We call these big fat punching bags battleships, but realistically the sniper battlecruisers (aka "tier 3") have BS guns and BS damage, so the actual Battleships in EVE today are essentially tier 3 battlecruisers with a tank, which are far slower, worse on scan resolution. This is totally unlike the battleships of the early 20th century. These vessels were designed around overwhelming offense, packed with the best protection against like-calibre weaponry, and sported secondary weaponry to deal with the support fleet. EVE's battleships are unlike this at all, they are slow, realtively indifferently-protected behemoths which put their entire combat role on one class of weapon system, which is useful mostly against only one class of vessel.
So how do you make battleships in EVE more like battleships should be? Well, they should have Utility, Protection, Defense in Depth, and Overwhelming Offense.
One of the virtues of BS's which I didn't really expound upon, and which Cruack rightly pointed out, was the BS's abundance of slots, giving it much more flexibility than smaller craft. The problem is, that aside from failfitting it with medium guns, there's really not many ways you can utilise the abundance of slots without foregoing actual improvement in ability for niche abilities or degrading combat performance totally.
Take a Tempest, 8 high slots, 6 gun slots. You have 2 utility highs you can put torp/cruise, capacitor warfare, smartbombs, RR's, energy transfers, cloaks into without compromising battle performance overmuch. Same for the Domi, Scorpion, Phoon. But the rest, you get 8 slots and 7 or 8 turret slots and, aside from the neut-torp Rokh, foregoing weaponry to gain utility leads you to basically get a utility BS. ie; instead of gimping your Maelstrom, just shield fit a Tempest if you want utility highs.
Rumour has it CCP is going to split Black Ops battleships into two classes, much like Recons. A covert ops cloakable, cloaky-flying weak EWAR-enhanced one, and a tankier (presumably jump capable) DPS machine. But what does tanky mean these days, when cruisers are going from 12-18K EHP to 24-35K EHP (and Maller, of course, a bait brick at ~50K)? Battlecruiser EHP, leaving aside the tier 3's which rely on range and speed as tank, is between 50K and 80K, with a Drake bricked up to 110K EHP.
Battleships, when not bait brick cynos, are between 80-120K. This is looking fairly light on these days. Active tanks on ASB Maelstroms are pushing 3K or more, and no one bothers with Hyperions and active armour because of this. But we won't get into that debate here, except to say that a 1K active tank is bare minimum, as you can get that out of an XLASB fit cruiser.
I think it shouldn't be hard to buffer a BS to 90K and give it a decent active tank at the same time. This will require CCP to really look into the whole tanking mechanism and balance it. But my prediction? Bricked-up BS tanks will start pushing 180-200K.
Defense in Depth
Battleships of old had a set of main guns (14 to 18 inches) and a set of secondary dual purpose guns (4 to 6 inches). The dual-purpose guns would defend against aircraft and small surface threats (destroyers and the like). Then, when aircraft came to the fore, you stacked on dozens of small-calibre AA guns.
The battleship in EVE has a drone bay as a defence against small threats. These days, people have figured out that the only drones of any real threat to a frigate are Warriors, and they cannot even catch half the interceptor T1 frigates these days. Neuts are another defence, but heavy neut cycle times are too slow and frigate cap recharges too fast to efficiently break a scram unless you get lucky and land a neuting cycle on the scram clicking over. Smartbombs, when large, are OK at clearing off drones, but not clearing off tacklers unless they are attempting to orbit at 500m - and even then, active tanks now exceed the 40DPS of a lone smartbomb comfortably. In fact, an Incursus can tank a flight of Warrior IIs comfortably, so most BS's don't have adequate defense in depth.
Thoraxes are now pushing 700 DPS out, Catalysts do 500. Most cruisers will be between 350 and 450. Tier 3 BC's, 800-1300 DPS. Some battlecruisers are looking weaksauce, eg, the Ferox at 450 DPS is pathetic, and the Prophecy is just a joke. The Cyclone, buffer-gank fit will do 680-720 DPS con habanero, but dual XL-ASB fit you drop to 475-550 DPS and rely on broken tanking and attrition. Battleships sit in the 850-1200 DPS camp. This is good on paper, but as discussed before, applying all that DPS to targets which are getting faster, getting boosts, getting utility EWAR...it isn't so easy. Without rehashing it all, the damage application part of the formula needs looking at, because you have zero chance to hit, eg, a Dramiel or Cynabal, let alone drive it off.
We discussed a few solutions to the above last night, keeping in mind that this is a holistic approach, if you fix a lack of defence in depth you remove the lack of offence via circumventing the poor damage application. You may never have an effective resolution to a pimped boosted Cynabal, but that is a different argument and potentially resolved by a MJD anyway.
My preferred solution would be to look at the high slot philosophy of battleships to solve utility and defense in depth, as tank can be addressed most easily by tweaking raw shield or armour hitpoints and resistance profiles, as well as ship bonuses such as repair amounts, etc. Given this is all midslot and lowslot tradeoffs, the only way to affect defence in depth is to add tank in lowslots for armour BS, or EWAR midslots for armour BS, which leaves shield BS up shit creek due to lack of EWAR capabilities which would be at the expense of tank. Thus we should leave well enough alone and concentrate on high slots.
To my mind, we should visit the Marauder model as standard for battleships; 2 to 4 gun or missile hardpoints with 100% damage bonus, to give you 4 to 8 effective turrets - 4 for a Domi, 6 for a Pest, 8 for top of the line BSs. You would then get between 1 and 4 high slot utility slots to work in your defensive and utility options, which would be broken down into;
- Capacitor warfare (neuts, nosferatu)
- Point defense module
- Remote repair modules
- Area of effect weaponry
- Drone buffs
- Odds and sods (cyno generators, portals and the like)
This I think is the key; a racial-specific module which, unlike a smartbomb, is not area of effect, but is an automated close in defence system. Think CIWS, Iron Dome, etc. Caldari would get some form of rocket-spewing shit, Minmatar would get an autocannon, Amar would get some laser wall, and Gallente some rapid-fire ion blaster module.
The module would act like a flight off drones set to aggressive. When activated, it would respond by attacking the first thing that attacks it, with an activation proximity of 10km and range of 10-15km. It would do around 100 DPS, enough to drop a frigate in 10-30 seconds, or a drone every couple of seconds. A pilot could also lock a target, eg, a tackler, and set the CIWS on it manually. Plus, of course, you could fit more than 1, up to 4, for overwhelming close-in defence. Fitting wise, it would have to be relatively expensive, similar to a smartbomb. After all, you are adding 100 DPS of drone and frigate pwning fire and forget.
Would this replace smartbombs? Not really. This is a mostly defensive weapon, although if you were humping an enemy in a blaster Hype, for instance, you could turn the CIWS on your enemy and add a hundred DPS, but versus one target only, whereas a smartbomb is theoretically an offensive weapon as well, which can hit everything within range. It would also be effective in highsec BS fights, where you cannot dare set off a smartbomb due to CONCORDOKKEN; it would also potentially have some significant effect on hisec missions as it would be able to deal with tackling frigates quite effectively.
It wouldn't obsolete drones, either. Drones are an OK deterrent for battleships, but as said before, they really are not the ultimate in defense in depth, because most drones can't actually catch the frigates that are tackling you, and they are unresponsive and fickle. At worst, you'd have Domis with 4 effective large guns, 4 CIWS, Ogre IIs, and DDA's out the arse. Currently it's 1100 DPS, and this would go to 1500 with 4 CIWS. Not much more ridiculous than a gank Talos, and balanced by fitting constraints you can impose on the CIWS.
The end result? Battleships would get 8 weapons of offense, which is plenty, and the ability to fit a defense in depth. Of course, combined with the MJD and a need to scram, your tacklers would be in for a rough ride. But that is the whole point - not being vulnerable to a permatackle kiting Dramiel who can lay low your drones in instants and kite you forever.
This would also be a valuable type off module for a capital ship, to supplement or replace a smartbomb, to destroy minor threats.
Introducing a CIWS for batttleships, and giving all battleships the utility highslot, would address a significant weakness in the capbilities of the ship class at the moment. With the MJD, target breaker, and a CIWS, the battleship would become supremely capable.