OK, so I've been thinking about ship roles a fair bit. And tbh, I think they need to change. A lot.
The present system is basically an MMO dungeon group approach. You have tanks, DPS and support. The tank hopes to soak up all the damage, the DPS causes as much damage as possible and the support sits at the back buffing everyone. And that's what we have here - Escorts and Guardians are tanks, Interceptors, Assaults and Capitals are DPS, and Support covers everything else. The setup is determined through Threat, Fortitude and Value, with high Threat ships being DPS, high Fortitude ships being tanks, and high Value ships being support.
This is unimaginably gamey - far more so than the production wheel ever could be. It looks good on paper, but in practice it leaves something of a bad taste in the mouth; seeing my capital ships choosing to ignore the high-value targets to pound on a worthless escort ship sucks, and knowing that building a ship with no guns but a metric ton of defenses is a valid choice for a warship is ridiculous.
This is actually made worse by the player's ability to short-circuit the classification system. I can set a major gun platform to Support, safe in the knowledge that it will now be targeted last by almost all enemies. And, of course, carriers largely break the whole thing anyway, as the only thing which will target the carrier before it's fighters is interceptors - which, by default, are tiny ships that are unable to cause major damage alone, and must still burn through the tanks beforehand.
I think instead what we need is a system which relies on targeting more and doesn't encourage the creation of ships with nothing but defense on them. If I build an unarmed hulk of armour, then it should be the last target on anyone's list. And different weapon systems should lead to different target orders. Rapid-firing low-damage weapons are better against small targets. Big damage, slow-firing weapons ought to target big ships, where they can do the most damage. Presently, despite the significant differences between the different weapons in range, damage output and rate of fire, they have no impact on the ship's role.
I'd like to see the following:
* Split up ship classes by size. So tiny/small are fighters. Medium are ships of the line. And large/huge are capitals.
* Then further differentiate by weapon types. Kinetic armament makes for anti-fighter. Missile makes for anti-capital. And laser makes for anti-SOL.
* Any ship that has no weapons on it becomes a support ship and is targeted according to it's size once all armed ships of that class are dead.
So, this means we have 3 types of fighter - kinetic-armed interceptors, which kill other fighters for preference. Missile-armed bombers, which target capital ships. And laser-armed assault fighters, which try to kill enemy mid-ships. 3 types of Ship-of-the-line - kinetic-armed destroyers, missile-armed strike cruisers, and laser-armed escort hunters. And finally, 3 types of capital ship; kinetic-armed anti-fighter platforms, missile-armed battleships, and laser-armed anti-escort ships.
This would be much less gamey, since at no point do you choose your enemy's target for him. Instead, it's just target lists, with each ship targeting based on the optimal target for it's weapon.