Pictured above: The stately Nyx, arguably EVE's most visually impressive ship. Countless players have been drawn in by their lure, only to discover how boring supercaps are.
Although supercaps are forbidden in my domain, I have a long history of analyzing and commenting upon titan and supercarrier mechanics. All the way back in May 2008, I became the first EVE player to suggest/prophecy that the titan doomsday weapon should be a supergun rather than an area of effect weapon. In July 2013, I wrote an article for TheMittani.com in which I made four proposals for changes to supercaps. TMC authors get to view a hit counter for everything published on the site each month; the article was by far the most popular. Its ideas were debated far and wide. There were a lot of comments in the vein of, "I hate James 315 and everything he stands for, and everything he says and does, but sort of agree with him on this."
As I explained in the article, the overall purpose of the four changes was to bring supercaps back into the mix with their fellow combat ships, rather than having them largely disengaged or aloof from normal fleet battles. Following the example of tier-3 battlecruisers, my idea was to make them glass cannons: capable of devastating firepower, but vulnerable enough to sub-capital ships to complete the rock-paper-scissors loop.
My four proposals were:
- Make them killable by drastically slashing their EHP.
- Make them disruptable by removing their ewar immunity.
- Make them losable by reducing build cost, accommodating the nerfs.
- Make them dockable.
With the Citadel expansion, CCP has unveiled its long-awaited supercap rebalance. I know what you're thinking, reader. Did CCP Fozzie use my article as a guide when redesigning the supercaps? Did he print out a copy and carry it around with him each day, and keep it on his bedside table as he slept each night? I can't say for certain, but the answer to both questions is probably yes.
Though on the surface it may appear that CCP implemented my vision, there are a number of differences that I'd like to touch upon.
Make them dockable. Let's get this one out of the way first. Supercarriers and titans can now dock at Citadels, freeing their pilots from the shackles of supercap warfare. I'd still prefer that supercaps could dock at regular stations also, giving players additional reasons to fight over them.
Make them killable. Supercaps got their EHP drastically cut, putting them somewhere around capital EHP, per my suggestion. The drop in EHP is somewhat mitigated by the introduction of new capital modules. However, CCP also took the step of increasing supercap killability by limiting their ability to benefit from remote reps (to avoid infinite spider-tanking).
Make them disruptable. Ewar immunity has been removed. Rather than having special ships or modules in the mold of the hictor, supercaps have a lot of warp strength and resistance to ECM, etc. The key here will be tinkering with the specific strength/resistance to achieve the right balance.
Make them losable. My idea was to match the supercap nerfs with a lowering of the build cost in order to encourage players to risk them: If players weren't willing to put supercap fleets in risky situations before they were killable, surely they'd be even more cautious afterward. My proposal was the subject of intense debate within CCP and its supercap focus group. (Assuming the CSM is still allowed to talk about EVE with CCP, they probably discussed it, too.) However, CCP ultimately decided against this part of my plan because they want big killmails.
This still left the question of how to encourage players to risk their more-vulnerable supercaps. Stepping outside of my outline, CCP's alternative was to give supercaps more kinds of weapons to use against sub-capital ships. Their logic was that if supercaps are really cool and useful against all types of ships, people will want to use them more.
There are two flaws in this argument. First, making supercaps effective against sub-caps goes against the rock-paper-scissors dynamic. (In effect, supercaps become the best weapon against sub-caps, caps, and other supercaps.) Secondly, it doesn't make sense for players to risk the loss of their supercaps in order to attack sub-caps, because they already have caps and other sub-caps for that job.
Again, the goal is not merely to get players to use supercaps, but to risk them. Pandemic Legion has always been happy to drop a pile of supercaps on a random, lonely Nyx, because there's no risk of loss. If supercaps are properly balanced, players will actually throw fleets into battle against each other, just as they do with sub-caps and caps. Despite the thousands of supercaps in the game, genuine supercap fleet battles almost never occur, because the cost of supercaps makes them so risky.
The future use of supercaps will depend on how the remote-rep nerf shakes out. If an inferior force can charge suicidally into battle and kill an enemy titan or two--perhaps winning the isk war in the process--then maybe FCs will decide not to field them in battle at all. If supercaps largely remain safe within an apex force of the biggest coalition of supercaps in EVE, then maybe the apex force bounces around killing all kinds of targets at will, while everyone else's supercaps remain docked or logged out. Both are bad outcomes.
Pictured above: Some dumb mining ship. No one in his right mind joins EVE to fly one of these things, yet by the end of the year they'll probably be buffed again.
Although I respect and appreciate CCP's efforts to improve the game, there's still room for some real talk here. It took them nearly three years to do this stuff after my article was written. Wouldn't it have been easier and more rewarding for all involved if they simply handed me total control of game design decisions? We'd have a better version of the current system, and we'd have had it three years ago.
Not trying to be pushy, only helpful.