EVE Evolved: New roles for capital ships

    
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In the past two editions of EVE Evolved, I looked at the Aegis sovereignty warfare overhaul and how it played out in a recent war in the Providence region. The new system has been a pretty big success in terms of improving the day-to-day play of those living in the depths of null-security space, but there have been a few casualities. As I mentioned in last week’s article, capital ships have lost their primary roles in the new war dynamic and are fast becoming unnecessary on the battlefield. The new gameplay encourages the use of highly mobile gangs of medium sized ships such as battlecruisers and cruisers, leaving not much use for battleships and capitals. Dreadnoughts have been made completely obsolete as we don’t shoot at structures any more, triage carriers have little use in a war that doesn’t need battleships, and you don’t need supercapitals to counter enemy capitals if they aren’t fielding any.

CCP has promised that a full capital ship rebalance is in the works to give EVE Online‘s capital ships new roles in nullsec warfare, and a recent devblog has shed some light on the first step of that plan. Dreadnought pilots will be happy to know that shooting at structures is coming back in a limited fashion; the new Citadel structures that are planned to eventually replace player-owned starbases and space stations will use a new damage mitigation mechanic instead of the entosis mechanic. There’s still no word on what roles carriers, supercarriers or titans will be squeezed into, but there are plenty of ways they could be adapted to serve important strategic roles in the new sovereignty gameplay. Could supercarriers become actual carriers for moving fleets behind enemy lines? And maybe titans could be the mobile space stations we’ve read about in the EVE lore.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at a few problems with the new damage mitigation mechanic and suggest possible strategic roles for the other capital ships.

damageThoughts on damage mitigation

The basic idea of damage mitigation is that each structure will have a set maximum limit of damage per second it can receive. Every time the structure is attacked, it’ll check how much damage has been dealt in the last 30 seconds and negate your attack if it’s already reached its damage cap. It’s a way of setting an upper bound on structure combat so that massive alliances are better off splitting up into multiple fleets, allowing smaller alliances to potentially hold out in individual engagements. This meshes well with Aegis sovereignty, but there are a few problems with the mechanics presented.

For example, if the server only checks damage accumulation over the previous 30 second period, that means you can backdate your allocation of damage by up to 30 seconds. You could put together a fleet that deals an alpha burst of around 30 times the structure’s mitigation limit and just shoot it once every 30 seconds, spending the rest of the time shooting at any defending fleet with your overwhelming force. I have to admit that the whole idea of “damage mitigation” also feels a bit cheap and artificial, as if it’s a mechanic designed to balance a specific case in the game with little regard for how the rules of damage application function elsewhere in EVE.

Part of this problem could be glossed over if CCP uses better in-game terminology than “damage mitigation” or provides a good lore explanation, but some tweaks to the mechanics are definitely in order. It’d be a simple matter to limit this mechanic to shields only, for example, and explain that the new shield technology provided by Empress Jamyl Sarum actually gets more efficient as it takes more damage. Then all you’d need to do is make each structure resist or block a percentage of the incoming damage depending on how much cumulative damage it’s taken in the last few seconds. Damage would then scale down naturally until you hit the hard mitigation cap, while in the proposed system everyone does full damage right up until the cap is hit and then they start dealing massively reduced or no damage.

structure

Deployable roles for supercapitals

When they were first introduced, supercapitals (both Supercarriers and Titans) seemed to be pitched as huge strategic weapons and mobile staging platforms for war. They had clone vat bays that players could install jump clones in and ship hangars that we could store replacement ships in, but those were never really used as the ships’ main functions. Jump clones are subject to a jump timer that may not be off cooldown for any given pilot, the hangar is too small to contain many replacement ships, and supercapitals are damn expensive pieces of kit to put on the front lines.

Titans have been used almost exclusively for doomsdays and jump-bridging fleets, while Supercarriers were later re-imagined as strange anti-capital platforms with fighter bombers and remote ECM bursts. One big problem with supercapitals is players have historically been very reluctant to field them to a fight unless they’re confident in victory, so many of their front-line functions are rarely used. Supercapitals will always be expensive toys owned and used by only wealthy alliances, so they can’t be given absolutely essential roles in the new Sovereignty system without raising the barrier to entry for sovereignty warfare by a few tens of billions of ISK.

The only thing CCP can do is give them ancillary roles that support a war or defense effort but aren’t mandatory, and I think the best way to do that is to give them deployment modes. Imagine if you could moor a Supercarrier or Titan at a structure in space, making it invulnerable to attack and boardable by anyone granted the appropriate access. The ships could then serve as staging points for attacks or sentry posts outside a particular station. The counterpoint to that utility would be that the structure the ship is moored to would be vulnerable to attack during its vulnerability timer just like any other structure. This system naturally benefits the defender more than the attacker, as he’ll have high sovereignty indices to make his structures harder to capture.

mooringMooring capital ships

Simply being able to anchor a ship on the field and hop in to use it as a mobile turret would be pretty cool, but each capital and supercapital ship will need to have specific strategic roles in an ongoing war or defense effort. What if supercapitals let players dock with them just like real space stations while deployed in addition to performing their normal strategic and combat roles? Both Titans and Supercarriers could have corp hangars and fitting services, and extra services such as real clone bays (not just jump clones) or even a repair shop could be added as capital modules or rigs.

Titans would still be able to fire doomsday weapons and jump bridge fleets, with the added benefit of being invulnerable for most of the day. Supercarriers could serve as mobile remote repair platforms and support fleets with ECM burst, but they could do so much more. With a proper clone bay and a large enough ship hangar, it would directly provide reinforcements during a fight and act as a powerful force multiplier for either attack or defense. While we’re imagining a world in which capitals can be moored in space, why not do the same with standard carriers? Players wouldn’t be able to dock at them like in a station, but they would serve as mobile remote repair platforms, drone and fighter support, and hangars to access. CCP could make it so that you can moor or unmoor a capital to any structure but not within the structure’s vulnerability window, so you’d have to moor your capitals in advance of an attack or leave them there permanently on standby.

capitals-endBringing back some structure shooting to give Dreadnoughts back their primary role feels like a step in the right direction, but there are other capitals in need of viable roles. The original roles envisioned for Carriers, Supercarriers and Titans on release actually still make sense in Aegis sovereignty, the only problem being that few people ever used them as expected. Players will always choose the lowest risk way to use expensive ships they can find, and right now that often means not putting them on the front lines unless you’re guaranteed a win. Allowing players to moor capitals and supercapitals to structures would be a simple and effective solution to that problem, as it makes the ships essentially invulnerable unless you lose the structure. It’s an all-or-nothing gambit that I’m sure many alliances would make.

Mooring would give you more strategic options and let you invest more in an attack plan or in defense of a system, but it also creates more strategic targets and paints a bigger bullseye on the structure ships are moored to. If the structure is taken over or destroyed then all the moored ships could be automatically disconnected and become unable to warp or jump for up to 30 minutes, so there’s a good chance you’ll bag some sweet capital kills if you can capture the structure. There would obviously have to be limits of how many capitals of each type can be moored to one structure and mooring a ship could have any effect on the ship’s stats and functions that the devs want to keep the ships balanced. What do you think? What roles would you give EVE‘s capital ships going forward, and would letting players moor ships help?

EVE Online expert Brendan ‘Nyphur’ Drain has been playing EVE for over a decade and writing the regular EVE Evolved column since 2008. The column covers everything from in-depth EVE guides and news breakdowns to game design discussions and opinion pieces. If there’s a topic you’d love to see covered, drop himĀ a comment or send mail to brendan@massivelyop.com!
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