The Obsolescence of Subcapitals

((Reposting this across from INN as I know the forums generally doesn’t read the site, and I felt this was a post best shared with the wider community.))

So, as you may have noticed, I’m no longer a member of the CSM. And, after handover took place near the start of this month, leaving CSM 14 all on their own, I was able to mention a few final things to CCP. Chief among the topics I broached is, as this article is titled, my observation that Capitals have effectively made Subcapitals redundant in a large majority of roles in EVE. This is something that Arrendis touched on in his excellent article “Why the Nullsec Blackout won’t fix EVE”, which I do recommend you read, but I wanted to dive a little deeper into some of the things that Capitals and Supercapitals do currently – And why I think their ability to perform certain roles is detrimental to the game.

For people with long histories of playing the game might remember the time when Supercarriers could use regular drones. It’s power here was similar to the Pantheon (or Slowcat/Boot) doctrine that would later rise to prominence is 2013-4, reaching its apex with the Wrecking Ball formation that saw it’s own demise with the drone assist changes in Rubicon. But, what I found most interesting after going back to dig up this old change, was the specific reasoning CCP used at the time to justify their change;

“The reason that supercarriers can deal with any size of ship is the versatility provided by its massive drone bay. Having access to almost unlimited combat drones of all sizes and being able to launch 20 of them at a time means that they have an answer to almost any situation. In fact, we found that drones on capital ships in general to be detrimental to the way fleet fights should work. If you want to deal with sub-capitals, you should bring your own sub-capitals or a carrier.”

Here, something that I have long believed to be the case is confirmed to have once been CCP’s own view on the matter. That in order to deal with Subcapitals, you should bring something that Subcapitals have a chance to kill, in order to give the attacker a reasonable ability to fight back without forcing them to have their own capital fleet to bring to bear. This gives smaller groups a reasonable chance of making an impact.

This is something that CCP only reinforced when stating their goals during the 2016 rebalance which lead to our current capital state;

*“Before we started looking at details, we wanted to firmly fix the goal of the design for capitals

  • Provide interactive, meaningful, gameplay.
  • -Obtaining and mastering capital ships, as well as fighting and destroying them, should be a compelling aspirational goal for players.
  • Capital ships are the premier weapon for killing structures.
  • Capital ships should be effective in most combat situations without completely dominating the battlefield and without invalidating other ship types.“*

What I hope to do during this article is demonstrate the various ways in which Capitals and Supercapitals fail to achieve these goals, by dominating the battlefield and invalidating other ship types, whilst removing the ability for players to have meaningful interactions with them. And, as I always try and be constructive in my feedback, I’ll be including in this what I consider to be the ways to fix this.

I doubt that you, the reader, will agree with every point or suggest change – But that’s what the comment section is for, so feel free to call me an idiot, or whatever epithet you prefer there.

SUPERS, CARRIERS & SUPPORT FIGHTERS

In my opinion, one of the reasons why Supercarriers and Carriers are an eternal balance problem is not just due to their high application, but also due to the simple fact that they can tackle for themselves. Through using Sirens and Dromis, a group of Carriers can completely negate the need to bring subcapital support for themselves to tackle down their targets, meaning that there is simply no reason to bring them in the first place given that they’ll have vastly less EHP than the carriers that use these fighters.

It is true that you can, with enough time, kill off all the Sirens and Dromis a carrier group can bring. But by that point, given the incredible DPS that they can put out, and augment the application of, it’s most likely that your group of attackers will already be dead. Beyond that, the actual cost of Sirens and Dromis is so little that killing a group of said fighters has no real impact, costing around 20m per flight.

Ultimately, I believe that Support Fighters being added to the game in the first place was a mistake. Capitals should not have the ability to support their own application to subcapitals, nor should they be able to lock their opponents on grid themselves, as it removes a key niche that they are supposed to excel in. This means that there’s no need to actually sit down and craft a fleet composition before engaging an opposing fleet in a home defence situation – Just grab as many supers and FAX as you can and jump to the cyno. This only helps increase the reaction speed that Capitals are able to have in these sorts of scenarios, as your fleet will be able to utilise any tools they need once they enter the battlefield.

As a result of this, I would suggest either completely removing Support Fighters from the game, or at the very least remove the tackling elements from them – Changing the Dromi and Siren to be Paint and Damp fighters respectively. Potentially, Carriers could be given a small application buff in order to retain the original vision of Carriers as anti-subcapital capitals, but I’d rather amputate the gangrenous limb and worry about reconstructive surgery later.

FORCE AUXILIARIES

Now, FAX have a lot of problems in my opinion, but the biggest one is the fact that they are balanced around the DPS levels of capital warfare. As an example of what I mean by this, here’s a link to a relatively cheap “Master Race” Apostle. If you throw this into Pyfa, you’ll be able to see that even with it’s own boosts and no mindlink, whilst costing around 3.5 billion ISK you can hit a tank of 500,000 EHP/s. Completely cap stable, thanks to the joy that is 3200 Cap boosters.

This means that even on it’s own, this ship would require 110 Munnins, or 50 Abbadons to actually break the tank of this ship. With heat, a few more blingy modules, and better boosts you can almost double this tank for a short period of time. This means that FAX are effectively invulnerable to being burnt down in combat by anything short of a strategic level fleet of subcapitals, which is a hilariously huge boost when compared to what pre-FAX triage were able to self-rep for.

Combine this with the fact that when in Triage a FAX can lock faster, apply it’s reps faster, and ultimately rep nearly 10x harder than the equivalent T2 Logistics – And FAX become effectively an I-Win button in smaller fights, unless your opponent has the ability to escalate with capitals of their own, or you chose to bring a Tryglavian doctrine. Add this on top of the existing power of capitals and supercapitals to punch down onto subcapitals without the need to bring subcapitals of their own, which some doctrines can volley through, and you end up with the incredible power of the so called “Umbrella” which allows for nearly impervious ratting – As long as you’re in a big enough ship that won’t die before backup arrives.

In a capital vs capital situation, FAXes are also fairly powerful, which is something I went through a good while ago. However, I’ve never claimed to be an expert in capital vs capital warfare, so I won’t comment too heavily on it.

What I would suggest as a fix here is twofold. To deal with the power of MR FAX, I’d simply reduce the amount that capital reps by 50-65%, and give Dreadnoughts a role bonus to make up their lost rep power from that nerf. This will still allow FAX to deal with smaller fleets and have the ability to mitigate incoming damage, but will put them at greater risk of subcapital escalation, should they misjudge the size of the fleet they’re facing.

This is a change that I know will likely be very controversial, but the other thing I would suggest is nerfing the Scan Res bonus that the Triage Module gives by 33-50%, in order to increase their lock time significantly on subcapitals. This would not impact their ability to lock capitals during combat heavily, due to the logarithmic nature of lock times, but would increase their lock times on capitals to be well above that of subcapitals Logistics. I believe that this would force people to use subcapital Logistics at the very least as a stop-gap before capital reps landing, leaving them with the rep power to still impact capital and subcapital warfare, but giving them more defined weaknesses other than being locked in place.

TITANS

Now, much like Carriers and Supercarriers, Titans have the problem that they dominate any fight they’re introduced into, with even a modicum of support or forethought. Whilst they lack the abillity to actually augment their application, due to the fact that the tracking formula uses the distance from the centre of a model, to the centre of the target model, rather than edge-to-edge (which is what the overview uses) Titans by sheer nature of being huge ships have a massive bonus to tracking. If you sit at what your overview will tell you is 0m on an Avatar, you’ll be somewhere between 9 and 13km away from it as far as the tracking formula is concerned, which drastically reduces your ability to use sigtanking against them.

This is on top of the fact that Titans can still use HAWs, despite CSM 13 – A CSM filled with arguably the biggest abusers of this mechanic – was unanimous in wanting them to be removed, as you can see from the minutes.

This means that Titans have access to a weapon system which is primarily balanced around their usage on a Dread platform and it’s tracking levels, but with the inherent tracking bonus of being a huge ship.

Not only do Titans have an incredibly powerful DPS platform om HAWs which allows them to clear off any tackle (Hictors and Dictors) without subcap support, but this is then augmented by what is possibly the single most powerful set of modules in the game; AoE Doomsdays.

These have in the modern era effectively replaced real bombing runs, which at least took a huge amount of skill to set up, and has counters in the form of defender missiles and firewalling. The counter to AoE DDs is simply to not be flying something which is slow enough to get hit by an AoE DD, as they can kill fully tanked battleships in one or two direct hits – Completely wiping fleets off the face of the earth. It’s not even as though this is something which only affects big ships either, with Bosons being regularly used to kill Interceptors as they’re coming out of warp in Delve.

This makes Titans not only a ship with incredible raw power, with only the need to be supported with FAX for a fully realised composition, but also the single best force multiplier in the game. As a result, I’d suggest removing AoE DDs completely from the game (or making them effectively only apply to sieged/triaged caps), and disallow the fitting of HAWs to them completely – Reserving them for Dreads only.

WILL THIS FIX THE GAME?

Absolutely not.

There’s plenty of other aspects to nullsec that need to be addressed in my opinion, such as the raw power of cynos and instant escalation, and the inherent drudgery in the Entosis sov system, not to mention the complete lack of meaningful small gang objectives which could drive content. But what I believe these nerfs would do is to force the game back into a state where there is an actual escalation path, starting at subcapitals, then bringing in capitals to help augment your subcapitals, and finally bringing in supers to deal with opposing capitals – Instead of just jumping to that last step and winning anyway.

You’re still going to have larger alliances be able to bring more subcaps to bear, and probably fast enough to save their ratting assets in a decent percentage of cases, but at least it would allow those attempting to interdict the empires of EVE the opportunity to fight against ships which are in the same weight class as the ships they can bring to bear.

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Thank you for cross-posting, and shining a light on the 2011 dev blog; this is excellent. Perhaps this is the time to try again, while CCP is in the mood for shake ups, like local chat in null. Reposting myself from Aug '18:

Subcap roams happen, but not as often as they could because they are so easily countered. My comment in the nullsec thread references this 2011 dev blog, when the pendulum last swung against capitals, vs subs.

Also ties with this comment by Ripard Teg / Jestertrek:

CCP refers to titans and supercarriers as “aspirational ships”, like they’re the automatic and required end state goal of every EVE player. But EVE is a sandbox and I just don’t care about that corner of it. As CCP increasingly requires such aspirational ships to succeed at EVE, I become less interested in EVE itself.

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Should an anti-capital fit Astrahus be able to destroy a single unsupported Dreadnought, on its own, after this proposed change?

I’m not entirely sure there, as that depends a large amount on the ship being used and the fit it has. Comparing the tank of a Revelation to the tank of a B-52 Phoenix will demonstrate that amply. IMO, a structure should have force multipliers rather than relying on pure DPS, but it being able to get close to breaking the tank of a dread in order to minimise the support needed to kill it would be the best balance point, given that Dreads are supposed to be balanced as anti-structure ships.

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How about increasing AoE DD warmup time? Should make it easier to get out of range (especially with lances) and much harder to kill ceptors on gates.

Thanks for your hard work…there are few that rival your dedication and understanding of the issues

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Thanks for good read
Cant help but notice lack of sub cap focus on your side(nor CCP) ie never changing state of battleship thru out of this game lifetime, capitals are in this cycle of buff and nerfs and in general so are ships bellow battleships but them(battleships) are kinda stuck to be in a spot that are slaughtered by caps and smaller ships too.

Over and under punched seems to be a norm why instead of just nerfs(and i do agree with you CCP messed latest cap iteration spectacularly bad and even worse let it run for years like that)

Why battleships needs 2x amount of modules to fail to achieve what caps and smaller ships do?
What is a point of that there must be a line of thinking this IS by design…but WHY?
Even in The Obsolescence of Subcapitals thread these ships aren’t mentioned as attempt of solution.

Thanks for your angle anyway good morning read.

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To be fair some battleships are in good state - typhoon, raven, armageddon, megathron… and then you have things like abaddon (on which you just ignore bonuses to large lasers and use projectiles instead as it is unable to sustain cap usage of lasers… iirc same applies to apo)

They are in a good state to be chew toys for caps,damage soakers for stealth bombers and a like,with comparable tank and damage to couple of sub classes
All while guaranteeing to not be on time where you want them to be due to snail pace they move.

Non of this works in battleships are great narrative.

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How about giving cynos a mass limit, with covert cynos having slightly less?! Mass limit can increase with cyno skill.

Thoughts??

I think if you did that, the first few people to jump would light additional cynos until there were enough cynos for everyone in the fleet to cyno in and your idea will not have so much as mildly inconvenienced anyone.

This has actually been roughly everyone’s thought the 937 other times this idea has been suggested, as well.

I think that furthers the N+1 problem

All this talk about these propsoed “changes” bring back memories. Some of the ideas, especially those proposed by CCP Falcon, are basically just rewinding the endgame to 2008.

I actually remember the time when capitals were balanced entirely around structure warfare, it was called pre dominion sov and you saw next to no capital brawls since they were useless outside of structure grinds and logistics. IT was rebalanced for one reason, and one reason only.

It was just plain boring.

I remember a time when titans were “Flag Ships” as CCP Falcon proposed in his reddit post relating to this article, and they never ever saw usage on the frontlines aside from doomsday drivebys. They always walked the tightrope between an overpriced jumpbridge command ship or game breakingly overpowered since all you did was camp them at cyno jammers or in a pos shield and looking for every way possible to abuse their doomsdays.

As for “Motherships” (Supercarriers). They never really saw combat, outside of a few exceptional cases, ironically against subcaps, such as the infamous useage of 3 supercarriers in P-2TTL by Mercenary Coalition against Dusk and Dawn where there was no real chance for capital ship escalation.

Supers were rebalanced in dominion with tanks to reflect their price and damage to be based around the dreads as an endgame ship of SOV warfare. A too severe nerf to their tanks and power without an accompanying mass reduction in price (80% atleast) will just see them shelved again. Keep in mind that before dominion your average Titan/Super sat at maybe 2-3 mil EHP, with no bonuses to active tanking.

Tell me, highsec, what reason is there to bring a dread to a damage capped sov structure at all? Why a super when I can do the job at a fraction of the cost with a few feroxes? How will these ships be more balanced if focused around structure bashing without making subcaps irrelevant in this role again? That is by removing the damage cap.

Jin is right about some points, Supercarriers need a Fighter bay nerf accompanied by a fleet hangar buff so they cant bring multiple waves of fighters for each role without refitting. And sirens/Dromis need a substantial hitpoint/cost nerf so they are easy to kill even in tense situations, alongside a nerf to their application range.

Jump Drives need a timer based on Lightyears traveled, capped out at 60 ish seconds at 6 lightyears. Dreads and Carriers/Rorqus should be the fastest through a jump, titans the slowest.

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I stopped reading about half way but here’s why.

You over-rely on the first move fallacy. You describe a problem that exists in the opening game only. Not the mid game and certainly not the end game.

If your strategy is to use carriers to offset lack of subcapitals…what happens when you lose that carrier?

If 5 carriers are representing 100 sub capitals
…and you lose just ONE carrier. you’ve lost 20% of your sub capital fleet.

And to compound tactical problems.

80% vs 100% often results in total loss of the 80% and virtually no casualties of the 100%.

Such a loss of parity is a disaster.

Thus sub capitals do have a role. Tenacity and attrition.

5 carriers aren’t representing 100 sub capitals.

100 capitals are replacing 100 sub capitals.

This isn’t really a situation where you’re making up for lack of numbers with bigger ships. You have X butts in seats. There’s very little reason to have any of them in sub-capitals, which is more or less what “obsolete” means.

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I’m so tired of people squabbling over numbers. Genealities are true without being specific.

So what are you actually squabbling over? Ratios.

And you’re wrong.

Very clearly about half way thru the OP the OP argues the super carrier is supplementing sub capital role and versatility.

Now if 100 capitals are replacing 100 sub capitals then what you have is a PILOT shortage.

Not a balancing issue.

And nerfing capitals will NOT fix that.

Beefing up servers and better corp management will.

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Both your generalities and your specifics are simply incorrect.

Very clearly about half way thru the OP the OP argues the super carrier is supplementing sub capital role and versatility.

You’re probably going to want to read it again if that’s what you think it said.

If you could bring more pilots, they should also be in capitals.

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Where can someone find a concise “State of capital ship capability” as it stands now?

To me it already sounds like the problem is creativity of fleet commanders.

Some capitals can deal with subcapitals. Others cannot.

Thus swapping pilots and fleet composition during a battle makes sense. You start with 100 capitals to knock out the capitals able to handle subcapitals. Then you start swapping out for the subcapitals once those threats are neutered.

This is simply not true. You bring as many as creates parity to opposing force.

All the rest MUST be lowest risk possible.

There are reasons for this