Prior to Aegis sov the phrase “farms and fields” was often uttered as a new way forward for nullsec development. It described a new way null would operate in which sov space would not be as dependent on Jita trade, as well as allowing players to interact with the space in more meaningful ways. Moon mining was entirely passive and provided much if not most of the alliance’s income. Different proponents emphasized different aspects of what they considered “farms and fields.”
Mittens in 2011 remarked “This is something which we discussed at the Fanfest roundtables at length; right now Nullsec is entirely dependent on importing virtually everything from Jita, and exports only moon goo. Meanwhile, nonsov small-gang entities can only ‘contest’ the empires through the sov system, which does not interest them. Industrialization would provide both ‘crops’ to grow in nullsec, and provide targets for smaller entities to set on fire to make life miserable for empires beyond TCUs.”
While null’s complete dependence on Jita has been fairly dealt with, the rest of the concern voiced has not and instead I would argue that we have even gone backward. I am referring specifically to the ability of smaller entities to impact null on any meaningful level. Obviously I do not think a group of 5 players should be able to fly into the heart of a null alliance’s space and just take it over. But they should be able to do something somewhat meaningful. The “raiding” aspect that is so prevalent in actual wars is severely lacking in Eve. Unless you are hitting structures and committing some serious hardware to the field what exactly can one do? They can hope to catch ratters and miners which are protected in multiple ways from intel channels, local providing perfect intel and spammable structures, or hope that the people living in the area are both bored enough, and “honorable” enough to engage in similarly sized fleets. Although some entities do engage in this kind of “honorable” behavior, it’s rare and unnatural. Furthermore the addition of decloaking observatories only further underlines this reality.
Farms and Fields became Sieges and Castles
The unfortunate truth is that small gang does not really “matter.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s enjoyable, it’s skill intensive, it makes for great videos, and it’s my preferred way of playing Eve. But when it comes to making an impact on the board, it’s fairly lacking. This is because instead of “farms and fields” that a small group could hope to burn in order to not only coerce a response, but actually damage the sov holding entity, instead we have “castles and sieges.” Sov holding entities went from having a limited number of stations with no defensive capabilities and some poses, to being able to spam dozens of high dps Upwell structures. Where in the past a small gang group could harass the undock of a station and at least impact morale and coerce out a response fleets, now even just being on grid with said station is dangerous.
“Sieges and castles” are fine. We could do with some kind of limitation on where structures could be placed and how many, but that’s not really my gripe here. My desire would be that CCP actually implement a more holistic “farms and fields” model where raiders can come in and actually do some damage to your “crops.” Once or twice is not going to hurt too much, but a continued raiding campaign should have a meaningful impact. What would that look like?
When looking at historical examples people tend to put an emphasis on the big notable battles of tens of thousands, sometimes even hundreds of thousands of men slaughtering each other in the field or on the ramparts of a city wall. What is often missed is the series of skirmishes, raids and counter raids that could go on for years before said conflict culminated in such a battle. Some of the best examples would be the East Roman Empire and its conflicts with the Islamic Arab Caliphate of the 8th-11th century. Military manuals of the time go into detail on how to employ quick and agile bands of mounted skirmishers. These were essentially medieval equivalent of “small gang kiting comps.” A few dozen mounted archers would descend upon a series of settlements lighting crops on fire, carrying away slaves and goods while destroying anything that couldn’t be taken. Much like our world in Eve, these small skirmishes did not catch create the massive headlines of the deceive battles, but often the battles themselves would be impacted by the success of such raiding campaigns. Allow an enemy to raid an area for too long it becomes depopulated, the people who are left cannot pay taxes which in turn means you cannot pay as many soldiers which leads you to have a weaker hand when “the big battle” comes. Small gang in Eve should have a similar role.
In Eve we can consider the moons and mining sites as equivalent to the farms and fields of the medieval era. ESS raiding is a good starting concept of how to create that kind of skirmishing atmosphere but should not be where small gang’s effectiveness ends. What if there was a way to actually destroy or steal the resources of enemies on a more meaningful level? You could burn the crops in the field, or steal them for yourself. How would that look like in Eve?
Burning the crops in the field could be as simple as someone targeting asteroids with DPS and destroying them, utilizing smart bombs or even stealth bombers. Once we remove the NPC mining fleets contributing to the scarcity CCP implemented, this could be a viable play style. Small scale raiding “burning the fields” could knock out mining potential if not defended against. While doing this once or twice would have little impact, a small dedicated group in a prolonged harassment campaign could start having a meaningful impact.
How about “stealing crops?” When moons are mined, the process of extracting the materials from the moon’s surface could cause some sort of radiation. Thus when the moon materials are placed in the respective structure, it may require time in a special portion of the structure to deal with the radiation. Raiding parties could come in, hack the athanor, and extract some of the ore. Obviously some of the details would need to be refined. One couldn’t be able to steal so much of the moon ore that it makes mining pointless, but it should be costly if left undefended. The bar of causing some kind of impact in null should not always require a full fleet and official FC to ping. If you and 4 of your friends want to do something meaningful in null and have some kind of impact, it should be an option.
One thing that may make both miner and attacker happy would be a consolidation of mining sites into fewer places. Currently Rorquals may not be practical considering the scarcity in space. Warping around from site to site, belt to belt takes time and time is money. Why not consolidate the generic belts into one belt, and perhaps even some of the mining sites themselves into larger singular sites. Suddenly there’s less time being spent wrapping and more of your fleet mates can harvest ore together thus making protection easier. On the flip side the attacker jumping in does not have to d-scan through 15 different potential sites hoping that the target is afk. Instead both parties will more or less know where the other is, they’ll be set up to meet each other, and one way or another someone will blow up a spaceship.
This site consolidation can likewise work for ratting as well. Make the sites viable for group ratting. People ratting in groups have more defense. Less sites means the attackers themselves will likewise find these targets faster as well. Like in the mining scenario both sides are better set up to meet one another and fight. This is a much better alternative than the current scenario where most people just warp off and dock up because by themselves they cannot stand up to attackers, and the attackers themselves spend hours and hours hoping to find that afker to shoot. This sucks for both sides.
All in all the goal is simple: Allow smaller groups to have more meaningful impact, encourage group activities to be more intuitive and natural including ratting and mining, and give both attacker and defender an incentive to meet each other in space whether that be to raid/burn the fields or to defend them ensuring the wealth of their kingdom. Let us actually have farms and fields instead of just sieges and castles.