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I expect that if you asked most of EVE’s population for a list of what’s wrong with the game, you’d get several vastly different lists, with very different orderings. But something I’d expect to be on that list for almost everyone, with the possible exception of Hisec Industry players, would be Citadels.
Now, Citadels are arguably the feature in the game that CCP has done the most to improve since their inception, and that’s not sarcasm. Seriously, take a moment to remember where Citadels were in 2016, and compare that with now. Citadels used drag bubbles to gatecamp with PDS, no fuel requirements to operate at full capacity, and invulnerability for all but 40h~ a week. And I don’t want to imagine what the game would have been like if the original plan to use Entosis instead of DPS caps for Citadel sieges had gone through.
But with Upwell 2.0 and other patches before that, CCP has been able to address a big chunk of those complaints, and having been on the CSM during that time I know that it wasn’t a painless thing to figure out or implement. So whilst the rest of this article is going into the problems that I still perceive there being with the feature, I think it’d be remiss of me not to mention the work CCP has done on Citadels, as they are now in a much healthier state.
Still, whilst I don’t think Citadels are quite the same game choking force that they have been in the past, there’s still a lot of valid complaints about them that come up from the community. As such, what I want to do here is take a look at four of the main issues that I most often see raised on the topic, and give some of my own thoughts on them. As always I doubt anyone will agree with the entire article, so if you think I missed a problem with citadels, or have your own take on what could be done, don’t be afraid to leave a comment about it. That discussion is a big part of why I write these articles in the first place.
Ah, timezone tanking. This is one of the most talked about aspects of Citadels, but it’s also one that needs to be looked at with more nuance than most apply to it., as Timezone tanking has in some respects always been there. Even PoSes could be timezone tanked, and whilst their absolutely were ways around it, for a decent percentage of the time you would be fighting in the TZ your opponent wanted to.
What your opponent couldn’t do however, was kite the fight away from the day the attackers wanted, as there was a hard maximum of around two days that PoSes could be reinforced for. This lead to the common pattern of hitting a PoS on Thursday or Friday, with the knowledge that you would create a fight on Saturday or Sunday, which would allow timezone mismatches to even out somewhat. This made PoSes one of the best ways to get on-demand content, as that weekend timer would be what determined the fate of the moon, meaning that a defence was attempted most of the time.
This is still technically possible with Citadels, but instead of that weekend fight being the crux of the fight, it now determines whether or not you can progress to a final timer in which both the day and time is determined precisely by the defender. In contrast to the way a meta based around fighting on variable times on the weekend allowed groups with different timezones to fight on an even field, this system insulates the most important timer to just the preferred timezone of the defender. Practically, this means to win in citadel warfare, you don’t just have to beat your opponent in their timezone. You have to be superior to them in every single day, in every single timezone, otherwise your opponents will set that as their reinforcement time and win there.
Given all of this, the current system doesn’t give both sides the way to bring their forces to bear that PoSes once did, with dropping “content” Citadels being the closest analogue. Unfortunately, this is a problem that I don’t really see an answer to, as Citadels were supposed to replace Stations as well as PoSes, and CCP likely wants to keep the fundamental mechanics the same whether you’re in Hisec or Nullsec. Under a 2 reinforcement cycle system, there’s not much of a way you can bring back that same easily accessible content, so it’s something I hope CCP has an eye towards replacing in the future in order to stimulate more content.
The “Effort” Issue
Long story short, it takes a hell of a lot of time and effort to kill a structure, even an undefended one. Thanks to the damage cap there is a flat minimum to the time you have to spend on grid for any grind, and whilst individually they seem entirely reasonable, at 15 minutes per timer, but those times can quickly add up. With 10 medium structures in a system, you’re going to need to settle in for 3 sessions of 2 and a half hours of grinding, guaranteed. Likely spread out over the course of the week, too.
Now, there are some successes in damage caps, as it’s far easier for a small group to RF a structure in subcaps. You can hit damage cap with just a few DPS Battleships, and that’s a fairly big improvement to that area, but it comes with mechanical tradeoffs as it means you aren’t as incentivised to actually engage your opponent over just meeting that damage cap. This leads to strategies like Boosh Ravens and my own Talwar swarm method being viable as ways to win an objective without actually engaging in a fleet fight.
The damage cap also – in practice – tends to lead to longer grinds for larger scale fleets. Previous to Citadels the most prevalent tactic for initial reinforcements was to try and “1 Siege” the tower, which was trying to drop enough Dreads on the targeted PoS to reinforce it within a 5 minute siege cycle, which obviously is no longer a possibility. But even on a smaller scale, it now takes longer for a 20-Ferox fleet to reinforce an Athanor than it did to reinforce a small PoS in the previous system, taking 15 minutes and 10 minutes 30 seconds respectively. All this adds up to make players spend more time staring at a health bar going down.
My final point here is one that’s a little more subjective, and I’d be interested to know if others feel the same way about it, but the general existence of a damage cap seems to make fleet members feel their contributions are less important than in the simple EHP grind of the previous system where everyone was contributing to the same goal. After all, only a small segment of the fleet needs to shoot to reach the damage cap, and everyone else is there just in case a defence fleet shows up. I’d postulate that this lack of feeling like what you’re doing matters is one of the key drivers of dissatisfaction with Citadels.
Still there are serious design constraints at work here. You don’t want a situation where larger fleets can take out a structure in just a few shots, especially as you can no longer repair Citadels. As such what I’d suggest here would be a change to make the damage cap logarithmic, with the aim of keeping the reinforcement timer at 15 minutes with 4,000 DPS, but allowing it to be lowered to 6-7 minutes with 200,000. This would also have the upside of making people want to bring larger fleets to deal with structures, potentially even using structure bashing Dreads, which would provide more opportunities for escalation and counter-escalation on both sides.
Asset Safety is, like most of the things on this list, something that has been in place under some guise or another in the past. Whilst the actual mechanic of Asset Safet didn’t exist, prior to Citadels, your assets simply couldn’t be stored in places they could be destroyed (other than in PoSes). This meant that whilst you “paid” a premium to do so, you could still sell off the items you’d had in one location, even if your alliance had moved to a different region of space. That’s something that holds a lot of value, as it stops players from leaving the game, only to come back and have all the items they worked worked to obtain completely locked away from them.
As a result of this, I personally don’t understand the desire to use Asset Safety as an incentive system to get people to kill structures in Nullsec. I think that would be vastly weighting things towards the attacker, and there’s also still a decent incentive to kill Citadels just to kill them, otherwise 10 of them (on average) wouldn’t die a day. What there isn’t a decent incentive to do, as a result of Asset Safety, is to defend and reclaim territory. If I had to point to specific cases for this, I’d look to Co2’s loss of Impass and PanFam’s loss of Tribute, both of which are times when asset safety was used to safely withdraw and effectively “write-off” a region and move elsewhere.
Now, I find it hard to advocate for something which is harsh to the loser of a war, as I’ve found myself on the end of that a fair few times and I know how much it sucks. But as a starting point for what could be done to Asset Safety, I’d suggest locking the delivery in nullsec down to the system where the citadel was lost in, to try and encourage people to go and take back the space they’ve lost. However, that opens up the scenario I talked about right at the start, with a player being completely “locked out” of the game by having their assets trapped in the Asset Safety system. As such, for this more than anything, I’m interested to hear what ideas people have for how they’d consider fixing it.
Proliferation of Safety
Ok, now this is the most tenuous of all my points, as unlike the others it’s more something that’s more rooted in gut feeling than it is maths or the nature of the mechanics. It’s my perception that with Citadels, there’s more and easier access to safety within a system, and that in turn leads to less smaller scale content. This is something that’s most notable within the Faction Warfare system, which was in some respects built around the idea that the only safe docking space would be stations, access to which was gated by factions. However it’s something that comes to play in Nullsec as well, with citadel perches on every gate providing easy and convenient safe spots to watch gates that PoSes never allowed, without having to be fueled as Low Power Citadels still have a tether.
Add on top of that the fact that Citadels are infinitely easier to set up and maintain than PoSes, and even warp to when in danger as they appear on your overview instead of your bookmark folder, and there becomes an abundance of places for people to safe up to. It’s entirely possible that this could be an observational bias, as you don’t see a list of PoS’s flash up every time you jump into a system, but with Citadels you do. Still, I can’t personally shake the fact that Nullsec just feels safer as a result of the proliferation of them in nearly every system, and as such it’s something I wanted to put in at the end here.
Why Is This Important?
Citadels in 2019 aren’t just a replacement for the previous structure system. They’re one of the only remaining objectives that lead to large scale fleet fights, despite all their problems, and as such form the mechanical centrepiece that the metagame revolves around. Their current mechanics are much better than they have been, but in my view still serve to make attacking a slog and cuts out a lot of your reason to do so and I think that helps contribute to the general stagnation of Sov Null.
If CCP is truly serious about their plans for chaos, then I hope that they take a good look at this system and the others that surround it in order to empower players to bring about that chaos, instead of just NPCs.