If you look up “Retribution” in a thesaurus, you’ll find a vast number of synonyms and associated words. Most are focused on vengeance, which is obviously the play that CCP is marketing from an in-game perspective.
But there are others that I think speak more directly to what CCP has done with Retribution. Atonement. Exoneration. Payoff. Renewal.
After nearly a month of play, I see this release as the natural conclusion to a “trilogy” of releases in response to the backlash of Incarna. It takes the little things overload of Crucible, mixes in the cleanup of old broken features like Inferno, and delivers things not only with function, but now with a level of refinement.
There is a lot to like about Retribution. I already mentioned that CCP rapidly responded to my biggest concerns (non-persistent Safety (fixed) and T3 eject (declined)). I’ll cover the bulk of my thoughts on the rest of the features here with the exception of ship and rat rebalancing changes (I am still forming opinions on these, which will make up the third and final installment).
TL;DR: Retribution turned out great, and CCP should be proud of it – I spend a lot of words gushing about some awesome stuff. Things I’d still like to see: more POS fixes, more killrights, tweaks to safe logoff, enhanced situational music and a fix for asymmetric dscan camera centering. And most importantly, a response to the community on the DED Plex removal.
My Favorite Refinement
My favorite change? CCP Arrow gets my “Best Improvement Award” for a tiny little thing most people likely didn’t even notice. He states it as a throwaway bullet: “Index tree refreshing across multiple clients was causing both slowdown and in severe cases lockups. This was affecting both players at POS and in busy stations, as we were refreshing the index tree across clients when people were updating a shared or potentially shared inventory location (such as a Corporate Hangar Array or Corporate Hangars in station).”
Let me explain what this really means, for those of you who don’t live out of a POS. Before Retribution, it was common when switching ships in a POS to have a lag delay of 1-5 seconds between exiting the old ship and entering the new. In addition, opening a CHA to get at your stuff (we don’t log on and have hangars, we have a giant shared space full of containers that belong to us), often took even longer, and on a regular basis you could not even get a positive click on one of your containers in less than 5-10 seconds. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re playing today, try it. Count the seconds off. To add as much pain as possible, you cannot open containers in a CHA. You need to pull it in to a hauler, then open it, do what you need inside, and put it back. All together, the act of swapping to a hauler, opening the CHA, pulling in the can, doing what you needed, and putting it back could take well over 2 minutes, with many misclicks, drag failures, and lag moments as your POS mates suffered the same issues. And the more people, the worse it got.
This is not totally gone with Retribution, but it’s close. Some of the kludginess will have to wait for the POS revamp, but most of the lag is gone. For wormholers, this is a HUGE quality of life improvement. CCP Arrow, thank you and Team Game of Drones for this!
My corpmates’ favorite? Another throwaway line, this time in the patch notes: “The forcefield password on your ship is now stored per character on the server.” Seriously, I thought some of the guys were going to cry from sheer joy. No more bouncing off your own POS forcefield!
Bounties and Crimewatch
The marquee features of Retribution are bounties and crimewatch. On the whole, I think these were good, well-executed changes.
Bounties: These have added a fun, player-driven method of pay-for-PVP. Right now, in the early stages, they have been used as CCP intended – gankees putting prices on peoples’ heads and dedicated fighters attacking them for money. It provides a nice little pay-for-PVP option that was never there before. Pirates love it, because they were going to kill you anyway, and now they get some extra ISK for doing so.
In the end, however, I do not believe this will hold. The benefit for those attacked is not really there, because you can run around with a bounty forever with no one collecting unless you die in a fleet fight you would have died in anyhow. I think the long term future of bounties is better termed Performance Bonuses. Your corporate, alliance or militia leadership will put a bounty on another group or individual to incent you to land that big kill on people already your enemy. This will especially be true once payouts can be targeted, which CCP has stated is part of the plan.
Transferrable Killrights: Now this feature, in my opinion, is what bounties would need to be in order to enable professional bounty hunters. Bounty hunters will never be viable because you can’t gank the targets in highsec. With transferrable killrights, you can. You can hunt down, find, kill, and potentially profit from taking revenge on behalf of someone else. This is a great change for everyone involved. There is only one problem – it’s hard to get a killright to transfer any more. CCP – I strongly recommend making killrights available for any kill – you get a killright for a ship kill, not just a criminal act. At least award a killright for any podkill, regardless of high/low/null/wormhole. We need more killrights for the selling!
Suspect Flags and Gate Gun Changes: These are a huge victory and have opened a ton of new gameplay wherever I turn. Pirates can have viable gate PVP with fewer bad gameplay consequences. Discerning between ship kills and pod kills has been a huge gameplay benefit on gates in lowsec. To boot, can flipping in highsec has led to an entirely new term.
Within the first week of Retribution, me and some corpies went on our first ever “highsec roam”. Whaaaaat?! Yes, we trolled through highsec looking for canflippers with active Suspect tags and live killright buys.
Unfortunately, our first test was against people who do highsec wardecs and station games for a living. They played us pretty expertly, sucking us into agressing several of them, which then made them part of our limited engagement (which worked quite well, mechanically), and they ended up docking at the right times and then all undocking and torching us on the undock. The long and the short, however, is that we had a fight in highsec with valid tactics that would not have been possible before Retribution. That, my friends, is value add! Sadly, wormhole corps are terribad at station games (since we don’t have stations) so I don’t think we’ll be doing that one again for a while.
Crimewatch Timers: On the whole, I think this was well done too. It’s very nice to have all the timers active be nice and clear. I haven’t actually nabbed an attempted logoffski since release, but I can’t wait ’til the first time. The one criticism I’d level here is that the “safe logoff” timer needs more iteration. Give it some intelligence so that if I’m safely in a POS or cloaked and off grid, I can log off without sitting through the timer.
Other Changes and Improvements
User Interface: CCP did a great job of adding new polish to the UI. We all know it needs as much as it can get. I love the new circular look. I love that targets can be dragged around for best screen position. I really like all the mouse-over and icon information I get now – about who has me webbed or scrammed or neuted, or about damages and ranges of modules. The damage notification is hugely improved – I use it all the time to adjust my combat piloting on the fly. I thought I’d appreciate the “max damage” highlight but have found it less helpful since most of the time you are getting pummeled by multiple targets at once.
Followcam and Surprise D-Scan Enhancement: The good news is that the followcam is a beautiful thing. It has already benefitted me immensely in targeting, following, manual piloting. It is a huge gift to be able to track a target who warps off, increasing the potential for pursuit (and making it more challenging to execute a successful escape). The new “Dscan checkbox” is a massive boon for scouts. As a side benefit, it makes approaches to gates and wormholes look awesome and I have no doubt the next generation of EVE fan videos will be better for it.
Sound Updates: Team Klang outdid itself, finally putting paid to the old joke “Eve has sound?” It does indeed. While I’m not entirely sold on the new explosion sounds, I like most of the rest. The new atmospheric music is great – subtle but present. I’d like for wormholes to have something distinctly different but so far so good. As I mentioned in my preview post, the ultimate would be situation-based music – adrenaline pumpers for battle, etc. much like Left4Dead’s situational movie-inspired approach. As someone who long hated the autocannon sounds, I am quite happy with them now.
EWAR Changes: Surprisingly, I’ve felt very little in the way of dramatic impact of the EWAR changes. I trained my ECM compensation skills right away, so haven’t noticed much there. I have noticed that my EC-300s seem a bit less effective, but I haven’t yet had a chance to use them extensively. What is fast becoming apparent, however, is that ECM is no longer the only EWAR worthy of notice. I am looking forward to seeing how Sensor Damps and Tracking Distruptors evolve in new fleet disciplines. Future Corps is already trying out some new ideas and fits, and so far those experiments are yielding very interesting results.
DED Plex Removals: This is probably the one remaining area that leaves me a bit concerned. As I mentioned in the preview, it struck me very odd that the 1/10 and 2/10 plexes would be pulled. I also fully understand the benefit these sites brought to lowsec combat, which needs all the help it can get. What I have been very discouraged by is the lack of response to the community on this issue from CCP. The change was snuck into the patch notes – no discussion before or after that I am aware of. No dev blog. No explanation. The only commentary I have seen on it was from CSM member Hans Jagerblitzen, who noted that the CSM was not consulted and committed to look into it but was given the answer that the person responsible was on vacation. CCP, I know you can do better than this. UPDATE 1/7/13: CCP Fozzie has responded with justification and a call for new ideas here.
As mentioned above, I’ll look at ship balance in another post. But aside from that, I give CCP solid marks for Retribution, and it seems like most of the rest of the EVE community does as well. It is well executed, quickly patched, and has introduced new gameplay that was sorely needed in highsec and lowsec.
Did I mention how much faster my POS inventory is?