The recent CCP devblog on the nature of Citadel structures brought about a very interesting implication: the possibility of docking a supercap.
Now I know the first reaction to this is “this is goddamn amazing please” but before you and your pilots finally step on a station for the first time in years, ask yourself: why could we not dock these in the first place?
CCP already knows the answer to this. Supercaps are both massive powers unto themselves and force multipliers in any conflict. Their presence on a battlefield almost always indicates an escalation into the most expensive types of warfare in EVE. As the ultimate investment in the game, they often are regarded as being some of the most difficult ships not just to fly, but to own, due to their peculiar mechanic of not being able to dock. The reason for this, other than lore reasons and rationality stating that putting a 15 kilometer ship in a space station barely larger than it is not possible, has to do with balance. Balance is the magic phrase that seems to dominate a lot of the meta these days and, when Ishtars and trollceptors are not being talked about, we discuss the nature of supercaps.
Besides the obvious comments of “Death to all supers” and other trollbait, there is a discussion to be had about supercaps being in the game at the skill requirements they require to use and possess. Many players feel that supercaps are too much of a barrier to being a part of the actual sov warfare that many larger alliances take part in, while others feel it is an appropriate skill wall to the game. However, most of the debate centers around supers making sov warfare boring, as it is inevitable that supercaps will come in and there’s no hard counter battle them, save for more supers. A lot of people agree that this should change.
So it may be no surprise that CCP feels that there should be a vulnerability, however taking away their ability to dock is just lazy balancing and is beyond tedious for pilots of supers, some who often feel that it punishes super pilots for the sake of being super pilots. It makes sense for pilots to make a fancy ship and have a fancy place to put them as well, while there is the plethora of pilots that exist in EVE solely for the purpose of sitting in these ships. These alts contribute little, if anything, to the gameplay of EVE outside of that narrow niche, unlike a lot of alts that actually perform some function: mining, PI, trade, and other aspects of the game. An alt that exists because of a mechanic that coffins them in a ship seems counter-intuitive to the nature of the game.
It also makes it seem like the devs wanted to make supers vulnerable at all times. While this isn’t explicitly true, as a quick logoffski is able to cloak a ship, it does make it a mess to log on one’s super just to move. So what would I suggest?
Let pilots dock their supers. Citadel structures are slated to be some of the most hard to crack structures in the game by the time they are implemented, and this is likely due to the investment required. The fact that X-Large Citadels, which are the class that will hold titans and supercarriers, are slated to be an investment on par with making an outpost currently, means that these things won’t be dropped lightly in a hotly contested system. It should go without saying that there ought to be some places where one is relatively safe in EVE, which supercaps do not currently provide. A space station should be able to provide that feeling. There is no reason now for supers to be undockable as it stands.
Just allowing supers to dock would not be enough, supers also need some changes to match. This added layer of protection obviously makes logging into one’s super alt not a death sentence in a lot of cases.
First, CCP should take away the in-ship fitting service or severely reduce it as it is no longer necessary in order to fit up a ship for combat. This makes gameplay a little riskier for attackers as they may not be able to change their fittings on a dime when the need arises.
Supers, as I have mentioned before, have no hard counter to them. Bringing one on the field means an opponent either needs to have more dreads and carriers on grid or another super if they wish to take down one, and this is not good gameplay. This is a problem as larger groups like the Imperium can simply zerg their way to victory and, while it may be fun for the people zerging and winning, it is beyond frustrating for groups without the raw numbers to beat it.
There needs to be a way that a properly fit fleet can counter a small number of super caps without the need to expend an inordinate amount of their own supers to kill them. For this purpose, I would suggest something such as special ECM for carriers. This also needs to be done in a way that makes the logistical role of the carrier less effective, so this ECM module would have to compete in the high slots. This should also make the ship incapable of receiving remote reps, again to make it able to be countered. There should be a rock-paper-scissor dynamic to ships, in that they can always have a hard counter that makes fights both more interesting and makes other players useful.
Of course, there should be a lot of safeguards to prevent these features from becoming broken like the current doctrines such as Ishtars nowadays, which will require a lot of balancing across the board with capitals to prevent cookiecutter fleets. Right now your typical fleet when it comes to capitals involves inordinate amounts of Aeons, Archons, Naglfars and Moros, and then either Avatars or Erebus’. While yes, some other ships are used, they are not nearly at the same numbers that the above are, and even then they are limited to niche uses, such as drive-by Ragnaroks or hotdroppin’ solo Hels, with some, like the Revelation, being shunned entirely. Either way, these ships are of such a class and power that they all need a proper place on the frontlines of fleet warfare, especially when their primary use is to be used in fleets. This makes for some dull fighting, as one can expect pretty much the same ships when they go out in fights out in null or even low sec if one is privy to not using any sort of bubbles.
And while we are discussing this, there needs to again be a reason to use capitals again. Since the days leading up to Fozziesov, the use of capitals has gone down significantly, to the point where the Jita market was flooded with multiple BPOs of various titans, as manufaturers anticipated the dearth in orders. Why bring a titan to a massive fight, and potentially lose it, when a couple of battleships can get the same job done for significantly cheaper. Right now, there is little if any reason to bring ones shiny capital to a fight, and it makes EVE boring. A lot of us, myself included, came to this game after seeing things like the Battle of Asakai or the B-R5RB Bloodbath, hoping one day that we could maybe be a part of it ourselves, but the current meta isn’t going to let this happen, not when the risk is far greater than the threat presented.
Currently, the way things are, docking supers probably won’t matter. In fact, it will be of little consequence. But it is a possibility to introduce more changes to reinvigorate the class. I want to see ships of different doctrines actually fight each other. Outrepping your opponent, while a legitimate strategy, needs to be complemented by other strategies such as electronic warfare. And make it reasonable to bring one out again. There is no reason as it stands to use them in null, and I predict soon the battles that made the national news will soon be gone, a distant memory of patches past.