There's been a ton of chit-chat on the various blogs lately about link alts, off-grid boosting, and boosting in general. Virtually every major EVE blogger has covered the topic from Kirith Kodachi to Poetic Stanziel to freakin' TeaDaze, for Heaven's sake. You'd be hard-pressed to find a blogger that hasn't covered it.
Well, except me. I haven't covered it yet.
Here's another example where I demonstrate my unflinching ability to believe two incompatible things at once.
But let's start with the clear-cut case: off-grid boosting. Off-grid boosting -- in general -- is a cancer on EVE that should be destroyed. There's only one tiny little insignificant baby detail: it wouldn't make a damned bit of difference if it were. And that's due to the highly variable definition of the word "grid". Grid manipulation, the so-called "grid fu", has been a part of EVE for years. There's even a dedicated manual defining how to do it. In point of fact, I seriously doubt CCP's ability -- were they to abolish off-grid boosting -- to get on-grid boosting to work properly in every case. It certainly doesn't work every single time today!
The simple fact is that EVE's grids are too easily manipulated and it's too easy for them to simply break for no discernible reason. We've all encountered seriously broken grids in our travels. Off-grid boosting might very well be the only practical solution to a problem that we all know is there, but just try not to acknowledge or talk about.
I am completely in favor of eliminating the practice of boosting from within a POS shield. I suspect this practice is a one reason why CCP is trying to back away from POSes having shields. That said, there should be a home field advantage conferred to pilots in a system with friendly Leadership pilots available. I'd solve the problem by creating a new set of POS modules that would confer lesser versions of the current link bonuses as long as the Leadership pilot was using Starbase Defense Management skill to operate those modules. People who live in a system and are willing to defend that system should get a tangible reward for doing so.
And sure, if off-grid boosting could be abolished and on-grid boosting made near-100% reliable, I'd also be completely in favor of that.
But you people whining that you think it's going to make a difference should reconsider, because it won't. The only thing that's going to happen is that the off-grid booster will appear on your overview and keep his or her travels to the extreme end of the "grid", even assuming that the "grid" isn't a heavily-manipulated mess set up beforehand to keep the "on-grid" booster safe from you. Gate camps and the like, in particular, aren't going to change at all. There will be a booster, and he'll be too far away for you to do anything about. Just be prepared to see a Loki or Tengu or Legion 200km (or 300km, or 500km) away doing its thing.
And because that's true, the crusade against off-grid boosting usually morphs into a crusade indicating that all boosting is over-powered.
And it's here that I have to part ways with the crusade... mostly. It's kind of entertaining for me because most of the people who claim boosting is over-powered can't do it themselves. As a result, they have no concept of the sacrifices that have to be made for boosting to work. Let's start with the basic one: a good boost pilot has to devote several million SP to the requisite skills. These are skills that have virtually nothing in common, attribute-wise, with any other skills in the game.
I understand the sacrifices because I do have boost pilots, two of them. One of them is Ripard himself.(1) Ripard has something like 12 million SP devoted to Leadership skills, and another several million devoted to the associated ship and racial subsystem skills to put them into play. Most of those skills rely on the Charisma stat, which almost everyone reading this right now has set to its minimum value. Training these skills took a year. I wish I could say I was exaggerating, but I can't. Because I'm not. I spent a year of my life training these skills.
I invite you to contemplate that for a while because that year's worth of training is why there aren't more boost pilots in New Eden. A lot of people see that implacable granite wall of time in front of them, shudder, back away...
...and then they immediately start to claim that those skills are over-powered.
Even beyond that, though, link ships are extremely expensive and all but completely useless for anything else. I spend a lot of time flying Claymores and Damnations and Sleipnirs and link Lokis and link Tengus and lots and lots of battle cruisers with a single link installed. You can take it from me: once you fit a link or two to most of them, those ships are no longer (with the exception of the Sleipnir) viable combat ships or (with the exception of the Damnation) viable tanky ships. They're all but useless for DPS and the number of kill-mails you'll get in a link ship is half that you'll get in anything else... assuming you get any at all.
If your FC identifies a link ship in the fleet you're fighting, except for a few special cases, he'll almost immediately relegate it to the very bottom of the threat list.
If the ships are over-powered, then why aren't they destroyed immediately when they are identified? Where does all this hate come from? That's easy. A single link is responsible: the Skirmish Warfare Link - Interdiction Maneuvers link in both T1 and T2 varieties. It kind of makes me smile. Even in EVE, people are inherently biased against tactics that they regard as "unfair". Getting blobbed is unfair. Getting tricked into attacking bait is unfair. Getting hot-dropped is unfair.
And getting pointed and webbed by a non-bonused ship from 40 or 50 kilometers away is unfair.
EVE players hate to lose ships and the entire reason for the existence of the Interdiction Maneuvers link is to make it more likely that EVE players will lose ships. The hate is therefore totally understandable. Here's the part where I simultaneously believe two incompatible things at once: I don't think boosting is over-powered. But I do think that particular link is over-powered. A Loki with an T2 Interdiction link makes it possible for the crudest battle cruiser pilot to keep a target pointed at more than 36km even before over-heating. The ship and link confer more than a 50% bonus to point range. It's more than double the bonus that's applied to the same battle cruiser from fitting a 120 million ISK Republic Fleet Warp Disruptor.
Very few people care if a ship's sensors are stronger, or that they get a few more percentage points to shield or armor resistance, or that their signature radius is much smaller. But I myself nailed a Hawk with a Drake the other day that should in any kind of fair universe have been able to get away from me. He should have been able to burn out of my point range. He couldn't because I could keep him pointed at 42 kilometers which gave myself and a bunch of other crude BCs enough time to burn him down.
So yeah, that's a bit over-powered. So dial that back somewhat, and eliminate POS boosting and I think much of the rage around this topic would die down. If off-grid boosting is somehow removed, the rest of you should still get busy training scanning skills. You're still going to need them when the booster is "on grid" with you, motoring away at its top speed hundreds of kilometers away.
But if CCP gets out their typical nerf sledgehammer for this, then I want a year of my life back. ;-)
(1) The other is strictly a high-sec pilot that I used to use to boost mission- and incursion-runners. But I don't usually hear too much rage about this use of boosts.