EVE Players await the imminent arrival of CCP’s second phase of changes to the game’s sovereignty (sov) mechanics. Two lengthy dev-blogs were forecast by a sheepishly grin-faced CCP Fozzie and should arrive any day now. Clearly, CCP is bracing itself for a torrent of feedback from the player-base that will create a flurry of activity, sweeping right into the Harpa on March 19th.
These Sov changes may be the most anticipated changes in EVE’s 11 year history. The sandbox is in delicate transition from the “future vision” of walking-in-stations and Dust 514’s link (see trailer), to a trifecta MMO experience: Players will be able play in New Eden as a capsuleer (EVE), a planet-side merc (Legion), or a fighter pilot (Valkyrie). All three games on PC, with one launching point, and real impact on New Eden. They will also share one economy. This is probably why CCP is moving to Aurum as a central meta-currency, away from PLEX.
Additionally, CCP has to worry about the competition. There are several real Sci-Fi MMOs that appeal to the EVE demographic in the form of Star Citizen, Elite Dangerous, and others. The stakes are high.
At the center of EVE’s viability is Null-sec, outlaw space, where players carve out a home for themselves. Drastic changes to Null-sec have been on the board for a while (2011), and we are finally on the verge of seeing the fruits of CCP’s labors.
In November of 2014, we covered the “phase one” changes (jump drive nerfs and jump fatigue) introduced in Phoebe’s expansion, and made some predictions in the article, “Brave New World: A Look Into the Future of Null Sec,” with the disclaimer “nobody knows” how this will shake out. The article started by predicting the sov holding landscape by using analogy:
EVE started with apes wielding bones (neanderthals). Then nomadic players emerged and began working together in corporations (family clans). Those were overtaken by tribal warlords (Khaaan!), who fell to the disciplined war machines of mega alliances with pets (Rome). That model was defeated by large numbers of players forming coalitions (fat feudal kings) who raised armies by renting lands to harvester serfs. The new model, if history is a teacher, should be power centers with satellite power centers (colonization).
Soon, real “capital” stations will become the seats of sov power, with “colony” stations in strategic locations, each housing massive fleets and an army of sleeping clones.
Pre-Pheobe, sov holding alliances moved fast: the CFC vacated the Delve area. Half of N3 (NCDOT, Darkness and The Kadeshi) moved in, while the other half (S2N, GCLUB, and others) moved a few regions away to Immensea and Feythabolis, perched and eyed everything around them. Pandemic Legion sold off their sov interests as nomads do, while xXDeathXx made plans to take over large amounts of Drone region space, as slum lords do. Nullsec alliances scrambled to find a “home,” like so many schoolkids in musical chairs. Everyone seemed prepared to hunker down and weather the new world.
Just before Phoebe hit, however, CCP, under pressure from players, partially reversed course and postponed the travel limits to industrial ships and jump freighters. This concession made a world of difference: Sov holding alliances could keep their logistical lifeline to Jita’s trade hub, and plans to divert gaming hours to the local harvesting of resources were jettisoned. Tech 2 would continue to flow into null-sec from empire space, for now. The constriction of outlaw empires in null-sec was limited to a military travel nerf, which was not enough to dissuade them from continuing to overextend.
Post-Phoebe, the big sov holders dealt with the travel changes by securing key border systems, allowing them to gate jump into a neighboring region, then cyno jumping once in the region. The fatigue mechanic (Le Tired, or Space Aids), did force pilots to save their jumps. Stern guidelines on cyno jumping were issued to keep everyone’s fatigue the same, in order to avoid the fragmention of fleets. Alliances paid probers to find wormholes for transportation purposes, and devised “travel fits” for capital ships, to quickly move them through gates. With all these adjustments, sov holding alliances still had to learn some hard lessons:
Goons painfully learned that moving giant fleets long distances, just to be blue-balled by N3 in Fountain, would burn their guys out. They also learned that alliances in deep space, left without support, lose morale fast.
Kadeshi found out the hard way that wormholes meant your supers were never fully safe, even inside your own borders, when PL followed Lazerhawks into Delve to kill some Kadeshi supers.
NCDOT learned they could not effectively fight on three simultaneous fronts (Fountain, Querious and Catch), losing 4 supers to goons while trying to save PL in Catch.
Black Legion. learned that massive battles like B-R5RB were a deadly strain when they mobilized to engage PL in Catch, and lost the capital fleet on the return trip. They also learned that wormholes were a gamble that could instantly cut your fleet in half if their masses were miscalculated.
N3 learned that conscripting renter alliances to defend territory they paid to live in was a hard sell, and ceded a lot of ground to break-away renters and pro Russian alliances in the east.
By and large, however, the sov map remained nearly the same, with only a few inspirational sov attempts by small alliances. The expected colonial age has yet to appear, but the coalitions are now a step closer, subdivided: The CFC has Northern (Deklein) and Southern (Fountain) navies, while N3 has Western (Delve) and Eastern (Immensea) navies. Each coalition has capital systems for each of their alliances, and stockpiles of ships in different strategic “prefecture systems.” The prediction that the flat strategic game would become a multi-level one is coming true, albeit slowly.
The next phase will probably be in the Scylla expansion (March 24th), depending on Fanfest feedback, and should further constrict sov holding alliances to less space, and ultimately encourage smaller alliances to flourish in null-sec.
At this hour, nothing has been announced. Many highly-visible players have weighed in on what they see CCP doing to “un-lock” nullsec and their ideas range from the “occupancy model” to a sov-less model. Public suggestions, like the “null deal” put forth by notable alliances are counter productive. CCP cannot embrace nullsec’s own remedy.
CCP has to balance the advantages of the sov holding alliances; “boots on the ground” mechanics favor alliances with tens of thousands of members, while “structure intensive” mechanics favor high skillpoint capital fleets that are usually the domain highly exclusive veteran alliances. CCP has to limit mechanics that help big alliances while keeping the “little guy” from getting tangled up in those changes. Whatever drops, it will have been hotly debated and worked over before it was released to the public. The scale of the dev-blogs (7,000+ words) indicate that there is a lot of explanation required to frame the problem, dismiss some solutions, and to explain their solutions. The fact there are two blogs also hints there are new mechanics that will be broken out to a second dev-blog
CSM member Xander Phoena, who famously “doesn’t break NDA” with what he says, but skirts that line with what he insinuates with suggestive word choices, inflections and issue framing, recently indicated that the changes will make a lot of current sov holders angry. This probably means CCP didn’t elect a full occupancy model for sov (which most alliances are pushing for).
Whatever CCP decides, there will be a lot of discussion leading up to Fantfest, which is exactly what they want. The only thing that is certain is they will weather this storm.