Today, CCP Ytterbium released the latest dev blog detailing CCP's planned balancing changes to a broad swathe of ships.
A general trend with ship balancing as so far is the attention paid to shield vs. armour tanking and certain weapons systems, rather than particular hulls themselves. That said, multiple hulls need some work, and will apparently be getting it post-Retribution. Note that no specific changes have been released yet - these are general plans and the details may change.
Battlecruisers are to have a smaller overhaul than frigates and cruisers, keeping mostly the same roles, but with more balance between the current 3 tiers.
Tier 2 and 3 Battlecruisers will likely be getting minor tweaks and balances, but will remain mostly the same.
Current Tier 1 battlecruisers are viewed as mosltly obsolete, with other ships simply performing their roles better. Expect major overhauls for Tier 1 battlecruisers.
The Ferox seems to be a bit of a problem. CCP claims they'd like to see it used as a sniper by removing its tank bonus and adding a damage bonus, but they don't want to infringe on the Naga's role. I don't see how they can do this without making it entirely useless. Anything over 60km range would infringe on where the Naga is currently effective, whereas anything under 30km range would see it falling victim to poor tracking, poor damage, and poor tank against more heavily armed ships. Would CCP attempt to niche the ship into a relatively un-used 30-60km range? Perhaps, but with the removal of the tank bonus, the only current viable setup (the Blaster Ferox) becomes pretty terrible.
Also of note: the Prophecy will be re-tooled as another Amarr droneboat. I rather like the direction that CCP is headed with this one. It seems the Amarr droneboats will be slightly tankier than Gallente ones, sporting larger dronebays but reduced bandwidth. This supports the Amarr combat doctrine - outlasting their opponents on the field. Increased dronebay sizes offer the potential for more variety and utility, or simply more replacements for lost drones. I would expect a similar bandwidth to what the Myrmidon currently has, with the Myrmidon getting a small buff.
The battleship lineup is arguably much more balanced, with CCP changing only the most neglected hulls.
Perhaps most excitingly, the Typhoon is going to be overhauled into a specialized missile ship, continuing CCP's initiative to provide a viable Minmatar missileboat lineup. Like its in-game description says, the Typhoon can do a lot, but it can't do anything particularly well, other than a Torp/Neut setup. It'll likely lack the range that the Raven has, but keeping with Minmatar hull designs, will be significantly faster. Ironically, its for this reason that it might make the Raven even more useless in combat. The Raven just has trouble applying its damage. It is too slow, and can't afford the mid-slots to fit multiple target painters or stasis webifiers. The revamped Typhoon however will.
Speaking of the Raven, it has largely been useless in PVP in the last few years, and CCP has noticed. Rather than the Raven itself being the problem however, they have identified (correctly I think) its weapon systems as the problem. Cruise missiles are largely underwhelming, their flight time making them next to useless at extreme ranges, and their heavy-missile proportioned DPS making them not worthwhile at closer ranges. Torpedoes have great DPS on paper, but need a lot of target painting and stasis webifiers in order for them to apply the damage. This hints at the battleship-class missile systems being overhauled, rather than anything to do with specific ship balancing.
Note: Because the object is to remove ship tiers, ship mineral requirements will be balanced , likely bringing prices closer together.
As mentioned earlier in the year, the destroyer and battlecruiser skills will be changed from generic skills to race-specific ones. This means that new players will need to train each racial battlecruiser skill, rather than each cruiser to 3 followed by the generic battlecruiser skill.
Each successively larger ship class will require the previous class racial skill to level 4. For example, Amarr Battleship will require Amarr Battlecruiser 4, Amarr Dreadnought will require Amarr Battleship 4, etc.
This more than doubles the training time required for a new player to get into battleships. The reaction to this is mixed, but I think it is for the better, as new players in general are trying to scale up through ship classes too quickly. Pilots are flying ships which are far too expensive for them, very poorly, with little in the way of support skills. Providing a clear line of progression will probably result in new players flying ships which are more suited to their skillset.
Regarding skill reimbursements, all characters will be given the racial battlecruiser/destroyer skills to the level which they can currently fly. If you have Battlecruisers V, Amarr and Caldari Cruiser III, you will be given Amarr and Caldari Battlecruisers V. Thus, it would be prudent for all current pilots to train all cruiser and frigate skills to at least 3 and Battlecruisers and Destroyers skills to V to maximize the skillpoints you will recieve.
Command Ships will recieve broad changes to make the class more usable, as currently T3 Strategic Cruisers do the command job better, and battlecruisers do the combat role almost as well for 1/4 the cost.
- There will no longer be a differentiation between 'Field' and 'Fleet' command ships. Each will be viable in combat and command roles.
- Tech 3's will have a weaker bonus to links, though be able to fit more of them. Command ships will have stronger links, and be able to fit less.
- Each race will have two different bonused types of links for their command ships. CCP has provided a wonderful picture to illustrate the changes:
I think the command ship changes are very solid, as they actually provide a good reason to use command ships now. Minmatar and Amarr command ships are the clear winners here, having both skirmish links and a racial tank bonus. With an armour bonus, perhaps the Gallente command ship line will now actually be fielded.
In general, I am quite impressed with the proposed changes. With luck, we'll be seeing the mainstays of fleet combat overhauled sometime next year.