James 315 on How to Fix Supercaps


Supercaps--supercarriers and titans--are no strangers to controversy. Almost from the moment they were introduced, EVE players have complained that these ship classes were game-breakingly overpowered. Over the years, CCP has frequently acknowledged the validity of these complaints by introducing nerfs to both supercarriers and (especially) titans. Although we have come a long way from the days when a titan could remotely detonate an entire enemy fleet with no risk to itself, supercaps continue to be the target of much criticism.

CCP recently announced its intention to give supercaps another overhaul (possibly this year, but more likely next year), a recognition of the persisting balance issues that continue to plague supercarriers and titans. The informed EVE player should be aware that CCP never operates in a vacuum. In fact, nearly all of their past nerfing/rebalancing efforts have been prompted or heavily influenced by player feedback. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of titans. Most famously, in 2007, CCP employees actually printed out and distributed copies of Bein Glorious's essay on titans. A full-blown manifesto, the titan essay for many years held the record for the longest post ever made on the EVE forums.

CCP rejected most of Bein Glorious's suggestions, but they were persuaded by the centerpiece of his manifesto, which called for the removal of the remote doomsday. At the time, doomsdays were an area-of-effect weapon, a giant smartbomb with a 250km radius. Not only was the doomsday capable of evaporating battleships (and anything smaller) on the same grid as the titan, the doomsday could also be fired remotely through a friendly cyno beacon in the same system. Thus, a titan could destroy an enemy fleet without even seeing it. Titans had been using and abusing this power for most of a year when Bein Glorious wrote his manifesto. A few weeks later, the remote doomsday ability was no more. Bein Glorious was given the credit and became a hero to his fellow Goons.

Most of the time, it is not so easy to pinpoint the influence exerted by EVE-O posters. Normally, it takes the form of a consensus--built over time--that something is overpowered or underpowered. Gradually, good (or bad) ideas percolate, rising to the top, and find their way into the developers' ears. EVE players understand this, which is why they become so emotional when posting in threads about potential changes to the game. If an idea is unchallenged and takes root, it may be included in an upcoming expansion.

That is how the other changes to titans occurred. A year after doomsdays lost their remote capability, titans were still greatly overpowered. The proliferation of titans meant that entire sub-capital fleets (i.e. everything smaller than a carrier), including heavily-tanked battleships, could be killed by a handful of titans each activating their smartbomb doomsdays one after the other. Fleet battles were becoming impossible; titans ruled everything. Those who owned titans encouraged CCP to maintain the status quo, while everyone else cried out for a nerf. The trouble was that nobody could figure out a good way of dealing with titan proliferation without imposing some kind of arbitrary limits on titan use or ownership.

That's where I came into the picture. In May 2008, I made a short post on EVE-O about the titan problem. As I explained, the purpose of the thread wasn't to complain, persuade, lobby, or even to speculate, but rather to inform everyone how CCP would change titans in the future. I claimed that I was offering facts, not predictions. This approach was breathtakingly arrogant--or at least, it would've been, had I been wrong. What followed was a description of a series of very specific changes to the titan, all of which were implemented by CCP in the years afterward.

As I said in the post, the changes would appear to be common sense in hindsight. But at the time, they couldn't have been more radical. By transforming the doomsday from an area-of-effect weapon into a single-target "supergun", the titan would have a new role, to kill capital ships (especially spider-tanking carriers), other supercaps, and to help grind structures. Back in the day, titans did everything except those things. I wasn't talking about a role change--I was talking about a complete role reversal.

Needless to say, these ideas weren't adopted overnight. In fact, it would be a year and a half before CCP took the plunge. In December 2009, the Dominion expansion did away with the area-of-effect doomsday and replaced it with the version we see today. Still, it was possible to aim the doomsday at smaller targets. CCP eventually recognized this problem as well, and two years after that, in the November 2011 Crucible expansion, they nerfed the doomsday so that it could only be used against caps and supercaps. With CCP having fully embraced the new titan philosophy, the following spring saw additional nerfs, so that titans' capital guns could no longer track and blap smaller ships so easily. The titan was to be completely focused on its role as an anti-cap, anti-supercap, structure-grinding vessel. Thus, my vision for titans was realized.

For those unfamiliar with my history, it may feel a bit eerie to read what I wrote about titans five years ago. It's interesting to read the replies in the thread, since they provide a time capsule of players' attitudes toward the changes that they didn't realize were coming. Many posters were enthusiastic, and they ultimately got their way. But others were equally passionate about maintaining the status quo, reasoning that any ship as expensive as a titan should be incredibly powerful.

Skeptics also complained that I was advocating a nerf solely for the purpose of defeating the Band of Brothers alliance, which owned several titans. Similarly, anyone who talks about supercap nerfs today might be accused of trying to undermine Pandemic Legion, which is known for its supercap fleet. Then as now, they're wrong. The principles of game balance aren't subject to alliance tickers; if supercaps are unbalanced, they're unbalanced, no matter who owns them.

Even so, anyone with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo for supercaps ought to be worried. (Indeed, PL might be more afraid of CCP than of any in-game entity.) CCP has already said it's going to change supercaps--and that probably doesn't mean they're going to make them more powerful. Since CCP devs assigned to the task are likely to read high-profile proposals and analyses concerning supercaps, anxiety on the part of certain readers is understandable. If you own supercaps and you don't want them to change, now might be a good time to pour yourself a stiff drink.

James 315 has a distinguished history of combat in nullsec, mostly fighting against the Band of Brothers alliance, which was a bad alliance. Recently he has moved to highsec, where he currently serves as Father of the New Order and Saviour of Highsec