CZ Minutes: Null and Void


Welcome to another episode of  CZ Minutes. Hopefully you all have a feel for the format after last week. After the mess that was HED-GP, the conversation this week has turned to the question that has plagued Eve for years – how do we fix Dominion nullsec mechanics? 

Things to bear in mind when reading this… Try and remember that different writers are coming at this from different angles whether it be PL, CFC, lowsec or highsec. Editing has been kept to an absolute minimum. Unlike our normal articles during the week, this is a pretty ‘raw’ feed with writers expressing their views, blemishes and all. 

Keep your feedback coming in and feel free to suggest a subject for next week!

Xander: Another week, another CZ. In light of the recent fighting in Catch, in particular HED-GP and the carnage in that battle from a technical perspective, various people have been clamouring for the long-awaited fix to sovereignty. The question I put to you all is ‘what is the solution?’ Is nullsec sovereignty fixable and, if so, how? Is this a question of server power and gigabytes of RAM or purely one of game design? Have at it folks…

Jeg: Sov should be fixed by making it free for Jeg to hold all sov and for any opposers to have to grind 100x the hitpoints. Discuss. Actually, piss taking aside, the structure grind is awful. If nothing else, that shit needs removed.

Forlorn: The current sov mechanic has a few flaws. It heavily depends on many timers there are for a particular system and stations add at least three more. To successfully conquer a station system you need to win at least 7 times in a row. This is where a new sov system needs to start from: remove the massive amount of timers. Keep a few but not that many.

Niden: I think null stands to benefit a lot from the lessons learned in Faction Warfare, since it’s inception it has turned lowsec into a living and thriving thing. I know you’re thinking that I’m toeing the party line here, but why not transplant some of the mechanics and ideas and use them for null sov? Certainly it would address some of the key problems; diversifying and distributing combat, stimulating actual and much more varied PvP. Meddling in the current mechanics is a pointless gesture in my eyes, the system needs replacing – not overhauling. Switch out the engine rather than put on a new paint job.

Jeg: There are a number of factors to consider in null sov that are potentials for fixing. The timers/structure grind nature of the current mechanics encourage blobbing. Effectively you are forced to throw huge resources at something at a specified time. That in itself makes for some epic battles, however as was shown in HED recently, encouragement of the blob simply means that the finite resources on a server/node are going to be completely used at some point. The only clear way I can think of to discourage the blob is to remove, or diminish the focus on ‘timers’. I am certain that is not the only thing that needs ‘fixing’ in null.

Niden: Couldn’t agree more. Make taking / holding / defending sov about combat and strategy instead of who has the most stuff. Distribute combat by using plexes – just like FW – giving subcaps a clear and decisive role to play.

Jeg: I am not sure that distributing combat in ‘space’ is the answer. Certainly spreading the fight out to something that takes more time, is more gradual and where a huge force really is not required seems more sensible. Sov should be difficult to take and without a doubt there needs to be co-ordinated and concerted effort. But the peaks and troughs of effort need to be flattened into something less concentrated. I have heard thoughts along the lines of spreading fights across multiple systems. That works great for entities that want huge swathes of space, but the small alliance starting out probably only wants to fight for a single system.

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HVAC: Spreading combat around actually fucks the little guy and further increases the need for coalitions. The ultimate goal is to bunkerbuster them, not make create a larger dependency. But I guess we can just stop having the discussion, because Trebor just fixed sov with one blog post:

Forlorn: :cripes: Anyhow, stations are my biggest concern. Space is too safe. We are now close to 1000 player owned stations and most of them are only dropped due to the additional timers they add to defenders. Look at Providence: 71 stations in 84 systems. This is creating too much secure space with no penalty. As said some timers are good, but null sec would profit from less secure systems. There is no need to live in a constellation when you can create enough AFK timers and when needed you roar the Horn of Gondor. Stations need to be moved out of the sov mechanic. Actually CCP should remove them completely and replace them with a deployable, destructible outpost. You can actually put new deployables there, replacing the IHUB with small hackable upgrades. You want a higher bounty? Sure, put that deployable near your outpost. But small ganks can generate small gank content while they can use the minigame to hack in the deployable and remove % of income for 4h or something like that. So that it is worth enough to fight during a normal timespawn for an average player. So it is worth fighting that small gank and not use the next jb to your next ratting system. I can think of many such small goals that can be done easily as we can see by CCP’s recent development.

Niden: I still don’t see anyone commenting on using the FW system.

Forlorn: FW system is just another system of timers or things to orbit. The FW system works well for FW and small ganks (~50 pilots). It does not scale well with 30k man coalitions. I flew in FW and while my knowledge is probably not perfect I can validate it well enough.

HVAC: I don’t know if they should just delete outposts. A lot of ISK and manpower were put into them and I just can’t imagine CCP deleting them. Should they make them destructible in some fashion? Absolutely. But they shouldn’t delete assets like that, otherwise it would set a dangerous precedent. But if it ultimately leads to one day having zero titans and supercaps on Tranquility, then it may be worth it.

Forlorn: There could be a transition time like they used it for Dominion. A 30 day timeframe for example. Stuff that didn’t get moved out before day X gets ‘scripted’ to corps/individual’s HQ hangar somewhere in low or high. But that shouldn’t be a reason to not do it, CCP proved several times that they can deploy these delicate things to TQ without breaking stuff. Or when they do they can fix it pretty fast.

HVAC: I was talking more about the effort to put them there, since it isn’t exactly snap of the fingers and they magically appear. I don’t think they should be outright removed, but let players deal with the issue themselves by allowing them to be destroyed.

Forlorn: Fair point. I still remember when null was empty and there were around 20 stations when I started to care and we are close to 1000 now. Of course they are not THE problem but they are part of it.

HVAC: I’m torn on actually changing Dominion. While sov should have been changed years ago, I’ve yet to hear a proposal which isn’t as bad as what we have now. While I absolutely hate Dominion with all my heart and it absolutely needs to die, I’m scared that the alternative is worse. ‘Farms and fields’ was a great buzzterm, but the minute I hear that you need to rat or mine to keep your sov from becoming more vulnerable, I’ll want to throw up. The first CTA I see for a mining op, I’ll quit EVE forever.

Forlorn: PL has no sov to speak of 😉 Pretty sure CFC and PL agreed on farms and fields with the OTEC agreement but that is not what CCP had in mind. Anyhow a good mix of activity based and timer based sov would be great. Although I can’t think of a proper way to handle sov warfare that is activity based. Upgrades or incentives for activity are missing in Dominion. Upgrades like gate guns, local chat jammer, industry slots… that could be based on activity. Sov ownership itself I can’t really see working. Large blocs profit from activity, small groups especially alliances that recruit for a specific country might not be able to compete.

HVAC: In theory I agree with everything F&F intended but I just hate the idea that ratting or mining being a requirement to maintain sov. Extended deployments would be mostly gone, etc. CCP may be in a no-win situation here, and I certainly don’t envy any of the game designers that have to deal with this mess. But only if they deal with it, not just ignore it for years like they have been.

Niden: Maybe I’m an idiot but don’t see why the FW system couldn’t scale up. For one it would force people to divide their forces, addressing the blob issue somewhat, second it would enable subcaps.

Forlorn: CFC can field 1000 pilots easily, N3 can bring 500 man within 5 minutes notice. Please explain how 5 combat plexes would change that.

Niden: 5 plexes = dividing said large forces into smaller units, enabling a smaller force to use guerilla tactics.

Forlorn: So your small alliance just got steamrolled by a coalition where 20 FC just controlled all plexes while your small guerilla force had to run home. I am not sure how familiar you are with null sec fleets in the current environment but on the last Saturday in HED-GP there were ~25 FCs in the PL command channel giving orders plus Logi control guys, probers for crashes ships, bomber wings, scouts and so on. Those can easily arrange keeping all needed fleets active and fighting. Splitting these forces won’t change a thing.

Niden: How would splitting a large force into smaller ones not change a thing? Granted there are FCs for all of it, but still the engagements would / could be very different. Especially considering that the plexes themselves dictate the max sizes of ships that can enter. Granted I don’t know shit about null compared to present company, but I have fought FAR superior forces (TEST for example) and using guerilla tactics and FW mechanics to our advantage managed to win engagements that in an open field would have been impossible.

Forlorn: TEST has lost most of their competent players to other entities. You can’t compare that unfortunately.

Niden: Point taken, but the main reason I brought it up was the numbers; we won because we were strategically superior, and because our pilots and FC’s were more seasoned in the given environment. The main point being that skill was a deciding factor and that a smaller force was able to beat a larger one – and it was FW mechanics that enabled that to happen.


HVAC: Spreading the fights out only encourages bigger blocks and blobbing. You take away the structure problem somewhat and the blobbing of capitals, but make it even more dependent on the number of people you get to join fleets as well as FCs.  Which means the smaller entities are still going to gravitate towards the larger ones, albeit replacing supercap numbers with FCs.  Add to just how fucked bombers are in the current meta, and you have absolutely fucked the smaller guy in the same way they’re currently fucked.

Jeg: Yes. Dominion sucks. Having to fight and win 7 times in a row is simply dumb. I don’t really know if there is a solution that would actually fix the problem without making something new (and potentially worse). Having something activity based would certainly limit an alliance foothold in space to the size of the alliance. That however would probably free up more space and remove a lot of the drivers for conflict (why take space you cant hold and keep). Spreading out the fights doesn’t really solve anything for anyone, if they are still in the same system then load is still an issue. If not, then it removes the little guys from the table. Removing some of the structure shoots at least would make it less dull. Making stations destructible makes null safer, but doesn’t really affect sov directly. There are a lot of things that would need to be considered and changed to make a system that worked ‘better’ all round, and that’s unlikely, and beyond anything I can imagine.

HVAC: With less structure grinds you’re also taking away the one real use for capitals and super caps, so any new sov system would probably require a complete reimagining. Not that that would be a bad thing, though. The game desperately needs a rock-paper-scissors meta for the capitals.

Jeg: Absolutely. The whole “the counter to 10 titans is 20 titans” is simply idiotic. Every ship should have a sensible counter that is not simply “NEED MOAR”.

Forlorn: That has nothing to do with sov warfare also it is untrue. PL kills supers and caps very often with subcaps, people just ignore that. 😉 On the other hand my supercarrier alt has ~350 sov structure killmails in the last two years.

HVAC: I’m going to cry if we’re here at the same time next year discussing the same problems with nullsec. It’s ridiculous that we’re still talking about the same problems we’ve had for years.

Niden: I don’t think server-side technology is the answer alone, I think mechanics are. And so far I haven’t really seen any solid argument why the FW system wouldn’t at least benefit null in some way. At any rate, what ever the solution may be, I think it’s time CCP rip off the plaster and clean out the infected wound. Otherwise the fear of failure will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I encourage them to actually use the CSM to its full capacity and dare to take the leap – something I’m hoping they already have internally. In my mind this is what I hope the real meaning of crossing the Rubicon is.

Tags: dominion, nullsec, outposts, pos, sovereignty

About the author

Xander Phoena

The good looking, funny, intelligent member of the team, Xander set up Crossing Zebras with Jeg in April 2012 mainly because he was talking too much about Eve on his other podcast. Playing the game for almost five years, Xander still has absolutely zero clue about how to actually play Eve but somehow still manages to talk a good game.