Saturday, October 31, 2009

Islands in the net.

[Continued from part 4 on Dominion]

Editor's note: Damn, I was on time today, but the intarweb devils didn't let me access blogger, so for the 5 of you checking daily, you're not crazy: I indeed faked the post time by about 5 hours. Thanks for waiting.

Imagine, if you will, nullsec as a vast tropical sea, each solar system a shallow-depth volcanic raise reaching up from the bottom of the oceans to mere feet below the surface, each constellation a loose archipelago, each sun a radiant pool of peaceful water surrounded by the reef of planets rising just high enough above sea-level to draw the shape of a lagoon — add dolphins to taste.

Dreamy, ain't it ? Let me fix myself a suitable drink, real quick.

There… where was I ? Right, space lagoon:

Comes a ship flotilla, a nomadic sailing tribe of settlers, captains and engineers, bringing with them tools, building materials and hungry stomachs from the faraway drylands of Empire…

Soon enough, the colonial ships are moored just outside the lagoon, break out rowboats, and sailors start fishing in the shallow, warm waters where swarms of timid but unsuspecting creatures are easily caught to feed the starving crews. Meanwhile, the engineers get hard at work, building simple pontoons at first, then, later on, cranes and forges to dig out from the volcanic reef precious ores that will be melted to forge more fishing hooks, tools and weapons, while the mining waste is dumped nearby to raise more ground above sea-level.

Mere weeks later, the lagoon can now be seen from miles at sea, thanks to the smoking chimneys of stilts-raised huts, the masts and the longshoremen cranes that peak high over the now-continuous crescent of banked rocks. No longer a desert, a new dryland is born in this archipelago — by all definitions of the term, an outpost.

I'd carry the metaphor with the sailboats further, but we'd need to wait for trees to grow on our artificial islands, and that'd take longer than we can spare on this article, so I'll just run you through the high-level picture of what happens next, because that's the relevant bit.

  • People on the lagoon quickly eat most of the fish around, plus the fish tends to get annoyed by all the noisy locals and by being eaten so much, so there's less of it — fish.

  • Good news is, our settlers now have the means to build fast, nimble boats and routinely venture to nearby reef archipelagos where the fish is plenty, and the occasional digging of volcanic rocks and sand doesn't frighten the food longer than the time it will take before the fishermen return on their next fishing campaign.

  • Smartly, our settlers decide not to colonize those other lagoons and reefs, in order to keep a steady source of fish and other materials handy.

  • One day, however, a fishing expedition runs into unknown sloops, who seem bent on forbidding them their usual fishing waters ! After some cursing and a burned down ketch, the intruders are repelled.

  • As time goes by, such incidents become increasingly common, until eventually a fishing party is forced to race home to the outpost lagoon, chased by foreign boats most definitely rigged to sink ships rather than trawl shrimps.

  • Decision is made to erect some catapults on the lagoon's banks, to escort all fishing parties with ballistas-equipped schooners, and to start actively going after the intruders.
I reckon you can tell where it goes from here…

Un-screwing things one at a time.
Can you spot the differences between Dominion and this picture ?
  • Colonized space is easier to defend, supports and enables critical industry, and provides reasonably secure housing of goods, equipment and people, but quickly runs short on natural resources to gather and exploit.

  • Wild space can't readily be protected against intrusion and interference from competing groups, but is resource-rich, and as such precious enough to defend by active patrolling, as are your group's gatherers.

  • The optimal strategy for any newly established territorial alliance is to pack infrastructure where it can be defended, while limiting the infrastructural sprawl over hunter-gatherer space, and to preserve wild areas close to the colony to minimize the length and risk of trips to the hunting grounds.

  • As the size of a colony grows, it can seed new colonies remote enough from the first settlement(s) to preserve interstitial hunting grounds, or expand the core colony at the cost of requiring a larger band of wild lands around it to keep resources coming, and with the corollary displacement of the hunter-gatherers population's residence toward the fringes of the territory.

Protip to CCP:

Strong defensive and industrial benefits should come from developing high levels of sovereignty and infrastructure, which should incur heavy penalties for local PvE resources.

Keep true-sec as it is, significantly boost base wealth in conquerable null-sec, make loot/spawn tables adjust dynamically (downward) based on local infrastructure, average population, local and surrounding sovereignty 'score' (which conversely boost and enable industry/defense perks), and you have a system that gives the edge to small-medium alliances built on a well-coordinated mix of PvPers and industrialists over sprawling herds of PvE hunter-gatherers, while forcing codependency between both styles, and creating interesting friction areas in the interstitial, richer wild lands.

Yes, I too am impressed by the skill CCP displays in doing it exactly back-asswards.

[Tomorrow, unless I get distracted, I'll show you how to make sovereignty warfare fun with sand fortresses — no kidding.]

Friday, October 30, 2009

Monkeys in my cogs.

Today's dt filler is late and really filler-like, as in I didn't find a (sober) moment to finish writing something half-worth the read, thanks to some Champagne-fueled farewell partying last night.

For a different take on Dominion, I suggest you, the reader, sink your teeth in that very relevant couple posts from Aralis, of CVA fame.
[Full disclaimer: I don't have any personal history, good or bad, in-game or out with Aralis or CVA. I also don't necessarily endorse or condone Aralis' views — in fact, I don't share his opinions on quite a few topics, including in relation to Dominion, but I find his perspective both pertinent and stimulating.]
Seriously, read it — I honestly would have linked to those posts in today's article, had I managed to write something decent.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Occam's backhoe

I've been thinking hard about it, and I've narrowed the possible causes for the apparent ineptitude of everything 0.0 in Dominion to three, non mutually exclusive options. Here they are, listed in decreasing order of likeliness, and growing order of comedic value.
  • The Star Trek 'tech' hypothesis.
    CCP devs went, for each individual change/fix, with the very first idea that crossed their mind. Then, come dev blog time, they break out the jargon book, and spray semi-random technobabble and pseudo-scientific lingo on top of the disaster, in the vain hope to retroactively cover their mess with a varnish of intellectual authority.
  • The instant great thinking: just add water !
    Each dev got individually assigned a single theme or buzzword in economics, philosophy, game design, or social sciences, with strict instructions to grasp no more than 1/12th of its implications, and run with it as the single cornerstone of their design. Dev blogs are executed according to the exact same rules.
  • Crazy-brilliant madness.
    They know exactly what they're doing, and they're simply shooting for the Guiness Book world record of trollage by design.
…and then, of course there's beer, but it's kinda lame to blame your tools for your poor craftsmanship.

I'd start a betting pool if I knew how to ascertain the rankings. Any ideas welcome.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dominion Part 4 — the good, if elusive, bits.

[Continued from part 3 on Dominion]

After three rounds spent pounding on CCP for their drunken attempt at fixing nullsec, it's only fair to give our Icelandic overlords the praise they deserve for the good bits floating atop the Dominion soup.

The most promising additions are of the facilitating/enabling stripes, meaning stuff that doesn't rest on any specific expectation of CCP about how spacenerds should play EVE, but rather on devs acknowledging what can help users to play at all.

EVEmail, now with (much less) suck.
The mail is quick enough to cover, it's sort of a circa-1998 mail client, but in game !
If that's not a big deal for you, you never had to endure the current 'mail' system in EVE, and I recommend you go have a look now, so you can fully enjoy the bliss of finally getting tech from the last century in our gooey podpilot hands.
Beyond that, there are words about this thing somehow being accessible from outside the game, at least in read mode, which is a giant step in the right direction (although we've no idea whether it will really make it in Dominion in any functional shape of form) and brings us to…

New Eden (aka COSMOS, aka Spacebook).
Yes, CCP do have a knack for confusing naming schemes.
The shiniest item here is the possibility to actually manage some actual EVE game stuff on Tranquility from a web browser. In addition comes the Spacebook aspect of the New Eden web portal, that should bring us essentials like calendars, player finder and personal/corp profiles etc.
This is really promising, not so much because of CCP's own implementation of this new toolset, but because they seem really intent on expanding the out-of-game options to pull and push in-game data, which should hopefully enable interesting community-made tools to come out.

EVE Chromium (made with awesomium).
Built on top of Chromium (itself built on Apple's WebKit) the new in-game browser is of course the great enabler for New Eden and C° — bringing a 'real' browser into the game client means the same content and features can be seamlessly accessed both in and out of game (within some limits), which obviously cuts on development costs and acts as a multiplier of the total value and utility of the offer.
With full AJAX support and maybe (limited) flash capacities, it's easy to see the potential for great webtools and spectacular security breaches — good fun coming our way in both cases.

It's really hard to comment further on this aspect of Dominion, considering it's all very much in the works at this stage, and because it will only reveal its full potential once the community starts to put out tools and services leveraging the APIs and middleware behind. I'm sure there will be more to say about it by the first months of 2010, and that's definitely one of the most exciting developments around EVE to arise in a while.

Fleet Finder (a giant leap, just one foot shy of the mark).
For lack of empirical experience, I won't say more about the new Fleet Finder system, except everything about it falls somewhere between good and w00t — the only bad part being what's missing.
A pretty good dev blog details the new features and overhauled interface — recommended read.
Accessibility wise, it really will make things much easier for all types of teamplay, be it war, mission running, ratting or mining, that's the sort of tool where almost every single feature benefits all players.
The lack of ability to manage Squads and Wings as lego bricks, however, means that it will still be extremely cumbersome (and therefore practically unrealistic) to increase the granularity of fleet management under most circumstances. Making sure the various Leadership boni trickle down where they should, that the right leaders are in charge of their respective Squad/Wing and enjoy some autonomy, all will remain a headache and too time consuming to be practical.
The lack of options to seamlessly merge/split fleet blocks isn't dooming, but is a bit of a shot in the leg of that otherwise quite pretty horsey.

NPE — Newbies' Prime Endeavors.
This one I'll give its own entry as soon as I'm done figuring out what difference Dominion's will make relative to the current NPE, which isn't perfect but already has come a long way.

[Tomorrow I'll start looking into making post-Dominion less ebil for 0.0 players, and maybe others, too.]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

You're it !

I promised yesterday I'll cover the good bits of what's coming in Dominion before I move on to offer some ideas about how to address the horribly botched parts of the design, but I got distracted toying with new feature ideas, and didn't finish this other thing, so today's downtime filler is a game of tag.

Hit a target ship using a ballistic (non-homing) special 'Tag' munition to enable your ship to track it across space. It's like scanning, except you slap your personal homing beacon on the target and then chase it across the 'verse, or almost.

Tagging munitions create a durable beacon on the target, that appear in both the overview and system-map for the ship that shot the munition, allowing it to track the target as it moves around and to warp to it with pinpoint accuracy.
  • Tag Probes and Tracker Bombs create a ship-to-ship link between the target and tracker. If the tracking ship pilot ejects and another pilot boards ship, the tracking will remain active for the new pilot (based on the original pilots skills, the tracking parameters being attached to the tracking ship, not pilot).
  • Tagged ships will be informed once about their status via combat message, persistent in log, but it will not blink, tweet or otherwise show in the interface or to the client after that for the duration of the tag.
  • Tracking persists through downtime and logging off or back for the duration of the tracking timer. If a tagged ship gets out of tracking range (relative to the tracker ship) then back in before its tag expires, the link will be restored automatically, enabling tracking to resume.
  • Tagging again an already tracked target with the same tracker ship and tag type will simply reset its tracking duration timer.
  • A tagged ship can still cloak, but this will not prevent the tracker ship from warping to it, including to 0 range.
  • Tag Probes and Tracker Bombs can be detected on a tagged ship by using a Ship Scanner, and can then be removed either by using a Station Repair service or a Codebreaker module in space, applied to the tagged ship.
Tag Probes:
Shot using Expanded Probe launchers, they allow tracking of up to 5 targets per tracker ship inside a solar system for a duration of 1-5h each.
Tag Probes show the tagged target(s) current name, type and location as a beacon (including closest celestial and range in AU) in the overview, system map and onboard scanner.
  • If a new target is tagged when the maximum count of tags is already tracked, the tracker ship will 'forget' the oldest track to make room for the new one.
  • Tag probes only 'stick' to targets that are under 50% shields at the time of impact. 
  • Tag probes are strictly ballistic, they will only 'stick' to a target they actually collide with.
Skill Reqs:
  • Projected ECCM lvl1 (1h/level to tracking duration)
  • Astrometric Acquisition lvl1 (+1 tagged target allowed per level)

Tracker Bombs:
Shot using regular bomb launchers by Stealth Bombers at the usual fire rate, Tracker Bombs make possible to chase a single target way beyond a solar system's limits. They will continuously report the location of a tagged ship for a duration of 2-10h, as long as it sits within 5-15 LY from the tracker ship.
Tracker Bombs show the tagged target current name, type and location (solar system and range in LY) in the overview, system map, map and onboard scanner.
  • Each Stealth Bomber electronics can only keep track of a single Tracker Bomb at a time. If a new target is tagged when one is already tracked, only the most recently tagged target will be tracked.
  • Tracker Bombs only 'stick' to targets that are under 90% shields at the time of impact. 
  • Tracker Bombs are mostly ballistic, they don't have a timer fuse and will detonate on proximity detection within 500m of the first collidable they encounter, and tag it. If nothing is met before it reaches its flight time limit, a Tracker Bomb will anticlimactically vanish.
  • Tracker Bombs can only be fired in Sec<0.4.
Skill Reqs:
  • Projected ECCM lvl1 (2h/level to tracking duration)
  • Bomb Deploymennt lvl3 (+5 LY tracking range per level above 3, base range 5LY)

Monday, October 26, 2009

How CCP handed 0.0 over to the goons.

[Continued from part 2 on Dominion]

…and there was much rejoicing.

In keeping with the spirit of the supercapitals 'fix', CCP once again demonstrates how easy it is to make things worse on 5 fronts by not thinking through the fix to one problem.

Last September the 9th saw many 0.0 players fall on their knees in ecstasy upon reading a few simple words in a Dev Blog:
"Sovereignty will no longer be tied directly to starbases."
…Then it went south.
Through several dev blogs, followed by a couple confused presentations during fanfest, CCP started unveiling what the new sovereignty system is supposed to look like — we're Oct 26th, the expansion release has been carved in stone for Dec 1st, and by all accounts, the final design for that stuff is far from frozen, meaning they expect to finalize design and have it good for production under a month time… this bodes well.

[Fair warning : Don't bother with this wall of text if you're not in one of those alliances already big and rich enough to sustain a megablob of SuperCarriers (pfrrt… this never gets old): Dominion will ensure you'll stick for the foreseeable future to Empire space where SuperCapitals aren't allowed — unless you fancy "pet" as a nickname.]

Dominion Sovereignty at a glance.
  • The sovereignty flagpole count per system goes down from N (between 1 and total # of moons in system) to one, and is now a player-deployed structure anchored near a planet that becomes functional (and invulnerable) 24h after launch time, thereafter granting sovereignty to the owner faction.
    • Sovereignty is challenged by deploying anchorables (disruptor fields) around stargates in system (at this writing 1/2 +1 of stargates # in system), which will render the flagpole vulnerable to attack after 12h of continuous occupation of the stargates with disruptor fields, then by destroying the flagpole to lift sovereignty on the system.
    • Once the system is returned to unclaimed state, it becomes possible to anchor a new flagpole to reclaim sovereignty.

  • Sovereignty levels are removed, and perks like constellation capital immunity with them.

  • Outposts are the new POS:
    • OP are captured by getting shot at enough, which kicks in a reinforced mode, then a second pass of shooting is required to finally seize the outpost… sounds familiar ?
    • Outpost control is no longer dependent on holding sovereignty, but informs whether the flagpole can be rendered vulnerable to damage — in short, if an outpost is present, then the OP must be captured prior to kicking down the flagpole — presumably you still need sovereignty in first place to deploy a new outpost.

  • System upgrades: The sovereignty holder can deploy a new "System Upgrade" structure (separate from the sov flagpole), that allows the installation of power-ups for the entire system. [Hopefully only the owner faction reaps the benefits, but I sense fun bugs ahead]
    • System upgrades are divided by fields and ranks, and will allow an alliance to boost PvE resources (more/better rats, wormholes, exploration sites), enable the deployment of industrial/tactical/logistics advanced modules on POSes (cynogen/jammers, bridges, capital assembly arrays, etc.) or extra abilities for outposts (SuperCarriers parking).
    • CCP is undecided at this stage whether system upgrades vanish when sovereignty is lost/seized, or if they can be reclaimed by the conqueror as spoils of war.

  • A new Treaty system is underway, which is intended to help formalize relationships between an alliance and third-party corps or alliances. Main stated goals are to ease standings management, and allow alliances to formally rent or loan estate in their space to non-member corporations. This part being even fuzzier than the rest of the big-item features of Dominion, it's hard to comment on specifics (see more below about the implications, though).

  • New Upkeep fees are put in place, that space-owning alliances will have to acquit for each of their systems. The stated intent is to discourage alliances from hoarding space they don't use via fiscal pressure.

  • In semi-separate news, the revenue of moon mining is somewhat rebalanced by changing the recipes for many T2 items in order to favor lower-rarity materials, and Alchemy (which enables one to cook rare materials by combining less-rare ones) sees its output boosted significantly (x3 to x5 last time I heard).

Now, for the fun part…
The stated design goals for the Dominion sovereignty rewrite, as far as I can gather from various panels, dev blogs, forum posts and presentations:

1.— Get rid of POS warfare, especially of the spam flavor:

Arguably check, and a welcome while long-overdue change, although the lack of imagination displayed with the 'new' outpost capture mechanics (essentially a POS-like system with some random factor thrown in the duration of reinforced mode) is disappointing.

2.— Discourage 'afk alliances' and make room for new colors and more conflict on the map:

The notion of imposing diminishing returns and progressive penalties on alliances that hold more than N-value space, it's not entirely off-mark, except for two things:
3.— Make territorial warfare more 'cerebral' (I'm not making this up) to break the blob, also sovereignty is now 'descriptive, rather than prescriptive' (not kidding either).

Assuming my translation of T0rfi-speak is not too far off, 'more cerebral' territorial warfare is to be understood as 'less of a rail-guided race', and there were also some wishful words about it reducing blobbery.
Since we all know a blob is a faceless and brainless way to win wars, I guess CCP fallaciously concluded that invoking 'cerebral' as a power-word would magically shoo the blob away. Let me know how that works out for you next time you try to stop an incoming train by standing very still and using nothing but the power of your brain.

If you've read the summary of Dominion sovereignty mechanics above, one thing is obvious: there is neither obligation nor incentive to split the blob across multiple locales in system, much less across several systems.
  • As an attacker: enemy outposts are vulnerable at all times, so the obvious optimal path is to steamroll each and every foreign outpost system in sequence down to reinforced mode, while dropping disruption fields at every gate on the way, just for kicks ; then take it again from the top right on time to finish the outposts off, and presto, you have evicted the locals from their space housing.

  • As a defender: cycle-blobbing each gate in turn should be a viable strategy to waste hostile onlining disruptor fields, thus repeatedly resetting the 12h timer, negating the impact of outpost losses on your sovereignty's defense— not that it will do you much good, as we'll see in a moment.
If the attacker ever manages to lift flagpole invulnerability by smartly playing timezone offsets with its disruptor fields, the next obligatory move (that would be prescriptive in Greyscalespeak) is a giant dogpile over the flagpole — that's every ship in presence forcibly duking it out inside one grid. Good times.

The predictable pattern resulting from the confrontation of reasonably matched contenders is quite a few outposts ping-ponging every couple days, regardless of sovereignty, which becomes rather meaningless.
In the case of unevenly-matched contenders, and immediately after the local outpost has been surprise-raped, the blob will split, indeed, to the tune of one blob per gate until it's time for the aforementioned giant dogpile on the flagpole. Expect quite a lot of that.
Fun fact: the blob was already split over gates during an invasion, in order to control access to the system, so the benefits of this model in terms of blob-splitting hotspots count are exactly — count'em — zero.
Interestingly, assuming CCP goes for the option of not allowing capture of the 'Upgrade center' and instead decides to have it go poof on sovereignty shift, it may be more interesting for an invader to entirely ignore sovereignty and be content to focus on seizing outposts, leaving for the defender to pay Upkeep bills while the attackers milk the juicy NPCs attracted by the now-homeless defenders' system upgrades.

I'm sure a great many wars won descriptively through cerebral harassment tactics applied to renters by swarms (not blobs) is exactly what CCP had in mind when they came up with this design — they, the goons lovers.
Oh, poetic justice.

[On a lighter note, I'll cover tomorrow some of the more promising among Dominion features, and after that, I'll move away from pointing and laughing to offer some possible solutions to the 0.0 clusterfuck. Stay tuned.]

Sunday, October 25, 2009

CCP School of Design — The Drinking Game

[Continued from part 1 on Dominion]

Sovereignty mechanics is serious bizness, possibly the single largest can of worms of nullsec, and a matter better handled carefully by EVE designers, as the very attraction and credibility of EVE as a sandbox model hinge on whether playing the 0.0 end game is worth a damn.

Ever since someone came up with the brilliant idea to use POSes as sovereignty flagpoles 5 years ago, CCP's ears have been ringing about how this thing was getting increasingly, eye-gougingly painful and — what's worse — boring and unfun to play. It is fair to assume assume CCP took those concerns at heart and have been working relentlessly to ensure that, by its next iteration sovereignty contests resolution would be playable, tactically stimulating and, above all, engrossing and fnu.

Certainly the time it took them to come up with an answer was an indicator of CCP's intent to get it right this time, and to not make things worse by upsetting further the already precarious sanity of those players who had been submitted to years of alarm-clock ops, buggy POS mechanics and their assorted exploits, nightmares-inducing tower-spam wars, and paid $15 a month to 'play' Slideshow Online blobfests.

Judging from what SiSi and other sources of information can teach us about the current state of things, one can only imagine how seriously CCP went about the arduous process of bringing us Dominion on time for Iceland's Sovereignty Day (the wit ! these guys pack fists full of awesome).

Midbörg, Reykjavik — late August 2009.

— Wow, I can't believe it was that easy to do away with the POS thing… we should have done that years ago.

— You tell me ? OK, what's next on the list ?

— Hmm, everybody's whining about the sovereignty systems being too static and that a few mega-blocks are hoarding all the map for themselves, doing nothing with most of it.

— Yeah but they need the space to feed their blobs.

— Right, let's give'em powerups to get more food in less space, that way we'll make room for more alliances.

— Hmm, sounds nifty, but what stops them from just hoarding unused space anyway ?

— I know, let's tax them up the wazoo for every system they claim !

— Wow brilliant, mate ! That'll show'em. Let's remove constellation sovereignty and capital immunity, too, that will make for more action !

— Cool beans ! Outposts too. Who said outposts couldn't be shot while sovereignty is active…

— Er… we did. Wasn't station ping-pong the coolest thing, though ?

— Not really. We need some kind of delaying feature to avoid that in the future.

— Me ! me ! me ! *waves hand frantically* …we could have a safety mechanism that renders the outpost invulnerable for a while after it's taken serious damage, and then you wait, like, 12h or so before you can finish it of. …this way the defenders have time to regroup and meet the assailants for an Epic fight to the end !

— Two words: awe-some !

— This last bit reminds me of something… whatever, it's cool.

— Won't that be a problem for new and small alliances… I mean, between the taxes, no capital immunity, paying for all the outposts and upgrades, it will be almost impossible to reach critical mass before being steamrolled by any big alliance that needs to stretch its legs, no ?

— Hmm…

— Yeah, I see what you mean…

— er…

— What if… bear with me guys — if we allowed big alliances to host small ones… like, *rent* systems, so they can do their stuff and be protected, and pay the big alliance for that ?

— That'd work. In fact, it's cool, it's a win-win scenario, and with your stupid nerfing of r64s, my guys can use the extra income if we are to build all those SuperCarriers.

— hehe…

— That name sucks, btw.

— …

— lolcat !

— …no, really, I think the rental thing is the way to go. It's EVE, see: might makes right and darwin and shit ! I mean… if they can't make it on their own, they deserve to be pets !

— Good point. Pets it is then.

— Are we on fire or what ? I knew we'd be done with this thing by the end of happy hour.

That's just me guessing — it could have been worse.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Is this thing on ?

Nearly a full year since I last chimed in on the wonderful nightmare that is EVE online, frankly because I had lost hope in CCP to ever improve their ways, and after a while simply lost the steam to remain pissed off about this waste of a potentially great game.

Thanks to all those rank 8+ skills, I don't need to log in more often than every other month on any account, and staying clear of EVE has been easy enough, until a friend recently poked me, all excited about this winter's expansion.
— Can you believe it, they're fixing sovereignty ! … and bloody titans too ! *cartwheels*
— Uh oh…
It's no secret I'm one of those people whose creativity is more easily fueled by frustration than anything else, in a 'necessity is a mother of invention' sort of way, and it comes with a bitchy propensity to notice that yes, this skirt makes your ass look fat. In my defense, I don't hold their large buttocks against people as long as they don't put them in my face while bragging about having the tiniest, cutest derriere.

Are you ready for fists full of awesome ?
Titans' infamous one-click-buy
pwn button finally gets a hefty smack of the nerfbat, which is good news, and kind of a big deal for the 99% of the nullsec players who don't happen to fly one, who will finally get a chance to load local before they get vaporized across the grid.
On the minus side, titans have been grossly imbalanced since release, late 2005 (give 6 months before they started to show up for real in game), so that's a charitable 3 years CCP took to work the problem before bringing out a solution (with great fanfare) during this month's FanFest… this better be good.

The titan, this beast of war, the herald of doom, the flagship to rally your troops and lead them to glorious mayhem, entirely revamped over the course of 3 years of inspired research, now with:
…a gun.

Beige is the new pink.
You've read it right: CCP's answer to the problem of a game-breaking overpowered AoE weapon is to remove the game breaking AoE weapon… and replace it with a slow-loading Big Bertha cannon. …and that's that, move along folks, nothing to see here.
Oh wait, the ka-boom graphics for the new guns will be awesome, I swear ! That should count for something, right ?
Yeah, you've got cool graphic artists, and game designer at CCP is a fallback position for your best buddies after they get spanked in-game and lose their intarweb spaceships kingdom.

Meanwhile, Motherships have been renamed SuperCarriers (ta-daa !), because we all know the best way to address the fact you can't design your way out of a rusty matari shack and get a ship to live up to its intended role is to: rechristen it with a name so ridiculous a third class Decepticon would refuse to go on screen with it, give it a poorly-thought SuperPower, then move the goalpost back to the place where you've left your design ambitions to rot, and claim victory.

WTFPwnMobile 2.0
While the titan's fix is at least functional, if uninspired, the SuperCarriers will pick up the slack of XtremeImbalance and use it to slap Dreadnaughts (sic) pilots everywhere across their collective face, thanks to Fighter Bombers, whose exactly unique purpose is to destroy capital ships and look very cool while doing so. Yay.

Let's recap: the titan was broken because it was a one-man-army grid-wiper, which is now sorted by the restriction imposed on titans to pick a single stain on their windscreen to scratch at once. Meanwhile, the Mothership, once a glorified, overpriced carrier and shit-magnet is now becoming a one-man-anticapital-army which, in one fell swoop…
  • makes carriers largely obsolete: it can do almost everything they do, only better (don't mention triage on carriers unless you've tried it) ;
  • will singlehandedly wtfpwn dreads, unless fighter-bombers are underpowered, in which case the SuperCarriers will prove as overpriced and useless as Motherships used to be ;
  • will do the job of dreads, which CCP explicitly intends to be good for nothing but shoot structures and maybe sieged capitals (while SuperCarriers don't have to sit tight to pwn), and which ought to become largely pointless in Dominion.
…I'll get back to that last bit in a minute, but take my word for it until then: we're not killing POSes anymore (which is good, sorta).

SuperCarrier: baddest ship ever, or worst ship ever ?
Of course, SuperCarriers — it's really, really hard to type that name with a straight face — will cost a lot of ISK, about 8 to 9 dreads' worth, fitted (10 tops, assuming Fighter Bombers come pricey enough), so that should leave a good niche for Dreads, right ?
Yes indeed, until enough SCs get produced. Assuming a single SuperCarrier packs enough punch to match even 5-6 dreads, the ISK tradeoff is a bargain: every single capital pilot flying one of those will have the output of 5+ focus-firing dreads at his disposal, which is enough to make short order of individual targets (dreads or carriers) by himself, and all that without committing to the 10-minutes risk window of a siege mode.

Simply put, ISK is easier to come by than reliable capital pilots (ie, who show up on ops and aren't spies): any alliance that can afford to bring 5x the amount of pain with the same head count of players won't blink twice at the tenfold increase in ISK expense. The extra flexibility of still being able to field regular Fighters (and maybe drones) will ensure a SuperCarrier can be put to good use against anything bigger than a cruiser, right after it's done shredding the enemy's hoi-polloi of Dreads and Carriers.
Wishfully, CCP trusts the removal of available insurance policies for SuperCapitals will balance that, somehow — although I suspect a good proportion of Mothership pilots never realized that (with a friendly GM assist) it *was* possible to insure their epeenmobile, until now.

Our best hope at this stage is for SuperCarriers to be (pre?)nerfed enough to pack less punch than 5 dreads, so they end up as overpricey, useless and underused as Motherships… yeah, sad to hope for a ship to suck, but better than the opposite in this case.

Why is that a problem, besides infuriating the hordes of dreadnought pilots that will now have to convert to the largely separate skill-tree of oober-carrierism ?
Well, my friend, I hate to break it to you, but the Fighter Bombers arz in ur space stealing ur jobs — it's outsourcing to the robots !

Every time a ship comes out that qualifies as a one-man-army, the richer among EVE players get an extra advantage, leveraging ISK as a replacement for manpower, and thus reducing the number of roles to fill in the fleet command chain. This could be a good thing if this was capped somehow, but when you introduce ships that are better in every way but price (within acceptable limits of cost), you pretty much force all players to jump on the bandwagon to meet the new 'minimal requirements'.

The SuperCarrier is the new Dreadnought cum Carrier cum Battleship, get used to it… See you tomorrow for the kicker.

Meanwhile, yes CCP, you do look fat in this skirt.