CCP is beginning a process of reviewing ship classes for rebalance via involving hand-picked focus groups of (allegedly) expert pilots. First cab off the ranks is T3 Destroyers. I'm not going to bother attending for two reasons - one, it's going to be at a crazy hour; two, it's not like I'll get invited.
However, going out on a limb here, I'll assume that a few people who will attend will read my blog in the mean time, and toward this end I will lay out my thoughts on what is good, bad, ugly and unbalanced in the realms of T3 Destroyers.
Firstly, we have to address price. This being pegged to the price of nanoribbons and sleeper salvage in some fashion, it's hard to definitively state that it is too cheap or not too cheap, as prices will be rising a bit in line with ribbon prices, etcetera. So if you peg a T3D hull to a T3 cruiser hull, it's about 1/3rd. Add in the cost of subsystems and the skill point risk of Strategic Cruisers and it's actually about 10%. peg it to an Assault Frigate, which the T3D's utterly obsolete, and it's only twice as expensive - 45M hull vs 23M hull.
I see some room to move them up a bit on this. Maybe 60M hull, so another 30% in material consumption.
I see the major issue with T3D's as being sig radius. They get a better reduction in sig radius than AF's in Defense mode - 33% vs 50% of MWD sig. Consider that the Confessor starts with a 40m sig and the Enyo with 37m. With MWD on, the Enyo jumps to 120, and a Defense mode Confessor jumps to 240m. The Confessor has more DPS, better resists, better rep power, more fitting latitude. Now, yes, it's a T3 ship and a better class of ship, and is in Defense mode...but there's nothing to recommend an AF to a T3D.
Sig radius balancing is probably needed irrespective of giving AF's a niche at all. For a start, T1 and T2 Destroyer sigs are too large and the class is too slow, so these need adjustment - a fact not lost on anyone who should be commenting in this focus group, but probably lost on those who will. So a comprehensive rebalance of T1, T2 and T3 destroyers is required, with the T1 and T2 getting lowered and T3's going up.
Base signature radius:
T1 = 62-72 ; T2 = 70-85 ; T3 = 50-77 (Prop mode) or 40 - 57 (defense).
It is pretty clear that sig radius is an important distinction in making small ships tank better via shedding applied DPS. This means that regardless of any other factor, a T1 destroyer will always be a more bloaty, weak target compared to a frigate, an AF, a T3D or in fact a T1 cruiser. A T3D can have cruiser EHP, cruiser-level active tank, and frigate level sig. In combination this can be somewhat ridiculous, eg, gate-camping Svipuls whose sig is so low with boosts that they can survive gate guns.
This needs consideration; T1 and especially T2 dessies can drop down base sig and/or T3 destroyers rise in sig (ex-Defense mode) to the same level. It's a bit much that their Prop mode sig is lower than both T1 and T2, and then when they go to Defense mode it gets even better.
Most efforts by Fozzie et al. at balancing T3D's have revolved around fiddling fitting capacity (including removing hardpoints and readjusting weapon bonuses around that). i have previously made the point repeatedly that at the small end of the ship spectrum, there's only integers to play with in terms of making a fit possible or not, which then restricts the real sphere of what you can and cannot do with fitting capacity. ie; add one powergrid to a pool of 27, it's a lot more impactful than adding 10 to 270.
This mostly addresses the problem of 10MN AB T3D's, but as above, sig radius is a major synergising factor here. 10MN AB works best when you can get your sig very low, your speed up (links, implants) and do decent DPS at the 10-15km range (heated webs). T3D's with 10MN's even without links and implants have excessively low sig for their size, which causes a lot of problems for cruisers; even medium drones struggle to do damage to sig 30m, 700m/s targets. Forget about it with AC's at 10km (falloff), Hybrids, and HAMs, HML's. This means it's game on versus basically anything except an Orthrus, Caracal, Vigilant (90% webs suck), or anything you suspect may carry RLML's and/or webs etc.
Again, adjusting the non-Defence mode sig upwards to T1 destroyer levels, and then forcing the T3D into defence mode, will remove the 10MN AB's dominance.
DPS and Weapons
I don't see much problem with DPS, or weapons in particular. The Hecate has significant drawbacks in terms of sig radius and capacitor to hold it back from being an OTT killdozer gank boat. The Svipul has fine DPS, and the jackdaw has excellent flexibility with its 5s reload times. The Confessor gets Pulses, stronk buffer and minuscule sig, which altogether can see them become a struggle in large numbers.
The exceptions begin cropping up in Wolf-Rayets at C3+, where these ships just become a bit unhinged. This is an overall problem with the new W-R in general, and worth addressing separately.
Pimped Stacked Tanking
Of all the T3D's the Svipul and to a lesser extent the Jackdaw provide opportunities for wildly excessive active shield tanks. There's few examples of AAR confessors or Hecates owning the shit out of a half dozen T1 cruisers, but it happens reasonably frequently with Svipuls. These are always in the order of 600M ISk boats with pills, implants, links and so on.
On the one hand the pilot invests this much they feel entitled to ridiculous feats. On the other hand, you shouldn't feel entitled to anything merely by paying wads of ISK. Therefore we have to excise the pilots of these ships, and their views of what constitutes 'balance', from the debate entirely due to self-interest.
Balancing around over-investment and adding links, pills, pimp and implants is tricky but that's not the point - the point is to investigate the law of diminishing returns. After all, pimp is getting cheaper, which brings this problem out of the realms of the very few into the realm of the average pilot. It's not that expensive, and the results are excessive.
This cannot be addressed head-on. Balancing can, as usual, probably be achieved by looking at sig radius. An extra 10% in sig radius doesn't hurt non-pimped ships vastly, but it can shave a good 70-100 DPS of active tank (in EHP/s terms) off the extreme pimp-link-pill-plant setups.
Additionally, it needs to be considered as a whole of system balancing pass; do we need to address the stacking of pinp + links + pills + implants at 100% stacking? Yes. Definitely. So it's not all the Svipul and jackdaw's problem alone, but it seems to be their problem due to non-penalised stacking of layered pimp.
Mode Switch Cooldown
An option also exists to lengthen the cooldown of the mode switch from 10s to 15s or even 30s. It can also be restricted, like overheating, to only being done when uncloaked. No more jumping a gate and sitting with jump cloak and then switching to the mode you want depending on the situation. Likewise, it is worth considering locking it out during warps - how often do Svipuls and hecates jump gate in Prop mode, warp off in <3 seconds to a pounce, and then warp back down in Defense mode? All the time, right? This would restrict the ability of the ships to just flip-flop constantly, but risks making them less enjoyable to fly.
Ship Loss Cooldown
An idea presented to my by Johnny Twelvebore was that if T3 cruisers lose you skill points, maybe if youlose a T3D you cannot board another one for a period of time due to mumbo jumbo psychic pain, whatever lore reason you want. This introduces consequence and loss to what are, for some people, disposable ships. Alternatively, and more controversially, you could lose an implant (if you have any) if you lose your ship. That will make HG Crystals very risky to run in lowsec.
I think the Svipul is reasonable if the pimped shield fits are addressed, and sig radius goes up a notch into the 60-70 base range.
The Confessor is fine, with 10MN fits difficult to make work, but becomes a bit silly when linked up gangs of them supported by logi get deployed.
This is a problem child that needs a tweak, possibly a bit less DPS and keeping its current sig, and giving it a little more tank and a little less agility. It's far too agile.
Being, basically, a Corax that could, the Jackdaw is mostly balanced, if only because it has no capacitor to do anything.
So that's my 5c. I agree with Johnny that T3D's aren't far off being balanced in terms of their actual capabilities addressed separately from ISK cost; they could do with a bit of a cost adjustment upwards to be more expensive than T2 Destroyers and AF's. They aren't far off being in balance, and to my mind adjusting signature radius affects the problem areas; 10MN fits, overall tank numbers, sig tanking issues, and the Pimp Stack problem.
At the end of the day, yes it's a T3 ship. But they are so cheap, so potent, and so liable to escalating out of control that hey are in need of a bit of a love-tap from the nerf bat.