Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why So Stagnant?

Stagnant. You listen for five minutes to any podcast with a CSM member on it and when they mention null sec its pretty much guaranteed to be accompanied by the word Stagnant. Its like its own meme, or a concentrated control message that a political party is trying to get out into the meta so that opinion becomes "common knowledge" and thus fact that must be acted upon.

Stagnant. A CSM feedback document to CCP talks a significant amount about null sec and sovereignty issues. From the document in the section "The Strategy: Iterating on Iteration" it talks about "an unfinished and stagnating sovereignty system". One of the three critical issues they choose to highlight in their document is "0.0 and Sovereignty" in which they point out that there is a "[n]eed for a sovereignty system that is inherently fun to compete over, rather than an obligation to be endured" and a "[n]eed to reduce burnout of alliance leadershiup and fleet commanders".

Stagnant. In episode 58 of Voices from the Void podcast Elise Randolph bemoans that the major Fleet Commanders of the alliances in null sec are the same names from the last year with very few changes. Where are the new up and comers?

Stagnant. Stagnating. Stagnation.

Why has null sec become so stagnant in the past year or so, whereas in the previous 6 years it seemed to be a vibrant and violent place despite the structure grinds and odd ball sov mechanics? What has changed?

* * * * *

I'm not an expert, sitting here in low sec for the past year, playing my weekly sessions and getting a few kills to my name, but I've been playing Eve solidly since 2006 and I've been in null sec all over. I watch the game and the politics and have some opinions on what has happened. So here we go.

Its not the lack of mechanic updates for "farms and fields" (after all, we've started getting farms and fields slowly over time in the form of planetary interaction manufacturing and Player Owned Custom Offices for example) nor the lack of action on super cap proliferation nor even the lack of action on Technetium (or passive moon mining in general). They are all contributing factors, yes, and need to be addressed (some sooner than later), but I'm going to posit that they are not the primary reason for the current theme of stagnation.

The reason for the stagnation is that the null sec alliances at the top have been too successful for their own good.

What do I mean by that? Well, I think that the reason we don't see new FCs rising into the spotlight is because we don't see new alliances and power blocs rising into the spotlight anymore, and the reason we don't see alliances coming on strong out of the gate is because the current null sec power holders have become so good at the fleet doctrine meta that any new competition is quickly smashed and routed before they can get a foothold. The only way to get a new alliance into null sec is to find a benefactor or sponsor and thus accept their FCs and doctrines and command structure over yours. In other words, new FCs are not rising to prominence because current FCs are already so good at their jobs.

Now this is not to say that current alliances are purposefully keeping new pilots out of fleet command opportunities. In fact, every alliance I've ever been associated with has had training programs to create new FCs and I have no reason to doubt the current powers that be are any different. But the reason we don't see any new major coalition level FCs (or at least very many) is because the current class is very very good at their job already.

Contributing to this stratified ceiling is the increasing size and coordination of fleets that the current power blocs can muster (specifically the HBC and CFC but not limited exclusively to them). In the past, a big fleet was 100-150 pilots for a major conflict, and getting all pilots in the right ships with the right fits was an exercise in near futility. These days it seems that each side can fill out multiple fleets and each one has pilots in perfectly standardized fits that work in the doctrines. If you are not up to the numbers and professionalism of the current crop of null sec alliance war machines, you are not going to be in null sec long. More importantly, you are not going to break the stagnation as a result.

* * * * *

I don't know what the answer is. It seems unfair to point at the big successful coalitions and tell them to stop being so damn good at this game. I hope, as others have stated in the past when I've mused about this, that its a self correcting situation over time.

The current fall of Against ALL Authorities supports the supposition that in order to be successful in null sec today you not only need a green killboard and solid spy network as in the past bu an excellent diplomatic corps as well, and an attitude of cooperation and brothers in arms in solidarity and not the competitive "our allies are shit" as seems so common to read AAA FCs proclaiming in the news posts these past few months.

The question remains how does one in an alliance get those pieces in place (numbers, allies, solid doctrines, competent FCs, Super cap deterrent fleet) prior to challenging the current null sec sov holders to break the stagnation. This is where I hope CCP and the CSM or focusing their attentions.


  1. It all went downhill when we left Kirith, I think that is pretty self-evident at this point. That's my theory and I'm sticking with it.

  2. As a grunt, I can tell you that if what you're saying is true, the CSMs are also right when saying current mechanic don't help change. Being ask to shoot strcutures often for hours, without any opposition, is not really something you want to do when you log... while not making much money in PvE force you to play more often to earn your ISKs at the same time.

    1. The somewhat dull nature of structure shoots should set up opportunities for successful counterattacks. Imagine if we're semi-afk, linking porn then a strong counter fleet lands on us, after the FC has spent 15 minutes making perches around us.

      The real problem imo is that reinforcement is too fast. You can't really have a strategic game where a side can bring its entire force to bear within minutes of an engagement starting.

      The fix is to nerf cyno chains. It would be incredibly unpopular but imagine an Eve where you could attack VFK and the Goons couldn't defend it because they're all miles away in Vale. That would be a better game and would create a more mosaic null sec.

  3. I have to agree with RIxx :D

    Hi, how ya doin'?

  4. I still see a lot of potential for nullsec. If you look at it like highsec but without an instant kill switch for any transgressor (CONCORD) then there can be a whole playstyle which is all about farming Goons, TEST, Solar etc. for kills guerilla style.

    In fact, Black Legion have done this for quite some time, Rooks & Kings too in a way. When solo PVPers like Kil2, Garmon and others can manage to fly through nullsec and kill dozens of people every week all by themselves, nobody can tell me that a whole alliance focusing on that can not be successful.

    People just have to let go of the idea that they can win the sov war. Eventually those superpowers will collapse anyway and then the deck is reshuffled.

    1. Running through a minefield and coming out the other side does not mean I'm good at it or that it's a smart idea. It just means none of the mines noticed me.

      With jump bride networks how they are, titan bridges on call 24 if they're really needed, and a playerbase of thousands for each of the big alliances... That's what it is. A minefield. You're going out to have some fun and hoping you don't upset them enough to take you seriously. Because the moment they do, you'll be buried under bodies. And then they'll batphone in more bodies just so other people can see the beatdown.

    2. "Eventually those superpowers will collapse anyway and then the deck is reshuffled."

      Not necessarily. It's perfectly possible that sov null might be all blue, a big farming zone with the occasional cloaky camper within 2 years.

      That's why a fix is urgent. If null did become all blue it would be much harder to fix after the fact. We need a null that makes it almost impossible for big coalitions to knock over region after region with little opposition.

  5. Limit the ability to project power.

    Several ideas have been posted about this - its the only way.

    EVE is too small, not because the space is limited, but because the major players are too good at moving their forces quickly across it.

    If the projection of power is limited in its ability to change focus, then there can be opportunities for the walls to be breached while the watchtowers fires are being lit.

    The cruelest thing I can suggest is eliminate cynos altogether - make capitals use jump gates. Suddenly, caps and super caps are limited in their ability to project power. Sucks to be a black ops pilot, but perhaps there will be other uses - perhaps in-system instant jumps or something.

    But if anything like this happens, it needs to happen before the Tholians finish the web. Once null is all blue, it doesn't matter what happens.