As it has probably been discussed multiple time carriers in their current state are extremely overpowered. As the AI currently will not build units with these add-ons and has no true defense against them b lining for carrier technology can cause even a worst case scenario (5 massive angry AI's all coming to crush your defenseless final 2 planets) into an almost laughable steam rolling comeback. I'd like to share some of my thoughts on how to improve this aspect of the game.
1. Make Carriers a type of highly mobile shipyard - One way to mitigate carrier spam might be to make it so that carriers have to rebuild lost fighters over the course of several turns to at least force a player to slow down their advance. As it is currently carriers are never truly vulnerable after a fight. (Oh I lost 29/30 fighters in that last fight? And I'm being attacked again? Lucky I have my little portable pocket dimension full of fighters to keep me at 30/30)
2. Make a good "fighter killer" type weapon - At the current build of the game there is no effective way to kill fighters quickly. While a swarm of 60+ fighters should be able to take on a capital ship (depending on respective weapons/defense technologies) there should still be massive losses among the fighters. Some ideas on how to fix this are...
a. Make larger ships able to target multiple ships in one salvo so that for example 5 doom rays aren't all focused on 1 tiny unshielded fighter and can instead take out 5 fighters
b. Make some sort of flak or bomb type weapon. Maybe it deals more damage to smaller hull sizes or has some sort of burst damage that allows it to hit multiple targets in one shot.
3. Make the AI actually prioritize attacking the main carrier if it is in range rather than the fighters. This would at least reduce the amount of carrier modules able to be attached to a single ship as players would be forced to at least add defenses to their ships rather than have the current glass cannon type build which in my opinion is currently the most effective.
4. This might not be possible or may already be planned, but make fighters actually have to launch from the carrier at the beginning of of a battle. This would
a. Force a delay between when to fight starts and when the carrier could start doing damage and
b. It would look freaking awesome to be able to watch your swarm launch from carriers.
5. Maybe increase the cost or mass for consecutive carrier modules - In my experience the carrier modules become quickly unbalanced as more are added. While a single module on a dreadnought won't necessarily turn the tide having 2-3 even on just a large hull quickly makes fights horribly one sided. It may not be feasible to make the cost increase from consecutively placed modules in which case I would probably suggest a blanket increase in the cost and/or mass of these modules.
6. Don't over nerf Carriers - Carriers to some degree should be fairly powerful. While they are currently way to powerful you should be wary of nerfing them to the point that they become not fighting fit or more of a sideshow attraction. In my mind I think carriers should probably fulfill a role similar to the carriers of today or WW2. While very powerful in their own right they are easily destroyed if not properly supported by a balanced battle group.
Some side notes not really related to balancing, it would be fun to be able to choose what fighters a carrier contains though I think I read somewhere that that was in the works already. There probably should be a carrier template added so that the AI will choose to build them also. Maybe allow the player/ai to choose a fleet's/ship's target priorities either in or before battle (I.e. Target Carrier, Dreadnought, Fighter, Transport etc)
This game is amazing so far and I can't wait to see what else is added to it next!
Thank you for taking the time to read this and I welcome any feedback or different ideas.