Friday, August 26, 2011

Winter Is Coming

The Winter Supercapital Nerf ®.

Throughout the Eve forums, blogosphere and news outlets, it's spoken of in reverent tones. One would think the Winter Supercapital Nerf ® was holy grail, the once and future king, and the ultimate talisman against evil all rolled up into one. The reasoning around it goes something like this:

1 ) The Drone Russians and their subject vassal alliances have used overwhelming supercapital superiority to take over most of nullsec

2 ) By taking over most of nullsec, the DRF & Vassals control both its revenue-generation capacity and the means of production for supercapital ships, both of which are the de facto prerequisites for sovereignty

3 ) Thus, barring suicide, the DRF & Vassals cannot be displaced, as any challenger to their domination of nullsec must have access to a stockpile of supercapitals comparable to that of the DRF & Vassals.

4 ) Any alliance wishing hold nullsec space does so at DRF & Vassal sufferance, lest they risk being curb-stomped by DRF & Vassals' supercapital blobs at any time the DRF and/or Vassals deem it appropriate/convenient to so curb-stomp

5) Once the Winter Supercapital Nerf ® is deployed, the DRF & Vassals' supercapital advantage will be much diminished. Supercapital blobs will no longer be the nullsec 'I Win' button. The DRF's cruel grip on nullsec will loosen. Puppies will gambol in the meadows, beer will be free, and men who play with cartoon spaceships will become like catnip to wildly attractive women.

OK, I made up the bits about the puppies, beer and women.  And the catnip. But you get the idea.

In fact, there is so much expectation with regard to the Winter Supercapital Nerf ® that the last few entities capable of opposing DRF dominion over nullsec have given up the fight. Until Winter; when the Winter Supercapital Nerf ® will, so they say, reset the game board.

"Aye," say the whispers in the forums. "Then we'll have them."

Looking at everything CCP has actually said about a potential supercapital nerf, I'd say a little expectation management is in order, because they are presently way off the reality charts. Denial, as they say, is not a river in Egypt.  

CCP Greyscale has already indicated a profound reluctance to lay a significant nerf on supercapitals. Chances are, all we will see is an adjustment of some of the numbers for these monsters as well as the ability of their pilots to either dock their supercapitals in station, or possibly use jump clones to board and disembark from them. A change in how and when fighterbombers can be used seems to be in the cards as well.

Very likely, current events in nullsec are being discussed at CCP and are of some concern. However, as one of the most high ticket items in New Eden, supercapitals are critical to Eve Online's ability to generate revenue. CCP want's these ships to continue as a "must have" item for nullsec.

Sorry about that.  Hey, I'm only the messenger.

However, don't despair utterly. Not quite yet, anyway. I do suspect  CCP Greyscale will look to other mechanics in order to somewhat level the nullsec playing field.

Changes to jump ships mechanics seem to be one place he sees as a sweet spot for achieving many of his design goals. I'd expect to see a dial back on jump ship range in order to make covering vast distances much more expensive, time consuming and dangerous. This, of course will impact jump freighters as well as combat capitals and supercapitals, but CCP Greyscale has already expressed his desire to nerf the jump freighter, so he's unlikely to see that as a design obstacle.

Greyscale has also talked about curbing the effectiveness of combat jump ships by adding a spool-up time for cyno jumps. Instead of the current timing (in which there's no lag between the time a cyno goes up and when the jumpships can drop into the target system) a spool-up timer would be required to elapse before the capital ship could make the jump. This would allow the defending fleet a greater opportunity to kill the cyno ship before having a blob of supercapitals dropped on their heads.

Now, if you look at CCP Greyscale's design goals whiteboard, you'll see an interesting item under Territory and Conquest. It's in the middle of the lower row, right in the middle of the flash reflection. See it? It says "Shoot People Not Structures".  Reading the extended interpretation of this white board item we find the following:
Extensive empirical testing has shown that shooting at structures is in-and-of-itself boring, and even when it results in a good fight, it generally does so in spite of the structure-shooting mechanic rather than because of it. There are other ways to achieve the upsides of sitting in front of a stationary object with your weapons cycling for half an hour that don't make it indescribably tedious if the other side doesn't show up.
In other words, "If you want to keep it, you've got to defend it". This is a paradigm of which I heartily approve as it more effectively represents real life. Dominion began this change in that you have to actively defend certain limited set of strong points in order to hold onto systems under attack. However, the Dominion strong points are equally strong whether or not the defenders put up a fight.

With the advent of the supercapital blob, a defender has days before he has to show up and defend a system; a defense made near certain if you have a massive fleet of jump ships at your disposal. Even if the defender abandons his territories altogether, the invader must spend weeks reducing abandoned strong points.

Taken in isolation, these changes don't seem to offer much in the way of relief from the supercapital blob. However, taken together, they might be a potent antidote to the current status quo.

If undefended systems are easy to tip, and if defending supercapitals are harder to move, and require an extended cyno spool up to join a battle, and if they are a bit more vulnerable and less effective when they arrive, the "small alliance with a big supercap fleet" paradigm may fall apart. Why? Because of the Bruce Lee factor.

Bruce Lee could open up a huge can of martial arts whup ass on anybody, and I mean anybody (pre-mortum, of course). However, he could only open that can of whup ass on a few people at a time. Happily for Bruce, evil minions have a whole queuing protocol they use when attacking heroes. One must take one's turn in the evil minion game.

Likewise, supercapital blobs are exceedingly nasty. But they can only defend one system in the empire at a time. Under Dominion, they have a number of days to get around to defending a system, depending on the number of sovereignty defensive layers in place. And they can get there very quickly. However, if getting across New Eden suddenly takes longer, and the smelly barbarians all along your borders suddenly figure out that an empty castle is much like a castle waiting for a new owner, and once you arrive you announce your arrival with an extended cyno spool-up....

Well, let's say your supercapital blob is going to spend a LOT of time rushing about. They'll retake systems recently lost, only to lose those system again when the barbarians return. And the barbarians will return because your supercapital fleet will be riding off to rescue some other system. I call this the "Nibbled to Death By Ducks" paradigm.

Even Bruce Lee can be nibbled to death, given enough ducks with an bad attitude and a hunger for human flesh.

Now, of course you can spread your supercapital blob out over your vast empire; garrison your frontier and the vulnerable points your interior. Of course, all spead out like that, they're not a blob anymore, are they?

All of this assumes that any such changes, let alone all, will be introduced. Or that they'll be introduced any time soon. Meanwhile, it's almost September, and no clear decisions seem to have been reached. Time passes. The DRF advance continues, -A- and their allies retreat, Goonswarm has capitulated. Free nullsec fades.

Winter is coming. 


  1. Must say, I was pretty blasé about the whole fixing Nullsec expansion for the winter. Then I found out there would be puppies, beer and women. Then I found out it was a lie. I've gone from uncaring to really excited to really disappointed all while reading this post. Thanks Mord, guess I'll just go back to lowsec where all the fun is...

  2. I hope that is the way it works.. and it certainly will increase the difficulty of using a single supercap mob to overwhelm the enemy. However, it doesn't do anything about the proliferation (yes.. this again). This certainly would have worked last year.. but right now the manufacturing AND the isk generation are all in the hands of a few 0.0 entities. Because of that, manufacturing more than one blob will be easy, while the rest of us lowly folks, would be lucky to get our hands on one and should expect to lose it easily.

  3. I still say that we need a titan-killer dread. Like an anti-tank weapon that is cheap and weak against pretty much anything but can take a tank out in one shot -- or the odd GI with a bazooka. No need to nerf anything, just add balance by introducing various ways of fighting supercaps.

  4. @Fem - Sounds like a Dread fitted with a Doomsday.

    @2nd - More blobs are always a possibility. A likely scenario in that case would be positioning supercarrier depots and clone jumping the pilots hither and yon. Happens to some extent now. However, that creates problems of its own for the supercap dependent alliance. Much depends on how they change the sov mechanics and how many flocks of ducks go on the attack.

  5. Per 2nd's comment: a super-cap mule character only costs about 3-4 billion. So the big alliances can have multiple SC blobs spread at multiple locations in their empire. Instead of jumping one SC from one side of their space to the other, they'll hop into a covops, fly to the mule holding their other SC on the opposite side of their space, and jump into that.

    And of course, in the unlikely event that CCP allows super-caps to dock, you don't even need the mule. Alternately, you might see more SCs docked at POSs.

  6. @Jester - Six of one, half a dozen of another. As I said, this done on a large scale creates problems of its own. It also illustrates why I say that the individual changes won't change the status quo. All the changes have to hit together, or CCP might as well save the development cycles.

    Ironically, one of the reasons CCP Greyscale gave for resisting a significant supercap nerf was that it would lead to supercap blobs.

  7. knights riding out from a castle can only go so far before the logistics train needs to catch up to support them in the field. I have always held the belief that super caps (titans and SC) should have enormous fuel requirements to keep the ships fighting (let alone moving). One option is to have zero cap recharge on them. Force them to use cap injection or transfers to stay operational. that way, the only way to move a massive blob is to have a significant siege train. Lots of support ships just carrying fuel. It makes the "SC Depot" idea possible, but expensive on toons and tough to maintain. But just like forts in a line, there is always a way to punch a hole through and isolate a fort if poorly defended

  8. Regarding a super carrier nerf, something as banal as making tracking of sub-capitals more difficult would make a big difference. You probably wouldn't see 35-40 supers jumping into 200 sub-capitals and raping them. Suddenly titans DDing logis and command ships would be a much more dicey thing, and supers dying to a sub-capital fleet would be a possibility. Now the DRF would need a sub-capital support fleet, as well as the supers.

    Basically super capitals should be fighting each other and capitals. The idea of 40 titans taking on 240 sub-capitals and winning all by themselves indicates a severely broken mechanic somewhere. It is almost as ridiculous as an interceptor killing a dreadnaught. And speaking of dreadnaughts a buff to them might not hurt either.

    As for super capitals and revenue for CCP you massively overstate the case, IMO. How many super capital pilots are there? One thousand, two thousand? How many non-super-capital pilots are there? All the rest. If 10% of super pilots leave the game its not good. If 10% of the sub-capital pilots leave the game its a fucking catastrophe.

    Of course given the overall stupidity of Greyscale....

  9. @Steve - It's not a matter of the number of subscriptions so much as the real money revenue potential associated with buying and fitting supercapitals and the associated pilot enhancements. The presence of big ticket items that make one more competitive and can be purchased using real world money is central to the online gaming business plan.

    And while I may call out Greyscale for a marked tendency to underestimate the sand-box factor in his design decisions, he is certainly not stupid.

  10. The CCP devs involved in this indeed are not stupid, but they're timid, which is just as bad.

    This might sound strange, given that they've made changes to null in the last year that have brought howls of protest. But every one of those changes has been made with the promise of other, related changes "soon"... related changes that never materialize, or will materialize far too late to do any damn good.

    You mention that you want all of the individual changes to hit together. I submit that's unlikely in the extreme. CCP said at the May Summit that this winter's expansion would be released in stages over a few months. That's about the best that we can hope for. Even then, I think it's just as likely that the status quo will digest each change in turn and leave things in null itself unchanged, or changed in only minor ways.

    At this point, the only way to "fix" null is going to be with a series of shattering changes, completely upending the status quo, and CCP isn't going to do that in a million years.

  11. It's not a matter of the number of subscriptions so much as the real money revenue potential associated with buying and fitting supercapitals and the associated pilot enhancements. The presence of big ticket items that make one more competitive and can be purchased using real world money is central to the online gaming business plan.

    RMTing is against the EULA, and that is the case in most MMOs. After all, if suddenly your super carrier now has real world value and you "sell" it in game you might have to pay real world taxes on that. There there are currency exchange issues. And if CCP goes bankrupt what about all my stuff, those would have real world value and now I'd become a creditor in the bankruptcy proceedings etc.

    Really, I don't see you have much here on this one. The real world value of a super carrier, legally speaking, is nil, at least to the player since they really don't own it.

  12. Or to put it another way, all that matters is the number of subscriptions. The real world value of the super carrier and its fittings. All of that is owned by CCP, and it only has value so long as there are enough subscribers to keep the game going. Cut those subscriptions enough, and the supers are just a bunch of electrons taking up space on a disk somwhere--i.e. electronic rubbish.

  13. Steve-

  14. I remember before Dominion came out, and even right after, there was much confusion about how exactly the mechanic worked. The leading thought at the time wasn't that different than what you described, in fact CCP seemed to be leading us all to believe system mechanics would need to be defended by people. I can even remember us talking about having active defense fleets up to patrol systems.

    Then it quickly became obvious you didn't need that because the system mechanics would cry and scream at you for a long time, giving you plenty of chances to go calm them down.

    Personally I thought the imagined way it would work was always better than the way it actually worked. Maybe some of that can be brought back.

    Otherwise came join us in low sec, not only is it more fun, but we don't shoot structures - only people.

  15. Bad reasoning Mord. Yeah to raise the $20 billion for a super one could sell $1,000 worth of GTCs on the forums (the 60 day kind). But All that does is change who is paying for the subscriptions, it does not mean there is no $1,000 in extra subscriptions. Granted, the 60 GTC is a shade more expensive than paying the monthly subscription, but not that much.

    Also, once a SC pilot has that SC he isn't going to be dolling out $1,000 again unless he loses that SC and frankly that doesn't happen all that much. In other word, your story doesn't explain why CCP would care about people who have already spent the $1,000. They are unlikely to spend it again any time soon. I believe you touched on this issue when talking about Aurum or whatever the new currency is for buying useless junk in stations like monocles. If I buy GTCs and convert them over to buy a monocle that is money in CCPs pocket since all those GTCs wont be used to offset subscriptions for actual players.

    So unless you are suggesting that CCP is selling supers and fittings on the RMT market to shore up their bottom line, I just don't see the argument you are making here.

    Or let me make the point this way.

    Bobby buys a 60 day GTC and sells it to Tommy who then uses it to avoid paying his own money for his subscription. Net impact on CCP? A few bucks due to the fact that a months subscription via credit card is $14.95.

    Yes, I've read your post on how it all makes sense, but it still doesn't. So PLEX can be destroyed...but only if I undock with it in my hold and I'm shot or if I use it to get AUR...but getting AUR has nothing to do with a super carrier. Nothing in the vanity item store relates to super carriers. So the connection, that you claim makes it all so clear...just isn't there. You wrote,

    With AUR, CCP finally has a true PLEX sink that costs CCP next to nothing. When a PLEX is burned for AUR it exits the game and CCP's balance sheets will reflect it as almost pure profit.

    Yes, but it has f*ck all to do with super carriers. That I buy a stupid pair of boots does not make my character able to fly a super or get me closer to getting one. That post is like an underpants gnome post:

    1. Introduce vanity items and AUR which can only be purchased by converting PLEX into AUR (basically real money for boots and monocles).
    2. ????
    3. Profit.

    What step 2 has to do with super carriers beats the crap out of me. The price of a PLEX goes up in terms of isk? What does that mean for CCP's bottom line?

  16. @Steve - Try this one:

    Bobby buys two 30 day GTCs and sells them to Zaphod.

    Zaphod is a puppet character controlled by CCP, who exists in game for the sole purpose of buying up excess GTCs on the market.

    Zaphod's GTC purchases on CCP's behalf a) keep the ISK price of GTCs stable, and b) take a percentage of GTC sales out of the game in order to move the money Bobby spent on original GTC sale on the revenue side of the books.

    If effect, CCP can destroy GTCs by "buying" them. Thus, CCP keeps cash Bobby spent on the GTC's.


    Any questions?

  17. Rixx - You totally don't want the supercap blobs heading for lowsec. Bear in mind that the losers in the current conflict have supercap blobs of their own - DRF's are just larger.

    Lacking lowsec cyno-jammers, the last thing lowsec piraetes should want is an exodus of supercap-capable players landing on their doorsteps. It would make piracy, mayhem and general naughtyness much less fun.

  18. I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Mitten's kugu post from two days ago ( regarding the supercapital nerf begins with the phrase "Winter is coming".

    Didn't know Mittens was a reader.

  19. Mord,

    IANAL, but if that is true, CCP maybe coming dangerously close to giving ISK real money value--i.e. they'd becoming close to a currency issuer--i.e. a bank. Especially if CCP is creating the isk with a few keystrokes vs. grinding for it like another player. Once that happens, then the FDIC might want to chat with CCP and same goes for the FDICs counter parts in other countries.

    Then there is the issue of Isk having real world value, if CCP shuts down or closes down Eve, then I'll be a creditor...I want my investment (isk, and in-game items) back. In fact, since I'm buying things in game with a new legal currency their trademarks, and other intellectual property might be in question. After all, if I take a picture of my car and put it on the web the manufacturer does not come and sue me. Then there is the issue of risk and is Eve Online a type of gambling then? While none of this is impossible, it does create considerable new regulations.

    Not to mention what would happen to scammers. Scamming someone for isk would now be a crime. Same for PvP, suddenly destroying somebody's ship might be considered a property crime. Same for espionage. Getting into an alliance under false pretenses and then cleaning out the wallet and corp hangars...felony fraud now. Whoops.

    So, I think CCP should be very, very careful about creating isk, to buy GTCs/PLEX. They are effectively selling isk.

    The player-to-player transactions are much more isolated and the transaction is game time for isk. Not isk to a real world currency (i.e. CCPs bottom line).

    And this doesn't explain anything about super carriers...still waiting on that one.

  20. @Steve - Of course CCP creates ISK. Heavens, dear boy, where do you think ISK come from? At the push of a button, or by twitch of an algorithm, CCP can bestow ISK upon any player in the game; ISK that did not exist in the New Eden economy before the moment of the push/twitch.

    Do ISK have real world value? Of course they do. They are bought and sold in various markets all the time at various rates of exchange. Any economist would tell you that this, by definition, means the real world places a dollar (or Euro, Yen or Peso) value on them.

    As to how CCP's ability to destroy GTCs ties supercarriers to CCP revenue generation, that's well trodden ground. Do give a close re-reading to "The Coming Supercarrier Buff" from January and "The Supercarrier and the AUR". Take away the puzzle of how CCP could make revenue off a 1:1 ratio of GTCs sold to GTCs redeemed for subscriptions and the circle on that reasoning closes.

    Do the homework rather than sitting with your arms crossed, grumpily waiting for me to draw the circles and arrows for you.

  21. Mord, dear boy, but do they then sell that isk for real life cash as you are strongly implying? That is the question.

    Not legally, and the problems I cited is why CCP does not sell isk directly, why it puts things about not RMTing in its EULA, and at least makes a token effort at curbing the activity. That there is a black market, is not the point. The point, which you keep side stepping is,

    Does CCP sell isk for real life cash? If the answer is yes, then CCP has created a new real work currency call the Interstellar Kredit (ironically bearing the same shortened name as the currency in Iceland, ISK--Icelandic Krona). That is the only way I can see where super capitals impact the bottom line at CCP. CCP sells isk directly to a player and that player uses the isk to buy a super carrier or titan or whatever.

    As to how CCP's ability to destroy GTCs ties supercarriers to CCP revenue generation, that's well trodden ground. Do give a close re-reading to "The Coming Supercarrier Buff" from January and "The Supercarrier and the AUR". Take away the puzzle of how CCP could make revenue off a 1:1 ratio of GTCs sold to GTCs redeemed for subscriptions and the circle on that reasoning closes.

    I did, and you explained nothing, and there are no dots to connect. Sure the AUR is an isk sink, but as I noted the connection to supers is pretty damned limited.


    Are you telling us that CCP is, via the GTC/PLEX markets, directly selling isk for real world money. Are they the biggest RMTer out there?

  22. @Steve - It is no more illegal for CCP to sell ISK than it is for World of Tanks to sell their in-game currency. The mechanics around CCP's sale of ISK and AUR is a matter of tradition and player community relations that has nothing to do with legal barriers to so doing.

    My apologies if I've been unable to clarify the connection between supercarriers and CCP revenue for you. Normally I would take the time to make it plainer. However most of my regular readers have understood the matter and moved on, while your persistence seems founded more in belligerence than curiosity.

    With that I'll let the matter rest unless I consolidate it in a future post.

  23. @Steve - It is no more illegal for CCP to sell ISK than it is for World of Tanks to sell their in-game currency.



    If CCP sells its in game currency for real life currency then CCP becomes a bank, which it is not. They'd face a whole slew of new regulations and there would be lots of serious stuff going on. When you blow up my ship your are costing me real life losses now, not just imaginary pixels (there would now be a bona fide real world exchange rate).

    Pull your head out.

    Oh, and you were totally wrong on the super capital nerf. It is pretty substantial. Without a sub-capital fleet supers are now quite vulnerable, especially with the new tier 3 BC coming out.

    However, you were partially right, CCP's money problems finally forced them to pay attention to their one money maker: Eve. And when lots and lots of sub-capital players start unsubbing and there is a $12 million bond coming due...uh-oh.

    Missed it by...a mile dude.

    Better luck next time.

    My apologies if I've been unable to clarify the connection between supercarriers and CCP revenue for you. Normally I would take the time to make it plainer.

    Just because sycophants aren't questioning you does not make you correct. It is really simple, buying GTCs for real life cash and then selling them for in game currency creates very little if any windfall for CCP. For Aurum or whatever it is called it makes sense, but not for Isk. Since people buy supers via Isk, there is no way for a growing number of supers to make isk for CCP. You haven't made it simpler to understand because there is nothing there.

    Now on the other hand, losing subs and/or seeing the rate of growth in subs dropping that makes Hilmar sit up and take notice. So look, we get a pretty serious nerf to supers, we get new ships, Gallente finally get their entire list of boats fixed, and we got ship spinning back.