Header art by Redline XIII
So, as you may have noticed, I’m no longer a member of the CSM. And, after handover took place near the start of this month, leaving CSM 14 all on their own, I was able to mention a few final things to CCP. Chief among the topics I broached is, as this article is titled, my observation that Capitals have effectively made Subcapitals redundant in a large majority of roles in EVE. This is something that Arrendis touched on in his excellent article “Why the Nullsec Blackout won’t fix EVE”, which I do recommend you read, but I wanted to dive a little deeper into some of the things that Capitals and Supercapitals do currently – And why I think their ability to perform certain roles is detrimental to the game.
For people with long histories of playing the game might remember the time when Supercarriers could use regular drones. It’s power here was similar to the Pantheon (or Slowcat/Boot) doctrine that would later rise to prominence is 2013-4, reaching its apex with the Wrecking Ball formation that saw it’s own demise with the drone assist changes in Rubicon. But, what I found most interesting after going back to dig up this old change, was the specific reasoning CCP used at the time to justify their change;
“The reason that supercarriers can deal with any size of ship is the versatility provided by its massive drone bay. Having access to almost unlimited combat drones of all sizes and being able to launch 20 of them at a time means that they have an answer to almost any situation. In fact, we found that drones on capital ships in general to be detrimental to the way fleet fights should work. If you want to deal with sub-capitals, you should bring your own sub-capitals or a carrier.”
Here, something that I have long believed to be the case is confirmed to have once been CCP’s own view on the matter. That in order to deal with Subcapitals, you should bring something that Subcapitals have a chance to kill, in order to give the attacker a reasonable ability to fight back without forcing them to have their own capital fleet to bring to bear. This gives smaller groups a reasonable chance of making an impact.
This is something that CCP only reinforced when stating their goals during the 2016 rebalance which lead to our current capital state;
“Before we started looking at details, we wanted to firmly fix the goal of the design for capitals
- Provide interactive, meaningful, gameplay.
- Obtaining and mastering capital ships, as well as fighting and destroying them, should be a compelling aspirational goal for players.
- Capital ships are the premier weapon for killing structures.
- Capital ships should be effective in most combat situations without completely dominating the battlefield and without invalidating other ship types.“
What I hope to do during this article is demonstrate the various ways in which Capitals and Supercapitals fail to achieve these goals, by dominating the battlefield and invalidating other ship types, whilst removing the ability for players to have meaningful interactions with them. And, as I always try and be constructive in my feedback, I’ll be including in this what I consider to be the ways to fix this.
I doubt that you, the reader, will agree with every point or suggest change – But that’s what the comment section is for, so feel free to call me an idiot, or whatever epithet you prefer there.
Supers, Carriers & Support Fighters
In my opinion, one of the reasons why Supercarriers and Carriers are an eternal balance problem is not just due to their high application, but also due to the simple fact that they can tackle for themselves. Through using Sirens and Dromis, a group of Carriers can completely negate the need to bring subcapital support for themselves to tackle down their targets, meaning that there is simply no reason to bring them in the first place given that they’ll have vastly less EHP than the carriers that use these fighters.
It is true that you can, with enough time, kill off all the Sirens and Dromis a carrier group can bring. But by that point, given the incredible DPS that they can put out, and augment the application of, it’s most likely that your group of attackers will already be dead. Beyond that, the actual cost of Sirens and Dromis is so little that killing a group of said fighters has no real impact, costing around 20m per flight.
Ultimately, I believe that Support Fighters being added to the game in the first place was a mistake. Capitals should not have the ability to support their own application to subcapitals, nor should they be able to lock their opponents on grid themselves, as it removes a key niche that they are supposed to excel in. This means that there’s no need to actually sit down and craft a fleet composition before engaging an opposing fleet in a home defence situation – Just grab as many supers and FAX as you can and jump to the cyno. This only helps increase the reaction speed that Capitals are able to have in these sorts of scenarios, as your fleet will be able to utilise any tools they need once they enter the battlefield.
As a result of this, I would suggest either completely removing Support Fighters from the game, or at the very least remove the tackling elements from them – Changing the Dromi and Siren to be Paint and Damp fighters respectively. Potentially, Carriers could be given a small application buff in order to retain the original vision of Carriers as anti-subcapital capitals, but I’d rather amputate the gangrenous limb and worry about reconstructive surgery later.
Now, FAX have a lot of problems in my opinion, but the biggest one is the fact that they are balanced around the DPS levels of capital warfare. As an example of what I mean by this, here’s a link to a relatively cheap “Master Race” Apostle. If you throw this into Pyfa, you’ll be able to see that even with it’s own boosts and no mindlink, whilst costing around 3.5 billion ISK you can hit a tank of 50,000 EHP/s. Completely cap stable, thanks to the joy that is 3200 Cap boosters.
This means that even on it’s own, this ship would require 110 Munnins, or 50 Abbadons to actually break the tank of this ship. With heat, a few more blingy modules, and better boosts you can almost double this tank for a short period of time. This means that FAX are effectively invulnerable to being burnt down in combat by anything short of a strategic level fleet of subcapitals, which is a hilariously huge boost when compared to what pre-FAX triage were able to self-rep for.
Combine this with the fact that when in Triage a FAX can lock faster, apply it’s reps faster, and ultimately rep nearly 10x harder than the equivalent T2 Logistics – And FAX become effectively an I-Win button in smaller fights, unless your opponent has the ability to escalate with capitals of their own, or you chose to bring a Triglavian doctrine. Add this on top of the existing power of capitals and supercapitals to punch down onto subcapitals without the need to bring subcapitals of their own, which some doctrines can volley through, and you end up with the incredible power of the so called “Umbrella” which allows for nearly impervious ratting – As long as you’re in a big enough ship that won’t die before backup arrives.
In a capital vs capital situation, FAXes are also fairly powerful, which is something I went through a good while ago. However, I’ve never claimed to be an expert in capital vs capital warfare, so I won’t comment too heavily on it.
What I would suggest as a fix here is twofold. To deal with the power of MR FAX, I’d simply reduce the amount that capital reps by 50-65%, and give Dreadnoughts a role bonus to make up their lost rep power from that nerf. This will still allow FAX to deal with smaller fleets and have the ability to mitigate incoming damage, but will put them at greater risk of subcapital escalation, should they misjudge the size of the fleet they’re facing.
This is a change that I know will likely be very controversial, but the other thing I would suggest is nerfing the Scan Res bonus that the Triage Module gives by 33-50%, in order to increase their lock time significantly on subcapitals. This would not impact their ability to lock capitals during combat heavily, due to the logarithmic nature of lock times, but would increase their lock times on capitals to be well above that of subcapitals Logistics. I believe that this would force people to use subcapital Logistics at the very least as a stop-gap before capital reps landing, leaving them with the rep power to still impact capital and subcapital warfare, but giving them more defined weaknesses other than being locked in place.
Now, much like Carriers and Supercarriers, Titans have the problem that they dominate any fight they’re introduced into, with even a modicum of support or forethought. Whilst they lack the abillity to actually augment their application, due to the fact that the tracking formula uses the distance from the centre of a model, to the centre of the target model, rather than edge-to-edge (which is what the overview uses) Titans by sheer nature of being huge ships have a massive bonus to tracking. If you sit at what your overview will tell you is 0m on an Avatar, you’ll be somewhere between 9 and 13km away from it as far as the tracking formula is concerned, which drastically reduces your ability to use sigtanking against them.
This is on top of the fact that Titans can still use HAWs, despite CSM 13 – A CSM filled with arguably the biggest abusers of this mechanic – was unanimous in wanting them to be removed, as you can see from the minutes.
This means that Titans have access to a weapon system which is primarily balanced around their usage on a Dread platform and it’s tracking levels, but with the inherent tracking bonus of being a huge ship.
Not only do Titans have an incredibly powerful DPS platform om HAWs which allows them to clear off any tackle (Hictors and Dictors) without subcap support, but this is then augmented by what is possibly the single most powerful set of modules in the game; AoE Doomsdays.
These have in the modern era effectively replaced real bombing runs, which at least took a huge amount of skill to set up, and has counters in the form of defender missiles and firewalling. The counter to AoE DDs is simply to not be flying something which is slow enough to get hit by an AoE DD, as they can kill fully tanked battleships in one or two direct hits – Completely wiping fleets off the face of the earth. It’s not even as though this is something which only affects big ships either, with Bosons being regularly used to kill Interceptors as they’re coming out of warp in Delve.
This makes Titans not only a ship with incredible raw power, with only the need to be supported with FAX for a fully realised composition, but also the single best force multiplier in the game. As a result, I’d suggest removing AoE DDs completely from the game (or making them effectively only apply to sieged/triaged caps), and disallow the fitting of HAWs to them completely – Reserving them for Dreads only.
Will This Fix The Game?
There’s plenty of other aspects to nullsec that need to be addressed in my opinion, such as the raw power of cynos and instant escalation, and the inherent drudgery in the Entosis sov system, not to mention the complete lack of meaningful small gang objectives which could drive content. But what I believe these nerfs would do is to force the game back into a state where there is an actual escalation path, starting at subcapitals, then bringing in capitals to help augment your subcapitals, and finally bringing in supers to deal with opposing capitals – Instead of just jumping to that last step and winning anyway.
You’re still going to have larger alliances be able to bring more subcaps to bear, and probably fast enough to save their ratting assets in a decent percentage of cases, but at least it would allow those attempting to interdict the empires of EVE the opportunity to fight against ships which are in the same weight class as the ships they can bring to bear.