Friday, May 11, 2012

Strategic Cruisers Are A Failure

Now you might read the title of this post and think to yourself, "Mr Kodachi, you are on crack." After all, Strategic Cruisers are everywhere in New Eden. Running sanctums alone in null sec, fleets of missile spewing doom, cloaky scouts that can ignore warp bubbles, probing hunters, running missions in high sec, fleet boosters, fighting Sleepers in wormholes, active tanking, passive tanking, etc. Despite the hefty price tag and losing skill points when losing the ship, they are a very popular ship class.

But the concept itself failed.

Let's go back to late 2009 to read the dev blog introducing Strategic Cruisers to the players of Eve:
Strategic Cruisers
The elation of happening upon a unique fit, some fresh and clever setup, has always been a very appealing aspect of EVE. One of our primary goals for the Tech 3 ships was to bring this customization to a whole new level. The new ships are a fundamental departure from the tried and tested, offering such unparalleled customization that discussing them on the same terms as previous ships belies their true extent - we're talking full-fledged, independent systems within the system. A little bit scary, really. They are called Strategic Cruisers, where "strategic" refers to the internal scalability and dynamic nature of the setup options- not a battlefield role like coordinators or command ships. Of course, they can align beautifully with virtually any fleet on any mission, but just as well prowl as lone wolves.
Subsystems not only change the ship's attributes, slot layout and bonuses, but the geometrical shape and appearance as well. As stated, each vessel consists of 5 subsystems and a hull. Once the ship has been assembled, players are free to switch out the subsystems completely at will, given they are docked at a station.  

Emphasis mine. The concept is simple: you can pick what role / bonuses / slot layout your ship has AND you can change it whenever you want. The first part is part of the reason the ships are so ubiquitous but the second part has pretty much failed miserably. Most of the time, you use a tool like EFT or Pyfa to determine what setup you want for your Strat Cruiser including the 5 subsystems you want, and then you buy that setup, put it together, and most likely never change it again.

If you want a Strategic Cruiser for a different role, e.g. a probing cloaky ship instead or your sanctum running missile spammer, you are more likely to simply buy an entire second ship rather than just the mods to switch your current ship. My hanger, for example, has three Strategic cruisers in it: one for PvE, one for cloaky probing, and one for pure gank PvP.

What is the reason for the failure of the ship class to live up to its potential? There are several:

1) Rigs. When you put three rigs on a ship, they are usually to compliment its main role or main method of tanking (or sometimes both). However, changing the subsystems of a strat cruiser can vastly change its role and/or optimal tanking method, most likely making the installed rigs sub-optimal or useless. Since you can't just remove rigs, only destroy them, it makes players committed to a single setup once the rigs are installed.

2) In Game, Setting Up Ships is Tedious. While some big improvements to fitting a ship in game have been made over the years, the fact of the matter is that it is downright tedious and intensive to explore ship setups and tweak it to how you want. There is no easy way to compare stats of two ship setups, removed mods are assembled so don't stack and litter up your hanger, your hanger modules are not in a nice tree to browse like they are in the market, and unless your hanger is well stocked or you are in a market hub sometimes you just don't have the modules or charges you need for a quick setup change.While out of game tools help a lot with some of these deficiencies, the fact of the matter is that its easier to setup a new ship with brand new purchased items than it is to swap out subsystems and modules of an existing setup unless you don't want to use that setup ever again.

3) Too Limited. Many of the scenarios where having the ability to change the capabilities of your current ship on the fly would be useful are the same scenarios where you do not have the ability of swapping subsystems and modules: deep in enemy space, wormholes, during a long roam, etc, any time you are far from your home base. Even if you have the subsystems and modules available, since you have to be docked at a station you still can't use a POS hanger or capital ship maintenance bay to to the switch anyways. So no jumping from Sleeper-farming PvE ship to hostile-fighting PvP ship in wormholes and no switching from forward-scouting recon ship to damage-dealing tackle ship during an offensive in null sec.

* * * * *

So what is the answer to make Strategic Cruisers live up to their full potential? Easy; address these three problems in some manner and you will go a long ways to getting there. Introduce a method for removing rigs (i.e. only in station and for a cost), introduce more ship-building-theory tools and module hanger organization tools into the game client, and allow swapping of subsystems outside of station environments.


  1. Respectfully I have to disagree, at least in part. I have 9 different loadouts for my Tengu, each for a different purpose, eg.

    - Null-sec evasion
    - Low-sec travel
    - Low-sec exploration
    - XLpermaboost Combat
    - PvE High DPS

    Each loadout makes use of many different subsystems and modules, all of which fit into the Tengu's cargo. Using the Fitting Manager, I can switch easily between loadouts with the minimum of fuss and I can get the best out of the Tengu, enjoying it's versatility.

    For a one-size fits all casual solution, the strategic cruiser is great once you've done the homework and got everything together.

    Pros aside, there are a couple of cons that I do agree with you on. Unless I'm prepared to repeatedly rip out rigs, some fits are sub-optimal. My fitting options are designed around one set of rigs, but I know I'm making sacrifices.

    Also, the fitting manager was often a little buggy and didn't always co-operate when changing loudouts quickly. It's been a while since I've been out in my multirole Tengu, so I don't know if this is still the case.

    I often toy with the idea of buying a second or third chassis to accommodate my subsystems, but that sounds like too much admin and it would undermine the convenience of being able to fit everything into one hull.

  2. Now, if strat cruisers could change setup in space with the aid of a particular support ship (perhaps even another strat cruiser with a given subsystem), you might find more on the fly customisation - for example infiltrate hostile space in a cloaky recon fit, then switch to a combat fit once you reach your destination.

    That would also alleviate the problem of not being able to change subsystems in a wormhole.

  3. I have to disagree with you; for nullsec missions, the ability to switch subsystems between uncatchable dictor-null cloaky and efficient DPS mission runner is crucial and cannot really be replaced by any other ship class. A job that you would have to buy a different ship for every system, or even have a different character for every system, can be done with a single ship that is refit between travel and combat.

    I know people who have made many, many billions using their strat cruisers in exactly this way.

  4. My feelings is that the initial intent on the strategic cruisers was flexibility. Not overall power. T3 ships are stronger than t2 ships, even those a half class above them (Most T3 ships fitting for combat are stronger than t2 command ships in either tank, damage, or both)

    Yes, I agree that swapping out T3 subsytems should be possible in space, not just a station. I agree that the rig slots should be assigned so that only certain subsystems even have rig slots and that the rig is attached to the subsystem. that way the rig isn't lost entirely, but isn't entirely 100% free swappable either.

    So for me, enhance the flexibility of the ship, but bring the t3 ships so that in any particular configuration, they are not as powerful as the t2 ship in that dedicated role. i.e. a t3 fleet booster should NEVER be as strong as a command ship boosting. a t3 logistics ship should not be superior to a t2 logistics ship for that role.

    The T3 ships were meant to be the epitome of flexibility - the swiss army knife. Very handy and versatile, but not the optimal tool for building a deck or carving a turkey. You could still do both tasks with the swiss-army knife in a pinch, but there are specific tools for each of those roles that can do individual jobs better, but cannot compare at doing both.

  5. The rig problem so overshadows everything else that you may as well have written an entire post about that.

    With the exception of the occasional triple CDFE Tengu or triple trimark Legion, the rigs for different fittings are so specialized (and usually, so expensive) that once a strat cruiser is rigged there really isn't much you can do to customize it from one fit to another.

  6. I wouldn't call them a failure based on your argument that it's easier to have ~3 billion in fitted ships instead of spending ~30mil on rigs when you want to modify the hull's role. (and that's assuming you need to change rigs)

    The cost to re-rig is minuscule compared to the cost of a separate ship.

    Also, Knug's comment is excellent.

  7. Kirith i totally agree, i have several different strat crusiers and all are fit, rigged completely different, each for their own tasks. i have probing boosting ones i have 5 link t3's, i have several pvp fits, both active, passive and fleet or solo. i have a nulsec setups, i have armor ones, shield ones, repping ones... god you name it.

    i think maybe stan has a point. perhaps the concept is working for those that have 10 seconds more patient to swap the subs. or perhaps it is working as intended for tose that choose to, or cant afford more than one t3.

    for those than can and dont have the time i think the concept has failed. although lets be honest they are the most loved ship in most peoples hangars, i know they sure are my fave's!

  8. and the one true failure is that they cant be refitted at POS wich bugs me greatly in wormhole space!