Providence Skies On Fire

Ever since Goonswarm associated themselves with the cosplay enthusiast and comedic roleplayer Max Singularity, tongue-in-cheek saber-rattling against the Providence bloc has been a common occurrence in EVE-related media. More seriously, The Mittani had declared that the newly rebranded Imperium would use Providence as a test-case for large-scale warfare under the new sovereignty system. When the Aegis update came, nothing happened initially, but then the war against Providence was finally declared for the last week of August. It was supposed to be a quick campaign of destroying jump-bridges and burning all sovereignty related infrastructure in the region to the ground. The result was not quite what The Mittani had outlined in his battle plan, but it nevertheless became a positive experience for both parties, probably against the expectations of many.

The Imperium vs. The Empire

This conflict was fought between two unique antagonists. Goonswarm and their Imperium are currently the undisputed superpower in EVE, while the Providence bloc around their core of Curatores Veritates Alliance (CVA) and Sev3rance is nothing less than the oldest still existing power in sovereign nullsec. Before Goonswarm even existed, CVA had conquered space in the nullsec region bordering the Amarr Empire. With “Operation Deliverance” they did not only write themselves into player history but even became part of New Eden’s lore. CVA and the other Providence Holders did not simply want to claim space, they sought to establish a new province of the Amarr Empire where peaceful neutral players could move about safely while aggressors were hunted with impunity. Over the years the Providence Holders weathered many storms and even lost much of their space on occasions, but they always rebuilt, and eventually their proverbial sandcastle became a massive fortress. 1_15 For years, the amount of outposts, stations and sovereignty structures that had been built in the Providence region acted as a deterrent against any serious invasion. Under the previous sovereignty system, an invader would face a mind-numbing grind that could even wear out the supercap fleets of major powers. Adding to that was the factor that none of the more pragmatic nullsec alliances desired to live in that region. It offers mediocre opportunities for income generation through PvE and the proximity to lowsec meant a constant exposure to hit-and-run attacks from opponents who can stage in the safety of empire space. Attacking Providence would inevitably mean occupying it too, because the mindset of the Providence Holders would virtually require them to come back and reconquer “their” space. As a result of their well-established position, the Providence Holders were viewed as arrogant, corrupt and outdated by the younger powers of EVE, and quite a few would enjoy being able to break their hold on the region. All those factors played a role in The Imperium’s choice of Providence as their test-case for post-Aegis sov-warfare. It would be a sufficient challenge albeit that actual conquest would not be a goal. The Holders were rich and determined enough to rebuild their region after an invasion, and few—if any—would come to their aid. With Max Singularity as the figurehead who provided an entertaining narrative, The Imperium’s war machine was ready to grind into gear.

Order Of Battle

The battle plan of The Imperium was well tailored to the new system and very different from their usual strategic doctrine. In past wars, the coalition would deploy to a strategic staging system and then move from one TiDi-plagued massive fleet battle to the next like a steamroller. In this deployment, individual alliances would be assigned a constellation or two and tasked with devastating the local sovereignty infrastructure. The time of the attack was well picked with an initial strike planned on the monday before the Galatea expansion would be deployed. That meant any Entosis hacks of the first offensive could be done with the existing mechanics which strongly favoured fast ships and generated a high number of command nodes to fight over, but the defensive response would already be subject to new rules which nerfed the maximum speed of hacking ships and reduced the number of spawning nodes. Based on that advantage, The Mittani predicted that the objective could potentially be reached within a week or even less. chLrBh2 That announcement made me raise my eyebrows. Traditionally Goonswarm and their coalition were not particularly successful with blitzkrieg tactics. During the initial stages of most conflicts, their fleets were regularly plagued by failures. What usually decided wars for them was the dogged endurance their forces maintained throughout a campaign. In this invasion, they would not only have to act quickly and decisively, but they could also not use their “bloc level FCs” to full effect. Without having all forces concentrated in one place, fleet commanders of the individual alliances had to lead their own members into battle. Many of those “junior FCs” were not necessarily experienced in fighting the running battles they would be confronted with under the new system. Although The Mittani spoke with his usual high level of confidence, the results of spreading out the coalition across a whole region were far from certain under consideration of the Imperium’s previous achievements. The Providence forces, on the other hand, have long dealt with constant small-gang action and mid-size battles occurring in their region. For years, people have come to Providence for the PvP content that was possible in that nullsec environment, and the local forces would regularly engage them according to their anti-pirate doctrine. Despite the fact that Providence collectively applies an NRDS (Not Red Don’t Shoot) policy, they have a very extensive list of “reds” which could be engaged on sight. One thing Providence FCs had less experience with was large coordinated fleet battles, and it had been a long time since they faced an attack by a force that outnumbered them as significantly as The Imperium. Of course, they were also just as new to the Aegis mechanics as everyone else. While the threat of an Imperium invasion loomed over them, I had asked different members of the Providence bloc whether they were worried about the prospect, but the responses ranged from confidence to cautious enthusiasm about the opportunity to fight a major battle.   Since nullsec had lacked any major sovereignty related conflict for a considerable time, it was only natural to expect third-party involvement. Also in that respect The Mittani expressed confidence. According to him, the serious contenders didn’t “get Fozziesov” and would apply the wrong strategy. Because The Imperium would only be deployed for a week or even less, he was also not worried about any attacks against their home regions. As it turned out, none of the traditional enemies of The Imperium made an appearance, but Brave Newbies (BNI) announced their deployment to Providence, not necessarily to support the locals, but definitively with the intention to fight against Imperium forces. Following that, Test Alliance Please Ignore (TEST) declared war on BNI and would deploy to the region as well. On the Imperium side, Legion of xXDeathXx announced their support. Mostly because they hoped for this conflict to expose the flaws of the new sovereignty system which they are strongly opposed to. With the stage set in that way, the first region-wide attack under the Aegis mechanics began.

Not Quite What We Expected

Collectively, Providence had a reputation of being the home to docile PvE players and less than stellar fighting forces. However, it turned out that they could hit pretty hard when dealing with mid sized fleets. They immediately claimed first blood by devastating a Goonswarm Machariel fleet. The response from Goonswarm was the usual nonchalant declaration that neither ISK nor individual battles matter to them in the larger scheme of things, but that initial engagement soon became a pattern. In the first larger conflict, Providence also relied heavily on attack battlecruisers capable of high-damage alpha-strikes while The Imperium employed interdiction-nullified Tengus, maneuverable heavy assault cruisers and even that old staple of nullsec fleet warfare, the Drake. Third parties like xXDeathXx and their Geminate allies, a fleet of Pandemic Legion and a contingent of BNI also participated in that fight which spread out over ten systems. tumblr_n4xrku4wX81rpi9zro1_500 When the Infrastructure Hubs across Providence became vulnerable, the fighting intensified. On the 26th of August fights spread across twenty systems and resulted in the destruction of hundreds of ships worth in total over 100 billion ISK. What became clear by that day was that the invasion of Providence would not be quite as swift as The Mittani had intended. After four days of fighting not even half of the IHUBs in Providence had been destroyed, and while a few systems changed hands, Providence forces quickly regained them. While Imperium hecklers were already starting to play their “We are not winning fast enough” card, something else emerged that was rather more interesting than a quick one-sided victory. People were having fun! During the last few years, the prospect of fighting a war over sovereignty was not high on the list of preferred activities for many veterans of the game. In fact, avoiding it seemed to be a higher priority for many. Grinding through Providence was considered to be particularly tedious, and fighting against Goonswarm was also everything but popular due to their relentless use of demoralisation tactics which had the declared goal of making a fight against them as terrible as possible. In this case, however, commentators from both sides expressed their positive feelings about the experience. Line members and FCs on the Imperium side were impressed by the effective defense from Providence members and many complimented the fighting spirit of their opponents. The defenders were no less positive. Contrary to widely held belief, there are quite a few enthusiastic PvPers in Providence, and they loved the challenge of going toe-to-toe with the Imperium one fleet at a time. Personally I can not remember the last time anybody expressed enthusiasm about having been in a sovereignty war with Goonswarm, but apparently this is what happened here.
“…apparently fighting a war under Aegis mechanics is not quite as horrible as they predicted.”
The different third-parties also had their fun, and even those who were not engaged in the conflict itself gained something from it indirectly; Out of Sight and Mordu’s Angels managed to trap and kill a Ragnarok and a Wyvern in Goonswarm’s home system while the more proficient fighters were occupied down south. If there is anyone who potentially walks home dissatisfied from this week of fighting, it’s probably Legion of xXDeathXx, because apparently fighting a war under Aegis mechanics is not quite as horrible as they predicted.

Lessons Learned

In this week all involved parties have gained valuable insights what sovereignty warfare will look like with the new mechanics, but we can all take something away from what can be called the first actual test of this new system. Other than the immense brawls of the past, we saw varied doctrines fielded by several different combatants. Certainly numbers still count, and it is unlikely that any organisation except The Imperium can even attempt to cover a whole region in a few days. They may only have destroyed half the IHUBs, but that is still rather impressive in such a short time, especially when considering that this deployment went completely against any established strategy previously applied by Goonswarm and their allies. However, this fight has also shown that even an outnumbered defender can be successful if they apply themselves and mount a proper defense. In this way, sovereignty warfare has become much more similar to Factional Warfare where multiple fleets have to fight against each other at different times and with varied tactics. Galatea I am sure that theorycrafters are already evaluating the results, but one thing I learned from the many comments on the conflict is that high-speed artillery fit Claws appear to be very effective against the infamous “trollceptors” and Entosis Svipuls. We can also see that battlecruisers are not quite as irrelevant as many have made them out to be. Providence relied heavily on attack battlecruisers and if one side unironically fields Drakes then I am confident that we don’t have to write off the battlecruiser class as completely useless. When looking over the battle reports, we still see battleships and capitals vastly underrepresented in comparison to the past, but at this point the last word is not spoken yet. This particular exercise did not involve the complete destruction of all Providence assets, and with the Citadel structures coming up, I feel confident that there will be a place for powerfully tanked siege warfare ships. What surprised me the most was the generally positive response from many involved players. If this new sovereignty system can produce fights that keep people genuinely entertained for several days, it can’t be all that bad. Certainly it isn’t perfect yet, but Imperium and Providence have done us all a big favour by testing it out in a way that comes very close to an actual sov-warfare scenario. I hope that the right people from both sides take their conclusions to CCP and discuss the merits and flaws of the system with the developers in a constructive way. Unfortunately Corebloodbrothers has left the CSM, it would have been great to have a Providence member who was at the forefront involved in an internal discussion about potential changes to the system, but at least the Imperium still has their representatives on the CSM. In the end, I also want to express my compliments to The Imperium strategists for thinking out of the box and coming up with a way to use the new system instead of following the trend of just complaining about it. Although I am not involved in this part of the game anymore, I was quite sceptical about this new system, but when it works in such a way that even a war instigated by Goons is enjoyable for all involved parties, it can’t be all that bad. As I close my commentary of the most recent chapter of EVE history, I invite you to listen to this nice piece of music which inspired the article’s title and undoubtedly many Providence pilots.
Tags: aegis, Fozziesov, Imperium, nullsec, providence, sovereignty, tarek

About the author

Tarek Raimo

Former nullsec spy (no not under that name of course) and current failure at lowsec solo PVP, Tarek spends his time not logging in to the game as much as he keeps thinking about its social and metagame nature and sharing some of those thoughts with the CZ readers.

  • MukkBarovian

    10/10 Would Invade Again

    • Kamar Raimo

      I am sure you have a stockpile of Claymores ready 🙂

      • MukkBarovian

        I have entire fleets in my hangar.

        • Druik Arbosa

          Mukk, will you be doing an article about the campaign and what could be done to improve the mechanics?

  • This should prove to only be the start, I hope. If this was the result against a very dug in foe, it will be interesting to hear how things go when two large foes go at it that haven’t yet maximized their ADMs or who are not as densely populating their systems. Meanwhile we have smaller players like A Band Apart and such even claiming space. I guess all capsuleers have to do is set aside the salt and actually just set out to have some fun…

    • Kamar Raimo

      ” I guess all capsuleers have to do is set aside the salt and actually just set out to have some fun.”

      Indeed. Certainly trollceptors are annoying, but when has EVE ever been free of irrelevant trolling. Eventually people will just take it as such and not bother anymore with hacks that are essentially meaningless. The thing I was worried about most with the new system is that taking sov would take too long, but this test match demonstrated that a contest for sov can be a matter of days rather than weeks and while it is going on, there is constant fighting rather than beating the opponent in one 20 hour brawl and then gritting your teeth for a week of grinding structures.

  • Saint Michael’s Soul

    Aegis Sov Detractors please note: “People were having fun”. If you try it like its meant to be done, maybe you’d like it too.

  • Dirk MacGirk

    I was there, I look back on it fondly for what it was. Four days with a lot intentionally crammed into a short period of time. Do I want to do it every day or every week or every month? Nope. What made Provi fun was both sides showed up and it was limited in scope. Not a true sov war, but some interesting content. More like wargames than war.

    No sov mechanic is any fun if it doesn’t lead to an eventual clash. Defenders who don’t care or who are overwhelmed enough to not care won’t make it fun, and loners ringing the doorbell and running away don’t make it fun. I’m still pretty unsure if this sov mechanic encourages or discourages a level of engagement that is sustainable for enough players to matter. This mechanic requires quite a bit of commitment and commitment requires a worthwhile reason.

    • Druik Arbosa

      As opposed to dominion sov?
      I’m fairly certain that required commitment and dedication too.

      • Dirk MacGirk

        Absolutely, Dominion Sov required commitment as well. But the calculations of whether to commit at all were almost done ahead of time. Force too big or too much to handle in whatever way, let it be. No point losing the objective and being murdered. And by and large it was only when SBUs got dropped or at one of several timers. It was very much about a specific place at a specific time and that allowed both sides to focus fire.

        The commitment here just felt (yes, a feeling) like it was more. A lot more moving pieces in that second stage that really requires you to up your game. A smaller entrenched enemy can really force you to take way more in-game time to achieve objectives. I think that is a good thing for a mechanic, it seems more realistic, but I am concerned about whether its worth it. That’s all. I find the mechanic to be very tactical in nature with lots of possibilities. In the end, I think you’ve really got to want what you’re fighting over here more than in the old system. I think the blob will always win out in this, just as it basically did before, but it will be more painful along the way. Whether that pain leads to something positive, more activity than before rather the less, is what I’m still pondering.

        • Druik Arbosa

          Cheers, that also answered a question I had about defenders and how they dealt with larger forces, I was concerned that they going to get rolled as opposed to having options to use to fight those greater numbers.
          I mean a greater force is always going to have more options, due to number, but at least the defender has a fighting chance.

          • Dirk MacGirk

            I don’t think so at all. I mean, they could get rolled as far as space combat, but they could also engage in nothing but guerilla warfare and kill/jam entosis ships as much as possible in order to slow the attacker’s process. Actually I would expect that in any situation. I’m not saying they win in the end, but this isn’t just about dropping all the things on a hub/station/tcu and just grinding down the HP while the defender watches helplessly. Neither side has it easy. And as I witnessed in Provi from the side of the attacker, hours and hours go by and I could literally watch my rage meter ticking up because of the frustration that builds. More skill is required to manage an attack or defense. Its not just spies and D-scans of the enemy forming up then figuring out if you can “take the fight”. I just wonder if its too realistic in the “war is hell” kind of way when both sides are doing it “right”. Meaning both sides show up. Then on the other end of the spectrum you’ve got the trolls and doorbell ringers who just want to create annoyance and get you off the couch to check an alarm. Call it the day-to-day hassle of owning Sov to begin with. Those pesky kids. Anyway, I ramble. But I have come from being highly skeptical to accepting of it, with reservations related to my own wants and needs. If that makes any sense at all. lol

          • Kamar Raimo

            Your key statement is indeed that it is more “realistic”. In any game of strategic warfare that has the slightest ambition to reflect the reality of large scale conquest, you will have to deal with guerilla attacks in the hinterland.

            Whether it’s “worth it” is a different question, but I increasingly get the feeling that people approach that question in a very particular way. Many appear to only concern themselves with min-maxing their playstyle for income, but that is far from the only motivator to play a game. ISK is a means to an end in EVE, but not necessarily an end in itself.

            As I pointed out in the piece, Provibloc does not only live in that space because it is the best place to be, they have a narrative behind that too. PFR is also a group who have an idea about what they want in nullsec rather than simply an income maximising approach.

            I have the impression that too many players have trapped themselves in the mindset of ISK per hour, and maybe they have to let go of that. After all, if a war can be fought with less capitals and generally cheaper ships, the need for extremely high income becomes less as well.

          • Dirk MacGirk

            As plentiful as ISK earning potential is everywhere, for the rank and file, I don’t know how much that matters anymore. Alliance level income is still a thing as alliances plan for the possibility of some economically devastating loss. Padding that rainy day fund in the case of something that seems less and less likely to happen. Eventually something will happen. Eventually.

            My bigger concern is that space seems pretty plentiful right now. Plenty of room for people to inhabit null and make ISK if they want to. I’m not sure there is reason for them to do it through violence or for existing holders to go too far in attacking another holder in order to acquire new or better territory. But I do agree that some players think too much about acquiring wealth, not necessarily as a means to an end, but as an end goal itself. Damn those pesky human behaviors getting in the way of video game violence

  • X Gallentius

    The bigger key is how quickly Provibloc retakes systems. Also, can an Invading force HOLD an area without actually living there.

    • Kamar Raimo

      Well, I think the intention of the system is quite clearly that people should live in the space they conquer. For years people have complained about the sov wastelands where nobody lived. I don’t think it would be sensible to bring that back.

      • Thomas

        That does mean though that there’s going to be a lot more room in null sec which means actual wars are less likely unless the population grows a lot or there’s a larger reward for holding sov.

        • Kamar Raimo

          Wars were not that common in the last few years either, and there were large stretches of nullsec completely empty.

          I agree though, we will probably not see any more major wars than we saw in the past. I do see a chance – however – for constant smaller conflicts to happen between groups who could gain a foothold in the empty space that is left unoccupied.

          That being said, I also see an increasing need for CCP to attract new players and to do so in a way that does not create unrealistic expectations. As much as players complain that massive mediagenic battles will not occur under the new system, events like B-R, 6VDT and Asakai were a “once per year” thing even before Aegis, and two of those battles happened purely because of a mistake. Using them as a marketing vehicle is unrealistic to the extreme.

          • And the last big wave of players came in from “This is Eve”, which was more about what players could really do rather than the spectacle of the rare, huge, TiDi driven battles of the past.

          • Kamar Raimo

            Yes, a very good move into the right direction which should be followed up consistently.

  • bob@wormholes.com

    Down with fozzies, o wait you actualy liked it, lol .
    All that needed to change was the way null dudes think about sov.
    Face it , like the big roman empire fell and gave birth to many smaller european nation, so will fozziesov change null sec, and it will be more fun… .

  • Freelancer117

    Awesome read, thanks for mentioning the Claw.

    It has been a long time since I flew in null-sec.

    For over 6 months I flew Minmatar interceptors,

    without losing one, and thas was Pre-Rubicon !

    Here is my PvP Entosis fit for the Galatea patch:

    [Claw, PvP & Entosis]

    Damage Control II

    Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste

    Gyrostabilizer II

    Micro Auxiliary Power Core I

    5MN Cold-Gas Enduring Microwarpdrive

    F-12 Nonlinear Tracking Processor, Optimal Range Script

    280mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet Depleted Uranium S

    280mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet Depleted Uranium S

    280mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet Depleted Uranium S

    Entosis Link I

    Small Auxiliary Thrusters I

    Small Processor Overclocking Unit II

    Regards, a Freelancer

    PS: bring also a tracking speed script, and quake and tremor s
    You never know what to except on the battlefield, fly deadly 🙂