Monday, October 14, 2013

Fixing Null-Sec Pt. 2: Sovereignty and Force Projection

As expected, I drew a lot of angry visitors with part 1 of this guide.  Whether I propose nerfs to high-sec or buffs to null-sec, the result was the same: making high-sec relatively less valuable, and that’s a big no-no suggestion in Eve.  But if you want to draw players into null, it has to be done (and yes, I recognize that some players simply won’t lave high-sec).

But getting the players to null is worthless without having a compelling environment for them.  The suggestions in Part 1 won’t work unless you address the problems with sovereignty and stagnation currently infesting null-sec.

Yes, this is the “we’ve got to fix the big blue doughnut” portion of this topic’s festivities.

And keep in mind the proviso in the intro to this guide, that the suggestions I’m proposing must involve little to no CCP development work on new features, but rather tweak existing calculations, modifiers, and equations.

The goal?  To see a null-sec filled with small gangs, lots of small alliances holding space, and an environment in which any null entity need only travel a dozen jumps to fight fights.

Right now, null-sec has two significant problems related to sovereignty, sov mechanics that result in power concentrations and the ease of force projection.  By power concentrations, I mean both the inexorable trend of coalition-izing and the mechanics themselves that require large, well-organized fleets to seize and hold territory.  Changing both will in turn limit force projection.

The CFC is the current hegemon in null-sec.  With its organization, willingness to drop dead weight and add new blood, and policy shift to convert much of its space to rental space, I see nothing to suggest it can be stopped, or even slowed down.  In Fountain, the CFC fought against nearly every null entity of note.  It was victorious because of coordination – a collection of coalitions cannot fight as well as a single large coalition can.  If the CFC falls, it’ll be because of an internal rot that isn’t presently in evidence.

This is very bad for Eve.  Null-sec thrives on conflict.  Regardless of whether the CFC conquers all of null or not, the other null entities have already begun concentrating into coalitions of their own.  Eve is becoming a game of space empires, and within the borders of those empires, no fighting occurs.  I’d much rather have a game of space fiefdoms with hundreds of alliances fighting on all of their borders.  Such a universe would offer more opportunities for conflict than a couple coalitions do.  And make no mistake – Eve is a game of conflict.

But how can we create space fiefdoms again?

Escalating Sovereignty Costs

As much as people condemn it, CCP needs to implement some sort of escalating sov cost algorithm.  The sov cost value can be replaced by an algorithm based on the number of systems owned.  Anyone with children can tell you managing two children is three times as difficult as managing one.  The same can be said for nearly any object in the real world; its this tendency that leads to every large empire in history crumbling from its own weight.  Right now, costs and effort are infinitely scalable, and this unending scalability breaks the normal pattern.  There is no “weight” to cause the crumbling.

The costs of managing six systems shouldn’t be as high, on average, as the costs of managing a hundred.  Now, I propose a noticeable, but not ruinous, increase in costs, with a net decrease when alliances own only a couple systems.  An escalating sov cost system fits in with insurance costs, clone costs, and faction warfare costs, so it has clear precedents within Eve.

This sort of system won’t force a hard cap, but – as will all things in Eve – alliances will need to make decisions about how they spend their income… additional systems, or discounted ship contracts, or ship replacement, but not all of them.  Eve is a game of choices, after all.

But an increase in sov costs means the larger alliances, those more likely to deploy to distant regions, will have less isk available to fund these deployments, forcing them to be choosy about where and why they deploy.  It might make more sense to observe a possible enemy for longer to determine if he will actually post a threat, rather than squash him when he’s still small.  This would generate larger wars, and allow more entities to develop to a point when they could competently defend themselves.

The trick is to make it difficult to travel across the galaxy, but keep local cap use affordable.  Increases in jump fuel costs would harm everyone, distant and local cap use alike.  And escalating fuel costs by light-years jumped won’t work since large null alliances have access to dozens of cyno alts to let them make many small jumps, rather than a few large jumps.  It’s also this prevalence of cyno alts in large alliances that makes a reduction in jump range simply annoying, not effective, and more harmful to smaller alliances.

Now it’s very likely that larger alliances may divide into two or more allied alliances to keep sov costs down.  This is certainly a possibility, but doing so requires a level of logistical deftness that few entities possess.

Let’s say Alliance A breaks into A and B.  If their neighbor failcascades, they would need to set up Alliance C to own that new space.  When previously managing one alliance, are they going to be eager to manage three now?  And when the next neighbor attacks Alliance C, are they going to conquer them as well, and set up Alliance D?  Very quickly, the logistics of running multiple alliances will crumble.  And with reputation being what it is, the collapse of even one of those alliances will suggest weakness to its neighbors.  Initially, this splitting solution may be popular, but I doubt we’d see more than three or four instances of it a few months down the road.

Adjustments to Sov Mechanics

Right now, sov is taken by destroying one large, high-hp objection at a time.  The optimal way of doing this is to bring a fleet of supercarriers or dreads and blapping it quickly.  But how many alliances can field a fleet of supercarriers?  Current sov mechanics favor blobbing by wealthy alliances, and effectively crowd out smaller alliances.

This makes no sense, to be quite frank.  Warfare in the modern world involves multiple strategic objections that need to be struck to control an area.  Why not implement a system similar to faction warfare, but without the annoying PvE component?  Instead of SBUs and TCUs, doesn’t it make sense for an alliance to need to establish control at multiple areas within a solar system?

I propose replacing TCUs with much less-expensive and lower-hp anchorable structures that must be placed at every planet.  For simplicity, let’s call them planetary control units.  These units would have much less hp, so a fleet of 10 battleships could chew through one in about ten minutes.  Each would afford a reinforce cycle: this mechanic is essential for any international game so the defenders could muster.  And attackers would only need to take out half the planetary PCUs to make a system vulnerable.

However, with six to twelve PCUs in reinforce, system owners would face more complicated tasks to defend a system than “form up on TCU, blap anything nearby”.  If a fleet of 10 battleships could take one out in 10 minutes, attackers could take on larger alliances more easily.  With a fleet of 50 battleships, they could destroy a PCU in two minutes, with 100, in one minute.  Defenders would need to split their forces among several PCUs to engage attackers before they succeeded in destroying the PCU.

Ah, but what about when small alliances are attacked by larger alliances?  They have two options.  If the enemy divides to hit multiple PCUs, a smaller alliance – using bubbles to delay reinforcements) could maintain local superiority at a single planet, drive off or destroy the enemy, and move to the next (this is Napoleon’s famous “central position”).  If the enemy attacks each in sequence, there’s always bombing, the grand equalizer.  Owning the systems, defenders can easily set up bombing bookmarks perfectly in line with celestials (to eliminate the possibility of being caught).  Fourteen pilots can eliminate an entire attacking fleet (more on this in part III) easily.  And to sweeten the deal, let’s make PCUs immune to bomb damage.

The “half must be covered” mechanic already exists for TCUs, and can be easily mapped to planets instead of gates.  Changes to ehp can be done easily; not much programming required.  Admittedly, making PCUs immune to bomb damage requires some coding.  But the advantages – smaller fleets can put sov structures into reinforce much quicker and more points must be attacked at once, making agility more important than numbers – give smaller alliances a better chance.

We can also eliminate iHubs and make each upgrade a separate, attackable object that has to be placed around a planet, to provide more items to attack.  These upgrades wouldn’t include a reinforce timer, but nor would they be destroyed, only incapacitated.  In this way, alliances wouldn’t have to pay for replacement upgrades, but they would have to repair them before being able to use those upgrades in a system again.  Again, these objects would be smaller and have lower amounts of HP – less than a small tower, more than a POS module.  If you want to use your space, you would have to be present to defend your space.  As an added benefit, no longer would alliances need freighters to bring an iHub into a system.  That’s just annoying, and favors larger alliances.

An important element would be cost… sov components should not be very expensive; the costs should come from upkeep and maintenance costs, not initial outlay.  Small alliances don’t have the funds up front to pay the exorbitant costs associated with taking sov.  Large alliances that get in over their heads would choke on the spoils of war.

By decentralizing the attack points, we give smaller alliances the opportunity to concentrate their forces to attack larger alliances that spread themselves out to quickly burn a system.  This sort of mechanic would also help curb force projection; if systems can easily be put in danger, alliances would be encouraged to stay closer to home.  Taking systems would be messier and increase overall sov costs, meaning that it would be done by large entities only for good reasons with clear benefits.


To bring us back to a universe of may smaller alliances – and the many more alliance borders that see the majority of fights, we need to keep alliances close to home.  If we can accomplish this, we give alliances less of an incentive to remain snugly next to friendly neighbors; a big blue doughnut looks a lot less appealing if your PvP alliance is forbidden from shooting at all your neighbors and you can’t regularly deploy to a distant region for PvP content.

Creating a sov system that allows much smaller entities to successfully take a system would further encourage alliances to live in their space if for no reason other than to remain on hand to defend it.  Right now, there are only a handful of entities that can seriously threaten a regional invasion, and only a couple that can hope to hold it once taken.  That needs to change to ensure a vibrant null-sec.

Every sov-holding alliance should see real benefits to holding sov, real threats to losing it, and face decision-making in how they spend their income.

And for every alliance we can bring into null-sec, that’s another source both of roaming gangs and targets.  It’s another group of people who can now play in the null sandbox.  And it’s entertaining in a way that the past several wars haven’t been: anything can happen.

One thing is certain.  Current sov mechanics don’t allow smaller alliances to gain a foothold, let alone survive, unless they’re allied with the larger blocs.  Creating a system in which alliances can only handle so many systems and must defend their systems from guerilla raids would help keep alliances preoccupied with their own space, which would create the breathing room for smaller alliances to grow and prosper.  And this benefits anyone who is truly interested in a PvP-filled null-sec.


  1. Dude, you aren't being controvertial, you just get flack because you dont understand game design.

    Sov takes too much capital investment, and too much resources to get. Thats why it's stagnant. People are risk averse for the same reason in cap warfare.

    You want more in nul? The ore changes help, but the only thing that needs to change is ease of access. It's why everyone build rifters, but not many people build t3s

    go watch extra credits youtube channel, and get some game developer knowledge

    1. I may be wrong, but I don't think he is trying to be controversial. These changes would make it easier for the little guy to get into null SOV. I would love to get a corp or alliance and go use ninja/guerrilla tactics to get some sov, and defend it.

      The only thing I see with this is that his "PCUs" should be effected by bombs. It would make covops (specifically Bombers) more useful, and allow the little guy to take sov from the big guy.

      This combined with the warp changes, would make ninja taking sov from larger groups attainable for smaller corps. You could Covops Cyno in, put a couple of them in reinforce, and cyno out very quickly. I love these types of tactics.

      Then again, I live in wormholes, and ninja/guerrilla tactics kind of our bread and butter, so I may be biased.

  2. The way to keep sov costs down would be to form some sort of collective grouping out of game. Maybe call it a "coalition". A coalition is alliances and each alliance would have a smaller affordable sov area.

    You are right. This is a lot more difficult. It's basically impossible for the smaller, less organised. It would require a fair amount of out of game infrastructure and systems.

    Basically it would be impossible for the smaller guys, but it wouldn't really be a big deal for the existing coalition who actually (this is the part that might surprise you) already do this!