Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Power Protection

Recently, Ogast wrote an article on Eve News 24 suggesting some ways to curb power projection in Eve.  The suggestions he offered were mass limitations on cyno fields, similar to wormholes, and tethered bridging (being able to carry multiple ships with you through the bridge).  I’m not certain whether he was genuinely suggesting that they be added or simply throwing the ideas into the discussion for consideration.

Regardless, the existence of this article reflects the growing concerns about the state of null-sec in particular, and the power exerted by null alliances in general.  However, it occurs to me that they seem to be raising solutions to a problem without stating exactly what that problem is, or what a corrected end-state looks like.

So let me clarify, in no uncertain terms, the stance taken by the majority of folks who argue that power projection must be curbed, within the scope of the current discussion.
  1. The prevalence of coalitions in Eve is a bad thing, and directly leads to the dominance of “the blob”, which is characterized by a large number of low-aptitude players. This is sometimes called “n+1 strategy”.
  2. CCP bears some responsibility for this development, since the sov mechanics they created naturally lend themselves to this play style as the optimal response to the conditions of null-sec ownership.
  3. Players bear some responsibility because human nature naturally eschews risk in favor of safety.
  4. Human nature will not change, CCP must change the mechanics to destroy this play style out of a desire to perpetuate the game.
  5. Doing so will restore the game to a state in which dozens or hundreds of “space fiefdoms” exist, instead of a trio of space empires.

Now, read through that list.  I don’t think anything in that is particularly off-base.  I’ll go one further… I’ll even agree to the first four points.  But we run into a big problem when we run into that fifth point!

The space empires (the CFC, N3, and PL, for those not “in the know”) are characterized by extremely efficient and well-structured logistics.  By logistics, I mean the positioning of cyno ships, the efficiency and organization of supply lines (jump freighters, industrialists, traders, ship and module sourcing), infrastructure (IT resources, API authorization and quality checking services, administration), and talent management (FCs, scouts, leadership, propagandists, recruiters, logistic officers).

With that framework, any effort to achieve step 5 through steps 1-4 must address the question, “How would prospective changes to the game negate the advantages that the hyper-organized and coordinated have over those who lack that resource network.”  Any changes that have been proposed to mitigate power projection – reducing effective cyno range, increasing the cost of jump fuel or the number of isotopes needed, reducing the mass that can travel through a cyno field – would affect smaller entities far worse than large entities – the exact opposite of the stated objective of making null-sec more accessible to smaller groups.

Wait a minute… let me read that again.  “…negate the advantages that the hyper-organized and coordinated have…”

Is that really a good thing?  In a game where we claim to want to encourage players to be well-educated about mechanics, flying, ship strengths, and battle tactics (or, non-ironic elite PvP), are we seriously recommending that we talk outside the other end of our mouth and punish those players of an MMO who are well-organized, efficient, and leverage both internal and external resources to gain efficiencies of scale?

I don’t know about you, but that argument strikes me as extremely myopic.  It suggests an “Eve should be how I want it” argument more than the “We should reward the skilled, the smart, and the prepared” argument most players would tend to spout.

There’s a word for that… hypocrisy.

Now, don’t get me wrong… I don’t like the universe of 3 space empires we currently operate within.  I don’t like the reality that anyone can bridge supercaps to any system regardless of where they’re staged.  I don’t like the n+1 mechanic we do have now (anyone who tells you otherwise is selling a propaganda line).  I do want to see small gang make a comeback.

But none of the proposals currently out there will achieve that.  Right now, they all address symptoms of the problem, not the actual problem itself.  The problem is that the gameplay actively rewards the concentration of null-sec power into fewer and fewer hands, and that first-comers have a decided and overwhelming advantage over newcomers in almost every area of the game.  Only by recruiting older players or corporations can a new entity rise to prominence; and when that happens, the new entity is just an iteration of a former entity.

Note that I say “null-sec power”, not “null-sec sov”.  Brave Newbies has broken into null-sec sov, but they don’t have any power at all (sorry, guys).  They own sov by the leave and permission of the CFC, PL, and N3.  The same is true for Provibloc.

I can hear everyone unaffiliated with a coalition screaming in disbelief and anger from here.

But answer me honestly… if one of the coalitions decided your time was up, could you resist them without appealing to another coalition for help?  Could you weld together an alliance of unaffiliated parties to oppose them?

No, you can’t.  This isn’t the ancient world where the Greek city-states can join together to oppose Persia.  This is a world in which the Mongol Empire, Ottoman Empire, and unified China can instantly strike anywhere on the map, at each other or at nearby neighbors, strangling threats in the cradle of propping up puppet kingdoms as buffers between them and their fellow superpowers.

The bitch of it is, I don’t have a solution for you.  It’s a problem beyond my knowledge.  I applaud the efforts of those who propose solutions… they’re trying to get to an answer.  But that’s a long way from identifying a workable solution.  You can bet your ass CCP is working on this problem as well.  They know a stagnant Eve is a boring Eve.  They want chaos, they want explosions.  They want destruction.  When B-R happened, they weren’t lauding the creation of a new balance, they were salivating at the scale of the destruction.  That’s not a coincidence.

My gut tells me the problem with the n+1 game in Eve lies in the sov mechanics.  I don’t think a massive overhaul is needed, but rather a tweak of modifiers.  Perhaps scaling sov costs can help.  Perhaps a limit to the number of blue entities an organization can have would help.  Perhaps sov needs to work similarly to military and industrial levels of null-sec systems (the more you use it, the tighter your grip, with a natural decline over time), but that idea has its own problems (it forces players to maintain through PvE what they acquired through PvP).

Perhaps there is no way to reward the skilled, the intelligent, and the coordinated without killing the game through stagnation, at which case a little hypocrisy is a necessary evil.

I don’t know the answer.  But I do see the depths of the problem, and those depths stretch far deeper than I first thought.


  1. Yes the En24 article was terrible. If you limit what a single titan can bridge through, what's to stop PL or the CFC from countering that by using 5 titans bridging to 5 separate cynos? The answer is it would only hurt more moderate sized entities with limited numbers of titans.

    I also don't believe the scaling of Sov costs would help either as I am sure players would find a way to get around that (spilt up alliances into smaller units but stay in the same coalition). I do think some modified version of the "farms & fields" idea needs to be tried to liven up Null Sec. CCP made a tiny baby step in that direction with the ESS and the moon goo syphon. Obviously, neither of those items are game changers and Null remains relatively unchanged.

    Let's take this a step further. Imagine that if you killed an ESS in a system, the concord bounties would then get nerfed by 50% for 24 hours! Wouldn't carebears then try to form up and defend them? I know I certainly would. Obviously we could balance that a little by increasing the EHP of the ESS a bit, but still leave it where a small gang of 10 T1 cruisers could melt it 5 minutes (no Caps required!). We could even add a small RF timer if we wanted, say 15 minutes? Give enough time for the locals to ping for a QRF.

    In terms of completing overhauling sov mechanics to break-up the 3 large empires I am honestly not sure what the solution is. Maybe some kind of modified FW system can be installed where a small hostile force can actively wear down your sov control through running some kind of plex would allow smaller entities to take sov at the edges of the big empires. Unfortuantely, I fear there would be a lot of resistance to this idea amongst the movers and shakers within Null, plus at the end of the day if you want that style of play then you already live in Low Sec. Additionally, let's not forget that CCP already created an area where small to mid sized entities can plant there own flag and build their sandcastle away from the large null sec entites and their power projection...it's called WH space.


    1. The interesting thing about WH space is that mass restrictions prevent the power blocs from really excelling. In WH space, you need to have low-mass, blinged ships to maximize power, not sheer numbers. And that has put the null blocs at a significant disadvantage. Some null corps can support WH contingents, but you don't see the null bloc presence in WH space that you might otherwise expect.