Opinionated Analysis: The Future Iterations of Fozziesov

2015-09-13

Longtime readers of the Opinionated Analysis series will be well aware that this column has kept a fairly watchful eye on every aspect of Fozziesov, addressing everything from the principles behind the changes, to minor details and their implications.

As of now, Fozziesov has been out for close to two months and, despite the alarmist predictions which came in from quite a few sides before Patch Day, Nullsec has failed to burn. In fact, the forest is only barely smoking. While a portion of this lack of explosions can be attributed to the fact that we are in the opening stages and many groups which would consider going on the offensive are still getting their feet wet and learning the new mechanics (with the exception of Provi), there are other factors at play. While Fozziesov does represent a move in the right direction, its current iteration alone is not enough to change how players view and operate within sovereignty. Thankfully, we know that CCP has additional changes in the pipe, and that some of those changes have the potential to address some of the points that I am about to make.

Before we jump into the potential future Iterations of Fozziesov, let’s begin with a recap of the events of late 2014 and early 2015, leading up to the deployment of Aegis in July.

A BRIEF RETROSPECTIVE

On a purely personal level, I prefer to define Phoebe as the period of time at which CCP began to shift away in earnest from Dominion Sov (despite the experimentation with index tracking that I maintain occurred in the previous Crius patch). The Phoebe patch represented a nerf to power projection in the most intimate of forms, pushing down jump ranges as well as adding in the Jump Fatigue mechanic. From there, a further series of tweaks led up to the Aegis release approximately 8 months later, which saw the deployment of a form of sov where the defensibility of your space scaled directly with the amount of ratting and mining in your space, as well as the duration of your ownership.

These mechanics together represent a significant departure from Dominion Sov, which I enjoy comparing to a certain sort of Cold War-era political mechanic. All jokes about the CFC/N3 being like USA/USSR aside, control of Sovereignty was represented almost entirely by who could muster the most firepower, and how far they could project said power. Supercarriers became analogous to a Cold War nuke, and titans, H-Bombs.

While I suppose that this means that Fozziesov was implemented in EVE’s 1991, what with the splintering of N3 and several of its constituent alliances. There was no great non-proliferation treaty or arms reduction agreement — rather, supercapitals were rendered somewhat irrelevant for anything other than force escalation. Small, mobile, and well-coordinated fleets, sometimes containing nothing but interceptors with Entosis Links fitted to their high slots, became a new mainstay of Sov warfare. Furthermore, Sov warfare tended to be an enormous hassle due to the attacker’s ability to cause enormous strain to the defenders without committing more than a tiny amount of resources, due to the level playing field when contesting nodes. The Galatea Patch addressed some of these concerns by giving the defenders an asymmetric degree of control over the battlefield (as makes logical sense – they are the defending party after all) and overall reducing the time required for Capture Events.

And that’s where we are today. Somehow, I don’t feel as if Sov Warfare has gotten any more meaningful than it was a year ago. In fact, in some ways, if you’re a fan of tidi-rich Supercap-blob slugfests, Sov Warfare is probably lessinteresting. Which leads us to my criticisms of the current iteration of this system, which I shall talk about before moving onto suggestions for the future.

THE PLATFORM: CRITICISM OF THE CURRENT SYSTEM

  1. Emphasis on mobility was shifted too far in the opposite direction. The only vessels in EVE Online which are anything but “fat and slow,” are cruisers and smaller ships. I don’t need to bring up the proliferation of Trollceptors, or the fact that everyone and their mother saw them coming. While I was going to initially suggest that a) Entosis Links be removed from interceptors entirely and b) that battlecruisers and battleships receive buffs to their mobility to make them more viable Sov Warfare platforms, it would appear as if CCP beat me to the punch. So that’s nice.
  2. There are many sticks and few carrots. Traditionally players have owned Sov for a number of reasons. The two most influential reasons in my eyes have been “flag waving,” or the innate territorial desire that results in space tribes that slowly grow into space empires, and control of major sources of ISK/influence. The former is very difficult to quantify, but results in obvious nationalistic sentiments that, to a degree, mirror the attitudes of real-world nation states. The latter is very obvious – people form an alliance, take control of a region, and use that region to farm R64s or DED sites for huge quantities of ISK while having a “space home” to spend that ISK on.
  3. The existing carrots are not conflict drivers. Astonishingly, humans are actually just as good at cooperating with one another as we are at killing each other. While historical periods of flux have existed both in EVE and the real world, the fact remains that things such as ISK faucets which can be tapped by an immense number of people are simply more profitable to share than fight over. For an easy example of this, I turn to my home alliance of SMA – two of the many reasons that SMA has not fractured are that our sense of flag-waving community draw us together as a big space tribe of many friends, and that there is no conflict driver over our resources. Our holdings in Cloud Ring, Fade, and Pure Blind act as one of the aforementioned ISK faucets, allowing more than four thousand people to tap their resources without suffering from more than superficial scarcity. As a result, all involved realize that a singular alliance holding the region is much more profitable than, say, splintering into two or three smaller alliances and fighting a war to determine who gets to rat in I-UUI5. At the same time, resource scarcity is only one of several different ways to create things worth actually fighting over rather than “bluing up” over, and considering that we are currently trying to make Nullsec habitation more sustainable/attractive, not less, I would not recommend imposing any form of artificial scarcity on existing ISK sources at this time.
  4. Player agency over space, as well as unique Sov-related gameplay, remains limited. While CCP’s changes to IHUBs to give greater rewards for infrastructure upgrades in your space were rewarding to a degree, the fact remains that there are precious few things to do with Sov. While it does allow you to build supers and titans, as well as giving reductions to the cost of POS fuel and having a secure place to make ISK, stage, and hang your space hat, there is so much more potential there. The fact of the matter is that a significant portion of players would apparently rather stage out of lowsec than attempt to navigate the intricacies of taking and holding Sov. While the allure of space tribes, nullsec rats, and building supers are enough for some people to try to push their way into Sov, the limitations on what you can do with your space still leave a number of people asking “why bother with all the effort?”
  5. Sov warfare remains extremely linear. While Capture Events are decidedly asymmetric at a surface level, at times requiring the coordination of several offensive or defensive fleets to properly take control of nodes, the overall process is still frustratingly linear. Instead of “deploy X DPS onto target, create timer, wait for timer to end, deploy X DPS onto target, win,” we are now tasked with “expend X variable amount of time Entosising a target based on ADMs, create a timer, wait for timer to end, spend X variable amount of time Entosising multiple targets throughout the constellation based on ADMs while coordinating multiple fleets to get the job done faster and prepare for a possible fight, win.” While a certain basic layer of asymmetry has been added in that it is no longer simply sitting on a single target and blapping it, the fact of the matter is that the only additional factors that influence Capture Events are ship mobility and constellation geography. A start, but still very  linear at a thematic level.

With those statements made, let us move on to a series of baseline suggestions for future iterations of Fozziesov as we steadily move into the revamped structure releases.

A FRAMEWORK FOR FUTURE ITERATIONS

As previously mentioned, the first of those statements has already been partially addressed by CCP. Battlecruisers are now slated to receive additional buffs to mobility and more rebalancing to make them viable platforms. Considering that SMA recently rolled through a couple constellations in Providence using 120-man Drake fleets, this pleases me. Moreover, it opens up a window for a more flexible class of large ships that still have potential to be used in Sov warfare, and potentially foreshadows a future battleship rebalance in addition to making subcapitals more viable for Sov, especially now that the damnably irritating Trollceptor is being obliterated.

However, we still have the broader criticisms to address. There are many sticks surrounding Sov, and not that many carrots. Furthermore, most of the carrots are non-exclusive and encourage cooperation rather than driving conflict. In order to create a dynamic nullsec where entities fight over limited or unique resources and interesting forms of gameplay, we must first have both unique resources and interesting Nullsec-oriented gameplay. It would be a solid guess to assume that Citadels and the other overhauled structures aim to address this in some form, but it is anyone’s guess to as if it will be a solid enough addressing upon its own.

Fortunately, we do have a few previous examples to go by. One of those which I like to most commonly cite is that of Combat Booster production. Currently, the most common method of extracting the gas required to make real combat boosters, not those silly Synth ones, is to pull a unique gas from a site in a specific constellation of Nullsec space and turn it into a specific Booster product (however, the EVE wiki insists that there are also occasional deposits of the required gas in Lowsec pockets, so this is not a perfect example). Each of the drug constellations in Nullsec can only create a single form of Standard booster on its own, with the stronger iterations requiring gas from all over New Eden. While this particular example is fairly weak and was easily circumvented with the political invention of the gas visa, at least in Imperium space, the broader theme remains the same. Those specific gas constellations have rarely gone completely devoid of life, because there is a resource within them that people want.

The same principle could be applied to Sov holding in general — providing rewards that people want in exchange for holding space. Some rewards for holding any space, some rewards for holding specific areas of space. However, not all of these rewards can be simple ISK faucets, as previously mentioned, or they will simply become cooperation drivers rather than conflict drivers. A good balance of cooperation drivers, conflict drivers, and neutral material that simply inspires people to desire to own space at all is necessary. Considering that we could fill many thousands of words describing the difference between a conflict driver and a cooperation driver, I shall leave such conversations for another time in the interest of not making this piece greater than 5k words in length, stating only that gameplay which is both enjoyable and unique to holding Sov would be a good step in the right direction.

Now. Neutral drivers that make people want to hold space. The first thing that comes to mind is the ability to influence the space you own in intimate ways, similar to Space Minecraft, as it were. People love to customize the things they own, to give it their (or their community’s) own unique “mark.” Considering that this is a basic territorial instinct in human beings, it meshes surprisingly well with the previously mentioned “flag waving” aspects of Sov. To use additional Minecraft analogies, people love to both reshape the terrain surrounding their house, as well as redecorate and redesign their actual home. While EVE Online is certainly not the same thing as Space Minecraft (that honor goes to Space Engineers in my eyes), it is not too difficult to imagine people gaining a strong degree of satisfaction from being able to customize their Space Houses (Stations, Citadels, etc) and their Space Terrain (the solar systems themselves.) One specific point on this topic that has really stuck with me was the announcement of the structure overhauls at Fanfest 2015 – two brief mentions to this sort of customization which really stuck with me were the mention of being able to adjust the warp speed in a system with a specific structure, and being able to adjust the type of rats and security status in one of your systems. Let me be unequivocally clear – these sorts of things are excellent ideas, and should be exclusive to people who deploy the revamped structures in Sov that they own, with greater benefits available for those with a stronger and more stable grip on their territory. This is not only a way of adding emergent gamplay to customize your space house and the space hill that your space house sits on, but also a way to make people actually want to hold the Sov rather than actually roam through it on occasion.

Ideally speaking, after the continued iterations of Fozziesov and the addition of the structure revamps, Sov Nullsec should feel like it truly belongs to the inhabitants, and shows appropriate signs of life. Whether it be a lifeless and devoid system with dark and cold structures, a frontier outpost, or a bustling space metropolis in the heart of the Imperium, Sov should have a level of life appropriate to its inhabitance, and it should be the players’ life, free for us to shape as we see fit.

Now with this column drawing to an end as the CSM summit rapidly approaches, we can only hope that CCP is firmly aware of where they currently stand. In order for future iterations of Fozziesov to be well-received and a boost to the livelihood of the game, they need to include carrots, rather than just sticks. These carrots should take the form of meaningful and engaging gameplay rather than just ISK faucets to be either blued up over or only cursorially exploited. Space real estate that people genuinely want to take, with an even mix of cooperation and conflict drivers to ensure that neither the “constant chaos with no progress or endgame” nor the “blue blob” take over would greatly enrich EVE Online.

Your move, CCP.

Stay tuned for next Sunday’s OA column on a subject briefly touched upon in this writeup – mobility in EVE!

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written by Kyle Aparthos and originally appeared on TheMittani.com under his byline.)

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