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Power Projection and Balkanization

 

For anyone who has kept up with the patch notes of the past year will be quite familiar with the fact that CCP has made some pretty big changes to the ability of players to move through space. Some of these changes have been fairly well-received, others less so.

But what exactly is the fundamental aim and goal that we want to examine when we’re talking about one’s ability to travel from system to system? Quite a few different approaches have been suggested, mostly discussing large-scale mobility and the nebulous concept of “power projection,” or the ability for an alliance to exert influence that extends beyond its technical, sov-based “borders.”

Over the course of the past year and a half, we have received multiple changes that have both directly and indirectly altered power projection in New Eden. In late 2014, jump fatigue was introduced, working to prevent large blobs of supercapitals (or subcapital support if titan bridging was involved) from arbitrarily teleporting across the map. The mechanics of the fatigue were tweaked in order to explicitly limit the effective range of a capital force while leaving logistics, such as freighters and Rorquals, relatively unscathed.

This change meant alliances and blocs were forced to rethink their domains, far-flung systems which, in a blink of an eye, were once defendable with their entire might became isolated from staging systems – especially if those systems where outside the borders of a usable jump bridge network. In other words, this change resulted in a direct reduction in the power projection capacity of most traditional nullsec alliances and blocs at the time.

Galatea

Aegis sov again iterated on this concept, making space easier to attack, if not actually take, with less regard for alliances’ relative disparity in size and supercapital count. With attacks on sovereignty becoming more frequent – as well as the introduction of Active Defence Multipliers (ADM) as a critical factor in defence – an increased pressure was placed on an average line member to hold systems on a day-to-day basis.

As a result, alliances which hold sovereignty must account for this intrinsic vulnerability when deploying, with the result being either shorter deployment distances and times or fewer strategic assets being deployed so defence of the home front is still possible if needed. This has indirectly nerfed power projection in the form of an increase in pressure to stay close to home.

Despite being intended to shake up stagnation and Balkanise nullsec, the focus on locality over external projection has had some unintended side-effects on projection. The only alliances which can now readily deploy away from the ‘home front’ are groups which are either large enough to leave behind a defensive force which can keep ADMs reasonable and defend against skirmishing attacks on sovereignty structures, or groups which are nomadic and thus have no ‘home’ which they need to defend. Otherwise, a deployment must rely on roams which are able to return to the primary staging system or upon their neighbors’ lack of interest in attacking them “while their pants are down.”

Power projection therefore enters into some rather tangled questions. For instance, is it appropriate for only large or nomadic alliances to be capable of meaningful power projection in the form of sustained deployment? Does that create a vision of EVE wherein the vast majority of all conflicts are limited to localized power struggles or invasions by nomadic groups? When written in this way it all sounds so very…Fallout-esque, such as the warring tribes present in much of Fallout: New Vegas. However, as F:NV showed Bethesda fans, there is ultimately demand for both tribal warfare and the struggle of comparatively massive entities. While this may or may not conflict with the current vision for EVE, it certainly conflicts with the mechanics that have shifted to favor Balkanisation.

A completely non-Balkanised EVE would be incredibly boring. Smaller alliances perpetuating local conflict between each other creates enormous amounts of content for their line members, as well as generating fights when they attack (or are attacked by) larger alliances. Yet by the same token, a completely Balkanised EVE leaves little room for deployments and larger, non-regional conflicts to unfold. While balancing game mechanics to permit for conflicts of this enormous variation of scale is far from easy, attempting to stray too far into one extreme creates a severe disadvantage for the other.

Brutix-Entosis

We have seen this both in the Dominion era, with the dominant entities slowly reaching nigh-unassailable levels of supercapital proliferation and traces of it have again stirred in the Aegis era, however, in the opposite direction. The only massive sov-holding coalition which has survived Aegis so far has been the Imperium (or CFC depending upon your personal choice of description). Even the Imperium has reduced the number and scale of its deployments since Aegis, with a single week-long deployment to Provibloc and a deployment to Saranen being the only movements outside its own borders.

While the Imperium can in that regard rely upon internal squadrons such as Reavers to deploy far outside their borders while the line stays within (or close to) their sov to defend the home front, most sov-holding alliances do not have the luxury of enough people to handle both with any efficacy.

As a result, we stand at a sort of crux. If even the largest surviving coalition in the game cannot commit its mainline forces far beyond its own borders for any serious period of time, our options are limited. We may accept the fate of sov-holding alliances to be primarily based in regional conflicts while leaving nomadic alliances as the primary purveyors of deployment. Or, the system may be revamped with the upcoming Citadel and more general structure overhauls over the coming year to allow sov holders more opportunities to deploy.

The promise that Citadels will be based around EHP rather than Entosis suggests that we are moving towards the latter. While I would personally prefer this option, it becomes tricky because mechanics must be balanced to permit sov holders to deploy, yet also not so heavily sov-defender-favoring that we return to a Dominion paradigm.

On a positive note, the enormous number of possibilities that the new Citadel expansion and whatever comes next should make it relatively easy to iterate in a reasonable timeframe. In my next article we shall discuss how sovereignty and structure mechanics become necessary to balance said power projection.

Tags: aegis, Kyle Aparthos, nullsec, sovereignty

About the author

Kyle Aparthos

Kyle Aparthos has been playing EVE since the summer of 2012, and has been a member of SMA since the summer of 2013. In that time, he has been a diplomat, FC, writer, analyst, and prospective CSM candidate.

  • Rob Kaichin

    Just something to note, Reavers *have* deployed to Delve/Querious/Period Basis, but almost as soon as they left, they were recalled back.

    It turns out that the bell curve for quality of CFC pilots was dominated at the top end by Reavers, and was *not* favourable to non-Reavers.

    It’s also interesting to note the attempts by CFC corps to recruit LS pilots and corporations, where they’ve been succeeding somewhat.

    • Talvorian Dex

      I’d argue that they haven’t been successful. The skills required to be a good coalition pilot and to be a good low-sec small gang pilot are not equivalent in the slightest. They are fundamentally different skillsets, desires, and attitudes.

      • Rob Kaichin

        And yet, I’ve noticed a couple of corps venturing out into NS, whether it be with established alliances or by themselves.

        A failure would be complete rebuttal, that some have taken up offers is a success, no matter how trivial.

  • Kinis Deren

    I’d agree a balance needs to be made but I’d also say we are still some way off going too far down the Balkanisation road.

    Take for instance the author’s own coalition (CFC, or Imperium as it likes to be called these days). This coalition represents ~33% of the null sec population all gathered together under a blue standings flag (there is no official support for coalitions in game). If only the author’s alliance would “un-blue” their 30k so called friends then he’d have content aplenty on his door step.

    No, don’t be fooled here dear reader, the author is playing the classic ~I want my cake and eat it!~ game. He wants his home sov ratting havens to be safe, surrounded by a sea of friendly blues whilst pursuing content on the other side of the New Eden cluster.

    • I disagree

      “Unblue your friends” is the most impotent and irrelevant argument to be made against the CFC/Imperium. “Just fight amongst yourselves, lol” is not going to work against people who play the empire building game. It might work for elite pvp’ers like PL and co, but not for those invested in building their sandcastles in space.

      The fact they are managing to keep 30k people under one banner is an achievement and a half and should be respected for what it is. And the thing is, Kyle has raised some good points which are being dismissed with a non-sequitur argument.

      • Talvorian Dex

        I’m friends with plenty of people I shoot on a regular basis. Being a friend with someone does not mean you have to be on the same side. If it does, you’ve got your priorities screwed up.

        All 30k of those guys aren’t your friends. And if you were really great friends with them, you’d all be in the same corp and it wouldn’t MATTER if you were in a blue coalition. That argument, “but they’re all my friends!” is a red herring; you’re friends for convenience, or you’d all be in the same corp and it wouldn’t matter.

        • I disagree

          Look, you’ve kinda missed the point there. The whole argument about “friends” is a red herring one way or another. How YOU manage your friends is not going to apply to how CFC/Imperium handle their friends, so trying to apply the same standards is a waste of time, especially when you and the people in the CFC/Imperium are playing with different priorities. Why is your priority more valid than the CFC’s?

          I personally don’t like to shoot at friends, I prefer to band together with them and shoot people who aren’t friends. And that’s okay. Just like it is okay for you to be content with shooting at your friends. The game is big enough to accommodate both sorts of folks.

          And all of this is irrelevant to the discussion that there’s something a bit wrong with the current sov mechanics.

          • Joe

            Actually it has allot to do with whether sov mechanics continue moving toward balkanization.

            Whats interesting is that author seems to be saying large empires like the cfc can still deploy.

            So whats his beef? If we peel the layers this is it: He gave up my freedom to follow a cringey space tyrant and he is jealous that other people are not also beholding to said space turd. So he wants mechanics where he can force everyone into the same position he chose to be in.

            That is why we hear complaints about people being able to set up their own smaller alliances in sov null sec. That is why we hear complaints that they can’t blow up stations in npc null sec, or low sec.

      • Jarhead

        look at SMAs current membership. Dont kid yourself that half of your people wouldnt quit in a heartbeat the moment you look like you are going to lose. firstly 30k includes alts so you might have 10k players. the top will RMT al the assets, the fair weather friends will depart and you’ll be left with a few hundred or so active players.

        • Jarhead

          should read – the top will RMT al the assets, the FCs and titan pilots will take the golden parachute and join PL, the fair weather friends will depart

        • I disagree

          And what does that have to do with the price of fish? (As in, what does internal alliance politics have to do with game mechanics?).

          If the CFC/Imperium crumbles apart tomorrow because SMA really was that cancerous, it doesn’t change the fact that there are some glaring issues with sov mechanics.

      • fdsafds

        If you want to build sandcastles and blue half of Eve, there’s nothing wrong with that. But then you don’t get to complain about lack of content. PL get fights, but they have no ratting grounds and their members go to highsec to run incursions for isk.

        If you blob ppl to “win strategic objectives,” there’s nothing wrong with that. But then you don’t get to complain about blueball. NCdot take fights against 1:3 odds regularly. They also get wiped regularly.

        tl;dr:
        You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    • Asher

      Anytime these “unblue your friends” types make this argument I like to think of them complaining that their roam didn’t find any content. Well it’s simple, unblue half your gang and fight amongst yourselves. “But that would be contrived and silly, besides they are my friends, I don’t want to shoot them”.

      • Former ABA member

        “PL is complaining about having no one to drop, so they might as well sell their supers if they want more fights” also works with the same logic. It is not the prerogative of the entity that you are criticising to change how they do things just to appease you. But also, be careful for what you wish for, it just might come true.

      • Messiah Complex

        Best response to that particular argument that I’ve read.

      • Niick

        Considering how many times PL, or NCdot have reset their blues, it is pretty hard to make a ‘talk is cheap’ statement that holds any weight, which is what you just tried to make. It’s rather easy for us to find fights.

        The OP is pretty much crying that they can’t depoy to the other side of eve to hurt someone, which is not really true, they can, his corp, or alliance could… they just wouldn’t have the blue blob with them so they don’t want to deploy on their own like those ‘nomadic’ alliance.

        Just like the other dude said, cake, and eat it too.

      • Joe

        They are all your friends?

        Ok even if they are all your friends why not shoot them in a game that is about shooting spaceships? Its not silly if I try to score baskets against my friends or win money at poker against them. Eve is a game right?

        Unless of course you don’t see EVE that way. You may see eve as a super serious game where every loss is somehow a blow to your self worth. Then sure you would want to blue up with everyone. But then don’t complain when you don’t get spaceships shooting spaceships.

    • Fearlesslittletoaster

      If that happened PL, N3, and whomever else would steamroll each little part twelve hours later. You can argue that it would be a “soft reset” but really do you want Eve to become nothing but a consensual and limited thunderdome against your frienimies?

  • Sieveboy

    I believe the biggest failure of Aegis sov and Phoebe before it was that it hasn’t curbed the giant null sec groups or that it stopped PL casually dropping supers on roaming cruiser gangs in low sec, but the other half the problem you hinted at: null sec groups are now fairly strongly chained to their home space, whilst the nomadic groups who dwell in the safety of low sec can deploy and strike at most of null sec at will and with really too little cost.

    PL/PH can eat up a few days worth of jump fatigue to get from Amamake to Lonetrek or The Forge low sec and then casually mess with the Imperium or Legion of xXDEATHXx for only the cost of the ships they use. They aren’t required to commit their super capital fleets or even their capital fleets, they can just muck about in frigates and cruisers and this can conquer sov. The risk for the attackers is inadequate and just encourages large nomadic groups to grow. Now imagine such a world without the Imperium holding the galactic north west, but instead steadily harvesting content as it shifted around the map in low sec, tearing down a regions infrastructure just because it’s there, all in T1 frigates and destroyers.

    • Talvorian Dex

      But can you see how this “problem” is only a problem from one perspective? The other side of the coin is that if you own 6 regions of space, you better expect to have it attacked regularly. Given the choice between a large coalition being safe from attack or harassed mercilessly and constantly, I’d prefer the latter. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and all that.

      I’m perfectly fine with nomadic groups swarming like locusts. In fact, I think that’s healthy for the game, as it breeds fear. And I love the idea of a large, stable empire being besieged until it crumbles. This is a game, after all, and instability is the lifeblood of any game.

      • Sieveboy

        Swarming like locusts is fine, but being able to commit to besieging any empire whilst committing essentially nothing cost wise is a broken mechanic.

        Put it this way, classically sieges were often broken by forces breaking out, cutting the enemies siege line and then rolling up their offensive line. Alternatively you could have some one attack the besieging forces from behind and break them that way. In today’s eve a force based out of unconquerable low sec stations can simply log off and not be forced to defend a counter attack as would be the case in inter regional warfare. As such a besieging force can only be exhausted or bored out of attacking. The defenders must always defend, hence the notion aegis sov is “wake-a-mole”.

        This is broken, forces that attack from low sec need to have more at risk than just the cheap ships they undock today.

        • Talvorian Dex

          Only, this is a game, not real life. The ultimate goal had to be content. In real life, the goal is overwhelming and quick victory, but the best war in eve is one that consists of seesawing back and forth with hundreds of good fights over weeks or months. Uncertainty and trench warfare creates content and is to be pursued, not avoided.

          We can’t forget that we Pvp for fun, not life or death.

          • Rob Kaichin

            Remember that our 1bil Machariels and 1bil Logi ships with slaves are ‘cheap ships’. Or what about the 1bil+ Lokis that we’ve used…

            Cognitive dissonance is a fascinating thing.

          • Sieveboy

            Seesawing battles would require the attackers to be on the defensive occasionally. Which as I have established is not possible with the current risk averse nature of living in unconquerable, entirely risk free and cost free low sec stations.

            Also, considering the nature of entosis mechanic it doesn’t seem to be generating many “good fights”.

        • Messiah Complex

          “Swarming like locusts is fine, but being able to commit to besieging any empire whilst committing essentially nothing cost wise is a broken mechanic.”

          It’s not broken; it’s the cost of being the big dog.

          • Sieveboy

            Big dog or shitty little yapping lap dog, the risk remains the same.

          • Fearlesslittletoaster

            If the Imperium was not the big dog the next biggest outfit would be. And if the locust swarm the Imperium to death, what chance would anyone else have?

          • Messiah Complex

            “And if the locust swarm the Imperium to death, what chance would anyone else have?”

            Right now, I don’t see that anyone has the will to swarm the Imperium to death. If I nevertheless accept the hypothetical, that would be a balancing issue, not a systemic problem.

      • Fearlesslittletoaster

        Are you alright with the locust swarms eating the fields down to bare dirt, then digging up and eating the roots? I ask because this is actually what locust swarms do and it can take years for places to recover. There have to be fields and farms to attack. Hit them too hard, to often, and make driving the invaders away too painful and you end up with just… dust.

        • Talvorian Dex

          If you’re asking me if, in a video game, I’m okay with a too-large coalition being smashed “to the roots” and creating a bit of chaos…yeah, I’m good with that.

          • Fearlesslittletoaster

            Truth be told I wouldn’t mind either and I’m a goon… that being said my concern is for what would come after. Locust are a very apt analogy for what I Think it would be like; sure they eat the juicy green plants first but once those are gone they eat the roots, your cotton clothes, the bark off trees, broom handles, dry grass, they gnaw fence posts…

            If the Imperium were not there all the groups that depend on us for content would have to look elsewhere, and as good as they have to be to compete right now they would likely just exterminate many smaller entities without really even meaning to.

  • Seraph IX Basarab

    Which small alliances have been willing but unable to project past their territory? Do we have examples?

  • asdf

    is there a bigger version of that picture at the top

    and imo returning to structure grinds is really really bad, ccp what are you doing, don’t listen to the baddies

  • Messiah Complex

    “Aegis sov again iterated on this concept, making space easier to attack, if not actually take, with less regard for alliances’ relative disparity in size and supercapital count.”

    This seems so obvious, and yet fairly often I note its absence in discussions about Phoebe and Aegis. The null sec revamp removed the initial EHP barrier for attackers, while at the same time making space more defensible. The entosis mechanic itself might be boring, but it’s an entirely functional means of causing ships to explode.

    I’m not convinced (either way) that the sov mechanics need to be adjusted to allow sov holders to deploy away from home. On the one hand, I see the pro-deployment argument as indicative of a vestigial mindset from the Dominion years. On the other, I want to everyone to have the opportunity to do what they enjoy in Eve.

    Regardless, I do suspect that we’ll see more and more nomadic groups as time passes, and I don’t see that as a bad thing. Mobile and “stateless” raiders cause chaos, and chaos keeps things interesting. By the same token, it’s not a bad thing to have some order – empires and homesteads – to stand in opposition. The raiders have to have something to raid, and the defenders have to have something worth defending. Aegis forces people to make a choice … and I think I just talked myself into liking it.

    • Fearlesslittletoaster

      Here is the point you missed though. People play for content, because content is fun. Attacking somebody’s spacecastle is fun. Defending your spacecastle is fun. Even losing your spacecastle can be fun if you get a chance to fight like hell to hold it. But endless, boring, hateful, involuntary grind to hold your spacecastle that allows no opportunity to go elsewhere and find content is awful. It effectively punishes holding space since right now owning null is not even the most effective way to get rich, the only real advantage is that anomalies can be run AFK whereas incursions and missions require effort.

      Now, if the rewards for holding space were changed, anoms were revamped to be engaging, and one single Atron stopped having the ability to burn stuff to the ground or troll a hundred defenders who came to stop it… then you have a solid point.

      Also, seriously, why has CCP never looked at long range mobility vs ship size? Right now an interceptor gets the same fatigue as a battleship when bridging, despite that ‘ceptor being a far less capable hull. Little stuff should go far, big stuff is harder to project with.

      • Messiah Complex

        I have no argument with anyone that says ADM grinding is boring, but I think that’s intended. It’s a disincentive to holding more than a handful of systems, and an incentive to increased population density. Of course, fewer, more populated systems mean less income per capita, but I think that’s intended, too.

        I haven’t looked at the map in a while, but I can only think of one group that has the discipline to grind on the scale necessary to hold multiple regions. For the Imperium, that discipline is double-edged sword. I completely understand why its members don’t want to just give up everything they’ve built up over the course of years, but the new sov mechanics are pressuring them to do just that. As I’ve said before, Aegis is CCP’s version of weaponized boredom.

        So, the empire(s) can carry on as they have in an “endless, boring, hateful, involuntary grind,” they can lobby CCP for changes that will benefit them directly (with all the political fallout that entails), or they can adapt to Aegis.

        • Fearlesslittletoaster

          And by adapt you mean give up. Walk away and stop holding Sov like PL, N3, and all the other less determined powers did. How would that be good for goons, good for all the people that fight goons, or good for Eve in general? If you make a system so awful that the biggest, most determined, most organized, most just plain stubborn entity in the game simply refuses to take part in it, is it really a good system?

          • Messiah Complex

            By “adapt” I mean accept that Aegis sov doesn’t scale to an organization of your size, by design.

            If you’re not having fun being all determined and stubborn, you might try doing something that’s less awful than beating Dominion’s dead horse.

          • Fearlesslittletoaster

            But it does scale to an organization of our size, and with only minimal tweaks in design. All we would have to do is live in lowsec. Besides anoms there would be no real drawback, and we could still utterly dominate the same area of space, or even more. So the question I have for you is, is the sovholding empire horse being dead a good thing?

          • Messiah Complex

            “So the question I have for you is, is the sovholding empire horse being dead a good thing?”

            To that, I don’t have an answer. Time will tell.

          • Joe

            What?

            If you lived in lowsec neutrals would also be able to dock in your stations! You couldn’t have intel channels telling people when a neutral is 7 jumps away.

            There are plenty of good reasons to hold sov in null sec. You know that. That is why you would not seriously suggest that the cfc should entirely move to low sec. Of course you want *more* benefits. Because you want to amass even *more* wealth. But I am glad ccp doesn’t fall for it. You decided to play in an alliance that chose to make everyone around you blue, and now you blame ccp for lack of content.

          • Fearlesslittletoaster

            Actually we already have that. In fact there are three different programs that provide comprehensive intel on who is docked and in space available at the moment. Cloaky camping is far more effective anyhow, and that happens in null too. Anoms are the benafit, and they come at the cost of lots and lots of time spend defending.

          • Joe

            I think we will have to just disagree on that. I do agree carrier ratting anoms is ok especially if you run the occasional escalation you might get. But they are beat out by many many forms of pve as far as isk/hour grinding. Incursions, sleeper sites, level 4 high sec missions, faction war missions and level 5 missions.

            If sov null sec had something that paid as well level 5 missions or faction war missions anoms would not be the top form of pve. You can easily make 2xs the amount of isk doing those as you can running anoms – even if you average in the occasional escalations. (the exception might be smart bombing escalations but most people don’t do that)

            The main advantage of sov null sec not anoms, it is security/safety. No one can dock in your space. And you can bubble up gates to be sure you get plenty of warning. If you could run level 5 missions and fw mission in sov null they would be the pve of choice. (At least for people who are interested in doing the highest value activity. Sure people would still do anoms just like people still mine but the missions are much higher pay.)

            Safety combined with the better ores are why sov null sec is a good place to mine as well.

            It would be very amusing if the whole cfc moved to low sec. But of course they won’t. Because despite the constant claims that they have no reason to keep sov in null sec people know that is a hollow complaint.

            They keep sov null sec for several reasons including the safety it offers. It also allows alliance leaders to tax the linemembers efficiently as they slave away in the anoms.

          • Fearlesslittletoaster

            With regards to anoms, I think you are half right about them not being the ‘best’ PvE. In terms of isk/hour they are far from the top spot, but I would argue that in terms of isk/time/effort/risk they are the best money in the game. For many players a reduction in grind through semi-afk ratting is worth the far lower payout.

            The low risk is less because hostiles can’t dock in your space and more because there are zero gate jumps required. As for mining you are absolutely right.

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  • JZ909

    I think that citadels will usher in the era of de-facto sov. Who cares that much about sov when you can still dock? Having citadels in a system will be FAR more important than planting a flag. Also, I think it will usher in the era structure grinds from hell. Citadels won’t need to be parked at moons, so if you really want to take a system, just drop 20 medium citadels in system. No one will want to do 60 structure grinds to kick you out.

  • Mike

    Alts can keep ADM up no problem. To bad nobody uses alts in eve.

  • bob@wormholes.com

    Are there so many big changes in space ownership?
    Am i missing that, or does it just not happen?
    And if it does not happen where is the evidence that sapce is so hard to defend?
    The way it is being done now might not be fun, i can understand that.
    But still i don’t see large changes in space… .
    The lack of being able to lose it might also be a problem, it goes aganist the fact that eve is more about loss then anything else.
    And i doubt citadels will change it up a lot in null.
    They will be hanging everywhere and there is little to nothing you lose when it is attacked… .

  • Afk

    While fozziesov was in development virtually all players, mostly CFC, were screaming their heads off for “occupancy sov”. Every post about sov couldn’t go five minutes without using the words “occupancy sov”. Well, you made your bed…….