Let A Thousand Jagged Flowers Bloom

Yesterday, I kicked off this series of posts on Eve Online reform by saying that I wanted it to be harder for big groups to take away small groups’ sov, so long as the defending group is active. This is because, personally, I think that far, far smaller groups in Eve would be a good thing.

Over the next few articles, I’ll go into more detail of the rules that should guide CCP as they approach the task of fixing a very broken game. But today I want to try and sell you on my vision of a better Eve Online. What I think I should do is say just why I think Eve needs to turn back the clock on the five years of gigantism and elephantiasis that the Dominion patch inflicted upon us.

My dream is an Eve sovereignty map made up of scores of independent alliances, ranging from a couple of hundred people up to a couple of thousand or so in the most extreme cases, and each holding somewhere between a single system and two or three constellations. I don’t think there should be some artificial “only ten slots for blues” or “limit alliances to a thousand members” caps. CCP has used the stick often and we players always get round their attempts. Instead, they should address the demand side. There should be no measurable sovereignty advantage to being in a group of a thousand over being in a group of two hundred.

I need you to make four assumptions with me here, which I will detail in later posts.

– First is that we should have a sovereignty system that means that it is incredibly difficult for even a huge mass of pilots to evict a group of a couple of hundred pilots from their space, so long as those defenders keep turning up to fight. If they don’t turn up then they should lose their space.
– Second is that if the attacker, even if smaller than the defenders, keeps plugging away at their attack for weeks, grinding down the defender’s will to hold their space, then they should be able to take that sovereignty without ever having to shoot massive, stationary, defenceless structures which serve only as obstacles to fun.
– The third assumption is that those same couple of hundred pilots should be able to live and get rich by holding a small number – say only half a dozen – systems.
– Finally, there should be real, exponential difficulties associated with holding increasing amounts of sovereign space.

Satisfy these conditions, and there would be no need for large blocs. No benefit, indeed. The dissolution of today’s hyperblocs would take a little time, but soon, we’d have a patchwork Eve. And that patchwork Eve would be more exciting, dynamic and unpredictable. We are celebrating – well, maybe commemorating is a better word – the 100th anniversary of Europe’s first industrial scale attempt to wipe out the French: World War One. That started in the Balkans, and “Balkanised” has for centuries been a term for things that are shattered, unpredictable, splintered.

Zoom in on the sovereignty map and we’d find these micro-alliances, small enough that every member knows almost everyone else. Each alliance in this scenario would probably have two, three or more immediate neighbours. Some they would get on with. Some they would doubtless hate. In a region like Fountain, with its ring-and-pockets structure, you might find a dozen alliances in a state of constant struggle, alignment and re-alignment. There wouldn’t be one stultifying, overarching conflict like there is now. There would be dozens. Let a thousand jagged flowers bloom.

The news sites would have a dozen wars to detail, instead of the current one, very cold, conflict. Imagine getting into the office and firing up dotlan or themittani dot com or Crossing Zebras and keenly looking to see whether space changed hands in the South Delve war, then reading an article on a series of fights one of the fiercely-raging Wicked Creek conflicts. Imagine that you are a mercenary corporation commander, and that your hundred people really can make a difference by keeping up the pressure for a client by harassing one neighbour to stop them intervening in a war they are fighting against another.

Imagine that you are sitting there in Citadel with your young alliance of newbies and mission runners and you fancy taking the plunge: if the major powers live within only a few constellations each, instead of multiple regions, then you will return to the unclaimed swathes of space that the south saw in the first few years of Eve. Whole constellations would remain unclaimed and that would mean that the barrier to entry was lower. Or perhaps you think you have what it takes to engage another minor power in a long war, grind down their will to live in the richer constellation they’ve claimed and remove them from it?

More alliances means more FCs are needed, and more young FCs getting a chance. More alliance leaders, more diplomats, more spies. Instead of only fifteen to twenty of us getting to run Eve for years (and we have done!) hundreds of younger, newer players would have the chance to rally a couple of corporations to themselves and head off into nullsec. Conflict being localised would mean that most sovereignty fights would probably never hit the tidi caps.

Would coalitions coalesce? Certainly, from time to time: human nature is to seek safety in the herd. And I have no doubt that every year or so we would see another B-R or 6VDT, especially without the great blocs’ cautious terror that losing their supercarriers mean potentially losing all their space and their easy, trillion-ISK-a-month rental income. But without the necessity to huddle together – without the fear of losing everything to a vast and invincible foe – these coalitions would be shifting, temporary and volatile.

Do you want to try forming your own alliance with some friends? Carving out a few systems? Making the difference you were told you could make in Eve? That cannot happen in today’s monoculture. You don’t need CCP’s current grandiose and overblown snoozefest. You need an Eve where you can defend your space against whatever your enemies throw at you so long as you keep turning up to fight. And you need this Eve of Smaller Things.

  • Endie

    Fine! I added disqus because Midge Mo’yb, GIA director, was worried that his PC was broadcasting an IP.

  • Jayne Fillon

    I really like the way this series is going, have you considered submitting them to TMC? you really should.

  • Midge Mo’yb

    Good deal

  • Endie

    I don’t think TMC does the “repost blog content” thing that en24 does.

  • igotthisyo

    Nice article. I enjoyed it. 1 and 2 are hard because small groups can’t withstand a continued attack from larger group of 200 vs 40. Unless we are talking about a system similar to FW then maybe. At some time though they’re going to have to sleep and the larger number will always win.

    The problem isn’t really sov mechanics, I feel it’s the players and the games lack of content relying on players. You can change mechanics all you want but it all boils down to coalitions. And your current coalition leaders and the alliances within them with leaders within the alliance have no spine. We have a system here better than the previous.. it’s not broke. The players are breaking it only because they’ve formed coalitions and choose to not fight and then there is the Botlord agreement. Because we know NC. and Nulli can’t really do shit without PL holding there dicks into battle. HERO I had hopes for a no fucks given mini coalition to pick at all entities. TBH honest coalitions exist today because of GrrGoons, because in order to beat the big bad I’m going to ruin your game goons, people were like hey lets get together and kick some teeth in. Instead they were like wow we are so stronk now, but look at all this isk we are making too, yeah let just stay over here, blow up some pubbie tier scrubs and make isk and never pay a subscription ever again. The CFC needs coalition because everyone wants to remove them from null but nobody is doing anything and so it’s pointless to even have them.

    All the BS aside what is stopping people right now from fighting, like right now? Cause sov mechanics? Bullshit, nothing is. So if people are bored of null look at your lazy commanders and leadership. This is a game, not real world politics, lets blow some shit up and laugh about it afterwards regardless of what ships or sov we lose.. or if we become so poor we have to start grinding for PLEX or paying $15usd/mo.

    Also death2rentalempires because that also a huge problem with null, and lets commence the helicopter dicking of each other.

  • Endie

    Thanks!

    I think that there will still be a place for timers: you are spot-on that a small group cannot cover all timezones.

    I do think that determined, small groups can do great things, however. Look at what KoS (including some of the core of today’s PL, when they were newbies) did in their defence in 2007 against thousands of players. Or what the Mexicans did in Delve versus Goonswarm (and against Test before that). But I don’t want to make it impossible to take someone else’s space, so long as you fight hard for it. I just want to ensure that a group who use and defend their space can grind down hostiles in a long defence. I think I have ideas that might help achieve that.

    But as I said in yesterday’s article, I want to remove the reasons why people form massive coalitions and blocs and even alliances, too. I want to make it more fun and just as profitable to be smaller, and let that reform the game as people lose the fear.

    And what’s stopping people fighting right now? Massive incomes. Laziness. A terrible sov system. Jaded leadership. The immense effort involved. I could go on.

  • JEFFRAIDER

    sounds good to me

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  • Case

    If one could roam from end to end and pass through a thousand feudal states, each with its own FC’s, doctrines, and habits… Ahh, what a beautiful and vibrant place EVE would be.

    It would feel like I was a newbie back in 2005, the universe was a great and huge place. But alas, EVE is a harsh mistress. I hope such dreams come to pass, she’d be a beautiful thing once again.

  • Endie

    Part of what I’ve been thinking is about a system where someone like Sniggwaffe can draw out fights from settled groups: if the defenders know that they can win so long as they keep turning up to defend – even if they lose each fight – then they will be far more likely to do so instead of huddling away in a station or a POS.

    It’s basically a manner of formalising the unwritten rule in W-Space that people who PvP and defend their wormhole don’t get evicted, even when they lose. I think I can think of a couple of ways to do that, sanely, with simple mechanics.

  • Endie

    The worry – and this is part of why I made myself start writing these – is that CCP really are fixated utterly on the huge B-R type fights that get them coverage in papers (free advertising) even though the stats show that they then squander what comes through their newbie hose in a matter of weeks. They are trying to draw in new players – and returning players – to a game which immediately drives them away again through boredom.

    Fix nullsec in a way that makes it exciting and unpredictable and reliable only as a source of PvP, and they would get people back through word of mouth alone on a grand scale.

  • Case

    I always get dragged back after the big fights. But I’d rather get constant action then this snoozefest we have now. FW looks appealing from time to time, and some of the Twitch feeds show really great action, but alas my heart is in null.

    Keep em coming Endie, I’m looking forward to the rest. Never stop posting.

  • Angry Mustache

    they did it just fine for namamai, his stuff is being reposted to TMC after some polishing

  • http://www.themittani.com/ Clewara

    We do when it’s good. I mean, this month we’ve pretty much been Mittens’ blog. Having one of his directors mix it up would make popcorn and pageviews for all–great news for me, as Collector of Writers.

    Except that you’re not /actually/ disagreeing as such, merely approaching the large issue from different angles.

    Therefore, this is obviously all a long-term illum metaplot. Death to coalitions and supercaps, ours…somewhere in there, no need to be greedy.

    — Clewara, TMC HR, CFC Recon, folder of custom stannous skullcaps.

  • Pillage

    While I agree that the SOV mechanic is not good. I just do not see how we can disregard thousands of years of human history that shows that people will group together rather than remain apart. Be it for mutual protection or economic reasons we will group. If a mechanic comes that breaks up the large blocks, I can guarantee it will not take long before new ones form. There are some very smart people playing this game who like to win. Those will always find a way to do this.

  • Billy Hardcore

    i love what my eyes are reading here. This is good shit! KEEP IT UP!!

  • Wilson263

    I really love the discussion on Sov mechanics between here and Mittani. I pitched some Sov Reform awhile back, with the basic goals to:

    – Make the cost of holding space representative of the value of the space.
    – Make space’s value increase based on how actively used it is.
    – Increase the number of claimable units of space.
    – Encourage small-gang warfare that has real consequences.
    – Advantages for defenders.

    https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&m=198834

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  • Zaand

    But the real reason why coalitions exist- and you even said it yourself in the article- is because it is human nature for people to coalesce into like groups. Millions of years of evolution has enshrined in us the key value of safety in numbers. Look at WW1, a single assassination snowballed into tens of millions of deaths because of the cascade of alliances in Europe at the time. WW2, A group of weaker nations grouped together to defeat the militarily superiority of Germany. Hell, even after the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO didn’t just dissolve; in fact, it only got stronger, and most of the former Warsaw Pact countries ended up joining (or trying to at least).

    EVE works on so many levels because it plays off of natural human traits so well, like greed, revenge, jealousy and community. You would have to find a way to make not being in a group more of an incentive than being in one. When some 1000 man alliance decides that is has outgrown its sov and needs to anex its 100 member neighbor’s space, it WILL do it. They both have the same exact incentive, only 1 has much greater means to achieve its objective: more pilots, more ISK, more ships and the luxury of time on its side. So the 100 member alliance enlists the help of its 800 member neighbor to the South that it has has amicable relations with. Together they defeat the first aggressor, take his space while he is on the retreat, and split it between themselves. Now they have to mutually defend space together because it is in the best interest for both of them, and they already have begun to build a logistics network from the small war they just won. Boom, a coalition is born.

    The fact is, at the end of the day, it was inevitable that EVE would end up with 2 or 3 super-powers at opposite ends of space. Since the introduction of sov space, there has been an ever decreasing number of independent entities in nul-sec. The Chinese sever is the same way, only it took them a lot less time- due to a number of factors- the greatest of which I assume is an even greater aversion to conflict than Tranquility.

    Personally, at the end of the day though, I blame the leaders of the coalitions. They are far to complacent in their security atop Mount nul-sec to ever rock the boat and risk losing their empires. In an ideal world, I would like to see the two sides just smash into one another once-and-for-all and both walk out of the explosion as mere shells of their former selves, if at all.

    “The minute God crapped out the third caveman, a conspiracy was hatched against one of them.”

  • Diskutant

    I already commented with this on your other post, and am copying it here shamelessly!

    Here is a mechanic that would do what you want: the Tug of War.

    Have you ever played tug of war?
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fd/Tug_of_war_2.jpg/250px-Tug_of_war_2.jpg

    You probably have. Two teams pull on the opposing ends of a rope, each trying
    to pull it over to their side. The stronger team eventually wins, carries the
    day and wins the prize.

    How could the tug of war work for Sov in Eve, how could sovereignty in any given
    system be granted to the team that pulls strongest on the “rope of sovereignty” ? Like this:

    The team (the alliance) that for the recent time had the most armed and
    piloted (undocked, un-POSed, uncloaked) ships in the system is the one “pulling
    stronger”. A point counter is used to determine that: For every alliance or friendly ship in the system,
    dependent on size and tech, points per time increment (recorded e.g. every five
    minutes) are awarded to the leading / sov holding alliance’s sovereignty claim.

    Hostile ships, on the other hand, take points away. Ships from an alliance that
    has the holder blued are treated as friendly, having the holder set to neutral
    does not interfere with holder’s sov, and set to hostile does.

    An alliance that has won the tug of war and has accumulated a certain amount of
    points is offered sovereignty, and can click-accept. (It must accumulate some
    substantial amount to avoid sov being transferred back and forth every
    five minutes over a single point being given and taken.) Once the sov-holding
    alliance’s counter should drop to zero points again, it loses sov.

    Points are still accumulated when you have sov, to make important/much used
    systems much stronger. An alliance with capitals and supercapitals will be able
    to pull the rope very far onto their side (read: make important systems
    super-strong), so that these could only be conquered with a persistent similar
    capital and supercapital presence.

    Which can be attacked in the process, of course.
    Points decay over time (1%/downtime?), so unused/unpatrolled systems are more
    easily conquerable, and years of holding sov will not make a system
    unconquerable for years to come.

    A system with recently flipped sov will not be very strong yet. So an alliance
    can take it back in their prime time with relative ease, if they are able to
    commit the power needed. Therefore, timers or “grace periods” are not
    necessary, though they may be an option to allow for evacuation or marshalling
    up a defense. Be it this way or that: if the former owners cannot retake the
    lead on the point counter, then they do not deserve that system anyway. Also,
    strong or „super-strong“ systems cannot be taken away in a few hours without
    notice, after the sov holder had weeks to increase his sovereignty claim to
    serious heights.

    This mechanic would still reward having the social skills to organize large
    forces and being able to gather overwhelming numbers.
    On the other hand, even a large coalition cannot be everywhere. And since the
    sov holders’ points decay, simply having 51% of the numbers of the

    nulsec-dwellers will not suffice to “win EVE”. Thus, having a huge
    bloc will still be rewarded with (much) larger and nicer portions of space.
    Having a huge bloc is however probably not
    necessary to claim a worthless backwater system and enter into the sovereignty
    game. Since the huge blocs are not likely to be willing to commit their pilots’
    precious time to defending worthless system week after week, one would probably
    “only” need persistence and moderate numbers to pass the threshold and enter into the sov game.

    I think this mechanic would open more possibilities than the status quo, which
    is incentivized to lead to great powerblocs as you described. Or which go on
    boundless conquest [link to
    http://themittani.com/features/everything-you-know-about-sov-revamps-wrong.
    Going on boundless conquest would be punished because you cannot, at the same
    time, keep up your sovereignty claim as effectively in the worthwhile systems
    and in your home region. And thus, smaller coalitions can get their foot in via
    the backwater systems without having to be part of a bloc that is as large as
    possible, simply because there will be opportunities to claim sov without being
    so large.

    As it is, sov mechanics need huge blobs. Even the most worthless system needs a
    valuable TCU, which needs lots of firepower to demolish. The ships that have
    this firepower attract the large blobs like honey attracts flies – and to top
    it off, the honey pot will be there at a time which is precisely known well in
    advance. So, in effect, the larger group can always hold the field if it so
    chooses. And a smaller group will be foolish to send in their fleet which will

    surely be annihilated if the defenders do not want to lose their system. And
    which alliance would willingly lose a system when it can help it? This is what
    inevitably leads to the rise of the few large blocs.
    If a smaller group can send their fleet and pull on the rope and live, this
    inevitability is removed.

    And the larger groups can still keep the systems they really like, because they
    are larger. They can pull harder on the other end of the rope wherever they
    like, if they deem their time and the system worth it.

    Additionally, the tug of war mechanic will diminish one of the major drawbacks
    of the current workings: having to be in a certain system at a very specific
    point of time with as many pilots as possible. This is creating the dreaded
    “soul-crushing lag and TiDi”. Not anymore, at least not necessarily:
    the sov-points are gathered and deducted over the course of days and maybe weeks. And if a system
    is contested and the attacker sends in large numbers and powerful ships, the
    defender can choose to go into that system – or use the opportunity to send
    forces into the attacker’s systems, taking advantage of his absence there. Or
    split forces. Or make a feign attack on the attacker’s home region, and while he recalls some of the
    assault forces to defend, turn around and kick the remaining attack fleet from
    the besieged system, Or … or … or…! The same is true for the attacker:
    instead of going for a single system, he can opt to spread his forces to attack
    several systems at once, possibly in very different locations, making the
    defender have to choose and react this way or that. Which in turn affects the
    way how the attacker continues with his plans. So location of pilots can be
    much more spread out. And spread out means smoother gameplay.

    The whole system of nulsec warfare would become much more reliant on strategic
    decisions – where to have your forces at any given time – and it would give a
    lot more choices how and where to attack, and how and where to defend. Instead
    of having to pile everything into a single system. It would become much more
    lively, dynamic, and interesting. And all with much less tidi and lag!

    In conclusion, here are some details that also came along while thinking about
    the idea: 1.) Sov holder always gets updates about changes, and can set automated
    notifications when certain absolute and/or relative changes occur. 2.) I am not
    sure if an attacker should be able to see the status of the sov holder’s claim
    and how much more effort is needed to cancel the current sov. 3.) Station
    mechanics should stay as they are: difficult to conquer when belonging to sov
    holder, easy(ier) when not. 4.) Other sov infrastructure gets transferred to
    sov holder automatically, and gives bonuses to sov holder’s points, but can be
    destroyed by an attacker to make conquest easier. So an attacker can make a
    strategic decision to blow that stuff up to take sov quicker, but having to
    replace it, or to inherit it after putting more effort into the conquest. 5.)
    Sov blockade units give bonuses to point deduction from holding alliance. 6.)
    Sov can still be transferred. The transferee gains the sov points from the
    transferring alliance, and since both are probably blue to each other, the sov
    count developes the same as if the former alliance still held sov. Renters are
    still welcome, and joint conquest and subsequent division of spoils is still
    possible. 7.) Point counter values might spill over to neighbouring systems, so
    that a strong system could influence neighbouring systems’ counter positively
    towards the regional hegemon.

    I am certain there are important points I have missed. I am looking forward to
    reading any sub-comments.

  • Sean Livingston

    I totally agree with you here. There was a threadnaught a while back where people mainly blamed NULL stagnation on power projection, but I honestly think that’s not true. The problem is that the large alliances really don’t have to react to aggression, and small groups can’t make aggressive moves against them.

    When you have thousands of players available, it’s easy to respond to something going into reinforced mode. You can get a number of T3s and/or Capital ships lined up and just stomp anything when the timer expires. I’d really like to see is: each alliance would have to declare a capital system, and each jump you take away from this seat of power would lower the max reinforcement timer. Get far enough out: NO reinforcement timer.

    Small alliances with one or two systems have time to plan and react, but the big alliances would get no warning. If you have thousands of players available you should be able to put up a defense at a moment’s notice, it just might not include supercaps.

  • Howard Treesong

    This touches on the greater underlying problem of where the designers seem to want us to take EVE. Also, I think it would always be possible for larger blocks to keep dominating huge swathes of space if they did the logistics right.

    I’m not against this idea, I think we need something higher to strive for.