When CCP announced the capital changes, two thoughts struck me immediately. The first was delight at the prospect of supercapitals being more vulnerable through losing their ewar immunity. As it currently stands, blobs of supercapitals are incredibly difficult to pin down and fight, particularly in lowsec. So difficult, in fact, that they’re a broken fleet concept, far too strong.
The second thought was that Archon blobs would be a thing of the past. A split between damage dealing and repair abilities, coupled with the requirement for the new capital priests being in triage – and unable to receive incoming reps – means capital fleets will face the same choices and vulnerabilities as subcaps, albeit with a larger tank and greater consequences.
Both of these mean, I hope, that supercap and capital fights are more likely to result in some kills for each side, a critical factor affecting the enjoyment level of all parties. It’s no fun having your entire fleet dunked without even a single kill to show for it. I suspect we’ve seen the end of that for capital fights.
However, one thought that pointedly did not pop into my mind was, “This is a solution to the N+1 problem!” Part of that reason is because it clearly isn’t. The other part is because there is no “N+1 Problem”… not as folks tend to think of it.
Let’s talk about the less confrontational bit first. Rebalancing capitals ultimately served to split fleet roles among more ship types, and pretty clearly represents a punch to the face of boot Archon fleets and slowcat feets, which can operate completely without subcap support. CCP is pushing for a “combined arms” approach to fleet warfare. Why else would they split damage dealing via drones and fighters from the repair ability of triage carriers? As further proof, carriers will no longer be able to carry or field drones, only fighters.
I’d call that a pretty clear argument that the capital rebalance is meant to re-introduce the need to make choices to fleet doctrines that had become stale and remarkably uniform. It does nothing to allow smaller fleets to survive and succeed against larger fleets. In fact, by requiring the new repair capitals to be in triage to dish out reps, it opens the door for those triage capitals to be destroyed much more easily, further expanding the effectiveness of large fleets at quickly eliminating targets from smaller fleets. Yep, these changes exacerbate the advantage of larger fleets.
But, more simplistically, they cannot solve the “n+1 problem”, because “n+1” isn’t a problem.
At its core, players state this problem thusly: It is a problem that players are always incentivized for bringing more members to a fight, and that all things being equal, a fleet with equal numbers and fleet comp, plus one extra ship, will do better than a fleet that doesn’t have that extra ship.
Let me phrase it this way for you. Is it a problem that in an MMO, the fleet that can bring more numbers has a distinct advantage? I’d argue that it’s not. If there’s one law that an MMO should adhere to, it’s that “Players who team together in greater numbers should have an advantage over those who do not.”
And, to be frank, that’s even overstating the situation. After all, it is possible for a small group of high-sp players to completely wreck a large group of pilots flying cheap ships. Throwing isk at the problem CAN produce results – look at Machariel fleets, for instance. And a high-skill – real, player skill, that is – pilot can destroy multiple less experienced enemies.
All three of these demonstrate that not only isn’t “n+1” a valid complaint, but it’s not a problem even if it was. In the end, the “n+1 problem” is a way for smaller groups to complain about well-organized enemies (and they almost always mean the Imperium). But that’s not really a problem of the utter dominance of superior numbers, but rather the result of Pandora’s box – IT resources, external applications, and business-like organization – being opened. Nothing is going to put those evils back in again.
And is that really a problem? The principle of the central position and local superiority can still win fights. Superior numbers isn’t unstoppable.
And, when you are talking about equal ship types/tiers, skill levels, and tactics, is it so wrong that more leads to victory?