So, I’ve been thinking for a long time, that one of the least-used ship types in the entire game is the Shuttle, when the idea has merit. Shuttles are, after all, the only subcapital ship class that has NO T2 variants whatsoever.
Most actual shuttling is either done in a corvette, for cost reasons, or in a travel-fit Interceptor for safety.
Now shuttles did have a niche because of their speed when you couldn’t “warp to 0km” and the closest you could get without a set of bookmarks was 15km, because they were faster than corvettes, but without that? I rarely if ever see them used. Therefore I propose: three types of T2 shuttle!
Armored shuttle (T2 shuttle variant):
Another attempt by the Empires to solve the problem of the extreme vulnerability of shuttles to interception, and reduce the need to take valuable advanced frigate hulls off the front lines for use in carrying pods around, the Armored Shuttle focuses on increased survivability. Designed to be able to survive an unfortunate encounter with pirates or hostile forces, while protecting the pilot inside, Armored Shuttles have proven themselves admirably in contested areas.
inherent role bonuses: Command Cruiser-level resists. Shield versions have high inherent shield recharge that acts as a passive shield tank. Armor versions have increased armor HP. Both versions have abnormally high hull HP.
Deep Space Shuttle (T2 shuttle variant):
Where the original shuttle was designed to carry capsules to waiting ships in relatively safe space, it was rapidly realized by the Empires of New Eden that they were insufficiently protected for travel into dangerous areas. As a result, many navies had to divert valuable interceptor or covert operations ship hulls to merely carrying capsuleers to stations in warzones. The Deep Space Shuttle is designed to solve this problem, by including a reinforced warp core and additional protective plating to increase the safety of the pod inside when travelling in the lawless reaches of New Eden.
Inherent role bonus: has the warp stability bonuses of an interceptor, and T2-level resistances, but no additional HP and still has no fitting slots.
Flexi-shuttle (T2 shuttle variant):
Private researchers attempting to solve “the shuttle problem” went a different route than the empires did, rather than hardwiring additional systems into the shuttle, they focused on shoe-horning in the same module slots as proper warships. The experiment was not an unqualified success: the limited space available in the shuttle’s diminutive frame and the relatively weak reactor and computer systems limit just what can be mounted, and the light frame of a shuttle couldn’t handle the shock of weaponfire so it has no turrets or missile slots, but the research team is confident that the creativity of capsuleers will pay dividends in unexpected ways.
Role bonuses: unlike other shuttles, the flexi-shuttle has slots! one hi-slot and either two mid and one low, or one mid and two low depending on race (amarr and gallente get 1 mid 2 low, caldari and minmatar get 2 mid 1 low, to match their racial-preferred tanks).
role penalty: cannot fit cloaking devices of any kind. ((Negotiable, but I think it stops some of the real abuses I can think of))
I imagine that the Deep Space would be useful for travel in nullsec, and avoid people having to learn to fly interceptors just to avoid gate camps and interdiction bubbles, which is just a skill tax for nullsec really. The armored shuttle is better at surviving smartbomb spam (and that partially inspired the entire idea to start with, really) but is just as easily jammed as a T1. I can think of a lot of uses of the flexi, it can either fit a modest buffer tank, or a warp stab, or even inertial stabilizers to align and warp out faster. Removing the ability to fit guns removes some of the abuses I can see, as does removing the ability to fit a cloak, though I personally like the idea of a “stealth shuttle”. You can get the same travel benefits without the potential abuse by cloaked spies by allowing it to get to a sub-2-second align time with inertial stabilizers fitted.