46524_eve_online_hel_supercarrier

New Carriers Have Raised the Bar, the Ceiling, and the Floor

 

The CSM has heard a lot about the new fighter squadron mechanics for carriers and supercarriers, but with such radical design changes it was hard to tell anything about them from meetings and numbers alone.

So during the summit, CCP spawned us into supercarriers for a live demonstration of the squadron system. We were fleeted up as a third party parked a few hundred km outside a defending citadel and an offending mixed capital fleet.

It’s no secret I haven’t flown a capital ship before, but the intimidation there was small compared to the depth of the fighter squadron system. Behind my Hel’s modules (yes, behind) was a second set of controls that corresponded to my deployed fighter squadrons. A toggle let me switch between Hel controls and fighter controls, though I was told this setup was for small monitors only, and that the fighter window would (hopefully) be unpinnable and/or a hotkey could be set for module access swapping.

Each fighter squadron had two or three abilities (an auto-fire F1 attack, a defensive/evasive F2 movement, and a long cooldown/low ammo F3 super attack) that differed by fighter type. The Hel supercarrier could launch a maximum five squadrons, with a no more than 3/2/3 each of light/support/heavy fighters, respectively.

Launch Attacks Like it’s Kharak

“There is a sense of scale – and a familiar micro-triggered anxiety – that comes with essentially piloting six ships at once in real time.”

As I said before, I’ve never flown a capital, though drones were my favored weapon system early on in EVE. That said, controlling fighter squadrons is nothing like controlling drones. Instead, it is much more like controlling a small fleet of ships in an RTS game like StarCraft 2 or Homeworld. There is a sense of scale – and a familiar micro-triggered anxiety – that comes with essentially piloting six ships at once in real time.

Using the new Tactical Camera, you’re playing EVE at a level that feels more removed and more powerful than anything a single ship can deliver. You can of course just select all your fighters and spam attack (F1) commands at various targets, but you’d be doing yourself a grave disservice. I instead found myself positioning squadrons with Homeworld-stye movement commands in 3D space, then activating navigation maneuvers to help them survive as they reached their final targets. I launched capital-sized torpedo attacks on impulse, but that’s mainly because they were super overpowered in this particular test build.

And, you know, it’s kinda my job to deliver torpedoes.

squadron_hanger

There were, of course difficulties. Among the CSM, we saw bugs in graphics, controls, and damage application. CCP, of course, took notes and reminded us there’s still some polish to apply. With a release date of just “Spring” there are 1 to 3 more months to smooth out bad code and rebalance fighter abilities.

Whatever the final numbers look like, I can say without reservation that the fighter squadron system felt very, very cool. It’s deep, engaging, and delivers tons of wow-factor.

And oh yeah… it’s gonna take a lot of skill.

“Before you join corp, tell us…. what’s your APM?”

This is where I see the most potential problems arising. Controlling fighter squadrons unquestionably requires more skill and more frequent input than current drones and fighters. What CCP has done here is dramatically raise both the skill floor (minimum skill needed to use the system competently) and the skill ceiling (how much individual player skill determines system effectiveness).

Why is that a problem? In my opinion, it isn’t, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be perceived as one, especially by existing carrier and supercarrier pilots. On day 1 of Citadel’s release, they’re going to be really really bad at flying their own ships. They’re going to fumble with dual-mode controls. They’ll accidentally torpedo their own ships. They’re going to leave fighters stranded in launch tubes while enemy fleets smash them with impunity.

These issues won’t just affect them. The entire EVE community will be judging how good of a job CCP did with their new carrier paradigm, and with these ships tanking left and right at the hands of unpracticed owners, the initial sentiment will most likely be “these new carriers and supers suck.” It’s going to take time and patience for pilots to master fighter squadrons by internalizing the deep control now available to them.

Eventually, we’ll see the true power of fighter squadrons unlocked. Maybe it will be a natural progression of cumulative player skill. Maybe some Korean StarCraft pros will be conscripted into EVE by rich alliances and handed the reigns to a supercap fleet. Maybe Chessur will down 100 dreadnaughts with a solo (read: linked) nano-Nyx setup. Who knows?

Regardless of the who, the how is looking extremely promising. If CCP can implement fighter squadrons into EVE Online correctly, they will have created a new paradigm for not just what a capital ship is, but what a capital pilot needs to be.

Tags: carriers, Chance Ravinne, CSM summit, fighters, Wingspan TT

About the author

Chance Ravinne

As the CEO of WINGSPAN Delivery Services, Chance Ravinne has committed himself to bringing content (and torpedoes) to unsuspecting pilots throughout New Eden. His uncanny need to jump blindly into new situations has fueled his adventures as a covert ops pilot and all-around stealth bastard. You can follow him pretty much everywhere @WINGSPANTT.

  • Mizhir

    This is certainly a step in the right direction. It makes carriers look super interesting for me who otherwise isn’t much interested in capital pvp.

  • Joffy Aulx-Gao
  • Drakkenstien

    Really hope they give a few weeks on Sisi before deployment.

  • Leo2014

    I really love this part of your analysis:

    “The entire EVE community will be judging how good of a job CCP did with their new carrier paradigm, and with these ships tanking left and right at the hands of unpracticed owners, the initial sentiment will most likely be “these new carriers and supers suck.” It’s going to take time and patience for pilots to master fighter squadrons by internalizing the deep control now available to them.”

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  • Druik Arbosa

    Yup, still looking forward to flying one of these post change, is going to be awesome.

  • cloaky sniper raven

    Hey, Chance! Nice of you to post something here! And it was good content! Thank you!

    Do you have any video of this, that would be very useful.

  • Saint Michael’s Soul

    I’m genuinely worried about this mechanism. I’ve never played any RTS’s and having seen the likes of Starcraft I have no desire to. Am I going to be disadvantaged by this or will the learning curve be the same for me as for any other player used to “launch, point in right direction, forget”?

    I also want to see what the squardons look like and feel like from the point of view of subcap pilots in space – Do I fight and engage them in the same manner as normal ships? What are their flight paths like, how will their acceleration work etc?

    Having also tested the new camera in extreme TiDi and big fights…it simply doesn’t work. If the new carrier system has to rely on the new camera, it needs more work. The animation, the delays, the following …when you have 2000 pilots on screen, nothing processes …until you switch back to the new camera.

    • JZ909

      I think you have some valid points. However, I personally like how carrier gameplay will be different than other stuff. Capital gameplay seemed a little stale to me. It was just too lumbering , too slow, and there was too little to do. Now capitals won’t be easier to fly than subcaps, they’ll just be different.

      On the flip side, I have the same concerns about how to fight them in other ships. World of Warships did the same sort of thing with carriers, but once players mastered how to use torpedo bombers, air launched torpedos became oppressive. I hope that while microing the the fighters will make them better, it will be impossible to micro them to certain victory.

  • Cenwarde aka Khoul Ay’d

    I’m curious because I haven’t seen this addressed in any forum so far. Is carrier ratting dead or will it still be possible with the new squadrons mechanics?

  • Nou Mene

    This actually makes me wanting to train Carriers. For the old carrier pilots i guess launching and pressing F1 will be very similar to current

  • fdsafsd

    Homeworld style control is not workable unless CCP fixes lag in large battles. Drag a box in space and it will hit friendly ships instead of enemy, because it didn’t land where you thought it did…