Saturday, September 12, 2015

Tinkering with Soldiering

We’ve now had quite some time to see how AegisSov (I’m going with the generic name now, as there are too many good ones to pick from, including FozzieSov, Space Wands, and PotterSov) operates in a real-space environment.  Goons did their ProviSmash thing, demonstrating – if nothing else – the speed a which player assets can be wiped away.  The Russians protested the whole thing, which isn’t surprising since they were buying up renter space just as everyone else was getting rid of it.

The devs have clearly been listening to player reactions.  They made some modifications to the capture times and base capture status in Galatea.  Proof is building that the devs genuinely want AegisSov to be enjoyable, realize the limitations in this current iteration, and want to create a balanced yet engaging experience.  That’s incredibly reassuring, and shows that they haven't slipped into old, pre-Incarna habits as some had feared.

At the same time, AegisSov is here to stay and CCP isn't pulling back from weakening the need for coalitions and encouraging chaos in null-sec.  By this time next year, I think we'll be there.

Player engagement appears to be picking up, although a lot of the really capable PvP organizations are moving to low-sec from null.  Whether that’s a temporary reset or not is up for debate, but it’s happening.  Low-sec is booming as a result, albeit not for the reasons we’d like (the health of low, but rather, the perceived unhealthiness of null).

Some time ago, I predicted that hunters would leave sovereignty in favor of attacking sov holders without facing retaliation.  By and large, we're seeing that.  Corporations, players, and whole alliances are leaving for low-sec.  AegisSov makes sovereignty an isk-generating resource, with the obligation to spend most of your time cultivating indexes and repelling attacks.  That just doesn’t suit with the attitude of pre-Aegis null players, and they're adapting... by leaving null.

I’ve spoken before about the way tension and discomfort build up for several months before players make a change (moving to a new corp, moving an existing corp to a new area of space, or following some other paradigm).  We’re thickly in the midst of that tension-building stage, but as the months roll by, I’m certain we’ll see more and more people leaving null-sec alliances to join pirate and “aggressor” corporations.

And this may all be part of the design… to undermine the former main draw of null alliances to weaken and split them before adding in the added benefits CCP promised.  And yet, CCP still has a desire to keep those players in the game, and has a long-stated goal of reducing hassle without reducing the advantage of organization and player experience or increasing the safety.

So, with that context, I’m encouraged and excited by the changes Team Five-O announced for Vanguard and Parallax.

The first – the removal of interceptors’ ability to fit entosis links – is simultaneously a much-needed change and an admission of hubris.  Sure, CCP already limited the maximum speed of a ship operating an entosis link, but that really addressed only one of the two problems associated with them, the speed.  More problematic is the fact that it’s impossible to keep interceptors out of your space to begin with.

Interceptors are cheap and have bubble immunity, so gate camps and bubbled gates cannot stop them.  As a result, it’s very easy for an aggressor to quickly and cheaply flood a constellation with entosis-capable ships that cannot be stopped by any normal means.  Many travelceptors are impossible to catch without a very specialized ship fit and London residency (minimizing the time needed to communicate with the London servers; speed of light and all).  Countering them is operationally impossible, meaning that interceptor swarms will always succeed in entosising at least some of your assets.

If you recall, I told you interceptor bubble immunity was a problem more than a year ago.  I don’t want to say, “I told you so”, but overpowered is overpowered, and should either come with high sp requirements or high costs.  This is a great change that will allow sov alliances to better defend against invasions.  Now, inserting yourself into well-defended enemy space will require a T3 cloaky, nullified cruiser slipping past a gatecamp and lighting a covert cyno to sneak forces in – just as it was intended.  That’s more expensive and involves more risk.  Sounds about balanced to me.

The second major change handles the dynamic for entosis attacks are successful.  Previously, if someone successfully entosises your assets, they would remain vulnerable forever until someone resolves the capture events.  This naturally resulted in tremendous numbers of troll noding – creating node capture requirements that you have no intention of contesting, just to create more work for the defender.  With Parallax, uncontested node capture events will auto-resolve in favor of the defender.  Now, if you want to follow-up on your initial entosis attack, you better be prepared to respond when they decloak.

This is a great change, although I think 50-98 minutes is a bit too quick for those nodes to resolve, and I suspect the time will lengthen to several hours before we’re all done.  While having systems vulnerable for days and weeks isn’t reasonable, I think a band of 30 attackers should be able to actively work towards capturing notes without having to feel they’ll run out of time during the course of a night’s play session.  This regen should act more like a de facto acknowledgement that no one is going to contest it than as a viable tactic to serve as defense.

Keep in mind, that both of these change support CCP’s stated desire to make entosis attacks reflect who controls the grid.  They want a support fleet to be defending the entosis ship and another fleet challenging it.  Their goal is for AegisSov to be about field control, no ninja-reinforcing as it is now.

And then, there’s the bare minimum change to make alliances’ lives easier: the option to self-destruct sov structures.  While this is a step in the right direction, CCP really needs to add the ability to transfer sov structures to another corporation through an offer/accept interface where each side has to agree for the transfer to take place.  Why should an ihub with all of its upgrades need to be destroyed to be claimed by another? Allowing a transfer would create opportunities for business arrangements, for selling sovereignty, whereas the only option in Parallax will be to burn it all down than build up an exact replica on top of the ashes.  This one doesn’t go far enough.

On the other hand, CCP has hit the nail on the head with the reduction of the cap on jump fatigue from 30 days to 5 days.  I see no downside to this change at all.  Jump fatigue was intended to prevent pilots from galaxy-hopping to whore on shiny kills (I’m looking at you, PL), but that’s meant to be a break on short-term activity.  Punitively punishing players with an entire subscription’s length of jump fatigue is insanity, and encourages players to unsub for their time.  This lower cap is far, far more reasonable, reduces the onerous penalty, and does nothing to undermine the intentions of jump fatigue.  That’s a great improvement.

But, more generally, these changes represent quality-of-life improvements to players who leverage the associated mechanics, and they represent a responsive, understanding CCP.  Of the two paths CCP could have taken with the capital changes and sov mechanics, they’ve clearly taken the more understanding, positive, and play-enabling of the two.  Though they may be small, they strike firmly at the core of making the gameplay experience better for players, and that’s a lesson we should all keep in mind.  Despite or rage and frustration, they’ve responded with reasonable, patient, and considerate changes, which do nothing to undermine their design objectives.

Yes, AegisSov is here for good, and the old way of viewing null-sec is dead.  The only thing that’s bad for, though, is the old way of doing things.  There’s a lot of good to it and a lot of opportunity, if you choose to bend with the wind and adapt.  Clearly, CCP is willing to listen and make changes to correct any unnecessary pain.  And for that, we should be grateful.


  1. Good write up. I just don't like that it takes so long for CCP to "balance out". I know time is needed, but as you say: 30 days fatigue? Bubble immune interceptor to take sov? It's just feels overkill to me and this comes from the guy that never lived in null and only owned one capital ever.

    1. While I agree to the jump changes questioning (almost 3/4's of a year? or is it more? I was unsubbed at the time those happened) to take that long is insanity. However, the interceptor change isn't that bad. 3 months to make that change really isn't bad. It gives CCP plenty of time to collect enough data to make sure that the change is really warranted, and isn't just a (very vocal) minority of the player base yelling for no reason.

    2. Agreed somewhat.

      Personally, I think the year (and more) wait on Phoebe was necessary. Low-sec has really flowered over the last 3 months, and the entities in low-sec have been built over the last 6. A 3 month change wouldn't have given CCP enough evidence to prove that it was working, to oppose the voices of 'I should be able to hypermegaultra-dunk the map itself.'

      As for TrollCeptors, in actual war, they're a non-issue, just like CCP said . For other situations, they are unfortunately an issue. Since CCP is unable to toggle a 'do you really want to take this sov' switch, we're forced to remove TrollCeptors entirely.

      Nevertheless, CCP has proven that they're willing to iterate, just like they said they would. I'm optimistic for the future.

  2. It'd be nice to get an apology from all the people who treated CCP so poorly, but that's unlikely to ever happen. The cycle of abuse from such players will continue.

    An excellent write up. Thank you.

  3. Seems quite unbalanced now, attacking a sov structure will now be undoable for a small group.
    Cfc space has just become inpnetrable... .

  4. I never could figure out why the fastest ships in the game needed bubble immunity to get points on people.

    What if WCS were useless against disruptors, but were effective against bubbles? If capitals are being reworked, then all the cards are on the table.

  5. A very good write up and its always good to read more positive media about the Sov changes, amongst the raging flow of the hate and bile that some players and groups have been expressing towards CCP. They are working pretty hard on this still.

    Sov space is huge and corps are breaking away from the larger alliances to do their own thing, or form up elsewhere. I have to agree with you on the future of these kinds of corps and their "aggressor" nature. These planned changes and updates to the mechanics are all good, but I expect after this CSM X summit we may have more to go with.