Building an Empire

Sandcastles are part of any discussion about game design in EVE. Some build them. Some want to burn them down. Others just use them as a tool for their plans. Sovereignty was sold to players as a sandcastle’s builder dream. Your space is under your control. You can upgrade it. Make anomalies spawn if you put work into your system. Plant your flag and banner on the map. Build an outpost and upgrade it as needed. Name it. Build the station of your dreams, specialising it into what you need. All the tools an empire builder would want. But an empire is not just about building things, it’s also a narrative and an ideology. By providing builders with on ideology they can get behind, you obtain the backbone of your empire. A nation! The pilots sacrificing their time for your objective now have a goal – a way of life and culture they can fight for. All the things you need to give people the incentive to integrate with your empire and help expand it. In light of that, let’s have a look at the recent state of Sovereignty space. Maybe we can answer why the old empires are clamouring that nullsec is not worth the hassle to keep and why they are slowly shrinking and disappearing. From the old empires, only the CFC and Provi-bloc remain. F2NHW

Money for Nothing

First of all, I need to deal with the first argument people will use. It’s not a question of ISK. It’s not a question of making people rat in your space. Most of industry is done because people like it. EVE, sorry, Spreadsheets in Space, is calling to the same people that like to play Anno, X3 or The Settlers. They are not games where reward justifies the means. Their gameplay revolves around the creation of complexly functioning systems. They are games where you stop to admire your work after many hours – you play them for the sake of building. Speaking as the engineer I am, the satisfaction lies in being able to appreciate the elegance of your creation. You play them because you are a builder. EVE industry shares the same game design principles as these types of games. EVE economy is complex; it needs players to establish different lines of production, to deal with a lot of different products, to establish advanced logistical solutions, to find the right price from the multiple components and the time and effort needed at each step before reaching a final product. More than that, EVE has another element compared to the usual city builder game. It puts all that into a multiplayer PvP environment and forces you to cooperate with others. Your logistics are not run by NPCs. You can’t handle the whole production line alone. You have to organise a team of real people to create what you need, haul it, combine it and finally sell it. It’s what the last iteration of SimCity tried to do and failed at miserably. Once upon a time, sovereignty was a delicious honeypot for builders – a complex system of POS and PI to establish, outposts to construct and upgrade, titans to build. All these tasks were an amazing and delicate creation, needing a lot of dedicated people greasing the wheels, making their small piece of the puzzle work smoothly, building a complex system to produce a unique and amazingly complex product. Reading about it today reminds me of the people that worked on the Apollo program. Proud of their participation. Dedicated. A small part of something bigger and happy about it. When Steve (the first titan ever built) died, it was not the pilots nor the fighters that would not be able to use it anymore that cried. All the workers that participated in the complex production that gave birth to the first titan lamented their destroyed creation.

2010-01-23-06-45-46 The remains of Steve

But what is happening nowadays? Titans are sold daily. They still demand the work of dozens of people, but builders are not the backbone of alliance an anymore. They work alone and then sell their creation to a PvP alliance, assuming a PvP alliance doesn’t simply strongarm them into it. Outposts? They can’t be destroyed, meaning that we are slowly approaching the point where there is no need to produce more of them. The worst that could happen to your outpost is a big alliance taking it and blocking docking for everyone. But you know you can overcome that problem with military might at some point. Once you have enough outposts in your space, you don’t need to build new ones anymore. At worst you have to invest into upgrading them, but if you need an Amarrian outpost to produce and only have a Minmatar one, there is nothing you can do about that. You can squat in something someone built before. The chances of building your own outpost of exactly the right type and in the perfect place are slim, you’ll end up using what someone else has built. How is that a problem? When the possibility to build an outpost was introduced into New Eden, creating one was an adventure in itself. Empires were built to produce and protect one. People are still talking about the ISS (a corporation set up from an investment pool with the goal of creating and operating some of the first outposts) years after the initiative died. Today however, Providence-bloc, for example, have built an outpost in every system in their space. Now we are in the era of fighters. Players have forgotten that they used to fight for something. For their nation. For their ideology. To give their builders the tools they needed. To stop other builders in dominating a particular area of the market. Nowadays players just want to fight, conflict for conflict’s sake. They want the fights to be big and to involve big assets. They want them to be fun. However, this lacks meaning. Something meaningful is something you are ready to fight for. Something that means something to you. The builders are not here anymore to provide the meaning needed to build the backbone of an empire. Even Provi-bloc and the CFC are no exception to that. They are still relying on builders, but they have decided to become an autarky, isolating themselves. Taking space with the sole goal of bringing fights will not create empires. It will create mercenaries and barbarian hordes. Wait, isn’t that the exact description of the past years of sovereignty?


Sultans of Swing

And here comes the second part of an empire: the ideology, the leaders, the charisma part. A strong ideology and charismatic leaders is what kept most of the big alliances alive despite the lack of builders to give them meaning the past years. Of all the big empires, only the CFC ideology has survived the loss of builders. Only the Legion of xxDeathxx have survived from the alliances built around charismatic leaders. We also have survivors with foundations in ideology: Pandemic Legion – built around the idea that its members have reached the point where EVE is just a social fight club, and Test Alliance Please Ignore – which is based on… no one knows. They are the two survivors of that group, but they are pretty unique in their style. Do we lack charismatic leaders, ideology and narratives? Maybe. Or maybe not. Without builders to maintain and give goals, an ideology will not bloom into an empire. You need a symbiosis between an ideology and builders to produce the backbone of an empire. If all you want is to take a bunch of systems or recruit some fighters to follow you, then your ideology and charisma are enough. But once you need to seed a market, organise a moon mining and reaction empire, upgrade multiple outposts and infrastructure hubs, then you are going toward the next step. You are going to build an empire, and you will need to attract builders. You will need to create a nation. Aegis sov has suppressed the threshold that was keeping new ideologies from growing in null. Today you can invent your ideology, recruit a bunch of pilots, sort out some logistics and dive into sovereignty. Aegis sov has opened the possibility for baby empires to appear. So if you want to get out there and be the founder of the next empire, find people that share your ideas and attack a bit of space. You will maybe help create the next Provi-bloc or the next ISS. Without builders to give your culture with goals however, you will not get far.


Brothers in Arms

With Aegis sov, CCP have overcome one of the problems of sovereignty. They have created an ecosystem where new ideology and groups can appear and grow. Now, if we want sovereignty to produce a new generation of empires, these new infant cultures need to be fleshed out with goals. An incentive to come back, to build complex systems, to organise groups of people toward a distant goal. That’s exactly what the new structures and stargates could provide in the future. The new structures are interesting for a number of reasons. They can be equipped and organised in a lot of different ways. They are destructible, making your production line dynamic, avoiding the main problem of outposts. They will provide a never-ending goal for builders, needing to adapt as they lose them. They will have a deep level of choices and possible weaknesses, meaning that the production line will probably need to evolve with the metagame. And even better, they are easy to understand. They use the same interface and game design as ship fitting, which means that builders discovering the game will be able to go through that path right away. If you know how to fit a module to your ship, you can use a structure. I hope that builders will fall in love with sovereignty again. I’m seeing lot of new ideologies and cultures appearing in null, with many groups forming to seize a piece of that space. The west, south and even east are seeing a ton of new ideas given form. Will they mesh with builders, finding partnerships that will produce a new set of nullsec nations? Will they give birth to empires? I hope so. But to reach that point, these groups will need a bit of a dream. A spark lighting the need to go into null, bootstrapping them into becoming a new nation. That spark can be anything. A new “This is EVE” oriented toward nullsec. A new ambitious goal to achieve – like reaching new part of space . A number of charismatic leaders revealing themselves to the world. An unknown and sudden meta event. Anything can be that spark CCP have encouraged the birth of ideology and new groups. Developer teams are working to offer tools and possibilities to builders. A future of new empires is opening in front of us. All we need is a spark to light that fire and EVE will have a flourishing sovereignty space again. What if that spark is waiting in you, ready to spread in the cluster? You will only know if you try!
Tags: Aegis soverinty, diana, nullsec, sovereignty

About the author

Diana Olympos

Diana Olympos is one part logistics mastermind, one part avid fan of EWAR, sprinkled in with newbro training . Known as “the strange French guy”, he has the bad habit of overthinking every aspect of the game . He flies with Phoebe Freeport Republic in nullsec.

  • Druur Monakh

    I am not sure that you need builders to /create/ goals (though they surely can), but I agree that in order to have an stable empire, you need builders to reach those goals.

    And regarding the comment about playing games for the sake of building: I think that explains Minecraft; and just recently I read a developer comment (sorry, forgot to save the link) being surprised at the fact a lot of players in their Zombie-Survival game enjoy building infrastructure (instead of killing zombies and other players).

    • Diana Olympos

      Yeah. Ask any player of Simcity, Anno, Big Pharma, Space Chem, etc. They don’t get pleasure from reaching a point or a goal. They like the challenge it provide. The journey is more important than the goal.

      • Dirk MacGirk

        for how long? repeating the same journey(s) over and over again stalls at some point in the absence of meaning. What is the meaning of Eve? Let’s contemplate that for a while (smokes pipe).

        • Druur Monakh

          The same can be said about PvP – how often can you be in the same type of fleet, doing the same actions, before being bored? And if you’re not bored by that, what does that say about you?

          But back to the Builders in a game: some will certainly quit a game if they don’t get new stuff to build; but others will stick around, offering their services to other entities, or just have fun trying to further optimize their construction pipeline.

          • Kamar Raimo

            The PVP meta constantly evolves though, both because of changes CCP make and of tactics we develop. To be engaging the building part of EVE has to be just as fluctuating. Market trading already is, but industrial production is very much stuck in a rut.

          • Dirk MacGirk

            The building aspect of EVE is what propelled it through the years. The building of empires, both in terms of the organizations and the infrastructure they required/desired. Destruction was a key aspect that was missing. Not from the organizational side, as we saw plenty be destroyed or assimilated along the way. But the infrastructure side only had so far it could go before you just didn’t need anymore. The new structures may breathe some life back into the infrastructure side. I just wonder if the organizations that aren’t the most organized and powerful in the game will really latch on. Will they find the investment worthwhile relative to the risk and effort?

          • The game rules should stop advantaging lazy defenders, and increase the risks of ownership for larger established powers. Entosis is a good step, but the interceptor ban is a step back. It is their nullification properties that should have been degraded.

          • Dirk MacGirk

            Lazy defenders is too vague a term. Like saying some parts of nullsec are safer than hisec because of infrastructure and intel channels. Maybe it is safer, but only because the players made it however safe it is; not because CCP pre-built it and the safety is tied to the AI.
            What is a lazy defender? Is it one who simply won’t do anything to defend their space? Or is it one that has the ability to defend against a legitimate attack, but doesn’t want to be bothered with the annoyances of an otherwise impotent attacker just trying to draw him into a fight?
            Should the game be made to reward an otherwise impotent attacker by allowing him or them the ability to force a defender into action merely by lowering the bar? Organized empires can be harassed and should be harassed. But let’s not get to the point where we think harassment should equate to something more than what a lone wolf or small gang should be able to reasonably accomplish. We are talking about sovereignty warfare here, not just camping some lowsec gate.
            Perhaps entosis shouldn’t have been removed from ceptors. But unless they were willing to remove nullification, which they are not, then that was the logical outcome. Players can still get fast ships that go up to 4k m/s, but they’ll have to be slightly larger and without nullification. In most cases they can still run off grid. They’ll just have a harder time getting to where they’re going.

          • A lazy defender is one that need to be fed all details about an attack by API so that they do not have to commit bandwidth to have to go identify a threat in an area they are suposed to be active in, it is those that put ESS in anomalies to have the rats do the defense job for them and still benefit from extra income, or those that hide bugs under the rugs to make sure they can keep easily identifying siphons’ presence before days of moon harvest is gone. Fundamentally, those that want the game rules to facilitate their isk making, without having to do much themselves to protect their entitlements.

            What is an impotant attacker? An irregular frontiersman unwilling to fight a straight battle against british soldiers during the independance war to avoid impossible odds? When does an impotant attacker’s attacks start to lead to attacks that truly are weakening a larger force? Who can tell when the impotant attacker is not so impotant anymore?

            When a system prevents guerilla tactics by individuals, or small groups, at the same time as providing free intel about associates and general locations, and immediate reinforcement on most locations, you have the perfect orwelian combination of control and propaganda that leads to uncontestable power, stacked in favor of the older players. This leads to stagnation and submission, or the “farming” of opposition that will always be maintained in a state of impotance, until it quits or join the mold.

            The entosis introduced guerilla warfare into the sov mechanics of the game, but it is already weakened by propaganda that is designed to make sure that the first attemps at weakening stronger powers are perceived as trolling, so that the system rules can be modified to make guerilla tactics irrelevant. The interceptor ban is a blow already, together wih the too rapid regeneration of nodes and reduction of max jump fatigue so that cap forces can not be worn down anymore besides destruction as they will now regenerate for prime time every week.

          • Dirk MacGirk

            I totally agree that requests for more API-related details are over the top. But I also think there is too much API-related information out there now showing where timers are and all the types of information that should only be found by putting eyes on target or at least eyes on the in-game map. Plays too heavily into the hands of those with big IT infrastructure.

            I’m all for guerilla attacks. It’s where I get caught up in how they are in RL compared to a video game. Effective as hell versus a game where maybe they can be a bit abusive of another player’s fun time. I hope that even remotely sounds like what is in my brain. Because I tried very hard to not make a direct comparison between honest guerilla tactics and trolling, because the word troll has gotten kind of overused.

          • I agree that the stepping on the fun time of another player is truly the crux of the problem, especially when those players feel hurt in their ability to Play to Pay.

          • Kamar Raimo

            A lazy defender is someone like a certain alliance who would rather pay a small lowsec corp to not mess with their region instead of spending the same money on ships to fight them. I am not naming names, but this really happened recently.

          • Ben Ishikela

            Also Jumpfreighters provide Guerilla Warfare. Its essential.
            Also Jumpfreighers suffocate local economies. Build that supply lines.

            Then another Party has a challenge in building blockades. It has to form up to compete. At least it has the possibility.

        • The meaning of Eve is defined by each player individually. One years ago I set the goal to build my own capital by myself in a WH, and fly it (the first capital I ever flew). I achieved that and decided for another goal, harder to achieve. It is what Eve is all about, fundamentally.

        • Diana Olympos

          Long. Why does players keep playing Anno. Yeah. Because it’s the journey. Not the goal.

          There is always something to do if you are not in a static ecosystem.

        • Niden

          I find myself asking this very question. I personally find endless meaning in endless fighting for fighting’s sake and the glory and storylines that it entails. I think it’s dangerous to play EVE as a path towards a goal, because once you reach any goal it becomes meaningless. The variety comes from human beings, no in-game goal can provide real meaning in comparison. If you sacrifice human interaction to reach any in-game goal, you’re ultimately setting yourself up for failure.

  • All attempts at building new empires today will be merely tolerated until the efforts of the newcomers are squashed from within by infiltrated anonymous alts and, if needed, massive campaign of annihilation using overwhelming forces. No newcomers will ever get in the position of becoming a real threat to the Imperium, unless it falls first, or they sell their souls and become a pet. Join the Minarchist Revolution! The Imperium must fall.

    • callduron

      Even the Goons need motivation to spy. Back when it was life or death the Goon spies were heroes. Now though what are they going to say? “I infiltrated an emerging power and sowed dissent but tbh they would have fallen apart first time PL sneezed in their direction anyway?” Who will care?

      Contrast that with the epic stories Mittens and Sion tell about Bob and Lokta Voltera.

      • The current way of spying via anonymous alts is crap anyway. All rewards, little risk, really. If spies truly had to turn another player, and their alts, then the game would gain a new dimension that can not be entirely controlled by the players with the most ISK to plex their spying.

        • Kamar Raimo

          Oh my … one day I will take you up on that discussion point 🙂

  • FanOfChange

    Very good atricle, again a good insight to what ccp plans with the sov and structure changes, instead of merly crying like 99% of 00 sovholderbluedonutfans do.

    Thank you.

  • Tornike Khomeriki

    Thank you for this great piece. It was very pleasant to read about sov from a perspective that is not about timers, trollceptors and number of nods. Those are mechanics, and while there definitely are issues with mechanics, the main problem with sov in EVE has long been the overall frame in which all this fits:

    “Nowadays players just want to fight, conflict for conflict’s sake.
    They want the fights to be big and to involve big assets. They want
    them to be fun. However, this lacks meaning.”

    Exactly. Content without meaning will not achieve the experience you (as a dev) are looking for while introducing a system you hope will become immersive and create stories. Stories, allegiance, space you call home, varying geography are the ingredients you can base alliance/coalition content on, and that is all missing ATM.

    I sincerely hope citadels+Aegis sov can begin to change this.

  • Iam

    Stainwagon is still around from the old empires, aside from that was a good piece 🙂

    • YouAre

      Stainwagon is not the same as it used to be. 🙁

    • Kamar Raimo

      SOLAR and xXDeathXx have also been around for some time, but I think when it comes to consistently holding sov you have Provi and you have Goons+Coalition who lead the field. Although even then Goons are much younger as a power.

  • Viince_Snetterton

    If CCP wanted to bring the wonder back to the game, they would initiate massive changes that were kept completely quiet (yes, I know that the goons and other cartels know about every change via the CSM).

    People would wake up one morning to find that all ships above destroyer size have been reduced to a pile of minerals in the closest friendly station / outpost.

    Then they would look at their blueprints and note some slight increases to the minerals and components required to rebuild a ship.

    Cruisers would go up by a factor of 2.
    BC’s would go up by 5.
    BS’s would go up by 10.
    Capitals up by 20.
    Supercarriers by 50.
    Titans by 100.

    So now a Titan, instead of being around 60 billion, is 6 trillion. No longer something that can be pumped out like a loaf of bread, but a supercapital would again be a huge effort by an large group, And the wonder of seeing one would would go up the same rate as the cost of building one, bringing back the days of old.

    And of course, outposts would be destructible, as promised years ago.

    • Kamar Raimo

      Is it true that Dinsdale Piranha nailed your head to the floor?

      • Viince_Snetterton

        Ethel the Frog is the masterwork of humanity.

        • Kamar Raimo

          I am sure Harry “Snapper” Organs would agree.

    • Dirk MacGirk

      what about if everyone woke up and this was suddenly a single-login game? A game where each individual player was somehow worth more than they are today and working together for a common goal came down to something more than some fraction of the number of alts they control.

      But I can assure you that would go over poorly if players found they couldn’t alt-account their way to not needing so many of the others around them

      • Druur Monakh

        That would make some of my supporting gameplay more difficult, but not my main gameplay.

      • Kamar Raimo

        Very radical. It would make EVE even much more challenging but it would at the same time level the playing field too because one of the advantage that old players have is the availability of alts.

        • Diana Olympos

          Disagree. Alts are a bonus for new players, not old one. As a new player, the only reason I’m not just a random pvper ratting in pfr is because i have alt account to train hauling and market.

          • Dirk MacGirk

            Eve is undoubtedly a game of alt accounts. Always has been since before PLEX was introduced (although that did ramp it up during the years of cheap PLEX). But to take it in a direction where running multiple accounts simultaneously was not a normal thing, like Elite Dangerous, would require a radical shift across a whole number of aspects of Eve, namely the grind for ISK and raw materials. It would never happen, but I do wonder what that Eve would look like.

            Good article by the way. Enjoyed it along with the various comments

          • Kamar Raimo

            I guess what I meant to say was that older players are much more likely to be able to PLEX accounts and their experience makes it possible for them to create powerful synergies between alts.

          • Alts are a bonus for everyone, but help older players even more so. Good luck building your empire without sucking up to goons or PL.

      • Making all alts of the same player public is the first step in that direction…

    • Diana Olympos

      Well if that happened… you have not changed anything. You have just cleaned some things. But that’s all. And you have lost the possibility to test your change so if it does not work you killed your game. GG but not really a winning strategy.

  • Druur Monakh

    EVE Vegas Presentation about Goonswarm’s Logistic Branch:

  • Michel de Tellier

    It seems like Aegis sov will mainly serve as a transition. It’s good that the future of structures will involve their necessary destructibility, but even this is asynchronous. What’s been missing all along is interdependence between structures and ships, especially capital ships.

    Go back to armies and navies throughout human history. Even the most modest ones had a necessary retinue of camp followers supplying goods and services. Prosecuting wars takes resources, and a place to tend your horse. The need for convoys hasn’t gone away since the time of Xerxes.

    Structures should be important to movement and staging. The should be essential not only for construction, but also for routine maintenance. They should be crucial for processing raw ice into fuel. We think everything of losing fleets, and nothing of losing regions. Ideally, much of the resources and means of obtaining those fleets should come via structures.

  • Ben Ishikela

    I enjoyed that read. It inspired me to rediscover the builder in me 🙂

    There are some points that i dont want to keep from you. It can help make Industry appealing for more players on top of the changes that are about to come.

    1) remove jumpfreighers. (suffocates local economies, has not enough counterplay) (yes its required currently (bordom, burnout, lack of alternatives). but with other changes coming there might be a right time.)
    2) complex contract system. where one can edit “if-then-else” statements. (it will help make those very much needed imho “supplier contracts”: §§if you give me 10veldspar each weak, i give you 10trit each weak. if one of us fails, the other gets the collateral. colateral: 10isk. both parties pay half of it.§§ –> lower threshold for industrial groups and less trust required.
    3) new structures ofc
    4) blueprint stacking and selling. one run is one item. ME and TE are different items and can be individually researched or “found”.
    5) solving the 0.01isk game. it slows adjustment of prices and also keeps botting attractive. maybe solution? : when something is bought or sold, the server looks at the 1% (or x%) range of that order. if there are any other orders in this range, make a diceroll where every order (in that range, including the one picked by the player) has an equal chance (based on size?) of getting picked instead. –> implication example: “want to fire sale something? guess you have to reduce the price by more than just 0.01isk.)

    Thats it for now. Have fun wth it.

    • Dermeisen

      Intuitively I think this is fascinating, but I honestly don’t have enough understanding of this area of this game to really appreciate the impact of these ideas. Designing conditional buy orders should cool, creativity should certainly be rewarded, 0.01isk is not creative. The mixed strategy counter you suggest is useful as foil to 0.01isking and has a pedigree.

      • jasperwillem

        It would be great if we could buy and sell constructed packages in game, just like the financial markets do. The problem is that the game environment wherein the trade volume is known mostly and fixed within usage, it wont happen soon. Last year on EVEsterdam I told what EVE misses in that regard, something I discussed with Dr. Enjo in Reykjavik; Decay and Branding. Atm you cannot brand your work / worklines / etc… . And then, people speculating don’t have to worry about vast hangers with all kind of stuff in them, with the introduction of citadels we finally get a waste factor in EVE for products in hangers, it would be great if the risk for waste was much higher. But most of CCP staff is afraid of the player base crying out in tears if their would be to much decay of goods in any way.

  • jasperwillem

    Very nice read, thx.