This post is part of the EVE Blog Banter, a monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to him. The eleventh topic comes from Joe Brusati, who asks us: "CCP states that T3 Strategic Cruisers are just the start for the T3 line-up. In future Eve expansions, what would you like to see as the next T3 ship type?"
The Spiders: fleet support ships
This article imagines a new class of Tech 3 ships called the Strategic Battlecruisers, or Spiders. They would share the hull size of their battlecruisers cousins (between cruisers and battleships), but would pack considerably less firepower and tanking ability than command ships... unless they are integrated into a fleet structure. When a Spider supports a gang of non-capital ships, she is the cornerstone of the fight... as long as capacitor lasts.
A battlecruiser is a Tech 1 ship: cheap, insurable, and highly versatile; the everyday choice of many pilots. It can sport gang assistance modules but this comes almost as an afterthought and many pilots do not fit one.
A command ship is a Tech 2 ship: expensive, not really insurable, and excelling in very specific domains: tanking and using gang assistance modules.
A strategic battlecruiser is a Tech 3 ship: extremely expensive, modulable, unpredictable. This is one of the shiniest toys in the game and any loss of one can indeed be deemed strategic.
Spidertanking like never before
While Spiders can be used for solo tanking or leadership roles, this is not where they excel. In fact, they perform less efficiently than command ships in these domains (though much better than battlecruisers). Spiders can sport leadership modules, but do so less efficiently than command ships. Also, they cannot tank as well as command ships when on their own. But, integrated within a gang which actively supports it, a Spider can tank a lot better than a command ship, thanks to a unique type of spidertanking.
Spidertanking is a gang strategy which relies on multiple battleships or carriers remote repairing each other. It does not currently function well in big fleets due to massive alpha strikes destroying ships before any repairing can take place, but it shines in small or medium-sized gangs, up to the point that the mechanic is considered by some to be "broken".
- diminish the role of ECM, traditional counter to spidertanking, because they do not need to target the ships they repair;
- incite the enemy fleet to focus on the Spider, in order to completely break the spider tank, provided the Spider can first be found;
- incite the enemy to spread the damage on every ship in the fleet, because the Spider can only repair one at a time.
Hopefully it can make for more dynamic battles, with pilots enjoying the combat almost to the end even if they are primaried, but with a definite end due to unsustainable capacitor drain for the spidertanking fleet.
Technology in the Eve cluster already allows information to flow instantly through countless light-years; the next big step is the seemingly miraculous transportation of energy and nanobots. Specifically, reverse engineering Sleeper artifacts allows modern scientists to design Flow Master Modules and Flow Slave Modules.
A Spider can use its Flow Master Module to take energy from and instantly restore shield, armor or structure of any ship both equipped with a Flow Module (Master or Slave) and in the same fleet structure. The repairing takes place at the beginning of the one-second module cycle and automatically stops when the target is fully repaired; the nanobots are that good. Shield is repaired first, then armor, then structure, up to the repairing capacity of the module and provided that enough energy is available.
The Spider does not need to target the ship; it can instead use the watch list panel -obviously, it means that the optimal number of ships to be supported by a Spider is 10. With proper subsystems (see below), a Spider can also repair out of targeting range, out of grid and even out of system.
Flow Slave Modules come in different size, each allowing a certain amount of repairing per second. It opens spidertanking as a viable option to frigate or cruiser gangs.
- A Spider cannot repair a ship unequipped with an active Flow Module. This module basically gives the keys to your capacitor to the Spider pilot. Even when no repairing takes place, the module slowly drains the ship's capacitor. However, the module deactivates when the capacitor goes below 25%; the Strategic Battlecruiser skill reduces that malus by 5% increments.
- Flow spidertanking is not a zero sum process: using a Flow Master Module drains a capacitor a lot and, by that, I mean huge quantities of it. Thankfully, the Spider automatically takes this power from ships with a Flow Slave Module on. The farther a Spider is from the ship she repairs, the bigger the loss. More energy is lost if Spider and repaired ship are not in the same grid, a great deal more if in different grids but in the same system, enormously more if separated by a stargate. Traditional spidertanking is much more cap efficient.
- The Flow Emitter Module on a Spider can only redistribute a given amount of energy, which practically means it is not capable to properly handle the needs of a cap fleet.
- The longer a Spider repairs a ship, the louder its own cosmic signature, up to the point when basic astronomic scanners can pick severe electromagnetic disturbances. It means that, after thirty seconds of uninterrupted repairing on the same target, a Spider will appear on the cluster map as an Unknown Phenomena. After one minute, the Spider will appear in the overview as a warpable point.
High slots would be very limited, up to 3 or 4, one of which would need to be dedicated to the Flow Master Module. Medium and low slots would be more abundant. The drone bay would be non-existent or of limited size (0 to 50), for pilots wishing to retain some anti-tackler capability.
Warp bubble-negating subsystem
One subsystem available to each racial Spider would be the Warp Bubble Destabilizator. Its function would be to negate the effects of any bubble in a ten kilometers radius around the ship. A Spider with this module could be used to help capital fleets escape. The effect is permanent and passive, but the module is very heavy and makes the ship a lot less manoeuvrable.
One billion apiece
Due to my very limited industrial experience (producing a few hundred thousands of small antimatter hybrid ammo), I can only propose a cost without entering into the specifics of manufacturing a Spider. A Strategic Battlecruiser should cost about one billion. Since it is designed for use in closely knit teams, this can be a strategic investment for a corp which wants to protect its cap fleet or surprise a gate camp with an indestructible scout.
The names would be variations on the spider theme. For example: Arachnea or Mygale (Gallente), Tarantula (Minmatar), Spinne (Caldari), Ragno (Amarr).
Check other Eve Blog Banter articles on the same topic.