(Copying my post from the Blog to here for possible discussion)
I have found that fighters seem to suck pretty bad, both in terms of not having enough pilots to use them and not being very powerful.
Changes that need to balance fighters IMO:
Split them into 2 groups: Fighters and Bombers
Bombers can have extremely powerful bombs but you have to get close to use them. When you use them the bombers then have to go back to a support ship to rearm. They should be a large part of breaking down shields fast. They should also be comparatively slow and needing an escort of fighters.
Fighters should be fast, agile, and great at shooting down other fighters and shooting down Bombers. They should also have the ability to damage/destroy the “anti-fighter” weapons on capital ships.
The anti-fighter capital ship weapons should be made less effective against fighters, and more effective against bombers.
Orders for bombers and fighters should have various options.
Fighter Orders to add:
Escort Bomber (Escorts the Bomber wherever it goes)
Search & Destroy (Searches out Enemy Fighters and Enemy Capital Ships with anti-fighter weaponry)
Fighter Interception (Intercept incoming enemy fighters)
Bomber Interception (Intercept incoming enemy bombers)
Bomber Orders to add:
Target priority — Shields/Hull/Weapons/Engines (Thinking about this, that could be more of the loadout of the weapons on the bombers.
Positron Bomb: Damages Hulls Only
Electron Bomb: Damages Shields Only
EMP: If shields are down damages targeting systems
Attack Orders where you can set your Positron Bomb equipped bombers to not attack until shields fail, then to launch an immediate attack. Vice-Versa for Electron Bomb equipped. They go out immediately and then pull back/switch targets when a shield goes out.
Also the ability to setup an order that when a fighter group loses X of their initial 18 complement they fall back. Then when further fighter groups fall back they can form back up into a full 18 fighter wing and go back on the offensive/defensive
As for capital ships:
There needs to be a way for an undamaged capital ship to “step in between” a crippled friendly and the enemy to take some of the fire while shields regenerate. Some sort of smarter AI for protection. Right now I hate seeing ships getting damaged down far and being unable to protect itself behind one of its friends.