Overloading and Heat

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Original text by DaDutchDude
Copyright Agony Unleashed


Overloading is a feature in EVE Online that allows a player to temporarily make a module become more effective. The payoff is that an overloaded module generates heat that will damage it and other modules. Eventually the damage will be so substantial that the module will come offline. Ability to overload modules requires the skill Thermodynamics, which in turn requires Energy Management V. Each level of this skill reduces the damage taken by an overloaded module from heat. On the surface, it seems a simple mechanic, but it is actually quite complex. This article will attempt to fill you in on everything you need to know about this function, and knowing is half the battle.

All serious EVE PVPers should know about ability to overload modules because of its awesome potential as well as its dangers (when applied to you). Overloading modules can give bonuses ranging from just a few percent up to 50%. Depending on the type of ships you fly and the type of roles you take up in fleet, this ability could even be considered essential. The skill requirements for the new player are a bit quite steep, but once you learn more about overloading and see how it can help you in PVP, you might want to prioritize those skills on your skill plan. This article will hopefully help you decide how important overloading is to you and your abilities as a PVPer.

A Brief History of Overloading

  • Overloading of modules was introduced in the Revelations II expansion in 2007.
  • In the 2008 expansion Trinity, heat was improved with a new heat damage distribution algorithm.
  • In the 2009 expansion Apocrypha, Tech 3 ships with added overloading bonuses were introduced.

Basics of Overloading

As long as you have the Thermodynamics skill trained to at least level 1, overloading a module is as simple as clicking a button in the UI. However, it comes at the cost of your modules taking damage. Take your eye off the overloaded module too long, and you will find it burned out and your ship's abilities significantly decreased, possibly with deadly consequences. To use overloading efficiently you first have to understand:

  • How overloading damages your modules and what your options are for repairing them.
  • Which modules benefit most from overloading or are most at risk while overloading.
  • When overloading is most useful and when it might be counterproductive.
  • How to manage heat damage while overloading.

These topics will be discussed in the rest of the article. The Advanced section of this article discuss certain specifics in more depth.

How to overload a module

Not all modules can be overloaded. Overloading can only be done on active modules, and there are a number of active modules that cannot be overloaded. Modules that can be overloaded will mention the effect of overloading in their description.

Overloading can be on individual module basis and it can also be done per module group (only available for weapons) or per rack. To overload a single module or group of modules, click on the Overload module button. The button will light up bright to indicate that overloading has been turned on. Turning it off can be accomplished by pressing the button again. Notice that for modules that are already active, the overloading status only changes after the current cycle is completed, so it might take a while for the indicator to turn on and off. Pressing the overload button for a second time before the ‘overload’ cycle begins will not cancel the overload on the next cycle but only prevent the module from being overloaded a second cycle.

To overload the entire rack or cancel overload on the rack, click on one of the Overload rack buttons. It works exactly like pressing each of the Overload module buttons of overload-able modules on the rack, including the earlier mentioned effects this has on modules that are already active.

When you are overloading a module, the heat status of the rack that module is in will go up. Once all overloading of modules on the rack has stopped, the heat status of the rack will slowly come back down. This heat status influences the damage overloading does to your modules.

ModuleAndRackOverloaded.jpg 1) Entire high rack overloaded: by pressing the rack overload button, the module overload buttons light up as well.

2) Single module overloaded

HeatStatusAndHeatDamage.jpg 3) Heat status of the low, mid and high rack: notice that the low rack is does not have any heat retained, but the mid and high rack do.

4) Heat damage on a module: notice that the further the ring goes around, the more damage there is.

HeatOfflineAndNaniteRepair.jpg 5) Module damaged 100% and offline

6) Module being repaired in space with nanite repair paste

The overload status of your modules is reset when you jump through a star gate, a wormhole or with a cynojump, so after a jump you might want to set the overload on again.

Heat Damage

To use overloading effectively, you need to understand how overloading damages your modules and what options you have to repair those modules.

How Damage Happens

Overloading a module will generate heat, and this heat has a chance of causing damage to that module. Heat is only generated by an overloaded module when it is active, so you can switch a module to overloaded without it being active and it will not generate heat.

But the heat also spreads over the rack and can cause damage to all other modules on that rack, both active and passive. This is indicated by the head status of each rack on the HUD. The higher the buildup of heat on the rack, the bigger the chance of damage. The amount of damage caused by heat depends in part on the level of the Thermodynamics skill: the each skill level will create 5% less damage. Heat will spread over a rack realistically: the further a module is away from an overloaded module, the smaller the chance is that it will be affected by the heat. This makes designing a ship layout for overloading relevant.

When a module gets damaged, it will be shown in the UI but a red ring around your module. When the damage reaches 100%, the module will be switched offline and cannot be put online until the damage is repaired.

Not every module is equal when it comes to heat damage: some generate more heat then others, some get more easily damaged then others, some increase the damage created.

Repairing Heat Damage

There are two ways of repairing heat damage:

  1. Using the repair facilities in station
  2. Using nanite repair paste in space

Repairing heat damage in station is similar to repairing ship or drone damage in station, so this is quite self-explanatory.

It is also possible to repair modules in space with nanite repair paste. This is particularly useful in hostile space without the ability to dock at stations with a repair facility. There are however a number of requirements that need to be fulfilled:

  • The damage to the module is less then 100%.
  • The module is not active.
  • There is enough Nanite Repair Paste in the cargohold of your ship.
  • You have the skill Nanite Operation trained to at least level I.

The amount of paste consumed and the amount of time required to repair is dependent on:

  • The extent of damage
  • Your level in the following skills:
    • Nanite Operation
    • Nanite Interfacing
  • The size of the module (both repair time and amount of paste consumed go up with size)

Because of this and the cost of nanite repair paste, repairing anything bigger then small guns in space is not very cost effective, but sometimes you don't have a choice.

Overloading: What & When

Now that you understand the basics of how heat damages your modules, you can learn which modules you should or shouldn't overload and when. It is important to understand that every person has own overloading strategy. There are no strict guidelines for it, just a lot of considerations. The following sections will describe a number of these considerations, such that when you cover them you should be able to figure out your own method for it.

Overload With a Purpose

Don't overload modules just because you can. The more difficult it is to repair the damage, the more conservative you should be about dispensing it. Keeping your modules undamaged will give you a reserve of potential for those situations when you will really need it.

Some good examples of situations when overloading is crucial:

  • Overloading your MWD or AB to escape being tackled
  • Overloading your hardeners to sustain your tank enough to overpower your opponent or escape.
  • Situations when you need to break a stalemate:
    • Overloading guns to break the optimal shield recharge point on a passive shield tanking opponent
    • Overloading your MWD to get that scram on a MWDing opponent so your gang can get in range and put on DPS
  • Situations when getting that initial advantage is critical:
    • Overloading your warp disruptor the first cycle to get that tackle which otherwise might be out of range
    • Overloading an ECM module the first few cycles to get that initial jam on a critical opponent just as the battle starts

Although Thermodynamics trained to level 1 would be sufficient to overload modules, I would advise against it. Train it at least to level 3, which should cost less then a day. Getting Thermodynamics to level 4 will be the sweet spot for most people.

Overload Gang Role Modules

In each gang or fleet, ships have their specific purpose. Some tackle, some jam, some do damage, etc. When considering what to overheat, think of the modules that really make you and your ship shine, since they will be of most use to you and your fleet.

Overload When Your Attention Is Focused

When a fight is complex and your attention span is already stretched to its limits, don't bother overheating. The risk of neglecting more basic tasks to manage heat damage or losing track of heat damage will usually not be worth the benefits. Only overload when you know you will be on top of it without sacrificing your performance in other areas.

Overloading Propulsion Modules

Overloading an afterburner or microwarpdrive gives a huge boost in performance. However, this comes at the cost of a lot of generated heat and thus a big chance of damage. Be very careful when overloading these modules and keep and extremely close eye on them.

Tech III Ships

Tech III ships are designed to absorb more heat and as such, cause less damage less frequently. Not taking advantage of this feature would be like flying a Recon ship without modules it has a bonus for. The skill level of your racial ship should be at least at 3 but preferable 4 or higher for this consideration to have merit though.

Tech II Modules vs Named

Tech II modules generate more heat and are more easily damaged then similar T1 or named modules. Meta 4 modules perform best. (Please note: I have no data concerning COSMOS, Dead Space or Officer modules and heat damage).

Modules With Heat Penalty

There are some modules that have a heat penalty. All Shield Boost Amplifier modules carry a 100% heat penalty for example.

Advanced Heat Topics

This section of the article will dive deeper into the shady world of overloading. I say shady because there is a lot of factual information missing. A lot of details about Heat have never been publicly published (as far as I know anyway), making a lot of advice about Heat more based on anecdotal information then cold hard facts.

This section will try to provide as much relevant data as possible, including some of the conflicting views, so you can make up your own mind instead of just hearing one side of a story. Hopefully in future when more facts have come to the surface, this article can edited to become as factual as possible.

Heat damage in detail

The more you understand about how heat damage is calculated, the better you can learn to pick the right ship, the right modules, create the right fit and use it correctly. Unfortunately, there is little fact and lots of debate about the specifics. This paragraph will highlight the most relevant issues in as much detail as possible.

The problem with heat experimentation

Some of you might wonder why it is so hard to determine the facts about how heat damage is calculated. In large part, this is caused by the chance based nature. Because chance will always play a part in the amount of damage a module will receive, taking out a ship, changing just one parameter and doing one measurement will not suffice. I'm not a statistician, but I do know quite a number of measurements need to be made to draw any conclusions with a useful degree of certainty.

A second reason that complicates this problem is the big amount of factors that could influence heat damage. I have taken a look in the database dump released by CCP and found a frightening number of module attributes that have the word heat in their name. It is unknown to me if these attributes are all used in the heat calculation and if so, how, and with documentation being sparse to non-existent, I wouldn't even want to venture a guess.

Combined, the number of possible variations that require testing and the number of measurements per variation required to paint a full picture are beyond the scope of what this author is willing to do. Because of that, I will write my findings from the limited experimentation I have done, but also readily admit that I don't have any certainty I am correct in my conclusions.

Which modules overload best?

There is some discussion about which tech level of modules are better for overloading. A prevailing idea seems to be that T2 modules fare better. However, after experimenting with it on Sisi I am convinced T1 and named modules do better then T2, with Meta 4 items being best. I know for sure that they output less heat, because the heat status of a rack increases at a much lower rate with T1 modules when compared with T2 modules. My experiments seem to confirm also results in less damage, not only to the overheated T1 module but also to other modules in the rack. A Dev blog about the Apocrypta expansion confirms my findings without being specific. I do not have any data regarding Faction, COSMOS, Dead Space or Officer modules in regards to this, so I'd be interested in hearing your findings.

Designing your ship for overloading

Ever since the heat improvements of Trinity expansion, the layout of modules has had an influence on how heat spreads over a rack, making it possible to design your module layout to deal better with the resulting heat damage. This opens up some interesting possibilities.

Module layout principles

Each module can do damage by heat in two ways:

  1. Damage to itself
  2. Damage to each module in the rack. The chance of doing this damage is reduced by the distance from that module is removed from the overloaded module.

This means that a module could receive damage from all overloaded modules in the rack. However, by cleverly distributing modules over your rack, you can influence which modules have most or conversely least chance of receiving heat damage. This can be used to protect important modules against heat damage or deal best with multiple overloaded modules. Place the modules you overheat most often as far away from each other, they will last the longer. The more slots a rack has, the more you can play with the effects of heat damage in their relation to module layout.

Take a Stiletto mid slot setup as example. It will contain a MWD, Warp Disruptor and two other modules, such as a shield extender and a capacitor recharger. In this setup, you might want to overload the MWD to close range and the Warp Disruptor to extend point range. Also, since both these modules are essential to effectiveness, burning out either one would render you useless.

If you were to place the two modules next to each other, the chance of the MWD to damage the warp disruptor would be maximized and vice verso. If both were to be overloaded at the same time, things would be even worse. Now consider placing these two modules at opposing ends of the rack. The chance of damaging each other would be minimized. The other two modules in between would possibly receive more damage, but the chance of them burning out would be smaller, since they are not overloaded themselves, and even if one were to burn out, it would be less critical.

It is important to note that the layout of modules on the fitting screen, not the placement of them in the UI in space, affects how heat damage gets distributed.

Heat sinks

Since the improvements to heat in Trinity, a new concept was introduced: the heat sink. Putting an offline module between an overloaded module and the rest of the rack creates a 'heat buffer', decreasing the chance of heat damage to modules behind the offline module. (Please note that the module named Heat Sink is not related to this topic, even though it has a similar name.)

Interestingly, CCP Tuxford recently clarified that leaving the module slot empty has exactly the same effect as having a module offline in that slot (link).

To stack or not to stack?

Since the Quantum Rise expansion, it is possible to stack (or group) weapons. This of course also influences overloading, since overloading can be done by stack instead of by individual gun.

Whether stacking is a good idea when overloading is a topic of debate. A lot of people will tell you that it is a bad idea, since burning out one weapon in the stack will offline the entire stack. In my testing, I have yet to see this happen, because as far as I understand it (and supported by an answer on the EVElopedia Weapon Grouping FAQ), heat damage is averaged out over all the guns, eliminating the possibility of one gun in a stack receiving more damage then others. As such, my experience on the test server actually tells me a completely different story. With the disclaimer of uncertainty because of the chance based nature, I'll try to explain.

The example will be a three gun frigate setup. When all three guns overloaded, there will be nine dice rolls for each cycle:

  • Gun 1
    • Damage to self
    • Damage to Gun 2
    • Damage to Gun 3
  • Gun 2
    • Damage to Gun 1
    • Damage to self
    • Damage to Gun 3
  • Gun 3
    • Damage to Gun 1
    • Damage to Gun 2
    • Damage to self

Let's assume the average damage to itself is 18%, the gun one slot removed 9% and the gun two slots removed 3%. Up until now, stacked guns and unstacked guns work exactly the same.

However, when applying the damage to the guns, things start to differ. When weapons are unstacked, damage is applied to each weapon separately. When the weapons are stacked, the total damage to all the guns is averaged for each gun and spread evenly. This would have the following results.

Damage distribution unstacked guns
Cycle Gun 1 Gun 2 Gun 3
1 30% 36% 30%
2 60% 72% 60%
3 90% 100% 90%
4 100% 100% 100%
Damage distribution stacked guns
Cycle Gun 1 Gun 2 Gun 3
1 32% 32% 32%
2 64% 64% 64%
3 96% 96% 96%
4 100% 100% 100%

Interesting to note is how the middle gun is receiving damage quicker when it is unstacked and will be offline after the third cycle. This means the DPS of the forth cycle (after which all guns would be offline) will be lower.

Now these numbers are fictional but the principle shows how stacking can be beneficial. The results get even better when you take the chance factor of the damage calculation into consideration: fluctuations of the dice rolls and subsequent damage will be spread out evenly over a stack, making the damage per cycle more predictable. This effect gets better with more guns stacked, not only because the average over more guns will be increasingly more predictable, but also because in a big rack with many weapons, the middle weapons would suffer more from heat then the outer ones and will be offline much sooner.

Critics might argue that you could just stop overheating guns individually before they go offline due to heat damage. While this is true, this would add another level of micromanaging. The end result of that would probably be about the same amount of total DPS (when not stacked, outer weapons will be overloaded longer but middle weapons shorter compared to a stack of weapons), but a lot more micromanagement and a bigger chance of unexpected heat failures due to the chance based nature.

For that reason, I personally prefer stacking my weapons. I am not saying keeping weapons unstacked is wrong, but I do think it adds another level of micromanagement I could do without, while not yielding obvious advantages. However, with new information, I could completely change my mind about this.

Overloading & module cycle times

Damage caused by heat is calculated and applied once each cycle. It is important to know that for several reasons.

The length of the cycle of a module becomes very relevant. Managing heat for modules with a long cycle is much easier then for modules with a short cycle, since checking for damage can be done at a much lower frequency.

You also have to realize this cycle time can be influenced in several ways. such as:

  • by skills level, for example:
    • Rapid Firing gives a 4% rate of fire bonus to guns per skill level, shortening the cycle time of guns
    • Repair Systems gives a 5% reduction in repair systems duration, thus shortening their cycle time
  • by ship bonus, for example:
    • Rupture: 5% bonus to Medium Projectile Turret firing speed per level
    • Raven: 5% bonus to Cruise and Siege Launcher Rate Of Fire
  • by fitted modules or rigs, for example:
    • Ballistic Control System I: 7.5% bonus to rate of fire of missile launchers
    • Nanobot Accelerator I: reduces repair time of armor repair modules by 7.5%
  • by leadership bonuses, for example:
    • Armored Warfare Link - Rapid Repair: reduces repair rate by -2% per level
  • by the bonus of overloading itself:
    • missile launchers receive a 15% rate of fire bonus
    • shield boosters receive a 15% reduction in duration

All of these bonuses combined can severely reduce cycle time of a module, thus creating heat damage faster. This not only makes heat damage management harder, but also actually reduces the time you can take advantage of overheating. If you plan on overheating a lot, you might actually consider avoiding modules and rigs that reduce cycle times and use those slots for modules and rigs that are otherwise beneficial.

EFT: a good heat damage predictor?

EVE Fitting Tool has a feature to simulate overheating modules by right-clicking the module. The stats of a ship (speed, DPS, tank, etc) get updated, and it also predicts the time a module will last before burning out and either how long other modules will last or how damaged they will be when the overloaded module burns out.

I am quite interested how they calculate these values, but I have my doubts on their accuracy. It seems the calculation involves a lot of guesstimation and it appears several factors that influence heat damage haven't been taken into account.

Is there a Heat formula out there?

In my search for the deepest secrets of heat, I have been looking for the formula of how heat damage is calculated. Interestingly, the EVElopedia page about Heat mentions that such a formula is to be found in the Ships and Modules forum, but I've only been able to locate a thread about this information being unfindable.

If anybody has found that formula, please let me know.

Repairing with paste: what about those skills?

There are two skills related to repairing modules in space are Nanite Operation and Nanite Interfacing. However the descriptions appear to do something else then the skills description suggests, at least according to a post by Pesets on out forums: he claims a GM told him both skills are related to the time it takes to repair a module and have no effect on the amount of past consumed.