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Friday, September 6, 2013

Sovereignty: Attack the Castle, Not the Barn

Sovereignty: you only have to say the word to make most null-sec capsuleer sick to their stomach.

Sovereignty, sovereignty, sovereignty...

Well, I feel better at least. This is a topic that has long simmered in the hearts of capsuleers - or the pit of their stomachs as the case may be. I (barely) remember the disgust exhibited for the original sovereignty system in Eve Online. When the new system came to be, it was greeted with trumpets and hallelujahs.

How things have changed in just a few short years. But to be fair, the scale of null-sec has changed as well. New null-sec dynamics have been introduced and/or changed, but Sovereignty has remained stubbornly fixed in time. I agree with all those who've blogged that a change is called for, if only for change's sake.

The only question remaining then is how to do it. Nalestom over on World Wide Webifier had a decent idea. I'm going to borrow the hell out of his metaphor. Poetic Stanziel unsurprisingly weighed in on the subject. Twice. There are others. People have been booting this sovereignty mechanic topic around for as long as I've been playing. There really is no such thing as a new idea concerning this topic.

In all my reading of all those suggestions though, the one I've truly liked comes from CSM8 member Jester. Back in November of last year, he proposed an idea he called "Tug of war sovereignty." But it is, as Poetic would no doubt point out, a "use space to keep space" system. And it relies on too many PvE elements IMO. But it does make more sense than the current system. It also showed me there is a way.

I want to point out one important thing I believe everyone should focus on in this discussion. The issue isn't how sovereignty is obtained and retained, but how it is taken away. Even after the CFC took fountain, they had a hella long wait to actually possess those systems. That's no good. When the castle falls, the right to rule all the land and the peasants who till it should immediately transfer to the victor. No medieval noble destroyed the real assets of the other noble - his wealth of land and serf.  Possession of those assets, in their developed state, is what the attacking noble went to war to obtain in the first place. Destroy the castle but keep all the peasants and their farms! That's the point. What is really needed is a sovereignty mechanism for doing that.

And I believe an example of how such a system might look exists in the current game. Look at how Incursions work. Aren't they, at their very foundation, a challenge to Empire sovereignty by Sansha Kuvakei? If you want to translate that into player mechanics, just replace the forces of Sansha Kuvakei with an invading alliance. Here is that unfolds in my estimation:
  • An alliance declares an intent to invade a specific constellation - pick five connected systems (referred to as just constellation from her on.) This would leverage current war dec mechanics to implement. 
  • Only an alliance can do it. Corporations cannot invade by themselves. Advanced warning to the defender is not required, and I personally think the declaration should remain secret until D-day. Let's make all the spais do their jobs!.
  • The invader would actually have to invade the entire constellation (remember, that's just the five chosen systems now) on D-day, i.e. send in ships and possibly certain other equipment as outlined below. 
  • They can't wrest control of just one key system from the current owner to win, even if this means they go to war against more than one alliance. They have to attack the constellations, but they get the entire thing if they win.
  • Once the invasion begins, others could join either side if that side allows the option - sort of like requesting help if you are war decced now.
  • Tug-of-war mechanics similar to what Jester outlined come into play at this point.
When this invasion happens, a graphical appraisal of sovereignty would appear on the Heads Up Display of anyone who enters the constellation, just like it currently does with Incursions and in Factional War systems.

To get defensive bonuses, the defender would have to anchor certain equipment in the constellation. This equipment would replicate the effects the Sansha get as their influence grows during an Incursion or what Factional Warfare militias get from upgrading systems. The effects would apply to the constellation so long as every system was so equipped. If you like, you could envision constellations as having fitting slots for these things.

A heavily reinforced constellation would be very hard to take, but not impossible. The attacker could counter defender deployed equipment by using their own countermeasure equipment. These are space anchored modules just like the defense systems deployed by the defender. However, they don't give attack bonuses, just reduce defender bonuses. Together, I like to think of these devices as "siege engines."

"Siege engines" do not shoot back or have any real defenses. They must be defended by ships. They cannot function inside force fields. They must be anchored well away from celestial interference. They function only in open space in essence. They will show on d-scan, but only scanning will pinpoint the location of these "siege engines." The end result must be that capsuleers have to fight capsuleers - not structures - in order to keep or take any constellation.

This may seem a bit like the current Factional Warfare mechanism to some. However, these are NOT plexes. These modules can go almost anywhere and can even be moved at some loss of defense/offensive capability for a short time. They are destructible. All of these modules are defenseless except for the pilots who will defend them. The defense of them must be active, not passive. Armor and shields on structures are NOT conducive to a good war experience. The "siege engines" should be as defenseless as a cyno ship once the beacon is lit - and they stay that way until offlined for movement. It is the "siege engines" that should be the focal point of the fighting - not the sovereignty structures as they now exist or Player Owned Stations.

In fact, it should be possible for an attacker to take sovereignty and not bash a single POS. When a constellation is taken, the forcefields stay up until their fuel runs out. If the owner can refuel it, well, the new sovereignty owner should either bash it or try harder to catch the refueler. But the POS is an after the fact issue, not a determining issue of who "owns" the system. However, when sovereignty flips, any outpost does immediately go to the new owner with all the goodies still inside it and available to the victor. To the victor goes the spoils!

But back to how that victory is obtained. Destroying the "siege engines" is not what determines the victory. More "siege engines" can always be deployed - hundreds in fact, or even thousands. Deployment is not difficult and is something Covert Ops could accomplish. The victory should be killmail driven - ships, pods implants and "siege engines" included. If the attacker really wants to POS bash, that will count too. But so will any losses they take doing it and it might just give the defender a chance to bring in more "siege engines." The side that destroys "the most" ships/structures theoretically wins. 

Now, this isn't just some raw number sort of simple victory equation. Losing fifty Talwars does not equate to losing fifty Megathrons. Just throwing ship after ship at an opponent won't necessarily do it either. It's an influence measure; a give and take similar to how Jester described sovereignty percentages in his post. This is where the uber smart folks at CCP come up with a beautiful equation to determine influence. This is an equation that is imminently tweakable. It is a balancing sort of equation. Those dev teams most cognizant of the challenges of ship balancing know the value of ship versus ship very well. I am certain they could come up with a fair and balanced equation that really equates losses well, and gives a measure for who is winning and who is losing based on what they've lost compared to what they've destroyed. That would determine influence.

Victory is attained if the attacker pushes the defender to zero influence. This would only happen of the attacker was killing significantly more ships and siege engines compared to what they were losing. It's up to the attacker on how long they want to attack. If the defender seems to have a better position to start with, good! That is in accordance to RL isn't it? I've no problem with that. The cardinal rule of any offensive is to attack with at least three to one odds. Eve should be no different.

Is this a perfect idea? Hell no. It's full of holes and issues that would have to be ironed out. What I most want to get across is the idea, not the details, of what I've said. I want to get everyone thinking differently.The real important idea is sovereignty should be a pure PvP proposition - not a PvE one. Isn't that the professed nature of Eve Online? Sovereignty should be won or lost through combat, not through a process of destroying the farms. Attack the castle, not the barn.

Watch Out


  1. I think you're definitely on the right track, and I'd like to add a suggestion as well.

    Occupation and activity (however that is defined) should also influence the strength of the defending system or constellation.

    Basically if I am an alliance and I own 5 systems (a constellation), but I only have enough members of my alliance to maintain activity in three of my 5 systems to ensure the "defenses" of my system are maintained. Without more pilots living in those 2 extra systems, my defense of those systems will be weaker if I am ever attacked.

    This will then encourage a more interesting dynamic to "renters" in null sec. Right now, renters are typically looked down upon, but I feel that opinion is starting to change throughout New Eden.

    If by "renters" living in a system helped my strategic defense of that system should I ever be attacked, it's in my interest to have renters not only for the ISK they pay for the system but also for the sov mechanic they add to my constellation.

    1. Ok, I just read World Wide Webifier's blog, and it seems he was already saying the same type thing. Perhaps I should have read that first, then yours. Oh well :)

    2. I did say I was going to borrow the hell out of his metaphor. And yes, he was saying it and I mostly agree with him. *LOL* But this has all been said before. We aren't covering new ground here. Thanks for the input!

  2. I like the idea, but would also like to have wormhole celestial effects given to null-sec constellations. Give the alliances strategic decisions to make, and drive diversity in their economies.

    To be honest though, I'd prefer if Null-sec alliances were forced to do PvE to maintain their empires. Sovereignty null-sec should be the nation building sand box rather than a PvP thunder dome, an sooner or later, every country needs to farm some crops.

    If they don't want to, well, that's what NPC null-sec and low-sec is for.

  3. CCP Rise dropped a hint that people might have a reason to undock when you roam their space after the Winter expansion.

    I'm hoping for some kind of in-space bonus to defending ship stats making it more fun to undock and take on intruders.

  4. I have to say I really liked Ripard Teg's idea of the tug-of-war system. It would have to be developed a bit more to be a real alternative to what we have now, but in general I like it.

    Also, I still think that it should be possible for people to come in and hack TCUs cynojammers, jump-bridges and other sov structures to temporarily (not permanently) deactivate them. That would give small roaming alliances without the means to field siege fleets with 20 dreads an opportunity to harass bigger alliances.


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