The Most Unpopular Statement in Today’s Eve

I am about to say something that most nullsec Eve players would variously describe as stupid, foolish, selfish or otherwise mad, bad and dangerous to think.

Sovereignty should be harder to take.

More specifically, sovereignty should be harder to take from an active defender.

There. I said it. But why?

Eve at the moment is a very sick game. Nullsec is the poster-boy for the game. Nullsec keeps giving CCP injections of new subscribers every time we accidentally have a massive fight that ends up in the New York Times. Nullsec is also static, dull, lifeless and, most importantly, Nullsec continues to decline.

The CFC owns slightly less than half the map. N3PL owns slightly more than half the map. Nobody else has a chance of holding anything that either of our blocs want.

The CFC and PL have formal agreements that carve up the galaxy. Don’t look for another Great Eve War like that which ran from 2006 to 2009: it’s not allowed under our treaties. Don’t look for “VFK for August”, because it won’t happen (and we don’t live there any more!)

People rightly blame the sovereignty system introduced in the Dominion patch for this state of affairs. Dominion was probably the most pernicious and harmful patch ever released for Eve, and it has gradually choked the life out of a game that was thriving before its introduction. But most people will tell you the harm was caused by Dominion making sovereignty too hard to take. They are wrong.

The problem is that sovereignty is too easy to take. If the CFC or N3PL want to take a system from anyone but each other, they will do it without even having to achieve decent turnout. If we feel cocky and trust the treaties, we can take a whole region from any third party in less than half a dozen operations featuring at most 200 of our tens of thousands of members.

And here is the key. Dominion sovereignty is laughably easy to take: all you do is turn up and shoot hit points. The only counter is to have more people than your enemy, so that he dare not use his supercapitals. So people huddle together. The CFC grew ever larger to defend ourselves from the dreaded PL supercapital blob. Then we grew large enough to be a threat and N3PL coalesced and grew in order to defend themselves from us. Anyone not in either is dead meat on a hook, so they join or align with one or the other.

If you want people to stand alone as five hundred or a thousand people, you have to make it far harder for a twelve thousand man alliance like mine to take their space. As soon as you do that, the centrifugal forces existing in vast blocs will no longer be balanced by the centripetal force of fear. Who wants thirty thousand allies when you could have thirty thousand targets? Only someone who knows that they will lose everything without them.

So make it easy for an active, small group to hold their five systems against a larger force. Make trying to take a constellation from a two-hundred member alliance who are committed to its defence so hard that it is simply not worthwhile except as a source of fights. And the grand blocs will melt away like snow off a roof in April.

  • spagunk

    How would an incursion/FW style mechanic work for making this harder? Small teams must achieve specific tasks/objectives in order to open up constellation vulnerabilities and/or system nerfs. The trick is to make these mechanics “Non-grindy” because there are too many grind mechanics available and people are too tired of it. Give people an option for stealth/hacking objectives (Hack IHubs?) or combat objectives so that it makes the constellation more vulnerable to being attacked. Only then can a main force attempt to take the systems in the constellation. Meanwhile the defenders can work to flip things back, re-hack IHubs and such.

    Just a thought as I have no specific insight or claim to any devine knowledge of what makes a good vidya game. I’m dumb. :v:

  • JAF Anders

    Are we talking about more smaller structures with shorter timers here?

  • Nei takk

    Fiddler already provided some thoughts on the matter : http://fiddlersedge.blogspot.no/2014_02_01_archive.html
    He refers to it as Adverse Possession. Might be of interest.

  • Endie

    I’d quite like to move away from structure hit points as the measure of control, but I’ll post about my ideas on the contents of the FW sites later, in a couple of articles.

  • Endie

    It’s so wrapped up in his usual grudges that I have to admit I kinda skimmed it. Occupancy sov is not a new thing as an idea: I think that the momentum in Eve is beginning to realise how nad things are, and that radical solutions are needed.

  • Endie

    You’re not a million miles away from what I’m thinking about!

  • Zaand

    While this actually makes some very good points, it does so with the 20/20 hindsight that we now look at other issues such as Super proliferation with. You admitted in the article that the only sov left in Nul is what none of the coalitions want; so as it stands today, who cares how easy or difficult it is to take. The reason why proposing what you did here is so heretical is because the 2 (or 2.5) super-powers in the game are already so dug into their territory that any attempts to uproot them are an exercise in futility- so making it even more difficult only further cements the existing hegemony.

    The only way that this would work is if you could either roll back the clock to pre-Dominion, reset all of sov space and start from scratch, or somehow find a way to make the ability to take and/or defend sov scale inversely with the amount already held by the attacker and the defender. So larger alliances / coalitions would require more effort to defend their space than it would require for a smaller entity to take it, and vice-vesa.

    The real root of the problem is that any solution to control of space that relies simply on number of bodies in a fight, or total DPS brought to bear on an opponent will always be a N+1 system. (Side note: only in a game as obtuse and dense as EVE would a mathematical construct like N+1 become a cliche). Even if sov was incredibly hard to gain, you would still see people forming larger and larger groups to accomplish the goal.

  • Diskutant

    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. 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
    fiveminutes 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
    read any sub-comments.

  • JAF Anders

    I would encourage you to lean into the history of ‘plexing’ in Faction War, from Inferno-minus-1 until present.

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