Thursday, April 28, 2011

Deathstrike Missile

I love speculating and ruminating about game mechanics, and attempting to design new ones to overcome perceived problems. My idle speculations in my blog and podcast about a sub cap ship capable of threatening super capital ships has generated some interest and comments and disagreements in the Echo Chamber so I thought I would take a post to flesh out my idea.

Perceived Problem:
A super capital fleet in any normal reasonable situation cannot be countered by anything except another super capital fleet. This is mainly the cause of supercarriers and is due to huge effective hitpoint tanks, tactical flexibility due to jump drive, powerful DPS at all scales of combat due to drone capability, and special immunity to normal electronic warfare.

Possible Solution #1 - Enter Nerf Bat
A general nerfing of the supercarrier is required, including some combination of:
- lower hit points
- limits on fighter bomber targets
- less dps
- fewer non-fighter drones
- lower jump range
- less special ability
- make it harder to make hotdrops
- etc

The balance point of finding how much nerf to apply while still allowing the ships to be useful and worth the 15-20 billion ISK price tag can be tricky. If you don't nerf them enough the same problems will exist (i.e. not afraid of a sub-cap fleet) while if you nerf them too much you have the situation with motherships where they are never used anymore, alienating a portion of your dedicated playerbase that has trained for them.

Yes a nerf is needed, but I think alone it will not suffice unless you nerf the ship back to uselessness.

Possible Solution #2 - SUPER Doomsday!
It was proposed that increasing the doomsday weapon of Titans to make them capable of quickly eliminating supercarriers would be good counter. Sort of a collar on supercarriers being deployed willy-nilly with no fear of death.

This does not address the problem of sub-cap fleets being able to have some method to counter a supercap fleet. This simply reinforces the problem that the only counter to a supercap fleet is another supercap fleet. It may make Titans more frontline worthy, but they don't exactly need a boost IMHO.

Right now Titans feel about right, and I would be reluctant to change them for fear of the ripples.

Possible Solution #3 - Deathstrike Missile
Ever play Stratego?

The pieces are divided into levels and when two pieces clash, the higher level always wins (ties kill both). At the top level we have generals who are able to defeat everyone else except another general that they attack, but at the lowest level there is the spy. If a general attacks a spy, the spy dies but if the spy attacks the general, WHOOPS! There goes the enemy's most powerful piece.

So now we get to my proposal.

Here's the idea: stealth bombers are only effective in relatively few situations and only when flown by a skilled group of pilots. A single stealth bomber against a lone battleship is no contest and usually ends up in a dead bomber; however a fleet of stealth bombers properly flown can decimate a battleship fleet. Flown poorly and the bombers are still toast.

So let's take that dynamic and recreate it at a different scale. Let's say we have Tech II versions of the Tier III battleships (Rokh, Hyperion, Maelstrom, Abaddon) that could only fit a single weapon, call it the Deathstrike bomb launcher. These ships would cost in the 800 mil range, have Tech II resistances and bonuses to tanking but would lack any weapon hardpoints except for one launcher point for the bomb launcher. No cloaking bonus.

The Deathstrike bomb launcher would operate just like the current bomb launcher but can only fit Deathstrike bombs. These bombs are huge, 1000 m3 each, and only one fits in a launcher at a time. These bombs would be fired just like normal bombs: 10 second flight time at 1500 meters per second, straight line ahead (i.e. not targeted), explode. The difference would be that they have a 500 meter explosion radius(instead of 10,000 m) and do not do normal damage. Instead they do damage to shields, armour, and structure all at once equal to 20% of the capacity of shields, armour, and structure, ignoring resistances.

Why the new damage mechanic? Well, simply doing straight up damage would make them useful for any purpose like structure shooting or destroying normal carriers and battleships straight up. By making it proportional to the targets overall hitpoints it means that any fully repaired ship would require 5 hits to kill it, regardless of hull size.

In order to make pilots reserve these weapons for only the most high value targets, the bombs are about 250 mil worth of minerals each.

Consider the implications: here is a weapon that can destroy any ship with only 5-6 hits but is delivered at close range from a non cloaking ship that has to be perfectly aligned and at the right range. The explosion radius is so small that hitting anything but the largest targets or immobile ones is impractical and its cost is not worth using against anything but the largest targets anyways. The bomb size means the ship can't carry any reloads and has to be resupplied from a station, hauler, carrier, etc meaning that they can't easily wipe out fleets.

But a well coordinated small group of pilots in these ships, say 15 of them, could deliver a credible threat (albeit with considerable risk) to a small fleet (5-10) of supercaps that currently is not possible in the game. Combined with a decent regular sub cap fleet, and I think you have a decent balance.

On the defence side of the equation, protecting supercaps from these enemy ships would require a subcap fleet for support, providing a picket to prevent these deathstrike ships from getting into the right position for an attack run. Right now, a sizable supercap fleet has no overriding need for a support fleet.

There is a large potential to either create a ship/weapon too hard to use or too expensive to use, thus wasting development resources. There are potential balance issues if the weapon is too useful against structures and stations. There would probably be a limit against using it in low sec like normal bombs so supercaps would continue to be overpowered in that sphere.

I want there to be a rock-paper-scissors scenario in the sub-cap, capital, supercapital dynamic. I feel that adding a fleet element to sub-cap fleets capable of providing a credible threat to supercaps in skilled hands while still being a risk might go towards introducing that balance.

* * * * *
I'm sure CCP is working on a nerf for supercarriers. Its the easiest of the three approaches to implement and has a decent chance of success, or at least of negating some of the overpowering effects of supercap fleets. But I feel there is room in the game for a sub-capital ship whose role is supercapital killer. Time will tell.


  1. This is very similar to my Cap Buster Gooder Eve post back in November:

    I think the basic run off from that was potentially some type of BS Siege type weapon, which is an interesting idea.

    Whatever the final result, it would need to be balanced and equally as difficult to get around to using as it is to build a super cap in the first place, otherwise people would just stop building super caps.

  2. Anonymous2:57 pm

    I really like the idea of a new T2 battleship designed to kill supers, but I don't like this strange bomb-like idea.

    Perhaps a short-range, targeted module that takes some time to have effect. Could be explained as sending over unmanned suicide drones in breaching pods or something. Does direct structure damage (not shield or armour).

  3. Anonymous12:40 am

    I like your idea for the t2 BS siege weapon, but I don't like the implementation. Making something always kill in 5 hits no matter what you're shooting at, for only 1.3 billion isk per kill... that is a recipe for disastrously simple tactics. I can say yes to a weapon that does an enormous amount of damage to supercaps, but not to one that does fixed percentages and ignores resists like that. Just think, "What would PL do with something like this?" Do you want to play a game with mechanics like that?

    I can see the need to bring more of a rock-paper-scissors balance back to EVE instead of letting supercaps balloon out of control, but I'm not sure I like having everything being so tightly focused on a single weapon that ridiculously powerful.

    Overly simple rock/paper/scissors mechanics are unrealistic. After all, lawyers and accountants are killed by rocks in real life EVERY DAY.

  4. I have two separate ideas:

    1/. That you can catastrophically overload your weapons into a one shot deal, destroying them in the process. That kind of output should either destroy your ship or do significant damage your structure and other modules. Better brains than mine can look at the factoring for damage...

    2/. That self destruct actually means something. You're overloading a starship power core for god's sake. It should not go fizzle like a damp firework, but cause a massive wave of damage to the surrounding area (relative to the size and inertia of the ship - a small ship is more likely to be pushed along by the explosion and suffer less damage).

    Either of these would help counterbalance supercaps, and more importantly, help those who can't field them to provide a credible threat.

    Anyways... just a thought or two.

  5. I like the idea of the "bs bomber" though I think you could have it do an amazing salvo damage vs just a blanket 25%. and have the damage mitigated by exp velocity and radius much like a dreads citadel torps which are basicly just good for shooting towers and stuff that isnt moving. as for the ship itself i think 800mil for a one shot wonder is way too high priced. too narrow of a niche to fill.

  6. I agree that a single mechanic that works exactly the same way every time is not that compelling, but I also think that supercaps should be vulnerable to attack, similarly to the way that battleships are vulnerable to a swarm of frigates. To that end, I offer the singularity mechanic. Attackers launch an expensive, high-skill-requirement spacetime implosion device. Once detonated, it initiates the formation of a special singularity. This special singularity field affects operation of massive ships but is relatively harmless to lower mass ships. After deployment, a gang of ships fitted with graviton emission devices must all direct their grav beams at the singularity to increase its strength. A handful of battleships should not be able to sustain the energy output required to sufficiently entrap a supercarrier. It should probably take 10 or more battleships at a minimum.

    When a ship is caught in the field of the singularity, its stats progressively decrease. The effect is based on the amount of energy poured into the singularity by the attackers and diminishes the shield, armor, structure, power grid and capacitance of affected ships proportionate to the square of the mass of the affected ship. If the singularity becomes strong enough, a ship as large as a supercap is immobilized and its power grid, hit points, capacitor size, etc. are all reduced. Modules go offline and eventually it's unable to control drones, etc. Standard battleships then move in for a kill that should not take more than a minute or two. If a gang of 20 battleships were all fitted for this sort of attack, they should take around 10 minutes to build-up the singularity to a level strong enough to be lethal to a supercap. 40 attackers would take around 5 minutes.

    Again, a lone supercap should be killable by 15 - 20 battleships, losing about 2/3 to 3/4 of their number in the process. There could be 3 or 4 flavors of singularity so that the target might have a chance to fit an anti-singularity device that would negate the energy poured in by the attackers. Make the singularities such that only one type can be initiated within a large radius and it takes a while to dissapate after the energy input is stopped. This way a supercap that has the correct counter to the attackers' flavor of singularity cannot be hit simultaneously or in serial by all the flavors of entrapment.

    Maybe it's worth playing with the numbers a bit to adjust the time it takes and the number of attackers required. Here are my starting assumptions: If 20 battleships were to attack a well-fitted Titan with conventional means, they would face about 25 - 30M EHP of target tank. If each attacker averages 900 DPS, it would take about 30 minutes to destroy the titan, assuming they're all invulnerable. In reality, the Titan will take out about 50% of the attackers in 10 minutes and probably sweep the rest even faster assuming that the strongest reppers in the attacking fleet are initially destroyed. This really gives the attackers an 8 to 10 minute window in which to ensnare the Titan. 20 well-fit battleships may price out to between 15 and 25% of the value of the titan. It's also worth considering that 10 T1-hull frigates can take out almost any well-tanked battleship in 5 minutes or less. The pricing ratios are ballpark similar.

  7. Anonymous5:34 am

    I think everyone could bear to remember: Making something really expensive is no fix for making something too good. Someone will always be able to afford it in large numbers, and if it can be used flawlessly...

    This is the current problem with Supercars: they might be absurdly expensive, as expensive as stations, but they are not very hard to keep alive while using them effectively.

  8. From Eenbal:


    I tried to comment on the blog post but I kept receiving an error when using my google account. so I thought i would email you so you could feast on my awesome idea! ha ha.

    Nice idea, my mate and I thought of a similar idea. However we thought that you could use a T2 tier2 BC fitted with a 'jump' missile(ala battlestar galactica) that could only lock on to super cap jump drive engines due to the energy signature they created. So you would be able to warp in, target the super and then using a special module (like a laser designator) paint the target. Then your buddies, in their super fragile t2 BC, would have to assign the missile to the person painting the super. Missile 'jumps' from a maximum 1au away and bang, missiles of death rain down. Not sure how powerful the missiles should be though, perhaps a bit weaker than dred torps? I thought it would be a cool idea.

  9. Stealth bombers do BC lvl dps with a paper thin frigate tank. Have a BC or BS do cap lvl dps with a paper thin tank + have the ability to cloak. Then the game will be a little more balanced..a little more, this game will never be perfect.