Archive for May, 2011

Burning Bridges

Posted in EVE Online on May 11, 2011 by cailais

CCP Soundwaves latest Dev Blog with regard to null sec has created the expectant storm on the EVE – O Forums.  Specifically the planned reduction of jump bridge capability:

“Basically, it’s become a very easy, convenient and safe way to travel, with little or no downside. That’s not to say you’re invincible when using jumpbridges, but if you’re in an alliance with an intel channel and a semi-decent jumpbridge network, you have a pretty overwhelming degree of safety. That safety is detrimental to interaction, both in terms of meeting friendly and unfriendly players, which is the base of our change”. CCP Soundwave

I was (and probably still will) going to write in more detail on the following subject, but it seems that now is a good a time as any to bring it up.  For some time I have looked at the protestations that null sec warfare has been dominated by unassailable alliance (and coalitions of alliances) and that these power blocks are too strong.  Gradually I am coming to the conclusion that the phenomenon we are witnessing is not due to alliances being “all powerful” but, ironically, because they and the sov system which underpins them is inherently weak.

In order to arrive at this rather surprising conclusion we need to have a generic understanding of Asymmetrical Warfare.  Some, wrongly, attribute this to mean terrorist tactics but more specifically it means that there is an asymmetrical relationship between one or more protagonists. For example one is small, the other large or one is technologically advanced the other is not. Also inherent in the idea of Asymmetrical Warfare is the concept that the protagonists don’t line up opposite each other in nice formations with an identifiable ‘front line’, not least because the asymmetrical nature of their relationship would mean certain destruction for the weaker party.  Instead the ‘smaller’ protagonists is everywhere at once, with no clear front line or home base upon which the more powerful force can concentrate its efforts.

When we look at EVE we find that Alliances are, in fact, surrounded by asymmetrical threats – there are a host of ‘smaller’ and theoretically weaker forces waiting to assail them at the first opportunity.  I believe that it is this environment that encourages (one might say forces) alliances to ‘clump together’ if only for self preservation.  In some respects the Jump Bridge aids the coalescence of numbers into a smaller volume of space – corporations / allies of an alliance that might have been multiple jumps away are now ‘next door’ in terms of providing mutual assistance.  This is not necessarily a ‘good thing’ if we want to encourage instability within null sec (which in theory at least would result in increased conflict).

Such reasoning however has to come with a health warning.  Reduce that aforementioned local stability (and by doing so increase the risk of the asymmetric threats an alliance faces) and we run the hazard that null sec is not seen as having any real value to its inhabitants.  You could draw analogies between ‘settlers’ and ‘nomadic’ populations here whereby the ‘settler’ perceives the risks of null sec space as being disproportionally high compared to the potential reward (kudos, wealth etc).  Such a perception is exacerbated if the reward is nearly equal, or greater, elsewhere (high sec, w – space).

What such questions boil down to is what type of Null Sec do we really want? Should it be (much as it was in EVEs genesis) a lawless region of space where anarchy was so rampant that any attempt to ‘settle’ was quickly gutted. Or should alliances, having put in a degree of effort, be entitled to reap the harvest in relative safety?

When CCP look again at the issue of Sovereignty (and consider it alongside PI, and DUST514) I very much hope that they do so in terms of how ‘order’ and ‘disorder’ are represented. Whilst I still haven’t come to a firm conclusion my suspicion is that we should move away from mutually supporting forces (linked by jump bridges etc) and towards mechanics that allow alliances to slam shut the drawbridges of their keeps.  For example attaining sufficient levels of Sov might open options for alliances to close star gates (or at least station sentry type systems around them).

Such an approach would give us ‘walled forts’ of relative security from which alliances could sally forth, but not open islands linked together where alliances seek mutual protection from any given threat.  The first option is weaker strategically but there needs to be something in place before CCP burn those bridges to ash.