First of all: I had a blast. The Free-For-All (FFA) approach is much, much more appealing to me. If it’s played as initially intended. Of course it also has its flaws. Blingy ships and pods are just one of them. Another one got even clearer this time. But let’s have a look at the basic idea first.
As the name suggests, in a “free for all” match, everyone shoots everyone. Only when four of the five ships have exploded, the gate to escape the abyss and the cache with loot will open. A little battle royale, completed in at least 15 minutes, if you want, or not. Because with seven minutes left on the clock, everyone and everything (drones too) gets a 25% resistance nerf. And when the clock has ticked down to 0 everyone still in the arena gets sent home into a fresh clone.
Ships allowed were the eight T1 empire Destroyer class hulls: Algos, Catalyst, Dragoon, Coercer, Thrasher, Talwar, Corax, Cormorant, and as a bonus, the Sunesis.
In theory, this sets a great stage for cool fights, close calls, burned out modules, sweaty hands, plenty of hull damage, and lots of theory crafting as well as opportunities for some decent market manipulation.
And in praxis, it works. Before you jump into the arena, you have to come up with a fit – or copy one from zkillboard – that you think may work out in this scenario. There was for example no reason to fit a long-point like you would want in k-space. Your opponent can’t run further than the diameter (150km if I’m not mistaken) of the arena. But webs or sometimes warp scramblers saw some use.
Positioning is an elemental aspect as well. You want to stay away from the ships that are dangerous for you. Or you may try to rush them together with another pilot and hope to kill the countering ship together. Of course, you would eventually have to fight over the final victory, but for the moment you teamed up to kill a ship that you could not hope to bring down by yourself. An example would be two Thrashers chasing down a Sunesis with an active dual armor-tank. Or a similar tanked Dragoon.
On a few occasions, I even spared pilots because I knew I could not kill that other guy without their help, or at least them distracting him for a while.
An Algos enabled to spread the love (damage) with drones more easily. With a solid locking range of ~52km, one could stay at a somewhat safe distance and send out the drones to kill the one guy that was about to win a fight.
Against drone boats, you could try to skim the edges of the arena or even pull the drones with you into the damaging effect of the abyss to kill them off quickly.
With a Thrasher one could stay at range for a while and try to de-fang the occasional drone sent after one, and then wait for the opponents to decimate each other. Then when the resistance debuff would hit, the Thrasher rushes in on the remaining opponents with heated guns and hopes to be able to volley through active reps. For example against a Sunesis, which has a bit more than ~1.000 EHP armor-buffer. With a penetrating hit uMillenium’s Sunesis also had not much time to gain resists on my artilleries with his Adaptive Armor Hardener. Lucky me kind of volleyed his ship. The drones of the Dragoon on him did the rest. And sadly I landed this shot while in low armor myself and took the pod-express.
Here is another phenomenon: People start to recognize names. With the leaderboard showing who is currently at the top of the list, people start to recognize these names and often will start to gang up on these people. Either because they hope for shiny loot, just a nice killmail or expect that they can not hope to break them by themself.
Again using faction and ded-space modules became a thing. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I used some faction modules as well on my Algos. Two medium faction shield extenders gave me another 1k buffer over a ~30m cheaper variant of the fitting with meta shield extenders.
Additionally, faction drones proved to be extremely strong on Algos and Dragoon hulls. Since both get the bonus to drone EHP, the little buggers became very tough to kill. And only certain ships could even hope to de-fang for example Caldari Navy Vespas coming in from an Algos.
While extremely useful to me as an Algos pilot, I would still rather see not all equipment possible to use in these abyssal arenas. The following video from the previous 2v2 cruiser proving grounds demonstrates why this probably would be a good idea.
When fittings would be limited to meta and t2 modules, and no implants and maybe even no drugs where allowed, it would come down much more to good piloting and of course skill points. And I think that would be much more fun overall.
Could meta-levels work as a factor for matchmaking?
Since every item has its own meta-level, of which a lot got reworked recently, one could even go so far and make different tiers of queues. Pilots with all t1 or meta-modules would get into different matchmaking than the guys who have fits shimmering in green, blue, and red. So everyone would at least face somewhat comparable fittings. Taking skill points into account might be a good idea as well. Otherwise, pilots with 200m SP but meta- and t1 fittings would very likely still mop the floor with 10m SP pilots. Low SP pilots tend to be a bit less experienced on top of that.
Saltiness & Tryhardery
And here comes the human ambition into play. Paired with the option to manipulate the system, it of course got manipulated as this reddit thread – and in particular this comment from Suitonia explains rather well.
This pretty much wrecks all fair competition. “Winning at all costs and with every method.” Eve at it’s core? Or has CCP just messed up here allowing this kind of manipulation in the first place? Does this even want to be a fair competition? It kind of seems like it, considering there are titles and skill points, and skins and stuff to be won.
Well, I think it should be as fair as possible. Because yes, you got a bunch of friends who are willing to spend their time helping you to manipulate the system. I give you that. And you may have the ISK to fly an expensive ship. Okay. And you even may be a decent pilot. But does that make you deserve that top rank?
I have to excuse the language in the next sentence, but it seems appropriate:
In its current form, you can manipulate the shit out of the arena system.
And that’s probably what this is all about. CCP has clearly stated these first events are test-runs to see what problems would arise. What would work and what doesn’t.
Solutions towards a more fair competition could be to add a random element to the timer, so it’s harder to get people in in a controlled way. Also, you could redact the names of pilots and ships in the arena, to make it harder to identify who is who. People could still use skins to pull that off. But others could invade that tactic and do mind-games with it. Disabling private conversations on the proving grounds could help to stop people teaming up with each other as well. But should they? Is this Eve? Is an unfair competition the point? What would that make the titles and skins worth you get added to your name then? Just tainted with the implications that you did not earn them in an “honest” way? Not easy to answer questions. But that’s on you, CCP.
I just hope you can learn the right lessons from these test-runs.
Personally, I had a lot of fun in the FFA proving grounds. The low entry-level and chaotic nature of it had great entertainment value.
Have you tried to prove yourself to the Triglavians?
What do you think of this new feature?