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.
You can follow along, if you want...

Monday, March 5, 2012


It's time for another short history lesson, in which Jester Makes History Fun.  Are you seated comfortably?  Then I'll begin.

After western Europe's dubious flirtation with representative governments came to an end around 410 AD, things got back to normal.  "Government", as such, returned to the state of affairs that had existed prior to the coming of the Roman Empire, to wit: the biggest, strongest guy owned it all.  For the next 1400 years or so, a series of kings, religious leaders, and potentates controlled the destinies of larger and smaller areas of land from the coasts of Ireland and Portugal to Constantinople and up the Ural mountains.

Nowhere and nowhen was this dictated more firmly than it was by William I of England around 1085.  After completing the conquest of most of England in 1066, William made it very clear that as far as he was concerned, he owned the entire country and everything and everyone in it.  Everyone else, from noble to commoner to slave, was reduced to a renter at best (or as it was later put somewhat more charitably, a "tenant", from the Latin word for "to hold") to property at worst.  He gave large parcels of the country to his best fighters to hold for him, and directed them to further subdivide those holdings into smaller plots of land that each of their best knights would hold.  From these holdings, the various tenants would pay William (rather exorbitant) taxes, as well as tributes of food and other supplies.  They would also contribute both knights and common soldiers to William's army should he call for them.

Yes, I know this sounds familiar.  We'll get to how it applies to EVE in a minute.

Anyway, during the Christmas 1085 holiday, William decided that he felt like people were maybe holding back a chicken here and a sack of wool there and he let everyone know that he'd be sending auditors out among the country to count and tax everything he owned.  The results of this massive audit were put into two great books that today are known as the Domesday Book.  Kings and governments since have heard of William's innovation, thought it was a fine idea, and governments of all types have been emulating it to greater or lesser degrees ever since.

At the time, though, even William's own people didn't care for the idea, so you can imagine what the conquered people of England thought of it.  The resulting taxes were systematic and heavy.  The Domesday Book itself notes that by the time it was finished, only 12% of England's population were free-holders, and almost 75% were serfs or slaves.  The rest were theoretically the nobility, but they were tenants the same as everyone else.

As I said: William owned it all, made it clear to everyone that he owned it all, and parceled out the pieces of it that he felt like it to those that were of service to him.  If you weren't of service, you were kicked off the land and someone was brought in to replace you.  Say that happened to someone, and you were the beneficiary.  You're Baron B.  Baron A has managed to do something stupid to piss off William, and is losing his tenancy.  It's been given to you, and it's better than the one you have now.  What do you do?  Why, you pack up everything in your castle and you move to your new one.  Your old castle will likewise be given to someone being promoted.  No need to bring any more food than what you and your court will need for the trip.  Once you arrive at your new digs, you'll be receiving the taxes and tribute from the knight-tenants in the new Baronetcy... minus what goes to the King, of course.

I swear I am not making this stuff up.

OK, now we can talk about EVE Online.

But honestly, do we really have to?

I'm sure all of this sounds extremely familiar to those in sov space these days.  Serfdom ended on planet Earth 400 years or so ago in most places.  But it's alive and well and thriving in New Eden.  The Mittani wrote a piece on Ten Ton Hammer two years back called "Twilight of the Great Powers".  It was written as the Dominion expansion was ramping up.  Reading today, the piece comes off as simultaneously naive and prophetic:
For many of the Great War vets, the prospect of playing Slumlord Online is positively nauseating. When managing tenants was a means to the end of more conquest, having renters was fine - many alliances pre-Dominion used renters as an income method, and it funded their wars quite effectively. Yet now we seem to be consigned to be the galactic landlords of little fiefdoms, unable to expand...
Except they found a way to expand, and it's called "economies of scale."

Read this next bit carefully, because I'm about to explain why "sovereignty by occupation" will never, ever come to New Eden.

The same piece lights the path ahead without realizing it:
The logical outgrowth of these design decisions is to stop conceptualizing alliances as conquest-focused war machines and instead think of them as a business.
And that's exactly what has happened.  "Wars are primarily driven by rage and hatred", we're led to believe, when that is demonstrably BS.  If that's the case, why is RaidenDOT still holding sov in more than 100 systems when at least two "great powers" have every reason to despise them?  Why was Merciless pushed out of sov space when they had no significant enemies?  No, alliances in New Eden are a serfdom-driven business.  Alliance warfare in New Eden is likewise a business driven by control of resources, control of territory, and control of players.  "Those who try to play at the old Great Power game will find themselves desperately trying to stay afloat or bankrupt", Mittens said in February 2010.  Nope.  "Those who remain in conquerable space but give up conquest as a raison d'etre will find themselves stagnating as they wallow in their space-slums."  Aheh.  Nope.

Now introduce sovereignty by occupation into this climate.  In every part of space except the northwest, the number of space-holding alliances is dropping rapidly.  Meanwhile, the size of space-holding alliances is growing at an enormous rate.  Players are moving either themselves or their corps en masse from small alliances to big ones.  Wildly Inappropriate is a great example: they went from being a space-holding alliance to a corp inside Goonswarm.

There is absolutely no way these massive alliances can make the space they hold productive on these scales.  However, they're having no trouble holding this space because once you're working on the scale of alliances of thousands of taxed alliance members and rent-paying tenants, the charges associated with holding sovereignty become a minor nit on the balance sheets.  Far from being "bankrupt", the great powers are rolling in wealth.

This makes the massive super-cap fleets we're seeing not only possible but absolutely inevitable.  There are alliances out there that literally have more super-caps than they can field.  They keep the spares on hot stand-by hoping for and trying to recruit players who can actually fly the damn things.  That makes the idea of a small sov-holding alliance a laughable one.  Small alliances have no way of dealing with a small number of super-caps, much less a large number of them.  Exit Merciless.

Sovereignty by occupation, introduced into this climate, would be pointless.  These very same null-sec alliances moved to take over the CSM when they thought their jump-bridges were at stake.  You think they'd sit still at an attempt to shake down their entire power structure, taxation model, and income sources?  Hee!  No.  At best, because there is no limit on the number of corps that can join an alliance, they'd simply find ways to fold their pets into the alliance structure.  Shadow of xXDEATHXx is at 200 corps and rising at two or three corps a week.

This, by the way, is why I've gone from being a fan of treaties to something approaching its worst enemy.  I hope that this idea never makes it into EVE.  I can understand now why work on it was probably stopped after Seleene left CCP.  It has far more disadvantages now than advantages, and I think someone in CCP realized that.  I wonder who it was?

So yeah, despite the fact that it makes total sense, I don't think we're ever going to see sovereignty by occupation in EVE Online.  It's already too late for this kind of solution to do much good.  Serfdom has taken hold in New Eden and until the serfs themselves decide otherwise, that's how things are going to stay.


  1. I'm not following your logic here. Because of the serfdom, no sov by occupation?

    The thing is, if sov by occupation in some form goes into effect, the large alliance would need a metric crap ton of serfs occupying their space. If huge alliance A wants to, for reasons of logistics, security, history or arrogance, keep a section of space, they have to send in the serfs the serf-herders in order to hold on to it. If anything sov by occupation will cause serfdom to be expanded greatly.

    1. You followed my logic just fine. Sov by occupation wouldn't change a thing.

    2. Yeah anon, Jester use to be a fan of SOV occupation, but in this post and especially at the end, he showys how he doesn't like it anymore and won't be as beneficial as he once considered it to be.

      Yeah Jester, the only problem I have with posts like this is you don't take into consideration how many hours people have to play EVE. Its like you assume all players have 20 hours to devote to EVE and laugh at anyone who only has like 2-4 hours to play. Also SP limits people might be too low SP generally for these ideas to work. Was hoping you could do a post with your ideas and rate them to how many hours people would have to spend online for them to work. or their avg SP lvl for it to work as well, if you can.

    3. Any system of determining ownership based on who has more pilots to throw at a problem is itself a problem — assuming the aim is to encourage smaller entities to stake out part of null sec for themselves and engage in "good fights" for the remainder of their null sec occupation.

      Any system of allowing people to pull up the drawbridge is still going to have weaknesses which will be mercilessly exploited by those with more money, time, ISK, and pilots to throw at the 'problem'. The dream of having "smallholders" in null sec will not be possible while there is any scope for large groups of players to coordinate their actions against smaller targets.

      The inevitable outcome of conflict in null sec is for the Roman Empire or equivalent to "own" everything, either formally or through capacity to project force. The only thing that will bring this Empire down is internal fracturing, corruption and loss of faith in leadership.

      It is not the serfs who will rise up and overthrow their masters, it is the people one or two rungs down the hierarchy (and there is always a hierarchy, regardless of how "flat" the official hierarchy is) who will break off their splinter groups. The serfs will continue to follow whoever is leading them.

  2. So whats YOUR solution?

  3. I'm a big fan of the dynamic allocation of resources system. Let the big alliances have their surfs and have their farms and fields. Devalue moon-goo like they want to where the onus is put on being glorified renter alliances.

    Then make their farms and fields dependent on a new resource type that moves. A fleet of ships that tried to create a wormhole for a new way of travel, but the Jove sabotaged it and now randomly hops across null giving off a harvest-able radiation type that's needed to run farms. Something. And the whole thing, the only supply, moves randomly around Null, stays till the initial burst is harvested, then jumps again and moves on.

    It would tax the crap out of the servers for a random constellation to be constantly home to king of the hill alliance matches competing for the resource. But I also think it would make life in null interesting again. If it lands in your space you get a bonus for a day or so, but everyone will be coming. If it lands on the other side of the map, you'll have to balance home fleet to defend your space against the fleet you send away.

  4. The post earlier in the week about SOV prompted my own thoughts. I think null has to have some radical changes. Allow people to control the amount of risk they are willing to take at the cost of rewards. Restrict numbers and ship types based on the assumed risk. Then null can become a place for everyone to find a spot and not just people willing to join up with their favorite horde of lemmings.

    Here's my post if you are interested in the details.


  5. Very interesting. This was a conversation I tried to get going on one forum thread a few months back The short version of the idea I was trying to float was SOV tied to occupation and a treaty system BUT with the added removal of the alliance executor corp mechanic. Granted, I was not exploring the practical politics of the idea, it was more of a "in a perfect wold" scenario that I felt would shift the power and wealth back to the "serfs" (or corps) since the alliances would be more "loose" with a treaty system and the headache of management without the tools provided by CCP. People would still be free to create alliances through the treaty system, but the wealth of the alliance would be held by the individual corp wallets creating more animosity between the individual corps.

  6. Seems to me a few possibilities exist baring a change in mechanics. A) Current sov holders collapse under their own weight (i.e. BOB), and the cycle repeats. B) Mass migration out of the sov holdings of Null sec (which has historical precedence in RL as well), but to where? The riches of the occupied areas of space appear to be permanent and infinite (unlike natural resources). Dare I say it? High Sec is the only other place that offers any significant source of wealth and that wealth (currency) doesn't really change the value of the resources from the north. OR C) "You have won EVE. Game over." (I don't think CCP will let that happen).

  7. Sometimes I find the player response to the sandbox as rather strange. Rent seeking empires have a long history and is a extremely robust structure with many means to maintain its own power. With the short exception of the strange modern era with nuclear weapons deterring warfare, and freedom requiring intellectuals driving technological economy did the structure lose power and it failed because warfare and brute force itself no longer pays (Oil, the black technetium, still make it possible in many places).

    Small gangs is an absurdity that could only survive when large power structures fail due to communication, coordination and power projection failures, which doesn't really make sense in the world of information technology that makes a globe spanning MMO possible. The world since history started have been dominated by power blocks that makes the sandbox of eve seem tiny. If coordinating millions of men with telegraphs is possible, what is a few thousand?

    If virtual reality ever works out, I can totally check whether I am in one by checking whether small groups of "skillful" folks is ever considered the key to military success, as opposed to sheer mass of man power reducing all activity to controlled processes. Only in the power fantasy of video gamers, fed by propaganda feeding their habits, do power work that way.

    1. Wouldn't a small gang of elites be an assassination squad? They can be very effective at destroying targets.

      Small assault teams can always find a target even against an organized enemy.

      I think Jester is wrong and right at the same time with his assumption. He's right that Alliance would yearn to become larger to gain more ressources. Larger corp would mean more power. This is already the case though. Alliance can just make peace and there won't be any more fighting. They'll win. There's no fun in it though.

      Size tend to create dissent though. Large countries are often called giants with clay feet because their size hampers them.

      What would be a good way to keep alliance small - say 200-1000 member each and have hundreds of sov holder in NUll?

  8. Just changing the system to occupation won't bring the solution over night. But it will bring in more small gangs that might (under given circumstances) join forces to get rid of a bigger one.

    The latest example for downfall of large groups is DRF in my opinion. 6 month ago they have been a really hard striking team with a lot of power. now they are covert up in civil war.
    In order to get away from the large bloc in favor to the small one you need additional conflict drivers which will it make harder to rally large amounts of people under your name.
    Why are so many people interested in the large alliances? Right. There is PvP for free and you get a solid reimbursement. Many people don't have to care about how to get money because they have a big brother who floats in wealth. (back to tech i think ;-))

    Decentralize the money generation so that not a small pos staff in the alliance is responsible for getting all the money but every single char in the alliance should work for it.
    Changing one thing in the current state can't change our world (except of ccp pulling the plug), there must be many (even small) changes which will lead to a different power distribution.

  9. So people ask for solutions....
    I feel the answers, like this scenario poses, can be found in history. For low sec and pirates look at privateer letters of marque, for null sec warfare and soverienty look at the 100 years war.
    Or try Shogunate Japan?

    Everyone turned on everyone to maximise there side. Knights, lords and nobles (Samurai, Daimyo) turned on a dime to back stab each other. Sound like how EVE could be? is supposed to be?

    So how to do it? add a planetary interface, add planet management like planets, mining, taxation, government types (like the old masters of orion revamped), think SIM planet. Add troops (in divisions with associated skills) with planetary warfare based skill sets. make planetary warfare a whole new aspect of EVE. Then have planetary governors, who are players.

    Therefore bitter vets have something new (and new skills), new players have a new field to play in, it links to DUST 514....

    The crunch - each planetary governor holds the keys to the gate and can change sides AS THEY LIKE. So now you need active players and to keep them loyal. Now you have back stabbing warfare.....

    Hiyoshi Maru

  10. As you yourself point out, the current renter structure, and the Sov system, creates economies of scale for alliances, and thus inevitably alliances will trend towards that scale. This is reinforced by things like voice chat and relative ease of power projection

    If and only if you are seeking to reduce alliance blobbing, then the key is to reduce the impact of these existing factors, or to create all new ones.

    Changes which make defending “harder” and thus reduces economy of scale for existing incumbents also help in breaking the current deadlock, such as delayed local etc.

    Or you could make the logistical challenges of supercaps or caps higher – reduced jump capability, slower jump capability, “range” and basing etc. Without some form of this, then eventually we could have 1 supercap fleet covering all of null/lowsec, and only the artificial prevention of hisec jumping preventing total kspace domination.

    A sov by occupancy could be made to work with some brutal number tweaking. For example if we take one extreme, it could be calibrated such that to have sov over 1% of total known space, it would require the PvE efforts of 1% of Eve player time. So if for example say 30 trn of bounties are taken in all of Eve and there are 5000 systems in Eve, your corp/alliance would need to collect 6bn of bounties in EACH SYSTEM you want to have sov over. The numbers could of course be tweaked, and you could add flourishes, such as intruders taking your bounties could make a 5 or 10 times deduction from your bounty total. The same can be replicated for mining etc.
    The beauty of a Sov through occupancy balanced where the Sov parent can’t hold Sov without their “renters” (literally) is that this changes the power balance between tenant and landlord. That seems to be the key for me, that renters who leave need to be taking real (and significant) power away from their landlords, otherwise it will be back to master/slave relationships

    Now of course this would be unacceptable because Sov should be accessible through PvP alone, and not require any PvE at all. Now the problem of Sov through PvP only is that, if the rewards of Sov are primarily Isk, and the isk cost of Sov PvP < isk reward of Sov PvP, then you will eventually get overwhelming blob. Imagine a continual counterstrike match where the winners will trend to insta-kill guns, it would not be a sustainable game.

  11. So this proves that the alliance system runs too smoothly that it allows for scale to kick in ? Hence, isk generation needs to be less wasteful for the smaller entities so that the serfs have more of an incentive to do their own thing. Currently, alliances can afford enough allowance to their tenents which keeps them happy when confronted with the choice to "live alone".

    But economy is only one factor. How to shift the military field equally in favour of the smaller blob ?

  12. The best way to break feudalism is to give more power and choice to the serfs. Break the tech moon faucets, develop more "farms and fields". (I know its easy to say rather than to do though.)

  13. FYI, 'Treaties' was a lot more than stuff to do with null sec alliances - it also touched on reforming the entire contract system, allowing a lot of things like proper mercenary / industrial contracts, bounty hunting, etc... It wasn't just some small thing about sov - it was a series of major changes under a code name. The reason it got cut was because PI was so far behind they needed another entire team to help get it out the door. I suspect we will see lot of the stuff that would have been in 'Treaties' come out this year, just possibly not all at once.

    1. What about a "Corruption" tax that increases as an alliance gets bigger sort of like Sid Meyer's Civilization?

      Smaller corps and alliances run tighter books and have more loyal NPC managers running all of those planet & moonside bases. As the beuracracy expands into mega corps, those same NPC managers start to skim more and more off the top and inefficiency sets in (possible new leadership skill to limit effects). Eventually the Alliance just gets too big, too inefficient, too old, and the corruption % grows from a small annoyance to large problem. Eventually the business is forced to fracture back down into more manageable chunks or to lose most of it's ISK generating capability into the ether of NPC corruption.

      Works as a nice ISK drain to counter new faucets as well.

  14. Break those long standing NAPs. A static map leads to stagnation. Rotate the moon types in a purposefully uneven way:

    Every week or so the Eve server selects one nullsec/lowsec region at random. It then generates a new region average from 0.2 to 0.8. Then for each moon in the region it generates a random number in a gaussian distribution with the chosen average and 0.2 variance and derives a moon type from the result.

    This would create localized, temporary conflict drivers to shake the power within the megablocks.

    Meanwhile, you can put your preferred sov-by-ocupation mechanics in place. And why not making sov holding influence the moon mining in some way?

  15. Sovereignty by occupation still has its merits. If an alliance isn't large enough to successfully occupy all of its historic territory, it will provide opportunities for smaller alliances to gain a foothold. Also a few new tactics for taking sovereignty from major sov holders comes into play. Imagine logging a fleet of alts in stealth bombers into territory that isn't tightly secured.

  16. your understanding of history is rather flawed. The ability for Willaim the conqueror to impose his will on his subjects was based entirely on the fact that there were a large number of Norman lords willing to support him in killing large numbers of saxon lords in return for land the saxons once held. Once those norman lords were settled, Willaim had little chance in hell of removing them without facing his other lords all rising up to beat on him, or if said norman lord was such a gigantic dick that other lords were willing to overlook the fact that willaim just removed someone from power. Willaim's decrees are essentially wang waving of the premodern era. He ruled at the sufferance of the nobility. When the nobles dislike you, they will beat you down, be you king, emperor, or pope.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.