Noctis.
The last anchorable mod is a portable cyno blocker with 70-100km range. This is really a Lowsec / Nullsec thing and will likely never see one in WH space (unless they allow cynos in our world which would likely backlash with the community). Its a really smart idea but I don’t see it being used by any of us.
At the moment, the warp speed of ships seems to be very similar, just the alignment is slower. So, if a hauler warps from a POS to a POCO and I warp after it, we land on the grid about at the same time. The presented method changes that, smaller ships have a faster warp and effectively overtake larger ships. This means that if I am stalking a hauler in a Wormhole and he warps to a customs office, I follow him, my ship is smaller and I land well before him. I can soak up my decloak delay, get my weapons overheated, take a coffee break, cure cancer, pat the cat and then watch the hauler land on top of me. That is really, really nice but I am not sure what will happen to fleet warps. I think (?) that they already warp at the speed of the slowest ship. So if a fleet with an interceptor and a battleship take off at the same time, they land at the same time – the interceptor pilot being bored to death by then, of course. I need to check if this is the way it works.
Speaking of interceptors – they will gain bubble immunity. Thats pretty awesome, they can not be used as real scouts and fearlessly transit wormholes, even scout the enemy POS. In common wormhole fights, one side of the hole is bubbled – a by a HIC or a light interdictor. The interceptor can now fly in this environment. For the times when we go to nullsec, it may be a better scout than a cloaky ship since local channel gives our presence away anyway. A speedy, small signature interceptor is hard to catch and can transit wormhole camps now as fast but with less cost than a interdiction-nullified T3.
Nuns with Guns
Speaking of Ships. Sisters of EVE, our lovable rescue operation gets new ships, a mix between Gallente (woot!) and Amarr (booh). But if I understood the CCP guys correctly, these ships are exploration boats, rigged for cloaked flight and equipped for hacking data sites. So far, nothing that Helios can’t do. But apparently, the ships (frigates and cruisers) will have quite a bit of punch to them, quite capable of defending themselves. So, while they seem to be designed to drive stealthy traffic into low and nullsec, they would be perfect scouts and tacklers for wormhole operations and a true alternatives to either Recon or Tech 3 ships. Recons have a long skill queue and T3 are expensive, so these boats could be very, very useful in Wormhole space and I can’t wait to fly one.
There were two other changes – Marauders and the rapid missile firing mods for battleships so that they may have a chance against smaller ships. While they seem to be geared more for PvE, I do believe that a Bastion – Marauder could be very interesting for both PvE and PvP in Wormhole space but I have not read up about those changes enough. (and I cant’t fly Marauders anyway).
Bottom line, I am really looking forward to this expansions, it will have many new elements that will alter the way we play this game and I believe – for the better. But I am excited to see that CCP now has a real vision and that they use the expansions as stepping stones to reach it.
Congrats, CCP, well done.
Now make it work :)