Thursday, November 26, 2009

Supercapitals overhaul

[Editor's note: I'm going to try a new format today: I'm sparing you the usual wall'o'txt by boiling down this entry to the key changes… The important details you'll either have to trust are covered, ask about, or wait for followup entries to address.
That saves you headaches, and leaves me with stock material for next time I run dry on inspiration for the daily filler.]


Titans and Motherships are sexy on paper, everybody can see the shine of supercapital vessels in a space-op' — they're a standard feature of the genre.
Unfortunately CCP released those with nothing but very nice art to support their existence, and have since then been groping around like eggnog-plastered tweens haphazardly trying to reach second base during the carols on Xmas eve. The results have been predictably messy and embarrassing for all involved.

Defining Supercapitals:

To begin with, they must be huge: that's a given.
Part of being super is they must be rare, different, and exotic compared to more pedestrian merely-capital boats.
They are intended as GiantDicks, flagships for the pride of their fleet.

By nature, a flagship is a morale booster, a spectacular display of your fleet's confidence in its might, and a frightening wonder for the enemy to behold and quiver before. They should also, as the crown of the enemy's military might, be what your own admirals and fleet commanders look forward to topple, sending the signal to the troops under their fallen standard that this battle is lost to them.
Because there are, to date, only two classes of SuperCapitals, with no new ones in sight, it isn't too much to ask that each get their own unique-yet-complementary flavor, and aren't just large-and-superlarge variations on the same design, or on 'regular' capitals.
Another requisite of flagships is that they must make a difference in the battlefield, beyond just being ostentatiously large, yet must not put other ship classes out of a job by doing the same-stuff-only-more that non-super boats do.


Titans and Motherships must certainly help win battles, but not as main weapons. They will act as enablers to support conventional and capital vessels, and help make a better use of fleet ships.


Titans are War Trains …in spaace !

Train, of war (not in space).

Titans gain a new feat to fulfill the role of a mobile HQ/fortress that befits their name, with the Mobile Forecefield Generator (MFG).
Long story short, a MFG generates a forcefield not unlike that of a POS, roughly 30km in diameter, under which fleet ships can take cover to regroup, repair and reload.

Activating the MFG causes it to burn fuel (most likely stront, racial isotopes or both) for cycles of 5-10 minutes during which the titan can't warp or jump. Add to that a 30' re-activation delay after the MFG is manually de-activated (or runs out of fuel) to make things interesting.
An active MFG disables the titan's Death Ray super-weapon for the duration, and until the end of the subsequent re-activation delay.
To prevent weirdness, forcefields can't overlap: a MFG can only be activated while standing far enough from the closest forcefield (POS or MFG).

Two possible modes are envisioned for the MFG shielding effect (those are not selectable, only one should make it to TQ after testing):


• Mode A, a.k.a Captain Obvious.
Works roughly like a POS forcefield: everything inside the forcefield, titan included, is invulnerable to any sort of damage, and locking can't cross through the forcefield envelope.
While the MFG is active, the titan's shields and armor are capped to 50% and 70% of their normal hitpoints, respectively. On MFG deactivation (voluntary or as a result of damage), the normal maximum hitpoints are restored, resulting in the MFG titan appearing 'pre-damaged'.
  • Skills:
    The Mobile Forcefield Generation Skill (Science, rank 8) reduces that penalty by 5% per level, resulting at lvl4 in 'only' 30% and 10% 'pre-damage' on shields and armor, respectively.
Porosity: when reduced to 25% or less, the forcefield becomes porous.
At 25% FF shields and below, anything inside it can be locked but benefits from a dual bonus of signature and damage reduction equal to the % of FF shield remaining.
During porous phase, Missiles aimed at targets in the forcefield deal full damage but have a 25%-1% probability to just explode against the forcefield without crossing its membrane (but still deal full damage to the FF, instead of hitting their intended target).
Likewise, drones may 'bump against the windshield' a couple times before they manage to make it through, but wouldn't be damaged b the experience, and only slowed down.
Ships taking cover inside a porous forcefield suffer a similar 25%-1% penalty to their scan resolution (proportional to the FF level), but without penalties to the damage their guns deal to targets out of the FF, nor missile/drone 'malfunctions'.


• Mode B, a.k.a Chinese 'Interesting'.
Works not-quite-like a POS forcefield: everything inside the field is protected except the MFG'ing titan itself.
The titan can still lock and shoot beyond the forcefield, which can't be locked or damaged — the titan itself can be locked and damaged from outside the FF, however.
Titans shields and armor aren't capped by MFG activation in this model, but the forcefield becomes porous the instant the titan starts taking structural damage.
  • Skills:
    The Mobile Forcefield Generation Skill (Science, rank 8) grants a 10% base resistance to structure across the board while the MFG is active, resulting at lvl4 in 40% base structure resistance to all damage types.
Porosity in mode B follows the same logic as mode A, but locking across the forcefield is penalized proportionally to the % of structure remaining on the Titan, instead of relatively to forcefield remaining hitpoints:
  • Signature and scanning resolution reduction are applied on all ships inside the forcefield, except the MFG'ing titan.
  • Damage coming from the outside in is subject to the same penalty, while drones and missiles roll a dice to cross into the membrane.
    [Note: Missiles failing to cross, and smashing against the forcefield damage neither the forcefield nor the titan in this case.]
  • As in mode A, guns, missiles and drones can be sent without penalty from the inside out through the forcefield while in porous phase.
This last bit is intended to entice titan pilots into standing their ground on the battlefield past the point they've hit structure, as it provides their fleet ships with the spectacular advantage of being able to shoot while taking at least partial cover behind the forcefield.
[Note: yes, I realize this can be gamed by fielding titans with full shields/armor and 90% structure. Maybe porous mode could depend on a secondary check that the MFG'ing titan is also below 50% armor and shields to kick in, although I'm unsure about that.]

There's more, believe me, but thats enough to get the general idea, and we still have to cover the other half of the supercapitals tandem…


Motherships are… well, not SuperCarriers™.

"In sci-fi, the Mothership name conjures images of gigantic beehives unleashing swarms of fighters and bombers, wasp-like combat vessels and drones leaking from their swollen hulls to cloud the stellar skies with omens of inescapable fury and death…"

…or this.

The problem when translating that vision in game terms is that the simplest way to get there is to use lots and lots of droonies, which may look cool in trailers but in game reality are essentially a killjoy, for all but the lone spacenerd jerking off at the helm of his private 00berWTFsoloPWNmachineOfD00m™.

In order for them to be game-worthy, Motherships should really be support platforms that enable actual player pilots to do the fighting, not drone-spamming machines that put cruisers and BS pilots out of a job.

The new superpower of Motherships — like the Titans' — is AoE based, and non-lethal in nature… quite the opposite.
Replacing the utterly useless Remote ECM Burst, behold the Omnidirectional Soothing Spray I (patent pending) !
Feel free to come up with a better name, I suck at this game.

What the OSS does is simple: it heals structure/armor and to a lesser extent shields and capacitor of all ships caught within its radius. I mean *all* ships: friends, foes, neutrals, wandering crazy prophets, space wheelbarrows, whatever. It also costs a limb to operate, and is better done in Triage mode, to be frank.
Oh, and contrary to remote boosters/reppers, OSS can be activated while inside a forcefield… any forcefield. *wink*

The attributes of the OSS really only define its peak output: in reality, how much resources and capacitor will be sucked away from the OSS'ing Mothership depends on the ships caught in its AoE, and how badly they need it.
Conceptually, an OSS is a structure and armor repairer, a remote shield booster and an energy transfer array all rolled into one and sprayed as a fine, healing mist over 25km, but because it's a game, how wet one gets depends on how many other people sit under its shower of love (conservation of Ninjutsu at work).

Once activated (30-60 seconds cycle, tbd), the OSS does a check at the beginning of each cycle for any ships (within its 25km diameter AoE) that are less than 95% full on structure, armor, shields or capacitor, and will try to fix them at the end of the cycle by spreading love in a reasonably sensible fashion, within the limits of its peak output, available Nanite paste and capacitor.
[Note: if a ship exits the OSS AoE after the cycle starting check but before the cycle completes, the resources aimed at her will be burned all the same, but the ship won't benefit from the soothing. Please stay still while the doctor fiddles with your innards.]

Triage mode affects OSS the same way it affects the remote modules that perform the same kind of remote boosts, which makes triage a very desirable circumstance to run an OSS. In fact, under the overhauled Repair system, a Triaged Mothership running an OSS is probably the only thing that can beat the efficiency of a Station Repair services, on a HP per Nanite paste unit basis.
[Note: While it is possible for the AoE of two or more Motherships' OSS to overlap, the re-balancing of remote energy transfer makes it sub-optimal, as each MS will likely waste some capacitor, trying to boost its neighbors.]
  • Skills:
    Omnidirectional Spraying is the skill you're looking for, and it will seamlessly replace the 'Remote ECM Burst' one, to finally give you compensation for the ISK and time you've already wasted on that sorry excuse of a feature.

Wait ! There's more…

For all their newfound nursing goodness, motherships are clearly meant to be drone boats, and that should inform their feature set. To preserve the offensive role of other ship classes, motherships shall focus on logistics and support-themed drones, without stomping on logistics cruisers' turf.
So, a few new — and motherships-only — drone types:
  • Repair Fighters:
    Those can escort their assigned target around the system to repair its armor and/or structural damage, or boost its shields.
    They have a high peak output compared even to a logistics cruiser, but very limited reserves, making them more suited to EMT-like roles than continuous life support. Their main purpose is to buy time so that logistics ships find a still-rescuable ship rather than a wreck by the time they arrive on scene.
    To the difference of normal Fighter Droonies, they sport their own cargo bay, which can be filled (by right-clicking on the drone) with Cap Booster Charges and/or Nanite Repair Paste to supplement their limited capacitor and spare their structural HP.

  • Jumper Fighters:
    A variation on Repair Fighters, these slightly smaller ships are fast and nimble, and can pack a decent stack of Cap Booster Charges in their cargo bay, which they'll spend… boosting the capacitor of their target. Their name comes from the fact they are intended as jumper-cables to jolt back up a capital ship capacitor to allow it to emergency jump out, but they can also be used as 'external battery packs' attached to a logistics cruiser or regular carrier.
    The size of Cap Booster Charges loaded in a Repair Fighter will directly affect how much cap they transfer per 5s cycle, after they've depleted their own capacitor.
Both types follow the new logistics drones rules, and can be set to automatically return to their carrier ship after they run out of reserves. Compared to regular combat fighters, those new support drones are slightly less bulky (about 30%) and use half the bandwidth per unit, allowing to carry and deploy more of them simultaneously.


Stuff that could have been here
…but obviously isn't.
  • Some changes to the whole Cloning Facility thingie, which is a brilliant idea with a botched implementation, and definitely deserves salvaging, both on Motherships and Titans.
  • Changes to the mechanics of ship bays on supercapitals, to finally allow them to play the wasp-nest part that should be theirs.
  • A full rewrite of Fighter drones handling, which has been sitting in my drawers for ages, but must be user-friendlized a bit before I can post it here, and which is intended to help carriers and motherships make more sense, while creating a real Drone Herder specialist role for sub-capital pilots.
…all of which will be the meat of future downtime fillers. Stay tuned.


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