Starconquer212, from BLOOM. [BL00M], shares his insight on current sovereignty mechanics, the possibilities of integrating FW mechanics on it, and how the game might benefit from diversification when it comes to how space is fought over.
Sovereignty is one of Eve’s most enduring hot topics, rarely more so than right now — Everyone, from every corner of the game have strong opinions about the “right” and “wrong” of current and proposed mechanics. The myriad of sites dedicated to New Eden’s politics present dozens of these opinions. Amidst this debate and interest, I felt I should bring to the table some of the conclusions that I and others have come to. As someone who’s spent his Eve-life in not only nullsec sov-blocs, but smaller groups in NPC null and low sec, faction warfare, high sec, and as I write this article wormholes. It’s my hope that my unusual path through Eve and the diverse experience that came with it have given me a new and balanced perspective.
The current manifestation of Sov-mechanics make it near impossible for newcomers to break into the Sov game. I differentiate of course between the new players and corporations who bring valuable new blood to old coalitions, and those admirable few who try to carve a piece of space for themselves. Eve’s great strength of course, is the sandbox; a strength to which nullsec being so stagnant is at least slightly antagonistic, this stagnation is especially obvious to those who watch the sov map.
Under these current mechanics, to take space one has to grind a huge number of hit points. Having first established SBUs in the vicinity of half the target system’s gates, the attacker must destroy enemy TCUs, then anchor one’s own TCU’s, before grinding any stations though their respective timers. All this investment of time and effort builds into what many players used to hope would be a fight, most of us know better these days. The simple truth is that most pressure on sovereignty results in a campaign of burnout management, something adequately covered in The Mittani’s youtube offering “The Art of War in Eve Online”.
EvE is a game where it is easy to assign a cash value to their time and assets. This is one of the things that makes Eve so compelling, but it also feeds the aversion to risk that every player (to a greater or lesser degree) has. Sov warfare is naturally no different, both sides watch their opponent form up, and the one poised for victory is usually the only one that arrives on the potential battlefield, the underdog banking on the possibility of a more favourable timer. Which is fine — as I earlier made clear, I feel the sandbox is Eve’s great strength, and in so many respects it offers a huge number of ways to approach problems; not to mention offering opponents nearly limitless ways to cause them.
In contrast to this. There is only one way to hold space, it’s a question of numbers, how many pilots you can corale into fleet and how often you can do it. A small entity can seldom take even unused systems, because for any given timer, the larger alliance can in most cases field more pilots than a smaller entity would have, and do this in any timezone. It is quite common for large alliances to take the space of smaller entities, simply because they require easy targets for their otherwise bored pilots.
CCP has talked widely of their desire for income and sov to come from bottom up, not top down, and there has been wide speculation that Faction Warfare is being used as a testbed for a system that is based around a more ongoing pilot participation over the current metric of the size of CTA. If this proves true, we will see a polar shift in the way space is fought over.
For those unfamiliar with faction war, sov is gained by a “victory point” currency. These points are gained by opening faction-war plex. Which appear on the ship’s scanner much like null sec anomalies, the majority of these complexes are gated and restrict the sizes of hull able to enter, these plexes are “closed” after a period orbiting a beacon we affectionately came to know as “the button”. After a set time, dependant on size of the complex, Loyalty Points for the effort are spread among the friendly pilots present. The vulnerability of the system’s I-hub is determined by the closure of complexes by attackers and defenders, with attacking complexes pushing the hub to a vulnerable state, and the defenders closing complexes to work against this progress. After a sufficiently successful period of plexing, and the small scale PvP that tends to happen during this, the system becomes vulnerable and the I-hub can be attacked. Offering the defending faction one final chance to retain the system.
There are key differences between Factional Warfare and nullsec Sov mechanics. Most significantly, sovereignty in FW is determined by actual system control as opposed to simple force projection. The ehp grind although present in eliminating the I-hub is not the defining feature of system takeover. Second, the FW model encourages a more involved pattern of warfare. In the place of short CTA’s where coalitions show up, destroy the structures, and leave. There’s a real possibility of a smaller and more committed entity stopping the structure ever becoming vulnerable.
As they should, numbers present a significant advantage. But this system makes holding space, even from a numerically vastly inferior entity a serious commitment of an alliance’s time.
Some of these details were highlighted during Nulli Secunda’s period in Amarr Militia. I worked closely with Nulli during this time, with the goal of attaining the highly lucrative Tier V war zone control, something we had been previously unable to accomplish.
Given the sudden influx of pilots, we made rapid gains in the amount of space held, this trend continued for some time. Nulli’s presence had created an imbalance in the militia numbers and we pressed this advantage. But as we neared full control each successive system was more fiercely fought. What caused this is with hindsight obvious, as we took more systems the distances between staging systems moved to the advantage of the minmatar. Simply put they were able to hold the systems because they lived in them.
By pushing the Minmatar Militia back into the far corners of the contested space, away from Nulli’s base of operations and Kamela, the Amarr Militia’s, it became clear how hard it was to push people from their home systems. Whenever we applied pressure to the Minmatar held systems, their pilots would undock and close plexes to decontest the system, anything from minutes to hours after our properly formed fleet had left. Since that point the home advantage in faction warfare has become more akin to nullsec than it had been, with the removal of docking rights in hostile systems it’s unusual for pilots to plex independently of fleets, while pilots in a friendly system need no encouragement to defend docking rights to access their ships.
As the conflict deteriorated to stalemate it was clear that we weren’t going to reach our goal of Tier V control. Nulli pragmatically moved on, settling for cashing out at Tier IV. The loss of numbers caused something of a shift to the status quo established prior to Nulli’s involvement, leaving a firmly entrenched Amarr Milita holding just a few systems, and the Minmatar holding extensive, but not total control, with constant border skirmishes over territory.
Applying such a system to nullsec, we could expect similar effects but on a far larger scale. Major coalitions would still be able to push their number advantage at will. But smaller entities would have a more realistic chance to compete over less desirable systems, and encourage groups to make better use of the territory they do hold. This would encourage alliances to give more thought to their conquests, forcing even the bigger entities to put more effort into taking systems from a committed opponent, as well as adding the consideration of how defensible it is. It would I feel lead to a more conservative attitude towards taking systems, as each would have to justify the time to take and defend it. I would also like to point out that even though neither Amarr nor Minmatar achieved control of their entire warzone, Gallente have done so twice, although this highlighted that it is possible to do so it was also illustrated by the short duration of this control that it is difficult to maintain control of systems you’re not completely committed to from an opponent who is. These changes may also add interesting political and geographical changes to null sec at large, hopefully shortening the long chains of blues for a more dynamic flow of power and hopefully providing opportunity to the younger and often more eager entities.
One detail I would be cautious of implementing from the FW system is the income, despite the clear positives. Would encourage the taking systems for the sake of doing so that has plagued previous sovereignty systems. The other potential pitfall is the ability to take a system during a lapse in time zone coverage denying the defender the final opportunity to hold the system, certain possibilities to remedy this exist that would not in FW, due to the hubs being owned by the party defending them. A timer system similar to that which currently exists for customs offices presents one possibility to prevent enthusiasm completely eclipsing assets. Were such a timer system adopted it would make sense for the successful repair of the I-hub having a reward in terms of system control, I wouldn’t venture to say how significant a reward. But in my view it’s important that both the CTA and constant control of your home systems can play a part in defending them.