As the clock ticks down to the implementation of the new sovereignty warfare mechanic, I find it time to write one last missive on the subject. It’s not entirely directed at you, the reader, as much as it is directed at CCP. Call it an open letter of sorts, while at the same time trying to engage the reader in what may be the final public discussion on the topic before it goes live. I don’t believe that anything is going to change what happens on July 14th, but that doesn’t mean the words shouldn’t be said.
CCP: This is the wrong mechanic or, at the very least, happening at the wrong time. It requires either more thought, or to be packaged with future changes in your roadmap, or both. This is your last opportunity to apply the brakes and avoid what may very well be an incredibly costly mistake from taking place.
For lack of a better word, I will refer to the coming change as FozzieSov. I’d like to say that it is only because FozzieSov is the term that has rooted itself in the community vernacular since CCP Fozzie became the face of Team Nullsec. However, I don’t deny that it also helps to maintain an undeniably close alignment with another well-intentioned, but poorly-implemented mechanic named after a certain person.
By calling it FozzieSov, I’m also not trying to lay this entirely at the feet of CCP Fozzie or even Team Nullsec. A good many people, past and current developers and players alike, share some of the blame for why we are at the point we are at. Some share more than others, but here we are and only the development team can do anything to stop it.
The fact is that the new FozzieSov system is unbalanced in a number of key areas. No, I don’t mean that the actual mechanics of it are somehow broken. I’ve seen plenty of arguments for and against certain aspects of it, but to be perfectly honest, I am not a theorycrafter. Rather, my primary concern at this point is more about the why than the how. Here is the single biggest question I keep hearing and asking myself:
Why would anyone choose to remain a nullsec resident under this sovereignty system?
My answer, which is entirely anecdotal, is that many of us will do it out of a sense of allegiance to the other players around us. The idea that we won’t just abandon, not the space, but each other, in spite of how tedious and unenjoyable this mechanic might become. The answer is not that nullsec is so incredibly lucrative for the average player that it must be defended at all costs. And it is certainly not that being a nullsec defender will be more appealing than being an attacker when it comes down to playing a video game. Nobody wants to feel compelled to login or stay in permanent contact with the game in order to ensure a reasonable level of day-to-day or week-to-week stability. And, to a large extent, that is what many players currently residing in nullsec will be forced to do. That or be forced to find a more stable area of New Eden in which to play their video game.
Yes, the Dominion sovereignty system is busted. The old paradigm of being a resident of nullsec meant that an opposing force not only needed to beat you on the field (if you showed up), but commit to a prolonged series of structure bashes if they actually wanted to capture or destroy those structures. This commitment requirement was the defining factor and acted as a speed bump to making the decision to engage in sovereignty warfare. Sure, it made drawing a defender into a fight more difficult, perhaps even impossible, but I do not believe that the new system will achieve any better long-term results. In the short-term, yeah I expect more fights and activity as people play with a new toy. Longer term? If one side or the other deems itself outclassed or outgunned, regardless of the strategic objective, they’ll stop showing up. Nobody intentionally takes an ass-whoopin everyday.
We all know that the Dominion sovereignty system needed to be replaced or other changes enacted that broke the cycle of stagnation. But now the pendulum is swinging, as it always does, too far to the other side. It will again be unbalanced, but in a somewhat different way: not the mechanic itself, but what the mechanic implies for the individual player.
Attackers may be at a relative disadvantage in terms of the on-field mechanics, specifically as it relates to entosis timers. However, they have the absolute advantage when it comes to flexibility in how and when they play the game. Today? Sure. Tomorrow? Sure. The next day? Nah, it’s a work day, but just let them think we’re coming again. Keep them busy chasing shadows. Nullsec residents have one choice during their vulnerability windows: always be ready to scramble the alert fighters or be prepared to go to whack-a-mole across the constellation. Every single day, be prepared. Yeah, being a resident defender sounds great compared to the flexibility given to attackers. I sure hope you’re with a big, active alliance.
It doesn’t just end there in terms of the flexibility advantage or the commitment one side makes to engaging in sovereignty warfare. Attackers who own sovereignty themselves are prone to counter-attack and must keep an eye on their own home territory. Sovereignty-holding attackers are in fact subject to the same defender status as any nullsec resident. The real sweet deal exists only for attackers who stage out of NPC null or low sec. They are free to act without any regard to where they base and maintain assets. I’m all for asymmetric warfare, but this is just one more reason why choosing to actually reside in nullsec seems pretty dumb under FozzieSov.
I can go into why there needs to be better reasons for being a nullsec resident. How nullsec needs to be buffed in order to rebalance not only the the increased risk associated with living there, but the heightened commitment and tedium associated with always being ready for some duder wanting to entosify something. However, I don’t think more reward is really going to make the difference in this scenario. Players don’t want to feel compelled to login to a video game just because the developer made it too easy for someone to compel them to do so. Players shouldn’t feel like they need to be in the biggest, most active nullsec alliances in the game just so there are enough people active at any given time.
Ultimately CCP, you need to get the balance right this time, or at least a lot closer to right than it is now. Attackers, especially those unencumbered by owning sovereignty, will be playing a video game. Video games are fun. On the other hand, residents of nullsec will be coming to work every day as employees of EVE Online. Stop this madness and get it right before you release it. Of course nobody should own space if they can’t hold it. But you don’t fix the problem by replacing a mechanic that led to stagnation with a mechanic that leads to player misery. We have fewer and fewer people actively doing that these days. Let’s not compound the problem unless we’re damn sure we’ve got this right.
(Editor’s Note: This submission comes to us from Dirk MacGirk of TNT. Dirk is a prolific voice in the EVE community, and former TMC contributor. His current project is Total Eve, a Drudge-like site for EVE Online news aggregation.)