Note: as an op-ed this article reflects the views of the author and not TMC as a whole.
In all the discussion about Fozziesov perhaps the most important change of all has been overlooked. Most discussion has focused on the direct impact on gameplay, and rightly so since that is what concerns the day to day experience of the player base. However, a much deeper shift has occurred in the way that CCP seeks to structure the game, something that represents a radical break from how Eve has been designed since the servers first went live. More than that, should Eve emerge from the coming turmoil once again growing, the change will be key to ensuring it stays that way for another decade.
The heart of the change comes down to one factor, something called Mudflation, a term first coined to describe currency inflation in MMOs but now used to refer to overall power creep. As older players in games grew more and more powerful they would become ever more dominant compared to newer players. A look back at the history of Eve reveals a steady, unbroken rise in the overall power level of players. Of equal importance is the fact that in nullsec this power creep was directly supported by game mechanics.
The original sov system relied on players towering moons to determine who held sovereignty. Whichever power held a majority of the moons in a system held sov, which meant that fights consisted of fleets battling over timer reinforcement towers and grinding through the substantial HP pools of max-hardened large POS. These sorts of fights are what the line “X for POS Destruction” in the classic Little Bees refers to; they were the sov fights of their day. When this system was first rolled out the gold standard for a Sov war fleet was perhaps a hundred T2 fit battleships, often less. By the time it was replaced by Dominion fleets with dozens of Dreadnoughts were being fielded by any power that wanted to own a bit of the map.
Dominion upped the ante further by replacing the scattered POSes with the utterly massive HP pools of sov structures, but by 2014 fleets of super-carriers and titans were fielded that could burn one to a cinder in less than ten minutes. The impact of this on the game was huge; in 2005, when Goonfleet arrived on the Eve scene, their hundreds of frigates constituted a real threat to a fleet of ultra-expensive battleships. By 2014 the twelve thousand members of Hero coalition were utterly helpless in the face of the top 250 super capital pilots of Pandemic Legion. In fact PL felt so confident in their ability to smash Hero at will that they allowed them to exist nearby as a tear farm. In this environment there was no short to medium term gameplay-based incentive for nullsec organizations to recruit the majority of players; unless they could fly a capital or had some other unique ability they were simply not much use. That is not to say many organizations did not actively recruit players of all skill levels; just that they did it for reasons other than winning a sov fight two months in the future.
This then brings us to Fozziesov. Instead of the ability to deal massive amounts of damage to a fixed target it requires players to actively defend areas to prevent timers, and move rapidly to contest multiple objectives at once. It’s obvious that having more people will make this easier. So beneath all the mechanical changes to the game, and the huge amount of discussion they created, is the re-alignment of the decisive factor in sov mechanics away from ever higher skillpoint characters in larger ships and towards the one source of difficulty in Eve that will remain constant: people.
People are, simply put, a pain in the ass to lead. More people means more drama, more money paid out from a fixed income of moon goo and rent, more space needed for players to make money, more drama, more risk of spies and AWOXing, more complaining whenever things go wrong, more people who need updated on what the plan is, and more drama. The difficulty of leading people also does not scale in a linear fashion; running a group of ten is far easier than running a group of one hundred and so on. HR departments and layers of middle management are ubiquitous in the real world for very a good reason. All of this combined to give leaders an incentive to keep their organizations as small as possible; it made life easier and there was no real drawback since a 250 man “wrecking ball” fleet could hold off an arbitrary number of enemies in subcaps.
By making the key to success in nullsec the ability to organize, motivate, and direct larger numbers of players CCP has introduced a requirement for success that cannot be inflated away. Of course the major powers are already adapting; for proof of this look no further than Pandemic Horde, Pandemic Legion’s new home for the less than elite masses. Still, when looked at over a time span of several months or even years the impact of Fozziesov will be profound; organizations that are good at management will prosper while those that just rely on having players who have played the game the longest will be pushed to the margins.