Monday, November 09, 2015

The Capital Battlefield - Followup

I had planned to write a longer post that consisted of Friday's post describing a fictional battle involving new Citadel era caps followed by explanation and analysis but work was crazy last week so this post will have to be the followup to the ficiton.

Basically I'm trying to fit into my head how the changed capital ship meta will play out, not only for writing and "hey I'm an Eve pundit!" purposes but a less altruistic purpose as well: I build capitals and I want to know if I need to abandon some lines prior to the changes (which I will refer to as Citadel Changes or Citadel caps for simplicity's sake) to sell blueprints to get some invested ISK back before prices tank.

In other words, I'm trying to speculate if I need to sell some of my blueprints, specifically the carriers. I've built and sold 55 carriers (52 Archons, 1 Chimera, 2 Thanatos) prior to reworking my business to sell a mix of Archons and Moros, and during that time I made approximately 15 billion ISK. The constant demand for carriers is pretty high because in the current meta its, as the dev blog so accurately puts it, "My First Capital" for almost every player moving into capital ships.

But CPP wants to change the dynamic. Carriers will no longer be the obvious choice for the first capital, nor will it be the necessary capital that richer players always have on hand for various combat and logistical purposes. As the dev blog says:

Time to reimagine and clarify capital roles. Currently, players choosing 'My First Capital' almost always chose a Carrier. They provide more utility than a Dreadnought through the use of fleet hangars, ship hangars, damage, and repair abilities.
We are going to level the playing field.
All capitals will now get:
Fleet Hangars
Ship Hangars
The ability to provide refitting abilities to their fleet-mates
We want both Dreadnoughts and Carriers to be a valid choice for 'My First Capital'. We're going to split off the remote repair role from the Carrier and instead they will focus on fighters and support abilities.
Their repair role will go to a brand new set of capital ships.
BOOM! That's a huge hit to carriers. Based on the current meta, it would effectively kill carriers as a viable ship because the damage role is easily the weakest of the ones they currently fill. Rough estimate, a carrier kitted out for damage with ten fighters does about the DPS that two, maybe three battleships can do. No Big Deal.

Of course, that's not the end of the blog, only the beginning. We start to see more of the vision with this image that follows the above quote immediately:
Force Auxiliary is still a bad name
So we can see much clearer what the vision is intended to be. Much like every faction has two types of combat ships, for example Gallente with blaster boats and drone boats, capital ships will have two combat lines (guns and fighters). They will be supported by new logistic capitals that steal the role from Carriers.

This at first seems to make sense but on closer inspection it leads to the question of how it will actually work in practice. Even if we suppose that the game designers lowering the price of the carrier to reflect it losing the remote repair ability, we're still talking a price tag over a billion most likely. How will a ship using fighters give more value than a dreadnought with its capital guns? To the dev blog once more!

We are completely re-imagining fighter game-play. 
The carriers of the Citadel Expansion will launch squadrons, made of up to 12 fighters of the same type.
These squadrons act as a singular unit. Carrier pilots give orders to an entire squadron. You lock an entire squadron as one unit, except instead of Shields, Armor and Hull, the number of fighters remaining in that squadron are shown.

Carriers & Super-Carriers will launch up to 5 separate squadrons at a time. We are intending on introducing 3 classes of fighters, these will replace all existing fighters and fighter-bombers.
Light Fighters Optimized for anti-Fighter combat and light damage roles
Support Fighters Optimized for Electronic Warfare tasks including (but not limited to) Stasis Webifiers, Warp Disruptors, Neutralizing, Tracking Disrupting, etc.
Heavy Fighters Optimized for launching waves of bombs or torpedoes, able to do tremendous damage to capitals and structures.
The number and types of squadrons a carrier or super-carrier can launch will be limited.
Management of fighters ready on the launch decks will be an important consideration for carrier pilots. It takes time to swap one squadron of ready fighters out for another, or re-arm your Heavy Fighter Torpedo squadrons.

I see someone else has been playing World of Warships! The paradigm here is very similar to how carriers work in the naval game: squadrons are groups of planes and you give orders to them to carry out with some oversight from you. Once they need to reload they fly back, get serviced, and can be launched again.

So we start to see a picture of how this is going to play out in EVE. Dreadnoughts/Titans will be the close range damage dealers that focus on direct damage, while carriers play the more flexible damage dealers with longer range (but slower time to target) and non-damage support roles (i.e. Electronc warfare). Indeed, if carriers maintain a number of their high slots that are no longer needed for Triage module and remote repairers (side question: can they still do remote cap transfer?), those high slot modules can be used for the new Capital Energy Warfare modules and provide capital level capacitor warfare.

The fallout of all of this is that while new carriers might have a role in the Citadel capital battlefield, the fact remains its going to be a vastly diminished one. Any capital  ship can move your subcaps and stuff around in the ship and fleet hangers; any can provide refitting services; and Force Auxiliaries will cover remote repair.  I expect that demand for Carriers will drop drastically in Citadel leading to a price fall as the current glut of Carriers will cover any demand for a long time. Conversely, demand for the new Force-Auxs will drive prices up very high until capital producers can meet demand. Also, don't expect to see any ME10 blueprints for these new ships for at least a year if not longer.

I'm guessing that the required components for Carriers lowers to reflect their diminished role in the game and thus prices will come down even harder, and that Dreadnoughts will require some new components for the hangers but I expect CCP will balance the other component requirements to keep them at the current price point.

Since Force-Auxs are very specialized even compared to Dreadnoughts and Carriers, I'm hoping they shape up in the 800 million ISK range since they only do really one thing and since they can't make spider tanks anymore they should die far more often than pre-Citadel remote repping Carriers do.

I'll probably keep my ME10 Thanatos and my Archon BPO that I'm currently ~140 days from having at ME10. I'll be selling my other Archon BPO though and saving that ISK for a new Force-Aux BPO when they become available.

If CCP does not release the Force-Aux BPOs prior to nerfing the Carriers, there will be about 10-11 days of no Capital remote reps. What hijinx can occur in that window?

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