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:
- improve the pain of structure shooting (failure)
- enable upgraded systems to support up to 100+ pilots (failure)
- increase the cost of a sprawling empire (failure)
- move sovereign battles away from tower shooting festivals (success)
- enable official treaties and rental agreements with other entities (MIA)
- enable small "roaming gangs" to impact your day-to-day activities (failure)
- force players to develop strategies for conquest beyond warp-target-shoot (failure)
- improvement of the industrial base of a nullsec empire (failure)
- Return the mothership to the battlefield as a combat ship (success)
- 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."
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