Making Small Ships More Viable

Haven't posted an idea for ages, but flying as a newbie CMDR again (thanks Epic!), reminded me why I have a love hate relationship with small ships.
Now admittedly, my newbie CMDR only had a D rated Viper that explodes if i sneeze too loud, but my main CMDR has several fully engineered small ships, but other than racing them around, I don't actually have a use for them, because they're still very very soft, and if equipped with weapons and defences, not all that fast.
I thought I'd be nice if we could make small ships more viable for things later in the game. They are the most fun to fly after all.

Disclaimer; I could be entirely wrong below. Going off memory. Lol

My first suggestion is SPEED!
Small ships often lack capacitor to boost as well often as say, the Krait MkII, and also have a longer cool down. They also lose a significant amount of speed when weighed down with weapons and defences.
So idea 1) Reduce the boost cool down to less than the Krait MkII. (Honestly, it could be shorter, but the capacitor doesn't recharge fast enough. And also, I don't remember. Lol)
2) Set the capacitor use for boosting to significantly less, to allow them to boost more often on one full charge. Engineering can help further, as always.
3) Reduce the mass of small modules, or have the thrusters less effected by mass increases, for both types of thruster.

This should allow small ships to maintain their only edge in combat, which is speed, and IMHO, small ships should be by far the fastest and most agile. No changes to defences are necessary, they're still made of paper. Lol

Next idea is a bit controversial, WEAPONS!
Small ship weapons really lack a decent punch to make combat against anything larger, viable and fun. (It's doable, but takes an age).
My suggestion is fairly simple, and is release some A Rated Class 1&2 weapons, which are essentially just the next class up, but miniaturised.
For balance, these can't be fitted to medium or large ships, otherwise they get an unintended buff. [Insert handwavium here]
Again, engineering can further improve these. Also, these A rated modules are VERY EXPENSIVE. Your small ship will no longer have a tiny rebuy. Lol

And there we go. Potentially viable, expensive, small ships. 🤷‍♂️

What do you think?
 
Yes, small ships are at a disadvantage in 1v1 combat against the shield/hull strength of bigger ships. A good way to compensate for that is to wing up. Four engineered vipers in a wing are a force to be reckoned with. Especially if one of them is a (reverberating cascade) torpedo boat.

I don't really understand your point about lack of speed in combat configuration. I have a fully engineered Viper mk3 that boosts to 582 m/s. It can destroy those Deadly Corvettes you get in Elite pirate assassination missions thanks to high speed and manoeuvrability.
 
Small pad only outposts would do more for small ships than anything else.
Surely it's more fun from a design perspective to promote small ships through things they can do well, not just by reducing pad size and forcing people to use them; if the game had some systemic incentive to do stuff like racing, or flying into installation tunnels or something that would help to promote them through mechanics rather than restrictions.

But the OP is right, the issue is slightly beyond them not having special stuff to do, they just generally perform poorly and scale poorly with engineering - particularly in armament/ammunition and distributor capacity. The FDL for example is slower but functionally more nimble in many situations, even than Vipers, because of its amazing acceleration under boost, short boost cooldown and relatively powerful distributor to feed it. Smalls are restricted not just by their available boost cap, but by boost cooldowns.

Their DPS which is already poor (with 2xS, 2xM as standard) is further hampered by the distributor size too, so not only do they have a low theoretical dps it's often lower in practice because they can't run things for long. To make matters worse, this low damage output is thrown into even sharper relief by their insane potential healthpools. It used to be a bit better pre-2.1-to-3.1 health bloat but now NPC Viper 4s in CZs can have up to 2500 hull points and if you observe two fighting one another they're in a ridiculous situation of being unable to even break the other's biweaves... their guns and distributor often aren't even good enough to engage other ships of their size, which is tragic.

Edit: for clarity, I dig small ships, I have 3x fully modded Vipers, 2x Couriers and 2x DBSes - so I know it is possible to enjoy yourself with them even in the currently unfavourable ecosystem, but I think there's an important difference between 'squeezing fun out of a sandbox despite its mechanics' and 'revelling in the fun because of them'.

Further Edit: I guess I will also acknowledge that maybe Frontier are OK with ships being more or less a linear progression, that is to say they get universally better if you spend more money on them, rather than just opening up different avenues of play. From their perspective maybe there's nothing wrong with smalls being rubbish and we might have to accept that. A lot of the design you can see in Elite suggests this is the case. Personally I think player retention through carrots on increasingly long sticks is a shortsighted and regressive approach to game design but it is their game so vOv.
 
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A small should not be able to compete with a medium in combat providing they both have proper combat builds and are being flown by pilots of similar skill. Small ships are already awesome by the way, my exploration outfit Cobra 3 with frags and a size 4A shield can still boost to 623, and can boost often enough to stay over 600. It can do \at least some damage and run away from most mediums and run away from all large combat fit ships.
 
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A small should not be able to compete with a medium in combat providing they both have proper combat builds and are being flown by pilots of similar skill. Small ships are already awesome by the way, my exploration outfit Cobra 3 with frags and a size 4A shield can still boost to 623, and can boost often enough to stay over 600. It can do \at least some damage and run away from most mediums and run away from all large combat fit ships.
Not sure who you're replying to but I didn't say all smalls should be able to go 1v1 with a medium, nor that you can't have fun in small ships as they stand (specifically said the opposite), but that it'd be good if they had a systemic place in the game beyond being a newbiewagon and the whimsy vehicles of bored veterans. I feel like your post missed the point a little.
 
I love flying combat in a small ship. Npc's only thank you.
I eagle is my fave, start on small ships and work my way up the food chain until I'm destroyed.
 
They don't need to be faster, you can already get many of them into the 600s and beyond. That's not the issue with them.
If you strip them down to nubs yeah.

And by faster, I also meant more maneuverable.

Might be nice if they could somehow... I dunno, fit more torps too.
 
A small should not be able to compete with a medium in combat providing they both have proper combat builds and are being flown by pilots of similar skill. Small ships are already awesome by the way, my exploration outfit Cobra 3 with frags and a size 4A shield can still boost to 623, and can boost often enough to stay over 600. It can do \at least some damage and run away from most mediums and run away from all large combat fit ships.
Except the Clipper and Orca, they both outperform and outrun every small pad ship that isn't stripped down and equipped with enhanced performance thrusters.

They don't have to make any outfitting sacrifices either, my ExplOrca does 576 with D-rated dirty drag drives, or if I switch to an A-rated set I lose 2ly but boost to 642 m/s. Same with my... privateer... Clipper.

Small pad ships have no redeeming qualities other than reduced rebuy and fun factor when compared to any medium ships or the smaller large ones.

Giving them the perma-boost capabilities of the Krait MkII would go a long way to improving them, as would either a small buff to their max speeds (good) or a nerf to the speed of mediums (less good).
 
Not sure who you're replying to but I didn't say all smalls should be able to go 1v1 with a medium, nor that you can't have fun in small ships as they stand (specifically said the opposite), but that it'd be good if they had a systemic place in the game beyond being a newbiewagon and the whimsy vehicles of bored veterans. I feel like your post missed the point a little.
They are good enough already was my point. There are plenty of reasons to keep using them after one has other bigger ships aside from just being more fun than most medium or large ships. They are fit better for certain tasks. I still use a Vulture to cull Thargoid Scouts, I still use a DBX for exploring, especially guardian sites, I still use a Cobra III for miscellaneous tasks, like data/mat gathering, light exploration, prospecting, scouting/interdiction in a pirate wing, and surface scan/assault missions. They really don't become useless once you reach mid or even late game. Yeah, competitive PvP is sort of out of their reach. Even a PvP outfit Vulture is unlikely to win against a PvP outfit FDL/Krait II given skill level of pilots is similar. Adding missions or locations that force one to use a Medium ship is already annoying. Artificially forcing the use of a small ship by removing medium pads from some planetary base or outpost would really be problematic for a lot of players.
 
Except the Clipper and Orca, they both outperform and outrun every small pad ship that isn't stripped down and equipped with enhanced performance thrusters.

They don't have to make any outfitting sacrifices either, my ExplOrca does 576 with D-rated dirty drag drives, or if I switch to an A-rated set I lose 2ly but boost to 642 m/s. Same with my... privateer... Clipper.

Small pad ships have no redeeming qualities other than reduced rebuy and fun factor when compared to any medium ships or the smaller large ones.

Giving them the perma-boost capabilities of the Krait MkII would go a long way to improving them, as would either a small buff to their max speeds (good) or a nerf to the speed of mediums (less good).
My fully engineered combat outfit Clipper tops out at just over 600, so still slower.
I have never tried an Orca but according to Coriolis it does edge out my Mark III by about 8 m/s when combat outfit with a respectable 29Ly jump range to boot. So I stand corrected. I may look into giving one a try. Can it boost often enough to stay above 600?
I still see no issue with the small ships, but I would not cry if they made them a little faster or more maneuverable. I just don't want to see medium pads disappear anywhere to try and force their use.
 
I started a new commander as well - and actually I surprised how good is the Sidewinder!

Sure it requires A mosules and engineering but it flies very good and I decided not to upgrade to any other ships.

Right now (after 2 days of casual playing) I'm outside of the starting area with ~5 mil credits grinding for materials for engineers. My top build I made in coriolis is only requires ~3 mil cr total but 5-grade engineering…

I also found that smaller ships have much more viable fits options than traditional bigger ships. So if you try to blindly fit a sidewinder based on the same principles of how you fit a Corvette - it would be a useless piece of rust. But if you try to find some new unexpected options - it may work pretty well.
 
As usual when this kind of thread starts up there's an awful lot of "I like this" and "I find that" without much objective analysis of the design, which sort of stunts where the conversation can go. If you personally enjoy flying small ships... fair enough, so do I. Great chat!

The tasks you're listing as better in small ships aren't better in small ships, just achievable in them, which isn't the same. The vulture isn't faster or better at killing scouts than the competition for example. It being fun to fly or working after a fashion isn't the question.

Artificially forcing the use of a small ship by removing medium pads from some planetary base or outpost would really be problematic for a lot of players.
We can agree on this though, as I said in my original post locking down pad sizes would be a clumsy and uninteresting way of trying to make smalls useful for the explicit mechanical goals Elite presents.
 
My angle on small ships in combat is giving rewards for reconnaissance - e.g. for getting a scan on a high bounty ganker ship that attacks you, before escaping. Detailed, with anti-exploitation, in a C&P thread I recently put up. Basically promotes cat and mouse asymmetric PvP encounters.
 
My fully engineered combat outfit Clipper tops out at just over 600, so still slower.
I have never tried an Orca but according to Coriolis it does edge out my Mark III by about 8 m/s when combat outfit with a respectable 29Ly jump range to boot. So I stand corrected. I may look into giving one a try. Can it boost often enough to stay above 600?
My combat Orca boosts to 640 and can maintain about 625, with the added bonus of the fasten seatbelt ding with every boost.

The Orca is also the single safest ship when it comes to dealing with other players.
It can't be masslocked by anything short of a Krait or Python, meaning FDLs, Federal and Alliance trios, as well as the rare Clipper can't do a thing to you, if you don't want them to.
I still see no issue with the small ships, but I would not cry if they made them a little faster or more maneuverable. I just don't want to see medium pads disappear anywhere to try and force their use.
I've never been a fan of the whole "you must use this certain ___ for this mission/encounter" in sandbox games.
It's why I have basically ignored everything regarding AX combat, other than the weapons. I didn't know they have a 50% damage penalty against human ships at the time though.

The only issue I have with small ships isn't actually an issue with the small ships.

Most medium ships don't feel like they're medium ships, they're just too simular when it comes to speed and maneuverability, yet are simultaneously capable of shrugging off and dishing out damage several times that of the small ones.

That may stem from large ships being deceptively maneuverable though.
Whenever I read a post saying "large ships are slow and cumbersome", or along those lines, I can't help but feel they always fly them 4-0-2 and forget that boost exists. I have no problems keeping whatever I'm shooting at in front of me, for the few seconds to a minute that it takes.
 
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