Achilles Heel

“Dr Eyjo is particularly worried about the drop in PvP activity as this is the driving force behind EVE’s economy, it would seem that new players are not moving into the sovereignty PvP of 0.0 but would rather play the more PvE focussed Wormhole game. This may be due to 0.0 having become rife with supercapital blobs with victory determined by the size of the fleet brought to a battle rather than any kind of strategic or tactical consideration”

“The 0.0 game of EVE is seen by many as what make EVE what it is, and since Dominion it has become increasingly homogenized. Victory is determined by sheer weight of numbers rather than tactical and strategic brilliance. Dominion was supposed to place limits on the amount of space an alliance and provide opportunities for smaller corporations and alliances  to gain a foothold on the frontiers. Neither of these have been the case. Dominion failed”.

“It was suggested that there could be more encouragement towards the use of smaller more tactical fleets by the introduction of smaller targets. These objectives could not necessarily affect the sovereignty status of a system but would impact the sovereignty holders in other ways such as resource theft or infrastructure damage. The current mechanic only allows for the destruction of station services and these have so many hitpoints that it is not feasible to go after them with anything less than a blob. It was agreed by both the CSM and CCP that shooting at near invulnerable structures is incredibly boring, and more should be done to bring more excitement to the 0.0 game“. Excerpts from ‘IamKeithNeilson’ Dec 2010 CSM Summit observations.

I’m not going to make any apology for so blatantly pulling these quotes from Mandrill’s excellent review of the December 2010 summit.  What I do find interesting, no wait…alarming, is that these factors identified by the CSM and CCP are so astoundingly obvious.  There has long been the argument, most often expressed on the EVE Online forums that greater numbers and size should win.  This argument operates from the basis that those able to co-operate and co-ordinate the most raw numbers have succeeded at some fundamental level of waging warfare.

This argument is false.

Firstly, if we examine just the concept of ‘co-ordination and co-operation should = win’  we must assume that this is difficult or requires the application of significant skill. This might be the case in certain circumstances but we shouldn’t forget that EVE, as an MMO (with the focus on the term Massively) is designed to enable and support co-operation.  The tools that an internet based game provides all of the key elements to enable co-operation and co-ordination.  Communication is instant, information abundant.  In military parlance this act of co-operative play is called C2 standing for “command and control”.  C3 (the next stage) is Command, Control and Communication.  The sheer power of networked systems will mean that the final ‘C’ for C4 (command, control, communication, computers) should come as no surprise.

Military forces around the world have invested billions in trying to replicate the forth C – computing – in real world conflicts and yet within EVE this is a given.  The power of ‘computing’ or networked operations is so great because is amplifies and hastens the previous qualities commanding, controlling and communicating.

Secondly the argument assumes that larger numbers should win purely on the basis of numeracy.  If I place my 1000 pygmies against your one elephant I should win, simply through weight of numbers.  For a considerable period of time in military history this thinking was the norm.  At its most basic level this concept was termed attrition warfare- the act of simply wearing down an opponent through numbers.  This attitude lasted up until the First World War, when the roughly evenly matched protagonists realised that something new was required to break a stalemate; either a new technology or a new way of thinking tactically.

Manoeuvre warfare is the modern term (although you can point to many examples through history of this conceptual approach being applied).  The most famous example of manoeuvre warfare is the use of deception and the Trojan Horse.  Applying such tactics in EVE however is astonishingly difficult not least because the very environment supports C3 / C4 so well.  The basic premise of Manoeuvre warfare is that a small number of combatants can have an effect on the enemy that is disproportionate to that teams size.  Special forces are excellent examples.

But when we look at the ‘special forces’ in EVE we find them woefully inadequate.  Where small teams should have the advantage of stealth and agility – the ability to strike fast and hard before melting away we actually see the very opposite.  It is the super capitals that can strike over massive ranges (and hence have tactical agility) or large fleets moving through jump bridges avoiding systems (a attribute of stealth).  Why use a Black Ops Battleship to cyno in a few Stealth Bombers to hit a target (which they can’t really kill or harm quickly such as a POS) when you might as easily use a capital ship?

The mechanics of holding sovereignty are also extremely problematic.  If you were to draw an analogy the raw Hit Points of Sovereignty structures, POS’s and Outposts are not really so dissimilar to the walls of Troy.  Goonswarms infiltration and destruction of Band of Brothers  by design, or by luck, was essentially a replay of the Trojan Horse effect.  The disbanding of BoBs Alliance from within circumvented the need to slog through a war of attrition against those Hit Point walls. Admittedly making those “walls” more expensive to maintain is one small step but the consequences of this have actually created a disinclination to fight and an incentive to bot.

Tweaking the values of Sov structures or super capitals is not, in my view, any sort of solution.  CCP need to provide incentives for Alliances to spread their forces thinner.  To defend and protect weaker targets from small gangs.  There needs to be alternatives to holding sovereignty or wresting it away than through pure wall building and wall bashing. Capital and super capitals should be steam rollers – crushing the slow moving under their path but lacking in agility and the power to project force nearly instantaneously across vast swathes of space.

This way of thinking won’t be popular with everyone, least of all the status quo whom rely upon the current mechanisms but if bold steps aren’t taken soon then warfare in EVE will becoming a stale and uninteresting stalemate that is ultimately to no ones benefit.



17 Responses to “Achilles Heel”

  1. As a member of a small low sec corp who can fly lots of nifty T2 ships, I could not agree with you more. I simply don’t have the time (or ISK) to compete in such large scale, 3000 ship lag fests. I can, however, take a small squadron of pilots to do spec ops type warfare. Alas, such a possibility really doesn’t exist.

  2. Well said. Well said indeed.

    (I am now going to go and correct all the typos in my original post which I only noticed when reading your quote of it. :/)

  3. I couldn’t possibly agree more! I love PVP and yet I avoid null like the plague. I have no interest in the blob fest that it has become. Will be interesting to see what changes CCP makes to keep EVE PVP the amazing thing that it is.

  4. Pulling together numbers is certainly not easy. Look at IT’s ongoing fail in Fountain for an example of how extremely difficult it is to motivate and coordinate hundreds of pilots into a useful force.

    I like the idea of improving small gang opportunities in EVE, but I think it is faulty logic to minimize the extreme challenge of coordinating a 0.0 Sov holding Alliance or coalition.

    • Thanks for your comments Jaggins. I would agree that motivation is not always a easy thing to do – in fact if null sec warfare is seen as one dimensional and perhaps even a ‘bit dull’ I would say it’s even harder! Are IT Alliance failing to motivate their players because their players simply aren’t interested in hitting those hit point walls? Co-ordination is a somewhat difficult task- but no where near as complex as attempting to co-ordinate, command and control forces of a similar scale out here in ‘the real world’. The small scale operation, the small gang, suffers in comparison rather than in absolute terms – and that’s the issue I think.


  5. Great post. But CCP isn’t going to change something like this and risk upsetting the big alliances that have all the money.

    • Lagmeister Says:

      this is true, especially when you take into account several top members of the NC such as imperian & vuk lau have a very comfortable RL existence by effectively turning the NC into a botting/RMT machine of large proportions. The ‘b and c -team alliances’ on the peripherary just act as a large buffer so that their macros can run unmolested deep within the core parts of NC space. In fact as a member of the CSM, vuk is effectively the RMT-brigade’s representative in Iceland…

      • Wow…. you really bought into that troll didn’t you?

        I think you’d find even most of the big coalitions would want to see steps taken to encourage more effective pvp using smaller numbers.

        Having to get 200+ people to go get a fight is no fun…. especially when you get there, and unless they get 300, they aren’t going to fight you.

  6. indigo.blade Says:

    Great read here C. As a brand new 0.0 pilot there’s a lot here to learn from. I particularly enjoyed your comments regarding maneuver – specifically how supercapital ships and their mobility undercut the (perceived) benefit to small gang operation and their potential in 0.0 sec warfare. Well done!

  7. Spot-on analysis. Well done.

  8. Great post, sums up the total disinterest in small scale (FUN!) pvp in null sec at the moment. Imho jump bridges and to a lesser extent jump freighters have played a big part in this by removing the targets of opportunity that small gangs could prey on.
    Take a swift comparison, npc 0.0 one can only exert any control by a constant presence, jump bridges dont exist and jump freighters operate with great care, in null sec however there is no real need to patrol or defend, people simply cloak (another ridiculous situation, cloaking bs’s with no time limits). There should be targets for small gangs that affect not sov but the ‘value of sov’ and im sorry but ihubs are just too huge hp to fill this role atm. If ihubs were easier to rf and possibly planetary items also (the ones in space) then there would again be a need for protecting your space against small gangs who would be trying to mess with the ‘value’ of your sov space and accessibility to peoples’ planetary setups.

    • Completely agree….

      Jump bridges allow an alliance, or a coalition of alliances (see NC) to control and defend a large area of space easiliy and quickly.

      The removal of jump bridges would make the maintenance of the huge empires just so much more difficult, with the logistics involved exponentially increasing.

  9. On further thought, ihubs should be tough but the upgrades should be separately targetable and easier to damage so that roving gangs can threaten the infrastructure through disabling the upgrades thus reducing the value of the sov held there.

  10. […] of connecting wormholes. In anticipation of the official minutes being released later this week, Calais from EVE blog The Hydrostatic Capsule has delved into Keith's summaries and drawn some compelling conclusions about why nullsec is still the domain of […]

  11. […] of connecting wormholes. In anticipation of the official minutes being released later this week, Calais from EVE blog The Hydrostatic Capsule has delved into Keith's summaries and drawn some compelling conclusions about why nullsec is still the domain of […]

  12. Non-pirate PVP in Eve is dying and has been for some time. Large scale fleet combat is still happening, but that is not the same. PVE has stayed very similar to the beginning, and has even been improved through WH space and upcoming Incursions. The small/mid PVP corp I am in has seen a steady loss of players who are just not renewing their subs anymore. I only hope that CCP decides to invest more effort quickly into the side of the game that is the best example of what a open sandbox MMO can provide.

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