Frontier made Carriers cheaper, now lets make them useful

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As any opinion piece, I believe this post should start with some background on who I am and what part of community I represent. At the moment, I am an Overseer (admin) of Anti-Xeno Initiative - a group of players dedicated to protecting humanity from thargoid threat, and generally focused on AX (Anti-Xeno) combat aspect of the game. Our discord server is home to about 6000 people and we have a ~425-strong squadron on PC. I have bought the game in September of 2015 and have over 3500 hours of game time. I sit at roughly 12 billion in total assets, am triple-elite (not CQC, rest in pieces) and have unlocked everything possible in the game, except for some useless permits. I even took time to grind to max ranks in both federation and empire, for some now-forgotten reason. From all that, I believe I am the target audience for Fleet Carriers, and it is very sad that I feel no desire to buy one in its current form.

All that bragging out of the way, and with my biases hopefully clear, lets discuss Fleet Carriers, as seen during the beta 1 and assuming changes announced during beta will actually make it to live. There are already quite a lot (but definitely not enough) of posts ripping apart the current version, so I will instead focus on the underlying problems and propose the simplest solutions I can think of.

"Blaze your own trail" and inequality at the top
Frontier balancing is legendarily bad across the board, especially when it comes to risk/effort vs reward. Consider for a second, that the second safest and easiest to do activity in the game - mapped mining - is by far the best paying one. Exploration is even easier and safer, but it is, unsurprisingly, the least paying career in terms of credits per hour. Everything else is roughly equal pay-wise, with some being more equal than others, but they entail drastically different risks, initial investments and running costs. For example, setting up an optimal trading ship takes far less credits and requires significantly less engineering than getting a proper combat build. It also requires zero running expenses, while combat player has to pay for inevitable repairs, ammo and an occasional rebuy. It is true that NPC pirates will come after traders, but escaping NPC interdictions is so trivial for any halfway-experienced player that nobody views pirates as any sort of risk.

Ironically, this is the exact problem David Braben wanted to avoid during development. Five years later, and Frontier continues to fail miserably at it. They also continue to call carriers "an investment" while also claiming that "they will not pay for themselves". From this we could infer that carriers are intended to be an enabler that will allow players to earn cash at previously-impossible levels. Alternatively, a carrier can serve as a convenience feature, that will allow players to do what they already do, but with less hassle. In both cases, the value a carrier offers to a player must be worth the initial cost and the upkeep, otherwise no reasonable player would bother to maintain one.

Credit to Mr_Derpy11 for the image, source is here.

Now lets take a look at how a carrier can fit into each career/play-style, both officially marketed by Frontier and not. The points will be highlighted and color-coded, green for upsides/bonuses carriers offer and red for problems they have in regards to the respective career.

Mining
+Park the carrier in a system with no shipyard stations (or no stations at all) to have quick access to equipment close to the ring.
+Store LTDs on the carrier to wait for better prices and/or take advantage of low-demand systems.
+Jump range allows to go to the best-price system wherever it is.
+Mine for tritium in the same rings as LTDs.
+LTDs can realistically be sold to other players.


Exploration
+500Ly jump range opens up previously-inaccessible systems to explore.
+Improved fuel efficiency and jump times make carriers only ~2 times slower than a typical exploration ship.
+Universal Cartographics will provide means to sustain the carrier indefinitely in the black.
+UC on carriers provides actual convenience when out in the black, so people may choose to use it, helping fund the carrier.

-UC takes 12.5% cut from the data, and another 12.5% goes to the carrier. For non-owners, this is essentially a 25% cut, and there is no way to change that.
-Players that intend to go beyond colonia will be forced into hundreds of hours of mining to fuel their carrier.


Trading
+Store cargo to move large quantities at once.
+Ability to move, store and swap ships/modules in the field.
+Commodity market is included by default, so owner can use a stock carrier to minimize expenses.

-Only select few commodities can realistically be bought from/sold to players, because there is no demand for the rest.
-There aren't many trade routes (possibly none) that can provide enough profit margin to justify using a carrier.
-You still need to haul goods to and from carrier yourself, which is a problem for the quantities that carrier needs to carry to be viable.
-If route is short enough, it is massively more profitable to just fly it manually.


Smuggling
+Store cargo to move large quantities at once.
-There aren't many trade routes (possibly none) that can provide enough margin to justify using a carrier.
-You still need to haul goods to and from carrier yourself, which is a problem for the quantities that carrier needs to carry to be viable.
-If route is short enough, it is massively more profitable to just fly it manually.
-System Security ships fly around the carrier and can easily scan you all the way to/from the pad.


Piracy
+Store cargo to move large quantities at once.
+Large-pad station with Repair/Refuel/Rearm anywhere.
+Ability to move, store and swap ships/modules in the field.

-You still need to haul goods to and from carrier yourself, which is a problem for the quantities that carrier needs to carry to be viable.
-System Security ships fly around the carrier and can easily scan you all the way to/from the pad.


Passengers
-Zero support for this career. You cant equip a carrier with cabins to house passengers.
-It will never be viable to use a carrier to move your own ship while carrying passengers.


Bounty Hunting
+Large-pad station with Repair/Refuel/Rearm anywhere.
+Ability to move, store and swap ships/modules in the field.

-Redemption Office takes 12.5% cut from the bounties/bonds, and another 12.5% goes to the carrier. For non-owners, this is essentially a 25% cut, and there is no way to change that.

Thargoid Hunting
+Large-pad station with Repair/Refuel/Rearm anywhere.
+Ability to move, store and swap ships/modules in the field.

-Redemption Office takes 12.5% cut from the bounties/bonds, and another 12.5% goes to the carrier. For non-owners, this is essentially a 25% cut, and there is no way to change that.
-Thargoids give Pilot's Federation bonds, which can be cashed in for full value anywhere in the galaxy, except at the carrier, so are zero reasons to do it there.
-No ability to stock and sell Guardian modules, which are essential for AX combat.


PowerPlay
-No PP-specific functionality beyond what is already available to other careers.
-You cant store PP commodities on your carrier, although an organized group of people can still move a significant amount using docked cargo ships. I don't do PP, so I am not really sure if its a good or a bad thing.


BGS
-No BGS-specific functionality beyond what is already available to other careers.
-Transactions happening at a carrier (purchases, bounty turn-ins, etc) will not affect systems BGS.
-A malicious commander can use their carrier as an easy base to farm system security ships and crash the controlling faction's influence through the floor, while remaining completely unreachable.


PvP
+Large-pad station with Repair/Refuel/Rearm anywhere.
+Ability to move, store and swap ships/modules in the field.

-PvP does not earn you money, so the owner will have to do something else to cover the carrier upkeep.

Search and Rescue
-Zero support for this career. No ability to turn in anything at your carrier.
-It will never be viable to use a carrier to move S&R-related items.


As you can see, only miners seem to have everything they need to do their job, while also paying the lowest upkeep and not losing any profits. Explorers are second, now that UC can be fitted on a carrier, but they still lose 25% of profit for no reason. For the rest, carriers range from dubious value to nothing more than a mobile refuel/repair/restock platform. I believe there are several important things that need to be changed or added to make carriers actually useful and convenient for all professions, and make them a goal people will work towards.



Essential Changes
These are essential to bring carriers to what one may consider "good" and allow all types of players to engage in their preferred play-style utilizing carriers.

#Remove Commodity Market from the core services, and make it optional. If there is a service that can be argued to have a reason to be core to a Fleet Carrier - it is the Shipyard, and not the Commodity Market. Its core status is a massive favoritism towards traders/miners, and a big middle finger to the rest of the player-base, especially the Pirates. How come that a trader or miner can reasonably take a stock carrier and not feel any need to buy anything else to perform their chosen role, while literally everyone else have to pay more upfront and then shoulder significantly higher upkeep costs? Not everyone will be using the market (especially the way it is implemented now), and so they should not be forced to pay for it. This becomes even more hilarious when you remember that mining and trading are respectively top 1 and 2 careers in terms of pay, significantly above everything else, and for some reason they have the lowest upkeep costs for their carriers. Here's a simple solution - make market optional and drop the base upkeep another 2-3 million to compensate (or don't, traders can easily pay for it).

#Give us proper permission management system. Currently we have only two settings - who can dock, and a special screw-you to PvP players, because lets be real, only they ever have notoriety. This is not nearly enough control that we need to make carriers actually useful for player groups. We need to be able to set up several categories of people with different access permissions. These categories should include at least the following:
1) a list of specific trusted people (ideally multiple lists with separate permissions)
2) friends
3) squadron
4) everyone else

For each category we should be able to set permissions (dis)allowing them to do something. The list of permissions must include at least the following:
1) docking
2) cargo deposit to carrier inventory (with limits, weekly or otherwise)
3) cargo withdrawal from carrier inventory (with limits, weekly or otherwise)
4) credit deposit (we can leave credit withdrawal out, as we know how FDev is afraid of credit transfer, although it would be very useful to have)
5) jump scheduling
6) market management (setting things up for buy/sell)
7) stock management (for ships and modules sold)
8) tariff management (can be tied into other permissions depending on implementation)

This will allow players to effectively co-manage carriers and make use of them without being hamstrung by awkward mechanics, or having to micro-manage everything all the time. We pay millions a week to NPCs that currently force us to do everything ourselves. If a player belongs to several categories, the higher one takes priority for determining permissions.

If the above is too hard for Frontier to implement, we at least need to have two things:
1) A service that will allow people to store and withdraw cargo from a dedicated part of the carrier's inventory without having to go through the market. Owner should be able to set the size of that inventory and move cargo between it and the normal storage.
2) An option to assign several people as co-managers, with almost full access to carrier's settings (no decommissioning and livery, obviously).

If event that is too much, at least let us set any price for the commodities at the market, including zero credits. This will allow people to set up transfers without worrying about prices.

#Change how upkeep and decommissioning works. Current decommission system is nothing but a punishment to dedicated players that do not exploit the latest gold-rush and just play the game for fun. We live at an interesting time, so things can happen at any moment that may prevent someone from being able to play the game. Imagine a following situation - you played the game for years, got your 5billion credits and decide to get a carrier for your group of friends. Then you go to deployment, or get hospitalized, or something else, and are unable to play the game for extended period of time. Your friends have very limited options to help you pay upkeep, as they cant donate credits, and maybe you didn't even set a tariff on your carrier (because why would you, its for friends). You cant give your account details to someone else, because it is a Terms Of Service violation. You cannot even set a perpetual buy/sell order for your friends to dump credits into the carrier, because you need to manually reset it every time it is completed (more on that below). So now you and your friends just have to sit there and watch as years of "investment" run themselves into dept and get taken away, with you only getting about 30% of it back. Good job Frontier, I am looking towards the first "I lost my carrier" reddit post and how many angry comments it will get.

But seriously, there are at least 3 other ways to do this and solve the potential carrier overpopulation that some people fear:
  1. If you intend to keep passive upkeep, at least let people co-manage carriers (details above) so there is a much smaller chance of everyone being unable to play.
  2. Change to active upkeep. Instead of constantly paying for services that no-one potentially uses, owner can instead only pay for when the carrier is in use. For example - if no-one docks at a carrier that week, it has zero upkeep, and it scales up to the current levels with more and more people docking. Perhaps it can be done on a per-service basis as well, so you don't pay for things that go unused.
  3. Change to mothball system. Instead of the carrier being scrapped when the debt limit is reached, it is instead moved to the nearby service system where it sits in dry dock, invisible and inaccessible to everyone until the debt it paid. Owner can still opt to initiate the decommissioning procedure to pay for the dept and get some of the credits back.
  4. Mothball system with activity check. This is for those that fear carriers clogging all the important systems. Basically combine the options 2 and 3 - check if someone is using the carrier, and if nobody does for a period of time (a month or so) - mothball it and stop upkeep.

#Remove 25% cut from Universal Carographics and Redemption Office and allow for custom tariffs for them. Every owner will have to pay upkeep for their chosen loadout, but do miners magically lose 25% of their LTD profits if they use a carrier? Does a carrier charge 25% for storing trading commodities? No? Why should it take 25% from exploration data, bounties and bonds then? The owner already pays upkeep for the service, why do those greedy NPCs take hard-earned profits from people? Do I need to remind the audience that owner already pays upkeep for the service? At 0% tariff the user should get full credits, and owner should be able to set a tariff that determines how big of a cut they get, same as any other service. There should be no lost cash, because owner already loses cash every week from upkeep.

And yes, I know that its actually "only" a loss of 12.5% because 12.5% goes to the carrier, but for any external user it is effectively a 25% cut. Explorers and all combat careers are at the bottom of the profit/hour ladder, so why does FDev feel the need to take away 25% of their earnings? Do you realize that it will make carriers so unappealing for those players that basically no-one will be using them? For Interstellar Factors the cut makes sense, because it provides convenience (however small) and nobody pays for it, so the user has to. It also may make some sense for UC out in the black, because it can be argued to provide a service where none otherwise exists. But, (and its a big but) numerous deep-space megaships, including the famous Gnosis, already have UC on board, which does not take any cuts. Why would an explorer, that jumped a thousand times already, be willing to lose 25% of their already unimpressive pay, instead of just plotting a course to the nearest megaship and getting 100%?

All the current system does is take away owner's agency in their own "investment", and make it completely unappealing to users as well. Problem with RO is basically the same - if a player gets bonds/bounties in a system, they can almost always immediately go to that system's station and redeem them for their full value. There isn't even a convenience reason to do it at a carrier, unless a player is so lazy as to not be willing to fly couple minutes in supercruise. Some bounties/bonds are also global, and can be cashed in for their full value literally anywhere in the galaxy, except at a carrier. One can defend a system from thargoids in Witch Head, then go to goddamn Colonia and still get 100% of their credits, but for some insane reason they will get less at a carrier. Even their own. You also get reputation with and give influence to controlling faction by turning bonds/bounties to them, while you get nothing at a carrier.

If Frontier intends to keep this oppressive system, we at least need to make more fair - make credit loss percentage scale with the distance. For UC it should scale with the distance to the nearest populated system, and for RO, the loss for each bond/bounty should scale with distance to a system where it was gained. Pilot's Federation bonds should not have any loss, because they are global. And regardless of anything, we need to have full control over the tariff.

#Allow owner to set tariffs on at least per-service basis. Current singular tariff slider is so hilarious for anyone who played any management games, that I hope Frontier just did not have the time to implement a proper system. But just in case, let me state it clearly - WE NEED MORE OPTIONS. At the bare minimum each service should have its own tariff slider. Yes, that includes Universal Cartographics and Redemption Office. If people are willing to support the owner more (or less), they should be able to. If owner wants to let people use it for free, they should be able to, since they pay for it.

The singular slider basically destroys any agency an owner has in setting up the financial aspect of their carrier, because they end up being locked into two extremes - set tariff low to attract people, and be able to sell ships and modules (although who in their right mind would buy those from a carrier when Jameson exists?), but make basically no money from it, or set it high and abandon any hopes of selling ships/modules. It is interesting that market is not affected by tariffs, therefore providing (almost) full control over prices, but everything else is. This is extremely unfair to all other careers. There is also no reason to lock the tariff for any service to some arbitrary value, instead of letting the community decide what is right. You can make it so the tariff percentage for each service is displayed on the respective service button in the UI (there already is a tariff marker displayed there, but it gives no useful information).

#Change how shipyard and outfitting works. Current "bundle" or "package" system is probably the worst design idea I have ever seen making it to any game, even in beta. I don't know any civilized words that can describe the sheer amount of shock and facepalming the community went through during the reveal stream. To think that developers would put in effort to create a system that specifically limits what a player can do, when a free-form solution would work infinitely better, makes me lose hope in any future product the company may release, because it shows absolute and fundamental lack of understanding of what players want from a any game - control. Frontier have been dabbling in management games over the years, and I must admit, I have not played any of them (because the themes do not appeal to me in the slightest), but I have played other strategy and management/simulation games since childhood, including the cult classic that is Dwarf Fortress. In any of those games, level of control you can enforce over the simulation is core to what those games are. Carriers are essentially a management minigame in the box-of-toys that is Elite, which makes it so much more baffling that Frontier goes out of their way to limit what an owner of one can control. This applies not only to the the outfitting/shipyard, but also to every other aspect of fleet carriers.

Rants aside, there is a dead-simple solution to this - let us chose exactly what ships and modules to stock. Literally nobody is interested in paying for a bunch of garbage they don't need, nor can realistically sell, to get things they actually want to sell. Best example of the current system's issues is the "Cargo Advanced" bundle, which includes a total of 12 ships spread between T6, T7 and T9. Anyone who played the game for long enough, knows that of those only T9 is a good ship, and can realistically be bought by players. But in reality you get 3 T9s, 4 T7s and 5 T6s, which all together take 10 135 units of storage space, which is 40.54% of the maximum capacity of a carrier. You cannot stock more than 3 T9s at a time, nor can you ditch the other ships to save on space.

About 7 months ago, in a forum post I stated what seemed to be obvious:
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?
This was in response to the old carrier loadout system, and it seems Frontier realized their mistake, only to step on the same rake again immediately after. Bundles have no place in any part of the game, and especially in one that is all about management and control. Frontier can even leave the interface basically unchanged:
  • For ships, combine bundles by manufacturer, and let people choose how many of each ship to stock, up to the carrier's capacity limit. You already have assigned a "weight" to each ship in the bundle, so just let us decide for ourselves. You don't even use Tiers for ships anyway, so just get rid of it there to save some UI space.
  • For modules, redesign bundles to make more sense ("Defensive Enhancements" includes Life Support, u wot m8?), replace Tiers with Ratings (from E to A), and let people choose how many of each size within that Rating to stock, up to the carrier's capacity limit. You already have assigned a "weight" to each module in the bundle, so just let us decide for ourselves. This would necessitate owners being able to have several Tiers/Ratings of each "package" stocked at once, unlike the current system which only allows one Tier to be stocked.
#Give carriers bulk discounts on ships and modules. Second big problem with current outfitting and shipyard services is the price. In an age where Trade Elite is only ~5 hours of mining away, basically everyone has access to Jameson Memorial and it's 10% (+2.5% from Elite) discount. It stands to reason then, that if carriers cannot sell things below base price, nobody will be willing to buy anything from them, especially with a tariff on top. Current system also makes zero sense economically, as resellers never buy products at the same price they sell them. A Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), or Recommended Retail Price (RRP) is the price that most stores will sell a certain thing for, but it includes a profit margin for the reseller, which buy that thing at bulk prices, which are sometimes very different from what a customer sees on the price tag. Customers also usually have a choice and can shop around for better prices, and MSRP serves as a base standard for the price that very few resellers will go below.

So have a situation where owners have to buy modules and ships for MSRP, and then somehow turn a profit on them, while there is an infinite supply (Jameson cant run out) of products sold below MSRP that are otherwise identical in quality. Do you really expect anyone to waste their hard-earned credits buying from carriers, when a cheaper option is only couple jumps away? How about a 5% discount for each 5 units of a certain ship stocked, up to a maximum of 20% off? For modules it may be a bit slower - 5% per 20 units, up to the same 20%? And before someone begins crying "its too big of a discount" - there are already stations selling ships and modules even cheaper. For example, Attilius Orbital sells Sidewinder, Eagle, Viper3, Cobra3, Diamondback Scout, Diamondback Explorer, Vulture and Fer-de-Lance at 20% off (before Elite discount) and Pulse Laser, Burst Laser, Beam Laser, Cannon, Multi-cannon, Railgun, Chaff Launcher and Heatsink Launcher are all available at a 30% off there. Sure, attaining CQC Prestige is not easy (mainly because nobody plays it), but it is not harder than grinding you way to Combat Elite. Most carrier owners would also like to earn some cash from sales, so it will create a dynamic market with ever-changing prices on things players actually care about - a true "player economy".

#Let carriers sell unlockable ships and modules. There is simply no good reason for them not to. If owner has them unlocked, they should be able to stock them, and if the buyer has them unlocked, they should be able to buy them. Limiting carrier's ship and module choice destroys their value, and makes shipyard/outfitting basically useless for many professions, like Thargoid hunting, because guardian modules are mandatory for it.


Quality of Life Changes
These will significantly improve carrier usability for most players and allow for more gameplay opportunities.

#Allow to schedule multiple jumps in a row. We can plot very long routes for our ships, but carriers are not capable of jumping more than once at a time, and we cant even schedule the next jump before the cooldown ends. There is simply no reason for this to be the case and I expect Frontier to fix this in the second beta. It makes long-distance travel infuriating, instead of being able to plot a route, log out, and come back the next day to being where you want to be.

#Automatically take Tritium from cargo if tank does not have enough. Currently you can stuff your carrier's hold full of tritium, but you will have to manually move it from storage to the tank every time it gets empty, which you can only do if you are on-board. Even with increased fuel efficiency it still means that a carrier can only travel ~2000Ly without its babysitter or some random benevolent strangers. Apparently the crew cant even be told to take the fuel from one room and shove it into the FSD. What do we pay them for again? Obviously they shouldn't use the tritium that is allocated for sell or similar, but any other fuel should be fair game. Alternatively, at least us allocate additional fuel tank capacity so we can put all that additional tritium to use.

#Swap the jump windup and cooldown times. Current windup time is 15 minutes and cooldown is 5 minutes. To me this seems quite backwards, as the biggest complaint about the jump timers was due to the owner being unable to really do anything during it, and be forced to essentially plan their fun long in advance. Now the situation is better, but 15 minutes creates a new problem - it is just short enough to not be able to do anything during it, and just long enough for the wait to become annoying. We understand that Frontier doesn't want to make travel by carrier faster than by conventional ship, but even if the windup is set at 5 minutes, once the cooldown kicks in, ships become faster again. It creates an interesting dynamic, with carriers being faster up to 500Ly, and ships being faster beyond that. With the current total jump period of 20 minutes, carriers are ~2 times slower than proper taxi/exploration builds. Swapping the times will not affect the total period, but will significantly reduce annoyance and increase usability of carriers for many people.

#Allow for custom jump delay and give owners and visitors control over jumping with a carrier. Some people have expressed concern about people not having enough time to take off before the jump if the windup is too short. But there are better ways to handle it. First, give owners an options to set up a custom jump delay (up to 60 minutes or more), or if that is not an option, give visitors an option to choose if they will travel with the carrier or remain where they are. A simple "Jump with carrier" checkbox in the UI will work wonders to alleviate this issue. If the visitor chooses to stay behind, they are forcibly undocked when the carrier goes into the lockdown phase, instead of being brought down into the hangar.

#Allow the Commodity Market to sell and buy something at the same time, and maintain a certain level of stock. Current market implementation is perhaps the most thought-out of all the other services, but it still leaves much to be desired. One of the biggest omissions that became immediately obvious during beta is a total inability to both buy and sell one commodity at the same time. This is a crucial feature needed to make the market not a complete micro-management nightmare. If someone trades in some commodity, it makes sense to set up your market to buy low and sell high. Currently you can only do one, or another, not both. There is not good reason for that and I hope it changes. It can work with minimal changes to the current UI - the owner allocates the storage space for the order, setting up the minimum and the maximum number of items. The carrier then automatically stops buying when the stock reaches the maximum, and stops selling when it reaches the minimum.

#Allow for manual entry of values in carrier UI. Over the last couple of years, all the new menus Frontier added do not support manual entry of numbers, which is honestly ridiculous. All consoles have a virtual keyboard system which console players already utilize when using the galaxy map for example. Why cant we have that same functionality for all of the places where we have to enter numbers?

#Allow for negative tariffs. Frontier said several times that they see carrier users as "mercenaries" that do jobs for carrier owners, but currently it is nowhere near reality. Anything a carrier can provide, can be found elsewhere for the same or even cheaper price. The only reason to use a carrier now might be convenience, and even then, everyone would have to weigh the tariff versus just jumping a couple of times. Current carriers are basically a charity, begging for money from passers-by, in hopes that someone will be willing to lose money just to help another.

There is another way however. A negative tariff (0 to -100%) will essentially serve as a discount and give credits to the user, reducing the cost of a service or giving people a bonus for doing things the owner wants. Free Fuelrat fuel station? Now possible. Giving people more money for hunting pirates in your faction system? Possible. Discounts on restock/repair costs for the squadron? Easy. Obviously the extra credits will come from the carrier balance, and some services would have to have different limits on the tariffs (FDev will not allow us to sell free ships or modules for example), but this feature alone would enable so many owner-user interactions that are just not possible at the moment.

#Allow carriers to enter Permit-locked systems. There is only one reason for this to not be the case right now - Frontier was unable or unwilling to implement a system to forcibly undock people when a carrier jumps. If it is implemented (details above) there is no reasons for carriers to be barred from entering the permit-locked systems, as people without a permit can just be left at the origin system. As it stands, it cuts off many gameplay options and potential business opportunities for players. Imagine selling the cargo required to unlock an engineer right above their base. Currently you cant, because a good half of them are permit systems.

#Give owners more control over destination and allow in-system jumps. Currently we can only set a carrier to orbit a planetary body or a star. If we set it to orbit anything else, the jump goes through, but we are dumped at the back end of the system, which I suspect to be a bug. That said, many professions would benefit from being able to more precisely set up the destination of the carrier. A trader can orbit a station to minimize the travel time, like rescue megaships already do with damaged stations, and miners can park next to a hotspot and not have to fly to the other side of a gas giant all the time. Currently we also are not able to perform in-system jumps to relocate a carrier, which is a massive oversight. It forces the carrier to jump twice and expend a lot more fuel where one small jump would have been much more reasonable.



Dreaming big
These changes would be very much welcome, but I unfortunately don't believe Frontier will be willing to implement them, regardless of how cool they are.

#Add Material Traders and Tech Brokers as carrier services. This is self-explanatory and would add to carrier's utility.

#Add carrier Mission Board. Imagine being able to offer people missions of the type you want and pay them for doing things you want? I don't think I need to explain how awesome that would be.

#Allow squadrons to also own carriers. This is how carrier were originally pitched, and many believe that is how they should have stayed. Now that carriers have changed, we at least want an option for carriers to still be able to be linked to squadrons in some way, even if it just "donating" them after you buy one. Several years after their release squadrons are still an empty shell of a feature, which needs a lot of work to be good.

#Allow for sale of engineered modules. Imagine being able to sell things that other people would actually pay for, that you can "manufacture" yourself, and with prices dictated by actual supply and demand? Wouldn't that be great?

#Allow for sale of custom ship builds. The next step of the above. Built-to-order combat ships from the best experts in the galaxy? One-stop-shop for all your thargoid-hunting needs? Super-tuned racing ships? All yours for a price.


If you somehow managed to survive this novel of a post - thank you, and please leave a comment below.
 
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Well thought through comments and suggestions. I like the Christmassy colour scheme too.

nothing will make me like UC on carriers simply for how it will help ruin exploration even further.

but I do like the suggestions to decommission mechanics. Adding a bit more detail should make the final recommission a bit less jarring. Decommissioning is still a very valid mechanic, and those that voluntarily leave the game for extended periods should also be able to accept the consequences of that. Those who get forced away (sickness, broken gaming platforms, ...) will likely be able to get their carriers reinstated after a contact to FD support.

Cooldown time should definitely be longer than spin up time. I wonder if it is too short now, although it is definitely more convenient for those that like me only play for an hour every few days.


better and more detailed market mechanics are welcome as well.

for exploration, I think a materials storage would be a good addition. As would being able to replace some or all of the credits upkeep with a commodity upkeep (provisions) that could be gathered in the black. Then we could get rid of UC on the carriers again.

:D S
 
I feel like you’re the only one drawing attention to the 25% cut on exploration and combat earnings and I don’t understand why. It’s like everything else about FCs were so botched that this massive oversight managed to slip under the radar. People should not be accepting this. Why should we have to accept such a huge cut to our payments just because we aren’t turning it into a station? It’s literally just an inconvenience for the sake of being an inconvenience. I feel like carriers were just designed to be worse versions of stations, which makes no sense given the massive upfront costs and constant upkeep costs along with that.
 
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I wholeheartedly agree with everything described in RUB's post. One thing I would add to QoL is increasing the limit of stored modules for the carrier owner. The 120 slots limit is atrocious for any veteran player and carriers could increase it to at least 300. Right now as an AX player I have no reason to buy a carrier apart from saving a couple of minutes when travelling to Witch Head Nebula. We need better functionality.
 
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#Change how upkeep and decommissioning works. Current decommission system is nothing but a punishment to dedicated players that do not exploit the latest gold-rush and just play the game for fun. We live at an interesting time, so things can happen at any moment that may prevent someone from being able to play the game. Imagine a following situation - you played the game for years, got your 5billion credits and decide to get a carrier for your group of friends.
I disagree with that.
If your fun activity does not earn credits, you should take it to FD. Decommissioning is a different deal
And if you stop thinking that a carrier cost "only" 5b - actually 6bn with everything up and think that it actually cost 7.2bn, including 1 year of "subscription" then it should be easier to cover for future events.

As far as i'm concerned, decommission should stay and should be swifter than the current 10 weeks (or whatever it is)

Friends and Squadron can support the owner IF the owner puts some 1000t LTD for sale and set a stupid price - 10x galactic average (i've seen that going for more than 1 million in certain systems) could mean up to 10 millions for a ton. 1000t sold for 10 millons means 10bn credits. Not sure ED will last long enough for a carrier to use 10 bn of upkeep money

#Remove 25% cut from Universal Carographics and Redemption Office and allow for custom tariffs for them
I disagree with that too.
UC in the black is a huge advange for the owner and for the visitors. 25% lost for the convenience of having a nearby UC seems too less
And for the owner, the loss is only 12.5%
Same for Redemption Office.
 
Friends and Squadron can support the owner IF the owner puts some 1000t LTD for sale and set a stupid price - 10x galactic average (i've seen that going for more than 1 million in certain systems) could mean up to 10 millions for a ton. 1000t sold for 10 millons means 10bn credits. Not sure ED will last long enough for a carrier to use 10 bn of upkeep money



I disagree with that too.
UC in the black is a huge advange for the owner and for the visitors. 25% lost for the convenience of having a nearby UC seems too less
And for the owner, the loss is only 12.5%
Same for Redemption Office.
I could not disagree with you more on this. The major issue I have with the 25% cut in universal cartographics is that it’s a colossal pain to actually get your FC out in the black like that and on top of that you’re already paying that “subscription fee” as you put it. You’re already being inconvenienced by that, so why do you need this thing to eat even more of your money? It pretty much serves no purpose to explorers.
 
I feel like you’re the only one drawing attention to the 25% cut on exploration and combat earnings and I don’t understand why. It’s like everything else about FCs were so botched that this massive oversight managed to slip under the radar. People should not be accepting this. Why should we have to accept such a huge cut to our payments just because we aren’t turning it into a station? It’s literally just an inconvenience for the sake of being an inconvenience. I feel like carriers were just designed to be worse versions of stations, which makes no sense given the massive upfront costs and constant upkeep costs along with that.

Really? What's so hard to understand here. You already have 2 decisive advantages in relation to classic exploration data: You don't need to fly thousands of lightyears to finally cash them in and your data is safe, on deep space explorations much sooner than with the conventional method. And last not least name tagging of a new systems happens almost instantly (at least compared to the classic method). These 25% are - if anything - already way too low to compensate for that.

If that's your idea to compensate this "subscription fee" what the poster above has mentioned, then there's something fundamentally wrong with that but certainly not with the 25% cut.
 
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Really? What's so hard to understand here. You already have 2 decisive advantages in relation to classic exploration data: You don't need to fly thousands of lightyears to finally cash them in and your data is safe, on deep space explorations much sooner than with the conventional method. And last not least name tagging of a new systems happens almost instantly (at least compared to the classic method). These 25% are - if anything - already way too low to compensate for that.
Do you realize what a chore it is to actually get a carrier out that far? Tritium mining would slow down an exploration trip substantially and it can only jump 500 LYs at a time and then requires a 15 min cooldown. If you pull off getting your FC deep into the black, you earned those all those credits IMO. No reason to cut your earnings. Especially since exploration payouts are so mediocre to begin with.

And do you have any defense for the cut earnings on combat/bounty bonds? Because I’ll admit you can make an argument against the exploration ones (even if I disagree with it), but I don’t see any reason for the combat one to exist. Especially for AX bonds. Tbh this is the one I’m most upset about.
 
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Do you realize what a chore it is to actually get a carrier out that far? Tritium mining would slow down an exploration trip substantially and it can only jump 500 LYs at a time and then requires an hour cooldown. If you pull off getting your FC deep into the black, you earned those all those credits IMO. No reason to cut your earnings. Especially since exploration payouts are so mediocre to begin with.

I'm well aware that many commanders see them like that, as a huge and expensive money machine that has to be a profitable investment in the end. I just doubt that this was the original idea. They need to be worthwhile (for what has yet to be seen), and here I agree with the OP, but making them profitable is the wrong way IMO. That is, as always, the cheapest design with the least resistance. The game is already full of such crap. Please try to exchange 'profitable' with 'worthwhile' in your mind and think out of the box...

Please keep in mind, that fleet carriers could be a big chance of leading to interesting gameplay. Currently the game suffers from having no compelling reason to gather such enormous heaps of credits besides the fleet carriers themselves, you unavoidably end up where there's no reason anymore to play further cause money in itself is meaningless. At which point FD would have to bring the next bigger, even more expensive thing. That's just stupid game design that leads to gathering money for money's sake. That's not what I would call rich and compelling gameplay. You would push the insane grind machine into the future, with no end in sight. Just getting bigger and bigger and bigger with no other purpose than just that.
 
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OP above was made following this general list worked on over the last two days by various mentors and veterans on the Unofficial Elite Discord. FYI The average Player Game Time of the 10 or so people involved in the discussion is about 3000 Hours each so these are considered, discussed and fully thought out ideas from Veterans of the Community and Game. Many more ideas were brought up but these are the ones most requested and difficulty to code/implement was factored in, so there shouldn't be anything on here that is impossible or outrageous. Posted the full list here in case he missed anything, plus its bullet points so quicker to read through.

Further Modifications Suggested:

==GENERAL UPDATES==

- Bridge View

- Carries 5-10 Ships at a bare MINIMUM. Additional Storage can
be purchased.

- Check all GUIs for all fine Details like Confirmation Check Boxes.

- GUI Needs a restyle. Service Names per Station Names

- Long Distance Route Planning

- Automatic Fuel Transfer from Cargo to Tank

- Respawn option for Last Station or Fleet Carrier

- Jump Warm Up 5 Minutes, Cooldown 10 Minutes

- Tritium needs to be Common (66% Roids)

- Fix Ship Transfer vis Shipyard. Order ship then FC Jump causes
strange things to happen. (No Time or Cost Changes etc)

=================================================================================

==FINANCIAL UPDATES==

- 0 to 100% Tax/Discount on ALL Transactions which can be set
individually by the owner of the Carrier

- Carto, Bounties & Bonds should be paid at 100%, with the FC
Owner able to set a variable Tax or Bonus

- All Trade Tax/Discount/Bonus can be paid at +/- 0-100% with any
extra required Credits above Pilots Federation Bonus paid from
the FC Upkeep Account

- Allow Sale of Tech Broker, Power Play and Engineered Modules with
+/-100% Tax/Discount

- Add Materials Traders (All)

- Ship and Module Discounts for Bulk Purchase per where you purchase.
LYR, Shinrarta Dezra etc

- Allow Sale of Fully Engineered Ships to any Player as long as they have
the correct Permits or Past History in Power Play (Current or Past) with
+/-100% Tax/Discount

=================================================================================

==POSSIBLE ADDITIONS LATER==

- Make FCs generate Security/Pirate Attack Missions like Non-Dock Orbital
Installations when in systems that are Low Sec or under Pirate Attack State

- As above but makes CZs when in War/ Civil War State

- As above with Thargoid Attacks in Incursion States
 
This post is so good, it's almost single-handedly changed my view on Upkeep. Why should I pay upkeep to a crew/carrier that does so little for me? It's very sad that the state the Carriers will be in after Beta 2 is most likely how they will launch. Hopefully that's just me being pessimistic. It's insane how poorly thought out Carriers are for almost any activity that isn't mining, which is also one of the only activities that can earn and continually sustain a Carrier. It's almost like they're representative of the games meta as a whole, which has been massively skewed towards replacing any career progression with VOpal/Painite/LTD mining to reach the end of your careers progression in less than 12 hours of play.
 
I'm well aware that many commanders see them like that, as a huge and expensive money machine that has to be a profitable investment in the end. I just doubt that this was the original idea. They need to be worthwhile (for what has yet to be seen), and here I agree with the OP, but making them profitable is the wrong way IMO. That is, as always, the cheapest design with the least resistance. The game is already full of such crap. Please try to exchange 'profitable' with 'worthwhile' in your mind and think out of the box...

Please keep in mind, that fleet carriers could be a big chance of leading to interesting gameplay. Currently the game suffers from having no compelling reason to gather such enormous heaps of credits besides the fleet carriers themselves, you unavoidably end up where there's no reason anymore to play further cause money in itself is meaningless. At which point FD would have to bring the next bigger, even more expensive thing. That's just stupid game design that leads to gathering money for money's sake. That's not what I would call rich and compelling gameplay. You would push the insane grind machine into the future, with no end in sight. Just getting bigger and bigger and bigger with no other purpose than just that.
This I very much agree with. I find it interesting and also very saddening that the quote from David Braben keeps getting floated these days, yet the only way people seem to indicate how to make the game more fun for them is to make more and easier credits from whatever activity they are doing.

That may simply be because that credit making is the only persistent activity in the game. And the only danger is running out of them. Which is rather hard these days.

:D S
 
And because capitalism is so firmly anchored in our minds that we find it difficult to think differently. So far, the game is almost a perfect caricature of global turbo-capitalism, in which ultra-rich corporations absorb obscene amounts of resources that go far beyond what we actually need for a good life. It is telling that most people don't even question this nonsense anymore...
 
I posted a separate thread about it, but the fact that ships can be be bought for the carrier shipyard and take up huge amounts of carrier capacity is a massive missed trick compared to using that massive cargo bay for a new layer of trading using a similar mechanism of buying items that go in the hold and take up more than one ton of space.

Being able to improve a station's outfitting by shipping bulk shipments of, say, python components or mining equipment that are priced according to supply and demand would be great for PMF owners that want people to set up home in their station.
 
#Automatically take Tritium from cargo if tank does not have enough. Currently you can stuff your carrier's hold full of tritium, but you will have to manually move it from storage to the tank every time it gets empty, which you can only do if you are on-board. Even with increased fuel efficiency it still means that a carrier can only travel ~2000Ly without its babysitter or some random benevolent strangers. Apparently the crew cant even be told to take the fuel from one room and shove it into the FSD. What do we pay them for again? Obviously they shouldn't use the tritium that is allocated for sell or similar, but any other fuel should be fair game. Alternatively, at least us allocate additional fuel tank capacity so we can put all that additional tritium to use.
This is such a silly oversight too. I can picture the crew carting the containers into your ship only to turn about and cart them right back out the door towards the fuel tank. All they had to do was add a UI element to the fuel depot for the owner to transfer tritium from storage.
 
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