The Super-Cap Gap

These days, everyone is talking about super capitals. The DRF is mass-producing them, the South wishes they had more of them, and the Goons wish they were never put into the game.

These ships have become the single most important factor in determining who controls null sec territory, and they seem to have cornered the market on frustration & butt-hurt at a time when customer satisfaction with CCP is at critically low levels.

Because of the high damage of fighter bombers, which require no ammo or energy from the host ship, super carriers have been firmly cemented as the new bulldozers for sovereignty infrastructure.

Compared to dreadnaughts, super carriers have far better offensive and defensive capabilities, with none of the built-in disadvantages that dreads bring.

Super carriers, like titans, have full e-war immunity at all times. Unlike dreads, they don’t need to siege to obtain this immunity, and therefore it is much harder catch them with their pants down in the same manner that often happened to dread fleets.

While in siege mode, dreads can be killed even by a comparatively small number of sub-capital ships. This is because dreads in siege mode cannot receive remote repair, dock, or jump.

This was a great way to balance the behemoth tower-killers of yore. No such balancing mechanic exists for super carriers. Super carriers are far from helpless against sub-caps thanks to their drone bay, fighters, remote ECM burst, and considerable buffer tank.

And then there are the titans.

There is no other ship class that has caused so many problems in the history of eve. Titans have been broken since release, and every change has simply replaced one game-breaking super-weapon with another game-breaking super-weapon.

Titans have never been fun to fight against. Originally, they could remotely AOE ships from another system through a cyno. In those days, they didn’t even have to jump through to set off the weapon.

Later, they were forced to jump through in order to deliver the doomsday, so people started bring “waves” of titans to ensure it wasn’t possible for anything to survive and tackle the titan.

Now, with titans being something like a super-capital sized battleship, people are not bringing a handful titans in waves before quickly hiding them, they are dropping dozens of them at a time on everything that moves.

And why not? It’s not as if there is any risk involved with dropping 50 titans, unless of course there are 51 titans nearby who are ready to counter you. Some refer to this as the “n + 1” counter.

Titans not only reduce capital fleets to ash, they also have an equally strong impact on key sub-capitals ships. Titans can turn a “sub-cap advantage” into a long list of loss mails rather quickly unless you have obscene odds in your favor.

The common retort when discussing the primacy of supers in 0.0 is a two word reply, “cyno jammers,” as if these were an easy counter to sustain 23/7.

All it takes is an unannounced form-up by the enemy in your weak timezone, and rather quickly the jammer will be gone, usually too fast for a coalition to communicate and respond with sufficient force.

The enemy can jump in their supers and dominate the system from then on. If they need to log, they can log in system, and erecting a new jammer will do nothing to eject the supers who have already made it in.

Once you have hostile supers logged in a system, they will be able to log them in unpredictably to take down any new jammers. They can also cause all kinds of other misery for you.

Even if you could protect your jammers 23/7 and lock-in your own supers to crush invaders, you will have to cycle the jammer eventually to move your own caps into the system. Otherwise, the enemy could simply hit every other system first while you hide under a single jammer.

The bottom line is that a determined attacker will get their supers on-field if they want it badly enough.

To make matters worse, an incapacitated jammer prevents the anchoring of a replacement, so the defenders will have to repair or destroy their own busted jammer before they can re-jam the system.

So when speaking of “jammers,” remember that they are not an invincible on/off switch that the defender can flip at will, it is simply another pos module that can be taken out in a variety of ways.

Currently, supers are getting a ton of attention, and with good reason.

One of the things that makes Eve interesting is the room for creativity and innovation in fleet warfare. At the sub-capital level, this kind of evolution in tactics and fittings has always been alive and well.

Even when carriers and dreads started being used in large numbers, there was a huge space for diversity in tactics and fittings (e.g. – sniper dreads, brawler dreads, pantheon carriers, triage carrier rotations).

In those days, any good capital strategy involved using sub-caps as well, and losing all of your support often meant your destruction.

What made the capital ship class interesting was that – while powerful – they were also very vulnerable. Triage mode and siege mode present a HUGE risk. This is a TRADEOFF you make for more power.

Super capitals are not forced to choose between power and safety. A large group of supers are very safe on any battlefield.

Even against a larger group of supers, inadequate log-off mechanics ensure that you are likely to save the majority of your fleet in the case of a well-executed trap.

Supers represent a dead-end. There is no reason to specialize in anything else, and there are no counters to be found in other ship classes.

I realize people have killed supers with 200-300 suicidal gank-fit sub caps before. This is fun and I cheer along with everyone else when “welp fleet” takes down a super carrier, but this is not a counter that will allow a side with less supers to win a major battle, it’s more like harassment, and it only works under specific conditions.

Instead of a “rock, paper, scissors” situation (example: armor hacs v. alpha BS v. Tengus), or a Achilles heel situation (example: siege mode for dreads), we have a class of ships that have no weaknesses.

When the only direct counter for a ship/class/character/team is more of that ship/class/character/team, this is the essence of a broken game mechanic.

Right now, a majority of the super-cap heavy alliances are part of the same coalition.

This coalition, lead by the Drone Region Russians, was formed for a singular purpose: the destruction of the Northern Coalition.

To this end, Raiden (ex-BoB) and NCdot (ex-Tri) joined hands with the heavily Russian DRF. By this time, the DRF already included Red Alliance, Legion of xXDeathXx, Solar Fleet, White Noise, Intrepid Crossing, Red Legion, The Jagged Alliance, Controlled Chaos, and others.

Pandemic Legion, the largest super-cap force in the game, once again played “king-maker” here, joining the Russians and their comrades in exchange for a hefty sum.

At first, I was cheering for the NC to finally meet their end, as were nearly all of us in MVN, but soon I began to wonder if it really was such a good thing for the game to see a large care-bear oriented bloc that was notorious for welcoming new players removed entirely.

Combined with a null-sec income nerf, and the introduction of high-paying incursions, there was little reason for the bears residing in the North to fight and reclaim their space.

The result was more people playing in empire, which means less targets for everyone other than Privateers & The Orphanage.

It would have been fine if the replacement for the NC were simply a number of smaller coalitions, but what we got was another mega-bloc.

With the NC defeated, PL went back to playing better games than Eve, and they reset standings until they are needed again.

However, the rest of the coalition has remained intact, despite the lack of any existential threat to the DRF or any real re-consolidation of the NC to be found anywhere.

Next, the majority of the coalition that was necessary to pry the NC from the North was leveraged against AAA, and the other “Southern” alliances. Ostensibly, this conflict also involved the residents of the entire Southwest, among whom are several ex-NC entities.

I can say with confidence that very few supers are being built in the South right now. Some corps are crazier than others in this regard, but everyone feels the impending doom of the DRF and their new allies.

It isn’t really a mystery why Raiden and NCdot kept the DRF blue, they want to beat up on a weaker coalition more than they want to worry about defending their own space right now.

Their choices were to attack West into Deklein, attack east into IRC space, or bandwagon with White Noise & RA against AAA in the South. Considering the stomping the Russians took in 46DP, I can only imagine that the Russians were pleading for help at that point.

So, predictably, the groups that once resented the NC for having “too many blues” decided to keep their new mega-bloc standings intact and go South.

Down here, they have been helping White Noise take revenge for the CSAA’s AAA destroyed, and to “reclaim” space that White Noise took from AAA to begin with.

Initially, the war was going well for AAA and friends. Red Alliance + White Noise + xxDeathxx + Controlled Chaos + Ultima Ratio were a good match for AAA + ROL + Nulli + Cascade/Atlas + Nulli.

Relatively even wars are conducive to large battles where super-caps are frequently deployed on both sides. Epic battles ensue, and fun is had by all. The brawl that took place in 46DP is a great example of this.

Victories under relatively-even conditions feel earned, and tend to make for great stories to write about. These are also the kinds of stories that draw new players to the game.

On the other hand, one-sided wars raise the stakes of using supers too high for the weaker bloc. While easier for the conqueror, these wars harm morale on both sides because there is no suspense, and even fewer enjoyable fights.

With the alliances currently tied to the DRF remaining blue, and the power of supers unchecked, we effectively have a uni-polar world on Tranquility right now.  This means new coalitions are unlikely to be able to break into 0.0, and the current blocs not-allied with the DRF exist only at their mercy.

This situation does not provide much fun for current players, and worse yet, it doesn’t draw in new players into 0.0 – or even to playing the game in the first place.

The Dominion experiment has failed, perhaps even more spectacularly than the Incarna expansion.

I don’t consider it a stretch to say that a super-capital imbalances between major power blocs are bad for the game itself. Dominance by one power bloc, which is made possible by an ever-growing growing super-capital majority, inevitably contributes to apathy.

This is the super-cap gap that many people, myself included, consider game-breaking.

When people feel that logging in doesn’t matter, they are more likely to move on to other games. This is bad for everyone involved, regardless of who won and lost in their most recent campaigns.

Right now, when all the supers in the game are counted up, the DRF and their allies simply have too many toys, especially if you count PL on their side.

Everything mentioned so far is common knowledge. I think CCP, the players, and even the non-Eve-playing gaming media are aware that there are balance problems with this game right now.

What hasn’t been discussed adequately is how to fix things.

First off, a political solution could be reached that breaks the DRF into at least two smaller parts. This would be a temporary fix to the problems caused by the super-cap gap, but it doesn’t access the root of the problem.

Most importantly, this kind of political solution is something only players could control, since I don’t believe CCP is creative or ballsy enough to come up with a way to penalize players for having large blue lists.

Additionally, any temporary reset between group like NCdot and their Russian comrades is likely to be temporary. Any serious threat to either side would lead to a renewed bandwagon.

Second, supers could be nerfed. This is something CCP has already come to terms with, and I suspect a poll of every player in 0.0 would heavily favor this outcome. The only question is, how.

Right now on singularity, titans cannot doomsday sub-capital ships. This is the first step towards balancing titans, and by far the most needed change.

Titans currently get “rooted” for 30 seconds after firing their doomsday weapon, which is only a minor limitation, but they also cannot cloak or jump out of the system for 10 minutes. These restrictions are still present on singularity, but they have not been increased, which has come as a disappointment to some players.

The real problem with the current “penalties” associated with the doomsday weapon is that they make dropping a single titan on a hostile target (like a ratting carrier or jump freighter using a cyno beacon) hazardous for that one pilot, but they do not make large titan fleets any less safe when deployed together.

In order for 50 titans on grid to worry about their 10-minute timers, they would need to be in danger to begin with. Making them stick around is only a penalty if there is a chance that someone stands a chance of killing them.

So what’s still missing?

Titans need to be more vulnerable to sub-cap fleets. The DD target nerf is a huge step, but turret-based titans need to be unable to chew through hostile battleship fleets like they do. Nerf them all to the level of the Leviathan, which can only harm other capitals with its launchers.

I think that dreads also need a major boost in damage, effectively making them a viable counter to supers if you can resign yourself to losing them in large numbers.

My biggest question is, what about the super carriers?

Super carriers are cheap compared to titans, and they out-class both carriers AND dreads in every way.

I think a dread buff would go a long way to indirectly nerfing super carriers, since they share the role of anti-capital and anti-structure powerhouse. However, that doesn’t seem sufficient to me.

Some have proposed limiting super carriers to fighters and bombers, removing the ability to launch other drones. I don’t think this really gets to the heart of the problem. Having only fighters for killing sub-caps and only bombers for killing capitals would not be particularly limiting.

I personally favor a hit point nerf, reducing them to about 5x the EHP of a carrier instead of their current form (which is around 12-15x times the EHP of a carrier).

As an example, a Thanatos has 125k armor while a Nyx has over a million armor, with more slots to add tank. Supers are usually dead-space tanked as well, while carriers get t2 or faction at best.

There is another more radical change that I support. I am a proponent of removing e-war immunity for super carriers and titans.

What better way to reign in the power of super capitals than to allow well-coordinated teams of e-war specialists to dampen, disrupt, jam, scramble, and web these behemoths.

It only seems fair that titans should be vulnerable to tracking disruption since they can benefit from remote tracking links. It only seems fair that super should be vulnerable to dampening since remote sensor boosting works on them.

I would absolutely love to see a smart group of players beat an over-confident super-cap fleet using ewar and superior tactics. Perhaps a group of sniper dreads supported by dampening from a large sub-cap fleet (all of which fitting a phased muon dampener) would be able to pull off an incredible victory.

Isn’t that kind of scenario the stuff that makes for great player videos and great stories? I think it is, and I also think it’s time to move away from a model where the side with the most supers always wins.

This change would also make it possible to keep supers tackled with sub-capitals, even if they clear away all hostile dictors. Bubblers would still be important though, since it’s hard to individually point a large number of ships.

Finally, I think it’s time for one more major change to the game, longer log-off timers for capital and super-capital ships.

Right now, a side that commits large numbers of supers to a battle can simply log them all off when things start to go south. Sure, they will lose a few of them, as the DRF did in 46DP, but the majority of the fleet will survive.

What we need to do is move from a universal 15-minute log-off timer (before the ship disappears from space after logging) to a tiered system.

I would suggest that all sub-capital ships disappear, as they do now, in 15 minutes. I think that capitals (carriers, dreads, rorquals, etc.) should disappear in 30 minutes. Most importantly, I favor a 60 minute timer for super-capitals to disappear.

If you commit supers, I want logging them off to be suicidal. Your choices should be to clear away tacklers and escape, fight to the end, or defeat the enemy. No more of this “logoffski” crap, it’s a giant source of blueballs and a crutch for bad fleet commanders.

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15 Responses to “The Super-Cap Gap”

  1. Squizz Caphinator Says:

    This might be extreme, but I propose that a super can never “disappear”. The ship is always present whether the pilot is logged in or not.

    Leaving a super in a POS doesn’t guarantee its safety. Leaving a super at a deep safe won’t work either. A super with its active pilot logged out will not receive any effects from the pilot’s skills. It will be on grid somewhere in a system.

    This puts supers back in control to the alliances and not individual pilots. Alliances would have to take measures to ensure the ships are always piloted by someone who is actually logged in and in control of the ship. Alliances would go through great pains to defend their ships.

    What about people who logged off in a super 3 years ago? Let them be, but once a super logs in, its back in the game for good.

    This type of change would be horribly unpopular and the super population would drop quickly. Alliances would scramble to protect their supers, if they could. Unprotected supers would be savagely hunted and destroyed.

    The extreme advantage of the firepower and defense of a super is balanced by having the super vulnerable when the alliance isn’t active. Only the largest of alliances with well planned super pilot schedules will be able to effectively keep their supers safe.

    Feel free to point out some flaws, it is just an idea after all 🙂

    • I think that would be a very bold change, but boldness can be good when things are stagnating.

      Your idea is probably a little too extreme for CCP’s tastes, but it shows some outside of the box thinking for sure.

      Personally, I always though it would have been better if supers were somewhat like mobile staging bases, with a mothership being like a mobile POS and a titan being a mobile station. Your idea would be perfect if supers were implemented in this way.

    • This is exactly the change that needs to happen. I don’t see supers as being overpowered, they need to be like that. But supers owned by individuals needs to go away. If an alliance wants super support, they should have to work for it.

  2. Excellent article. I particularly enjoyed the section on logoffski. I have never understood why when you log off in space that you disappear. It only makes sense that ships in space ( without cloak on ) would stay visible even when logged off. Log off in a pos, in station, or while using a covet ops II cloaking…..otherwise expect to get blowed up. Hmmm CCP you say EVE is real. Show me!

    Thanks for the excellent article,

    Rayzth

    • I think this is a mechanic in deference to the fact that EVE is just a game, and that people don’t always have a choice when and where they disconnect. Unless you’re intentionally appealing to a niche audience (the DCS A-10 simulator is my current canonical example), too much hardcore realism hurts the game aspect.

      That said, tiered log-off timers are not a bad idea, and having super-caps not vanish at all is near brilliant.

      • In case it wasn’t clear, I am only advocating long timers for players who log with aggression.

        I don’t think ships that have no aggression need to stick around any longer then they do now.

  3. Great article. /signed

  4. Titus Loken Says:

    I love it ET. Glad to see you back.

    The only issue I could see is if you agress your Titan and then RL comes knocking, you have to hope you don’t get bumped or that the reds don’t have probes – or your fucked.

    • Unless you have set off a doomsday within 10 minutes, you can still just cloak.

      Leave fleet (so no spies in fleet can warp to you), warp to safe, cloak, go afk.

      After an hour (or whenever you come back) you can log.

  5. Mahavatar Says:

    I really dont understand how could make such a, i’m sorry to say this, bad article…

    First you started by comparing a Dread to a SC. Damn, you are comparing a 1.2B ship to a 20B one and complaining about the weak sides of the cheaper ship. Of course it’s weaker since, when you deploy it you won’t be risking as much, and it takes way more time to properly train use a Super Carrier.

    After that you say a few half truths, building a scenario where AAA wouldn’t be badly seen, by their poor performance in the Catch war (AAA has a way bigger super cap force than PL, for instance).

    Lastly you propose changes to supers, where you basicaly ask for the supers to only be able to properly shoot capitals or structures, penalizing them heavilly for using their best weapons and finally make them vulnerable to the ships, that by your proposed changes, they wont be able to shoot (sub caps).

    Imho, ofc all the supers should be rebalanced, but their capability to face all the threats posed to them and still have some kind of security shouldn’t be removed, since the time it takes to properly train to use one and the isk invested in them should also be taken in consideration.

    • In the end it comes down to the Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock principle of gameplay: an entity which is impervious to all threats unless outnumbered 100:1 simply is _no fun_. And given that EVE doesn’t impose SP caps on characters, even the long skill train is not really a limiting factor.

      Apropos: Dreads aren’t weak because they’re cheap – they’re cheap because they’re weak. The difference is subtle, but significant.

    • Think about it this way, an Absolution costs 12-15x as much isk as a prophecy (15 mil versus 200+ mil).

      Do you feel ripped off when the Absolution only has 1.5x as much EHP and 2x the DPS? Do you want the Absolution to have 15 times more dps? Of course not.

      What about officer mods? A t2 damage mod is only 1 million isk, but an officer damage mod is 300 million isk. Do you think the officer mod should offer 300x more damage and rate of fire? Of course not.

      That’s because there are supposed to be diminishing returns from upgrading ships & equipment in this game, but supers don’t follow those rules. Supers scale too well, and they get special abilities nothing else does.

      The conclusion is obvious, supers are broken.

      The fact that a super carrier costs several times as much as a dread does not mean it should be – in equal proportions – several times better in every way, but right now they actually are that good!

      Furthermore, super carriers don’t have to take as many risks. They get more power with less drawbacks.

      Dreads have to take a HUGE risk by using siege mode. They can’t be repaired, which means sub-caps can kill them easily. This isn’t true for supers.

      I will be happy to discuss it more, but if you think there will be no super capital nerfs I think you will be disappointed.

      CCP and the vast majority of the player base recognizes there is a huge problem right now, and they are already working on nerfs.

  6. Tarsas Phage Says:

    I particularly agree with the HP nerf. To add to that, there’s no reason why ships the size of supers and titans (and carriers and dread for that matter) only require large rigs, and not Capital-sized ones. Why should it cost the same to T2 trimark your Nyx as it would for a battleship?

    It looks like once upon a time, CCP did think of introducing Cap rigs, but didn’t. They’re in the database, but unpublished. To put it in perspective, though, a T2 Large Trimark BPC @ -4 ME takes 20, and at best requires 16 intact plates to build. Going off what’s currently hidden in the database, to build a T2 Capital Trimark @ -4 ME, you will need 98 intact plates, which means a substantial increase in both cost and gathering the required bits and bobs. That’s a baseline of 3.5-4bn ISK per Trimark if you extrapolate current prices, and a mom/titan would want 3 of those. For comparisson, a T1 Capital Trimark @ ME=0 would require 358 armor plates.

    I’m not looking at this as cost being the limiting factor for a mom pilot, but availability. Do you think the market supply can sufficiently satisfy the material reqs for three T2 capital trimarks (times) however many new moms are being made? I don’t think so.

    • standinginspace Says:

      That’s a cool idea (cap rigs) but don’t you think, since they inevitably would be very VERY expensive, that would again give the upper hand to huge clusterfuck blue blobs that would have the massive funds to afford them and the sheer number of bears and botters to support/get the bits for them? Then potentially if the problem is supply then smaller, poorer allys would not be able to field caps and supers with rigs at all

  7. +1 Great read and very interesting ideas.

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