Jin’talks—The Obsolescence of Subcapitals

Jin'taan 2019-07-22

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.

Force Auxiliaries

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.

Titans

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?

Absolutely not. 

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.

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Comments

  • Suitonia

    Great Article, I agree with everything you’ve written.

    July 22, 2019 at 8:31 AM
  • I prefer the idea of retooling support fighters.
    Wouldn’t your FAX example be a sizable buff to HAW Dreads vs Subcaps? I prefer the idea of upping their scan res, so they’re stronger reps – but could take time to apply.
    Giving titans a -Tracking penatly of HAWs could fix that problem of them being able to track due to distance.
    I haven’t experienced/used a Boson; so if it had a charge up time that was long enough to evade – it would only be usable vs caps or static defenders.
    Some nice ideas, though

    July 22, 2019 at 11:12 AM
  • Zee

    The biggest problem with Capitals is the sheer amount of them. They wouldn’t be so abusive if there weren’t 100 on the field at a time. In real world fleets, you see a fleet centered around a single or a couple capital ships, like an aircraft carrier. The best way to fix capitals would be to find a way to limit the number of them on the field at once. Some kind of diminishing returns for having too many, or possibly some.kind if flagship fleet buff that would make subcaps a more cost effective way to get the same thing done as a cap blob.

    I know most people won’t agree with that. But imagine a fleet consisting of one powerful Titan flagship empowering the fleet, a handful of support carriers and dreads to defend it, and then a subcap fleet for mobility and to achieve the objective. That feels much more epic to me then dropping a blob of 100 capitals on another blob of 100 capitals and just sitting still pressing f1

    July 22, 2019 at 5:08 PM
    • Arrendis Zee

      As I pointed out in the article Jin linked: the limiting cost IRL is that you have to pay to operate things, not just to build them. That’s the ‘diminishing returns’: you get the necessary capabilities from things that are cheaper to build and maintain. In EVE, it’s just ‘build’. And that throws it off.

      In general, I think people would like seeing fleets built like fleets… but until there’s some *reason* to… and diminishing returns ain’t it until Titan #1000 gives you less than Battleship #1 would… ain’t gonna happen.

      July 22, 2019 at 5:29 PM
      • Zee Arrendis

        Yup, that’s the point. We need some kind of artificial limiter to coerce people to limit capitals per fleet. The current situation we find ourselves in is a result of CCP not anticipating the tenacity of players. When they released Titans they said they never expected there to be that many in the universe at any point in time. I think the original intention WAS to use them as ultimate flagships. But then people kept getting better and better at getting isk to the point where they are a lot more prevalent than originally intended.

        Or maybe I’m wrong and CCP saw this coming

        July 22, 2019 at 10:28 PM
      • Bryan Younger Arrendis

        Technically there are operating costs: ammo, jump fuel, cap charges and replacing lost fighters.

        Unfortunately from a practical standpoint, those costs are insignificant

        September 3, 2019 at 10:19 PM
  • Arrendis

    Good piece! A little short though, isn’t it? >.>

    July 22, 2019 at 6:01 PM
  • kwnyupstate .

    Why should sub caps be given an opportunity to have an even fight when invading someone’s territory? All those people in subcaps play by the same rules and have just as much opportunity to bring in capitals. We all play by the same rules so changing the rules won’t shift power anywhere.

    July 22, 2019 at 9:11 PM
    • Havish Montak kwnyupstate .

      People can only build supers and titans if they hold Sov Nul. As a new contender, trying to take space is hard. So players join a null-sec block. Can’t really complain with your point as I love to murder invaders. I remember the Casino War and pre fatigue days. Panfam dicked anyone with their bigger blob. Now they run away. Can’t complain at the tactics now the shoe is on the other foot.

      But that is the problem. No one wants to lose caps for good fights where nothing can be achieved. Also there can be no “fun roams” as you’ll get capital blobbed. Therefore you need an equal number or more caps in position to counter hostile caps. You tell me who can do that permanently.

      July 24, 2019 at 8:15 AM
  • Guilford Australis

    I’m sure most people trust shrill, hysterical lunatic dipshits like you to determine the direction of EVE far more than the CSM representative who wrote the article you can’t manage four coherent words to respond to.

    July 22, 2019 at 11:02 PM
  • I want to do a historical analysis of the ship / structure / sov meta: how things worked, how they evolved over time, and how we ended up in this dysfunctional mess.

    July 22, 2019 at 11:47 PM
    • Rhivre Ganthrithor

      You should do 😀

      July 23, 2019 at 8:59 AM
      • I’m really tempted. Work is a little quiet for the next few weeks, as well. Maybe I will!

        July 23, 2019 at 10:12 PM
  • Rammel Kas

    Just a few things stood out as odd to me. The way you casually drop in the burst projectors as options suggests you haven’t had much chance to use the blasted things in heavy tidi. They work with the same X+Y then Z targeting mechanic as lances and bosons but have a even more counter intuitive targeting delay while the physical projectile goes out there to activate. So if a subcap gets actually caught in one it would suggest they kept the same predicted course for well over a minute. I have seen one fired with success ONCE. At a fleet who were already caught in sabre bubbles. It is fair to rope in the support fighters though, because reloading your tubes with those is actually the go-to option. But there is a caveat here too. I’ve seen talented groups like Tuskers simply treat them the same way as light tackle frigates and simply scrape them off with anti-support as a prelude. These things don’t after all get to fit faction tackle mods.

    Another point arises from a practical thing I noticed during two attempted PanFam & Snuff dread bombs in Delve in the first week of local getting switched off. They tried to suicide bubble our Keepstar to prevent a SUB CAPITAL fleet from taking an ansiplex to get to them. They didn’t appear to make the same effort to counter the capitals and supers which killed their dreadnoughts in both cases. But they made considerable effort to try stop an AF fleet. These are not inexperienced pilots.

    The last point is something people seem to overlook entirely is that our standing fleets in delve are just that… they are fleets, with a group of FC’s and our regular bench of FC’s also stepping in as required and maybe even pinging for reinforcement fleets if it looks like fun. Same as another PVP fleet or war operation in that regard. People who complain of the strength of that need to acknowledge the fact it’s organised groups which are beating their disorganized attempts. In Deklein and before the fighters became a thing the response was often a block of dominixes. I dearly wish people would stop blaming the wheels and look to the rocky road they chose to travel down. Also if you balance around what the apex force is doing you invariably make life much harder for smaller groups.

    July 23, 2019 at 9:10 AM
  • hanabal

    I agree with some of what you say man but you can’t expect a supers or titans to be nerfed to the point of not being able to take on subcaps that would be just ridiculous though I do think haw weapons should be taken away from titans on the support drones though I don’t agree they are easy to kill and only come in flights of three what I do think would be great is some kind of new module for subcaps but one that can only be used by a battleships and maybe battlecruisers like a flak cannon for example that fires at fighters automatically not wiping out the fighters immediately but doing substantial damage and would act like defender missles against bombs but on fighters just an idea

    July 23, 2019 at 9:55 AM
    • Arrendis hanabal

      Why not? Prior to 2015, titans were crap against subcaps. What’s ‘ridiculous’ about giving them back that weakness?

      July 23, 2019 at 6:34 PM
      • Terminator025 Arrendis

        Hell, I think i’d still be down for just deleting them from the game. Merge Fax and carriers back together and disable the ability for caps to rep eachother. That would give us a new workable baseline to build from.

        If you really wanted to, you could reintroduce supers and titans. Having only a few single run BPCs put for auction by the empires and only for those with good faction standing. That will help cap the number in active circulation.

        July 23, 2019 at 8:31 PM
    • Shayiskhun hanabal

      Why not? In first place, they shouldn’t got those buffs against subcapitals. Thats the whole point of this article: capitals make obsolite subcaps.

      July 26, 2019 at 1:41 PM
  • Havish Montak

    HAW guns are the worst invention. Capitals should not be able to hit Jackdaws at 100 km without webs and paints.

    July 24, 2019 at 8:18 AM
  • Bryan Younger

    While I agree with your assessment of the current state of hull usage, I feel you are missing a major flaw in your proposed solution:

    As long as: choice A (Capital) > Choice B (sub-capital), players will continue to choose A as much as possible.

    Unless you also significantly adjust the supply, price or demand for certain ship hulls, any form of nerf will be at-most only marginally effective (especially considering how wealthy some players already are).

    Either make the Captial hulls harder to acquire or create scenarios where a sub-capital is the better choice (instead of the capital), you hinted at this with your comment about the “lack of small gang objectives”

    September 3, 2019 at 8:05 PM