Armchair Game Design: Capitals are no longer the ‘centre’ piece of fleets.

Jin’Taan recently released a very good piece on INN and so I thought I would also talk a little about capital ships from another angle.

A key component of eve-online has always been the various relationships between different sizes of ships and the power of electronic warfare and crowd control – A brand new player who has been playing a week with an Alpha status account, can board a Crucifier, join in a fight and completely neutralise a 10 year veteran in a 500 million ISK HAC such as an Eagle, a Muninn or a battleship such as the Megathron worth hundreds of times his ship. Likewise, a few cheap cruisers like Thoraxs and a Blackbird flown by brand new players working together can take down a bling fit veteran in a 3b fit Strategic Cruiser. A new player in a Slasher can hold down a veteran in their faction battleship for a long duration due to how tracking works in the game and the relationship between large weapons and small hull sizes.

These rules are what make eve-online interesting. And in many ways making a friend is more important than upgrading your ship. In other MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, a level 12 player would not even be able to do anything to a max level capped player. Eve-Online’s combat is incredibly unique in that respect. You can literally jump right into the action (no pun intended). Griffins, Slashers, Crucifiers, Exequrors – There are Dozens of ships that can turn the tide of battle flown by someone who has only been playing for 1 week on a free to play alpha account.

Unfortunately, these rules no longer apply when it comes to capital ships. Since the vast majority of them have excessive resistances against crowd control mechanics. Capital Ships in essence break the Jedi Curve.

I feel like this has greatly diminished the value of new players in the game, and given CCP’s commitment to new player retention announced at EVE North, I feel like this area should be a huge concern for them.

These resistances made and make sense from a game design perspective if you consider Capital ships the centrepiece of a battlefield and rare/hard to replace. For example, in an idealistic version of eve, you may consider a single titan as the most important ship in a fleet, backed up by a handful of other capitals, complemented by a large sub-capital fleet. In this case, you would not want the most useful/strategically important ships to be able to be neutralised by 1 new player in a throw-away ship or it almost completely diminishes it’s value. Unfortunately, due to capital proliferation caused by a combination of factors – Large influx of wealth from capital PVE, Rorquals producing a large amount of minerals, Skill Injectors vastly reducing the wait time, engineering complexes vastly reducing the risk and improving the speed at which capitals and super capitals can be produced, and Keepstars allowing the storage of super-capital ships making them far more accessible we’ve entered into an age where multiple full 256 man Titan fleets are a thing.

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Titans have become so prolific that they get more daily kills than Black Ops and Marauders do. And normal capital ships see more regular combat than many other specialised T2 cruisers and Battlecruiser groups.

Almost all of these things have snowballed and escalated together. ‘Umbrellas’ of mass capitals all operating within a single area of space compliment each-other and neutralise almost all of the opportunity to destroy these ships when flown optimally. This in turn allows them to better farm in safety, producing more capital ships, farming more skill injectors for pilots until a critical mass point is realised where they are almost unassailable. In almost any of the current nullsec coalition staging areas today, it’s impossible for anyone to win an engagement within jump drive distance of their space without having to move in their own capital force. Even Dread-bombs and picking off the occasional capital ships are now largely ineffective, because the few super capitals that do die are easily out-produced by a gross factor making them largely inconsequential to the corporation let alone the alliance. Titans are now personal losses, not alliance or even corp level ones.

Another powerful tool capital ships have at their disposal is the ability to ignore travel time with their jump drives. While in the freedom provided by eve’s fitting system you could easily fit battleships with the ability to deal with mass swarms of frigates by fitting energy warfare, flights of small drones, smart-bombs, heavy tackle and smaller weapons, they are still limited by their ability to move and their targeting time and frigates/cruisers can easily outmanoeuvre them if they don’t wish to engage, and they can be still be overcome through use of crowd control. Unfortunately, with AoE weapons on titans not requiring lock time, NSA to carriers and super-carriers boosting them to destroyer levels and other mechanics such as Triage. Capital ships simply cannot be outmanoeuvred in their concentrated area of space. And as Jin’Taan outlines, due to the utility of support fighters and access to high application weapons, they do not need to bring anything other than jump-drive capable capital ships.

Currently the main problems with capital ships in general are they often do sub-capital roles better, while having all of the benefits that a ‘rare’ and ‘hard to replace’ ship should have, while actually not being that much harder to replace than a regular sub capital ship. With many specialised T3 cruisers costing more, and prior to the Insurance changes earlier this year, were less expensive to lose than some T2 cruisers.

Carriers and Super-Carriers I think are actually quite reasonable (Although I absolutely abhor their ability to use support fighters). Because sub-capitals can at least interact with them by killing their deployable fighters or by using weapon disruption on them. I do not understand why super-capitals themselves need special electronic warfare resistances though. I also think this calls into question whether supers or titans should have built in warp core strength. I think it would be highly ‘eve-like’ if a single week old player in a slasher was what held down a Hel long enough for it to be killed.

FAX have triage which makes them incredibly resistant to crowd control mechanics, you cannot damp or jam them, so your only ability to interact with them is to either overwhelm them with DPS or to neut them out, however, due to cap booster 3200s, neutralisers are not an issue at all. Essentially, a FAX can only really be interacted with by heavy damage or completely stopping it from entering the fight (which with current cyno mechanics is near impossible).

Dreadnoughts are perfectly fine with Crowd Control resistance if you consider what their primary role was prior to the citadel expansion. An Anti-Structure/Anti-Capital ship that should be immobilised, easy to pin down and evade by smaller craft, essentially the siege tower of eve-online, when they did apply to battleships, they needed heavy webbing and application support from subcapital ships such as Vindicators and infolinked Huginns. Unfortunately, with the addition of HAWs to the game, they have now become the anti-sub capital ship of choice for alliances defending their capital umbrella. The siege resistances that make sense from an anti-capital/anti-structure perspective, do not make sense here in my opinion, essentially they have 3x the damage output of a battleship, with a huge tank, better tracking due to the model size, and effective immunity to crowd control, meaning the only way to really overwhelm them is your own capital ships or having excessive numbers.

Titans combine the problematic aspects of Dreadnoughts with far more power, unique Doomsday weapons, even stronger crowd control immunity while not having to immobilise itself, the ability to receive remote repair unlike dreadnoughts, and approximately 15-20x the EHP of a tank fit Dreadnought (if not way more on certain Titans). HAWs are far more effective on a Titan due it’s ability to move, the larger model giving tracking bonuses as Jin mentions in his article.

While these incredibly powerful bonuses would, again, be perfectly acceptable if a Titan was something that was an incredibly important asset and only few would ever be fielded, in the most important strategic objectives. In the current Era of eve where Black Ops battleships are rarer and incredibly more niche than a Titan, they do not make sense. Why shouldn’t a newbro in a Crucifier be able to neutralise a Titan, and force the Titan to need support to kill that Crucifier in order to be able to function effectively?  The same newbro can hold down a Panther in his Slasher, neutralise a Redeemer in his Crucifier.

The answer generally provided by “gotmysuperin2019” is IT’S A CAPITAL SHIP! IT’S IMPORTANT! YOU JUST WANT TO SOLO KILL TITANS IN YOUR EXPLORATION BUZZARD!!!! But a Capital Ship is simply not important or special in today’s eve. It has a lot of power from the fact that it’s supposed to be a ship that is difficult to replace (not just the ISK cost required to build it, but in the time required) but that’s simply not there anymore with current null-sec infrastructure.

Unfortunately, all of these resistances mean that the only way to kill Titans is to bring your own, bigger group of Titans. And whoever has the largest ball of Titans wins the game, regardless of strategy. We saw this earlier this year in Tribute, where if you cannot effectively bring 80% or more of the enemy’s Titan count, your best bet is to retreat, consolidate and just stand down, as we saw PL and NC. do.

I do not feel like these resistances are problematic if Titans and Dreadnoughts did not have HAW weaponry. And I feel like perhaps a good community discussion to have is whether or not HAW Titans and HAW Dreadnoughts should still maintain their immunity to crowd control mechanics since it effectively makes damage the only real way to interact with them, and new players are being heavily punished by their inability to effectively interact with capitals.

 

Armchair Game Design: Capitals are no longer the ‘centre’ piece of fleets.

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