Jin’talks – What’s Wrong With Citadels?

Jin'taan 2019-08-13

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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.

Timezone Tanking

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

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.

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Comments

  • Zaand

    Damage caps are straight up BS. Yeah, yeah, they lower the barrier of entry for smaller orgs, but any time that a developer has to place a hard coded limit on player interaction, that’s a poorly designed game element, especially in a game that still ostensibly sells itself as a sandbox. Personally I think they should remove the damage cap and make it so that you can take down a citadel by either shooting it OR by entosising the structure. That way there’s incentive to drop dreads and caps to maximize DPS and minimize grind time, or you can hack the structure with a few player, but it will take you a minimum of 15 minutes. And low power structures should have no tether and no reinforce timer. One bash and its dead. That would be a good start to fixing citadel spam.

    As for assets safety, the best solution that I’ve heard is that instead of paying Concord or who the hell ever gets the assets safety fee, that money should go to the attackers. That way there is a tangible reward for everyone for bashing structures while still providing a level of assurance to players not logged in 24/7. How this would actually work is beyond me, but off the top of my head I would just split it evenly between all of the pilots on the KM whenever someone pays for asset safety. However I don’t want to be the guy that has to program the database to remember every person on every citadel kill for the rest of time. I guess it would have to have some sort of expiration, 6 month perhaps. Just spitballing here.

    August 13, 2019 at 12:49 pm
    • Arrendis Zaand

      However I don’t want to be the guy that has to program the database to remember every person on every citadel kill for the rest of time.

      It already does. Look at your ‘interactions’ -> Kills. Every kill you’ve ever done is there. The bigger issue is: once again, the logi gets screwed. 😉

      August 13, 2019 at 3:05 pm
  • Do Little

    Finding a balance between Citadels as safe enough to reasonably call home in New Eden and vulnerable enough to be worth fighting over is difficult. I don’t think CCP has achieved that balance and most of the suggestions I have seen tilt the balance significantly in favor of the attacker which simply encourages large coalitions with sufficient super capital assets to defend their space to grow larger. Encouraging Balkanization instead of consolidation will require major changes to incentives.

    For Citadels I’d like to see:

    * Low power structures should be useless and defenseless. No tethers, no timers, no damage cap – shoot them and they die. This should apply in all regions of space.

    * Asset safety should apply to personal assets only. Assets in corporate hangars (including BPO’s of jobs submitted for corp) can drop as loot. This should apply throughout K-space.

    * High power structures in sovereign nullsec should have a single timer – same as W-space. This would reduce the grind and the frustration of timezone tanking. I would not extend this to NPC nullsec – those who choose to hold sovereignty should be willing to accept more risk.

    * Structures in Empire space should benefit from using charters. We have them and they would provide a small but useful ISK sink. The penalty for not having charters might be loss of the 2nd timer.

    August 13, 2019 at 1:46 pm
    • Arrendis Do Little

      I would not extend this to NPC nullsec

      That’d be fine if there were NPC null in or directly able to access every region of sov-null.

      August 13, 2019 at 3:03 pm
  • Arrendis

    Another issue with citadels is that some animals are more equal than others.

    By that, I mean that out in null, the move from POS’s to Citadels has (and will continue to) benefit the larger groups disproportionately more than smaller groups.

    We all know the basic math: If you want to hold sov, you need a supercapital fleet, or you’re the big kids’ game preserve at best. You need a supercapital fleet just so you have something you can credibly use to counter dread bombs, fax hackers, etc… because you don’t have the numbers to deal with them in subcaps. (If you did, you wouldn’t be one of the small groups!)

    Ok, so, let’s set aside the issue of ‘you need sov to build a supercapital fleet’. Because you do, of course, but that’s just an additional complication. Let’s say you’ve got a small supercapital fleet… say… 100 supers and 20 titans. It’s not enough to go getting in FRT’s face and daring them to hit you, but it’s enough to counterdrop if people hit your krabs. Hell, it’s enough to use some of them for making money, so you can try to get more.

    Where do you put them?

    It used to be, everyone’s supercapitals sat in POSs. Everyone played by the same rules. You got in a super, you stayed in the super. It was just that simple. They were space-coffins. It made a lot of sense to have alts that didn’t own supers or titans… so you could do literally anything else.

    Now, large groups drop Keepstars. They get to dock up their supers and titans. Those high-SP characters can take part in other things. That supercarrier pilot… can have a second supercarrier for ratting. The two ships can have their fits and rigs optimized for what you use them for. (I personally wouldn’t hyperspatial rig my super, but that’s me. YMMV) Your titan pilot can train into a Rorqual to add a little more mining income to the miners you might already have. They can both fly sub-capital ships of whatever kind you need, whenever you need it. And there is no reason for any of your ‘sub-capital’ alts on other accounts not to train into a super or titan. So your group suddenly has the potential to field two, three, a dozen supers per player.

    But what do small groups do?

    If you drop a Keepstar, someone will want to kill it. they’re about the only thing in the current environment worth caring about killing. So if you want to own one, you need to be able to defend it. And small groups can’t. They just can’t. Because they don’t have enough supercapitals. So they’re not going to drop a keepstar.

    Which means they’re stuck safe-logging on Fortizars. (Oh, sure, right now they can still log in POS shields, but those are going away.) Ok, so the titan/super is still safe, so what’s the issue, right?

    The issue is the little guy still has to deal with the space-coffin problem. He can’t get out of his supercapital. So he can’t have a second super for making money. Worse, because he can’t get out of the super, he’s gonna make sure he’s got accounts that don’t get into a super.

    As a purely hypothetical example with numbers kept simple:

    Alliance A has 100 players in it, and no Keepstar.
    Alliance B has 1000 players and a Keepstar.

    You might expect a supercapital imbalance of 1:10. That’d be reasonable. People behave the same way in both sized groups. But you don’t. You get an imbalance where the 100 people have 200 supercapitals, 200 Faxes, and 200 subcaps (because I’m being very generous and saying everyone has 1 supercarrier alt, 1 titan alt, a fax alt for each, and a couple of subcap alts, and they’re on different accounts), vs (under the same ‘perfect saturation and 6 accounts each’ model) 4000 supercapitals and 1000 faxes.

    That’s if we limit both sides to 6 accounts. But the guys who can put more of their accounts into Rorquals, into ratting supers, into the tools of high-efficiency economic activity, are more likely to be able to PLEX more accounts. They’ll just have more ISK. That’s kind of unavoidable: A guy in Alliance A has at most 4 accounts making money, and they’re in carriers and rorqs. The guy in Alliance B can put all 6 into Rorqs and Supercarriers for ratting. He’s gonna make more than 33% more. And that means more ISK available to PLEX his accounts.

    Smaller, more kinetic ships also take a bit more focus than big, slow ships to multibox. You can be a little slower to react when you’ve got 25M EHP for enemies to chew through, instead of 250k. Yes, that math changes a little when titan DDs come into play, but titan DDs either kill you before the faxes can land reps, or you’ll probably be ok, even in today’s landscape of diminishing returns.

    All that adds up to Alliance B being more likely to have the ISK and mental bandwidth to add another 2 accounts, which makes the imbalance greater.

    And all of that stems from the fact that they can dock their supers.

    Supercap proliferation was been a problem for a long time in EVE… but it’s really only exploded due to the combination of the super-powerful mining platform that is the Rorqual… and the Keepstar.

    And CCP can nerf Rorqs into the ground, but the Keepstars are out there. The supers they made feasible are out there. I don’t see a way for them to reverse course on supercap proliferation without addressing literally the largest fuckup in EVE’s history—the Keepstar.

    August 13, 2019 at 3:45 pm
    • I mean two things really:

      – Supercaps should be reworked to act as logistical lever arms rather than DPS, thus rendering them irrelevant for structure bashing or direct engagement of basically anything
      – Supercaps shouldn’t be dockable

      Citadels are stupid and Keepstars were monumentally stupid.

      August 16, 2019 at 1:07 am
  • Rammel Kas

    How much is attributable to human apathy though? Would we be having this conversation if a group took a serious swing at, and wiped a whole series of regions clear of citadel spam? Oh… wait…

    August 13, 2019 at 5:31 pm
    • Guilford Australis Rammel Kas

      From my observations deploying with various coalition squads, I’d say most alliances can’t be bothered to destroy hostile Astrahuses and Raitarus that pop up across their space. It’s simply not worth the effort when $500M will replace something that took three fleets and several hours to destroy. And yeah, the Tribute pseudo-war shows that in vivid color. The system really is broken.

      August 13, 2019 at 6:38 pm
      • Rammel Kas Guilford Australis

        We were not even using fleets for that. Our gate camps got restless and did it with something like 12 guys around the clock. And we even killed the pocos.

        Something something worst enemy when or if it should come to that.

        August 13, 2019 at 7:32 pm
        • Guilford Australis Rammel Kas

          I’m sure that did happen to some extent, but I joined many alliance fleets – often with 100 or more pilots – to grind through armor timers in USTZ. We spent many hours eliminating throwaway Astras, Raitarus, and Athanors that we were acutely aware were going to be replaced for pocket change as soon as we went home. I don’t question or criticize the war planning – it’s the citadel balance I think is garbage.

          August 14, 2019 at 12:58 pm
          • Rammel Kas Guilford Australis

            Destroying these small things wasn’t for the simple sake of just popping them though. Toward the end the aim was to try erode enemy morale via their attachment to zkillboard statistics… true… but mostly they were run to give the skirmish FC group chances to run babby’s first fleet.

            They even took it slowly on a fortizar so as to bait PanFam into having a convenient forward tether, but their munin and jackdaw fleets just sat at tether. Whenever the FC’s called for comms discipline you were actually about to travel past the nearby gates to this one system.

            However we did end up using a single or a small group of ships to run the gross bulk of timers. If you had all the brackets up you’d often notice a Leshak (or other things) keeping the timer going for the main fleet to get on another kill. PanFam were just not biting on the hook.

            PanFam did however think they could make it an un-fun grind for us. This method of denying engagement and forcing people to put in disproportionate effort has been an element of the morale facet of the sandbox for quite a while. So a part of what you experienced there is a deliberate play by the other team’s higher level operatives.

            August 14, 2019 at 2:03 pm
  • mehopionion

    For asset safety I believe that you should get asset safety if a citadel is un-anchored, but if a citadel is destroyed you will lose your assets. Un-anchoring timer instead of 7 days should be 48 hours and maybe even 24 hours to give people time to save there stuff but if they choose to commit then they commit.

    August 14, 2019 at 3:32 am
    • Zaand mehopionion

      Then no one will use them. Its that simple.

      August 14, 2019 at 1:38 pm
  • IF you were going to keep Citadels as a thing, I think you’d have to do at least the following:

    Citadels should control sov, and should be limited to placement on planets: one per planet grid. Industry and science should go back to relying on the use of limited “slots” per-structure rather than the infinite-capacity-but-with-increasing-cost-penalties system we have now.

    This would have several benefits:
    – Eliminate structure spam
    – Provide opportunities for small-gang content (people have to warp between grids again to get places)
    – Force people to make meaningful choices in how to configure their systems (do I need a bunch of Citadels for defense, or a bunch of industry structures? Something in-between?)
    – It would encourage people to occupy more space, as well as creating more traffic between systems

    Asset safety should stay, but should only be applicable to structures that have been decommissioned by their owners. Automatic engagement of asset safety should be removed: the player should be able to choose the fate of their assets (deliver to adjacent Upwell structure for free vs deliver to empire with a fee) indefinitely: this prevents players returning from a leave of absence from being punished for their allies changing structure configurations in regions they maintain control of– you only eat a big fee if you lose your space.

    Structures destroyed in combat should follow normal drop/loot mechanics. If you can’t evacuate your stuff in time, tough luck.

    Damage caps should go away. Bring back the EHP wars (and repping). Supercaps should be completely repurposed to have nothing to do with structure bashing: make dreads great again.

    Reinforcement timers should go back to being set manually by controlling fuel quantities (rather than being a calendar selection) and being kite-able.

    Med / Large structures should drop back to a single reinforcement cycle, max-stront 2d.

    XL structures can keep the two-timer system, max-stront no more than four days.

    All this said, I basically hate everything about Citadels. Tethering is bullshit. Being able to stick them on grid next to stargates and jump bridges and literally anything else is bullshit. Not being able to MJD stuff off of them is bullshit. Damage caps are bullshit. Weapon emplacements that can’t be de-fanged are bullshit. Unlimited industry/science slots are bad.

    All this said, I’d rather CCP just throw Citadels back into the trash can and instead roll with a modernized POS system. POS were exponentially cooler than citadels, and a similar system for handling nullsec’s infrastructure and sov requirements would be dope.

    August 16, 2019 at 1:03 am