(Editor’s Note: Today’s submission comes to us from Aryth, an old-school Goon who’s been playing EVE since 2005. These days, he exists primarily in the metagame, running both GSF Finance and GARPA, the team behind tools like the GARPA Topographical Survey (GTS) navigation aid, as well as designing both the PBLRD and Section 8 Rental Programs, OTEC, Burn Jita, and many other long-term schemes that have generally caused hate and discontent outside of the CFC/Imperium. As a long-term theorycrafter and evil genius, he has been described by some as ‘the Lex Luthor of EVE’. He can often be found frequenting the dev threads on the EVE-Online forums, accurately predicting exactly where the design ideas proposed will break down, and working thanklessly to try to make the game better and healthier, because he would rather be a shark in the ocean than a big fish in a dying pond.)
EVE: DOOM & BLOOM PART 1
A RETROSPECTIVE ON AEGIS SOV AND THE LESSONS OF PROVIDENCE
First, this will be a long piece. Perhaps better saved for a drink in hand moment.
Not that you should spend such time reading articles about EVE. If you do though I encourage you to lubricate your mind to think forward in the meta. This article will be the first in a two part series.
This article focuses on the “Doom” portion of today’s EVE. The fundamental challenge we are dealing with is the completely backwards order in which CCP has implemented the restructuring of nullsec. Due to fears, both justified and otherwise, CCP has chosen to lead with the stick, instead of the carrot. For a year now, players have endured nerf after nerf to their playstyles. Doom has come to their experience with no light at the end of the tunnel.
This Doom takes many forms. It manifests in shorter jump ranges, and Jump Fatigue. The irrelevance of capital and supercapital ships is another facet of Doom. The Doom of war cycles being adjusted from months to days. The Doom caused by of the loss of the centerpiece “big fight,” darling of media coverage and the most effective recruitment tool in the game. The Doom of income streams falling for various reasons as the knock on effects of dropping player counts is felt.
To be fair, there have been a few carrots, like the addition of viable combat anomalies to parts of nullsec with bad truesec. But, as far as hope for radical change, the primary focus is the new Citadel structures.
Citadels (as well as the other new structures on CCP’s road map) represent the blooming flowers of a new EVE. We have been waiting for them for years. They have become a Jesus feature, and our sincere hope is that citadels bring null back from life support. I will save the mechanics and implications of those for the Bloom portion of this two piece. Let’s get back to some good old Doom.
We can’t discuss Doom without talking about Occupancy Sov. You either hate it or are apathetic to it. The few people I have noticed that proclaim their love for it are not sov holding entities. They are also not likely to ever be sov holding entities. That isn’t to say people don’t see the promise in the system. Change is rough.
At this point in time there has been enough experience with occupancy sov to see the flaws and start a conversation on how best to address them. Despite having the warmest opinions of occupancy sov, The Imperium is of the opinion that occupancy sov needs still more work.
Thanks to our lighting foray in and out of Providence, we in The Imperium have had the opportunity to participate in occupancy sov with frequency and scale that no one else has yet. There are a few clear trends emerging, and the primary trend is that there is a large imbalance in nullsec right now. Either you have critical mass and numbers and organization to build and empire, or you don’t.
Oddly, the effect of the current system is to discourage smaller entities, over the long term. The complexity of the system and the demands required are not compatible with smaller size. It doesn’t mean they lack the ability to take and hold sov in the short term. It means that smaller entities aren’t going to be able to shoulder the heavy burden and constant attention that sov now requires. For all its faults, Dominion’s structure EHP grinds at least discouraged picking on smaller entities or trolling as there was a large time and risk investment to do so. Conversely, in Aegis sov, a serious invading force becomes a flash mob invading your home. Oh sure you might pick off a couple or even a dozen. It is the other few hundred that get you, unless you have your own similar size mob standing in the house with you.
The reasons the Imperium is having success with this system are simple. Numbers and command and control (C&C). The new EVE requires you to be able to juggle dozens of timers happening simultaneously. That means you need multiple gangs to defend your space. This, in turn, means multiple comms, multiple fcs, multiple coordinated pieces. Trollceptors are horrible gameplay and have been the focus of a lot of player angst. What is worse is the speed of this system.
We just burned down half the IHUBS in Provi on a Monday to Friday. Each one of these is a 4-7B investment. We were completely unprepared with doctrines. We deployed 1 day ahead of time in a Bltizkrieg with no notice to ourselves our allies. We picked the best defended target in the galaxy with the highest ADMs. That was truly the worst case scenario and it only confirmed everything we thought about the new system. It is too fast, it poses too much risk for the reward, and it is going to lead to a meta where only the megablob can survive long enough to actually build up space. By building up I mean actually upgrading and using their space for industry in the coming meta.
The problems can be broken into four main components:
The current defensive system is incentivizing the wrong structure. Occupancy SOV requires a level of complexity in command and control that most alliances do not have. Only alliances with deep gang lead benches and tons of logistics and PVP ability can function in this system. There is a reason that several large PVP alliances of Dominion are leaving null. It isn’t a function of their abilities but the number of individuals with those abilities. It requires a solid core of multiple disciplines, redundancy and IT infrastructure. EVE is work and this system is way too much work. Otherwise this system will burn you out within a couple months.Many solutions to this tie into speed so I will put them in the place it makes the most sense component wise.
Reduce nodes to 3 instead of 5. My recommendation in the first threads. Splitting up fights is still maintained without it being horrible. Tennis rules likely need to be enforced here. Perhaps even make it win by 3 or spawn more. CCP has already reduced this once and it helped.
Combine TCU/Eliminate it. There is really no reason this needs to be a separate structure. Lop it into the IHUB if needed.
Put the individual indexes in CREST. This is long overdue and is a big hinderance to actually planning out your space and utilization. CCP has indicated it is coming but we don’t have a date.
SPEED OF WAR
The system is custom built for large alliances to be able burn down tons of space in short periods so they can ignore the split defense/offence penalty in the system. They have the raw numbers to supply fleets to timezones 12 hours apart. The attackers aren’t risking their own space because no one else can react that fast. Additionally, their timers can be set for the time opposite their target allowing them to split TZ their offense and defence.
Blitzkrieg Meta is unbalanced and too detrimental to anyone not near the top of the food chain. Attackers holding the space they take isn’t relevant. They can torch 100s of billions in IHUBs on a whim. With Citadels coming potentially trillions. The defenders then get to spend a month staring at DOTLAN to upgrade their space. 100 Days to return things to peak operation, while still having suffered capital fleet wipe type losses for the pleasure. Gaming is evolving to be more casual. I would never suggest EVE not be hardcore, but losing your space and taking hundreds of billions in losses during the work week seems sub-optimal.
Structures (IHUBS,TCUS,Stations) should have at least one more set of timers or the ability to stretch them like is proposed for Citadels. Dominion brought us months, this has brought us days. The answer is likely 2 weeks for a series of battles to play out. At the very least it needs to transverse the 1 week boundary.
A system of scaling difficulty might be required. Perhaps timers get longer the more nodes are currently spawned in a const or region. Perhaps a way to slow down a blitz to give defenders the ability to respond and not need massive amounts of C&C to even put up a fight.
A contest should always have to span a weekend. This is when most people can play. Monday to Friday blitzes should not occur. Average age in EVE is 30s. Any SOV system needs to be one that allows them to participate on weekends in at least one fight. I favor a system that hardcodes one of the 3+ fights to one weekly window at the defenders discretion. Alliances can decide if they want that one predefined window to be a weekend or not.
Vulnerability windows need a far higher degree of customization and scale. If someone wants it vulnerable all day each weekend, that should be a valid choice. Null should not require you to login daily or every other day to hold your space. Hardcore gaming does not mean chained to the game. CCP has announced plans somewhat similar to this so it remains to be seen how much customization there will be.
RISK VS REWARD
IHUBs are too vulnerable given their cost and difficulty in getting to upgrade levels in the first place. This problem will get a lot worse when players are being asked to risk 10% of their assets and 100B ISK Citadels. Attacking should still be fairly straightforward but that doesn’t mean there cannot be an investment by the player to offset some risk. CCP seems to have a slightly different system already planned for Citadels. It may be worth retrofitting that onto IHUBS and current stations.
Allowing POS/Citadel guns to cover assets would be a decent change. It would discourage trolling of all forms and make you bring at least 5-10 people to contest SOV. Or at least a handful of guns to disable infrastructure and give defenders some time to form first. They won’t protect anything beyond keeping trolling at bay. This is already happening in some grandfathered systems and seems to work well enough. Guns not auto firing on the coming structures is something that needs changing. It doesn’t need to be large damage. I hope people like gunning stations but if they don’t there should be a fallback. Like 1/10th damage if ungunned.
ADMs should be fixed. Industry ADM is still languishing with no real updates. Suggesting that actual production not impact the index because people might pour money into it to raise ADMs is farcical. This will be very rare and have such limited real world impact it would be dumb to do in practice. PI,Manufacturing, Research (though limited), and reactions should all impact the index.
ADMs should have a far greater impact. Personally, I would probably double the bonus but that is just me. Several ways to do this.
Trollceptor/Trolling is too easy. We did lose like 1500 interceptors since the patch, but when they cost nothing who cares. I had originally suggested BC and above for the Entosis links. The 4k Speed limit isn’t really enough due to how people ping around with nullifiers. Nullifiers themselves are the real issue since travel is practically risk free. I would prefer to see nullifiers removed/offline/notworking with a link fit but there are a ton of good ideas from the community here. Disabling the prop mod while link is active is a favorite suggestion that hits all ships instead.
Compared to Dominion this system is far less fun in many cases. In some cases it is better. The biggest complaints I see from people flying around on OPs is the loss of shared experience, the smaller nature of fights, and the sucky loneliness that is hacking.
Big fight incentivation. The only way I can see this happening is around the coming Citadels. People will show for 100B ISK space penis on the line. Right now, short of a staging system fight or R64s, there is no reason to have a big brawl. This may take care of itself.
Generate Kill-mails. Enough people have written on this subject
Shared experience fixing. In Dominion you had a shitty grindfest. But during that shitty grindfest you could look at the guy in the trenches next to you and have a shared experience and feeling of accomplishment as you watched your damage notifications scroll across the screen.
Now one guy runs off to the node while the others are off doing other tasks or at most a small guarding force. The social aspect changed in ways we really didn’t expect. The feedback has been decidedly negative. After all, EVE is a social game. I don’t have a good idea on how this can be fixed. However, bringing it up is prudent. This one feels like the biggest loss. Hopefully someone has a good idea out there to bring the shared experience back.
The Doom part is over. Oh there are many other small fixes that this system will need. I tried to address the general concepts and give concrete examples to the larger meta issues. I don’t want to get too into the numbers behind all of this. But the general concept is this: Occupancy Sov can be a good system only if it is matched to the playing behavior of the audience. Not the way they play, but when and for how long they play. This system is horribly misaligned with how often the current playerbase can login or wants to login. It needs to swing back the other way a bit.
Stay tuned for the next in this series. The much more cheerful and full of hope part 2. Bloom