Monday, January 17, 2011

CSM Summit - The Coming Super Carrier Buff

Super Carriers (aka Motherships or Moms) are out of balance. Even the lads at CCP will admit that, albeit reluctantly.

In the latest minutes of the CSM summit with CCP, the near overwhelming advantage Motherships bestow on their owners was a point of discussion:
The current situation with Super Carriers is that they are just not dying, they do large quantities of damage to other Capital ships and sub Capital ships – in fact they can be wielded in any situation with very good effects.... There were some examples given of how easy it is to move Super Carriers due to their jump range – allowing extreme force projection by relatively small number of pilot flying Super Carriers.
While he agreed that Super Carriers are out of balance, developer CCP Greyscale seems strangely resistant to the idea of reducing the Super Carriers utility out of apparent concern for the lot of Super Carrier pilots. Simply nerfing Super Carriers, Greyscale said, "imposes a great cost on [Super Carrier] pilots".

Now that's a bit strange.

In imposing nerfs on various ships over the years CCP's policy over the years has been to put the health of the game over the interests of pilots of a class of ship than had gotten out of balance.  Investing heavily in any overpowered ship or technology has always been a calculated risk in New Eden, as such ships are routinely targeted by CCP for re-balancing.  We are all aware that, unlike Star Trek's Scotty, CCP can change the laws of physics on you.

But, suddenly, crocodile tears are being shed for the poor, poor Super Carrier pilots.

Cynic that I am, I suspect a for-profit company might have a financial motive for this sudden swell of concern.

See, a healthy number of Super Carrier owners pay for all or part of their Super Carriers using real money. A Nyx Super Carrier on the RMT market these days runs about $1000 US. Assuming a 700 million ISK return on a $35 US Plex purchase, that rounds out to about 19 billion ISK, which is on par with the in game cost of the ship if you include a healthy profit margin. The build cost of a Nyx these days runs 12 to 14 billion ISK including materials and the blueprint copy. That nets out to about $700 US worth of Plex purchases to buy a bargain-basement priced Nyx in-game. Mind, that's assuming you're lucky enough to have someone who'll build it for you at cost.

That, my friends, is money in the bank for CCP assuming those ISK are bought through CCP's Plex program.

And then, of course, there's all that money changing hands outside the game for Super Carrier-piloting characters, the right to purchase the next Super Carrier coming off the assembly line and all those expensive Super Carrier-specific implants.

With some of that money coming in as legitimate Plex income to CCP, it's not surprising that the developers have a healthy concern for keeping Super Carrier pilots happy. And if some of the people with an interest in the illegitimate supercapital trade had some degree of influence over CCP, why there'd even more leverage for maintaining the Super Carriers' position as the "must-have" item in nullsec.

Now, given the Super Carrier's ability to project power over a large area, there's one change in Eve that would make it even more powerful, even more essential that it is now. It's a change that would brighten the day of Super Carrier pilots everywhere and turn the Super Carrier market white-hot. It can be done without even touching the Super Carrier, and the CSM is on record in the Summit minutes as having approved the change.

Get rid of jump-bridges.

One of the advantages of holding sovereignty in nullsec has been the ability to install jump-bridge networks. Most readers of The Edge will know that jump bridges in two different systems can be linked, allowing the player to jump directly from one system to the other without use of a gate. Thus, what might be a tedious ten jump trip by conventional gate travel can be condensed to a single jump. A well-planned jump bridge network allows sovereignty holders and their allies to move across an entire region of nullsec in only a few jumps. 

Needless to say, jump-bridges allow an alliance to project conventional (i.e. subcapital) force over a much larger area than normal gate travel would permit. Alliances employing efficient jump bridge networks enjoy superior mobility over an attacking force and can provide just-in-time logistics support for both offensive and defensive operations.

During the CSM summit, CCP Greyscale proposed eliminating jump bridges from the game. Part of CCP's rational for this is that decreased mobility will increase the costs of supporting allies, fragment coalitions and (get ready for it) "...may make it easier for small alliances to set up shop, with less supercapital curb stomping."

Apparently mind-altering substances are cheap and plentiful in Iceland.

If you get rid of the jump bridges, the supercapital becomes the only item that can project force over a wide area. Defending alliances will no longer able to move and concentrate conventional fleets quickly in response to a Super Carrier attack, making Super Carriers much less vulnerable to take-downs by defending forces.  Barring poor scouting or bad luck, the Super Carriers' superior mobility will allow them run rings around enemy subcapital forces and strike their enemies more or less at will.

Unless, of course, those enemies have enough Super Carriers to counter the attacker's Super Carriers. So, contrary to CCP Greyscale's expectations, small, Super Carrier-poor alliances will be subject to supercapital curb-stompings on a regular basis.

In short, the removal of Jump Bridges amounts to a Super Carrier buff.  CCP's going to need a bigger cash register, 'cause I smell an arms race.

Ironically, in the same meeting minutes CSM members supporting a nerf of the Super Carrier observe that supercapital blobs are quickly becoming an 'I win' button in nullsec engagements. Thanks to the CSM's thoughtless acquiescence to CCP's jump-bridge elimination plan, they've ensured that the "I Win" button will be standard equipment on even small gangs of Super Carriers.

In proposing the elimination of jump bridges, CCP Greyscale cautioned that it would result in a chaotic transition, or as he put it, "everything will go to shit.”.  In other words CCP is preparing to inflict an unprecedented amount of suffering on most of nullsec's current residents in order to accelerate their goal of shrinking nullsec alliances, begun in Dominion. That's an interesting contrast to their desire to avoid upsetting Super Carrier pilots.

Apparently, Super Carrier pilots feel pain more than the rest of us.


  1. I see your point. One counter may be to make cyno jamming much cheaper than it is currently (and reduce the onlining time), making it harder to cyno in the supercap fleet.

  2. To be honest, the CSM minutes also included a part about spooling up jump drives and locking onto cynos with variable lock times dependent on range.

    That alone will make hotdrops far less viable - if your Titan bridge/Supercarrier hotdrop needs to have a cyno defended for several minutes, force projection becomes far more difficult.

    At the same time, a spoolup time would create yet another centre for battles, which can only be regarded as a good thing in my book.

  3. Seb -

    It's under consideration, but not a pre-requisite for the elimination of jump bridges. Further, unless it's a very long spool-up time, it would have minimal impact viz the time a defender has to assemble a countering fleet.

    For the most part, getting rid of jump-bridges and the resulting mobility loss on the part of defenders pulls the teeth from any disadvantage spool-up imposes on Supercaps

  4. "That nets out to about $700 US worth of Plex purchases to buy a bargain-basement priced Nyx in-game.
    That, my friends, is money in the bank for CCP assuming those ISK are bought through CCP's Plex program."

    But those purchased PLEXes can only be used for paying for someone's game time. Thus that 700 dollars replaced someone else's 700 dollars of subscription fees. The only way CCP makes money is if the PLEX are destroyed.

    Or am I misreading?

  5. 'supercarrier' is not a proper noun.

  6. Genius. Total genius. I hadn't even considered this aspect of the proposed change, but you're completely correct.

  7. I'm not privy to the inside workings of jumping or bridging supercaps around the place. Soon, I hope though :)

    An idea: one thing that could potentially bring things back into balance is either fuel costs (possibly an exponential curve dependent on the jump range), availability, and/or nerfing fuel bay sizes.

    The RL parallel was battleships on the high seas. They used to rely on fuel tenders and the like to extend their time at sea.

    This, in conjunction with dropping the jump bridges will add a strategic level to committing supercaps, esp at extreme ends of their jump ranges.

    The inability to jump back without logistic and fuel support at those ranges should reduce their viable sphere of influence. That, or you'd need balls the size of coconuts if you're looking at potentially stranding a supercap fleet a long way from home...

    It's an idea only, and I'm quite sure peeps out there should be able to point out all of the flaws in it :)


  8. Para -

    Supercarrier, proper noun
    Parse it up and parse it down
    Neutral gender, hopeless case
    Object of a funny face


  9. Kirith -

    Plex serve to acquire up-front money for player time that may or may not be used in the future - sort of like store gift cards.

    Further, you're assuming that all the buyers of Plex would maintain an account if they had to pay in cash. Many of the players I've encountered are young players without a regular income. How many players would CCP lose if the Plex program were terminated tomorrow?

    Finally speculation comes into the picture as well. Part of the Plex market is driven by speculative buyers who buy and sell Plex they never intend to cash in. There will be a body of Plex that are not cashed in, but move about in the speculative market.

  10. While it was mentioned, I didn't sense any particular force or momentum behind the mention, certainly not more so than any other brainstormed idea. On the one hand, I don't think they would really eliminate jump gates, when you get right down to it, as they would be removing an element of the game with a huge potential for strategic effect. On the other hand, I don't rule any idiocy out as impossible.

  11. I really think your taking the removal of jump bridges out of context. I wanted to be sure so I just went back and re-read that section. It was a discussion on the extent of nerfing nullsec logistics with JBs in particular and it was a CSM member who said get rid of them. This was discussed as an option in a balance campaign not an isolated action that is current policy.

    Having said that I hope the SC gets hit with the nerf bat hard. Frankly I think cyno spool up based on mass and distance will completely change the game as it leaves you with the very real possibility of killing the cyno ship before the fleet arrives as well as the potential for allowing lower mass ships in first then killing the cyno and thus getting some kills.

    "...The CSM asked whether the introduction of easy logistics caused nullsec population increase; if not a lot
    of people moved out when it became easy, not a lot will move back when it becomes hard. No
    immediate numbers were available.
    The CSM was somewhat divided on how aggressive CCP should be with any nerfing. However, one CSM
    suggested, with respect to the nerfing of jump bridges, “get rid of them.”
    Greyscale: “Anyone disagree with that?”
    CSM response varied between “Nope,” “Nah” and a simple “No”.Greyscale: “Sweet!” – meaning that option will then not be discarded when the topic of jump bridges
    will be on CCP’s table..."

  12. I was aghast when I saw the motion to remove JB's from the game. Yet when I talked with my corp and alliance higher-ups about it, they were excited for the change. I'm confused as to why even the NC, who probably own around 50% of EVE's JB's, are enthusiastic about this idea?

    Time to invest in JF's and Nyx BPO's.

  13. NC FCs would be excited about it for the same reason ATLAS never had JBs. ATLAS would Titan bridge fleets behind enemy lines and then force them to roam home. If you left the fleet early, good luck to you (and you'll probably die).

    Whereas on an NC fleet, you're almost never more than 10 jumps from the edge of a JB network and a few pilots that will brave going there with you.

    NC FCs would like to return home with the same size fleet they left home with, which is why they'd support this idea. NC has plenty of Titans to replace bridges for outbound fleets.

  14. I think your basic analysis of CCP's motivations is wrong. Of course they're trying to make money, but they're not at a point where maximizing short term cash flow at the expense of long term play quality would make sense. They've got DUST and Incarna in the pipeline -- they need a healthy EVE. They aren't cashing out now.

    The thing about jump bridges is that they make 0.0 much safer. If you don't want a fight -- use a jump bridge! I think getting rid of JB's would have lots of good effects -- including making LoSec a better value proposition and increasing industrial activity in deep 0.0.

  15. Tom,

    Again, the issue is not whether eliminating JBs in and of itself is an issue. The issue is that eliminating JBs while leaving Super Carriers untouched amounts to a huge buff for Super Carriers and will make Super Carrier intensive alliances the automatic winners in nullsec.

    There is nothing to support the idea that eliminating JBs will increase industrial activity. In fact the opposite is more likely as the loss of JBs will slow the response of home defense actions. Industrial infrastructure not clustered around military strong-points will be exceedingly vulnerable to drops by small gangs of Super Carriers. See my comment about the viability of small alliances above.

    Business journals, newspapers, et al are absolutely rife with companies who have gotten into the trap of putting short term revenues ahead of long term viability. In hindsight such choices always seem foolish, but when chasing quarterly financial targets it's easy to lose sight of the road ahead.

  16. One of the few blogs I still read, and absolutely always worth it.

  17. Mord, it was clear to me in the meeting that Greyscale was not in any way considering removing jump bridges in isolation; rather, he was thinking about it as part of a package of changes (which would include supercap and cyno changes) that would reduce force-projection.

    If CCP comes back and says "Well, all we are going to do for now is kill Jump Bridges", the CSM would politely inquire as to what they had been smoking, and suggest that perhaps they should not indulge during business hours.

  18. Mad - I read the bits about spool-up time for Cynos, a modest clip in jump ranges for supercapitals, and maybe disallowing drones in Super Carriers. Frankly, they do very little to offset the the advantages Super Carriers will have if CCP eliminates the Jump Bridge.

    Making the elimination of JBs work in a balanced manner requires a meaningful nerf to suprercapitals that CCP Greyscale sounds utterly unwilling to deliver.

  19. Yeah, I would call jump bridges somewhere between very and extremely important. Even Mittani mentioned in his recent article that one of the better ways to break the spirit of a nullsec alliance is to disrupt their JB network. It's essential, it's a major step in the sov-taking process, and it makes cyno-jammers make sense to actually use. Without JBs, home-turf defense and all forms of subcapital logistics are much more difficult and dangerous

    I like JBs. Please, just leave them in the game.

  20. I have a quistion: Who Died and Said CCP Greysmell speaks on behalf of CCP?
    If he wasnt to benifit from it somehow someway he wouldnt be pushing so much for it. Reminds me of the CCP chap that wanted to nerf the drake. Just because someone in CCP 'thinks' something should be done it doesnt mean CCP will do it. He is just a loud-mouth imo trying to push his own agenda.