Author’s Note: This piece is an op-ed and does not reflect the opinions of Themittani.com. It is also quite massive, even by Opinionated Analysis standards. Peruse at your own risk.
It has been quite a while since the last time I sat down to write a full OA column. Then again, not a lot of huge note has happened since then either. There have been tweaks and patch notes, sure, but nothing earth-shattering has been going on for the last couple of months.
Fozziesov is, as we all know, just around the corner, and most of EVE is holding its breath in some form or another. Be it excitement for the expected paradigm shift and subsequent fights, frustration with CCP for tampering with the equation that allows alliances to sit on their ass and collect money moons all day long with minimal effort, or simple curiosity and interest in what these changes will actually do and how well predictions will pan out (I’m in this last category), everyone is watching.
That said, as previous OA columns have commented upon, there have still been a few missing pieces in the equation. Capitals were (and to an extent, remain) one of the unaddressed factors of the new paradigm. As most everybody is aware, with the introduction of Capture Points, the removal of EHP grinds, and the 5x modification to Entosis Link cycle times for capital ships, caps and supercaps are most certainly no longer the “finger of god” that they once were. Of course, they are and will remain a potent escalation force for straight fights, as their purpose arguably should have been all along. Only time will tell if CCP decides to “create additional content” regarding these behemoths.
Let us now shift focus towards another missing link that we have addressed in previous discussions: PVE and Nullsec. I am far from the only one who has echoed the sentiment that, especially for regions which suffer from poorer truesec, some modifications to Null PVE are necessary to sustain the level of population density that CCP seems to be encouraging with Fozziesov. While this has, again, been partially addressed with the modification of indices and IHUB upgrades (in a word, making both of them easier to build up), a pervasive sentiment exists that the average nullsec system cannot support more than a handful of ratters. This sentiment is not without merit – examining, for instance, Dotlan maps of Deklein for daily NPC kills compared to Security level show a strong correlation between lower truesec and more rats killed, with some adjustment for the preference of dead-end or pocket systems over pipelines, naturally.
These lower truesec systems see an exponentially greater quantity of rats killed on any given day, especially when combined with dead-end systems. Mediocre or poor truesec systems suffer by comparison, even when they are pocket systems. Looking at this data, we can establish with relative certainty that, whether the sentiment that the average system can support only a handful is true or not, a strong majority of ratting is being done in low-truesec pockets. Regardless of how many ratters the average -0.5 pipe system can support, every ratter is aware that they can generate a far more profitable hour in a -1.0 system, unless every anomaly in the latter is constantly taken over.
Thankfully, CCP is more than aware of this, and appears to have been working to ensure that the final Fozziesov release includes a revamp of Nullsec PVE to mitigate this tendency to some extent. Their most recent devblog outlines these impending changes, which we shall now examine in typical OA detail.
PIRATE DETECTION ARRAYS: BRIDGING THE GAP
The Pirate Detection Array is, naturally, a mainstay for the average ratter out in 0.0 space. With the current ability tp add up to 20 additional ratting sites to a system with a Level 5 Array and Military index to match, this particular IHUB upgrade has the potential to drastically increase a system’s profitability.
Naturally, CCP has been quick to verbalize that adjustments to this particular upgrade must be done cautiously and that they are ready to make rapid-fire adjustment should their initial calculations be incorrect. These initial adjustments are as follows:
- Pirate Detection Arrays will now add 7 guaranteed anomaly spawns per level, rather than four.
- Poorer Truesec systems will gain higher-value anomalies than the average ones which spawn in-system. In other words, a -0.1 system gains more relative value per upgrade level than a -1.0 system does, although the -1.0 system will still generally outstrip the “competition.”
These changes appear to be designed to respectively buff the following:
- Overall capacity of any system to sustain ratting activity.
- The ability of “poorer space” to compare to, if not be quite equal with, “richer space” in terms of ratting ticks.
The intent with these alterations is fairly clear – without outright eliminating the concept of “ratting haven” systems, CCP wishes to give a buff to average-to-poor Truesec systems, making them more comparable in value to their lower security counterparts. Purely due to the geography of space, there is no way to entirely eliminate the concept of dead-end -1.0 systems being used as ratter central. Rather than trying to destroy this natural player tendency, the effort appears to be reducing the polarization between these nexuses and their surrounding systems – in other words, ensuring that the map looks less like “one 10,000 rats/day system surrounded by three 4,000 rats/day systems,” and more like “one 12,000 rats/day system surrounded by 3 7,000 rats/day systems.” In other words, a combination of an overall buff to ratting sustainability and a reduction in system inequality without wasting effort on its total elimination.
On the note of reducing system inequality, it is far from coincidence that, rather than applying this buff directly, CCP has gone the route of altering IHUB upgrades. This has added a dual barrier to receiving the buff/equalization combo – one must first of all own the sov in the first place, and additionally have the manpower and resources to raise the indices and install the upgrades in order to reap the benefits. Whether this in any way influences the “is owning sov even worth it?” debate is anyone’s guess, but additional meaningful and scaleable buffs to IHUB upgrades do help to create a more measurable difference between sov and NPC Nullsec, with an additional buff to those who are capable of managing a network of such upgrades. Or in a word, placing a higher value on sov utilization, rather than sov holding.
On the subject of IHUB upgrades, we now turn to…
SURVEY NETWORKS+ENTRAPMENT ARRAYS: MORE SITES FOR THE SITE GOD
In keeping with the previous theme of “benefits for sov utilization,” we will also see a doubling of the effectiveness of the “Survey Networks” and “Entrapment Array” upgrades. These upgrades affect the spawn rate of data/relic sites and combat sites respectively, and are each receiving a buff that doubles the spawn rate per upgrade level.
Site running as a full-time profession has often been hit or miss, and sites are certainly a hotter commodity in well-inhabited Nullsec space than anomalies are. At the same time, as CCP has been quick to point out, their corresponding IHUB upgrades are far less utilized than Pirate Detection Arrays, most likely due to the random nature of their effects rather than a solid guarantee like their anomaly-spawning cousins.
That said, the developer gods seem aware that it is out of the question to simply adjust the mechanics “X number of complexes guaranteed per level per system,” like the Pirate Detection Arrays are. Due to the potential drops that come out of data/relic/combat scannable sites, flat guarantees of X number of sites could very quickly lead to rampant devaluing of previously rare and semi-rare modules, and would lead to literal endless (rightful) complaining from NPC Null and Lowsec entities about sovholders cornering the Deadspace market.
In this manner, doubling the spawn chance without actually making an effective “X per level” guarantee, is a definitive step in the right direction towards further valuing sov utilization, without having too much of a chance of flooding the market. Naturally, similar to the Pirate Detection Array buffs, this will need to be closely examined after the patch, which CCP is thankfully well aware of.
However, many of these sites can be easily soloed, or run by a single player with two or three multiboxing accounts in the case of the most difficult sites. While these buffs do value sov utilization in the case of solo player income, they do little to actually encourage further cooperative gameplay. Considering that player community and cooperation is arguably one of the cornerstones of Nullsec life, we turn next to…
INCURSION RUNNING: GREATER COOPERATION WITH LESS BLING
Incursion running in EVE Online is one of the few PVE activities that directly encourages player cooperation. While just about any site can be soloed, or run by a bare minimum of pilots, Incursions cannot be run single-handedly by any but the most dedicated and masterful of multiboxers. Due to the tankiness and coordination of ships required for this activity, most successful incursion-running communities have a fairly high ISK entry barrier. Many of the most entertaining lossmails to be found in Highsec and Lowsec are blinged-out Incursion ships for this exact reason as well.
Excessive bling on Lowsec and Nullsec PVE ships of any sort is, however, a minority or perhaps even an anomaly. Those who use anything more expensive than an AFKtar to rat out in Null tend to keep it to themselves or to their corp buddies. With Nullsec as a whole currently sustaining a model with very limited cooperative PVE and in most cases actively discouraging blinged out ships, it is no real surprise that Incursion running in Null space is much less prevalent. In my experience within the Imperium, most Incursions were dealt with in one of two ways – either the Incursion would be run with a majority of the ratters involved in non-Incursion ships due to the reasons stated above, or the affected constellation would be generally avoided until the termination of the event.
Naturally, with as many players living in a typical Nullsec bloc entity looking to get in on such an event without having to resort to buying ships that make them a massive target in the less-secure space that they live in, the solution of increasing the number of viable players per Incursion fleet by doubling the cap before diminishing returns begin to hit seems very valid. Through the doubling of that cap, it is very possible that standard Nullsec ratting boats, combined with logistics, could run Incursions with very little modification to their vessels. While doing so is certainly possible under the current system, the Nullsec Incursion runners who “settle for less bling,” as it were, do not quite generate the same level of effectiveness as a group of 15 impossibly shiny HS battleships.
I must admit that this particular change pleases me, as to be frank there is no way in hell that I was ever going to consider buying a multi-billion ISK Nightmare for the purpose of Incursion ratting when it would automatically make me a massive target to every hotdropper within the tri-regional area. And of course, this change fits in nicely with the aforementioned themes of increasing the amount of ratting that can be done within Sov Nullsec, only this time with a nice layer of cooperative gamplay thrown in on top of it to break up the monotony.
And with that, it is time to shift gears entirely and talk about the next chapter of the devblog…
WORMHOLE TWEAKS: MAKING EVE BIGGER AND LETTING HYPERDRAMA FLOW
Let me get this out of the way first: I am not going to address the hyperdrama in any detail. That business can flow its course on Reddit. I have not to date run for CSM and am not qualified to speak about its internal dramas. That said, it is fairly obvious that some Nullsec entities will support a harsh nerf to wormhole power projection due to their lack of ability to defend against it. Other entities would prefer to retain or even buff their effectiveness as part of a desire to retain some vestige of the pre-Phoebe status quo. Both sides have a tendency to get…excessive in these debates, and we shall refrain from taking any particular heavy-handed approach here.
On to the actual analysis.
CCP made it fairly clear during the Hyperion release that their interest in WH space as a form of emergent gameplay was based more around WH space itself, rather than K-space to K-space wormhole connections. With the advent of Phoebe and the concept of a power projection nerf fresh in the minds of devs and players alike, a pretty prominent theme was the idea of “doable, but not without some effort.” For instance, using a supercapital blob as a finger of god which could destroy any and all opposition was still doable, but would (and does) require significantly more time and logistical effort to accomplish. The universe was, in effect, made a bigger place – committing a supercapital force to defend one’s territory required not only more expended effort, but more time and preplanning.
It would appear as if CCP is now seeking to do something similar with wormholes. First off, we will see a “significant decrease in the spawn rate of direct Nullsec to Nullsec wormhole connections.” Considering the ease of use inherent to these wormholes, allowing entities to teleport to any Nullsec point in New Eden with no warning and little effective counter (read: It’s pretty hard to rageclose a wormhole with an enemy fleet on the other side of it), it is unsurprising that CCP is going with a nerf to this particular route and instead choosing to champion the route of Null–>WH–>Null routes for power projection. This type of travel route requires greater logistical effort to move a large volume of ships (scanning multiple connections is harder, and if you accidentally close the WH, you risk getting part of a fleet stranded in unknown territory) and places potential combatants in a “level playing field” for a portion of the trip.
In addition, we can expect to see a minor decrease in the rate of Null/C5 Wh connections. I must admit that this change initially perplexed me, until I decided to examine a chart of all WH connections so kindly listed on the official EVE wiki.Upon doing so I noticed an interesting factor which could be at play – Null to C5/C6 and C5/C6 to Null connections, labelled N432 and Z142 respectively, have some of the highest mass-per-jump capabilities of any wormholes, at 1.35 million kg/jump and 3 million kg total.
This extensively high amount when compared with C4 and lower connections permits much larger fleets to move through C5 and C6 space, including carriers and dreads which sit between 1.1 and 1.3 million kg, roughly. A slight nerf to the availbility of these connections constitutes a slight nerf to the ability of a Nullsec entity to reliably move large forces over a great distance in a short time, which does keep in theme with CCP’s previous actions over the past 7 months. (Incidentally, the only wormhole connection greater than the aforementioned in the C248 Null-to-Null, at 5 million kg total and 1.8 million per jump, constituting another possible reason for the Null-to-Null nerf.)
Finally, we may expect to see a 33% decrease in the lifetime of Nullsec WH connections, from 24 hours to 16 hours. This seems to have a very simple intention behind it – reduce the viable amount of time between a wormhole discovery and its utilization. While we could get deep into the strategic differences between a WH being available to one TZ of an alliance two days in a row and each TZ only getting one shot at things, the thrust of the matter is simple – less time to use a wormhole means less of a chance that it will be planned for a long-term op, without affecting the “daytrippers,” as the devblog refers to them. In other words, less large-scale power projection without affecting those who wish to use them for more recreational purposes.
There is little point in extensive speculation on what “a slight buff to anyone who uses Quantum Flux Generators for PVE daytripping” means. If I had to take a shot in the dark, I would guess that the buff would be to either Null–>WH space, or specifically Null—>C5/C6 space, to allow those with the logistical capabilities to slightly compensate for the spawn rate aspect of the nerf, while still keeping the 16 hour window to prevent quite as much power projection.
Speaking of wild speculation based on minimal information…
ACTIVITY DEFENSE MULTIPLIERS: A MORE DIVERSE EVE
In my analytical work on Occupancy Sov which predated the official Fozziesov announcement and inspired me to begin Opinionated Analysis, we discussed the concept of indices being used as a tracker for system utilization, and thus their playing a role in the future Sov changes. This discussion was generally correct, although the system was tied to the existing development indices rather than being fleshed out further.
That now appears subject to potential change, as this most recent devblog discusses the concept of tying more diverse indices, including PI and potentially manufacturing/trade/research, to the Activity Defense Multiplier. This is good for a number of reasons, the foremost being that it offers greater inclusion in what sort of activities directly contribute to the well-being of one’s alliance, and thus allows more player diversity in Nullsec as a whole. When people well and truly live in space, they do more than rat and mine in it, and as a result, the inclusion of these additional activities begins to show favor to a truly diverse Nullsec community where everyone from the ratter to the PvPer to the marketeer may stand a chance at helping to control their space in their own way.
This also plays quite nicely into CCP’s “investigating options around allowing activity by members of the Sov holding Alliance to count more heavily than activity by others.” Not only would that help to ensure that only domestic efforts actually improve one’s homestead (rather than being artificially propped up by blues or accidentally propped up by reds looking to grind away your space), but it also opens up more interesting avenues for index modification. Much as we addressed in the previously mentioned analytical work that Crius was a proof-of-concept for broader index implementation, the concept that activities by certain people could count more than others introduces the idea that incides could be customized in a much broader sense.
For instance, if domestic activity weighs more heavily on the Activity Defense Multiplier than non-domestic activity, then perhaps one specific type of activity could be made to weigh more heavily on the ADM than others, allowing smaller and less diverse alliances to more readily define themselves without having to try to “do it all.” This, when brought into line with the fact that one can customize vulnerability windows per structure, as well as the broad depth of different sytemic modifications promised by the impending structure changes, creates a powerful tool for making a system your own. (Read: a system with a future Citadel in it, acting as a market hub and customized so that market activity affects the ADM more heavily.)
But enough with the wild speculation for now. There is little need to address the final two points in the devblog – a buff to the ESS could make it actually approach more general use, which would create additional Nullsec wealth and give people something to shoot at. Dedicated group PVE from IHUB upgrades fits very cleanly into the previously heavily discussed notion of greater agency for players who utilize their sov and greater opportunities for community content. Besides, this is all looking further towards the future than we have time for right now. On that note, let us move into the usual TL;DR wrapup – a segment on Thoughts and Predictions.
- CCP’s focus seems to be twofold with this particular devblog – bringing Wormhole content into line with the themes previously introduced in Phoebe, and to a much greater extent, increasing player agency over PVE content in Nullsec.
- Greater opportunities for PVE for those who actually utilize their space is an excellent idea. Player rewards and agency through infrastructure upgrades which require effort to produce, organize, and maintain rather than a straight buff will help space become more rewarding as it is used and developed, and will hopefully result in less bitching.
- Beginning to lower the wealth gap between -0.1 and -1.0 space will hopefully help to get rid of the “20,000 rats per day killed in one or two pocket systems” problem symptomatic to Dominion Sov, due to its incompatibility with the ADM system of Fozziesov.
- The modifications to Wormholes seem designed to reduce long-term power projection without harming more casual PVE and PvP content creation.
- This devblog seems to cement the future vision of Nullsec as a place where increased player effort is rewarded with increased player agency and opportunity, rather than a system where money moons=heavily upgraded pocket systems=players idly ratting in a corner of space for their next Deadspace drop. In other words, greater community efforts and less individual players AFK ratting.
- People will continue to be angry about wormholes. Long-term and strategic ops will suffer slightly thanks to the WH nerfs, but determined FCs and high-level organizations will make do. It just won’t be quite as easy on them. Casual day-to-day WH content will be largely unaffected.
- A mild increase in PVE content will occur in poorer-truesec systems. Pocketing will still exist and be all but impossible to completely dispel, but ratting will begin to spread out somewhat and increase overall in Nullsec systems.
- Alliances which have previously not focused heavily on IHUB customization will begin to do so. Alliances which have heavily examined their IHUBs prior to this announcement will be pleased with their own wisdom and foresight.
- The goal of regional control rather than constellation control becomes more viable for alliances which are willing to put in the effort and have an active playerbase, combined with forward thinking leadership.
- Nullsec space will begin to offer more community-level content, rather than a culture where PvP is done in groups and PVE/mining/etc is conducted by a single person multiboxing several accounts.
- Fozziesov is starting to look more sustainable for groups that hold larger amounts of space, or hold poorer truesec.
Suggestions or comments about the Opinionated Analysis series? Want to write an Opinionated Submissions piece of your own? Contact Kyle Aparthos in EVE Online or via [email protected]