It’s time to put my money where my mouth is.
So far in this series I have laid out the case for an Eve populated by smaller entities, in far more densely-populated sovereignty holdings which leave more space free for newcomers to nullsec. I have also described how I think this patchwork eve of smaller alliances would look. And I have suggested that the mission agents in PC nullsec stations are the most scalable method of providing an income for more people in less systems, providing enhanced player and alliance incomes while requiring PvEers to take responsibility for the defence of their sovereignty pockets.
So far so good, and I’ve been lucky enough to have overwhelmingly positive feedback from those who have read the articles and discussed them with me on themittani.com, on Reddit, in my comments section, in jabber, on the SoZ podcast, in twitter and more. But the absolutely vital next step is to demonstrate that it is possible to implement a sovereignty system that gives a fighting chance to smaller groups to defend their space if they are willing to fight; that punishes sprawl; and that makes vast renter empires unsustainable. As an added restriction, I’m going to try to describe such a system that can, overwhelmingly, use existing Eve mechanics.
To this end, my suggested system borrows from the current system index system; factional warfare; wormhole mechanics; and even a little of the widely-detested Dominion system (but not very much!)
First of all, here is a broad brush-strokes summary. In my suggested system, you only hold sovereignty in space that you use, and use a lot. If you stop using that space completely, you lose sovereignty in it (bye bye vast, sparse empires). If you only use it a little, sovereignty becomes vulnerable. If you use it a great deal, then your sovereignty is invulnerable.
Keeping Your Sovereignty
By “use” I mean the full range of ways that you can exploit space. At the moment we have mechanics for boosting the ratting and mining indexes of a system: the more people run anomalies, do exploration sites, belt rat or run complexes in a system, the higher the Military Index rises. The more ice and minerals people mine, the higher the industrial index rises. In the system I suggest, these activities and more (planetary industry, moon mining, POS-based construction and more) would contribute points to a common sovereignty index. So long as you keep doing these, your sovereignty over the system is undoubted and untouchable. But if you stop doing those, your sovereignty becomes vulnerable to challenge. If you stop using a system completely for a week, pop! No more sov.
And someone else doing this in your space doesn’t count. The alliance holding sov has to use it. Only their activities count to sov. And they have to defend it (see below). Goodbye renter empires.
At this point you might think “wait, you said people would have to fight for their space! That sounds like PvEing for it! I’m not going to rat to take sov!” Don’t worry: every stage can be attacked and defended by fighting!
Taking Their Sovereignty
Now someone like Pasta Syndicate or Sniggwaffe may come along and camp your space. They may or may not actually want it, but they will enjoy stopping you using it (once upon a time, Goons were like this too, and frankly I’d like to see those days return). They gank your mission-runners, terrify your miners into docking-up, they reinforce your CSAAs and moon-miners. Before you know it your indexes are plummeting. If you are based in the same timezone as your attackers (remember, the system is based around making fights more likely, so attackers should choose targets that are affected by their camping, and those will tend to be be in the same timezone) then the majority of our activity will drop.
Now if you want your space to remain invulnerable, you have to fight them. You form up standing defence fleets, you set traps with bait ships, maybe you drive them off, maybe they are satisfied with a few days of fights and leave, but you cannot just dock up and hope they go away. If you do that, then your sovereignty index decays in the course of a week or so to “vulnerable”, where you are still using your space a little but not enough for it to be unchallenged, and now your sovereignty can be disputed by the attackers.
At this point, the hostiles can shoot your Territorial Claim Unit and put the system into reinforced. This is not a Dominion-era sov structure with annoyingly huge hitpoints: it can be shot by a dozen dreadnoughts in a single cycle: something even a small alliance should be able to scrape together. Or you can use a wing of battleships and take a little longer. So you reinforce the TCU and now sovereignty is up for grabs. Here is where the fun begins!
Old Molle’s Pendulum War
The defenders have set a timer, say 2100 Eve for a predominantly European alliance. Each day for the next week, a factional-warfare-style complex will spawn: the attackers and defenders can see these timers in advance. System control starts at 7/7 for the defender. Every time the attacker manages to win a complex timer (more on that, tomorrow), system control drops by one. When the attackers get control down to 0/7, the system is taken. Simple.
This is a bit like Factional Warfare, and a bit like the best aspects of the old POS system. The attacker won’t lose everything if they lose a single timer, and the war can be dragged on by either side by turning up and fighting. If either side fail to turn up for a timer, the counter goes to their opponent by two.
I want to discourage people blueing-up the galaxy, so this next bit will be controversial but Eve players have shown that if we are left to ourselves we coalesce into no-fun blobs. So this is about giving smaller actors a chance, and removing the advantage of amassing huge blocs.
Those complexes will have two entry points, one of which will be reserved for the alliance that reinforced the TCU – and only that alliance – and the other of which is reserved for the defending alliance. Each has a mass limit, just like wormholes. If the system has a greatly-upgraded station then that mass limit will be a lot higher, and will allow dreadnoughts or carriers through. Those systems are for the big boys. If there is no station then the mass limit will be lower and will only allow battleships through at most. A non-upgraded station will allow, say, a full wing of fifty battleships in at most, which pretty much says that you need to get together a group of three hundred dedicated people to realistically hold a station system against a committed attacker.
You cannot get your allies to mass-camp the enemy’s entry-gate, either. You can implement entry to the sov complex in a number of ways, be it a special cyno players can jump to or even just a button in a station you press to be transported there. Enforcing difficulties just spoils fun. And believe me, those of you saying “but they’ll just teleport their carebears from empire!” should just think for a second about what that means for your killboard, while the best way to keep PvE players is to get them into fights alongside their corpmates.
Yes, these are a cross between FW complexes, wormholes and instanced battlefields. We’ve shown that this is needed in the last few years. It’ll be a lot more fun than today’s turning away subcaps to stop the game crashing. No Tidi. No lag. Fights that a newbie FC can have a crack at. A tangible reward for bringing expensive ships.
So you can’t bring allies: you do it alone, attacker versus defender, in fleets whose size and makeup are essentially decided by the defender’s ambition when they chose to take that system in the first place. The better will beat the worse; the more committed will beat the lazy.
CCP and fans of huge lag and TiDi will still get their big battles. How many of the great battles that hit the papers are over sov timers? Virtually none: they are all over CSAAs or accidents, whether accidentally dropped sovereignty or accidental titan bridge-jumps. 6VDT was not over sov but over a principal (that Test weren’t beaten down even though their sov was lost). The huge battles over CSAAs and high-end moons and misjumped capitals will still happen.
Tomorrow: what happens inside the complex.
P.S. I know it needs charts, but I have the graphical ability of Damien Hirst on a bad day.