Now that I've had 24 hours or so to consider the implications of the Orca in the upcoming winter patch, I figure its time to talk about how this ship is going to fit into New Eden.
1) All About High Sec Baby
This is a large ship, bigger than battleships but smaller than true capitals. In essence a true sub-capital ship. But it can't jump, it has to use stargates like regular freighters.
Hmmm.... a big ship that has to travel into and through low sec and null sec space the old fashioned way? Can you say "target"?
The fact is that Orcas will be as popular in low sec and 0.0 space as freighters are for the same reasons: easy to catch, can't avoid gate camps, and expensive as to make them very tempting targets. (Not that someone willing to shoot at you would care if you're expensive or not I suppose.)
Now some organized corporations / alliances might have the wherewithal to get an Orca into their space and make use of it, but if they are that capable they will probably have a Rorqual doing the work with its larger capacities, better defenses, and jump drive capability to avoid gate camps.
So the Orca will be mostly used in High Sec. The question is how?
2) Mining Command Ship
Large mining operations in high sec often have a battlecruiser or command ship in the gang to act as a Mining Foreman with Links installed. The Orca will replace those ships since it can install those links as well as having other useful attributes like the long range tractor beams, long range survey scanner, huge cargo bay, and ship maintenance array.
The tractor beam and large cargo space (reported to be expandable to 90K m3 along with a 30K m3 Corp Maintenance Array) will alleviate the need for as many hauling alts as usual for small to mid sized operations as miners can fill up jet cans and have the Orca pull them. Or maybe the Orca will simply be a staging point for the haulers to pick ore up from as it pulls the cans from all over the belt.
Speaking of the large cargo space, the ability to haul an amount of stuff greater than the best industrials (around 50k m3) but less than the Freighters (~900K m3) or even Jump Freighters (~320K m3) at a price point lower than freighters but 50% or so will make the ship attractive for those simply wanting to move stuff around Empire space and beyond.
In addition, the 400K m3 Ship Maintenance array will allow it to move rigged battlecruisers and smaller without having to repackage them. Not a great bonus though since cruisers and smaller could be couriered assembled in frieghters and the Orca can only carry one battlecruiser at a time, but combined with the other carrying capacity it amounts to a pretty flexible logistics ship.
It might be particularily attractive for someone who likes to be a nomad moving from region to region: most pilots can fit a good selection of rigged cruisers and frigates in the Orca, all their ammo and mods in the cargo holds, and off you go. Its not unfeasible to envision a corp of pvp pilots each with their own Orca to move from high sec base to high sec base that are adjacent to low sec areas, taking their lives with them every few weeks.
4) Future Ship Classes?
The Orca is very unique as it has a corp and ship maintenance array on a ship without a jump drive. Could this be a precursor to other ships that are designed towards corporate cooperation (as oppsed to solo-play) that are larger than battleships but still stargate and high sec capable? A Light Carrier perhaps? Or maybe a support ship with corp and ship maintenance arrays but no fighter support for High Sec combat away from stations? The possibilities are endless.
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There you have it. I really like the Orca and I will be getting one for Derranna for sure simply for the ability to train her up to be a decent mining foreman. Its her new goal in life.