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The Fortresses of ‘Nul-Sec’ – Part Two

August 31, 2017

By Salivan Harddin

If you missed Part One (Our New Homes in New Edens)  of this series I would suggest that you take a minute and read it. It contains a look at and discussion by veteran experts on the impact of Citadels on Empire Space. Today we continue our journey into the revolutionary changes that citadels has brought to all of New Eden by examining their impact on the space (0.0 also known as ‘Nul-Sec’) held by the true superpowers  of New Eden, The Capsuleer Alliances. Over the last few years capsuleer hegemony has eclipsed the old empires of New Eden. Their military forces and subsequent wars have become brutal, unforgiving, and on a scale that humankind has never seen or could have imagined. So when New Eden experiences a fundamental change that rewrites the book it is usually the capsuleer superpowers who are at the forefront of adapting to said changes. So today we talk with two experts from those regions to see how the citadel has impacted the smoky rooms and ferocious wars fought in 0.0 space.

‘The 0.0 Experts’

For o.o space I spoke with Trespasser the CEO of the infamous Southern Comfort (SOCO) of TEST Alliance. Trespasser started his journey as a capsuleer in 2003 and is one of the few ‘beta’ players who has stayed with and played this game from the start and is still active daily. He has witnessed every iteration of the game as a Corp CEO, Alliance Director, Fleet Commander, Industry Director, and pretty much every position in between.

We were also lucky to get current CSM member and veteran player Jin’Taan of Curatores Veritatis Alliance  whose been a key figure in liasoning with CCP over the last year during the changes and someone whose decade in the game also gives him a long history to reflect on.

‘The Interview’

We started off with the most pressing issue of them all:

Tell me about vulnerability timers?

Jin’taan: “They are atrocious .What current mechanics of current TZ locking means is – if you cannot in Tuesday on auzzie TZ put up a fleet of 20-30 dudes, you will not impact your opponents in terms of their citadels ,you don’t get to play with them. Not healthy. Defender already has massive advantage in terms they get to choose when they come out. There is no attackers initiative anymore. They don’t let you to choose what day you want to attack. Right now, if I want to attack some russian entity nearby I will go to their pos on friday bash it, they will log in, change the timer on their primetime…fine, I log in to Sunday, log  in some dudes and we’ll have a fight. It will be on their terms but we both get to be there, we both get to create content, that is a very healthy way in managing structures. POCO attacker can hit it any time, and the defender chooses when to fight. Citadel mechanics strangle content in every area of the game. Purely bad game design. I understand CCP (primarily) doesn’t want a fight happening around citadels but around resorces those citadels have. But the problem is that other people don’t want other people living in their space. As a CSM member I’ve been a long time proponent of completely removing them (vuln timers), as I feel they’re an unnecessary addition to the game over all.”

Trespasser: “I think Vulnerability timers when both sides are close to the same timezone are fine, such as USTZ alliance fighting USTZ alliance or Even EU vs. US they only get really bad when you deal with AUTZ or RU TZ.   One potential fix is to reduce the ability to change the window to once every 2 weeks, this would lock in citadels a bit more and stop a lot of the changing of time week to week during war, allowing the attacker to plan a bit better.

But I Think the right way to fix it is might not be by changing the citadel mechanics them self but changing the sov system such that it interacts with them.  I would like to see a system where attackers can somewhat ignore the citadel and focus more on the IHUB.

So For example: Any Citadel not part of the alliance holding the IHUB would get a debuff to its damage cap and both reinforcement timers, either based off of ADM or the Strategic level of the system (it’s open to debate what would be more fair).  So attacking force blows up defenders ihub, places their own down. At this point depending what metric CCP wanted to use (ADM Or Strategic)  The attackers would either have to defend that ihub for 7 days OR start ratting / Mining in that system.  The higher the Strategic / ADM level the more debuff the citadels receive.  With the goal being that at Strategic 5 and/or ADM 6  any non-alliance citadel would be vulnerable 24/7 and only have the 24 hour shield timer and the damage cap would be very high allowing for quick reinforcement. But in my experience, if you really want an area vulnerability timers are not going to stop you, they may slow you down, but they won’t stop you.”

So what about those pesky void bomb?

Jin’taan: They are brutal. It’s so incredibly strong vs doctrines like, say, Maelstroms, who rely on active mids for their tank, and cannot reasonably fit an injector to cope with the immense cap pressure being leveled against them. You have to run passive armour (no shield doctrines), if you’re fighting citadel with void bombs. Small entity might use Abbadons (cheap, easy, relatively effective). If you try to use Abbadons on a citadel you would be forced to use all of your cap boosters in any fight. And that is crippling to you as a force. You can imagine how hard that is. Some of that comes down to the fact that lasers are pretty annoying on in terms of cap use, but that is a natural weakness of the platform and the void bombs penalize that even further. Void bombs are the No.1 general balancing issue, overall – vulnerability timers.“

Trespasser:  “Void Bombs are very strong and i can absolutely see why people think they need a nerf. At the same time though i kind of feel the reason they are used so much is because they are the only real useful bomb.  If you gave the citadels(at least Large and Xlarge Citadels)  a large damage bomb that did real damage to battleships and boosted the small and medium ones to do real damage to cruisers/frigs, people wouldn’t use the neut one as much.   But Currently we have no large bomb, the Small and medium bombs do lethargic damage.

Another issue is that most alliances I have seen attack citadels generally use a projectile battleship doctrine and that don’t spread out, at all.   So I don’t really see a problem if 150 battleships are going to sit at zero on each other that they all get bombed.. that is the point of bombs in the first place, to force fleets to spread out to dodge them.

I think a good change to the neut bomb would be a reduction in its AOE to 20-25km from 40 and 3,000 cap nuked instead of the current 4,000.  This would make it easier to dodge if fleets spread out. Then maybe add a ‘Large’ bomb.”

So what about all this ‘space litter’ everyone seems so upset about?

Jin’taan: “I know for a fact that every single major entity in null sec has a plan to salt the earth if they get invaded. And when I say “salt the earth”, I mean 5-10 astrahauses ready to deploy in every single one of their system. The second they get invaded, they just throw them out there so even if you take their space your line members are going to a tonne of time grinding every system in Providence. Nobody is going to do that And since nobody is going to do that, we in Providence get to free blop all your ships for a next month and a half, there is no upkeep cost…tethering on Astra, no maintenance… and you can’t bring more dps to be quicker. We don’t have any incentive to man them, put guns on them, they are so cheap. You can try to stop them while anchoring, but you don’t have enough people to kill them all, because we can do it in one day. It is the way to use mechanics on our disposal to make anyone who tries to invade us to hate us for months.

It makes a weaponized boredom from the ‘Dominion’ look like a joke. At least weaponized boredom you could do quickly if you had enough titans and supers. Everybody is now waiting to see who will use this plan first. I just think it’s hilarious CCP let this happen. Same thing with Rorquals. We (CSM) warned them. They said we’ll believe it when we see it.”

Trespasser:   “I think this goes back to what i was saying earlier that a tie into the sov system should probably happen with citadels. The issue being in systems like goonswarm has with 50+ citadels or if an alliance started spamming them during a war, it would just take weeks if not longer to clear them all.

More than likely you would need to make the system I talked about earlier harsher,  something like any structure not in the same alliance that owns the IHUB (after it hits strategic level 1 would have only 1 RF cycle.. a 48 hour shield timer. Its DPS cap would be doubled and its vulnerability window doubled (minimum of 12 hours).   This would be a huge debuff to all citadels in that system and i’m fine with that because if the defending force can’t find a way to kill that ihub in 7 days then they are probably losing.

The only exception i would make is that if you destroy an IHUB of a capital system, it then requires Strategic level 2 before these effects kick in, just to stop headshotting.

Now on what Jin’Taan was saying about alliances dropping mass citadels, depending on the stage of the war that could work, but if you are doing it after you already lost most of your space then it’s far too late. With the exception of PL and maybe NC.  Most alliances and the people in them want a safe place to make money and while most people do like the first couple weeks to a month or so of war, after that especially if you are  on the losing side you are  going to start getting war fatigue, moral loss , and your wallet is going to start looking empty (even with SRP).. so these people want to go back to rat and mine, so they can decompress and do something different for a week or so.  Citadel spam or not if your people don’t have the ability to make ISK, they will go some place that they can, be it another alliance or corp or an alt in high sec doing incursions and this is why most insurgencies fail in this game.  People get disinterested and would rather just surrender and go kick over someones elses sandcastle then try and harass the locals of your old space for months.”

MBC forces destroy an Imperium citadel in M2-2V1

What do you think about the ‘damage cap’ mechanic?

Jin’taan: “I see it as a necessary evil. I think in high sec this is a problem because the fleets are smaller. You have to massively increase the EHP that a citadel has in order to for damage cap to be ok with you not having and even in that case what you run into is the problems of supers and titans and dreads being incredibly effective against them, and that means citadels would need to be balanced around the damage that they do. The only way I could see a damage cap being removed, if they can scale the EHP depending on the security of the system they are in. Without damage caps in current system with current EHP, there is a scenario where you can just one shot the structure and kill it. No fight. But with damage cap, we have to balance the fight, one fleet shoots, other circles around it. Very tactical. Damage caps are not fun, but not in the way let’s say entosis isn’t fun, it sucks. Feels like mining.Logarithmic scaling would be interesting. If I were to design citadels, I would take it into consideration. But in a grand scale of things, it is a low priority issue in terms of game design and problems with citadels.”

Trespasser: “I think damage caps are great. I know a lot of people in super capital heavy alliances hate it because they just can’t spam supers to win but that is exactly why it exists in the first place.

I would go one step further with the damage cap system and have it replace entosising completely.

Put the damage cap system on both the IHUB, TCU and command nodes. Instead of entosising, you shoot them, CCP would have to look into balance of the HP and Exactly what the damage cap should be but it would work very similar to now other than the fact you have to bring a fleet to shoot instead of 1 or 2 guys in nano rapier entosising.  When they come out of RF, command nodes spawn like they do now but they have a damage cap and HP, you gotta burn em down.  This promotes a much more active style gameplay then what we have now… what we have now is generally a fleet sitting on a titan and heavy dictors or command ships super tanked with cynos and an entosis link fly around capturing the command nodes… it’s boring for everyone involved.”

In our other discussions and I have seen multiple comments on the ability to fuel a citadel for years. A corp collapses or just walks away from the structure is that a problem or a opportunity for a target?

Jin’taan: “They (CCP)can’t define what “abandoned” citadel is. The problem with citadels is no requirements to maintain your equipment. With POSes, if you wanted a reinforce a timer, it had to be fueled. You had to actively put fuel in it. POS logistics was difficult, meaning you couldn’t litter space with those. Let’s say i.e. 2 fuel blocks per hour, logistics would be up, but would consider not seeding 10 Astrahuses in every system. The vast majority of citadel – related fights are when they anchor (first timer ever). Reason (a) void bombs suck and (b) then you have only 1 timer to deal with. With POSes, if you couldn’t fuel it, it would go offline and you kill it in one timer. I think a damage cap could be pulled off or have it lose a reinforcement timer. To become less defensively viable. Without making it so that if you don’t fuel your citadel for a day, because you are on holiday or something, you lose your citadel.”

Trespasser:  “I really don’t know what CCP could do that would make these cheap citadels worth fueling with nothing on them, removing tethering without fuel doesn’t seem to be a deal breaker for most people.  In high sec I was OK with the idea of some sort of NPC seeded reinforcement fuel, partially as an ISK sink and partially as it would help reduce useless billboard citadels.  In 0.0 though I’m not sure an NPC good or any extra fuel type at all is a good idea. I don’t really think there is a good answer here, because unless you fundamentally gimp the structure, people won’t care enough to fuel it. (IE remove docking).   Maybe any citadel without fuel over a period of  time has to spend more time vulnerable.   Something like +1-3 hours per week it’s not fueled, until such time as you fuel or it has 24/7 vulnerability.  Or maybe it reduces its RF timers.”

So how about those safety mechanics?

Trespasser: “As far as asset safety mechanics I understand what they are saying (no actual loss of your stuff), but I also understand people wouldn’t live in 0.0 (or at least this far out), if there was just constant pressure, if your citadel blows up you lose all of your assets. That is just the reality of the game. People have no problems when it comes to losing stuff in PvP. But there is also just a lot of equipment that goes into 0.0 that requires a lot of logistics and effort by players would not go through that effort to invest in a region or area if all can be snapped away from a proverbial boogie-man . But there is a penalty in losing stuff.   You do get taxed a percentage of the value of what you had in that structure. So that can be pretty expensive + stuff is locked away for 5 days in system, like 20 days if it goes to lowsec. Wars can  happen in that time. It can be very detrimental to corps and alliances if they lose the wrong things at the wrong time.”

Jin’taan: “We can credit CSM 10 for asset safety mechanics existence due to their idea of destructible stations which is where the citadels came from. In the history of that mechanic people never wanted their stations to be destroyed because they didn’t want all of their stuff to be dead if they got invaded. You don’t want people to not be able to feel like they can invest. To think I don’t want to go or I won’t live in my space I will stage everything out in NPC null sec or low sec. Asset safety does hurt, 2 weeks locked up and it costs you 20 percent of the total value . It always existed in different concepts. People are complaining about something that is better than ever was before because it is not harsh enough, and I understand that. I am very in touch with that, I would like it to be harsher, but I think ASM as a function is ok. Shouldn’t be anyone’s priority right now. Especially when we have far more pressing issues like entosis link and vulnerability timers.”

We managed to cover most of the topics when it comes to citadels so far but would be remiss in looking into the near future…

This winter player built stations in 0.0 space will be decommissioned and replaced with valuable and powerful ‘Faction’ Citadels. It is significant to note that Jin’Taan and his CVA own more player built stations in Providence than any other region in the universe and as such the superpowers of New Eden are all casting a eye towards Providence and the impeding ‘faction citadel’ gold rush:

Jin’taan: “Some players are very fond of the idea of coming to Provi and starting a safari  throwing down a gauntlet and challenge bigger meta entities to see who can capture (the) most Providence stations before the change goes down. I highly doubt this is going to motivate anyone to go to war with another great power mainly because the timeframe is so short, wars typically have long stalemate period of few months where attacker makes minimal progress after clearing beachhead as there is a rallying from the defenders we have seen this historically from almost every war and if during that time a patch comes through that means your reason for going to war is dead and you are stuck in a war with nothing that you gained nothing from apart pissing off a great power. When it comes down to the price of a faction Fortizar, in my opinion they can range from 40-200 billion ISK. And now you have this huge bounties on the head of regions.  So correspondingly, that system values i.e. Fountain anywhere from 1.8-9 trillion, and Providence from 3.5-17.4 trillion ISK.“

Trespasser: “I am fairly convinced that some powers are going to come down south to Provi and start trying to pick off stations right before the change so they can collect some quick cash. But I don’t see anything major happening other then Provi.  I can easily see these faction citadels  going for a 50+ billion ISK. and they are worth a  fortune. My predictions is that a lot of alliances are going to pick up a lot of them and try to sell them to make some quick cash.  At least a few of the most useful ones (probably the Amarr and Caldari variants) will probably stay anchored to take advantage of that one time rig they are gonna have(assuming they are worth it), but the second one of them looks threatened don’t be surprised if they get picked up with the quickness.”


Jin’taan: “Good, but needs work. If I had to give a grade for citadels as a piece of game design, I Would give them a C+, need some improvement. The concept is there, the idea of what citadels are. The reason they are made is perfectly fine, I don’t like people saying: get rid of citadels, leave us with POSes, no one is saying that. Nobody is saying: aww man, I love POSes, POSes are totally bug free and not broken mechanic, they definitely broken and have a awkward interface that doesn’t  make sense at all. It is more that people are very disappointed in the fact that CCP hasn’t talked about it, addressed, or even seems to be aware of the problems people have with them. They feel they are just plowing ahead, introducing refineries, and preparing for stuff that are more down the road. Without looking at what impact citadels are currently having and thinking: Is it healthy? Do we need to change something’ Maybe make it more healthier.“

Trespasser: “I really thought they were going to be a s**t show. But I was pleasantly surprised, I think they are one of the better features they added to the game in a long time. They still need work, don’t get me wrong. B- or maybe more C+ in my opinion. Give them more customization and fix the issues people have with them, at least open a dialogue. I would like to see  More fitting options in general, looks kinda bland right now, but CCP seems to be more interested in getting rid of towers first and then fixing structures later and as long as they actually work on them in the future and not blow them off like the corporation roles rework… then this is acceptable

See you tomorrow for our next and final part as I swallow my fear and venture into the dark and foreboding wormhole space… see ya then.

Author’s note: I would like to express my gratitude to the players who volunteered their time to participate in this interview about citadels and the impact they have had on the game so far. It is not every day I have the opportunity to talk to such a wide range of veteran players on any subject. To have the opportunity to speak with experts from pretty much every region (High Sec, Low Sec, Null Sec, and Wormhole space) about a singular subject was a major undertaking and a privilege. Also, I would like to say thank you to Salivan Harddin who helped a lot when I first decided to write about citadels.