I've been reconnecting with my inner capsuleer. I've been making a point of logging into the game for an hour or so each day. I do humble things for the most part; run a mission or two, or do a bit of solo mining to try out the new(ish) barge/exhumer configurations. I've been looking at changes to the means of production, studying inflation in the markets and doing a little market mischief when I find the price for items far exceed the cost to produce them. Thinking about rejoining FW for a bit to see what the changes of the last year and a half in that area have wrought. I've ticked up my management skills to the point where I can create an alliance if the occasion calls for it.
I've kept my eye on nullsec and am pleased to see some things are moving along as planned there. Some surprises as well, such as the loyalty buy-out at Red Overlord. Still, surprises have become the exception rather than the rule in that corner of New Eden. Nullsec wars are lumbering heavyweights leaning one against the other and throwing super-capital fueled hay-makers. There is a fix for this, albeit one that won't be popular with those who benefit from the status quo.
Recall what I wrote over a year ago in 'The Wealth of Nullsec':
Suppose however, just suppose, that every nullsec region was as resource poor as Providence. No Sanctum anomalies. No Technetium moons. Wealth to be had, of course, but diffused wealth that doesn't create disincentives to every activity but ratting, CTAs and building supercapitalsThere are days when I feel a bit like Cassandra. Or a climatologist.
"But Mord," you say, "If you turn off the big isk faucets, how will my alliance fund a replacement if I lose my supercapital?"
The fulcrum of New Eden's current difficulties is the supercapital. Period. Full stop. The game is not out of balance because of the Dominion sov rules. It's not out of balance because highsec stations are too efficient at refining and manufacturing. It's not out of balance because of Technetium, Jump Freighters, or monster nullsec coalitions. Those are secondary issues - echoes of and reverb from supercapital proliferation.
Supercapital proliferation is not only a problem in Eve, it is the problem in Eve.
And it is a self-reinforcing problem. As the inventory of supercapitals in game gets larger, the subset of organizations who can build or afford to buy them in sufficient quantities to take and hold nullsec space becomes smaller. It is no longer enough to have a stable of five or ten supercapitals at one's disposal in order to take and hold nullsec sovereignty. Oh, no. One must have them in available in the hundreds if one is to play with the big dogs of nullsec; the only way to defend against a supercapital fleet remains to have and be willing to deploy an even bigger supercapital fleet. Thus, small nullsec entities must throw in with their larger brethren, forming ever larger alliances and coalitions in order to compete for their share of space.
In order to pull the plug on supercapital proliferation, CCP needs to tackle nullsec's ISK faucets head on rather than tinkering around their edges. As Poetic Stanziel pointed out, if ISK faucets aren't pouring an inordinate amount of money down upon nullsec alliances, those alliances are called upon to make tough choices. Gobbling up every system within reach is no longer the hands-down strategy. Supercapital losses will not be quite so easily replaced. Alliances will have to tighten their belts or find other ways of generating income; say developing nullsec markets and industrial infrastructure.
CCP Greyscale's justification for large-bore ISK faucets in nullsec has been that, because they generate so much money, they would encourage conflict and act as a brake on large scale alliances and coalitions. As many bloggers wrote at the time, he completely disregarded the fact that, given the cost of supercapitals needed to take and hold these faucets, those who possessed them would be immune to losing them from external pressures alone. In retrospect, what was needed to achieve the goal of small nullsec holdings was an across-the-board reduction of resources. Scarcity of resources is a much more potent driver of conflict than nullsec's current economy which actually creates an incentive for large coalitions.
Of course, as income pools shrink, those already in possession of large supercapital fleets and reserves would be positioned to be big winners in nullsec. However this can be made self-correcting over time. First of all, reduced income would mean less easy money for buying supercapitals which should begin to reduce demand for the ships, particularly among alliances that already have an overabundance of them.That in turn should put marginal producers out of the supercapital building business.
Further, if the easy income potential of nullsec systems decreases sufficiently, risking the supercapitals needed to take and hold them them will be a less attractive option. This would reduce the ships' utility as a credible threat. Faced with reduced revenues, alliances holding large reserves of ships that deliver reduced utility but have a considerable cash value will have an incentive to liquidate some of that stockpile off in order to finance ongoing operations and infrastructure.
Finally, CCP needs to make it possible for subcapital fleet to kill a supercap. There are a number of options that come to mind, including the Death Strike Missile proposed by Kirith Kodachi; a New Eden version of the 'Long Lance' torpedo fitted for specialized subcaps which, given sufficient numbers, could take down a Titan or Supercarrier. Supercapitals should be vulnerable if deployed without proper subcapital support, much in the way modern aircraft carriers are vulnerable if deployed without their supporting task force; and not merely to capital class ships and above. The absence of supercapital vulnerability to subcapital fleets is a key driver of supercapital proliferation, and it needs to be addressed.
Of course, this will not sit well with the current masters of nullsec who have grown accustomed to easy money and spending with abandon. Likewise, supercapital pilots, long coddled by CCP's design team, will be (oh, shall we say) displeased at this assault on their august status as nullsec alliance gotta-haves. As both are heavily represented in the CSM and enjoy much influence with the CCP design teams, I don't expect these proposals to go very far. However given the direction of the game, both CCP and the members of the CSM must choose a course for nullsec:
Change, or OBE.