Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bottoms up

It's sorely tempting to dress this post's intro up with a lot of flowery language and because of that temptation, I'm not going to.  I'm going to lay it out straight.  It's about sov.  But as I sometimes do, I am going to trot out an old-fashioned "theme" statement:
The worst mistake CCP could make when they eventually iterate on sovereignty again would be to implement a "bottoms up" income system without a corresponding "bottoms up" sovereignty system at the same time.
What do I mean by that?  Before I get into that, I'd like to take us all back three years for a moment, to the Dominion expansion.  This expansion was trumpeted by CCP as the most major change in the way sov would work pretty much since the game was launched ten years ago.  Every single mechanic in the way sov was captured and managed was changed; nothing was left as it was.  Remember: Every. Single. Little. Thing was changed.  And the changes were so revolutionary, so ground-breaking, that a month or so before Dominion was released, the sov map looked like this:


And a month after Dominion was released -- the most revolutionary change to the sov system in the history of EVE Online -- the sov map looked like this:


I swear those are real pictures and I swear I am not making this up.  It's OK.  No need to feel bad: you can laugh.  Go ahead.  I'll wait.

Why did Dominion effect so little change on the EVE landscape?  Mostly, it comes down to inertia.  A lot of people belonging to a lot of sov alliances were already living in and around the systems that they held prior to the Dominion drop.  These people were therefore already in the best position in terms of logistics to drop the hundreds of Territory Claim Units that would be needed to claim sov under the new system.  These people already had ships in stations and already had the processes in place to stand guard as this was done.  But just as important, these alliances already had both enormous financial backing to make all of the needed purchases and the motivation needed to make sure that as little as possible changed after Dominion dropped.

And that leads to the third reason why there was so little change after Dominion: the system prior to Dominion, that of logistics and POSes and a structured, organized top-down approach lent itself well to Dominion's structured, organized, top-down approach.  The cost of sov wasn't based on how many members an alliance had but how much ISK they had and those ISK sources were very much fed from the top down, primarily moons of course, but also supplemented by a lot of very rich EVE players.  How those EVE players stayed and remained rich, particularly in the east, I leave as an exercise for the student.

But the net result was clear: since income was top down, sovereignty continued to be top down and as a result, almost nothing on the map changed when Dominion dropped.  I've been playing this game long enough that I remember how revolutionary and ground-breaking and game-changing CCP promised Dominion would be.  The reality?  Not so much.

The Truman Show is a movie about a man who is born, raised, and is living in an artificial town-sized bubble as the unknowing star of a reality TV show.  The town is a massive TV set.  All the people around him are actors.  He is not allowed to leave the bubble.  So when as a child he proclaims he wants to be an explorer, his (actress) social studies teacher is quick to point out that he's too late, it's all been explored and mapped out already.  The subtext: there's obviously no reason to leave the bubble.

That late 2009 snapshot of sov was only that: a snapshot.  Soon after, a lot of changes began impacting the sovereignty map that happened despite Dominion rather than because of it.  A lot of people were pushed out of sov in 2010.  I was only one of them, pushed out of Scalding Pass by the Red Alliance invasion of the region.  Those of us in that situation were joined by thousands of new EVE players with the Incursion expansion, also released in 2010.  By mid-2011, a lot of us were looking outward at sov again but by that time were essentially being told that it had all been explored and claimed by others.  So a lot of people decided that there was no reason to leave the bubble.

Now CCP has just started to hint that they'd like to look at this again, and a lot of players are giving their opinions of it, myself among them.  The problem is that where the discussion seems to be going is in the direction of bottoms up income without linking this to bottoms up sovereignty.  In short, a lot of the various proposals and discussions revolve around removing moon-goo and forcing alliances to make their ISK through the active ship-flying activities of their members.  And I'm all for this.  And the big sov coalitions are as well.  And I'm sure CCP likes it because it would be easy to implement.  Whatever system they put in place for players generating alliance income through taxes or whatever, few or no fundamental changes to the game's mechanics will be needed.

But the net result is going to be that nothing is going to change in null-sec sovereignty.  A couple of months after such changes were implemented, the sov map would change not at all.  The sov coalitions would enjoy massive incomes coming out of their thousands of members, renters, and pets, and would use this to pay their TCU-based sov bills and that would really be that.  No wonder the big sov coalitions like it: hell, it makes their jobs easier!

In my opinion, bottoms up income is a nice start.  But it's only a start.  It has to be linked to bottoms up sovereignty as well.  I've written about this before, as sov by occupation.  To hold sov, the sov owner should have to be active in the systems that they hold, by living in the station there, by mining, by running sites, or through some other mechanic.  At the end of the day, I don't much care what that mechanic is (though I've suggested one possibility).  And bottoms up sov is not going to be easy for anyone: not for people holding sov, and not for CCP.  But if change is going to come to sovereignty, in my opinion, this is going to be the only way to do it: get your players to solve the problem for you.

But this post has gone on long enough, so I'll write about that in a day or two.

37 comments:

  1. Sovereignty on the map is not the same thing as sovereignty on the ground. It should not be conflated, and I do not understand why and so many other otherwise smart people continue to do so.

    Map sovereignty is what shows up on the map, and is largely irrelevant except as a recruiting tool to impress newbies: "Look at all the space we hold!" Nevermind that even the Verite map shows that many seemingly-contiguous sovereignty blobs contain smaller entities within.

    Real sovereignty is determined by power projection: who has the organization and the motivation, and the resulting _power_ to control who occupies an area of space. And bottom-up sovereignty will have no effect on it. Unless you: (1) remove all jump-capable ships, (2) remove jump bridges, (3) remove jump clones, and (4) create a mass limit for all gates and a blues-list-based cap on number of pilots in system, bottom-up sovereignty will be nothing more than a pointless gimmick.

    So all this talk about 'bottom up sovereignty' is meaningless. Without a massive nerf to power projection across the board, and a direct nerf to player ability to leverage superior logistics and organization, well-organized large coalitions will continue to dominate null, as they have done since well before Dominion.

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  2. So, you predict that after the change to bottom up income is made, the situation will be : "The sov coalitions would enjoy massive incomes coming out of their thousands of members, renters, and pets, and would use this to pay their TCU-based sov bills and that would really be that." massive incomes from people being active in the systems that they hold, got it.

    But, you think that there needs to be a huge, difficult, change, requiring this: "To hold sov, the sov owner should have to be active in the systems that they hold, by living in the station there, by mining, by running sites, or through some other mechanic."

    There's not really much difference between those two scenarios. In the first scenario, people under the sovholder are active in the systems. In the second scenario, people under the sovholder are active in the systems. The only difference is a bit of bookkeeping chicanery, where people will be officially in one alliance or coalition, but understood to actually be a renter and/or pet, a lesser member. How is that an improvement? The only difference in your proposed system is that there's increased dishonesty in it. Sorry, but that's not going to win any votes. If farms and fields has any impact on sov, it's not going to be because of this ridiculous semantics issue you're pushing , but because of military realities on the ground stemming from difficulty and success is defending farmers and fields.

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    1. The normal proposal I'm seeing for bottoms-up sov income has to do with allowing alliances to tax the market and PvE activities of their members.

      As a result, the largest portion of that massive income is going to come from sov alliance members running high-sec incursions, market trading in Jita, and other activities that have nothing to do with where those members live.

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    2. I don't live in Sov Null, and I don't have more than 1 account, but I was under the impression that people who are out there did incursions, trading, etc on different accounts out of corp to avoind war-decs and such. Is that not usually the case?

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    3. Corporations already tax those things. Changing it to alliances isn't going to change anything.

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  3. Bottoms up sovereignty would disproportionately favor large alliances, since they would be able to spread their collective alcohol consumption over a large group of people. It would probably result in less overall coordination, though.

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  4. There is a large percentage of sov-holding alliance members who don't want to PVE. Not ever. Forcing them to do it is just as bad as forcing the highsec carebears into PVPing. Exactly how many red crosses will have to be killed to maintain a certain sov level?

    People say sov would be better if Seleene had been allowed to finish what he started when he worked on the Dominion sov system at CCP. How would that work out now? I never heard what else he had in mind or wanted to proceed with iterating on it.

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    1. "There is a large percentage of sov-holding alliance members who don't want to PVE. Not ever."

      There really isn't. There was in the days of BoB but with the death of -A- the last of the old great elite elitist pvp alliances is gone.

      Now everyone holding substantial space in null has a ton of ratters. Individual players who want to just pvp and nothing else will remain useful but no alliance is going to be moaning "woe, woe, we can't find any ratters!"

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    2. lol... most of the null sec alliance members are doing nothing but PVE - mining, manufacturing, mission running - every day. The biggest PVE carebears in the game are all in null.

      Where the hell do you think all of the null sec ISK comes from? From PVP?

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    3. PVE is the foundation of the rest of the game play. It's where all the material comes from to build the ships you like to blow up. PVP activity in th easy stem could/would obviously also count as sov activity. If you don't want to rat or mine in null to support sov, maybe someone smart would start inviting some of the 80% of active high sec accounts into null to do all the PVE things the angry PVP crowd doesn't want to do. Instead of null players trying to turn all the high sec PVE players into PVP players, which obviously isn't working, and never has, bring them down and let them play the way they like to, which supports the way YOU want to play.

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    4. I'll have a LOT to say about this in the next piece, but the OP is simply wrong. These are the *very same* alliances that bitch continuously that they are overly reliant on high-sec for their industry.

      A healthy RL nation includes both a healthy military AND a healthy economy. Why should a large sov alliance be different? It doesn't have to be the same people doing both jobs.

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  5. Saw this approach to sovereignty change on another site by Ashesofempires. It has a nice vision of a "real" sovereignty approach tied not only to income but to holding ground:

    The cost of maintaining sovereignty shouldn't be linear, because it's not linear in reality. Each system owned beyond the first should cost a steadily increasing amount of ISK. Without the financial support to pay the sov bill, alliances would be less willing to claim space that they aren't going to use. Further, designate a capital system. As alliances expand away from the capital system, system sovereignty becomes more expensive, and defensive timers become shorter, unless the Alliance wishes to expend large amounts of ISK (billions per timer). Taking, maintaining, and defending space further and further from the Alliance's home system becomes expensive and difficult. Just like in reality.

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    1. I agree with this. The cost of holding sov should not scale in a linear way.

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  6. What are the problems with Sov?
    Reading this post my impression of your view is that space is taken to move moons inside your borders and to create bottlenecks for easy defense. In the current system is there any other reason to hold another system? I am talking about entities that hold 5+ systems. My experience with null sec was that you could get most of your ratting needs satisfied in one system per corp.

    So if top down income went bye byes, the only reason to hold territory would be for defense (presuming the above holds). Why not reduce size at that point?

    On a separate note...how are PL going to survive in a bottom up world? I realise there are likely to be significant capital reserves but sooner or later even those reserves are going to dwindle. The rise of the null bear...PL goes back to their mercenary ways?

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  7. With CCP shying away from doing a complete POS revamp in one expansion I doubt they would be willing to do a "bottoms up" change for both income and sov in one go either. I don't see a reason why they wouldn't be able to change over the sov system before the income system though.

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  8. There's a followup to this I'd like to see from you. You're very much an advocate of a more fragmented, warlike nullsec. But I think the "more fragmented" step is the easy half of the vision. How do you convince these small corps to stay neutral to a significant proportion of their neighbours? What will stop these small corps from trending towards blue blobs, just like the current nullsec?

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    1. Oh, they wouldn't. But it wouldn't matter. Go back and look at that 2009 sov map. Count the number of entities within 15 jumps of Catch-Provi. I assure you that all of them were not blue to each other.

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  9. I don't know why you bother blogging about this topic.

    As with Dominion, CCP isn't going to make any "real" changes to the sov mechanic which would force the null alliances to exert more effort to hold their current space, or risk losing it.

    Why not, you ask?

    Because the null sec alliances are the biggest organized whiners in the game, bar none. Every time, and any time, that CCP considers changing something in null that might tip over the power structure, the whole null gang starts threatening to rage quit, en masse, until CCP backs down.

    So, pay ISK to keep sov is ok; expend more player effort is not.

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    1. This.

      It is pretty clear from the stupid way that wardec fees are figured that CCP doesn't want to "upset" the large alliances.

      Delete
  10. https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&m=675312

    I still like my SOV system idea. It has two parts. Activity and Defense. Activity keeps ships in space and out doing things. It basically boils down to tracking pilot time uncloaked undocked outside of POS shields. Sure, you could rack up some serious numbers AFK floating in space... The second aspect is blowing stuff up. If you are running sites doing stuff, that accumulates into the Defense stat. Defense counts PvP and PVE kills and awards based on value of kills. This would simplify your % change system and would easily count any content.

    With your system, I think if a system goes below 50% for all groups, the SOV is lost to None.

    The critical part of any new Bottom-up SOV system is: count the valid target ships in space, not structures. If you want ships, risk them to fleets. If you turtle up, those fleets can screw you over just by staying there long enough.

    Droxlyn

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  11. It's an intriguing idea but it needs explanation of why bottom up sov would be a fun game mechanic.

    Suppose Rote take sov in a system. Possibly accidentally if you automatically get sov just by being there when no one else is. Then you set stuff up - moon mines etc. So along come TEST and park 500 noobs in ibises in a POS they've sneakily stuck up when you were asleep. And you lose all your shit.

    Is that fun? Doesn't sound fun. In fact the big alliances could take out a travelling road show that de-sovs everyone who can't fight them (and batphones PL when you can).

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    1. The mechanic can't be that simple, because that avenue of abuse if patently clear. Thank you, Cpt. Obvious. Before decrying it, why don't you wait to see what details such a mechanic could contain.
      -Bantara

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    2. I think you are making a bit of a logical fallacy here. Who said anything about 500 newb ships parked in a POS being enough to de-sov?

      Who says that the big alliances can't go around de-soving everyone right now as is (besides the fact that they don't want to)?

      At best you're describing the current sitauation and at worst you've just made up a bunch of dumb arguments without thinking .

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    3. "Before decrying it, why don't you wait to see what details such a mechanic could contain."

      Link a proposal that is detailed and not dumb then.

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    4. "could", not "does". The only proposal I really care about will be posted in a dev blog.
      -Bantara

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  12. The smartest thing CCP ever said regarding Sov: "We asked ourselves: Why do we even need Sovereignty?"

    I ask you: Why does Eve need this mechanic anymore? If Eve is such a "sandbox" why not simply let players brawl it out for different aspects of each system piece by piece? Why do we need CCP telling us who controls space? Can't we decide by who is left standing? Aren't the players suppose to make the narrative?

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    1. Oh no, I completely disagree with this. Sov is a brilliant mechanic speaking to the male need to have their names on things, to be famous, and to have a visibly bigger penis than the other guy.

      I just disagree with how -- right now -- one goes about getting it. ;-)

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    2. It's a female need to, by the way (add uterus and subtract penis) - note the innate popularity of princesses (no-one sells a fairy tale on a scullery maid unless she magically turns into a princess) and high ranking females in entertainment or anything else where females compete which is now the workplace. It's a human need.

      Territory is actually a need of most non human species too. It's coded in whether we actually need it or not, because usually from territory comes food comes survival.

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    3. Except that you only get to write your alliance's name within the approved rectangle on a whiteboard, with a dry erase marker.

      VFK will forever be VFK.

      There are no ruins. No matter how great or powerful an alliance gets, and no matter how long it holds sovereignty over a system, and no matter how utterly it develops that system, all traces that they--or anyone--was ever there vanish when they're evicted.

      There are no battlefields. No matter how epic the fight, no matter the number of supercapitals, there is no trace that anything happened two hours after the last shot was fired. This is probably not a bad thing, because terrain is so sparse that this would just lead to massive pileups of junk around POS anchor points and gates, with a smaller junkyard at the warp-in for the sun. There is no tactical terrain, so the variegated battles that made up Gettysburg are impossible.

      Even if they were possible, under the current rules there would be no evidence that anything had happened only two hours later. At least in a sandbox you can look at a spot where a sandcastle was kicked in and see that there was once something there. There's no way to leave your mark on EVE, unless you count the innumerable anchored POSes left behind by failed corps.

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  13. May i suggest a slightly different approach?

    its mixed, sov is a result of activity + infrastructure
    So placing watchtowers, castles and farms along with people living and working there counts towards sov.

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  14. I don't think the mechanic is the major problem. I think power projection is.

    Mynn had a write-up about jumping things around the map in regards to shipping to and from Nullsec, but I don't agree with his central premise of why we shouldn't nerf it to the ground. I think the ability to batphone re-enforcements from 3-4 regions away with the expectation they'll get there in a somewhat timely manner is more detrimental to the game than either his point or the structure shoot for Sov. Such overwhelming force can be brought to engagements so easily now days that wars are fought in a weekend and then quickly devolve into tower flipping soul grinds.

    Sov is a problem, make no mistake, but I think everyone is putting the cart before the horse.

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  15. I challenge your information about the effect of Dominion on sov. Your images can't be correct. Day 1 of the launch of Dominion saw the invasion of Geminate by Atlas\Solar. Within a month, WI. was pushed out of Geminate. Not long after, the NC lost Vale as well.

    I'm sure this is not the only Sov war that went on in that first month, but I can certainly attest to at least this one, which is not illustrated on your map comparison.

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    1. Challenge away. Dominion was released December 1, 2009. Those are Verite influence maps downloaded from:

      http://eve-files.com/media/corp/Verite/

      Pull the dates from the graphics above yourself and compare them to the ones on eve-files. I just downloaded them a few days ago.

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    2. To be clear, I was not accusing you of anything, only that the data you present didn't seem to align with my memory of events. Perhaps my recollection of exact dates are off.

      Still, Add another 30 days to your analysis and you'll find much more drastic changes in Sov. I'm not sure it's fair to CCP to expect such a change to have a drastic effect within a 30 day period, especially when that 30 day period includes the winter holidays. Not to mention that the new Sov system at the time supposedly made Sov harder to acquire (if not harder, atleast take more time)

      What you do notice between the two images you link, and you can see this better if you flip back and forth between them quickly, is a marked reduction in density at the 30 day mark. This is most likely due to Alliances dropping Sov in unused or underused systems that they did not want to pay for. In this sense, it was exactly the effect that CCP was hoping for. Unfortunately it didn't take long for those alliances to recognize the security risks of not owning that space, thus encouraging alliances to band together and install allies in the space they didn't want to pay for. In the end, amplifying the whole blue blob issue.

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    3. Also, if you check out the most recent version of the same maps, you can see quite a few small alliances owning space in nullsec. Sure you can see the hulking relative size of Goons, Test, and Solar... but you can't really deny the diversity in the rest of nullsec. That is, until you overlay coalition influence...

      It's not Sov mechanics that you want to change, its the ability for alliances to band together that is the real cause of the issue everyone is complaining about. And while I agree it's a big issue, I still contend that CCP has no power to resolve it.

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    4. I completely agree that 2010 was a busy year for sov. But those things would have happened without Dominion. Hell, Dominion created very good reasons for those things NOT to happen and they happened anyway.

      As for the rest, your argument is that six or so alliances living in some of the worst space in EVE prove that sov mechanics are perfectly OK? That's your argument? ;-)

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    5. Not really. Saying that making changes to Sov Mechanics won't fix the problem is very different from saying Sov Mechanics are perfectly OK.

      I agree there need to be changes to Sov, but not for the purpose of diversifying nullsec. I also agree that nullsec should be more diverse, I just don't think there is any game mechanic change that will help that situation.

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