If you haven’t read the new blog about drones and Supercarriers from CCP Fozzie yet, read it here first. The numbers I will play with are taken from the spreadsheet that is linked inside the dev blog.
The following short analysis will partly break down the changes in numbers, however, it is mostly intended to show (and partly guess) what the changes will actually change within the game and how we’ll adapt with them.
As pointed out in the devblog already, it should be no surprise to anyone that Gallente and Minmatar drones are the most popular to use. The Gallente drones usually have the highest raw damage while Minmatar drones have the highest speed and moderate tracking available. That’s gonna stay, however, Amarr and Caldari drones will now be placed between the two popular races. This means there is now a consistent difference between each race that allows you to have more room for decisions. Personally I am certain Gallente and Minmatar drones will stay far on top in the usage graph, but we will also see an increase in usage of Amarr and Caldari drones.
Quality levels of drones
The current differences of T1, T2, Faction, Augmented and Integrated drones are kind of a mess. Navy drones can now really be considered as a type between T1 and T2 drones, especially useful for people who want to use effective drones without having the skills to use T2. Integrated drones are kind of similar to Navy drones and Augmented drones have the same damage as T2 drones (that also means you don’t need the nasty specialization skill on V to get the same damage output as T2), but with more HP, speed and tracking. This way of progression is similar to what it is now, but it will be much easier to grasp. No changes that will decide a lot in what drones we will use, atleast during high levels. However, like the different races it allows for more options to use different drones, especially for low-skilled players.
Sizes of drones
Finally, we’re getting an increase of speed for Medium and Heavy drones, 20% and 43% respectively. Extra speed for these types of drones is desperately needed, as the damage they apply can be delayed a lot. It won’t make these drones suddenly some type of doctrine you can make for huge alliances as they still have their flaws, but it’s going to be a nice buff for smaller stuff.
The first change to talk about is the reduction of drone damage gained by the Drone Interfacing skill from 20% to 10%. All drones will get a damage buff to compensate this, however, this change allows low-skilled players to compete with higher skilled pilots quicker. Having the skill on level 5 currently is a necessity to compete with others, a change to 10% drone damage per level helps making the gap smaller. The Combat Drone Operation skill will be split down to two new skills, Light Drone & Medium Drone Operation for consistency purposes which never is a bad thing. Last but not least, the personally biggest change for me is the application of all drone skills to Fighters and Fighter Bombers. More about that shortly.
Like normal drones, Sentry drones also have been made consistent by race now. Currently, the order of optimal ranges is different than the order of damage for each race. The Garde will keep being the drone with the highest base damage and the best tracking, but lowest range. The Curator currently does less damage than the Bouncer even though it’s range is shorter. This is being changed, putting the sentries into correct order. For fleet usage, Bouncers will probably stay being the most popular sentry, as it has the good mix of damage, range and tracking. Even though the damage has now been reduced, it gained a lot of tracking and still does explosive damage which is very valuable in fleet combat.
Fighters, Fighter Bombers and Supercarriers
This will probably make the biggest part of the small article. As mentioned before, all drone skills, Drone Navigation (5% more speed per level), Drone Durability (5% shield, armor, structure HP per level) and Drone Sharpshooting (5% optimal range per level) in particular will now apply to Fighters and Fighter Bombers. This also counts for drone modules, such as Drone Damage Amplifiers and Omnidirectional Tracking Links. To make up for this, the base damage of Fighters and Fighter Bombers is reduced for a large margin. The Drone Interfacing skill (that you will have on level 5 anyways) will bring the Fighter back to its current damage, Fighter Bombers will still be lower though. Without any modules, the damage output from Supercarriers is reduced by 30% in total. It will take around 2 T2 Drone Damage Amplifiers to get to the current maximum. As faction DDAs will be released as well, fitting 3-4 of them will significantly increase the damage output compared to its current maximum. The real strength from all this comes in combination with being able to refit any module within a second. Drone Navigation Computers if your Fighter/FB are far away from a target, Omnidirectionals if your Fighters can’t track – one module for every situation and it’s all pretty much instant. For this reason, I also don’t consider this as a nerf for armor tanked Supercarriers. Maybe the lazy people do.
Furthermore, the drone output is reduced from 20 to 10. The main intent here is to reduce the load on the server. To compensate, Fighters and Fighter Bombers launched by Supercarriers get a damage bonus of 100%. They also get a 100% bonus to to HP and volume. Together with the Drone Durability skill, the EHP of Fighters and Fighter Bombers is more than doubled which makes it for Bombers especially harder to kill them. A nice side effect of the drone output reduction is the increase of usefulness of Drone Control Units. Together with DDAs, DCUs can increase the damage output a lot. All in all, Supercarriers will do a lot more damage in all situations than before and have more options to adapt to different situations with the help of different drone modules.
Then there are improved Shadow Fighter Bombers now, faction FBs that deal 7% more damage over the T1 versions. However, their damage is limited to EM and Thermal damage which is bad against fighting pretty much all armor tanked capitals. Personally, I’ll probably stick with Tyrfings for that reason.
Overall I think I am quite happy with the changes. Most of them are no-brainers, changes we want for quite some time already. Or maybe I am just glad structure shooting will only take half the time it does now? What do you think?