Tuesday, February 14, 2012

This Land is OUR Land: Part I

In advance of the upcoming CSM7 elections, there is and will continue to be a lot of talk regarding what kinds of changes the player-base would like to see and what areas of the game should get priority in terms of re-design and re-iteration. To be honest, this kind of talk goes on all year long but it is during this period of campaigning that the politicians and talking heads give it special focus. Ideas are bandied about. Accusations are flung. Egos are challenged. General political bullshit.

In large part, I tend to ignore the forum posts and blogs that start off with a variation on the "This game would be better if x were different. Change x to y and this game will be awesome." Almost inevitably, the suggestions are narrowly focused on one aspect of game play to the exclusion of all other aspects and are really only considered "good" ideas by their author because they would better suit that particular pilot's style of play. There are, however, exceptions. The cries for hybrid re-balancing received a warm reception here. But, full disclosure; I'm a Gallente pilot.

However, there are some areas of the game that have an impact on all of us even if that impact is indirect. Believe it or not, sov mechanics are one of these areas and need addressing.

"But Firstly," I can hear the empire bear saying, "I live in empire and mission every day. I'm in an NPC corp. Sovereignty doesn't affect me in the least!" And it would seem like Ursa Empira would be right. Until you consider that what happens in 0.0 has a direct impact on what happens in Jita (I'm talking about the open market, not the ass-hattery; ok, maybe both.) Or until you consider that our dear bear might actually WANT to join a nullsec alliance, but only has time to play casually for 30 minutes to an hour a day and can't be available for CTAs. Which means his limited play-time hampers his appeal to the average 0.0 alliance that has no room for a pilot that can't "contribute" to the cause of station-bashing or CTAs. Which in turn means that if during his daily half-hour he wants a  fight, he's got the choice of can-flipping somebody, praying for a 1v1 devoid of an off-grid booster alt, or making 30 jumps around low/nullsec only to be smacked in the face with the "camp-bat" and sent home on the Pod Goo Express.

Ok, that last one was a little dramatic, but I digress. The fact is, from empire to null and everywhere in between, sovereignty mechanics impact not only what we do, but where we do it.

When I was living in null, corp life revolved around CTAs and POS-bashes in the various systems we held and occasionally in the space surrounding our own. More often than not, these were mindless and seemingly interminable torp-fests, the boredom checkered by the occasional red dropping in to see how things were coming. All of it meant to preserve our sovereignty at the expense of the invading mongrels. The vast majority of it ultimately proving to be pointless. For every POS or SBU that was destroyed, another was onlined to take its place.

Hours of hearing the FC repeating himself and reminding us "don't forget to cycle your guns, mates" was grueling in and of itself, but the most frustrating aspect of it all was that at the end of the day, these sov grinds had zero impact on who was in our space. Reds still came and went and roamed as they pleased, the blues contented by the fact that they still owned the system and only minorly inconvenienced by having to wait the roamers out  from the comfort and safety of their cleverly-named stations or POS.

During AAA's initial siege of Providence in early 2010 when it became clear Provi-block would not be able to repel the assault, there was a lot of talk among CVA and the holders about withdrawing to lowsec. One of the principle points made in those discussions was that regardless of who held the sovereignty of the system, we would still be able to rat and PvP in Providence, like we always did. Regardless of who owned Provi, we would be the ones using Provi and so sovereignty really wouldn't matter all that much beyond the slight inconvenience of having to use lowsec stations rather than closer nullsec ones. So the theory went.

In practice, things happened quite differently. AAA followed through on its mission to "burn Provi to the ground." CVA and holders fled first to lowsec and then to NPC null finding that with little hope of re-taking the lost ground alliance pilots had very little incentive to remain in Provi and wanted to seek greener pastures elsewhere. I wasn't around for the aftermath of the invasion and defeat, but from what I gathered from those who were, not having sov in Providence meant not being in Providence at all. At the end of the day, sovereignty mattered, regardless of assurances to the contrary.

Now don't get me wrong. AAA deserved to win that war. Throughout the entire campaign they and their allies consistently showed up with superior numbers, superior fleet composition and superior organization and discipline. No matter what mechanics are in place, those factors should earn you victory 99% of the time. And since CVA had demonstrated that they were not good at shooting stations or structures, AAA knew that they couldn't possibly muster a fleet organized and powerful enough to take the system back and were free to move out of the region and respond to other crises elsewhere. Eventually it became a scenario in which not only was CVA not using Providence anymore, AAA wasn't using it either. But, in the words of Eddie Izzard, "they had a flag." Hence, they held the space regardless of who was flying in it. Had CVA not purchased Providence back from AAA, they might never have returned.

Trebor has been floating an idea on his blog (which Jester has echoed on his) about earning sovereignty based on who uses a system and how often rather than who has structures where. I'm paraphrasing, but the basic idea is that corps and alliances should mine and rat and pew in a system to gain sovereignty rather than gain sov in order to mine and rat and pew. Your alliance is highly active in X7H every day? Congratulations, you "hold" X7H and are entitled to all the privileges contained therein. Backwater systems your pilots never use? TADA!! Back on the market for some enterprising corp/alliance!

If the above wall of text didn't make it plainly obvious, I LOVE this idea. I love it because it encourages and rewards the alliance with the most active pilots, not the one with the biggest ships or "most flags". It breeds conflict in that it places pilots, not structures, in the cross-hairs of the sov-hungry fleet which in turn drives the economy by virtue of more ships being lost. And it forces pilots to actively defend their space rather than merely docking up to avoid conflict because guess what? If you don't use it, you lose it. As another famous Eve maxim goes, "If you're not willing to fight for what you have in Eve, you won't have it for long."

There are already examples of this system in place all over New Eden. Wormhole corps never "own" the hole they live in, but they control it by being active in their system with regards to PvE and aggressively hunting and attacking anyone who attempts to take advantage of "their" Sleeper sites. The same goes for NPC null where the most active alliances are the de facto sovereignty holders, despite not being able to name or control the station or set up jump bridges. And, speaking from experience, Hevrice may be a lowsec system and devoid of any "official" sov mechanics but don't try to tell me or anyone else unfortunate enough not to have placed it on their 'Avoidance' list that the system doesn't unequivocally belong to the Tuskers.

Tomorrow, I'll be discussing the ins and outs of these ideas as well as examining the pros and cons of shifting away from a structure-based sovereignty system. But for now, just imagine the possibilities! Large fleet battles that directly impact system ownership instead of simply clearing a path to a structure-bash! Increased emphasis on small-to-large gang skirmishes in border systems! Pew-pew alliances actively recruiting empire bears to use their space! More people = more targets = more conflict = more FlyingInSpace. And that, as this past summer has shown us, is something everyone can get behind.

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