Monday, February 28, 2011

Alliances and Sovereignty

Welcome to the twenty-fifth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week or so to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to Check for other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

This month's topic comes to us from @Tetraetc - "Tetra's EVE Blog" - who asks: "Have Alliances and the sovereignty system limited the amount of PVP and RP potential in Null sec? Imagine a Null Sec where anyone could build outposts wherever. Would the reduction of the alliance game mechanic, and the removal of the sovereignty game mechanics (or the modifcation of it from Alliance level to Corp level for that matter) force more PVP into Null sec, or would giant power blocs like the NC still form themselves?"

Before I even begin, I feel the most important part of this particular banter is whether or not the writer has any real experience with any of this. Like any argument, there are multiple side to the questions about the state of nullsec in EVE. So here is the position I write from. In the summer of 2009 I joined a corp that was in an alliance based out of NPC nullsec (Outer Ring). Vanguard[dot] had recently moved there as a stepping stone to bigger nullsec experiences. Living next to Fountain when held by Pandemic Legion, pre-Dominion, and Cloud Ring, when nobody really cared about it (except the station systems in the northwest). Vanguard[dot] was not as PvP focused as my corp leadership, and after a few months we left for a different alliance in Syndicate - Art of Defiance. This small alliance was strongly focused on PvP, with a small internal industry wing to occupy combat-free times, and was quickly absorbed into Dead Terrorists when they decided to experience nullsec and created a difficult environment for Vanguard[dot] in Outer Ring (Vanguard[dot] joined the NC and moved up into a back-end constellation in Pure Blind). As a part of Dead Terrorists I participated in Max 2 (the northern war of Spring 2010), and then held sovereignty in Cloud Ring before the ill-fated decision to assault the south, and the final occupancy (and fall) of Feythabolis. I have been in sovereign holding alliances. I have fought against sovereign holding alliances before and after Dominion. That's the background for where my discussion of this topic will come from.

So on to the show...Have Alliances and the Sovereignty System limited the amount of PvP and RP Potential in Null Sec?
Let's get the easy part out of the way. After the reduction in the lag beast over the last few weeks/months in 2010 and early 2011, PvP from small gang to large fleet is alive and well in 0.0. Sure, targets aren't sitting out belly up on the beach, but they are there. The biggest worry with PvP in nullsec is whether some trigger-happy cyno-dropping fool is the one you catch, and you find yourself facing a bored cap/super pilot, and this isn't even that common. More common is the target-less roams out and around the NPC cores in nullsec and the occasional defense fleet to fight with. Although I personally am not a fan of the current state of the west/north, as long as you are only a bug (small gang) and don't mind flying 10-20 systems for a target, you can roam in the western blue ocean. Alliances and the Sov System have not limited the amount of PvP in Null Sec. There could be objectives and targets within sovereign systems to generate more PVP (which is a whole other topic), but it does exist.

RP is a whole other beast. A recent post by GoonSwarm leader The Mittani on Kugutsumen is a valid perspective. Role Playing in nullsec is a slippery slope, since the expansionist and combative nature of most groups in nullsec will usually not be limited by the character constraints of an RP player. In that selfsame thread, there is an underlying theme that the e-honour of the CVA alliance would have been their undoing had other factors not brought their fall about sooner. In fact, corporations from their RP opponents, Ushra'khan, seem to have mostly lost their RP perspective after breathing too much of the reprocessed air in nullsec stations. In an environment where any system can have value with a fully upgraded iHub, and powerblocs form for mutual defense and cooperation, there is no backwater region that would be left alone for the role-players in EVE to play the game as they choose. In post-dominion EVE, RP seems to be relegated to NPC nullsec and Empire if it is to thrive.

Would the reduction of the alliance game mechanic, and the removal of the sovereignty game mechanics (or the modifcation of it from Alliance level to Corp level for that matter) force more PVP into Null sec, or would giant power blocs like the NC still form themselves?

This sounds like a question from someone who hasn't taken a lot of social courses like world history or politics/government courses. Lets ignore the mechanics at first (yes, they are broken, that's a whole other story). People form communities for shared resources and security. This is actually something that all primates appear to do, and part of what makes us able to live in a modern society. Giant power blocs like the NC, DC, DRF exist because people inherently form groups when overcoming larger challenges. Making this hard to do in EVE is counter to human nature, and not good for the game. The bloc will still form, just in a less obvious way (unless CCP were to do away with standings all together, and that would be a total disaster). Take away the ability of an alliance to do anything, and corps will just form an unofficial one with standings.

And now the beast that is sovereignty. It is a fairly well known fact amongst the nullsec bittervets that the concept of Dominion Sovereignty and the implementation of Dominion Sovereignty are as similar as a blue car and a red car. Like many features in EVE, CCP deployed sovereignty and promised to "tweak it" as they went. Unfortunately they didn't and the current implementation is a mess. Let's revisit what Dominion Sovereignty was supposed to be like. Reading that, and then seeing what came in Dominion, you wonder why they hint at these things at all. The new Sov system was supposed to:

  1. improve the pain of structure shooting (failure)
  2. enable upgraded systems to support up to 100+ pilots (failure)
  3. increase the cost of a sprawling empire (failure)
  4. move sovereign battles away from tower shooting festivals (success)
  5. enable official treaties and rental agreements with other entities (MIA)
  6. enable small "roaming gangs" to impact your day-to-day activities (failure)
  7. force players to develop strategies for conquest beyond warp-target-shoot (failure)
  8. improvement of the industrial base of a nullsec empire (failure)
  9. Return the mothership to the battlefield as a combat ship (success)
  10. Limit the use of the supercarrier (aka mothership) as an anti-capital weapon (failure).
In fact, now's a great time to revisit CCP Abathur's blog series, which sounded pretty good, and does not seem to be anything like what we have today, which actually makes sense since Abathur appears to be gone from the CCP roster. If you took the time to read the Dominion blogs, you know that much of what was planned never happened, including, of course, the ever-mentioned and never-followed iterative development updates.

Now that I've got background in place, here's the thing. Nullsec Sovereignty should never be possible at the corp level. Nullsec Sovereignty should require alliances, but the individual alliances should not be required to sprawl across entire regions just to support a thousand pilots. In addition, the scaled cost of sovereignty should have been implemented in a way to encourage alliances to consolidate in smaller spaces. Small roaming gangs should be able to incite fights or affect your sovereign activities (but not actual ownership) by reducing indices on the iHub modules. Supercapitals shouldn't be able to do significant damage to smaller ships, and shouldn't be nearly invulnerable with a quick CTRL-Q when things don't look good. If you want to "force" more PvP into nullsec, you need to have variable targets that generate combat opportunities or have consequences for choosing not to engage. A quote I love from kugutsumen is "the barbarians should be able to burn the crops if you choose to sit safe in castle, and right now there are no crops to burn."

  1. BB25 What sov changes will come? | A Mule In EvE
  2. Confessions of a Closet Carebear: Alliances and Sovereignty
  3. Blog Banter 25: Nerfing Nulsec « OMG! You're a Chick?!
  4. Have Alliances and the sovereignty system limited the amount of PVP and RP potential in Null sec? | Nitpickin's
  5. Blog Banter #25: Alliance and Sovereignty Limiting PvP in 0.0? | Sarnel Binora's Blog
  6. Blog Banter #25 - Mad Haberdashers
  7. Alliances and sovereignty | Eve Online Focus
  8. ...Shall we not Revenge?: BB 25: What if the Alliance vanished?
  9. Blog Banter: Alliances and Sov
  10. EVEOGANDA: BB25: Sov 'n Go!
  11. » TBG:EBB#25 – Alliances and Sovereignty To Boldly Go
  12. Freebooted: BB25: Leviathans of the Deep
  13. Wrong Game Tetra ~ Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah
  14. EVE Blog Banter #25 – Human nature what art thou? | Way of the Gun
  15. Who cares about Sov? - Hands Off, My Loots! ~ well sorta like an entry! :p
  16. The 25th EVE Blog Banter: Alliances and sovereignty - The Phoenix Diaries
  17. Achernar: The space commute
  18. Wandering the Void…my EvE musings. – Blog Banter: Alliances and sovereignty
  19. (OOC) CK’s Blog Banter #25: How To Break EvE. « Prano's Journey
  20. Captain Serenity: Blog Banter #25 - Crappy mechanics
  21. Helicity Boson » Blog Banter #25 Nullsec and sov.
  22. BB #25 – “With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?”
  23. More to come...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Learning how to fly (again)

Last night (like many nights) started out sitting in station. Some of our neighbors were in local, ratting (or mining), when a (now frequent) visitor appeared in local: Conall anDuntrune from the Tuskers. He's been flying around in an Amarr Navy Slicer, and came close to taking out one of our associates the last few times he popped his head in local. Night before I chased him him in a Proteus, but he could easily outdistance me, so tonight I boarded a Taranis. My 'ranis is pretty standard:
[Taranis, Standard]
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Damage Control II
Small Inefficient Armor Repair Unit

J5 Prototype Warp Disruptor I
X5 Prototype I Engine Enervator
Catalyzed Cold-Gas I Arcjet Thrusters

Light Ion Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Ion Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Ion Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Small Nosferatu I

Small Hybrid Collision Accelerator I
Small Ancillary Current Router I

Warrior II x2

She does about 3500m/s and about 230DPS (according to EFIT). I've used a fit like this for a couple years now, mostly in nullsec, as light tackle. I felt like it was pretty successful, so I hopped in and went out after Conall. Meeting at long range (about 80k apart) in a belt, I started to approach, MWD and DCU active. Launched my drones and targeted when I hit range. Then I overshot (with Faction Antimatter it's about 1k optimal+2.4 falloff). Of course, my orbit is set too wide, so I'm orbiting (or trying to) outside of my own damage range as his lasers eat through my shields and into armor quickly. I still haven't hit him with my blasters as I realize my orbit is too wide. Two shots from him and I'm almost out of armor - I didn't prepare well for this at all, so I cross my fingers, activate the armor repper, and try to warp out. He didn't have me pointed or scrammed, so...

80% hull and I'm in warp. My repper gets armor back to about 95% before I'm capped out. I reset my orbit to 500m. That plus the MWD should have me orbiting around 1500-1800m, outside of optimal but well within falloff. We chat in local - after all it's a game - and he's just getting used to the Slicer. We talk about fittings, rigs, ships in general while his GCC wears off (and I honestly try to scan down if he is at a celestial to engage again). We chat for a while but don't get on grid again - and he leaves system once his GCC is clear (which was wise because there were 4 of us looking for him now).

I have no real experience in solo PvP, all of it being small gang or large fleet, mostly in 0.0. A good chat - I probably have higher trained "skills" but he is a better pilot - and I would have lost the ship (and deserved to) if he'd had a point on me. Guess the moral of the story is: learn to fly solo PvP in a frigate. I'm going to have to do some practicing, it seems, if I am going to "defend" our losec home.

Solo PvP isn't dead in losec (I already knew that) - but how many folks do it, and in what ships? I'm sure there is a large crowd of Rifter pilots running the solo game (I'll probably use it for my training since they are a bit cheaper than an Interceptor), but if you solo in frigates, what do you fly?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Gentrification of the Western Hemisphere

As I write this, the other "writing on the wall" is the fall of Fortress Delve and the IT Alliance. Let me be clear on the first point: I am not a part of any of the alliances involved in this, the end of the "Forever War" in EVE. I have never been in IT. I have never been in an IT renter or pet, and I have never been a member of any of the alliances that make up the so-called "Northern Coalition." However, I have been aligned with forces against IT pets, when a resident of Syndicate and Outer Ring, and I have been aligned against the NC during "Max 2" - the northern invasion of Winter/Spring 2010.

The Verite Rendition map is a brilliant map of the various alliances holding sovereignty in EVE. Unfortunately, it does not have the ability to take into account the meta-blocs of the game, like the DRF, ASWagon or the Northern Coalition.

From Vale of the Silent in the Northeast,across the entire northern hemisphere to Cloud Ring, all of those alliances can be treated as one group. This is the current "Northern Coalition" founded to stand against the threat of the now two-years dead Band of Brothers (BOB), and any iteration of alliance formed from the corporations that comprised BOB, including the now-mortally wounded IT Alliance. If you assume that IT Alliance, and it's pet/renters Black Star Alliance, HUN Reloaded and BLADE are merely dead men walking in Fountain and Delve, you see that over half of Nullsec will soon be held by the (now perhaps incorrectly named) Northern Coalition. I will not make broad future assumptions about changes to the NC - instead I assume that inertia will hold the NC alliances together with blue status for the foreseeable future. Examining the map with that in mind, it becomes quite clear that the Northern Coalition of alliances (which contains upwards of 50 thousand pilots) has created a vast safe haven for the individual members to earn ISK. This, in my humble opinion, is the straw that may break the proverbial camel's back in EVE.

Nullsec has long been held up as "high-risk high-reward" and for some time, this was true in many places, but in this gentrified western hemisphere, that will no longer be true. As far as the Carrier can jump, vast ISK fields stretch before the average NC pilot, with little true threat within striking distance.

The western hemisphere of EVE has the potential to completely destroy any hope of balance in game, far beyond the damage already done by the T20, PI reprocessing, or the moon-goo fiascos of the past. Where Technetium lined the pockets of corporation and alliance leaders within the NC (and for some, trickled down to the average pilot), the vast resources of risk-free nullsec have the potential to change the wallet balance of the average NC pilot from the hundreds of millions to hundreds of billions in a short time. Safe from Black Ops hotdrops (4.5 LY max distance) and with the vast resources of the supercapital rich NC a deterrent to any smaller alliance with delusions of invasion, pilots will be free to farm Sanctums, Havens, and of course to chain multi-million ISK Battleship rats in the true nullsec systems far from any real threat. This means that rather than earning a few hundred million ISK in income per month, these pilots can make billions. By turning the entire western hemisphere of EVE into a giant ISK faucet, the average NC pilot will be able to shrug off losing carriers or faction battleships the way empire carebears shug off Drake losses in missions.

Add to that the lack of available sovereign space for a new entity to grow large enough or rich enough to even consider threatening the NC bloc, then the solidification of the NC as the sole superpower in EVE is practically a foregone conclusion. The "problem" if it is to be considered one, is that the risk-to-isk ratio in nullsec is negated in this brave new world. Even today, with the ISK or even the stockpiles of ships that the NC has at it's disposal, no entity could sustain an assault upon this group long enough to break it. The average NC alliance can replace supercapitals without hesitation, while other alliances hesitate to replace any ships that do not exactly match fitting standards.

Is there a solution? Maybe, but not one that would actually change the game for years. CCP would have to change the costs of sovereignty modules and upgrades, they would have to dynamically change the value/quality of rats in systems based on the sovereignty levels or upgrades, re-adjust the T2 moon mineral balance for ship construction (again), all of which are artificial ways of constricting this vast meta-alliance. Even with changes to those items, it would literally take years (if not longer) to cause any significant dent in the wallets of these alliances. In addition, it's likely that with CCP's track record, any changes to costs would be even more detrimental to small alliances hoping to get a start in nullsec, making that activity even more of a non-starter.

The reality is, it's time to get a character into an NC alliance, and start farming. Although it's unlikely that your wallet will reach the pinnacles of ISK that the existing farmers have (after all, they are farming ISK as you read this from your empire mission hub), the imbalance at least moves up on a sliding scale, enabling you to maintain your position in this new, vastly unbalanced world. Those who aren't able to keep their position on the sliding scale (I'm looking at you, L4 mission runners) won't be affected until they join an alliance with delusions of grandeur and nullsec sovereignty.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Roaming for Destruction...

So this week on chat, a couple of us decided we really needed to see some pretty explosions. So the plan was formed to go roaming in 0.0 in Vagas/Rapiers Destroyers. We put the word out across the loose alliance of pilots we party with, and after much haggling for cooperative time, scheduled a 20:00 start on Saturday night. Our EU friends would be just settling down for a quiet evening, US would be somewhere in the middle of a Saturday. We would start out in losec, go visit the so-called "Pure Blind/Fade Short Bus Crew" and see the newly formed "Eye of Terror" in Cloud Ring. With 3-4 ships each, medical cloning moved to the staging system, and a handful of unfit backup ships, we should get a couple hours of fun.

The unofficial count had us at 6-7 folks, which is kind of small for a destroyer roam, but at formup we finally ended with 10 in fleet, which is just about enough to take on any single ship, BS or smaller, with luck and good planning. Form-up was a bit haphazard, since most of the pilots coming aren't part of a combat crew by nature, so we were far from ready at the 20:00 start time. EVE was busy that evening, with good sized gate camps and fleets moving through losec, rumors of a hot-drop carrier roam in Syndicate, and over 55k pilots logged in overall. Although we didn't lose any ships that night, earlier in the week a couple had been lost moving to the staging system (I personally lost a Thrasher and Pod to a super-sensor-boosted Phobos/Hurricane/Sleipnir gate camp that insta-locked pods two nights earlier). Anyway, so we are forming up around 20:00, and our initial staging system has become a bit active, with a known losec PvP alliance setting up gatecamps on the local travel routes, staging out of the same system. We adjust accordingly, and move a couple jumps to a less-active staging point while the last 4 stragglers travel to the staging system.

Finally, we have 6 of 10 pilots in the main system, and start our roam. First jump into 0.0 Cloud Ring - 3 neuts in local. Nothing on scan, so our scout checks a couple of belts, and we move off to the next gate. Jump into system 2, set up on gate for a minute. As we set up, local starts to climb and we start seeing ships on directional. Vagabond, Vagabond, Rapier, Buzzard, Purifier, Hurricane, Rupture. Any one of them, maybe even two, would be a possible target if our whole fleet were there, but this is an obvious response fleet to our arrival. We scramble into a rolling safe as the Buzzard pops combat probes and starts looking for us. Fortunately the pilot in the Buzzard is not very skilled, and we are able to avoid any warpins as we roll through the system. We decide to stand down back in losec while the defense fleet is up, and work our way back out of Cloud Ring. Jumping simultaneously with both hostile Vagabonds into W-4, we warp to a safe then bounce to the gate into Okagaiken. We scatter or dock in Okagaiken, while the response fleet enters local, starts looking around for us (total group was about 6 hostiles, so 1:1 ratio, except they were all in T2 Recons or BCs at this point, and we are in Destroyers). We hang tight, while the last 4 of our fleet are still working their way to us from Empire, and wait out the hostile fleet. Finally we have all 10 of us within a couple jumps, and the FC decides to try and back-door into Cloud Ring from Placid, through F7C. We work our way to Kehjari and meet up with the rest of the fleet (now 10 destroyers strong) but we are cut off by the hostiles, who are surprisingly effective on hampering our undisputed entry into 0.0.

As they cut us off on the way to Placid, we backtrack to Okagaiken and enter again through W-4. As we jump into 6-4, RL intrudes on my ability to continue the roam, as my 7 month old daughter (in my lap at the time) suddenly goes ballistic, and I have to logoffski while the roam continues. Note to self: trying to PvP with small children on your lap is not a good idea.


I was given an update by one of my corpmates later, that they made it into Fade, and were trying to take down a ratting Hyperion when a defense gang (I assume) from Sev3rance spoiled the party and destroyed the whole fleet. Although all ships were lost, it was deemed a successful op as we introduced 4 folks to nullsec in that roam, everyone was in implant-free clones, and ships that cost less than some of our medical clones. Everyone had fun, and (perhaps) next time we will try to organize a more balanced DPS/tackle/scout fleet and have a bit more success on the kill side.

Killboard link here.

The roam ended at that point, apparently the FC and at least 3 other pilots had RL interventions which could not be ignored. I got my ship and pod out unscathed the next night, during the SuperBowl, without seeing another active pilot in local in any of the systems.