Next to this, the structures of the huge half-dismantled Grebulon ship looked like gun turrets on a battleship. Gun turrets. That's what those blank gray buildings had looked like. And what was odd about them was that by the time she passed them again on her way to reboarding the small Grebulon craft, they had moved.
A while back Taurean over at Flight of Dragons received a question in his comments about Turrets, Missiles and Rockets. His response, in short, was to answer the question about Turrets as best he could and then referred the person to a post I made about Rockets for a good introduction to how they work. This got me thinking, "Why don't I have an equally awesome post concerning turrets? I love turrets. I got my first kill with them. I should talk about turrets." This is that post.
Scope (Not that Scope)
First, a little about what this post is and is not. I considered just doing something like what I did last time with my Rocket post, where I discussed the Turret Damage Formula and how that all fit together. Then I thought that sounded like what I did last time, which was a bit repetitive, and the Evelopedia article does a pretty good job of it already. So I got to thinking about doing a comparison of all the different turrets in EVE...then I realized there are close to 300 different turrets in the game. Time to scale that concept back a bit, don't you think?
This post will include a comparison of Tech 1 (Meta 0) and Tech 2 small Blasters, Pulse Lasers, and Autocannons. Why small? Well, this is EVE FNG, not EVE FOG, so the first weapons you're likely to be using seemed like a good place to start. Why only short range? I may consider a followup post depending on whether people want one (Drop me a line in the comments), but generally speaking close range turrets see a lot more use in my variety of PvP than their long range cousins.
What is this I don't even...
I made a spreadsheet. A bit cliché in EVE, I know, but it seemed like the best way to compare the data. I'd recommend you go grab a copy of it that is kindly being hosted on EVE-Files as it will make following along a bit easier. If you don't trust downloading files from strange men off the internet, which I can totally understand, then I'll try to make everything I'm talking about here as clear as possible without needing the spreadsheet open in front of you. With that out of the way, if you did download it, you're probably wondering what the hell you're now looking at. Allow me to explain.
This will be a comparison of the various attributes of the turrets. I'm leaving off a few things, like Signature Radius, that happen to be the same across all the turrets being examined. The spreadsheet includes filled cells with the background color denoting best/worst in class for each of the attributes, as well as a total at the end for ease of reference. Feel free to peruse the spreadsheet at your leisure, but this post will be covering each category while highlighting anything that struck me as noteworthy or unexpected.
No discussion would be complete without me first explaining what I expected going into this. The following is a simple run down of what I thought I knew about the differences between the three weapon types. As far as I know, this is also what the majority of EVE players think about them. At the end, we'll come back to this list so we can see just how wrong I was.
In short, Blasters have the best DPS. Lasers have the best Optimal, worst Falloff, worst DPS, most Cap usage and worst tracking. They also have a rather unique ammo in crystals, which is somewhat hard to quantify, but definitely a big plus what with instant ammo switches and almost no reloads. Autocannons have the worst Optimal, best Falloff, best Volley Damage, least Cap usage (being zero) and best tracking. Hopefully I don't look like a complete idiot by the time this is all through.
First up are Electron Blasters, Gatling Pulse Lasers and 125mm Autocannons. I compared both Tech 1 and Tech 2, but generally they're very similar when compared to the Tech 1/2 variant of the other weapons, so I'll only be bringing up the differences between them when it actually matters. Now, onto the data.
Ammo - Both Blasters and Autocannons hold 200 shots. This isn't any intrinsic attribute of the weapon, but the capacity for Blasters is twice that of the Autocannons and their ammo is also twice as large which works out to give you the same number. Lasers, on the other hand, are a bit more complicated. Tech 1 Laser Crystals never run out, but who uses those in PvP anyway? Faction ammo, such as Imperial Navy Multifrequency, lasts for exactly 4,000 shots per crystal. Tech 2 ammo, such as Scorch, lasts for about 1,000 shots per crystal. It's actually that every shot has a 10% chance of doing 1% damage to the Crystal, meaning your mileage may vary quite substantially.
Activation - Cap usage for Lasers are about twice that of Blasters. Autocannons use none at all, making them a clear winner if Cap is a concern.
Powergrid - Autocannons use 1 Pg. You read that right, compared to the 6 needed for a Tech 2 GP Laser, or even the 4 for Blasters that's a significant savings. Of note is that the Lasers are also the only module to see a difference here between the T1 (5) and T2 (6) version.
CPU - Autocannons use 3. Handily kicking the crap out of Blasters and their 9, while Lasers are doing alright at 4.
Duration - Remembering that lower is better here, Autocannons come in last at 3, while Blasters and Lasers are very similar at 2 and 2.1 respectively.
DamageMod - T2 Autocannons come in first at 2.475 ahead of Blasters and Lasers with 2.1 and 1.8. This fits in with my notion of Projectiles having better Volley, but due to their reduced firing speed they also have the worst DPS. T2 weapons do 20% more than their T1 counterparts across the board.
Optimal - Lasers come out as the clear winners with 4000 and 4800 for the T1/T2 versions with Autocannons coming in last with 800 and 960. Blasters are our middle of the road option at 1000 and 1200. OK, so maybe not middle of the road.
Falloff - Autocannons make up for their poor optimals with 4000 falloff, contrasting with Lasers at 500 and, again in the middle (sort of) of the road, Blasters at 1500.
Tracking - Autocannons are ahead with .417 to Blaster's .365 and Laser's .30812.
Heat Damage - This attribute affects how much damage from overheating the modules can take. Interestingly enough, Autocannons are at .8 while all others are at .6, meaning they can be overheated longer. There's another attribute called Heat Emission, that I won't be mentioning again, that affects how much heat is generated by the module when overheating it. The reason I don't mention it is because it's always .01 for T1 and .02 for T2 modules.
Total - 125mm Autocannons pretty handily kicked the crap out of everyone else. The thing to keep in mind here being that the one category they were lacking in was DPS, and that's really what most people are looking for when it comes weapons. Lasers also suck on paper, but have the advantage of doing full damage at nearly 5km while Autocannons are doing around 40% at that range and Blasters aren't hitting there at all. They also have Crystal Ammo, and it's hard to put a price on 1 second reloads.
Light Ion Blasters, Dual Light Pulse Lasers and 150mm Light Autocannons are up next. The spreadsheet also includes an until now unmentioned column labeled Δ which appears numerous times. For those wondering, that is the Greek letter Delta, and represents change. I'll be using it to demonstrate how the weapon stacks up compared to the smaller version of itself, while contrasting against the other weapon types increases.
Ammo - Lasers won't be changing at all throughout, but Blasters and Autocannons both get a downgrade from 200. The odd bit here being that Blasters now hold 120, while Autocannons hold 160. This strikes me as a very arbitrary change to make, but causes Blasters to get a strike against them in a category in which they were previously tied.
Activation - Blasters still use less than Lasers, but oddly the Tech 1 Blasters use substantially more than their T2 version. This is the only time it's like that for blasters, which makes it seem particularly odd. When I say only, I do mean only, because this is never true for any other Blaster, even Medium and Large ones. The normal pattern they follow is that Meta 0 uses one amount, which slowly decreases from Meta 1-4, until finally bouncing back to the original amount for the T2 version. Maybe somebody at CCP made a typo? Who knows...
Power - Autocannons are still winning at 2, but Lasers are now strangely tied with Blasters at 7. Or, at least T2 Lasers are, because the T1 version still uses 1 less PG.
CPU - Not to worry though, Blasters still suck hard on the CPU with 13 compared to Autocannons 6 or Lasers 8.
Duration - Blasters have been dethroned from the fastest firing slot by Lasers at 3 and 2.7 respectively. Autocannons still come in last at 3.375, but did receive the smallest increase of any weapon system.
DamageMod - What Blasters lost in firing speed, they've made up for in Volley damage, edging out Autocannons for highest Alpha with 3.375 and 2.97, while Blasters are still keeping the top spot for DPS overall. Lasers are still coming in last for both however with 2.4.
Optimal - Time for Lasers to shine again with T2 at 5400, while Blasters and Autocannons widen the gap between them to 1500 and 1080.
Falloff - Autocannons are still king, but receiving the smallest increase of only 10% to 4400, Blasters are catching up in range overall with 2000 falloff and Laser falloff has tripled to 1500.
Tracking - Autocannons still on top with .362, but in a repeat of falloff they receive the largest decrease putting Blasters close behind with .336 and Lasers still in a distant third at .27375.
Heat Damage - Blasters receive a bump up to .8 to match Autocannons, leaving only Lasers lagging behind at .6.
Total - Lasers have received strong boosts over their Smallest variant in Fitting, Firing Speed, and Falloff. Blasters stay pretty steady after gaining the lead in Volley damage with serious gains in Range and Tracking, but for some reason garnering the wrath of the Devs with drastically reduced Ammo Capacity and an oddly Capacitor hungry T1 version.
Ammo - Continuing the previous trend, Blasters have less Ammo Capacity than Autocannons with 80 to their 120. Lasers continue to laugh at their paltry triple digit numbers.
Activation - Blasters are finally back on track with both Tech 1 and Tech 2 requiring 2.023 to the Laser's 4.44. Autocannons are now mocking the Lasers for making fun of him over ammo requirements.
Power - We've gone back to similar numbers to the smallest turrets with Lasers being slightly more power hungry than Blasters. Requirements are now 9, 10, 11, or 12 for T1/T2 Blasters or Lasers respectively. Autocannons continue to see the vastly reduced requirement of 4.
CPU - On the one hand, T1/T2 Blasters requiring 17/19 doesn't seem quite as bad next to the Laser's 16/17. On the other hand, Lasers have more than quadrupled their requirements from the smallest variant. The smallest Medium Tech 2 Projectiles require 19 CPU, making me think Minmatar enthusiasts have made some sort of deal with the devil to keep their fitting requirements so low, only needing 9 for their largest small turret.
Duration - Lasers lose their spot as fastest firing turret, now tying with Blasters at 3.5 seconds per shot. Autocannons continue to lag behind, but not by much at 3.75. Consider that they were originally 50% slower than the smallest Blaster, but are now only 7% slower.
DamageMod - Autocannons see their volley damage slip not only below Blasters, but Lasers as well this time. The weapon systems now come in at 3.465, 4.2 and 3.6 respectively.
Optimal - Lasers continue to lead with 6000 over Autocannons 1200, both receiving a 25% increase from their smallest variant. Blasters continue to improve at an increased rate, now at 1800 which is 50% better than their smallest variant.
Falloff - Autocannons are still king with 4800, but they do receive the smallest increase seeing Blasters gaining ground now at 2500. Sadly the 300% increase between smallest and smaller doesn't continue for Lasers, with them only getting a 33% increase to 2000.
Tracking - Autocannons are toppled from the top spot in another category, now with .315 being barely edged out by Blasters at .3165. Lasers are still a distant third at .24625.
Heat Damage - Lasers finally catch up to the cool crowd of overheating with .8 only to see Autocannons pull away again by going up to 1.0.
Total - In a surprising turn of events, Neutron Blasters are awesome. Edging out Medium Pulse Lasers on Cap Usage, and Fittings Costs, while regaining Fastest Duration and taking the lead on Tracking Speed while recovering impressive amounts of Optimal and Falloff. 200mm Autocannons are still the top spot in Fitting Requirements overall and remain uncontested on Falloff range, while having an edge in Overheating. Lasers suck in pretty much every way imaginable...at least on paper. The fact that the damage is almost all Optimal, combined with the speed of switching Ammo types is a bit hard to quantify.
Postconceptions dubious status as a word aside, how did my initial assumptions stand up to scrutiny? The only thing anyone ever seems to know about Blasters is that they do a lot of damage, but only up close. Most of what I seemed to apply to Blasters holds up, except when comparing Neutrons to 200mm ACs. At that point, they manage to surprise me with the best tracking, alpha, and DPS. One reason I probably don't think first of Neutrons when considering small Blasters is their fitting requirements, which are shockingly high when compared to Autocannons. One other thing I didn't expect was that Blasters would have a lowered ammo Capacity compared to ACs.
Lasers do live up to my expectations in a lot of ways. Having the best Optimal, worst Falloff, Tracking, and Cap usage. One thing that surprised me was seeing their DPS, and even their Volley eventually surpass Autocannons. Another unexpected revelation was their shortcomings when overheating. I never knew that it was any different for different turrets, and didn't realize Lasers could be overheated less than the others.
Autocannons are definitely using zero Cap. At least I got that one right. They also do have the worst Optimal and best Falloff, so that's another assumption validated. Then I start looking at 200mm ACs...at which point, things start to break down with Autocannons losing the Tracking race to Blasters, the Volley race to everyone, while still reigning supreme in the surprise category of Heat Damage as well as Fitting requirements. I mean, 200mm ACs do have the same fitting requirements as Electron Blasters...maybe I should be comparing them to each other?
While I was surprised to find some of what I thought I knew overturned, I've yet to mention the elephant in the room. Weapons have to be fit to ships, and ships have bonuses too. With a Rifter's tracking Bonus, 200mm ACs still have the best tracking compared to Neutrons. Of course, put those same Neutrons on an Enyo and the scale tips in the other direction. Amarr also have this annoying tendency to have combat ships with no Damage bonuses, which is probably why I never realized Medium Pulse Lasers out damage 200mm ACs. The other reason I've never noticed could be that I've never seen a frigate able to actually fit Medium Pulse Lasers.
That brings me to my only real gripe about this whole thing. I knew that Projectiles were regarded as easy on the fitting requirements, but when I finally stop to look at it I'm a bit appalled. I mean, 200mm ACs have the same requirements as Electron Blasters? Really? A third the CPU and almost half the PG as Medium Pulse Lasers? It scales up to be slightly less awful, with Medium Projectiles often requiring 1/3 less instead of 1/3 the total, but it's still seriously imbalanced when looking at Frigates. I'd love to be able to say this was another example of them being balanced on the ships themselves, but with the Rifter having more PG and CPU than the Incursus, and more CPU than the Punisher, I'd be lying.