In the first part of this series, we looked at bottom-up income, industry, and the null-sec economy. The long and the short of it is that bottom-up sovereignty is, by definition, heavily dependent on the activities of an alliance's pilots within their space. In turn, all sorts of activities have to be both viable and appealing to do in null-sec. The proposals in the previous article were an attempt to get us there.
With that foundation laid, we can move on to looking at the sovereignty system itself. Sovereignty has never been a bottom-up system—quite the opposite. Both before and after Dominion, it was a numbers game, and Dominion only made it worse. Large-scale combat involving enormous fleets and plenty of capitals and supercapitals is the name of the game, and smaller scale combat plays a tangential role at best. Frankly, I'm going to just serve up a quote here, as the author puts the issues far more eloquently than I ever could:
… fights for control of systems under Dominion turned into a sequence of all-or-nothing engagements that would often result in the attacker failing. The ability for the defender to choose the time of the engagement in a reliable manner alongside the fact that if the attacker lost a fight just once it resets the whole process, means that many wars aren’t even worthwhile. It’s very demoralizing to lose all progress in a campaign from a single narrow or unlucky defeat. This means that in order to achieve anything tangible from an assault, the attacking side must show up with absolutely overwhelming force and steamroll their opponent. This is anathema to the overall goal of sov warfare— providing reasons for sides to fight each other and enjoy the game. Encouraging huge battles and only huge battles just serves to bore players as they square up to an opponent at a pre-set [sic] time and find they cannot win, and therefore do not fight at all.
That was from Xttz, who has been quoted here before and is undeniably one of the game's experts on sovereignty. In fact, I should acknowledge his role in this article. When I came to him and said, "Hey I have a few ideas on sovereignty I want to talk about", I got back all my own ideas and more. The contents of this article are as much, if not more, his as mine.
So, sovereignty is broken, and we want a more bottom-up system. What do we do? Throw out the existing system and start from scratch? No. It's more than possible to work within the system to create something fun and engaging. Like the previous article, all numbers are meant as examples only, unless explicitly stated otherwise.
As a first step, throw out the existing sovereignty levels, as well as the military and industrial indices, and replace them with levels 0-100. Strategic upgrades would be tied to sovereignty as they are now; jump bridges and cyno beacons could be placed at level 30 or so, for example, while potent defensive upgrades like cyno jammers and some of the others I'll present later require a much higher level. Military and industrial upgrades, on the other hand, would rely on both their respective index and sovereignty. In other words, you couldn't plant a Pirate Detection Array 5 at level 1 sovereignty like you can now by simply ratting a whole bunch; you'd need level 80 sovereignty in addition to level 80 in the Military Index.
Claiming a system would occur just how it does now—by planting a Territorial Control Unit. However, unlike now, passive gain in the sovereignty index would happen only very slowly (especially with just a TCU) and be capped at a very low level, making a solitary TCU little more than a flag planted on the system. The claiming alliance could then increase both the rate and the cap through any number of factors, which could include:
- PvE activity as measured through the military and industrial indices already within game (although modified to a 1-100 scale as previously mentioned.)
- Industrial activity, most likely measured in terms of value of goods produced in the system, or perhaps of the value of inputs used to build those goods. Ideally, the system would be engineered to weigh the contribution from large or high-value items, such as several battleships, more heavily than cheap items, such as a month's worth of shuttles.
- Ownership and use of player owned customs offices (POCOs) within the system. Care would need to be taken to evaluate for actual use so as to avoid the obvious abuse, but either way, contribution would be evaluated based on material flow through the POCOs.
- Ownership of POSes within the system, especially industrial oriented POSes (see previous section about POS revamp being ideal for industry!). The maximum number of POSes that contribute should probably be capped, although the idea of leaving open the possibility for a space holder to secure a high sovereignty index through mass POS spam in a system with a high moon count is entertaining in a ghastly sort of way.
- Ownership of infrastructure hubs and outposts in that system. Military, industrial and economic upgrades (such as Pirate Detection Arrays) would contribute indirectly by improving the ability of the members of the alliance to use the space.
- Number of nearby systems and outposts controlled by that alliance. This is probably best capped as well; perhaps any given system should only gain a benefit from the nearest two or three, allowing an alliance with smaller holdings to reap the benefits without allowing them to get too out of control for a larger alliance with more space. An interesting twist would be to have the sovereignty level of nearby systems be the metric for this effect instead; high-level systems would reinforce each other, while low-level border systems would barely affect each other.
And so on. To unlock high levels of sovereignty, and the military and economic benefits that accompany that, requires investment by both the individuals and the alliance. In addition to the caps mentioned (e.g., only the first x POSes contribute), most factors would have a maximum possible contribution to the cap and the rate of gain. Contributions from POSes, for example, could be a maximum of five points on the sovereignty index. Contributions from actually using the space, however, should almost certainly be left uncapped—an alliance could quite literally "use" its way to level 100 sovereignty in a system. Likewise, the strongest defensive structures and best benefits would be placed well above the maximum possible sum of passive contributions, and so some level of usage would be a requirement.
Conversely, those seeking to attack an enemy's sovereignty would now have plenty of avenues to do so, which could include:
- Attacking the military and industry indices by preventing ratting and mining.
- Disrupting the manufacturing contribution by crippling industry structures, whether those are modular POSes configured for industry or station upgrades depends on the flavor of the industry revamp discussed in the previous article.
- Anchoring their own POSes and destroying POSes belonging to the defenders.
- Anchoring revamped Sovereignty Blockade Units. They'd come in multiple sizes and pull down the sovereignty level at a given rate each day so long as they are online and intact; armor or hull damage would render them non-functional.
- Blowing up POCOs, infrastructure hubs and upgrades, simultaneously imposing a one-time penalty and denying the defender the ancillary benefits. Rendering upgrades non-functional by dropping sovereignty below the level required for their operation could also impose a one-time penalty.
- Taking control of adjacent systems and/or outposts to weaken area control.
And, again, so on. The entire point is that all scales of combat, from supercaps assaulting structures directly down to solo or small groups harassing the miners and ratters, contribute to attacking sovereignty. Even the smallest of actions, left unchecked, could lead to a cascade. Half a dozen guys allowed to terrorize a defender's ratters would lead to a cessation of ratting, which would lead to a drop in the military index, which would shut down the upgrades relying on that index, which would incur a sovereignty penalty, which would shut down other upgrades, and so on… a literal failure cascade.
We can build on that cascade concept. One of the upshots of the Dominion revamp was the addition of new ways for those holding space to upgrade their regions. With the exception of POCOs, we have received very little since. That can be fixed by adding some new upgrades to redress some of the other issues with sovereignty warfare. Let's start with raw structure hit points. Even if the defender collapses outright, their space remains littered with millions and millions of EHP worth of structures that must be swept away. Solve that by nerfing the base hit points of sovereignty structures significantly, down to the level where a reasonably sized subcap fleet or a small capital fleet is all that's required to reinforce and destroy them in a timely manner. Then add upgrades that boost the HP and/or resistances for those structures based on the level of sovereignty in the system. As explicitly stated before, even the lowest level of such an upgrade could only be installed at a high level of sov, requiring activity and restricting it to key systems. There could also be an extra cost that scales with sovereignty (rather than a flat cost), further enforcing the idea that they be for key systems only. Outlying systems would remain softer and provide a way in for an attacker, and as an empire falls, so would the amount of clean-up as the upgrades are knocked offline.
We can take a similar approach to reinforcement timers, another key aspect of sovereignty warfare. Currently, structures have a fixed level of random variance in their reinforcement period. Increase the default window, then add an upgrade that lowers it at higher levels of sov. Again, higher levels would only be obtained above levels of sovereignty that require use of the system and could be accompanied by an increasingly large fee.
What else? A few possibilities:
- Upgrades that give bonuses to alliance-owned starbases: higher HP, lower fuel usage, more effective weapons and production modules, etc.
- Upgrades to allow supercaps to interact with outposts (without docking) similar to a POS capital hangar array.
- Upgrades to lower the setup time of structures in the system or in nearby systems.
- Upgrades to allow multiple jump bridges per system; this one would come at a very high level and so be disabled very quickly by any attack.
- Upgrades that lower fuel/capacitor use for alliance capitals jumping to or from the system.
And (yet again) so on. The possibilities are myriad, both functionally and for vanity—anyone remember Two Step's "penis in space" comment from the minutes? After all, an empire has its grand monuments and its testaments to its power… or hubris.
We're almost done, but there are a few more details. We'd need to revisit the reinforcement mechanics for outposts and infrastructure hubs in this new system, as they're no longer the sole focus of an invasion. One option is to allow them to be shot as soon as SBUs are online, and then always attacked at the end of a reinforcement cycle until fully repaired. Destroying a hub would cause a major drop in the sov level in the system, and a replacement couldn't be anchored with SBUs present. Similarly, capturing an outpost would result in a large drop to sov level. At this point, station ping pong could become a problem, halting the progress of both parties. As an alternative, the station could enter the ownership of a neutral party, such as the DED, limiting access until one contender meets certain conditions… or, for an interesting twist, throwing access open to all until those conditions are met. Offensively, SBUs may need to be reworked themselves; "drop them and they work as long as you have them at half plus one of the gates" would be rather outmoded in the new system. Most likely, they'd become just like any other structure, reinforcement timer and all.
DUST 514 is the looming specter in the room. Right now, its involvement with EVE is extremely limited, but CCP intends there to be more integration in more areas in the future, including null-sec. We don't know very much about the nature of that interaction yet. Within this proposed system, though, it could play a role in a variety of ways. Mercenaries could assault planets, inhibiting their use for PI. More directly, control over the planets could increase or lower the maximum sovereignty cap—an analogue to the current interaction with Faction Warfare. If CCP were feeling especially adventurous, the mercenaries could play a role in capturing structures and stations as well. The possibilities are nearly endless.
Wrapping It Up
The overall goal here is to make using one's space more important to the idea of holding it, and conversely, make all forms of warfare relevant to taking and defending space. Between the usage requirement and a dramatic increase in player density per system, even the largest of empires could live on far less space than they do now, opening up more room for more alliances of all sizes; this is something most would agree would make null-sec far more interesting. Balance it all correctly, and regardless of the size of an organization, excessive sprawl makes their empire weak and unstable, with outlying systems ripe for the taking. On the flip side, a tight empire is much stronger and more resistant to attack. Even then, though, your foes have ways in, undermining your strength from the bottom, capturing unclaimed territory at your borders, and working their way in. All kinds of activity, PvP and PvE alike, would have a whole new relevance, all contributing to create a new, vibrant dynamic.