Ever since CCP released the first details of their plans for capital ships back in the fall, I've been struggling with how carriers are going to fit in.
In the old meta it was pretty straight forward: Dreadnoughts did the damage and carriers did the reps in capital fleets (excepting Slowcat type fleets where carriers did both damage and reps). In smaller situations, a dreadnought still did just plain DPS and a carrier still primarily did remote reps. Its not overly complicated and it worked well for the most part, ignoring the issues with Slowcats.
The new meta has a lot in common with the old: Dreadnoughts will still do damage while the new Force Auxiliaries will provide the remote reps. But where exactly does that leave carriers? I was pondering this question in fleet the other night and a couple people suggested that this was just the two-weapon platform doctrine found in all major empire ship lines sub capital ships taken to the next level, almost exactly like the progression of the Gallente ship line.
Frigate: Incursus (turrets) <=> Tristan (drones)
Destroyer: Catalyst <=> Algos
Cruiser: Thorax <=> Vexor
Battlecruiser: Brutix/Talos <=> Myrmidon
Battleship: Megathron/Hyperion <=> Dominix
So the theory presented goes that the Dreadnoughts will provide the big direct damage like they always have while the carriers can provide flexible damage and support via the new fighters and their attendant abilities they will have available. That sounds good on paper but my concern is that capital ships are a lot less mobile than sub-caps and much easier to tackle, thus giving me the concern they will be too easy to kill while not providing much value to the fleet as a whole now that they can't remote rep or drop into triage mode for beast-tank.
Admittedly a lot of how this plays out depends on how carriers are changed to reflect their new support/DPS role. Fortunately some information has come out of EVE Nottingham and the CSM Winter Summit that we can start to apply to the problem.
I'm going to pull from two sources, an image gallery on Imgur.com put up by SebFerraro with pictures from EVE NT and an article written by Chance Ravine on Crossing Zebras titled "New Carriers Have Raised the Bar, the Ceiling, and the Floor".
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|All the fighter types.|
Behind my Hel’s modules (yes, behind) was a second set of controls that corresponded to my deployed fighter squadrons. A toggle let me switch between Hel controls and fighter controls, though I was told this setup was for small monitors only, and that the fighter window would (hopefully) be unpinnable and/or a hotkey could be set for module access swapping.
Each fighter squadron had two or three abilities (an auto-fire F1 attack, a defensive/evasive F2 movement, and a long cooldown/low ammo F3 super attack) that differed by fighter type. The Hel supercarrier could launch a maximum five squadrons, with a no more than 3/2/3 each of light/support/heavy fighters, respectively.
|New control for fighters|
|Notice the icons on the fighters showing, I assume, the five different types.|
Using the new Tactical Camera, you’re playing EVE at a level that feels more removed and more powerful than anything a single ship can deliver. You can of course just select all your fighters and spam attack (F1) commands at various targets, but you’d be doing yourself a grave disservice. I instead found myself positioning squadrons with Homeworld-stye movement commands in 3D space, then activating navigation maneuvers to help them survive as they reached their final targets. I launched capital-sized torpedo attacks on impulse, but that’s mainly because they were super overpowered in this particular test build.
|On the left, the fighter launch bay|
These issues won’t just affect them. The entire EVE community will be judging how good of a job CCP did with their new carrier paradigm, and with these ships tanking left and right at the hands of unpracticed owners, the initial sentiment will most likely be “these new carriers and supers suck.” It’s going to take time and patience for pilots to master fighter squadrons by internalizing the deep control now available to them.
Eventually, we’ll see the true power of fighter squadrons unlocked. Maybe it will be a natural progression of cumulative player skill. Maybe some Korean StarCraft pros will be conscripted into EVE by rich alliances and handed the reigns to a supercap fleet. Maybe Chessur will down 100 dreadnaughts with a solo (read: linked) nano-Nyx setup. Who knows?
Regardless of the who, the how is looking extremely promising. If CCP can implement fighter squadrons into EVE Online correctly, they will have created a new paradigm for not just what a capital ship is, but what a capital pilot needs to be.* * * * *
My feeling is that if the carriers have the ability with light fighters to clear off tackle on themselves, there is a potential for a good carrier pilot to survive on the battlefield and really fill that flexible support role as long as they can keep up with all the things to keep track of like multiple fighter squadrons, local modules, fleet comms, and situational awareness. Dear god, that will be insane.
However, should a group of carriers prove to be able to work in conjucntion, there is the possibility that they may end up dominating the battlefield over both capitals and subcapitals. I
Its a fine line to walk, I look forward to what's coming.
As a side note, this convinces me more than ever we need a small Assault Carrier class to ease players into this game play paradigm.