What I do know is that the big alliances and coalitions make taking sovereignty took easy. Whether the CFC sweeping through Fountain, or N3 and Pandemic Legion rescuing a couple hundred systems of dropped rental sov in not much more than 48 hours.
They make it look so quick and simple that it’s easy to discount their complaints that “sov sucks” as something else. It’s easier to assume that they’re happier with a big blue donut, earning their ISK hand over fist, than taking territory.
The last two weeks I’ve been occasionally participating with Fweddit taking their first constellation in Delve. What I’ve learned through that process is just how terrible the sovereignty system really is. It’s boring. It has too many timers associated with it. It takes a long time to burn down requisite structure health to reach the next reinforcement timer.
Sovereignty is geared towards the very large, capital ship-ready alliances. Smaller groups such as Fweddit (and it seems strange calling an alliance of 1000 people small), who don’t have huge capital ship resources (they can field 10 dreadnaughts on most nights, maybe 15 on a good night), they just don’t belong in sov nullsec. I think they should be in nullsec, but the current mechanics do everything but scream “Get the hell out, you aren’t meant to be here!” It’s taken Fweddit two weeks to take four systems. And they would lose it all in about four days if some larger group decided they wanted the constellation for themselves.
I have no idea how to fix nullsec. I’m not even sure what “fix nullsec” means, because that can mean so much to so many. At the very least, I’d like to see the process of taking sovereignty structures streamlined, so that even small groups can flip systems reasonably quickly. The big alliances and coalitions will always rule the day, but it should be easier for smaller groups to poke at the beasts. It should be more inviting for the larger groups to war with each other (the current sov mechanics don’t encourage warfare, unless the monetary gain is substantial.)
What does it take to capture a system?
This is where taking a system begins. Before stations and infrastructure hubs can be attacked, there must be onlined SBUs placed at 51+% of the gates. It doesn’t matter who owns the SBUs, they simply need to be online. If a system has four or five stargates, then three gates need online SBUs. Only one SBU per gate.
What most alliances do, for their important territory, is place onlined SBUs at all their gates. While this allows people to immediately start attacking their iHub and/or station, it also allows the defender to employ a cheesy little tactic. While an attacker is busy at the station or iHub, the defender simply offlines a number of their SBUs, to bring the total online to under that 51+% threshhold. This immediately places the station and iHub in an invulnerable state. This forces the attacker to take down the SBUs and then place their own. This slows down an attack by at least three hours (the amount of time it takes to online an SBU.) A valid, if cheesy, tactic for the defender, albeit annoying.
SBUs have no timers, so they can be attacked and destroyed in a single session.
An SBU takes three hours to online. Which means three hours before the stations and iHubs can be attacked.
Once the SBUs are in place and online, this is the next phase of taking a system. If a system has no stations, then all you have to worry about is the iHub. Each of these structures has two timers, which means you have to attack each of them three times. Once for shields, then wait out a timer, then attack the armor, then wait out another timer, and then attack the hull.
Those are three attacks that must succeed. If any fail, then the process must begin again from the start for the structure on which the attack failed.
Stations have timers that are >48 hours in length. Infrastructure hubs have timers that are >24 hours in length. It will take two to four days to take a single system (depending on whether a station is present or not.)
Attacks on stations and iHubs can be scuttled if the online SBUs drop below the 51+% requirement.
If a system doesn’t have a station or an iHub (I’ve never seen a system without an iHub, though), then you can go straight to attacking the TCU.
Once the stations and iHubs have been destroyed (you don’t actually destroy stations, they simply flip ownership), then this is the final stage of system acquisition. TCUs, like SBUs, do not have timers. They are attacked until destruction.
Once destroyed you place your own TCU, which takes eight hours to online. Once online, the system is yours. You can then place your own iHub.
All of these structures, and especially the station and infrastructure hubs, have an obscene amount of hit points. With fifty siege bombers, the health of an iHub will drop approximately 1% for every full reload. Even attacking with 10 dreadnaughts, the time required is still quite high. Which is why capital ship-heavy groups have the most success.
Even if you can field half or full fleets of dreadnaughts, your pilots still run the risk of burn-out. Not only is structure shooting dull, but it requires pilots to be in-game at very specific times, over the course of days and weeks. It is psychologically demanding, as well as putting pressure on real-life responsibilities.
Every system costs a minimum of 84M ISK upkeep per 14 days. Depending on the infrastructure upgrades, the actual costs will range from 98M ISK to 364M ISK per 14 day period. The norm for most systems would be 112M ISK per period. For a region like Fountain, sovereignty costs are in the neighbourhood of 20B ISK every two weeks.
This was my crash-course into sovereignty mechanics. (Thanks to Gents Jabber for clarifications on all my questions.) This has been a fairly simplified description of sov mechanics, and you can find far more words on the subject at EVElopedia.
Hopefully I didn’t get anything egregiously wrong. If I did, though, add a comment and I will correct.
You can read more of Poetic Stanziel’s opinions at his Poetic Discourse blog.