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.