Friday, March 22, 2013

Nullsec Is Worth Saving

Consider, if you will, the barbarian horde.

Though much maligned and, in fairness, with a tendency toward poor table manners and an excess of hair, the barbarian horde serves an important function in ebb and flow of human history. Think of them as a forge in which civilizations, both established and emerging, are periodically tested by hammer and fire. Thus tested, a civilization may emerge stronger; refined and purged of the flaws that must accrue to any human endeavor over time. Or it may crack or break altogether under the stress, and be cast back into history's smelter to be incorporated into something new.

Without the Mongol horde, China's Xia and Jin dynasties are not united. Without Vandals, Goths, Visigoths and Huns, the Western Roman empire does not fall, thereby setting the table for modern Europe. Without the Golden Horde, Moscow does not lay the kingdom of Tver low and come to dominate northern and eastern Rus. The courts of Charlemagne, Alfred the Great and William the Conqueror, all born of barbarian invasions (Franks, Saxons and Vikings, respectively) and refined in the fires of subsequent barbarian invasions, never rise at all.

Supercapitals have made EVE's nullsec barbarian-proof. 

As I wrote last week:
At present, only those with vast fleets of supercapitals can take and hold nullsec, and only those who hold nullsec have the means to produce or afford vast fleets of supercapitals. 
With an unassailable advantage in supercapitals, the lords of nullsec can rest easy on their starry beds, knowing they cannot be dispossessed of their holdings by barbarians coming out of high or lowsec. The proliferation and consolidation of supercapitals into the hands of a few, a phenomenon unanticipated by CCP when they introduced this class of ship, has locked up nullsec's sov mechanics and led to the current ossification of nullsec space and nullsec politics.

Nullsec, long the public face of EVE Online, is broken. Upon a time nullsec was about the clash of interstellar kingdoms, and the trial of wills. But it has become about risk avoidance, wallet bloat and planned PvP combat. It has been turned into NullsecDisney®; the very theme park version of EVE that the present lords of nullsec railed against in the not too distant past.

I guess the current nullsec landlords find that EVE as theme park isn't such a bad idea if you're the ones selling tickets and collecting rents. Many of the nullsec rank and file may think otherwise, but the message from management has been clear: If you don't like riding the teacups, you can go join the barbarians in the outer darkness.

Happily,nullsec can be saved. And the solutions is a fairly simple one that does not require major surgery.

1) Eliminate supercapitals - Remove them entirely. This class of ship, more than any other, is responsible for nullsec's current state. Without supercapital drops and bridges the area over which a nullsec alliance or coalition can project force will be significantly reduced as will the the speed with which they can react to threats. This will shrink the amount of space a nullsec entity can reasonably control.

2) Significantly reduce Sov infrastructure hit points so that a large subcapital fleet of barbarians with modest capital ship support can reduce it in a reasonable about of time. This will eliminate the need to have Titan-class firepower behind any play for a piece of nullsec.

Of course, those heavily invested in supercapitals will be displeased with this approach, and I expect the implementation of these changes will be met with much umbrage and many alligator tears. Individual pilots should, of course, receive some remuneration for their pains; perhaps a combination of conventional capital ships and ISK or AUR. However, those most affected by this change are the authors of nullsec's current dysfunction. Thus my sympathy for them goes only so far and I will not lose sleep over their discomfort. Some small pain of their part is inevitable if nullsec is to be saved. 

These simple changes will revitalize nullsec, breaking up the current coalition blocks, reducing the span of control an alliance can reasonably exercise, and injecting nullsec with a much needed dose of risk. Best of all, it will open nullsec to outsiders not already possessed of vast fleets of supercapitals or endowed with trillions upon trillions of ISK.

They will be the EVE's barbarian hordes; pressing the current nullsec powers that be, and claiming space for building new kingdoms where the old ones prove wanting. 


  1. Since elimination of two entire ship classes is unlikely, how do you feel about the introduction of a subcapital ship with capabilities of destroying / neutralizing supercaps?

    1. That is, of course, an option, though a less desirable one. Supercapitals would retain their force projection capability and sov infrastructure would remain effectively invulnerable to subcap fleets.

    2. This is based on some pretty major assumptions. What is stopping CCP from revamping all of the roles of capitals and supercapitals alike? What is stopping them from moving force projection from a ship-based function to some other form in the game, or from reducing it drastically?

      There are lots of ways that gameplay can be moved, transformed, amplified, or reduced as needed. There are lots of other jobs that supercaps can perform. It's the "delete this ship entirely" that I find ridiculous (and really un-creative, which isn't like you at all.)

    3. @Hans -

      Again, you don't offer a reason as to why my proposal would not achieve the desired result. At the very least is deserves serious consideration.

      The solutions you propose are vague, poorly defined and would require a significant investment of software development resources that we both know are not available.

      My solution is simple, elegant and will achieve the desired results.

      Creativity does not always reveal itself in highly complex solutions. Often the opposite is true.

    4. Not that it would solve the problem entirely but I dont think Supers should be e-war immune.
      Give them ~50 warp strength and 150 sensor strength sure. Reduce the effect of tracking disruptors by 95% each sure. Id say do the same for TP's but what would be the point, the ships HUGE to begin with.

  2. And here I thought you might actually present something a resembling a feasible solution to the null-sec problem. I should have known, given the hyperbole you've latched on to in recent months.

    I'm even one of the masses that is highly unlikely to afford a supercapital any time in the near future, and whose organization certainly has zero hope of cutting into 0.0 given the current climate.

    Rebalance? Repurpose? Nerf? Provide more hard counters to? All viable solutions. But "delete them all?" Give me a break.

    This is exactly the kind of recommendation that works perfectly fine in the infinite landscape of the imagination, where physicists can work with every object as a sphere, friction coefficients don't exist, and architects can ignore these annoying constructs known as budgets when drafting up the perfect home.

    The very process of design forces these ideas out of this realm and into the real world, where "delete all the broken stuff" becomes "How do we address issues of power and balance without removing content that customers pay for and have worked years to obtain".

    Amputation will always be one way to deal with an infection - but its still "major surgery", and EVE has only so many limbs in the first place. I don't think it takes much intellectual rigor to understand why running around deleting all the stuff that we don't like about the game isn't, shouldn't, and won't be the methodology CCP utilizes to dig themselves out of this hole.

    1. Much hand-waving, Hans, but little content.

      You sneer a great deal, but don't offer a single reason why the proposed solution would not deliver the desired results.

      While you may not be invested in supercapitals, your time on the CSM has left you invested in the approval of those that do.

      Happy to debate the matter with you on a mutually agreed upon podcast.

    2. For someone so creative I expected something a BIT more original than "Hans is beholden to nullbears." (A claim you likewise fail to substantiate).

      Look, I'm not arguing that removing supercapitals from the game wouldn't shift the meta heavily in favor of subcap fleet warfare and provide more diversity in who is able to take space. (Hence why you don't see me listing evidence that your idea would fail to achieve its intended purpose). However, if you think this is the only problem that is "breaking 0.0" I don't even know where to begin.

      I'm simply point out that "cut out the stuff that bothers us" is a rather lazy solution with huge customer ramifications and that there's an abundance of other ways to accomplish the same thing. Kirith already nailed one of them.

    3. @Hans -

      "For someone so creative I expected something a BIT more original than "Hans is beholden to nullbears." (A claim you likewise fail to substantiate)."

      Ah. So, you can engage in ad hominum attacks, but don't expect to be subjected to them in return? ;)

      I didn't say you were beholden to nullsec carebears. I said you were invested in their approval. If you wish, we can talk substantiation elsewhere. I prefer this discussion be about the issue at hand.

      I appreciate your willingness to entertain the notion that my proposal could achieve its intended purpose. That is a good starting point for discussion.

      Supercapitals are the primary driver of nullsec's dysfunction. Until they are addressed, dealing with nullsec's other problems amount to re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

    4. I have to agree with Hans - removing supercaps to increase the viability of subcap fleets is about as good a solution as removing battlecruisers is to increase the viability of cruisers, or removing incursions to increase the viability of hisec missions.

      Sure it'd achieve your goal, but it would involve a) disenfranchising a large number of heavily invested customers and b) remove a big part of the 'wow' factor that brings new players into Eve. It's simply not a good solution, and I know you can do better.

    5. @Azual -

      I am not proposing a solution to increase the viability of subcap fleets. I am proposing the solution because supercapitals have broken nullsec and caused a cascade of other in-game problems.

      Unfortunately, the analogy you present doesn't reflect an equivalent to the nature or magnitude of the problem caused by the presence of supercapitals in EVE. Battlecruisers can be built anywhere in New Eden, cannot be monopolized by one faction, and are not so powerful that they can only be countered by another battlecruiser. They have not broken nullsec's sov mechanics or impeded the entry of new factions into nullsec. They have not given the current primary sov holders in nullsec a virtual lock on their nullsec possessions and the advantages those possessions bestow.

      I have already spoken to the disenfranchising of the heavily invested customers in the main post.

      As to the 'wow' factor, The only 'wow' new players are going to get out of supercapitals is in the CCP promo videos. They'll certainly get little 'wow' out of them when they join the game, unless they quickly become a pet of one of the nullsec overlords. Cool visuals are no compensation for watching nullsec turned into a theme park.

      In fact, this is an excellent solution. It is straightforward, elegant and will address the problem with minimal impact outside of nullsec. And there the main impacts will be an end to the paralysis that exists today, and an greater participation by a new body of players into the nullsec game.

  3. There's always the alternative that's been thrown about, of requiring supercaps to have a special power core module. I think the initial idea was for a core module to be used in construction, that might or might not be salvaged from a supercap wreck, but here's another option, off the top of the head of someone who's been camshafted more than once by supercap proliferation in lowsec:

    1) Give every supercarrier +1 low slot, every titan +2 low slots.
    2) Introduce a low-slot module, "Supercapital Reactor", without which a supercapital's powergrid, CPU, speed, and capacitor are reduced to zero. Require one for supercarriers, two for Titans.
    3) Seed this supercap reactor like other ultra-rare drops, let's say from officers in the form of BPC's. Thus, as supercap reactors are acquired, the ships can be brought back online, but supercap losses will be more crippling.

    There's probably a dozen ways this is utterly stupid, and of course those dependent on massive supercap fleets will hate it, but maybe it's something to go on, so that they can be made rare (as I suspect they were always supposed to be, in CCP's view), but not wiped out entirely.

    I dunno.

    1. Not a bad idea, except I rather doubt that the current code allows for more than 8 of a type of fitting slot on a ship. And given that the fitting code has been around for a while, it's probably a mess which would be hard to work around.

      Maybe a rig. Or something. Or make Titans into T3 (like) ships that require a certain subsystem.

    2. Guess that just goes to show how much I know about flying Titans. I honestly didn't realize that would push past the 8-slot limit.

  4. Marc and Zenver - While interesting ideas, these solutions nibble about the edges of the problem supercapitals impose on nullsec and don't solve the problems I detail above.

    The most effective and straightforward solution is to remove them from the game.

    1. It is also the option that has the least likelihood of being implemented despite your assertions.

    2. @Kirith -

      If no-one advocates for the best solution, it is a near certainty that the best solution will not be implemented.

  5. To those who don't like Mord's solution, what's the alternative, leaving a hideously broken mechanic in place that's strangling the game?

    I do agree with Hans, though, that supercaps are not the only thing wrong with null. The problem is that, given the persistent nature of the game, the rather silly method CCP chose to "limit" these ships (i.e price) breaks down as more and more players remain in the game longer and longer. Simply increasing the price won't do it, either, as the existing stockpiles have to be addressed, plus the vast streams of ISK available in null (moon goo, I'm looking at you) make any price increase invalid, as only the already uber-wealthy will be able to afford one.

    The super core idea might be a good one (anything that reduces proliferation needs to be looked at) in conjunction with lots of other fixes. Remove jump bridging ability, let it be just for blops. Nerf moon goo. Actually delete 90% (or more) of the supercaps.

    The problem is that CCP has let this go on for so long, and either ignored or not seen what supercap proliferation is doing that the only effective solution might be the blunt instrument.

    Amputation, at this point, may be the only viable alternative.

  6. I will say that I had often considered the elimination of supercaps as a way to fix what plagues nullsec.

    However, I am also aware that much wailing will occur with their elimination, but am unsure if that wailing would be essentially the same for the knocking back of supercaps to the current ratio of battleship:cruiser.

    Would the cry be louder for their elimination vs a severe nerfing ?

    If supercaps were to caps what battleships are to cruisers, then I think supercap pilots will still have something, and the big gap between those ship classes narrows.

    Having said that, I think the battleship to capital ship is too great, but that is another debate.

    Oh, and in regards to force projection. THAT answer is simple: Jumps and Bridges simply by-pass a single gate. One gate. And I'd still like to have both titan and black ops bridging formed when the bridging ship moves into the area to create the bridge. You want a fleet in system YYZ, then the titan goes in first, holding the door open for a fleet to follow.

    Nerfing supercaps down to just above regular caps and pulling back jumps/bridges to cut back on projection, vs eliminating supers all together. Which would help the game the most and which would result in the most damage to CCP ?

    1. @Knug -

      Those most affected by this change are the authors of nullsec's current dysfunction. Thus my sympathy for them goes only so far and I will not lose sleep over their discomfort. Some small pain of their part is inevitable if nullsec is to be saved.

      As to nerf versus outright elimination: Any nerf significant enough to save nullsec would ruin the supercapital from a utility to cost perspective. Outright elimination at least provides the owners with some recompense for the utility loss.

  7. Mord, you channeling the Trek mirror universe version of James 315? Sounds a lot like something he would propose (but better written). It'd work technically and mechanically but I think you lose a lot of player base in the process.

    1. @Dejara -

      Nah. James 315 is a blue doughnut proxy who's advocating making highsec a non-viable option for anyone but very new players. His slogan is meant to be ironic.

      I just want to eliminate supercapitals; A surgical change that will make nullsec a more viable option for a broad cross-section of players.

      As to small minority of players that would leave over supercapitals, they'd do the same over any supercap change that significantly altered the status quo, and the status quo is unsustainable.

      As Hilmar would say: "If the unfaithful would rage-quit, let them do so. And let not the gates of New Eden strike them 'pon the ass ere they leave."

    2. Easy for you to say. Eve online revenues aren't paying your salary. Probably much harder for CCP to say. If Kelduum's estimates are right (Based on his experience with EveUni), there are only 150k or so actual active players in Eve….it wouldn't take many dropping the game to seriously damage CCP's position.

      What I'd really like to see you write about is 1) why in heck does half of everyone seem to think that eve needs a high->low->null toon progression, while talking about how wonderful a sandbox is, while the progression concept itself is a theme-park idea? 2) A critical analysis of the various CSM 8 candidates in term of their actual economic literacy vs. their claims to such.

  8. To clarify, your (and James 315's) proposals are like tossing your dog in the incinerator to get rid of his fleas…intense heat will eliminate fleas just fine, but the solution misses some important constraints.

    1. @Dejara:

      Lol - Funny analogy, but I don't think it holds.

      If Supercapitals are the dog, it's no never mind, 'cause the dog is rabid and we're well rid of it.

      If supercapitals are the fleas, eliminating them doesn't cause the game to burn. Quite the opposite in fact.

    2. /voice James_315
      If hisec rewards are the dog, it's no never mind, 'cause the dog is rabid and we're well rid of it.

      If hisec rewards are the fleas, eliminating them doesn't cause the game to burn. Quite the opposite in fact.

    3. @Dejara -

      Again - a false equivalency when you take a close look at the fleas and dogs.

      Highsec rewards harm no one and are not a barrier to play in highsec. As a proxy for the Blue Doughnut, James_315 merely wishes to infect highsec with rabies so his own dog's frothing at the mouth seems less objectionable.

      Supercapitals have ruined nullsec, created profound entry barriers to play there, and completely locked up nullsec's sov mechanics.

      That dog, as they say, won't hunt.

  9. 3) Remove all SOV related notification:
    -Damage and Reinforce Notification
    -Hostile POS Notifications
    -SBU Notifications
    -Fuel Notifications

    Now they will have to manually check this. Logistics become a HUGE deal, especially for the large groups. A small alliance can easily manage 1-3 systems and a couple POS's. And if you cant, your not fit for null yet.

    1. @Snorkel -

      Good thoughts, but like so many solutions offered here, it involves a lot of complex hand waving and dancing around the root cause of the problem in order to avoid addressing the root cause of the problem, which is the supercap itself. Eliminate the supercap, and all this becomes unnecessary.

    2. It's aimed enabling the ninja alliance to move in and establish beachheads in SOV and is crucial for new groups to challenge the current null sec power blocs. The current notification systems, combined with intel channels and bat phones allows the force projection power to be applied before any beachhead can be established. By limiting what they see you now force them to consolidate down to what they can see and therefore defend.

      It would also open up low sec moons for capture. While not every low sec group is capable of reinforcing a large POS, there are enough who have the capability to take and hold some of these moons opening up Tech and Neo so some of the non-null sec blocs.

  10. I guess we all agree on the point that the current stagnation in 0.0 is bad and it is most likely the fault of super capitals.
    Deleting them would solve the issue but its like putting out the light by shooting the bulb. It works but it isn't elegant.

    Reducing sov structures HPs would help a lot on its own. Reducing the force projection with supers would also help. Limiting there jump and bridge range to a few systems so you can use them for defense but more logistic needed to use them offensive.

    Change the jump mechanic, instantly jumping to any cyno is very powerful and maybe overpowered. Carriers and dreads jump on a beacon within a minute, Supercarrier and Titans need 4-5 minutes to focuse on the target cyno.
    Result: you need a decent fleet to keep the cyno up until caps are there and the enemy has some more warning time. And the s-caps would be at risk for longer since they need stay tackle free for 5 minutes.

    Also a capital ship like a dread but with more firepower against s-caps would be helpful. built in low sec the "barbarians" can horde those and fight the supers.

    So would your solution work? Yes. Would it save 0.0? most likely but many players would quit.
    Just hitting the delete button on some DB entries would be a fast solution but I don't think thats something ccp even considers.
    The core problem of supers is still that you need more supers to counter them. And a new ship class would provide new skills for veterans and might solve the problem more elegant.

    1. @Chanina -

      Elegance is not a function of complexity or nuance. An elegant solution is one that displays the qualities of unusual effectiveness and simplicity.

      I believe the solution I've put forward meets that standard.

    2. But CCP will never ever remove Supercaps. *shrugs*

    3. @Kirith -

      If voices like yours advocate rolling over, and refuse to step up and advocate for what's good for the game, you're absolutely right.

    4. Now you're putting words in my mouth.

      I never advocated for rolling over and refusing to advocate for what's good in the game. I've advocated for many unpopular positions over the years. However, I've tried to approach things with a realistic opinion of what CCP will and will not do. And from my opinion, and probably theirs, removing supercaps runs the potential of not only bad press but bad feelings with the players they consider "enablers"; the core of large null sec alliances whose influence extends far past their one/two/three/more accounts to all the people they fly with. We saw what happens with the Summer of Incarnage when the core of dedicated players stops logging in.

      Also, fundamentally CCP does not remove things that are problematic in the game. Rightly or wrongly, they (and many players) would see that as a sign of surrender and weakness. Thus things get changed or new things get added to counter the problems. It is the pattern and I see no reason why they would deviate from it.

      Thus, watching you tilt at windmills insisting that only removing supercaps will fix null sec and no other option is feasible is very frustrating; its a discussion that is pointless in having and I'm hoping to convince you to entertain other possibilities.

      There ARE other ways to combat the problem without *completely* alienating the people with supercaps. I will continue to advocate for those ways and listen to other proposals and point out what I think will and will not work.

      And my opinion is that simply removing the supercaps will not happen, and therefore will not work.

    5. @Kirith -

      "And from my opinion, and probably theirs, removing supercaps runs the potential of not only bad press but bad feelings with the players they consider 'enablers'".

      Ah yes, the enablers. I recall them. That's the same lot that turned nullsec into a theme park after years of railing against the evils of EVE being turned into a theme park.

      I notice those same "enablers" are pressing hard for Farms & Fields and Risk/Rewards (For the uninformed see last week's Farms and Fields: Metagame). But that's just them tilting at windmills, right? Crazy talk. I mean, it's not like CCP would ever break highsec just to make a bunch of "enablers" happy.

      And yet there they are, heads down and battling to affect the change they want, regardless of how radical it is. It must be very frustrating to watch.

      I'm open to less radical procedures. However, I haven't seen anything yet that will get the job done. It seems any nerf of supercapitals sufficient to drive meaningful change would offend the "enablers" as much as eliminating the class altogether.

      A satisfactory alternative that leaves supercaps in the game is possible. However, any solution is going to require that someone besides the "enablers" stand up, raise their voices and demand change. Shrugs aren't going to make it happen.

      Think of this as an opening position. My solution is quick, easy and effective. If CCP doesn't want to go that route they should find a solution to the supercap problem and and the resources to implement it.

    6. I accept the challenge and shall prepare a post for next week. o7

  11. I look forward to it, KK. I understand where MF is coming from but I think it's throwing out the baby along with the bath water.

    1. Of the two I would lament the loss of the bathwater more. Said baby is a ten ton monster that's tearing the house down and appears to be capable of doing nothing else.

  12. Now I know how people feel when I do this. It is frustrating to know you are both right and at the exact same time insane.

    Of course removing Super-Caps would do all the things. So would a lot of radical changes. A big hammer fixes problems but it also tends to break furniture and scare the cat.

    So, let's fix Null the easier way without removing an entire ship class. Ready?

    1. Nerf Titan bridges. You've already advocated for this one before, so I know you agree.

    2. Redistribute wealth. Oh look, it sounds like they are going to do this one.

    3. Scale Costs of operation. Few people seem to remember this was supposed to be part of Dominion. The larger the Alliance the lager the costs to operate it. A monetary way of managing the size of Empires. Realistic and sadly abandoned. But easy enough to implement.

    Mix those changes in with some Jump Bridge nerfs, some SOV Structure HP reductions, some healthy taxes, and some serious balancing of cap ship projection abilities ( so that caps become more of a home-front defense ) and you are well on your way.

    And give me a ship or ships that can stand up to them. And I'll help remove Supers from the game myself, the fun way! :)

  13. For those who have not read it already, I recommend Kirith Kodachi's counter-proposal to the supercapital problem: