I’ve spent a long time thinking about this. I’ve written extensively on it, on this specific iteration of the problem and the issue as a whole in game design. I’ve seen it play out in game, on the forums, and across the entire gaming industry.
I say this for two reasons. One, so that you know that I’m not just spouting a bunch of bull. I’ve done research and I have considerable, albeit anecdotal, evidence to back me up. Two, so that you hear me out in full and so that you know that I’m encouraging civil discussion on the issue. ECMs are a very polarizing class in Star Conflict, and I don’t want this to devolve into another thread of hate speech versus ‘git gud’.
Let me start off with the main point. Everything else stems from it.
ECMs are not an interactive role.
If you don’t take anything else away from this thread, at the very least know that is my point.
The words “Electronic Countermeasures” actually offer a lot of room for creative interactivity, and especially so within the bounds of Star Conflict. System Hack is a prime example of how to do interactivity right on ECMs. It has a powerful but specific effect that forces both sides to make thoughtful considerations both in combat and when building their ships. “What if they hack this?” or “Does hacking this make this part of the build less effective?” are small but influential decisions that players must make. It can convert an entire build into something different, in the same way that players may run multiple multipurpose modules to counter Tackler slows, and how players have to choose from only four of eleven different Guard Modules, and that’s just in T3. If you see a Guard on the other team, it could be doing one of a dozen different kinds of things. What if it’s a highly defensive build with fewer heals and more team protection effects? What if it’s a Heavy Overlord, built exclusively for frontline rushes and solo play? How do you build your ship against each?
ECMs don’t offer these considerations. The most interactivity they had before System Hack was how many Proton Walls you could afford to fit on your ships, a modifier that protects you from a maximum of five different control effects, three of them ECM disables.
As a result, disables are the entire focus of the ECM role. Whether they’re balanced in this regard is perhaps the most heated debate the playerbase has. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t matter. Both sides are wrong. Why? Because d** isabling players isn’t interactive and it isn’t fun. **If I’ve learned anything from both designing games on my own and from the hundreds of hours I’ve spent in just this specialty of the field alone, interactivity is the most important thing a game can have. If you have no way to interact with something, you aren’t enjoying it. This absolutely includes interacting with things that negatively affect you. Missile Shields are interactive. Micro Locators are interactive. Diffusion Shields are interactive. System Hack is interactive. They all require on-the-fly combat and pre-planning decisions, and most of the time are enjoyable to use and fight against. You feel like it’s an actual battle, because it’s not a one-way fight. With disables, it devolves into a game of solitaire, where one side is removing players from the battle completely. It’s the exact opposite of interactivity, and why many players hate being disabled rather than how they feel when their torps are stopped by Missile Shields, or when their Holoships are destroyed by Micro Locators. Your opponent interacted with you in the latter scenarios, and it feels more skillful on both sides, too.
Hopefully I’ve made my point with that. So allow me to offer some suggestions as to how to make the role more interactive. Please note that balance and design suggestions are not the same, and numbers can always be tweaked by the devs.
Camouflage Field - A stationary deployable object that passively removes all friendly ships from radar within its radius, in the same way that the Covert Ops’ Adaptive Camo works. As such, spy drones, micro locators, and other visibility effects will remove you from camo. Perhaps firing weapons and using modules do the same, balance dependent. The station has health, is destructible, and has a range between 1000 and 2500m, balance and mk dependent. It could use the Engineer Station model for size use. (Micro Locators are a little hard to hit to provide this effect.)
Missile Redirection Unit - Inspired by DarthDirk - A stationary deployable object that redirects guided missiles within a set radius (potentially scaling with mk). The Missile is diverted and thrown off into space, with a 50% chance of being redirected towards an ally that shot it. 1 missile redirected every set number of seconds.
*Placeholder for potential additions to this list*
Changes to existing Modules:
-Ion Diffuser no longer turns off active modules, or only disables them for the duration of its disable, with the module automatically returning to functionality afterwards. As is, the Ion Diffuser can single handedly take an entire build and make it worthless. It’s already very powerful without this, and as previously stated, not interactive.
-Stasis Generator no longer stops a player from activating modules and its duration is decreased. Right now, it’s as non-interactive as it can possibly get, forcing the ship to coast outwards into open traffic and get focused, or sit still for the same effect. When combined with the inability to fire or use modules, it becomes unacceptable. In addition, 3 seconds is a very long time for this effect. The duration should be lowered, especially if preventing module activation remains part of the effect.
Note that nerfing these modules and providing strong, interactive alternatives will encourage players to change up how they build their ECMs. Rather than always taking two disables, players will be encouraged to take them less often, and use alternate options that are more interactive with potential situation.
The System Hack is the most fun I’ve ever had with ECMs for good reason. That level of interactivity should be encouraged and built upon. I look forward to civil discussion on this matter, and implore the devs to consider what has been said. Thank you for your time.
P.S. I am not including a poll with this thread due to the vast amount of information in it.