I want to say first of all, that this is not a personal attack on any specific employee of CCP. To blame CCP Fozzie in particular has become something of a meme within the community and while I have my disagreements with many of the views he has expressed, it doesn't seem constructive to lay blame upon any individual for the actions of a group.
This is a plea, in hope, that after a disastrous series of design decisions throughout the last 18-24 months, we might finally begin to see new positive changes based upon the messy mechanical and political reality of this game, rather than a rose-tinted idealised version that exists only in the realm of imagination.
The SH1-6P fight in Tribute last night is another great example of EVE Online at it's best. An experience for both participants, non-involved players, and commentators that simply does not and could not ever exist in any other game. Almost 2,000 players participated in the battle which represents the largest single loss of ISK since the famous "Battle for B-R" more than 2 years ago. And yet despite this, it has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many. The objective of this fight was simple, Pandemic Legion had reinforced a Circle-of-Two SCSAA. PL had formed in full force to attack it with NC. aware and ready to form should it be needed, and CO2 had formed in full force with their allies in hopes of saving it. The tower itself was killed by a very modest PL super fleet supported by a sizeable T3 Cruiser fleet, however as it passed half structure, a CO2 cyno was lit ~80km off the PL super fleet and through it poured the full might of CO2's super fleet. While I was not there, I can guarantee you there was at least a momentary panic in PL's command channel while they scrambled to work out what was going on, as moves like this are rarely made against you without your opponent having a great deal of confidence in a plan that great efforts have been made to ensure you don't know about.
As it turned out, CO2 had simply performed an incredible feat of hubris in grossly underestimating the number of FAXes and reinforcements that PL could flood in when needed. Within an hour NC. were on field the fight was all but decided. TEST dropped an extremely large number of dreadnoughts 50km off the NC. super fleet which had they been dropped initially on the PL super fleet at the same time as CO2's super fleet came in could have done some serious damage, but alas arrived far too late to achieve anything. The flood of allied fleets from both sides eventually tipped the subcap battle in favour of the CO2 side and they were luckily able to clear tackle quick enough losing only 6 titans and no supers, as opposed the many times greater loss it would have been had that not happened.
So in conclusion, a huge battle happened, both sides took massive losses, the defenders lost the objective, however most importantly, everyone had fun and people will be telling stories of this fight for months if not years to come. Like I said in the beginning, no other game can provide an experience like that.
So why is this relevant to an article about the future of EVE Online? This fight could not and would not have escalated in this way under the future mechanics CCP are currently working hard to introduce. In this fight, PL brought their super fleet because that was genuinely under the circumstances the best thing they could bring to kill the tower. They had a sizeable T3 fleet but it would have taken the better part of an hour to grind it down with subs. So of course, they brought supers and titans. Even if you take issue with that fact, the next best thing would have been dreads and any alliance worth their salt in this game can field a decent number of those on alts easily. Because PL brought their supers, CO2 dropped their supers, which made NC. bring their supers, which made TEST drop their cap fleet, which made more people show up, which meant a huge brawl. No PL super fleet == No huge brawl.
The long term plan on CCP's part is to replace a SCSAA pos with an XL Industrial Array. Based on what CCP have said so far in regards to pricing, it sounds like 30-50B is a reasonable estimate for the build cost of one of these structures. When you consider that Fortizars are still selling in Jita at 40-80% over build cost and Keepstars are essentially unobtainable for less than 250B, it doesn't seem unreasonable to assume this structure will cost 80-100B around the time they start getting dropped. Supercapital construction is typically done as a solo alt-heavy endeavour, or on a corp level with a small handful of people chipping in their time and effort. Based on the corp history of the CEO, it seems to be the latter here. The initial infrastructure cost is about 4B for the faction POS, CSAA and XLSMA. That considered, this fight might not even have happened at all because the group in CO2 who owned this SCSAA might not even have been building in the first place.
So let's assuming they were building, and had the gall to be doing so in this highly valuable structure in striking distance of PL and NC. Well due to the damage cap mechanic on citadels, there would be absolutely no reason for PL to bring supercaps in the first place. Citadels are an incredible powerful force multiplier. A Fortizar will kill an Apostle with PL's fit roughly every 60-90 seconds with the help of the Standup Void Bombs, so even if the enemy didn't show up, you'd be looking at a 30-50B+ SRP bill in Apostles if they have anything close to the defensive capabilities of a Fortizar. In light of that, no, you don't bring the super fleet in the first place because it'd just be a pointless feed.
Given all that, for 2 or 3 supercarriers in build 100% confirmed by spy information? They might not even bother. I mean why would they? That is a huge, huge amount of losses for really not a lot of gain. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Either way it's not fun for the defenders, and it's not fun for the attackers.
The bottom line here being, this time next year that fight wouldn't happen. Think I'm wrong? Look at all the debates about Aegis Sov. Every objection raised by FCs and alliance leaders has come to pass exactly as described and today everyone is feeling it. Even scarier look at the debates about moon mining. As I see it, there are 3 things which in combination, stand to quite possibly kill this game when fully implemented:
- Phoebe Jump Mechanics
- Aegis Sov
- The replacement of POS's with Citadels
Allow me to qualify a couple of those points, as I know these are big claims. Fatigue is a good mechanic, but the rate at which it accumulates combined with the huge range nerf (most ships were more than halved) is far too drastic. Especially so post-cap rebalance where there is a response to a ball of Aeons besides getting up from your computer and going outside. In regards to point to 3, it isn't the addition of Citadels that is the problem, but the removal of POS's. R64 mining towers are the single remaining reliable high end content generator left in the game, and they day they are removed without a viable replacement content generator will be the day that almost every major content creator in the game unsubscribes.
Phoebe Jump Mechanics
It's coming up on the 2nd anniversary of their introduction. I have friends that recently bought their first super who didn't even play the game when they were first introduced, that's how long it's been. I don't think in 8 years of online gaming I have ever seen a single event in any game generate such an incredible exodus of the active playerbase as this patch.
To take a real-world example of the impact of this patch, I'm going to show a route I did once upon a time about 8 months before the patch. The alliance I was in at the time lived in Cobalt Edge and had announced they wanted to disband. I felt like trying out some solo PVP in Facwar space, so I loaded up my carrier in our Cobalt Edge home system, and jumped past the evac point to Vestouve to go try it out. This route required 6 cynos, and I had 2 characters who could run them, so I'd take one a few jumps, light the cyno, jump, then log out and log in to the other character while it's cyno was burning. This isn't an alt heavy activity, you could do this with 1 character and it took me about an hour or so. To move from the heart of Cobalt Edge to the edge of Syndicate with 2 accounts. In theory you could do that in ~90 seconds if you had the cynos already in place, but it was rare you'd be that prepared.
Let's compare that route to today:
20 Cynos, 18 mids, crossing such a vast number of sov null systems you couldn't possibly own them all. With current mechanics, you'd have maxed out your fatigue at the 5 day cap after the 4th jump and have a 2hr 43 minute reactivation timer before you could jump again. If you properly waited out your fatigue every jump, it would take a little over 16hrs, and if you did the optimal effort reducing strategy of jump, wait 10-20 mins, then blitz the next 2 jumps, it will still take you an entire week of logging in for about an hour every single day to do that trip. I ask honestly, do you believe this is a reasonable use of your time in what is ultimately a video game? I know this example seems extreme, but my point is to illustrate how utterly absurd the current state of affairs is. I've also done roughly that route taking a few gates to cut down 3 or 4 jumps with both titans and supers on more than one occasion. When you consider that the Drone Regions are by far the largest producer of supercapitals on the map and also the least likely place for them to be used, it's truly not an unreasonable example.
I don't mean to suggest that we revert back completely, but surely there is some middle ground here?
It's not even just about travel either, it's about combat logistics too. Let's look at invading a region, take Fountain for example. It's directly connected to Aridia via gates, so presumably you would at first stage in low sec?
Well that's a bit useless. Let's take that gate into the region:
Really not much better, it's only a tiny part of the region and it's not even a station system so you couldn't live there without dropping 20B on a Fortizar. I show you Fountain because it is the best single region to cleanly demonstrate this issue, but I can assure you if you go looking round the map there are a huge number of examples like this. For example you cannot jump from Aridia to Delve without taking a gate or a ton of mids, a fact which has already bit GSF while trying to move in.
Like Napoleon said, "The amateurs discuss tactics, the professionals discuss logistics", and it's especially true of EVE. If it's too much work and not enough fun to get yourself and your alliance in fighting shape, then wars just aren't going to happen.
My Suggestion: Double the range of all caps (excl JFs and Blops), halve fatigue. While this sounds like more room for groups like PL and NC to be oppressive with their supers, it's actually much more of a buff to groups keen to counter-drop them. It also lets people like, actually move without taking a 4 day weekend off work to do it.
I was kindly invited to join the recent Nullsec focus group by The Judge from CO2, so I've recently spent a lot of time trying to distill my thoughts on the problems with this system. Before I get into my views though, I just want to point that group has representation from TISHU, CO2, GSF, PL, TRI, BASTN, FCON, Darkness, Provibloc, Phorde, The-Culture and TEST, and every single person without exception in that group agreed with the following points:
- Entosis is a horrible mechanic and should be completely replaced.
- The node system (i.e. spreading objectives across multiple grids/systems) disincentives fights.
- The biggest problem with it is that bringing a fleet that's designed to fight isn't the most effective way to win a timer.
I would have liked to see a little more Russian and QFC representation there, but I know from talking to XXDeath on the matter in the past and a couple other Drone Region FCs that they would all roughly agree with that. That said, the summation of my views on it are a little simpler: The emphasis of the system is far too much on the ownership of sov than the conflict in taking/defending it.
Generally, if you sit down and talk to players of any age who've spent time in null sec and ask them about their favourite times in EVE, they'll tell you about one thing: wars. While there are some enthusiastic PVE'ers out there (I'm no exception), that isn't what the EVE Experience™ is about. They'll tell you about crazy fights, huge welps, espionage, great victories and souring defeats. Most conversation about Aegis sov especially coming from CCP has been about top-down vs bottom-up income, "the little guy", accessibility, etc. It seems like no one ever stopped to ask the question "is the next B-R really going to happen over TCU Node B85".
But anyway, let's talk details:
"It's less grind"
No it isn't, it's actually more. If you are attacking an ostensibly "undefended" system, it's probably going to have an ADM of 1.8 or 2. That's Strat index 4 or 5 with an IHUB in system, 0 Military (ratting) and Industry (mining) indexes. Let's say it's a station system too. It's going to take 25 minutes for you with a T1 Entosis link to reinforce the TCU, IHUB and Station. Let's say you have 3 people, so it does infact take you 25 minutes because you can do it all in one go.
2 days later, you come back with 5 of you this time to handle the timers. Again, 25 minutes per node. You have to run 12 nodes for each timer, 25 minutes each, 3 timers, 36 nodes total, 15 hours of entosis time, divided by 5 of you that's 3 hours of entosising each. Also that is just time actually cycling the module, not counting time going system to system to find nodes and waiting for them to spawn, so it's probably more like 3.5-4hrs. You then need to come back again in 2 days and run 20x 15 minutes on nodes to take the now freeport station. In all, this has taken you 4-5hrs to take a single system. But hey you only needed 5 people right?
Well actually, not really. Let's ignore for a moment the absurd notion that you could infact find a truly undefended station system worth owning and only had 5 people and would have any hope of defending it against an aggressor. Under the old mechanics, if you brought 25 dudes in Blaster Taloses (a ship that costs about 100m and might actually be interesting to fight, it would take half the time. 2.5hrs of grinding, in total, across all timers for the IHUB, station and TCU. The more people you bring, the more trivial this becomes. If you're willing to bring just a single dread or two, things speed up enormously. Even now under current mechanics, you could likely count the number of sov holding entities who couldn't do that on one hand.
"It got rid of renting"
It didn't. The Legion of xXDeathXx renter program is going just as well as ever, Period Basis is mostly renters, as well as much of the far south east. Renting is actually more prolific now than it was immediately following Phoebe.
"It gave the little guy a chance"
Firstly, I'd strongly question the moral imperative to give The Little Guy™ a chance. EVE is at it's most meta a game about power and politics. If you start to look around the map and then cross-reference those smaller groups with eve-skunk standings, you'll quickly start to discover that they aren't so much the little guy striking out on his own, as they are serfs subjugated by the local power who feel it's better to let a pet keep the ADMs up. The drone regions are entirely filled with smaller groups who will follow lockstep with whatever Legion of xXDeathXx tell's them to do, same in the South East with Stainrus. These people are all unashamed PVE'rs only interested in ratting, mining and site running, so if they went against their master they'd just get blops'd senseless and leave. I know I'd be setting myself up for failure to claim that it is literally zero, but truly, if you thought this was true go open dotlan, run round the map and try to find truly independent groups of <100 members. You'll struggle.
My suggestion: Scrap the whole thing, go back to Dominion mechanics, but halve the HP of all structures again (it was halved in the patch after Phoebe), and keep ADMs as a method of scaling resists on those structures between 0% and 60% depending on the ADM level. The goal is that it should be strongly encouraged, but not strictly necessary to use caps on high ADM timers, and not necessary at all on low ADM timers.
Replacing POS's with Citadels
This is the big one. If you look at most of the large fights in EVE over the last 5 years, they've pretty much all been over one of two things: Dominion IHUB/Station timers or r64s. Asakai is often pointed to as a exception here, but even then, what do you think the titan was fail bridging to? A fleet shooting a money moon.
In my own experience with Black Legion this was the one we always knew would work, especially pre-Phoebe. If you hit a Dyspro moon that made 6B/month profit, you could be damn sure someone was going to turn up in force to defend it. Moon campaigns would typically start with a few initial great fights, a couple more minor ones, then once a victor had emerged it'd be a quick grind with max dreads that would take a couple weeks. You'd then clean up, and deploy elsewhere. This fight over a Thulium moon in Aridia is still one of my favourite ever fights in EVE. PL owned the moon and were living in Amamake at the time, we hit it, they came down in carriers, loaded napocs into their SMAs, and undocked. Was a great fight, everyone had fun on both sides, not really even sure who won the objective.
Again, that fight would never happen in current_year EVE due to all of the mechanics lined out above. This is the one that really scares me. See all the above points are things which turned out badly in just the ways I expected, but this one hasn't happened yet, and I know how much of the fun I derive in EVE comes from it. POS's provide the perfect escalation platform and incentive for both sides, they have solid intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for winning the timer, and both attacker and defender have an interesting meta game in defing the timer. You can hit at various times as the attacker and also stront kite. As the defender you can ruse people with weird stront timers and set it exactly if you're quick enough.
Citadels/Industrial Arrays with their damage caps, strong defensive capabilities and fixed vulnerability windows remove most of those fun aspects of the game. Also there's an even stronger and more terrifying insinuation that there's going to be some kind of active mining involved which focuses far too heavily like Aegis Sov on forcing PVP-centric alliances to engage in PVE activities as a goal unto themselves.
I don't want to come across as if this is just aimless whining. I am genuinely worried about the direction that this game I love is headed. I'm concerned that at every corner, CCP has been told by the playerbase exactly what the negative consequences of major design decisions will be. They've then brushed aside those concerns and went ahead anyway, only to have those consequence play out exactly as expected. CCP, please, it's time to listen, you've done it once before and can do it again. Please, listen to what your most loyal and long term customers are telling you before you lose them forever.