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Target Caller: All Along the Watchtower

October 23, 2014

All along the watchtower, princes kept the view. While all the women came and went, barefoot servants too. Outside in the cold distance, a wildcat did growl. Two riders were approaching and the wind began to howl.” – The venerable Mr. Hendrix

Oh, how I do love this new six-week release cycle. No longer do we need to anticipate changes months in advance. Almost as soon as they’re announced, we’re quickly in the planning process.

Yesterday, I received my first dread, a close-range Naglfar I’ve named toothpick. It’s a pretty little ship that’s pretty much staying in my hangar in Tenal for now. I want to bring it to the front lines in the FAZOR (cute name, by the way, to whoever thought of it) deployment, but in my heart I know it’d just have to come on back in two weeks when the madness begins.

And the reason for the impending madness, of course, is Phoebe and the end of force projection.

The changes are already happening. PL sold/gave about three regions to xxDeath because it would be untenable for them to hold it. N3 appears to be moving from the southeast to the southwest, which is being wholly abandoned by the CFC. What happens to the southeast is anyone’s guess, but of course, that region was kind of “what was left” that no one really wanted anyways.

It looks an awful lot like the null-sec alliances are contracting in advance of the anticipated reduction in their defensive capability. The reasons why this is the case have been exhaustively discussed, but what I find interesting here is the metagame being played out before our eyes.

N3 seems to want to settle into the southwest as quickly as possible, while the CFC and PL is doing the same in its “core” territory. Alliances and coalitions that previously held onto as much space as they could have suddenly willingly started giving it away. I find that about-face fascinating.

Of course, it’s based entirely upon pragmatic assessments of the situation. It’s not surprising that they’re doing this. Each coalition is headed by a group of people that have their positions specifically because of their ability to read a situation and react accordingly. But it’s an intriguing study in human behavior nonetheless. It’s all about face.

This isn’t the face that keeps your eyes, nose, and mouth under control, but rather the face that represents one’s credibility and “presence” in the world. The kind of face that generally only gets attention when you have to “save” it.

And right now, the coalitions that have a reputation of success and conquest on their own terms (specifically PL and the CFC) are making it known that they have no interest in seriously defending undefendable assets. They’re taking great pains to ensure that no one mistakes their eventual loss of sov as anything but a logical decision. Which it is.

“Didn’t want that sov anyways.” Too soon?

Why do I find this so fascinating? Because perception is far more important than reality, even in a game based on mechanics, bonus tables, mathematical modifiers, and discrete rules hard-programmed into the game. To be perceived as weak is more dangerous than to actually be weak. How many alliances do we know that are a shadow of their former selves, yet continue to soldier on because of the weight of their reputations and histories?

There is a change in null-sec, and it’s a very human awareness of limitation. Being a history fan, I can’t help but liken it to what the building of Hadrian’s Wall and the establishment of a fixed border to the Roman world meant. One day, the world was the limit of Roman ambition, and a Roman child could dream of leading the conquest of new worlds and tribes. Rome’s eyes were turned outwards towards the riches and spoils to be had.

But the next, the emperor himself acknowledges the unfeasibility of going beyond. The risks and challenges can’t be maintained long-term anymore. In an instant, the world changes from being the source of untold riches to untold dangers. Almost overnight, the world beyond holds only threats. It wasn’t the beginning of the end, but it did make it clear to everyone at the time that the beginning had already ended. Realization finally matched reality, and dreams of the future became the risk of nightmares.

Yes, I’m always intrigued by the duality of pulling back. In acknowledging that what you are now is not capable of maintaining what you once could, you’re putting a cap on dreams. The null-sec alliances will never again tower as large and control as much territory as they do now. The costs of doing so will become untenable under Phoebe.

But there’s the other side, too. These null alliances are becoming denser and drawing in, becoming tougher nuts to crack. Their densities are increasing. That will most certainly ensure their long-term survival. And that’s a reason for them to hope. They’ll be smaller, but more secure.

For a time.

Into the voids created by their contraction, the barbarians will settle down and grow their own empires. How many null entities pushed out over the last two years will re-emerge? How many low-sec groups will decide to carve out their own piece of sov? The answer will depend heavily on how “occupancy-based sov” plays out in the next major round of null changes; I doubt many low-sec entities will care to enter null under the current mechanics.

But regardless of who steps in, the simple fact is that lands which were once verdant and bountiful for the established null entities are now part of the cold distance. Areas that were home are now the breeding grounds for threats. No longer can they exert their control to strangle threats in the cradle. They’ll begin to blossom again.

Oh, yes, the princes of null-sec are watching the cold distance right now. They can hear the movement of barbarian tribes shuffling towards their new homes.

And the wind is beginning to howl.

– Talvorian Dex

My name is Talvorian Dex. I focus almost exclusively on PvP, whether solo, small gang, or large bloc warfare. In the past, I’ve been a miner, mission runner, and faction warfare jockey. I’m particularly interested in helping high-sec players get into 0.0 . If you would like to read more about my writings, please make sure to visit my Target Caller blog.