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My name is Hallan Turrek. This is my blog.

Friday, October 23, 2009

ECM is Broken

If I had a million dollars
I'd build a treefort in our yard
If I had a million dollars
You could help it wouldn't be that hard
If I had a million dollars
Maybe we could put a little tiny fridge in there somewhere.
The Barenaked Ladies - If I Had $1000000

ECM is broken. There I said it. Thousands of others have been on the receiving end of an unlucky jam one time to many and have thought and said the same thing. Personally, the number of times I've been jammed out of a fight can be counted on one hand, and the last time someone tried to jam me it didn't work out so well for him. So why do I think ECM is broken if I've yet to be frustrated by it?

I've seen ECM work for my side more often than not, and it works too well. Lets compare it to the other two defensive Ewar modules, Sensor Damps and Tracking Disruptors.

Sensor Dampeners are effective on long range and short range boats. An inty has a short range to start with, and if you damp it down, it's gotta close in more than it might want. Missile boats trade damage for range, and with a range damp you take away some of it's advantage. The damps are next to useless alone when used on a recon. Most of them have high lock ranges but much shorter effective ranges, so dampening their lock range is a waste of time. There is also the added negative of being way beyond web range of what you damp. If he's fast enough, he'll just close the distance. Anyone can add a sensor booster to their ship as well, effectively canceling one of your damps.

So how about tracking disruptors? They're extremely useful when used on any turret based ship, nearly crippling some if used correctly. But if the fleet has a missile or drone boat you're out of luck, and can guarantee you'll be primaried. These are useful for tacklers, but once again there are modules that will nullify most of the effect of these.

Now lets look at ECM. Given absolute knowledge of the enemy gang's composition, you will always bring ECM if that's the option. Why? It's better across the board. If a ship you're facing doesn't carry an ECCM module, it will likely be permajammed. Even if he's using ECCM, there is still a good chance that it won't be able to affect the battle at all. ECCM merely lowers your chance of being jammed, instead of negating that chance completely.

So what's the difference beyond the lack of a proper counter? Well ECM is like a sensor dampener that turns your targeting range to 0. So why use range damps if you have these? ECM is like a tracking disruptor that turns your tracking or optimal to 0 as well, so why use tracking disruptors? It stops missile boats, it stops turret boats, it stops drone boats. It works equally well on all ship types. It is broken.

How do we fix it? You may've noticed the last time I did one of these I talked about how to fix cloaking. This time around I propose to fix ECM, but not by nerfing ECM itself. I want to provide a more direct counter.

Introducing the Frequency Disruptor.

The Frequency Disruptor would be a new midslot module that you can activate on any target you can lock. It should have an optimal and falloff similar to the Tracking Disruptor(with current skills affecting it as an ewar module). Decent skills will put that at around 70k optimal. It would come with a new base and specialization skill to improve it's cap usage and effectiveness, in line with the other defensive Ewar modules.

It should be scriptable to provide either bonus doubled if desired or to run unscripted to use both bonuses at half. It would work on Sensor Dampeners, Tracking Disruptors, and finally ECM. It would reduce Optimal and Falloff, or the strength of the reductions the module gives(in the case of ECM, it would reduce the strength of the jam).

Now if someone tries jam you, and you have one of these onboard, you can burn out of his effective range, and hit him with this. It is an actual counter, and will force ECM pilots to think harder about how they plan to fight. They still get an initial jam in on the ships they need too, but generally a fleet can make him run away or force him to close range to something a bit more uncomfortable.

ECM stops being an easy button but isn't nerfed to hell and back.

That's my idea. What's yours?


  1. I think that ECM is at the moment next to dead. No need to try to be innovative about dead horse anyway.

  2. Your point about the effectiveness of ECM ignores the randomness of the module compared to Sensor Damps and Tracking Disrutors.

    The reason ECM is so powerful is because people can load up mid slots with lots of them to overcome the randomness with probability through repeated tries.

    My suggestion, that I proposed a while back and still hold to, is to limit the number of EWAR modules allowed per ship class, 3 for frigs, 4 for cruisers, 5 for BS. This would kill the ability of ECM ships to jam multiple targets easily.

  3. Boosting ECCM is another alternative. Perhaps have them work against all forms of e-war? Perhaps make them scripted so you pick what to protect against.

    I also like the idea of limiting modules. Or make each applied effect diminishing. Right now each jammer does an individual roll if it will jam or not. Make it a global roll.

  4. While I agree with Myrhial that one answer could be more robust ECCM, ECM can be countered, it just is annoying to do so and takes prior planning - just like in RL. If you are not fitting ECCM and nobody in your gang has remote ECCM, given the prevalence of ECM, then you may want to relook your ops plans. Ditto for not assigning the counter-ECM mission to vessels, who arrive on grid after your initial combat force has identified the jammers. It's a pain and it's more advanced than most roaming gangs can handle, but it sure panics a jammer as he/she frantically tries to retarget the newly arrived ECM-killers.

  5. ECM also works most effectively when you can match your ECM type against the opponent's ship race. If you load up with the wrong sort and your opponents don't bring that race of ship (or not many), your effectiveness in a fleet fight is reduced. I await someone with actual ECM expertise pointing out the counter to the counter, though, since this is just theorycrafting on my part.

    However, one correction to the article: ECM/TD/SD are defensive EWAR, not offensive like TP.