Fleet Carriers - Wishlist, Analysis and Speculation

This is a mirror-post of https://www.reddit.com/r/EliteDangerous/comments/cut3nk Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/EliteDangerous/comments/cut3nk/fleet_carriers_wishlist_analysis_and_speculation/
for those who do not have a Reddit account. I will try to keep an eye on both versions, so feel free to voice your opinion here as well.

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Preamble
As you can probably see from my flair, I am an Overseer of Anti Xeno Initiative, and is therefore heavily biased towards AX combat. That said, I've done plenty of mining, bounty hunting and trading in my 3000+ hours of playtime. The only thing I have not done too much of is exploration, unless my trip to Sag A* and exploration Elite counts. I am also a leader of a 300+ strong squadron, which Inara considers to be "big".
In this post I will be presenting my perspective on the recent Fleet Carrier announcement and discuss its implications. This is obviously only my opinion, although many fellow commanders I’ve spoken to seem to agree with it. Old players are mostly skeptical and cautious, because we still remember how PowerPlay and Multicrew turned out. I really hope the lack of details released so far is because FDev is still figuring them out, because that means they could take our feedback on board.
If you have something else you wish to see carriers do - explain it in the comments, or vote other posts up. I will try to collect the most popular ones and include them in the list.


First, let's start with what we now know.

1. Carriers are now per CMDR, not per Squadron
This is both a good and a bad thing (this will be a theme for this post). There have been a big push for this change, and it is nice to see FDev actually listen to the community. This is however creates several problems for developers. They could've just left it as is, because anyone can create a squadron if they have the cash (vast majority of squadrons are 1-player ones) and the cost is nothing compared to what the carrier will inevitably require. The squadron naming convention might pose a slight issue, which could be easily solved (for example, allowing nameless squadrons).
Instead, FDev decided to let individual players have carriers. This saves those players 10 million credits, but removes any reason to cooperate for the squadrons. Many assumed that carriers (and their upgrades) would be the target every squadron would aim for, pooling resources together, working for the common goal. Bigger squadrons would obviously have an advantage here, but I do not know of a way to mitigate that, or even if it should be mitigated. This would also encourage people to join bigger squadrons and play with more people, which is arguably a good thing.

2. Carriers are "purchasable with a large amount of credits"
Squadrons usually have access to a large pool of resources, but those resources are tied in individual CMDR’s pockets. Despite all FDev excuses, this game has many ways to transfer credits between players, but they are all of different shades of annoying. Many initially assumed that carriers would introduce a system for coordinating resources inside a squadron, be it an equivalent of the guild bank from any MMO, or kickstarter-like goals that members can contribute towards. Even just a button to donate an amount of credits towards the carrier would be sufficient. It is much easier for everyone in a 100-people squadrons to pay 100 million credits each, than for a single player to scrounge up the same 10 billion credits. As far as I know, there are not many multi-billionaires in this game, and I personally only just brush against 10 billion in total assets (not spending cash). If FDev wants to make sure carriers are affordable to "middle-class" individual players, they will make them easily affordable to billionaires. If they aim for billionaires, the forums will run red with blood and salt from 90% of the playerbase. To me, the maximum reasonable price for an individually-owned carrier is around 5 billion credits, and even this price will be forever out of reach for most players. We are talking 20-40 hours of non-stop optimized double-painite mining to just get the dosh for the carrier, and an eternity for anyone who does not wish to drill rocks with lasers. FDev would have to bring every other activity to the same level of income per hour if they want to avoid a riot.
And for all this, bigger squadrons will still have advantages here. Painite can be effectively mined in a wing, so several people can just dump all of their haul to a single player, who would sell it to effectively multiply their income per hour. This will be the main tactic to "boost" one player in a squadron to get the carrier for everybody. Such a player will then be able to hold that carrier hostage, without anyone being able to do anything about it (since them leaving will most likely make the squadron lose access to that carrier). Individual ownership of carriers is not bad, but it must not be the only way. Squadrons need to have an option for communal ownership as well.

3. Carriers WILL require upkeep
EDIT: This was confirmed by Will Flanagan via email: "Fleet Carriers are not destructible, but they will require a certain amount of upkeep to maintain their functionality and presence. This is something we’ll be going into more detail about in future livestreams!"

This is an obvious credit sink (and since credits=time in this game, a time sink). Depending on the size and nature of this upkeep, it will range from a annoyance to a dealbreaker that will make many reconsider buying a carrier. Non-credit upkeep cost (for example in engineering materials) will be a quick way to drive away a large portion of the playerbase (I will personally go play NMS instead, since carriers there are free and do not require upkeep). Anything above 5-10 million credits a week will make me think really hard if I want to bother with carriers at all. It is obvious that FDev wants people to log in and play more (upcoming ARX system is proof of that), but Elite is not a "life service" game (not yet at least), nor should it be one. Using a ticking timer to force people to play your game is a tactic best left to predatory F2P mobile crap.

4. You can set permissions to allow others to dock at your Fleet Carrier
A completely reasonable and much needed mechanic. There however MUST be an option to easily allow docking to friends, squadrons members, and to everyone. If this is not in place at launch, carriers will be entirely useless for squadrons, and for player groups in general. Nobody will manually add hundreds of people to friends or to any other list.

5. Commanders can choose a number of loadouts, governing services/module and ship availability
This seems to be a simple-but-restrictive approach to carrier customization. Many assumed we would be able to upgrade carriers the same way as we do our ships. This seems to not be the case, although the wording is ambiguous here, and it seems to imply that carriers will be able to sell modules/weapons and even ships, depending on the loadout. Carriers selling ships seems weird to me, considering their relatively small size and seeming lack of proper hangar bays. This is also useless in most cases, as most (experienced) players buy ships at Jameson or other discount systems. Personally, I would not be buying ships from my carrier, as I am too used to having access to everything at Jameson, with a discount on top.
We do need more details about this point, but, assuming the worst, we will have to choose a preset loadout, which will come with a fixed selection of modules and services available. Want Interstellar Factors, but don't want to use Pirate/Mercenary loadout? Tough luck! Want to have repair/refuel limpets, without a Search&Rescue loadout? Screw you, Fuel Rats! What about experimental modules? AX modules? Guardian modules? Back to Jameson! And so on and so forth...
This seems to be an unnecessary complication and restriction of player freedom. Imagine if we had fixed "loadouts" for our ships, like Star Citizen, with little-to-no customization. No matter how many different nuanced loadouts developers come up with, there will always be people who need something else and will have to settle for one of them instead. Why not just let people choose for themselves? For example, for module/ship selection, we could pay ~100 times the price of a module to have it permanently available on our carrier. Developers can even make you pay for each size and type of module individually, if they feel particularly evil at the time (although I would like to be able to not have turreted variants of most weapons clog the list). Same can be done for ships, with maybe 10 times the price instead of 100. All of this will allow the carrier to actually feel personal, unique, instead of "just another mining carrier".
It is also quite insulting that Anti-Xeno combat was not even mentioned among the activities carriers will support. Needless to say that if Carriers will not provide benefits to our mission, AXI will not be getting one.

6. 500 LY jump range (per jump)
This is in line with the range of all other megaships in the game, but its perceived fairness will depend entirely on the cost of each jump. For perspective, 500 Ly is less than 10 jumps for any reasonably engineered exploration/taxi ship, and is just enough to cross the bubble, or jump from bubble to Pleiades. Everything else will require multiple jumps, which will either make or break their usefulness in exploration depending on the fuel cost and availability...

7. Schedule jumps from the Galaxy Map when you want
We need details on how exactly the scheduling will work. For now I have to point out that players MUST be able to choose the in-system location for the carrier, otherwise it will not be very useful for combat, trade or mining players. The 500 Ly jump range is more than was ever available to players, and it carriers some interesting risks with it. It will open up most of the previously-inaccessible systems at the edges of the galaxy, creating a race for hardcore explorers to claim them for themselves. Depending on how the jump scheduling works, this might not be the case however, for example if the carrier can only jump to a system you have already visited. This, however, will negate its usefulness to explorers somewhat, as they would still need to scout ahead before each jump, and run the risk of being left stranded without being able to refuel their carrier, which brings us to the next point...

8. Commanders require a unique resource to fuel the Fleet Carrier
This point is really worrying for a number of reasons. FDev already showcased that it is willing to make many resources extremely hard and atrociously unfun to reliably get (see 99% of top-grade engineering materials and data). Depending on the implementation, this will be either an annoying busywork or a grind that would ensure that most of the carriers will never jump. Big Squadrons will again be able to combine their resources and reduce the grind per member. This is unavoidable, and is in fact a good thing, so there must be a way to fuel other player's carriers. This will enable effective shared use of carriers, and open up the possibility for Carrier Rats services (which everyone can agree would be awesome). I feel this is an easy feature to overlook, so I want to stress it out - without this most squadrons will not bother with carriers.
The size of carrier's "fuel tank" is also a big potential problem. If it has to be refueled after each jump it will be useless for most players, especially explorers. Carriers MUST be able to store a dozen jumps worth of fuel to be a viable mobile platform for players.

9. Support vessels
I honestly don't yet know what to make of these, as we have zero details on their function. They seem to be representing the loadout of the carrier, but I would like to have it visible on the carrier itself. There is a high potential for visual and functional customization of carriers, which seems to be thrown out of the window entirely. The announcement thread images even highlight different parts of the carrier as though they are separate, customizable modules. In my opinion, assets used for the support vessels would look much better on the carrier itself.


Now let us talk about other features that have to be implemented for carriers to be useful:

Ship storage
This seems obvious to me, but it is important to reiterate. If FDev wants players using carriers as mobile bases, they need to be able to store ships in them. All players I know use dedicated taxi ships to go around their business, as traveling in dedicated combat or mining ships is a huge pain, and transfer times are exceedingly long in most cases. I know of hundreds of cases when people set up the Jameson-Pleiades (or vice versa) transfer of their AX ships for a new Incursion and went "oh well, I guess I will be back next week" because they can only play once a week.
Without being able to pack the carrier full of specialized ships, they will be useless as mobile bases and hubs for expeditions. All loadouts must have this feature. Explorers need it to make sure they can fuel their carrier in deep space (if the fuel can be mined), Traders will store their hauling ships there while they look for new goldmines, combat players of all stripes will prefer to have a selection of ships for different tasks in hand, and be able to use their taxi to move around.
Players should also be able to store ships in any carrier they can dock at. Without this carriers will never be a communal asset for groups of players.

Cargo storage
This is something players have been asking for since the game first released ,and carriers present the best opportunity to implement it so far. Found something rare and want to save it for the future? Currently this is not possible, you cant even use your own ships to store cargo, as stations apparently don't allow it. Carries can allow for storing cargo in large quantities, significantly speeding up station repair for Operation Ida. It will allow traders to trade on an unprecedented scale, miners to exploit riches of far-flung systems, and explorers to collect samples and curiosities found in the black. Lack of this feature will hurt second to only ship storage and will eliminate one of the main use-cases for carriers.

Moving players with the carrier via jumping
This seems to be obvious, but it has to be stated again, Fleet Carriers have to be able to carry fleets of players to whatever destination they seek. All players that are docked at the carrier when it jumps have to be moved with it. I really hope this is already implemented, but it never hurts to be cautious.


In the end/TLDR
To be worth bothering with, Fleet Carriers have to:
  • have the option for squadron ownership, in addition to individual ownership.
  • allow squadrons to easily cooperate on acquiring them.
  • have reasonable price for both squadrons and individual players (no more than 5 billion credits, preferably less)
  • have reasonable upkeep, or no upkeep at all (no more than 5-10 million credits a week), and not require materials for upkeep.
  • easily allow to set permissions for open/group/squadron use of their services.
  • have flexible customization options, allowing players to tailor services and module/ship availability to their needs. AXI specifically requests the option to have AX-related modules stocked.
  • allow for visual customization.
  • have reasonable fuel cost and availability.
  • hold a dozen jumps worth of fuel.
  • allow players to chose in-system location for the jump (orbit specific body, orbit radius, etc, not just “jump to this system”).
  • allow authorized players to store ships there.
  • allow authorized players to store cargo there.
  • allow authorized players to fuel them.
But this is, of course, just my opinion...


UPDATE:
FDev confirmed that the new fuel "will be a new commodity, which can be mined or bought from certain starports."
Not even all of them. Worst case - prepare for long-distance fuel hauling.

"The cost for a Fleet Carrier will come from the single commander who owns the carrier. Squadron members will not be able to contribute."
RIP any sort of squadron cooperation, unless you like cargo transfers.

"The 'type' of Fleet Carrier that you have is determined by the Support Vessel assigned to it, which in turn, determines its loadout."
As I feared, it seems to be fixed loadouts.
 
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The make-or-break for me is how expensive they will be to acquire and maintain relative to their actual usefulness, I remain unconvinced that carriers have enough usefulness to be worth the potentially dozens of hours of credit grind to acquire one then the (likely) upkeep costs (fuel, actual upkeep, etc.). Additionally individual ownership comes with somewhat severe problems for squadrons, i.e. one of AXI's overseers having ownership of the squadron's carrier deciding to leave the game for a long period or forever, that would essentially make the carrier worthless to the group as the only means of managing it would evaporate and the squadron would have to grind again for a new admin controlled carrier. In effect a "squadron" carrier would basically chain it's owner to the game which is either an intentional choice by FDev (which if so will cause my respect to decay even further than it already has) or it is yet more proof that they are incapable of understanding how their game works or the impact of their design choices.

At this point I suspect it will be impossible to implement squadron controls to carriers as the sales pitch has already been made for them being personal assets, so I sincerely doubt anything will come of the plea to tie carriers to squadrons but one can dare to dream I suppose.
 
3. The upkeep thing is the biggest make or break thing for me. If it requires a some sort of regular upkeep even if I'm not using it or logged in the game at all, it'll make me seriously reconsider getting one at all. I don't like those kinds of obligations even if they are very modest.

Squadron ownership as an alternate to private ownership would be a very nice idea. Definitely need to be able to set the jump destination in the system, to orbit specific body, or there won't be a point at all.
 
  1. Add an option for Squadron vs FC battles. If the FC gets damaged a lot then it'll retreat. The winning Squadron gets rewards and the FC owner must repair the FC. If the defending team wins then they'll receive rewards. The type of rewards can be loot, influence, materials etc.
  2. Add lots of cosmetics to make each FC unique. Such as ornaments, decorations, color schemes, paint jobs, figureheads at the bow of ships etc.
  3. Let the FC owner select a location to fly towards inside a star system. Such as planets and gas giants. This is like executive control.
  4. The FC shouldn't be frozen in a specific spot. Because that's boring. Or make it seem as of the FC is slowly moving.
  5. Add features for PVP. Such as a wing or squadron vs FC.
  6. Add PVE content such as FC missions.
  7. The FC must be appealing to PVE and PVP players.
  8. The FC can influence the BGS/Powerplay.
  9. Add a Thargoid FC.
 
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I am 100% in favor of squadron ownership. If there was a squadron bank account that all members could contribute towards, and those funds would be used to purchase a fleet carrier (or multiple, please let squadrons purchase more than one!), that would be excellent and it would provide a great incentive for players to find a squadron that is active and specialized in a particular activity that they are interested in. I know that we in the Anti Xeno Initiative would greatly appreciate being able to own and control multiple fleet carriers so that we can always have our resources where they are most needed in a timely manner. One such application could be stationing them in systems under threat of Incursion, providing a rally point for anti-thargoid fighters who are defending the system. Frontier, we need squadron ownership!

Additionally, I am also in favor of all of the rest of the suggestions put forth by the OP. There is a lot of potential to add more aspects to the gameplay here that would allow for an expansion of end-game content.
 
The first important question is: Can we jump to a planet/moon or just to the main star? If its 'mainstar', then it'll be very hard to find a purpose for them. Mobile repair base for explorers would be the only thing I can come up with.

The second question is: Will we be able to store ships there? The list of services features: Repair, Rearm and Restore. If 'shipyard' isn't there that will severly limit the usefullness. Both the Gnossis and the Rescue-Ships have no shipyard as well. (Wait, did they even mention 'outfitting'?)

The third question is: Can we store commodities there. A mining carrier without the option to store mined goods would be completly pointless. But storing commoditites has never be possible at all, till now.,so I'm a bit sceptic here as well. I have no idea what trade or mining carriers could be good for without cargo storage.

If the answer is No to all three, then carriers will be personal outposts with very bad services sitting on a selectable mainstar. And that would be pretty pointless.

But if the answer is Yes to all three, then they could be really, really nice. I think in this case I could come up with a reasonable, entertaining, and well working utilization for all 'loadouts' that have been announced (except smuggling, since smuggling itself is broken)

The initial cost as well as the grindines of the fuel will determine if its worth getting one, IF at least one or two of these questions can be answered with yes.
 
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Couple things come to my mind:

-Jumps with a countdown timer of a minute or so, so you can cancel it (especially if the the fuel happens to be a chore to gather!) and docked players get a notification.

-Be able to choose whether you want to jump with the Fleet Carrier if you leave your ship aboard the FC and then logout. Could be as simple as enter hangar = stay aboard FC, stay on the landing pad = get dropped off in normal space when the FC jumps.
 
I want to store some specialised ships in my Fleet Carrier and move them as i want
I want to go in deep exploration with a battle ship or a mining ship avaiable when i need it
And the Fleet Carrier will be an answer to that need
 
Carriers selling ships seems weird to me, considering their relatively small size and seeming lack of proper hangar bays. This is also useless in most cases, as most (experienced) players buy ships at Jameson or other discount systems. Personally, I would not be buying ships from my carrier, as I am too used to having access to everything at Jameson, with a discount on top.
This is the bit I'm curious about.

They mention refuel or repair facilities. My mind says, "this is my ship and I should be able to charge for these functions". So I'm not thinking about buying a ship on my ship, but renting out space for someone to sell ships from my ship and giving me a cut of the profits. I don't care to use an interstellar factor on my own ship. I'd like to hire someone to work in my interstellar factor office and park my ship in a location that needs an interstellar factor. Maybe my 3 crew members can earn their money?

That heads off in the direction of passive income, but if someone had however many billions of credits to buy the thing, are you really concerned about them making passive income? And if you have to keep supplies on hand; is it really passive?

I'm not excited about carriers yet as I'm assuming they're not going to let me run a mini station like I want; but I'm excited to see what they have in store for us.
 
  • have the option for squadron ownership, in addition to individual ownership.
  • allow squadrons to easily cooperate on acquiring them.
  • have reasonable price for both squadrons and individual players (no more than 5 billion credits, preferably less)
  • have reasonable upkeep, or no upkeep at all (no more than 5-10 million credits a week), and not require materials for upkeep.
  • easily allow to set permissions for open/group/squadron use of their services.
  • have flexible customization options, allowing players to tailor services and module/ship availability to their needs. AXI specifically requests the option to have AX-related modules stocked.
  • allow for visual customization.
  • have reasonable fuel cost and availability.
  • hold a dozen jumps worth of fuel.
  • allow players to chose in-system location for the jump (orbit specific body, orbit radius, etc, not just “jump to this system”).
  • allow authorized players to store ships there.
  • allow authorized players to store cargo there.
  • allow authorized players to fuel them.
Agree with all.

Having no function for pvp is also a missed opportunity.
 
there is one additional feature I wish: job-specific mission board. Let's say that you jump with your trader carrier in an inhabited system. All the factions in such system note you and know that there is a capable fleet able to do that job and they send to your carrier only the trading-related missions. Even better, now you jump there with your pirate carrier, and all the factions send requests to your board to carry on only the illegal missions, therefore increasing considerably the chance of finding missions to damage directly the faction you desperatly want to damage or send in retreat. I believe something along this line would make them very useful for commanders that want to manipulate the BGS...
 
To be worth bothering with, Fleet Carriers have to:
  • have the option for squadron ownership, in addition to individual ownership.
  • allow squadrons to easily cooperate on acquiring them.
If the carrier is owned by the squadron leader then technically it can be considered owned by the squadron. Providing the option is there to restrict access by squadron membership then the criteria is arguably satisfied.

As for squadrons co-operating on acquiring them, that is already doable in essence since you can help the squadron leader (or any other CMDR for that matter) acquire the assets to buy one. There are many ways to do this.

I do not believe that making them explicitly a squadron asset would add any value of substance over what FD have seemingly already planned.

As for upkeep - I disagree with the idea of any time based credit syncs like you are suggesting.
 
If the carrier is owned by the squadron leader then technically it can be considered owned by the squadron. Providing the option is there to restrict access by squadron membership then the criteria is arguably satisfied.
Then the leader goes on vacation for a month, or has IRL problems, or gets banned, and the squadron effectively loses control of that carrier. Access options is not the main problem here as FDev confirmed we will be able to set them up. It is the control options that are missing so far. Having the squadron control it (through permissions as was originally proposed by FDev), would make sure there are always multiple people who can do the necessary actions.

Demanding the squadron leader essentially donating their personal carrier for squadron use is also unfair, especially since all players are limited to only one. What if the squadron needs a mining carrier in the bubble, but the leader wants to go explore deep space alone?

Not having carriers as squadron assets means someone will always have to sacrifice their own carrier for the group, and lose some of the freedom it offers. In these conditions only people with multiple accounts will be fine.

As for squadrons co-operating on acquiring them, that is already doable in essence since you can help the squadron leader (or any other CMDR for that matter) acquire the assets to buy one. There are many ways to do this.
Forcing people to do cargo transfers is a bad idea as it is painfully slow. Yes, it can technically be done, but do you seriously believe it is better than being able to just click a button and donate credits towards the carrier?

As for upkeep - I disagree with the idea of any time based credit syncs like you are suggesting.
I do not suggest anything, the fact that carriers will have some sort of upkeep was confirmed by FDev. I just look at different ways it can be implemented, and I do believe that a credit-only upkeep is much better than a material/cargo one. Personally I would like to not have an upkeep at all.
 
Since I'm not a member of any squadron, I am happy to see the private ownership. Not sure if I'm able to afford one. If the going price is around a 1Bn credits (and I think it will be more), then yes. The funny thing is that in order for the FC to be a thing that players actually use, the price can't be too high. But considering top of the line ships can have value of 800M or more fully upgraded, it's obvious that a carrier would have to cost several times more. So personally, I expect the price to be in the range of 10Bn. If that's the case, sure, there are players able to afford that, but the question would be: why put carriers in game for 100 players? Which leads me to a conclusion that squadrons are still going to be main buyers. Though I really do hope by then we have some options of pooling resources and credits.

For now I'm just going to wait and see, I don't want to make too many suggestions / wishes and raise my hopes too high. Ultimately, I'd like to be able to access the bridge and move the damn thing around the systems I jump into. As with any other ship, in SC. Another thing is cargo storage. So, for example, I can go mining for ages, keep the thing parked nearby and just load its cargo holds, then travel to wherever I want to sell the stuff and offload it (using support vessels?), perhaps at a wholesale price. Also, an ability of being able to customise the FCs in terms of their functionality and services, would be great.

Definitely worried about the special jumponium and upkeep cost, but I guess that's something that remains to be seen...
 
I do not suggest anything, the fact that carriers will have some sort of upkeep was confirmed by FDev. I just look at different ways it can be implemented, and I do believe that a credit-only upkeep is much better than a material/cargo one. Personally I would like to not have an upkeep at all.
The only reference to consumption/upkeep was the "special" jump fuel. You will have to indicate the source of where you heard different, if you did that is.

The way I read Will's response is repairs, similar to what we have with our main ships. That being the case, I would expect it to be material/cargo based rather than credits due to the fact Explorers will need to be able to maintain them in the field - there may or may not be a credit option but I would not expect the "upkeep" to be time based.
 
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Personally, now that we can get them ourselves frontier will have to go out of their way to damage them as an out of bubble exploration hub.

Lets see if we dodge the bullet.
 
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