Sovereignty. Even before CCP officially recognized the first player alliances in the Exodus expansion of 2004, groups of players laid claim to the mysterious regions beyond Empire space. Since the earliest days of the game, laying claim to a system, or a constellation, or an entire region was seen as a sure fire way to generate content. After all, if you claim a part of the sandbox to build a castle, there’s always someone who wants to come knock yours down, and maybe put up their own. “Nice region, we’ll take it!” was the way of EVE, and planting your flag in the wilderlands of null sec was seen as the endgame for large scale PvP organizations.
Over time, the way sovereignty was claimed has gone through any number of changes. Generally, these changes have progressed as CCP has tried, with varying success, to create a rich playground for us all to play in. My intent is not to walk through this rich history. There are any number of resources out there for those interested in how sov has changed over time and who the main actors have been; Empires of Eve comes to mind. Instead, let’s look at where we are and where we might go.
After the advent of alliance blocs and the formation of the “Big Blue Donut”, many were clamoring for a change to sov that would revitalize null sec. Some form of “occupancy sov” was generally regarded as an excellent step in this direction, a way to reward groups that actually used their space, while making it harder to hold great swaths of mostly empty null sec areas just because a group could. Enter the contentious Aegis Sovereignty system with the Carynx update. This was a quite drastic departure from the older Dominion sov model, and after over a year on the server its effects still cause argument, anger, disappointment and salty tears.
Through all that, though, there are a few points that it seems many in the community can agree on. The ADM system, linking vulnerability of your sovereignty to your alliance’s activity, seems a step in the right direction. Smaller groups have expanded and taken sov where previously they had little hope of engaging the various blocs. The move toward the defense of “nodes” had the promise of generating some dynamic fights, while the entosis system itself has been widely panned as antithetical to the sort of fleet battles null sec entities have grown accustomed too. And all through these arguments, you could hear the discussions and complaints about what sov was even good for in the first place; what advantage did owning sov really provide? In short, mixed results at best.
So, the question remains. What SHOULD sovereignty in EVE look like? What system would provide a backdrop for the kinds of grand player driven clashes that are synonymus with EVE, while also allowing for engaging day to day play for smaller groups and delivering an actual reason to own space and, presumably, be invested in its defense in the first place?
What should sov in EVE look like?
Well, let us consider what truly owning space might look like. As capsuleers, we tend to fly through the systems of EVE, zipping from gate to gate (or lumbering, as the case may be) without really considering how truly massive each system really is. Think of all the resources that a star system harbors. If an alliance were truly going to claim and occupy a system, those resources would surely come into play. Right now, the resources of a system are used by the individual members of an alliance. Players rat to collect bounties and loot, mine to gather resources for sale or production, explore to harvest the materials found in relic and data sites, and engage in PI to produce a variety of materials. At both the individual and alliance level, you also have moon mining to gain useful resources and wealth. But is this all there is? What about all the other resources? What about the logistics to maintain all the infrastructure a budding empire needs? Surely we wouldn’t expect capsuleers to engage in the lower level drudge work of keeping all the internal supply lines of an empire functioning. We have better things to do, like enriching ourselves and heading out to knock over someone else’s sandcastle or stopping someone from knocking over ours.
Enter Backbone Logistics; a series of interconnected structures and functions that forms the base of an alliance’s claim to occupancy. First, let me offer a few example structures.
(disclaimer: I realize that I am discussing ideas that benefit sov null space only. It is not my intention to ignore all of the unique game play that low sec and wormhole space offer. This is merely a starting point for a conversation, and I welcome any discussion of how such concepts could be applied to these unique regions.)
could be scaled to some form of alliance level PI, but I’d be concerned that adding that in would be a needless tedium on long suffering alliance logistics. Let the hub do the work. These structures would be destructible, with no timer. The trick would be in the balance of EHP; enough so that a gang would be needed to efficiently engage it, while not enough to make a full fledged fleet a necessity. Perhaps even institute a damage cap, to try to avoid a larger fleet simply blapping it in a single pass. Simultaneously, these would be relatively inexpensive to buy, and not terribly difficult to transport and place using an indy ship.
Administration Control Centers
Every system an alliance owns would, as a matter of course, need some form of administration. A single ACC would need to be placed in each system claimed. Not only would this provide an administrative center for a system, but could also act as a collection point for the resources moved along by the Transshipment Hubs. These would also be destructible, though perhaps a timer would be in order in this case, and they would be a bit tougher than a transshipment hub. I don’t suggest these structures be a replacement for ihubs, or even be necessary for claiming sov. Perhaps, for simplicity, a merging of the function of ACC and the Territorial Claim Unit could be considered. Regardless, the intention of the ACC is that it is merely needed if the alliance in question wished to fully utilize their space under the idea of Backbone Logistics.
We’ve all seen NPC convoys in Empire space, quietly moving from station to station. Its a normal bit of backdrop. Well, materials collected by the alliance would have to move somehow, and the code for these already exists. Why not have NPC convoys that are attached to the sov owner move material from Transshipment Hubs to the Administrative Control Centers, and even through gates to other systems? Perhaps even have the convoys show up at stations and Citadels owned by the alliance, increasing the sense of an active, thriving economy. These would be targets for hostile players, who could act to disrupt the flow of goods within your empire by destroying these convoys. While there might not be bounty payoffs, killing the convoys would have an effect on the system of sov, and perhaps have them drop a mix of basic materials, some of which could be small enough and moderately lucrative enough to make killing them a least a bit worthwhile. At the same time, it might be interesting to consider arming these convoys, in a sense like the Q ships of old. Certainly not powerful enough to ward off a determined attack, but maybe enough to worry a lone frigate or destroyer. While introducing convoys to sov null space isn’t a new idea, my treatment of the concept is a bit different as described below.
Follow that convoy!
Traffic Control Nodes
These are a bit more speculative. Nothing in the convoys, transshipment hubs, or administration control centers does much outside of structures and functions that already exist in game. This, however, is a bit different. My idea for the TCN’s is in part predicated on the notion that, at some point, local as we know it in null sec will be changed. This step isn’t necessary for the TCN’s to work, I suppose, but it would be much more effective, and this is a change that’s been clamored for nearly since the game started. TCN’s would be deployable at gates in systems an alliance controls. Unlike the other structures I mention, these would NOT be destructible, perhaps using a tethering mechanic, so long as an alliance held sov. The purpose of these nodes is intelligence gathering. The node would record and transmit information about what ships and/or pilots passed through the gate. Make it so the owner of the TCN can control what notifications they receive, based on a variety of criteria (numbers, ship classes, based on standings). Information could then be posted as an alert or email message to any in the alliance who are authorized to receive it.
Without a counter this could be overpowered. There should be no such thing as perfect intel, which is what we have now. So, to combat this, I’d suggest the following:
The TCN would introduce an element of choice to a roaming gang. Do you want to try a stealthy approach, risking possible discovery to get into a system unopposed? Or just accept the risk and charge in? The benefits for the sov holders are fairly obvious, but consider changes to things like the Rorqual. It is clear the intention is to get them into space and away from POS’. Perhaps a system like this provides SOME level of intel that the pilot can use to survive, but without 100% surety of survival. No reward without some risk.
So what would be the point of all this, beyond giving people something ELSE to shoot at? How could something like this maybe replace the entosis mechanic we have now? What is the benefit to sov owners?
For quite some time people have discussed the viability of industry in null sec. The point remains that logistics for null sec empires relies heavily on jump freighters running back and forth to the main trade hubs of Empire space, since production is just as easy and more secure. There just isn’t much benefit to mass production in null sec, with the exception of super-capitals of course.
Now, there are changes on the way concerning industry in null sec, with new structures planned in the Upwell line. While we don’t yet have all the details, one effect of these suggestions of mine could be to lower the mineral build cost of items. After all, we have convoys, a logistics backbone, etc. It would be sensible that this system, built by the alliance, would benefit its members. And, of course, the more involved the system (and, of course, subsequent higher industry index in the ADMs) would increase this benefit. With items cheaper to build in nullsec, perhaps industry becomes more competitive and less reliant on those jump freighter logistics.
Currently, alliances set the period of their vulnerability when their systems and structures are open to an entosis attack. The vulnerability window, while perhaps sensible game play, feels a bit contrived. Why not find a way to keep that part of the system, but in a way that makes some sense?
Sov structures need a consistent flow of materials to be maintained, hence the Backbone Logistics that I’m proposing. I would suggest that the invulnerability to whatever capture mechanic is used (entosis or otherwise) stay up, regardless, provided the system is not under attack. However, if the backbone is broken to some extent (Transshipment Hubs destroyed, Admin Control Centers reinforced, convoys destroyed), it opens that vulnerability window up. This means you are only vulnerable when you actually are attacked. Now, a smart alliance logistician would keep stockpiles, in case of interruption, so the alliance still controls WHEN their window opens to coincide with their chosen time zone for defense. However, perhaps the LENGTH of that window can be modified by how much is destroyed by their attackers, modified by how many of the structures are replaced before the window opens (with some amount of lag to re-establish connections and convoy routes, etc). Once (and if) Citadels become attached to sov in some way, this mechanic could extend to them as well.
True occupancy sov should mean the building of actual empires out in the lanes of nullsec. A system like what I propose would, I think, allow for scaleable organization and help drive conflict while replacing the entosis system with something that can accomplish the same goal: nodes that break up fleets into smaller groups, but requiring attackers to bring enough firepower to allow for small gang fights as opposed to chasing lone ships using the mechanic for harassment. At the same time, by tying this to the vulnerability windows it sets the stage for the kinds of larger fleet fights many hope for, since holding sov would have a benefit to the holder (better industry and intel on top of the existing benefits to higher ADMs). There are, I’m sure, complexities that I’ve missed, but the hope is that SOME sort of system comes into play that makes people feel attached to their space again.
Thanks for reading.