In my last article, I made a comment that the PvE changes were unlikely to result in any great benefit to the null-sec community, and I wanted to go into a little more detail about why.
First, let me state again that my goal for null-sec is to make it a thriving economic center that justifies the cost and effort of maintaining it. As value increases, so should difficulty. As difficulty of holding sov increases, so should value, not just to an alliance, but to the individual members maintaining it.
Compared to Dominion sov, FozzieSov requires alliances to dedicate the vast majority of their time to cultivating and maintaining that space. Industry and military indexes aren’t going to raise themselves, and every level those indexes raise results in reduced hassle when someone comes calling.
I say “reduced” because some entosis attempts each day are going to succeed, spawning the need to do “faction warfare for no LP” to clear the nodes and push the system back into safety. If someone is dedicated to trolling your sov, that means you’ll need to manage both node-clearing and entosis-preventing on the second day, and third, and… you get the picture. And all of that needs to be done even if the attacker’s is only trying to cause you aggravation (ie. he doesn’t intend to contest any of these notes).
And I haven’t even mentioned what happens if the attackers decide to escalate the fun by bubbling all the gates. First, you’d have the hilarity of watching all those defenders warp their ratting ships to bubbled gates on the way to their staging system to reship into a PvP ship. Then you have the hilarity of watching defenders have to slow-boat it from gate to gate as they attempt to contest the incursion.
Sure, there are lots of ways for defenders to counter these problems. But at some point, players are going to ask, “Why should I spend all my time running around preventing entosising, when I could leave this alliance and be free to be the attacker?”
Most null-sec players have other means of earning isk (most often high-sec), and even if they don’t, nothing stops them from taking a safari to someone else’s space to run signatures (combat, data, and relic). Wormhole players do this all the time, and they usually manage a couple kills out of it, too.
The key failing of the overall system – not FozzieSov’s capture mechanics – is that an interloper can do all the things a sov owner can. Alliances are compressing their space to what they can manage, which will increase the density per system for owned space. But unowned space is going to be just as empty as it is now. There are plenty of people in Venal who don’t need iHub upgrades to make a great living running Guristas signatures, entirely outside of the need to own sov. All you need is a Tengu and a mobile depot.
And once pilots start figuring this out, the next logical question is, “If I can make my isk without being a part of this alliance, and the PvP activities consist of running around capturing nodes, why am I doing this? Why not just join FW and make my isk on my own, at a lower tax rate?”
FozzieSov creates this hassle for sov owners, but pirates and aggressors will have a field day. Those who want PvP are likely better off joining these “harasser” alliances. Those who want isk can go free-roaming to gain it or, more likely, simply use their high-sec alts for revenue. As a non-sov-holder, you get to dump on everyone when you want, how you want, with no means of retaliation. And when you break your enemy, you can rat in their space freely. That’s a pretty sweet deal.
For, right now, the only thing an individual pilot gains from being part of a sov-holding alliance is good “feelies” from “being part of something!” That gets old very quickly when faced with an endless string of boredom or reactive play.
Making the Juice Worth the Squeeze
I’ve been a bit “doom and gloom” lately. I hope CCP has a contingency plan, and I suspect the 11th hour PvE changes CCP announced on July 9th are a result of a dawning realization that they neglected to address the positive rewards to sov ownership. I give them credit for pushing some buttons and moving some levers now instead of after FozzieSov deploys. However, the slap-dash nature of these PvE changes – all factors that really consist of changing variables in a data table – tells me they didn’t plan this, but rather accelerated their timeline to quickly respond.
And don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what they’re trying to do. This is a good sign. CCP isn’t phoning this one in. But they still need to be ready to shift to another sov model – not simply revert to Dominion – in 2015 if FozzieSov is a disaster. They seem to be looking at things and aware of the risks.
But in the end, the solution they offer has to provide very real, tangible benefits to both individual players and alliances for owning sovereignty – but not too much sovereignty! – if they want null-sec to thrive. Their plans for bottom-up alliance income and discouraging coalitions need to provide tangible, real benefits for sov owners beyond that which non-sov owners can gain from the same system. And as the current income system – alliances earning moon goo profits and filtering it down to the players – clearly seems to be on the way out, they have the perfect chance to test out some possible solutions with little long-term risk.
Yes, I buried the lead in that last paragraph. Did you catch it? Members of an alliance that owns sov need to be in an advantaged position over those who do not within a given system. If Circle of Two owns system AB-CDE and both a Co2 ratter and an interloper are ratting the same type of site with the same skills, the Co2 player should get more bounties than the interloper. Same work, privileged results.
If you want an in-game reason, you can call it Co2 hacking the data-stream reporting the bounties to CONCORD. Or you can spike bounties across the board and add a new “local infrastructure tax” that brings the bounties for a non-sov holder back to the current level, but which doesn’t apply when a sov holder rats in their own space (presumably, this money would come out of their corp taxes or alliances taxes, which we badly need for bottom-up income generation).
The same could be done for PI, mining, and industry production. The key is in providing clear advantages for owning sov. The alliance may pay the bills, but the members themselves should be the beneficiaries.
The benefits of this kind of preferential treatment are significant. First, rather than rewarding everyone everywhere, it provides a targeted value that encourages people to participate in the sov system. Goonswarm members wouldn’t get extra bounties for ratting in NC. space (they’re apparently getting the band back together), nor would they get extra bounties for ratting in empire space or running missions. This bonus would only apply when Goonswarm members rat in Goonswarm space.
I suspect a 25% yield bonus when mining in your alliance’s own space and a 25% production cost decrease would do wonders to encourage local null-sec industry, as well. And increased PI yields for only those who belong to the system’s alliance owner? That’d be an incentive to run more PI production chains and preserve sovereignty in those systems.
And all of these bonuses would create a very real, necessary reason for players to fight for their sovereignty, a reason that would outweigh the hassle this new system brings. Taking an unowned system will be very, very easy under FozzieSov, which means everyone can get in on the action of sov ownership. The barriers to entry have never been lower. Let’s incentivize people to actually walk through the door.
The neat part of this solution is that it also overcomes an objection from high-sec players. This boost to null profitability would not weaken the value of high-sec operations. CCP is clearly moving in the direction of local null-sec production, which will change the economic factors high-sec faces as well. While more resources would be gained in null, those resources are more likely to be used in null if industrialists enjoy a production bonus. This would have a neutral or favorable effect on the value of high-sec isk faucet payouts. In essence, your bounty money will go just as far. Jita will still likely remain a central clearinghouse for any faction equipment, so faction and deadspace equipment from FW and LP payouts and signature drops will likely retain their value.
This solution also discourages the “safari ratter”, as null residents would have real incentives to remain close to home. If a cosmic anomaly in Providence pays 25% more than that same anomaly in another region, a CVA player is more likely to stay in Provi. And that bonus might be enough to encourage a player to join a sov null alliance or encourage his alliance to take sov, driving players to live in null-sec when they otherwise wouldn’t have.
It’s not enough to make “null sec more profitable”. The key of FozzieSov and the complimentary null alliance economic model should be to make “ownership of sovereignty in null-sec more profitable.”
That’s how you cajole players and alliances to care enough to own sovereignty, despite the increased hassle. And that’s how you can make FozzieSov a success: tie increased profit to sov ownership in a very tangible way.