Den Of Iniquity

Random Space Thoughtcrimes

What is the CSM for anyway?

There’s been a lot of recent *words* written on the CSM, various dramas, calls for it to be exploded, etc. I won’t be commenting on any of the drama. Rather, the important part, to me, is the discussion of why we have a CSM, what it might be useful for, and whether or not its worth the energy and money invested in it yearly.

I’m going to start by saying that the view that the CSM does nothing is wrong. I would argue that in this term we’ve had a substantial effect on some of the changes made to sov null, that our comments were responsible for focusing the structures team on some essential changes to their initial model of how citadels would work, and that we have had some traction with increasing the frequency and detail of communications from CCP to the player base. There are other examples, but I think those are the big three accomplishments of the CSM this term.

My top line view on it, however, is that it’s an organization that has great potential that it has never reached. People have various theories on why, starting with the election formats, and continuing all the way through various conspiracy theories that involve Bigfoot and the NSA, judging from comments on Reddit and other sites. I have several theories of my own on what is wrong with it and how it might be improved:

1. Revisit the NDA, and the Role of the CSM in Managing Information and Feedback. 

The biggest single problem with the CSM is that the model of communication between CCP and its players is, in my opinion, skewed. There has been a tendency to shy away from sharing early plans or development ideas with the player base, generally on the idea that it “creates expectations.” This means in practice that much of the information is hidden from even the CSM until the last minute, and that even innocuous information that would benefit from feedback doesn’t see the light of day until a very late stage.

My feeling is that much of what CCP currently hides behind the NDA curtain would do better with a big dose of sunlight, along with some basic expectation management for the player base. The development of the new capital changes and the structures have seen CCP experimenting with this earlier inclusion of the playerbase. We’re seeing these changes at a much earlier stage for feedback than we did with some of the null sov changes. This is the realm where CCP can use all of its forms of communication to get direct feedback from the player base. In my opinion, MOST of the changes (with some exceptions I will detail later ) that CCP makes to the game can generally be included in this category, and should be made public as soon as possible in my opinion. Structures in particular have greatly benefitted in my opinion from a culture on the structures team that has sought and made use of extensive user and CSM feedback at the earliest possible design stages, almost as soon as a basic direction was laid down. You can see the difference in the quality of the product.

Even in this more open environment there is a role for CSM. The CSM is not, as Sion has frequently stated, an entirely effective focus group on its own. While the individuals who make it up are generally, as a group, very knowledgable, there is no way 14 people can be the greatest experts on any given topic related to EVE. But what CSM members generally are good at is being connected. We may not BE the greatest experts but, as space politicians who convinced large blocs of individuals to vote us into office, we KNOW the greatest experts. And because we come from different areas of the game and different backgrounds, among the entire Council, you can generally depend on getting a good cross-section of experts, if you ask us to provide them. While there are certainly other ways to solicit members for focus groups, in my opinion you are missing out on a prime resource if you aren’t at least working WITH the CSM to find out who those people are. I think CCP Larrikin’s upcoming Capitals focus group is taking this suggestion, both by soliciting publicly, AND working with the CSM to find those experts who otherwise might not reach out and get involved. I think it’s a good model, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results. I think there’s also a role for the CSM to directly manage some of its own focus groups. Sort Dragon and I ran a recent group with CCP Foxfour participating on CREST tools for FC’s. I felt at least that it was productive and produced good ideas, that may see implementation at some point. CCP’s part is to be open to that and give a fair hearing to the feedback produced.

The other way in which the CSM can be useful in this potentially more open environment is by amplifying feedback, when we feel it is necessary or something is going off the tracks. That’s what i’ve tried to do with the feedback on various null sov topics in this blog during my term. By pointing out certain feedback and giving it a bullhorn, we can effect changes.

2. Certain Information Needs to Be Kept, Even From the CSM

The flip side of being more open on the majority of the information, is identifying the information that ACTUALLY needs to be kept aside, for the benefit of the game, and to prevent potentially unfair speculation or in game advantages. This would minimize the chances of damaging leaks, and help ensure a more productive, less drama filled existence for the CSM. One example, from my perspective, would be build costs. While I think most of the structure FEATURES should be equally open to everyone as early as possible for comment, the specifics on build costs that might lead to speculation really don’t require a lot of input from the CSM, at least not at a point much earlier than they are revealed to the general public. This kind of very specific information that can be leaked for an early advantage on the market is the kind of thing that should just generally be kept with CCP, in my opinion. There’s still room to share very general pricing information, just for ball parking, without giving specifics. If we can jointly learn to identify what that sort of information is, without being unduly restrictive, I think it will be better for all concerned.

3. There’s Still A Place for the NDA

This still leaves a sizable grey area where the NDA can be useful, particularly with regard to short-term secrets that are not useful for an advantage, but where CCP wants early feedback before releasing to the player base at large, or to determine if they want to even pursue a particular project. There are many examples where focused, short term feedback in front of a limited, but fairly representative audience, can help guide CCP’s decisions on whether an idea is ready for prime time.

4. Elections Aren’t the Problem

As the title states, there’s no way of picking player representatives that I have seen that is better than voting. If the vote turnout is low, it’s because people aren’t seeing the value in the institution, not because voting is the wrong way of doing things. I would hope that by helping to create a more open environment for communication, the CSM in general will be able to alter the perception that it is either ineffective or meaningless. Realtalk, I know it has been useless as many times as it has been effective. I think that personnel issues will continue, as they do with any elective process. But I don’t see a better way that isn’t just more open to abuse. I think fixing the communications issues set forth above will help build more trust between the CSM, CCP and the player base. Hopefully that will increase player interest in voting for their representatives.


In conclusion, I would say that CCP needs to commit to making the CSM the most useful tool it can be, and giving the people who run for it a meaningful role in helping improve the game for the better. When good, hard working people who mean well leave the council at the end of a term wondering if they accomplished anything, it isn’t good for the individual, the institution, or CCP. If CCP isn’t willing to make a true partner of the CSM, rather than an occasional nuisance and general PR mess, then please, disband it. If they do reach out and learn to trust their player base, however, the CSM might finally live up to its potential.




Collected Thoughts on the Providence Thing and Kafkasov

“Sitting there at that moment I thought of something else Shakespeare said. He said, ‘Hey…life is pretty stupid; with lots of hubbub to keep you busy, but really not amounting to much.'”  -L.A. Story

So, after wrapping up the brief and eventful invasion of Providence, I took some time to collect the feedback of my alliance and others as to how they felt about Kafkasov after some decent first-hand experience. The feedback was remarkably uniform actually, amongst the coalition members I spoke with, and even from talking to people on the defender’s side.

  1. The recent tweaks to the system in terms of moving the defender’s start to 60%, combined with a good ADM, are remarkably effective for defenders. People who live in their space and who are not significantly outnumbered should have a reasonably good shot to defend their space. This is pretty apparent in the two constellations that were the responsibility of LAWN and TNT jointly. In the USTZ, we faced Severance. We significantly outnumbered them. Despite reasonably high ADM, and use of effective guerrilla tactics, our superior numbers allowed us to secure most of our hacker ships with protective details, and leave us with sufficient small squads to hunt down and chase off their entosis vehicles, while still maintaining a reasonable main fleet for stomping on them when they gathered to fight. As a result, 4/5 hubs were secured in one reinforcement cycle, with us missing one simply due to inattention and rapid work by Severance to secure it. Contrariwise, in the EUTZ, Yulai Federation was able to use its pretty good fleet numbers, and support from other provi members and third parties at key intervals, to hold us to one hub killed. The difference between Severance and YF was purely in the numbers, as both of them effectively used the same tactics. YF was able to fly in numbers that were much closer to our own than Severance. YF also had the advantage of flying in the primary provi TZ, so support was available. Both were effective at guerrilla defense.
  2. ADM value cannot be underestimated. If we’d had basically equivalent times for hacking, we probably would have seized at least one more YF hub. However, their hacking, and therefore their time on station where we could intercept them, was dramatically shorter than our own. This nearly cost us even the one hub we killed, as it became a race to see whether we could outhack them before a large CVA fleet arrived to stomp on our last node. We had 4 nodes spawn in one system, which was the deciding factor, as we could lock them down and send harassers to take theirs off the other nodes.
  3. Guerilla warfare for defenders is a thing, particularly in systems with stations. Our opponents used loads of cheap Ewar frigs and what appeared to be caracals stationed in every station system to allow them to move around quickly, reship, and form in small numbers to take out or jam solo entosis ships. This required us to detail protection squads to our entosis ships and use substantially heavier models. Since this drew down our main fleet strength, it left our individual squads susceptible if the enemy formed up in larger numbers to attack one, with the main fleet left chasing them in circles. On those occasions we managed to camp them into a corner, things went faster.
  4. One battle can, literally, go on forever if the sides are fairly evenly matched. I think that the oft cited “tennis rule” of first to 5 win by 2 would be a better way to go here, to limit the individual battles to something that isn’t just a 5 hour test of endurance. Ultimately, some battles in Provi were just testaments to the fact that leadership could keep their people on longer, or had another time zone coming in to relieve them. A battle should be able to be finished in a single time zone one way or the other, in my opinion. If it looks like too much burnout inducing tedium, invasions of sov will be very rare indeed.
  5. The actual process of entosis is boring. People in my alliance and others were struck by how truly dull it is to fly one of the hacking ships and simply orbit for many minutes, interspersed with jams by a griffin, or death raining on them in the form of a main fleet. It’s going to be one of those menial tasks, such as running a links ship, that people will end up having to beg people to do. At the beginning of the deployment, people were eager to fly them. By the end, we had to offer rewards to get people to want to fly them, even with full SRP. In general, too much of Kafkasov is about orbiting and waiting, and not enough is about fighting.
  6. The system inspires few fleet battles of any real size at all. The entire system is just a form of whackamole. The number of actual main fleet engagements could be counted on two hands across all of Provi in a day. Lots of little fleets getting caught by gate camps, lots of dead entosis ships and small squads, very little in the way of a big fight. Probably the biggest fight I heard about while in command comms for most of this was 450 people in a system. It ended quickly once a few logi were killed and the losing side fled. If you enjoyed brawling, this system isn’t likely to provide much.
  7. The difficulty of organizing either an attack or defense is staggeringly high considering how few fights actually happen. To be effective, you need loads of skirmish fc’s to run the squads, and loads of organization, along with supporting IT in the form of effectively set up mumble and jabber channels. In addition to the clear advantage to having more numbers, this organizational requirement does not favor small/new entities at all.

Overall, when asked whether the level of fun was equal to the level of work required, the vast majority felt like the payoff wasn’t there. About 50% of feedback was simply that orbiting a node was cancer, and dependance on a single ship kept the system from having the sort of brawls that we’ve become accustomed to in nullsec, even on a smaller scale. Several members of mine with experience in FW classified it as “a gimped version of FW”. Another very common piece of feedback was that flying around with lasertag beams to capture things just wasn’t as immersive or epic as having an actual battle. It’s an aesthetic concern, yes, but a common one.

On the whole, while the system seems better balanced for a defender than I was prepared to believe before trying it out for ourselves, the actual mechanic of entosis is boring, leads to single point failure, requires excessive amounts of coordination, and simply doesn’t produce real battles. It just produces a swirl of dancing fleets, like a space version of Floyd Mayweather Jr.. Wins by decision aren’t exciting in boxing, and they aren’t very fun in space either.

The system needs to be adjusted to produce at least the occasional on grid brawl. This might also fix the problem of the fights dragging out forever. If you have a few decisive actual engagements, one side or the other will give up. Failing that, the number of nodes for a win may need to be further reduced, or the tennis rule adopted.

All of these problems are easily solved with numbers of course. Had the Imperium focused our forces and done Provi in waves over say 6 days, we could have tripled our density and simply overwhelmed all opponents. And that leads to my single biggest criticism of Kafkasov, which is that the system is simply going to make sov holding beyond difficult for smaller/newer entities, while rewarding the scale and organization of the biggest. For a system some believed would break up the mythical “blue donut,” the incentives are quite backward.

All in all, we’ll adjust our strategy and tactics, and we’ll figure out how to be very effective in this new system. To some extent we’ve already honed our game quite a bit with one deployment. Ultimately though, even between even opponents, I’m not really sure how fun this system is. You can, at the same time, have a battle that runs for hours… where very little is actually killed. You don’t even get a kill mail for the Ihub. This seems like the worst of both worlds to me.

If you’ve had experience with it so far, tell me how your fights are going? What do you feel the strengths and weaknesses of Kafkasov are?




The New Sov: Collected Feedback

Maitre D’: Your usual table, Mr. Christopher? 

Customer: No, I’d like a good one this time. 

Maitre D’: I’m sorry, that is impossible. 

Customer: Part of the new cruelty? 

Maitre D’: I’m afraid so.

-L.A. Story

I spent some time last week going through various sources, Reddit, feedback threads on Imperium Coalition comms started by Reagalan and Endie, feedback given to me personally or within my alliance. As I did, definite patterns emerged. This doesn’t purport to be a complete survey of every complaint or comment about ShinyPixieLaserSov, but I think it summons up the most common and pressing issues. I’ll be injecting some of my own opinions into this, but I’ll try to clearly mark them off against the feedback. I’ll also credit Jayne Fillion for helping formulate and focus some of the issues presented here.

I.       Specific Issues with Current Gameplay

  1. Entosis modules on small, fast ships, and particularly interceptors, allow for a high degree of trolling by aggressors, without any commitment of forces. Nullification is particularly problematic because it allows them to travel to their destination with little chance of being stopped, and renders borders extremely permeable to hostiles. This forces an asymmetrical defensive obligation onto the sov holder, who has to spend hours indexing such systems, and frequently hours on entosis timers.

Commonly Suggested Solutions: Several suggested, including entosis links turning off prop mods or rendering a ship immobile, but remote repairable, thus both forcing fights if the attacker wants to proceed and allowing the ship to be properly defended. Alternatively restriction of links to certain ship types, such as battlecruiser or above. The mechanics of entosis should encourage fights on a grid for superiority, not trolling or kiting mechanics.

My Solution: I believe that entosis links should somehow limit speed via some method, or be limited to slower ships (I am agnostic as to which). I strongly feel that whatever option is chosen should eliminate entosis on nullified ships, and perhaps prohibit fitting a cloak. This puts skin in the game for the attacker and means that entosis becomes a matter of grid control, and not simple trolling.

  1. Frequently, aggressors have not made any effort to follow up on their attacks, presumably because they were intended to troll for effect and require a response from the sovholder. This leads to burnout, and frequently, systems will remain uncontested by either side for days or weeks. Sovholders should not have to respond to false threats, or an attacker who is not willing to commit to a fight. Simple griefing of this nature will lead to sovholder burnout and lack of desire for sov.

Commonly Suggested Solution: Decay of nodes to a safe state for defender after the end of the scheduled vulnerability window. Several hours should be sufficient for a serious attacker to press their attack.

My Solution: Yep, i’m in favor of some method of node decay. I’m willing to discuss length, but there are an awful lot of systems where no one is bothering to contest right now. The onus should be on the attacker to press their attack if they really want the system.

  1. The nodes are excessive in number and spawn very slowly. In the event where no one contests a timer, resetting or saving the system still takes an unreasonable amount of time. The few contested fights have been lengthy, and have not received positive reviews, as they were limited largely to interceptor solo fights. Most fights, as discussed, were uncontested.

Commonly Suggested Solution: Reduce the number of nodes required for victory, either as an absolute, or linked with index so that heavily used systems require fewer. Spawn all or most of the nodes close to the beginning of the fight so that redeeming a system where the attacker fails to show up is quicker and more painless. If either the defender or the attacker is in position and ready at the beginning of an event, they should be rewarded for their diligence.

My Solution: I’ve actually sort of fallen in love with the “tennis match” solution some folks have been pushing on Reddit, and that was discussed on the Metashow this weekend. Basically first to 5, win by 2. I think it would work really well in this context.

  1. Vulnerability windows every day turn sovereignty into an unpleasant job, even for large alliances. The windows diminish or eliminate opportunities for play outside their own sovereign territory because leaving their space leaves them instantly vulnerable to attack. This problem is exacerbated when the entity is smaller. The vulnerability timers are intended — by design — to be during their prime time. Smaller entities will likely have one major time zone. Thus, the members must reside in its space during the entirety of their usual online time. This will be a larger problem in lowsec and wormholes entities for structures particularly due to their generally smaller size.

Commonly Suggested Solution: Reducing the lengths of the vulnerability windows significantly for higher indexes, so that you rapidly gain a greatly reduced window at ADMs higher than approximately 2.0, the basic ADM at strategic index 5 with no other indexes. Additionally the entosis of station services outside of the alliance window has proven to be an annoyance rather than a content enhancement, that leads only to griefing, particularly for smaller entities. It should be removed and folded into the vulnerability window.

My Solution: I strongly believe that the new vulnerability system included in the Structure blogs should be pushed to ALL sov structures ASAP. It allows alliances to create the space they need to take a day or two off and go cause trouble in someone else’s space, thus increasing the potential for conflict. If all of us with similar TZ windows are stuck defending our sovereignty at the same time, the only people left to conflict with are the occasional roams or trolls.

  1. Currently, if a structure is partially hacked, but the attacker then leaves or is chased off, it remains vulnerable past the scheduled window, unless someone flies there and manually fixes it. This mechanic, like others in this system, places burdens on defenders without requiring input from attackers.

Commonly Suggested Solution:  When the vulnerability window closes, reset the structure to a fully defended state, and make it invulnerable, unless there is an active link on it at the time.

My Solution: That, pretty much.

  1. Activities carried out by sovereign entities are not captured by the indexes, and the entities are required to engage in two of what are widely considered the most boring activities in the game, ratting and mining, in order to defend their space, rather than taking into account manufacturing, refining, research, market orders, PI, PVP kills and other activities that legitimately represent activity.

Commonly Suggested Solution:  Find ways in the near future to capture these activities significantly within the indexes.

My Solution: Again is perfectly in tune with the most commonly suggested one. I will give credit to CCP here and point out that they have acknowledged this issue, and stated they will iterate on it. It’s not easy, some of these are pretty gameable unless the approach is careful.

  1. Under the current mechanics, it is currently impossible to offline or unanchor both the TCU and the IHUB. Additionally, it is currently impossible to remove, destroy, or deactivate upgrades. This prevents the transfer of sovereignty between entities.

Commonly Suggested Solution: Implement these mechanics as soon as possible.

My Solution: This really needs to happen as soon as possible, please.

  1. The information given in notifications should include who is attacking the structure and what they are flying. This has been a basic feature of EVE forever, and that information allows defenders to plan, and eventually seek retribution, which is the sort of interaction the game needs. During capture events, it is difficult to tell who is entosing any given node. Finally, an alliance has almost no way to tell that a sovereignty structure has died other than the fact is is missing from the alliance sovereignty window.

Commonly Suggested Solution: Add information to the notices regarding the identity of the entosing ship. Add an ESS like notification to fleets when one of their members is entosing a node, so that FC’s can track the event’s progress more easily. Add clear notifications that a structure has died.

My Solution: Once again, yep, this, please do this.

  1. There is little or no role for capital ships under this system.

Solution: Various solutions have discussed but none are widely accepted. This is a difficult issue; for Supers and Titans there is some consensus around making them less powerful, more agile, and less expensive, with some inclusion of a subcap role, but others strongly oppose this. A third line of thought says they should be removed entirely.

My Solution: Hell if I know. I do think that if they don’t come up with something soon that seems credible, they should just work on taking them out of the game entirely. CCP have acknowledged they are actively working on this as a priority, so we’ll wait and see what they come up with.

II. Larger issues regarding desirability of sovereignty

  1. The general consensus among players is that the Aegis sov system has tilted the odds too far in favour of the attacker and that the raw number of manhours required for a defender vastly exceeds the number of hours required of attackers.
  1. This feeds into a general perception that the risk/effort is greatly in excess of the rewards of sovereignty. There are almost no unique gameplay aspects to sovereignty beyond simply planting a flag. The income that is made available to players who live in sov nullsec is currently subpar compared to other activities such as incursions, faction warfare, L5 missions, or capital escalations in wormhole space – and only after a significant investment in both time and money. The optimal method for making a living in nullsec frequently includes alts in other areas of space.
  1. The rewards that are available are not tied into the combat system and do not encourage combat.  Income arises from being left alone. The most profitable playstyle is to group up into vast empires so that no one can attack you, and you are well protected enough to make an income uninterrupted. This leads to dissatisfaction with the number and quality of fights. If you want more combat and interaction between players, there should be rewards that directly encourage combat.
  1. Due to the density requirements of the current system, it both requires and rewards larger entity formation.  In order to have space that is safe enough to support the PvE playstyle required by the index system, a group must expand or make peace with neighbours. Additionally, the PvE players themselves result in further growth. The system’s current obvious end state is the N+1 growth of coalitions. Formed entities should still have a reason to fight amongst themselves even after their empire has been built and established, including scenarios outside of an invasion or scorched earth war.
  1. With the introduction of the Phoebe jump mechanics, the game has gotten too large for the current, and decreasing, population. There is little interaction between sovereignty blocs, and each group currently has either enough, or too much sovereignty. There are few reasons for new blood to come into the null system to create additional conflict, and perhaps not enough potential population to create the necessary density and friction with the current space limitations in Aegis Sov.

Solutions: Vulnerability windows and the decay of ADM should be structured so that sovereign entities have the time to accomplish something else besides defending their space all day, allowing them to deploy or take on fights. Rewards should be increased to spur groups to take up Null Sov. This doesn’t necessarily mean increased isk/hr, but it can also come in terms of interesting opportunities for bottom up income for alliances, rewarding gameplay, unique gameplay, and mechanics that spark conflict. Rewards should be tied to seeking interaction instead of avoiding it.

My Solutions: I have spoken on some of these in my other blogs, but conflicts happen as a happy coincidence of several factors. First, co-location. There have to be reasons for the players to arrive at a location where there are hostiles to fight. Second, density, which is closely related to 1. If there is a sufficient density of players available in nearby space, friction occurs on a realtime basis and fights occur. Third, the “winnable bet”. Reward must be in proportion to risk. Both sides need to feel as if they might successfully carry off a valuable objective. If one side has no chance, no fight occurs. Increase the number of fights with a window where both sides feel they can win, either through encounter types that don’t automatically favor N+1 combat, or objectives that don’t necessarily include completely obliterating the other fleet. Fourth, tie at least some of the rewards directly to combat or victory at combat objectives. As the text I bolded above says: Rewards should be tied to seeking interaction instead of avoiding it.

III.     Feedback regarding Phoebe Jump Mechanics

  1. There are a wide variety of opinions on the specifics of the Phoebe Jump Mechanics. Lowsec entities find them favorable due to the local immunity from the larger supercapital powers, allowing for a greater scope to fights to occur uninterrupted. Not all Lowsec entities are as enthused however, because this means that the local bully-on-the-block can hit smaller or similarly sized entities without the danger of reinforcements from other more distant blocs. Long term, it is not clear if this will lead to the same sort of N+1 stratification of Lowsec that has occurred in Nullsec, although it appears to be trending this way.
  1. Nullsec entities have found the jump mechanics, to be a huge hurdle to effective and fun use of capitals due to the large distances that must be covered in Nullsec. Moving capitals, supers, and titans in order to catch up with a group that has moved, or for any other reason outside a large well-defended move operation, is virtually suicide. Fatigue is widely seen as an unpleasant and potentially game killing (for at least a period of days or weeks, on occasion) problem, which can simply result in players logging off entirely instead of playing the game in other ways.

Commonly Suggested Solutions:  The goal of restricting capitals from unlimited movement is a worthwhile undertaking, however the current mechanics go too far. The most common suggestions are a reduction of the fatigue cap to no more than five days, so that pilots can recover fully from one weekend’s activities to the next. Trips of up to two jumps could be met with minimal penalties so that players can return to their origin point and still fight later in the same day. A common suggestion is to increase the maximum jump range to 6 or 7 light years, which would allow for significantly more flexibility in the use of capitals without allowing them to cross regional connections unimpeded, but would help players move around within their home region. Other suggestions include mechanics that will give consideration to pilots who are inactive, and return to the game with the need to travel great distances to rejoin their play group. Additionally, it is widely suggested that fatigue be reduced or eliminated for jump bridges, as they are a key element of defense that is currently diminished in value. The current fatigue on jump bridges is also a factor in reducing fights, as alliance members who have moved to their pve locations in your space may be prohibited by fatigue from joining defensive or offensive fleets forming in your staging system. Another recent twist that has caught some favorable press is the idea of having all jump fatigue wiped when you jump into your alliance’s capital system. This would allow much greater local use of capitals while continuing to restrict long haul usage. 

My Solutions: I could be happy with some combination of any or all of the above. It’s probably safest to pick one or two and iterate until we are in a more balanced place. I would probably start with the overall fatigue reduction and an increase to 6 LY.

IV.      Conclusions

There are a number of dials that can be twirled here to make ShinyPixieLaserSov aka Kafkasov less Kafkaesque. I strongly feel that of all of these, adoption of something similar to the structure vulnerability system for ALL sov structures, and appropriate restrictions on entosis link bearing ships would have the most beneficial effects, if I had to pick two. If you feel I’ve missed something vital, tell me what your major issue and what your solutions might be in the comments. Don’t just whine, be productive.


Nullsec v. Faction Warfare and Lowsec

A recent hot topic amongst capsuleers has been the meme that lowsec players are “less risk averse” or inclined to more fun, or would somehow do things differently if they were in charge of nullsec. Coalitions, it is trumpeted, are cancer! These comparisons fail to survive even the most basic logical scrutiny.

It is true that lowsec and faction warfare are generating a lot more heat right now than nullsec. And for good reason, the game mechanics are favorable to generating content. It might be useful to see what lessons we can take from those mechanics to make null more fun, rather than assume it is some inherent moral or fortitudinal superiority amongst lowsec residents.

1. Risk v Reward

Lowsec/FW: Pilots risk their ships. There is little to no investment in extensive infrastructure due to the ability to dock in open stations. Moon towers and stagers are common, but little else.

Rewards occur naturally from engaging in the actual activity of combat in FW. You go out, you fight or plex, and you are DIRECTLY rewarded via LP. Other combat is directly rewarded through loot, or through acquisition of a moon.

At no time does any pilot risk losing their livelihood, they can always go back to an agent at any time, and can’t be locked out. They can never lose assets, they will always be able to get into a station.

Nullsec: Pilots risk not only their ship but their investment in the form of time and taxes in their alliance. There is extensive infrastructure. Even an alliance my own size invests hundreds of millions in infrastructure cost over the course of an average year. Stations, upgrades, towers, fuel, ihubs, upgrades for THEM, that I must now put in EVERY system for indexing purposes, TCUs, and the logistics time and effort to maintain all of these things.

Rewards are indirect. By holding the territory you earn the right to mine and rat in it. Once you HAVE the territory, there is little incentive to fight unless forced to, because the reward doesn’t come from fighting, but from holding.

Should you have to fight, however, you risk losing your space. You may lose many of your assets, trapped in hostile space. You risk losing your income. Thus you band together, and when people do come to fight, you discourage them with overwhelming force rather than “gudfites”. Weakness or even an even fight risks great loss, because it puts a target on your back.

Comparison: Lowsec has low and balanced risk/reward, and each is tied to the other. Nullsec has significant risk, and the rewards are only loosely tied to combat, and therefore are not driving it.

2. Density/Co-Location

Lowsec/FW: Pilots are thrust together into relatively small areas. In FW, that’s the current battlefronts. In regular Low, they tend to cluster around major agent/mission hubs. Friction is created by density and proximity.

Nullsec: Pilots are spread about like a thin dust on a very very large table. Some nullsec alliances are capable of fielding huge fleets, but in general, if you come into our space when we’re not formed, we’re off about our business in various corners of our space. Moreover, the Kafkasov changes have reduced the scope of space owned by various coalitions and alliances, leaving a lot of relatively empty space that noone is rushing to seize. Most nullsec coalitions frankly already have MORE space than they can reasonably protect against a sizable invasion, and don’t want/need more, which used to be the motivation for fights. You might not like renter empires, but there was money in them, and therefore reason to fight for more space than you strictly needed. Right now there is more Null space than anyone actually uses or needs. No reason to fight. The only reason to hack a system is to troll. Making it worse, the requirement to constantly index those systems means that the amount of time those alliances have to roam off and fight each other is fairly limited.

Comparison: Lowsec has good density and co-location of pilots by various means. Nullsec has shrunk the amount of space coalitions can reasonably defend, but noone is filling in those gaps because the rewards aren’t there.

3.  What lessons can we take from this?

A. Risk needs to be balanced with Reward, and the Reward needs to attach directly to the desired behavior – If you want to encourage combat in nullsec, you need rewards that stem directly from combat. If you want people to give and take territory, you need to encourage them to overreach and fight at the borders, so you need rewards that stem from owning more territory. Right now there is little reward to combat in Null other than combat. Which we do. We regularly have roams and gudfites, but the density is such its not as frequent or visible as lowsec. If you want more, create the mechanism.

B. We need a reason to bring pilots and coalitions into dense contact with each other to create friction and content. The vast empty buffers of nullsec aren’t accomplishing this very well. The requirement to stay busy indexing your little pile of space isn’t helping.

4. Suggestions

I’m sure there are a lot of ways you could approach this, but my current suggestions are twofold:

A.  Create a mechanism by which you are rewarded for holding larger territory. If there’s a reason to overextend and risk yourself in holding territory, there is more reason to have conflicts on the borders. Past reasons for this included wanting to hold rich moons in far off areas, or simply hold rich regions of space for renter empires. Now, with Phoebe changes, and Kafkasov, there is no ability to hold distant moons or regions, or any good reason to overextend yourself past the space you can keep indexed. There’s noone filling in those gaps either to create much friction. Numerous nullsec entities are currently practically overextended, but noone is taking that space because there’s simply noone that wants it. The rewards are lacking.

B. Create temporary, exhaustible but valuable resources of fixed duration, that occur on the borders between sov regions. Give people reasons to send large fleets to compact areas. if we’re both sending 200 man fleets to capture some goal, we’re now forced into conflict over a compact set of goals and the density, friction, and heat are being created to spur fights. Since its temporary and you don’t have to hold it for months to see a profit, like a tower, there’s good reason for even third parties to come in from far away to try to chip off a piece.

These are two of what are probably hundreds of possible answers, but they are examples of what I’d like to see in the game, in terms of stimulating interaction. What sorts of suggestions do you have?


CCP and the new sov: Between a rock and a hard place.

I’m going to sort of step aside from the issue of what is or isn’t working about the new sov system and look at a slightly different issue. When you make huge changes to game systems, how does it affect your players? How do you hold onto your players?

A game-changer such as the new sov system has some automatic problems for a game company in a persistent world such as EVE. Since you know I love analogies, here’s another one:

Imagine you love to play chess. All your friends love to play chess. You have invested many dollars and a great deal of time in beautiful, expensive chess sets, and learning the smallest nuance of how to play chess. You play so much chess, you are in fact a bit bored with it, and are starting to stagnate a bit.

The Chess company sees this and decides that the answer is to replace all chess sets they sold to their customers in the middle of the night with checkers sets. This new game will revitalize the flagging spirit of their customers!

The problem is that no matter how whizbang and flashy the new sets are, and no matter the fact that the players WERE in fact a bit bored with chess, there is an automatic level of skepticism regarding the checkers sets. After all, i spent my money on chess, I spent a lot of time learning to play chess, and I have enjoyed chess with my friends for a long time. Despite the fact it is played on the same board, checkers just isn’t chess, and never will be. And now you are told you can never play chess again.

Now imagine you have a few very expensive custom chess pieces lying around you can no longer play with. They tell you they might work in some house rules so that you can use them as checkers pieces. They’ll get back to you on that in a few months.

Oh and also the transition from chess to checkers won’t happen overnight. They’ll ship you a few checkers every 6 weeks or so, so you can’t even really play a good game of chess OR checkers until they are done… sometime next year.

You can see where there’s going to be some hostility. Even if people decide in the end checkers is an ok game, there’s going to be some resentment about the process. And some people will inevitably decide that checkers just isn’t a game they are interested in, and seek out a land where chess is still played.

This is where CCP is at the moment. It is entirely possible that with iteration, Kafkasov can become a pretty good game of checkers and earn a new moniker. But its just been forced down the throat of a whole lot of chess players. And its been dragged out endlessly and piecemeal. That’s a recipe for disaster and subscription loss.

The BEST case scenario here was that a new, flashy sov system would be implemented in a clean, coordinated way that kept as many of the old players as it could (some were just never going to be interested, so be it), and engaged a new generation of players, bringing them into the null sov game. Potentially, also bringing in new players from outside.

This is not the best case scenario. We’re in the middle of a long drawn out process with no obvious roadmap or end point. We face a lack of communication on issues of great concern to the player base such as the role of capitals in this new system. And people are starting to question whether that is because even the developers aren’t sure where the train is headed.

Based on what I’ve seen so far, I think there’s a pretty big danger of losing a chunk of the social capital that has kept this game thriving for so long. That worries me. What do you think they could be doing better to make us want to play this new game of checkers?


Concerning Logistics: An addendum.

Yesterday my blog drew way more attention than I expected it would. With regard to people who took exception to my particular examples, I can only say there are many examples of mechanics that limit the range of winnable fights in EVE. All of them should be examined and rethought as part of a balance pass. I picked a few hot topics to spur discussion.  It worked better than I thought it would.

The central point is, and remains, that you need to reduce roadblocks to fighting, and you need to give people a reasonable chance (or at least the appearance of a reasonable chance) of winning, so that they will fight. And you need to have rewards that are commensurate with the risk.

One particular hot topic of discussion deserved some special attention, in my opinion. Logistics is probably the single biggest example of the sort of mechanic that eliminates “winnable bets”. My only excuse for leaving it out is that I wrote the post at 3 am during a bout of insomnia.

Logistics reduces the number of winnable bets primarily because it ups the stakes for the loser. If you go into battle and you lack logistics, or your logistics is inferior to the other side, it is entirely possible to lose 100% of your fleet to zero kills, EVEN WHERE BOTH SIDES ARE OTHERWISE EQUAL. Even in a fleet with adequate logistics, one mistake by a logistics anchor can result in a massive loss.

In a game where logistics were less powerful, or less available, you’d see equivalent losses by each side, which might be tolerable to many, even in a loss. But logistics mean that many battles, and particularly most large battles, will end in the fabled “Welp” as one side breaks the other’s logistics while taking few losses of their own.

Thus, like links, fewer battles happen, because time elapses while one side or the other attempts to form up and get logistics, and refuses to undock without, or with an inferior number. Eventually they may simply choose not to undock.

How can this be fixed? There have been numerous suggestions from a stacking penalty, to an outright limit on how many reps can be placed on a target, to weakening logi cruisers and remote reps. All of them thus far have been filed in the “too hard and/or we don’t care” basket by CCP.

I will concur with the crowd that this probably is the first and biggest thing that ought to be addressed in a “winnable bet” balance pass.


Risk and Conflict in EVE

A common theme in a lot of blogs, reddit posts and other EVE media at the moment is that “risk aversion” is creating a lack of content. I am now going to spend a lot of ~words~ telling you why I disagree. The problem doesn’t lie with risk aversion, but an out of whack set of play mechanics that produce no good reason to take risks. This applies both to combat in general, and the new sov system in particular.

What drives conflict?

What drives conflict in EVE are situations where both sides in a conflict feel like they can gamble and win, and the reward is worth the gamble. You can see this in a casino every day. There has to be a small chance of winning, and the greater the risk (the smaller the chance of winning), the bigger the reward needs to be to get them to bet. Lotteries have negligible chances of winning, but people will still throw a couple of dollars at it, because the risk is small, to match the small chance of a positive outcome, because the potential reward is great. If people think they have a greater chance of winning, they will risk much more (their belief doesn’t have to be correct, they just have to perceive it to be greater).

The enormous battle of B-R illustrates this point perfectly. Manfred Sideous, the FC for PL, believed that it was a good risk to protect his fallen sov system by deploying their trademark wrecking ball of supers and titans, believing that the Imperium (then the CFC) would flinch from a decisive battle between the super capital fleets. This was a good bet, from a historical perspective. The Imperium had been loath to risk its protective umbrella of super capitals in an offensive attack, knowing it would open their holdings to rapid defeat if it was lost. The Imperium on the other hand, looked around and found, for perhaps the first time, that allied with the Rus, they had a super capital numbers advantage in every time zone. Lazarus Telraven bet that this roll of the dice could be the crushing blow that would assure the Imperium a decisive super capital advantage for the foreseeable future, as well as a smashing morale victory. Both sides couldn’t be right, but both sides had good reason to believe they were. Battle was joined and the results are enshrined in a monument. That epic battle hinged on the idea of the winnable bet.

None of this works, however, when the chances of winning are zero. There’s no winnable bet. There’s no reason to risk. That is the situation with EVE’s game mechanics at the moment. Battles are frequently, but not always, simple exercises in mathematics. “I don’t have links, he does, can’t win that fight, run.” “He has 50% more numbers, in equivalent strength ships, I can’t win, run” “he has 30,000 pilots, I have a couple of thousand, what’s the point in invading” “His fleet hard counters mine, better flee”. The only time a fight occurs under those circumstances, is when roughly equivalent gangs, in roughly equivalent ships, with links, happen to encounter each other, or when someone gets trapped and has to fight. That’s a difficult thing to arrange. And it’s happening less and less.

What is needed, in my opinion, is a way to increase the window of “winnable bets” and therefore encourage people to gamble. In my opinion there are several things that could be done:

1.  Eliminate supercapitals. Just refund the money or materials, the skill points for fighter bombers, and the cost of the fighter bombers, along with the remote ECM modules. CCP is struggling to find a role for these ships and if I’m honest, its because they were probably a mistake in the first place. They keep good capital fights, which were previously pretty balanced, from ever occurring. Particularly with the Phoebe changes, local super capital superiority is a virtually unbeatable advantage. There are no supercapital batphones anymore. Remove the doomsday from Titans, if you feel the need to keep them for bridging.

2.  Eliminate Links. One of the single biggest factors in reducing the number of fights in eve is links. Many is the time I have seen fc’s pinging for links, knowing their opponent has them, and the fight never happens because they don’t get the right numbers. So-called “solo” or small gang pilots with an alt on links following them have destroyed actual solo and small gang combat. Remove them. Change the skills to leadership, and perhaps a specialist skill, remove the others and reimburse them. individuals with the right fleet command skills and the 2 leadership skills could then simply be slotted into fleet in any ship appropriate for the fleet, giving bonuses from the skills. The skills would be far more widespread, and easier to use. You could use bonuses without requiring extra ships or alts that add nothing to the fun of the game. People would find it easier to simply undock and fight.

3.  Change fleet bonuses to give diminishing returns. Another way to squeeze the window is to create diminishing returns on bonuses for larger fleets. If you reduce the effective difference in power of a 100 man fleet versus a 70 man fleet, or a 200 person fleet against a 250 person fleet, you give the smaller entity hope that, with skill or luck, they might prevail. A no-win scenario potentially becomes a winnable bet. Combat will occur more frequently.

4.  Create new combat scenarios.  Right now most fights are zero sum. You either win the objective or you are destroyed or chased off. There is a need for new things to fight over. Things that aren’t zero sum. I don’t have the perfect answer, but in my mind, I see it as an oasis in an African savannah. Everyone needs the water, but each animal has a different way of obtaining it. The small ones sneak in by night using stealth and speed. The medium animals like jackals pick off the corpses left by the large predators, as well as taking out the smaller animals. The big predators squat on their kills and rip the meat from them, fighting all comers. Each of these animals can use different tactics and strategies to get some of the precious resource. Each has a chance of walking away with some of it. Each has a valid reason to believe it will benefit from entering the mix, and each has a “winnable bet”. Since the objective isn’t simply to fight the larger enemy, but to outwit them and escape with some of the resource, there’s a non-zero sum game here. Every entity can come in, get a fight, and potentially, thought not always, walk away a winner, sometimes at the same time. Somehow we need to work more concepts like this into the game to encourage fighting.

Sov and the “winnable bet”

I am advised its probably not entirely fair to blame only Fozzie for the mess that is the new sov system at the moment. I agree with that notion, and I will therefore be referring to it as “Kafkasov” henceforth.

Let us return to the casino analogy for a moment. Let’s say you pull up to Planet Hollywood for EVE Vegas, you check into the hotel to get your room, and you are told the following:

“To claim your room, you will have to sit at a table in the casino for a period of time, with the contents of your wallet sitting on the table in full view. You, and whatever friends you can summon, must defend the items on the table in group combat with anyone else in the casino who wishes to claim them until the time expires. The period of time shall be determined by how much free landscaping work you do for the casino. If you are a good boy and dig lots of holes, we’ll reduce the time to 3 hours. otherwise you could be sitting there for up to 18. But that’s not all. When you finally get to go to your room for the night, we’ve hooked all the lights, the toilet flush, the heater and ac and your television to switches in the lobby. Anyone who walks by can turn them off and on unless you decide to come down and have a fistfight with them.”

Nobody but an insane person would play this game. There’s no way to win. The best you can do is to not lose. Plus just to reduce the chances of losing, you have to spend hours doing exceedingly tedious tasks. This is the situation sov holders find themselves in under Kafkasov. There’s no winnable bet because there’s no reward that is worth the effort.

There are two potential solutions to this. One is to increase the value of sov holding to the point where it makes the game worthwhile. The anomaly buffs were a modest attempt at this. I think, however, that to make this game palatable, you’d have to make sov so ludicrously overvalued as to disrupt the EVE economy. The other solution is to change the game. I can think of several ways to do this:

1.  Entosis links, when active, should no longer make the ship immune to remote reps, but should instead reduce or eliminate movement. Some have suggested simply disabling prop mods. If a ship needs to be defended to finish the job, instead of merely running away at top speed when enemies approach, fights will be more frequent. The attacker will have skin in the game and they will have to actually have grid superiority to hack something. It will give the defender the chance they need to avoid pointless timers the attacker won’t be back for anyway.

2.  Reduce the massive disparity between the effort required by attackers and the effort required by defenders. For every 20 minute hack by an attacker, there is a guaranteed couple of hours required by a defender to fix the timer, even if NOBODY shows up to contest. Right now, even at maximum ADM level, the amount of time it takes to defend is much more than it took to hack in the first place. That should be reversed. Somewhere over 3 ADM there should be a break even point, and by 6, the amount of time should be substantially in favor of the defender. Remember, they spent literally hours getting that ADM up, it should be good for something besides a slightly longer timer. Conversely, you could even increase the disparity at the lowest ADM levels, so that it requires truly stupid amounts of time to defend a very low index system. This would make truly unused space tend to revert to empty easily. Coordinated attacks on firmly held sov should require getting that index down first.

“But Thoric,” you say, “this sounds like you are favoring the Imperium? We’ll never be able to take your sov!” Frankly, no one is taking it now. The people who are getting clobbered are the poor guys who thought they could take 2-3 systems in a quiet backwater, and make themselves a little space empire. They are spending so much time defending it against every troll in the galaxy they barely have time to do anything with it. Most of them are giving up on the idea. Others are watching and deciding its not worth the effort. You’ll never see smaller entities out there unless they can make their sov defensible against trolling and other small entities.

3.  Remove the ability to hack station services outside the vulnerability window. This is just annoying, and adds nothing to gameplay.

4.  Change the way that sovereignty windows are done altogether. I will speak more on this at a later date. I am still formulating my thoughts on this subject. Ideally however, it would give those aforementioned smaller entities the free time they need to work index, maybe leave their systems for a bit of a roam to seek fights, or just take a day off now and then so EVE doesn’t become a job.

If you do these things, sov once again becomes a “winnable bet”. Some of the future promised group pve experiences and other enhancements might even make it truly desirable. One can hope. I might even stop calling it Kafkasov.


Analyzing the New Nullsec PvE Changes

A few weeks ago I published a blog entry on what I viewed as the central question of the new sov changes, namely “Why would I want to live in null sov?” This week, we had the first glimmer of an answer.

Fozzie’s PVE blog

Leading into the new sov changes to come on the 14th, Fozzie dropped what I consider to be the first blog actually addressing some of what’s wrong, or at least not very interesting, about null sov. I’ll go through briefly what I consider to be the most important parts, and where I HOPE this train is headed:

1. Anomaly changes.

This is clearly a huge buff for the lowest trusec portions of Null. Less so for the rest of it, but still a valuable buff to even high end systems. It addresses several major concerns I had with the viability of null sov, at least in part. i) It gives people more reason to want the low trusec regions of null. .1 to .3 systems were pretty atrocious in terms of income level and the ability to support more than perhaps a single ratter or a few miners. Since these were the systems most likely to be snapped up by newer sov entities moving into null space, that’s a problem if your goal is to see more people entering into null. The new mining buffs also affect this equation.  ii) Density. Even in higher trusec systems, one of the problems was the ability for any given region to support the density of players that will be required to successfully defend it against constant entosis attack. These changes allow several more players to simultaneously rat in a system, allowing entities to maintain smaller patches of sov and still have the ability to support player densities approaching what is needed.

2. Survey and Entrapment Networks

This is a relatively minor buff in comparison. It is beneficial in a few ways though: It will give those who don’t own large swathes of space more opportunity to do exploration in their systems, it will make the upgrades and their attendant sov costs worthwhile, and again, it will increase potential density, and the potential value of low trusec space.

3. Nullsec Incursions

This change ties into another change that Fozzie mentioned at the end of his blog, which we will get to shortly. Essentially, this appears to be the first faltering steps toward more group PVE experiences in null. I’ll discuss that more fully in the following section.

4. Undefined Group PVE experiences

Toward the end of the blog, Fozzie described something that, while it was vague and filed as a future potential idea, had, at least to me, some interesting promise. One of the ideas in my past blog entry and commentary on the subject was that it wasn’t just pure ISK that was at issue when discussing “Why is null sov worth having, what makes it interesting to hold and defend?” The larger part of the equation is what is unique about null sov that you can’t get somewhere else? Ratting? That’s income, but it is frankly boring as hell. Mining, same issue. You can do both of them, plus other things, in Null NPC. Plus not have to fight off folks trolling your sov. There needs to be a central unique theme to nullsec that  you simply cannot get as a play experience in other regions to justify the risk and hassle of holding it.

This seems to be the beginning of an answer to that plea. The unique aspect of null, to my mind, and as i’ve said in my platform, is the group dynamic, community and group gameplay it offers. Yet most of our income in null centers around activities that are mostly solitary, if pursued for the most isk/hr, and frankly kind of dull, which insures people will do so in a solitary fashion if only to minimize the amount of time they do them. Corporations regularly do various activities in my alliance to build group cohesion, such as corporate roams and PVP. Ideally, this same sort of thing would be present in how we earn our living. The idea of varying sizes of group PVE for both miners and ratters strikes me as a solid addition to null sec sov. On one hand it continues to build community, and on the other, it encourages pilots to be in space, in groups, and not ship spinning or sitting in a pos whenever a red enters the system. if you are already grouped up in ships for an activity that resembles PVP, you’ll be more likely to respond to fights. It’s good for nullsec, It’s good for activity, It’s good for PVP.

5. The rest.

I don’t have any firm comment on the rest, I don’t think any of the other items mentioned are of the same importance. The wormhole change is vastly overhyped and won’t result in much change at all for wormholers, while it will make deployment through a wormhole marginally more difficult for null and low entities. The ESS item is interesting, but barring further information there’s not much to say on it. The Defense Multipliers are in fact crucial, but there’s nothing new in this section we didn’t already know they were working on from past blogs.

6. My goals for nullsec

These changes are good, but they can’t be the end. As I’ve said, I want to continue pushing for null to be as vibrant and different a place as possible, with a distinct play style from the rest of the game, and positive reasons to want to live there to participate that are different from those in other regions. In fact I think EVERY region of space deserves that same distinction, and there’s still a lot of work to go in all of those areas. I think some of these proposed PVE experiences are a good start to that, and they offer one way forward. Another aspect of it will come from whatever emergent gameplay we see for the new structures, particularly things like the Observatories. If you want to start a gold rush that will reinvigorate nullsec, it has to be spurred by unique and interesting gameplay. This dev blog is ultimately a band-aid fix, with a hopeful sign pointing toward the destination. Unless we ultimately get to the destination, it won’t mean much in the long run. I will continue to dedicate the remainder of my CSM term to advocating for that vision.





Null Sec: Make the Juice Worth the Squeeze

Today while discussing Fozziesov and Nullsec sovereignty changes, the panel hit on a topic I felt like I wanted to expand on. It’s been a central theme of my tenure as a CSM member, and I think it’s terribly important to a successful transition to Fozziesov.

Let me say as a preface that my statements don’t come from a place of being “against” Fozziesov. In fact, I find that there is a lot that is admirable about the attempt to roll the dice with a major reset of the sov game systems. Clearing the boards is sometimes necessary for growth. I will go so far as to say that the last set of iterations regarding Fozziesov reflected that there had been some attention paid to the comments of the player base on the system. Dominion is a flawed system. It needs to be replaced. This new system has its own set of unique issues, but I don’t think that in the long term they are unfixable. It will just take iteration, which CCP has demonstrated a greater talent and interest for in the last year or so.

That being said, there is one overarching issue that I think has yet to be fully addressed. We’ve seen, perhaps, hints of it being addressed in some of the issues raised in the structure presentations and blogs. That issue is “Why live in Null Sec Sov at all?”

The new system unquestionably will require a few things: 1) That you live in and use your space. Index is now a major defensive benefit. You’ll need to PvP to hold your space, but more interestingly, you’ll need to PvE in it too. 2) It will require a higher density of population to achieve that. Rapid reaction to entosis by small ships will need lots of bodies in close proximity for a defense. 3) That will mean that alliances and coalitions will be holding less space by necessity. You can already see the consequences of this as various major players move to position themselves for the switchover.

So far so good, you will say, if you are a fan of opening Nullsec Sov to the archetypal “small sov holding alliance”. That will open up vast tracts of space for these new players to move into, right? The giant coalitions will be broken up and all will be well with EVE, right? Well, no, not really.

For starters, this system does absolutely nothing to address the primacy of N+1 warfare. If I, as a member of the Imperium, want to bring 1000 pilots to a fight, I still can. I can send 500 of them to camp you into your station, and the other 500 can roll capture points in a big hurry. Furthermore, should I bring such a blob, your chances of getting a bat phone for help from larger friends, or just enemies of your enemy, are substantially reduced thanks to Phoebe mechanics. They might have to move well across the map to get to you, which will take hours, at a minimum. Finally, because I am a member of such a large blob, I don’t even have to step away from my own sov to do it. There are plenty of people left at home to defend.

There are some positives for this putative small sov holding entity, in theory. Keeping your indexes high means that you’ll be able to quickly capture control points with fewer people and potentially win the race. But the fact you have an occupying force in your systems will quickly cause those indexes to drop, negating even that advantage.

Another potential positive for the smaller, newer, entity is that we won’t see blobs of apex force supers and capitals deciding every major sov engagement. However, as discussed above, sheer quantity has a quality all its own. 1000 Dominixes supported with triage may be the new apex force instead of a wrecking ball of supers and capitals, but that is still something smaller entities can only aspire to.

Moreover, more than one entity has stepped away from sov altogether, with the intention of farming these theoretical players for tears. There are others who never held sov and have always specialized in harassing sov holders for fun and profit. All of these entities are drooling with delight at being able to seriously challenge sovereignty with small fleets and force fights. They won’t start with the major players. It will be the modest and small size players that take the brunt.

At some point, it will start to occur to these players that they are undertaking a lot of grief for a return that is not substantially higher, or indeed may be less profitable, than say, running Null Sec NPC missions, or doing incursions with an organized group. Even if they do decide to hold some sovereignty, their preferred method will likely be to base in NPC Null or Lowsec, and blueball any superior force that comes to steamroll them, recovering the lost sovereignty when the blob leaves. Brave is already adopting such a system, holding onto precious money moons in Fountain, and playing take it or leave it with sov systems. The major fights aren’t happening over sov systems, but over the valuable R64 moons there.

This is a major hole in this sovereignty system. The wealth in such a system needs to come from holding the sovereignty. It needs to be worth the pain of defending it. Not just  to plant a flag, which has some limited but fading psychological value. The negative value of being farmed for tears needs to be offset by a “need” or at least a strong desire, to hold the actual space. Otherwise very few will bother. It’s going to be particularly difficult to sell new entities on the poor trusec systems that will likely be left over once the major players squat on the better systems.

Personally, I would like to see a plan that explains fully to the playerbase what the benefits are going to be, ultimately. I’d like to see players eager and ready to jump into sov at the first opportunity as part of a new land rush, because they see the value in it. that’s not the case right now. Rather, players seem to be moving the other direction, with major entities piling out of sov and into the moon holding game. In my opinion, CCP has a sales job to do on the new sov system, and part of that is wielding the carrot as well as the stick.


So, transparency, right?

So, one of my promises as a candidate for CSM X was that I would be as transparent as I’m allowed to be. In the interests of actually trying to do something about that promise now that I’ve been elected, I’ve opened up a Twitter feed at @TFrosthammer, and for longer form thoughts, I’ll be posting here. I’ll also post general thoughts, items of interest, and various LOLBRs.