This post is intended to constructive criticism of CCP and the developers. For the sake of being charitable, the benefit of the doubt will be given when possible, and no specific names will be mentioned as targets of criticism. I will criticize not only gameplay elements, but where stated design philosophy and attitudes have not been met.
A caveat: I am writing on this topic only because it both presents an interesting problem to solve, and because I deeply care about the health and longevity of EVE Online. I read a lot of EVE-related material and regularly watch several podcosts, but I myself am not a capital or supercapital pilot. I am by no means claiming myself to be an expert. These are simply ideas I tossed around in my head. Feel free to rip them apart, because that’s how solutions are found.
THE CAT THAT’S OUT OF THE BAG
Supercaps have destroyed the NullSec game. CCP made a huge mistake in introducing supercapitals, a mistake they’ve made time and again with other features: underestimating the players. When the game was first launched, CCP expected it would take a year or two before the first Battleship was built by players. The first Battleship was built in a few months. When J-Space was introduced, CCP - practically on a toin coss - decided to allow POS anchoring. CCP did not expect that anyone would actually live in J-Space. But the players did. And there are some players who live in J-Space permanently. I would not be surprised to find groups or individuals who live in Shattered Wormholes, using Poproises and Mobile Depots in lieu of Citadels. Today, J-Space is active and thriving, and players regularly fight over territory. And need I mention the situation with skill trading and Rorquals? EVE’s playerbase is anti-fragile and highly innovative. If something can be done in EVE, no matter how difficult, expensive, or time consuming - the playerbase will find a way. But EVE’s playerbase are also, in a way, their own worst enemies: seeking propserity and stability, they find it boring and stagnant once they find it. Supercapitals have created the safety to allow for prosperity, and mutual risk aversion to losing such costly assets has created stability. And everyone is sick to death of it.
CCP needs a new design philosophy, a new habit of thinking: they need to be wildly less conservative in their estimates. If something can be done, CCP needs to assume that players will do it, and do it a lot. If they estimate that it will take X amount of time for something to be built or happen, CCP needs to assume the actual time is 1/4 of that estimate. CCP needs to stop assuming “there will only be Y number of asset” or “players will never do X”, unless specific game mechanics obviate X and Y.
When Titans were introduced, they were made so expensive that CCP estimated only a handful would exist at any given time. But because Titans are so powerful and expensive, not only do players rush to build them, but they also do everything they can to protect these assets. The result is that many are being built but few are being lost. Granted, it took many years to see this level of proliferation, but once the playerbase and population of NullSec grew to a critical mass, proliferation became exponential.
And because Titans (and Supercarriers) are such a game changer, such apex predators, and so prolific at this point, they have become a requisit for both taking and holding Sov for any group that does not wish to be beholden to a major power bloc (aka, any group that wishes to disrupt stability). But there’s a catch: in order to build supers, you need Sov. In order to take Sov, you need an asset that you must first have Sov in order to produce. Because of this, NullSec has become static and stangant. And this is terrible for the health of the game, as huge numbers of players reside in NullBloc alliances (many tens of thousands), and NullSec intrigue and bloodshed draws much needed attention to the game.
CCP has stated that the cost of a ship is not a major factor in balance. And they have largely followed this design philosophy - except when they first introduced Titans as the biggest and most powerful ships in the game, balanced against cost. This didn’t work. It is now time to remove the cost of supers as a balancing factor and bring them in line with the rest of EVE’s balance and development philosophy.