What does holding Sov really mean?

Robby Kasparic 2016-12-22

With the announced TEST and Co2 move to the region of Curse, one of the writers on INN staff, Dracos Rhaghar, has voiced concerns about how, should Circle of Test subjugate nearby regions, it could be the death knell of small sov-holding entities that are not in some way vassals of a major power. What came up next sparked a long and winding discussion in our editorial group “How do we define really holding sov?”. We arrived at a very interesting definition and it’s an excellent companion alongside Dracos’ reflection to explore how we arrived at it. Our discussion began at the same place as many ideas, what does not work to accomplish the goal.

Definitions that don’t work.

Right at the beginning, we can discard a couple definitions as impractical. They would either include too much or rule out too many. First to go is just having a Territorial Control Unit or Infrastructure Hub (TCU and IHUB respectively) installed in a system. This is just too broad to be of any use and also has no bearing on the ability of the entity to keep that TCU or IHUB around. We can also rule out the opposite extreme, that an entity must be able to defend against all incursions against its sovereignty without any losses. With the nature of Aegis sovereignty, there are very few entities that could even hope of doing this for even a short period of time. Over a prolonged conflict this would be a near impossibility to prevent any timers from being generate, regardless of the group this standard is applied to. As such, it would be a poor choice of definition.


An Infrastructure Hub. Image from CCP.

Defining “Really Holding”

With the two definitions above that we can rule out right away, the framework of a true definition begins to take shape. In order for an entity to “really hold” sovereignty, they need to do more than just own the Sov structures (TCU/IHUB) but also cannot be expected to never lose it as long as Tranquility is running. These two factors can be combined into something we do not want to use as part of our definition: the amount of time that a particular piece of space has been controlled. The reason for this has to do with the eviction of the Imperium from the North earlier this year. Any arguments that the Imperium continued to really hold sovereignty in the north after a point before it was officially lost have counter arguments that hold weight. The years that various Imperium alliances had held that space meant nothing under the onslaught of MBC forces. However, the Imperium is clearly the Sov holder in Delve, and has yet to be contested as such, so the time component again fails to provide a metric.

So if we rule out time, that leaves us with an analysis based on perceptions. A good place to start here is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The Hierarchy was developed by Abraham Maslow as a means to classify the motivation behind decision making. Typically all the conditions of a level need to be filled before decisions will be made with the next level above as the primary motivator. The levels are commonly represented as a pyramid which is reproduced below.

Maslow's Heirachy of Needs

The level of the hierarchy that fits nicely with what can be considered a good indicator of holding Sov is the third, Love and Belonging. In brainstorming a list of entities considered to be Sov holding, a common theme cropped up. The vast majority of these groups have some sort of very distinct identity. What this identity is or what it is driven by vary widely, but the presence of an identity is the important piece here. After slotting the possession of a distinct identity into the equivalent of Love and Belonging slot on the hierarchy, it is then easy to define what allows for these identities to flourish. Going down the chart, Safety is the next followed by Physiological. Safety is quite easy to quantify in EVE terms, and while Physiological does not have quite the same simplicity, it can be applied. After some wordsmithing, we had a definition to begin working from.

An Entity can be considered sov-holding when it holds relatively stable control over a system/constellation/region and is able to provide adequate defense for non-PvP activities in that system/constellation/region.

There are still two ambiguous terms within that definition; relatively stable control and adequate defense. Despite these, the definition provides a much clearer picture of what it means to “really hold” sov. These ambiguities can be further clarified to increase the accuracy of the definition.

Clearing Ambiguities

The first ambiguity in the definition is the phase relatively stable control. This fell most analogous to the Safety level of the hierarchy. Our discussion centered on the idea that the individual members of an entity needed to feel like they would not be evicted from their space or lose investments in static infrastructure with no warning. This translated into being able to control the ability for hostiles to win any timers for destroying structures like Engineering Complexes or changing the status of Sovereignty structures. Ultimately, if a defending entity could not win the final timers the feeling of safety through control would be minimal to nonexistent. It is also important that members of the entity do not have too many timers to directly contest, so being able to prevent timers from occurring was also important. Given the disparity in effort to set a timer versus contesting one, especially with regards to Sov structures, it would be difficult to justify the outright prevention of timers as the cornerstone of this definition. As long as the entity can prevent a simple majority, it was deemed adequate in discussion. It is also important to add a qualifier for size to this definition, as it would be difficult to ask small entities to routinely stand up to ones many times their size. While such David versus Goliath battles are sometimes won by the little guy, it is unfair to ask all such entities to win all the time. The group also felt it was important to control for the use of capitals as these are commonly deployed when one side believes they have an existing advantage that can be pressed. Taking all of these factors leads to the following definition.

Relatively Stable Control: The Entity is able to prevent a simple majority of timer-generating hacks or raids from succeeding and win contesting timers against sub-capital forces against similar sized or smaller entities.

A node being entosised in EVE Online.

A node for a structure being entosised. Source.

The second ambiguity is the concept of adequate defense. While a bit of a stretch for the Physiological level of Maslow’s Hierarchy, it fits well enough when looked at from the position of what do most players need to enjoy the game on a basic level? The answer the group came up with was ships and money. The first idea to be stuck down is that non-PvP ships are safe from non-consensual PvP all of the time. Even the vaunted, if recently tarnished, Imperium capital fleet and standing sub-capital fleets cannot come to rescue of every Vexor Navy Issue or even Thanatos in time. At the same time, accepting wanton destruction of ships meant for PvE activities would lead to the members spending far too much money to replace losses. As it often does, following the money leads to an excellent answer. As long as members are able to make enough money to replace the ship plus some additional savings before a ship is destroyed, it can be extrapolated that the space is being adequately defended. Whether this is through active means like Force Auxiliaries ready to jump to the aid of PvE ships or more passive means such as intel channels is not relevant. As long as the entity is providing for the member’s ability to pay off their investments, the space in question would be considered to be adequate defended.

Adequate Defense: Members of the Entity are able to undertake non-PvP activities (e.g. Mining) without a high probability of the ships used in the activity being destroyed before they have made a positive return on the initial investment.

Conclusions and Further Questions

Now our definition is quite clear and is metric based. The definition is scaleable from small entities to the largest organizations in the game. While formed primarily as a definition related to Aegis sov, it can also be applied to non-sov space as well. Additionally, it provides a good look at what entities that aspire to hold sov should plan to achieve before embarking on the grand adventure of carving out a little piece of New Eden for themselves. While the intricacies of how to accomplish this are more complex than the definitions hint at, those that can accomplish them have created and managed the great empires that have shaped the recent history of New Eden.

There were a couple interesting questions that were asked near the end of the discussion. While they were a little outside the scope of defining really holding sov, they are quite interesting in light of the definition. How do entities like the Imperium-run Querious Fight Club fit into this? How well does this definition apply to Faction Warfare space? Given this definition, what tweaks could be made to the underlying mechanics of Aegis sov to make it more common to see smaller groups meeting the requirements? Let me know your thoughts on these questions in the comments.

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  • Rammel Kas

    Seems to me groups of weekend warriors could use this ISK replacement metric as excuse to inflate the effect that they may have … but then they invariably lack the tenacity or identity or out of game community bonds of the older blocs. They tire, they leave and become irrelevant all too quickly again.

    Whichever temporary quantitative straw they could grab to feel good about themselves being replaced by the next vanity. Much like kill-board efficiency and the irrelevance of that point of view to groups who simply decided not to care about it.

    Ultimately it’s human endeavor. Groups either have the persistence to endure even when rivals are throwing out-of-game manipulations at them in desperation… or they don’t.

    December 22, 2016 at 12:36 pm
  • Hanonymouse

    It has always boiled down to the ability to defend it. As a wormhole dweller, my Sov is all of New Eden as our hole pops up in countless sov space ratting and industrial systems and we send the locals scurrying for the nearest station/citadel while we run their sites and mine their ore. We’ve seriously discussed sending these “sov holding alliances” a bill for maintaining their military/industrial indexes…

    Oh, and god help you if you set foot in our wormhole.

    December 22, 2016 at 1:18 pm
    • Gla Frite Hanonymouse

      I was told long ago that Eve metagame & warfare was all about preparation. Wormholes is just the opposite : you don’t even need to defend your stuff, the game does it for you.

      December 25, 2016 at 7:12 am
  • Borat Guereen

    For us Minmatars freedom fighters, we believe that space must be as free to roam as the vast continents of of Pator were, and can be used as needed by the tribes and wanderers that value liberty, even the Amarrs, if they are publicly reformed.

    We have defined the rules in our Minarchist space as first come first serve, and police it accordingly, and when we have planted our iHub flag in a system, either by conquering it away from PLooNS slumlords or by establishing ourselves because the previous owner publicly announced their intention to leave it, this space is free space forever for all. We do not require payment, or tax any activities in it.

    Any new conqueror trying to re-establish an imperialist agenda on this space will find it ghost camped for eternity by our warriors until we can free it again, as our saying goes “once free, always free” and they better put a solid garrison in that space going forward, and be prepared to be raided in their other economic centers until our Minarchist space and its freedom can be re-established.

    This is how we hold our sov.

    December 22, 2016 at 4:22 pm
  • Apostophe Noodle

    Sov itself has a different meaning with FozzieSov.

    We think of Sov as the space and the structures, but with FozzieSov, space becomes more like PvP ships– somewhat fluid and disposable. The paradigm was plant a flag and live there forever- but now Sov is slightly more mobile. You can to a point bounce around more than before. Take some space, work it until someone takes it away but rather than defend to the death, evac and just find some other space to bully your way into.
    The same groups that dominate Sov content now are the same ones that have since DomSov. They have simply shuffled around the map a bit, and the balance of power shifted from Goons to PL. TEST have come and gone from Sov a few times.
    I think more than owning space itself, Sov is defined by the ability to actually do it. TEST is a good example…..are they a Sov alliance just in between homes? Or do they lose all claims to a mechanic they are one of a small group of dominant brands in?
    Maybe that is simply the new meta for ‘what it is to own Sov’…..heavily biased on the ability to 1) take it on demand 2) lose it with minimal losses so you can briefly regroup and just repeat step 1 somewhere else. Defense isn’t nearly as feasible nor important as it once was.

    December 22, 2016 at 4:39 pm
    • Ganthrithor Apostophe Noodle

      CCP destroyed the relevance of sovholding when they decided to level the value of nullsec space.

      Thanks to the mechanics introduced with (around? I can’t remember exactly) Dominion, there now exists a constant state of over-abundance of resources that makes territorial squabbling wasteful. Previously there were shit regions and rich regions, and players would fight over the handful of profitable areas. Now every backwater in the game is potentially profitable– all you need is a bit of coin for some infrastructure upgrades and some hundreds of man hours to pop indices up and you’re set. Any piece of space is as good as any other, so instead of serious grudge matches with consequences, all you get is people meekly throwing their hands up when attacked, evaccing to lowsec, and then moving in the general direction of whatever region of the month has been neglected by the large groups.

      Fizzlesov has only intensified this trend, since even large groups now claim even smaller areas of space due to tedium thresholds. This results in an even larger number of regions being available to evictees (or random small groups, when no real alliances are homeless).

      Basically everytime a large group gets pushed over, we see a flurry of trickle-down get-the-fuck-out-onomics in which the smallest contemporary groups get shown the door and must make room for the next-largest group. Nullsec is still a numbers game at the end of the day: no small group will ever be able to “compete.” The only question is: how many larger groups are there at the moment, and what’s the population density that regions can support. The lower the carrying capacity of regions of space, the fewer sovholding nullsec groups you get. The only condition under which “the little guy” can break in to nullsec is when there’s such a surplus of farmable space– and holding sov is so irritating– that nobody can be bothered to evict them.

      December 23, 2016 at 8:40 am
      • Apostophe Noodle Ganthrithor

        Well said.
        You’re absolutely right about the relative values of space. The only individual value to sov space is chokepoints/bridge range advantages. We moved from Cloud Ring to Branch and the only actual change was never being in Branch because it was 40 jumps to find PvP content.
        If the point of Fozziesov was to break up the coalitions, then it’s failed miserably. Between that and letting RMT’ers take over the game- CCP has accomplished exactly nothing. Shifted the map a bit, but same players in Sov, same blob tactics in Sov, same blue donut across half the map in Sov.
        Of course no small groups can compete….nothing has fundamentally changed with Sov except that it’s even less fun to grind now than DomSov.

        December 27, 2016 at 2:52 pm
  • Gla Frite

    I often wonder if the whole Sov mechanism couldn’t now just be dumped out of the game.

    December 24, 2016 at 8:14 am