Saturday, March 7, 2015

Sovereignty (Part 1)

CCP recently published their dev blog regarding the next iteration of null-sec sov changes.

It’s been a long time since I’ve flown in null-sec. Back then, we took sov by taking POSes and the doomsday was still an area of effect weapon.

So, the opinions I have about the changes CCP are making aren’t really based off of any sort of prejudice or pre-conceived ideas. I have no stake in null-sec. No loyalties for any sort of null-sec alliance or coalition. I’m pretty much an outsider looking at the entire thing from a distance.

Though, I admit that I’ve always thought it would be fun to go back to null-sec someday. I like the idea of fighting with a purpose and I’ve looked forward to seeing how CCP is going to improve sovereignty mechanics.

I’m not going to give a pre-amble to what I think of the changes they’re making. I’m not going to say ‘the whole thing sounds like crap’ or ‘I love what they’re doing.’ There are specific things that sound interesting, and specific things that sound like CCP is missing the mark. And, I have specific reasons for thinking what I think.

CCP started the dev blog highlighting their goals for sovereignty, so I guess that’s as good of a place as any to start.

The Goals of Sovereignty

In general, I like the goals they’ve outlined. I think they were meant to be liked by most people. But, when I read them in the context of understanding the changes they’re making, they puzzle me.

My main concern is that it doesn’t seem like they’re going to meet their goals with the changes they’ve proposed. In some cases, the changes seem to be counterproductive to what they claim they are trying to achieve:

Goal #1: As much as possible, ensure that the process of fighting over a star system is enjoyable and fascinating for all the players involved

One of the main things that turns me off to null-sec is the grind you have to go through to take systems. The new mechanics do not seem to address this. They may spread it out and rename it and modify it, but the new process seems almost more of a grind to me than the old. And, during this grind you may or may not be even participating directly.

Command centers makes me shudder. I know first hand how this type of gameplay can quickly burn out pilots.

Goal #2: Clarify the process of taking, holding and fighting over star systems
It is vital that the core mechanics involved in taking space be easily understood and flow logically.

As someone who is outside of null-sec trying to understand the sov changes, I do not in any way feel that the new mechanics they are proposing are more straightforward than the old ones. In fact, for the most part they feel more complex and less intuitive to me.

The idea of having to go to some other system other than the one you are fighting over to capture some sort of randomized null-sec ‘command center’ doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It would be like having Faction War pilots plex in neighboring systems from the system they’re try to take. It’s completely unintuitive and confusing.

Secondly, the idea that taking sov is separate from taking stations, but that doing some sort of sov ‘event’ impacts the station is confusing. The cause and effect of certain actions should be more obvious –you should haven’t to guess what is going to cause what.

Finally, the entire process of taking sov seems too unnecessarily complex to me. There are so many steps, and events and timers. You have to attack this with some special mod, in some sort of specialized time window, and then do this other thing to cause this other stuff to randomly spawn somewhere else, where you run to those and do these other things and etc…

Goal #3: Minimize the systemic pressure to bring more people or larger ships than would be required to simply defeat your enemies on the field of battle.

Goal #6: Spread the largest Sovereignty battles over multiple star systems to take advantage of New Eden’s varied geography and to better manage server load.

Goals 3 and 6 seem similar to me, so I will talk about them together.

Firstly, I’m not convinced that the major ‘dogpiles’ that happen in null-sec are always a direct result of sovereignty mechanics. So, I’m a little concerned at the idea of basing the mechanics off of some sort of desire to ‘fix’ big fights through sov mechanics.

One of the largest fights in EVE history didn’t even happen in null-sec. And a lot of the other major fights I read about seem to have more to do with protecting (or trying to take) assets in one way or another –whether this is a titan on field, or assets tied up in a station, or etc. 

So on the one hand, I don’t think the new mechanics are going to stem big fights in the way CCP assumes. They’re just going to change how the fight happens. Instead of trying to take sov to take the station, they’ll fight directly over the station. Or, etc.

On the other hand, I think the concept of the ‘command nodes’ –which I believe was meant to trying to spread things out, is going to make things worse. Have you ever sat in a system with 10% TiDi, trying to activate your guns? Yeah, it sucks. 

With the new system, I now envision hundreds of pilots tramping around the constellation trying to get to command nodes. I imagine them sitting on a gate, waiting for ‘traffic control.’ 

Trying to strategically move people around in 50% Tidi isn’t going to be more fun or ‘better’ than everyone sitting in the same place with 10% TiDi.

Goal #4: Drastically reduce the time and effort required to conquer undefended space.
Goal #5: Provide significant strategic benefits from living in your space.

I love the idea of making it easier to take ‘abandoned’ or unused space. And I think CCP is going in the right direction on that front. If anything, I think there needs to be more of a sense of systems going 'fallow' if they are unused.

I also like the idea of players being able to build up defenses in their system and make it harder for enemies to take ‘primary’ systems, or etc.

However, the proposed system for this seems a bit contrived to me. And I realize that it’s a game, and that anything CCP does will be contrived to a certain degree. But, mining to bolster your defenses? That seems a little silly.

I understand that CCP is trying to ‘encourage certain behaviors.’ However, I think they need to try to do this in more natural and intuitive ways. 

Goal #7: Any new Sovereignty system should be adaptable enough to be rapidly updated and to incorporate future changes to EVE.

This sounds good to me. And I think that making the system more granular will definitely help achieve this goal.

I like the idea of splitting things up. Making it so you don’t need to take sov to take a station, and etc. However, where I think they’re going way too far with some things, I think they’re not going far enough with this. 

I’d like to see a system with less ‘steps’ and intertwining of cause and effect and more granular gameplay. I’d like to see CCP give the players more interesting tools, and less ‘behavior enforcing sovereignty rules.’

The Goals that Aren’t

In addition to questioning whether the changes are really going to achieve the goals CCP claims to have, I wish there were a few other things they were addressing and focusing on.

First, I wish they were more focused on giving players choices and tools. And less focused on simply changing the rules. Again.

Secondly, I wish I felt that CCP was more interested in being innovative and really doing something new. I’m not sure ‘more of the same’ is going to cut it in null-sec sovereignty. And I don’t think reshuffling and renaming and trying to pass something off as something incredibly new and exciting is going to fly with veteran players.

I think the player base needs to feel like CCP is willing to go all out. I don’t get this from this blog post. Rather, I get the feeling that they’re limited, and that they’re possibly ‘making do' and settling for something less than they may have wanted.

Finally, I wish CCP was more focused on establishing’s a pilot’s sense of pride and ownership in taking space. Pilots want to be a part of something and are highly motivated by the sense that something is theirs and that they are directly involved. I’ve learned first hand through Faction War how the concept that ‘someone else is mainly in control’ or ‘my actions don’t matter’ can demotivate a pilot. And I feel that the changes they are proposing are tending toward disassociating pilots even more from the process, and from each other.




  1. Some null alliances/coalitions boast a "bottom up" type of arrangement. I find that to be pretty much crap. In sov null there are uber rich top hats at the lead and the rest are useful idiots bowing to some phenomena that they paint their leader with.

    I mostly feel like that old arthritic dog in pain and hating life but hanging on for my owner because "man's best friend" while I secretly fantasize about being kicked out so I don't have to deal with the shit anymore.

    1. I wish you could find something you enjoy. You seem to keep playing despite never being happy.

  2. Well... CCP needs to be careful to NOT change things too much. They can't really afford to lose many more players, due to poorly-considered game design changes, which negatively affect large numbers of long-time players, costing them years of in-game effort and advantage.

    Last year's disastrous changes to industry (aka Crius) resulted in the loss of a large number of high sec casual industrialist players, who did not rage-quit, but quietly let their prepaid subs run out over the course of the year and stopped playing. These players spent years building up their in-game competitive advantages, and CCP effectively wiped those advantages out, without any compensation. Looking at the EVE Offline numbers, it now appears that those players probably accounted for about 10-15% of the active player base. That's a lot of lost subscription revenue.

    A similiar drastic change to null sec would likely result in comparable, if not greater, loss of players/accounts. Also, null sec is more inclined to massive vocal rage-quitting, which would have a much greater negative effect on attracting new players, as compared to the quiet unsubbing of the carebears.

  3. When I first read the new mechanics for sovereignty, the whole issue of entosis links and command nodes caused me to step back and consider it within the game reality of EVE. Until it made 'sense' within the universe of EVE, I was going to have a lot of trouble getting my brain to move forward. It seemed like a good mechanic but if it was an abstract mechanic with no basis for belief--even within a futuristic reality, then it wasn't going to work for me. Here's how I came to see it.

    The command node mechanic seems to be a simulation of usurping a system via network warfare. Basically, hacking. The random nodes propagating throughout a constellation are a shifting map of network weakpoints. The nodes increase in number over time if there is no resolution, probably due to an increasing amount of viral activity within a network. As a network is overrun with viruses and hacks the weakpoints will only increase.

    The question then becomes: would a multi-system wide network attack bring those systems to a halt? Well, if the scope and scale are sufficient it could literally mean death for just about anyone living in those stations. On the other hand, the actual hacks require the presence of a ship with an entosis link to deliver a hack through a protocol/interface that can break into what has to be a very heavily protected series of networks. Such a hack can be blocked by a counter hack, which means an opposing ship with an entosis link. Another surefire way to prevent hacks or counter-hacks is through engaging the hacking ships in combat and blowing them up. That's where the space battles come in. Destroy any ships before they complete their hack and balance(or imbalance) returns.

    A sov group can still lose a system via network control but keep a large enough physical presence to make that system largely dormant. They won't have control of that system's structures, but can make it very expensive for anyone else to make use of those structures. Of course, such a large 'seige' presence will do nothing for those not in control of the system and require significant time and presence to maintain. So, lose/lose more or less at the most basic level, though deep financial pockets can absorb losses in order to 'bleed out' a victory.

    Is it conceivable for a network hack to have so much power? Given the current state of our inter-network now in real life, I don't really have a problem seeing networks holding the key to wide scale command and control.