EVE Evolved: Has the Aegis sovereignty system worked?

    
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It’s been over a month since EVE Online deployed its new sovereignty and territorial warfare system, and the dust is only now beginning to settle. The Aegis update completely revamped sovereignty warfare, replacing the grind of shooting massive structures with massive fleets with a new system based around the Entosis Link module. It was hoped that the new system would lower the barrier to entry for sovereignty warfare and allow smaller but dedicated alliances to capture and hold space against larger opponents. While the old system made large fleets practically mandatory and led to ever-growing coalitions banding together, it was hoped that the new system would encourage a larger number of smaller fights. When fleets of any size can attempt to contest the ownership of a structure, it’s up to the owners to aggressively defend their space or lose it.

There has been considerable noise in the EVE community since the update went live, with plenty of critical feedback from nullsec alliances and even some backlash directed at its designer CCP Fozzie. Despite complaints, it’s clear that the sov system is achieving some of its stated goals: players have reported an increased number of smaller fights, a few small alliances are capturing space, and industrialists are being actively recruited into nullsec alliances again. The past month of warfare has nonetheless highlighted some pretty serious problems with the sovereignty mechanics that CCP will need to address, some of which it plans to tackle in Tuesday’s Galatea update.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I delve into the player response to EVE‘s new territorial warfare mechanics, highlight a few remaining problems with the system, and look at the upcoming Galatea sovereignty update.

petitionfozziesovComplaints and alliance backlash

The Aegis sovereignty system was the second major part of an initiative to change how nullsec alliances conducted war, the first part being the force projection changes in last year’s Phoebe update. Before these updates, nullsec had devolved into a politically stagnant arrangement with two or three coalitions owning everything between them and absorbing any independent entities who pop up or stomping them into the ground. There was some backlash in response to Phoebe as it limited how far alliances could deploy their capital fleets from their staging systems, and part of the backlash to Aegis feels the same. Both updates took some power and control away from the established nullsec entities and made holding large amounts of empty space more difficult. Aegis in particular makes it easier for renter alliances to break away from their masters, which means less ISK for the landlords. Those affected will naturally make some noise, and it can be difficult to separate that noise from constructive criticism.

The Russian alliances banded together and presented a list of problems they saw with the new system and potential solutions, calling Aegis sovereignty “the greatest discrimination against nullsec dwellers in all of EVE Online history.” After fighting off invaders for a few weeks, they noted that the scope for large scale fights has diminished and that most of their time was spent chasing small gangs and individuals. The Russian coalitions claim a huge sector of space including all of the Rogue Drone regions, and many of those star systems are left vastly underused. As a result, it’s become very easy for small groups to harass the region by trying to capture systems with tiny fleets. More recently, several Russian alliances descended on trade hub system Jita and began suicide ganking players’ freighters while spamming “CCP Fozzie” in local chat in protest.

criticismfozziesovConstructive criticism of Aegis sovereignty

Between forum threads and in-depth analyses by EVE blogs and warring alliances, there’s been a great deal of constructive criticism and useful discussion on the state of play and problems that need to be resolved. The sovereignty trolling that players warned about before the patch did end up materialising, with people using cheap destroyers and interceptors to harass unoccupied enemy systems. As a result, the command node capture mechanic that we were very wary of before the patch went live has become an irritating regular cleanup exercise for the defender. There are also far too many capture nodes for each individual structure, and no actual tools to keep track of everything. Alliances are forced to assign someone to keep track of all of the sovereignty timers, and have to respond to every single entosis attack on their space or risk a bout of command node spam to mop up later.

The positive side of all of this is that fights are happening again at a fantastic rate. While Dominion sovereignty encouraged alliances to bring as much force as possible to quickly shoot down structures, Aegis sovereignty is all about bringing the minimum force neccessary to hold the field. There’s a whole strategic element to predicting what kind of force you’ll come up against when capturing something, and many capture events are being invaded by third parties looking for blood. The main point of contention now is that entities can attack sovereignty without committing significant (or sometimes any) forces to actually fight. This has been a long-term problem with Faction Warfare too, which rapidly devolved into people sitting AFK in capture points with disposable frigates rather than actually fighting over them.

galateaThe Galatea patch addresses issues

In response to the feedback on Aegis sovereignty, CCP has put together a list of balance changes coming in Tuesday’s Galatea update. The number of command nodes that spawn in sovereignty events will be decreased from 20 to 10, and the base capture time will be reduced from 10 minutes to 4 minutes. The defending alliance will also now start with 60% control of the event by default, so if nobody shows up to claim a system then you’ll only need to capture 8 nodes at 4 minutes a piece to clean up the mess. This may give the defender a bit of an advantage in any actual capture event but its main purpose is to make it less irritating to deal with sovereignty trolls who initially try to capture a system and then don’t show up to finish the job.

The patch will also attempt to deal with the problem of uncatchable interceptors being used to troll sovereignty, but it might not be enough. The entosis link will now physically limit a ship’s top speed to 4km/sec, which affects only the misuse case of uncatchable interceptors and doesn’t address the use of disposable entosis ships. The most effective strategy in Aegis sovereignty will always be the one with the lowest perceived risk, so it’s up to the mechanics to force players to commit something worth killing to the fight. Potential solutions include limiting entosis links to cruisers and above or making the entosis ship immobile but remote repairable, but neither of those is on the cards. The outcome desired by many players is that the entosis module should be put on the biggest and tankiest ship you can field, which will be a considerable risk investment and a worthy target for attack. As it stands, the Galatea patch will do nothing to achieve that goal.

finalthoughtsfozzThe Aegis sovereignty system has been live now for over a month, and the only thing players seem to agree on is that it needs some balance work. Smaller alliances are finding that they are now a legitimate threat to a larger entity’s sovereignty and can draw out a good fight when they want to, which is a huge victory for the new mechanics. The reality of Aegis sovereignty is also starting to sink in as large alliances are finding that it’s often more trouble than it’s worth to hold onto systems they don’t actively live in. There is probably now more territory out there than the existing playerbase can reasonably defend, and empires may have to shed dead weight systems or fill them up with activity.

The system is not without its problems, however, as trolls are able to force the defender to respond to false threats or spend hours cleaning up command nodes. Tuesday’s Galatea patch is simply a small quality of life improvement for those alliances being trolled, and the upcoming Citadel Siege mechanic that lets players set vulnerability windows throughout the week will help a ton, but it’s not going to eliminate trolling. The entosis and control node mechanics need to force the aggressor to actually commit something worth killing to the fight, and I think if CCP can crack that problem then nullsec warfare will be pretty much perfect.

EVE Online expert Brendan ‘Nyphur’ Drain has been playing EVE for over a decade and writing the regular EVE Evolved column since 2008. The column covers everything from in-depth EVE guides and news breakdowns to game design discussions and opinion pieces. If there’s a topic you’d love to see covered, drop him a comment or send mail to brendan@massivelyop.com!
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dorn2
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dorn2

Keithoras dorn2 
I wasn’t talking about the current sov system.  I was talking about where it needs to go.  They need to be much harsher.  A serious 200-300 player elite guild shouldn’t hold more than 5 systems. 

Of course in some respects EvE is just too small.  Having an enemy one or two systems away is scary.  The distance between systems just isn’t punishing enough.  Sandbox PvP has to balance ease of travel vs having room for layered defenses.

Kaloth
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Kaloth

masonweaver Kaloth Polyanna I don’t mind anchorable bubbles all that much. Whether it’s interdictored or anchored, it’s still a bubble that’ll stop you in your tracks. Best way to avoid them is to pull up the map and display ships/pods lost recently and avoid the highlighted systems.
If you’re flying blind around null, you kind of deserve to lose your ship.
Also, 50 bubble gate camps may be against the ‘spirit of the game’ rule as they’re usually in place specifically to cause lag on a client loading into the area making targets easy to pop. Submit a ticket with the system and gate, and a GM may just come along and remove them all (with no reimbursement to the owners and possible suspension depending on whether they’ve done it before).

Nyphur
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Nyphur

Tithian Nyphur 
I fully agree, the system is working perfectly when it comes to
alliances holding large numbers of unused systems. Any alliance
complaining about spending hours capping command nodes clearly doesn’t
have a big enough presence in that constellation and they will lose
those systems if someone wants to take them. That part’s working fully
as intended, and it’s fantastic.
My reasoning on sov trolling
is that people can use Interceptors or disposible entosis ships to try
to provoke a response without actually commiting to fight. If the
enemy mobilises a bigger force than the interceptor’s buddies can
handle then he can just disengage, which was never intended under Aegis
Sov. The entosis link disables your warp drive to force you to commit at
least one ship to the fight, and people are finding ways to evade and
minimise that commitment.
The reason I think commitment needs to
be enforced more heavily is that we already know how it will turn out;
The same problem turned faction warfare into mostly disposable frigates
farming complexes for LP and warping out when anyone comes along.

Keithoras
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Keithoras

dorn2 Don’t make generalities. Not all Nullsec players are against the current sov system.

I’ve been playing nearly only in NullSec for a while now, and I welcome this change. I was near Catch region when large scale battles occurred between BRAVE and Pandemic Legion/Horde. Even if I haven’t been really involved in it, this has given quite some lively (and welcomed) interactions, even in Catch’s surroundings.

I completely agree & confirm that some sectors in NullSec were more secure than HighSec (which is an aberration, imo. If you want boast you’re living in NullSec, it need to be a challenge). This “HTFU” era is a welcome one. Current Sov system is not perfect. But I think, with some clever tweaks, it’s going in the right direction .

Tithian
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Tithian

Nyphur There’s a hole in your reasoning. You’re saying that the interceptor with the entosis isn’t there to capture sov, but to provoke fights. But the people looking for fights, for this reason, are using a ship to evade the fights they were trying to provoke. Also, you might want to check Dotlan lately. Systems over the past month are slowly falling to small alliances, like those living in NPC null currently. Sov IS being taken over, albeit extremely slowly.

Here’s another explanation: maybe the interceptor isn’t looking for fights specifically. It’s there to force alliances to drop the sov it cannot protect and harass the people looking to rat. It also puts a strain on the defender to deal with guerilla warfare, which, as you said, involves simply showing up and breaking the lock with ECM. If people are active and live in the affected systems, they will never have to deal with the tedium of the capture event, but the main issue is that the powerblocs are holding so much space, that presence is individual systems is practically nul. Way back I used to live in the Drone Regions, I could go days without seeing anyone, including members of my own alliance. 

I’d say the system is working perfectly. Bonus points for causing distress to the Russians :p

Nyphur
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Nyphur

Koolthulu  Excellent point. People are starting to adapt to the new system and most of the complaints come from those trying to defend empty systems with few pilots. While the lone trollceptor is still definitely a problem, alliances are going to have to get used to the idea that they can’t have empty systems any more. Some are actively recruiting non-renter industrialists again and setting up a separate military division to defend them like we used to do back in 2006-2008, which is a huge step forward. Others are trying to hold onto the same territory as before with the same pilots and are burning out on the chore. I think we have yet to see the true fallout from Aegis sov, and the coming months will be very interesting to watch.

Nyphur
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Nyphur

Tithian  It’s more like:
1. Trollceptor harasses the system
2. Residents show up to defend, but can’t catch the interceptor and can at best block his attack with ECM.
3. Interceptor warps off and harasses another system.
4. If the defenders don’t show up, the system isn’t captured because the attacker only wanted a fight, not sovereignty. So when the command nodes spawn for the capture event, the defender has to spend a few hours AFK in space cleaning them up.
People are basically using the safest possible strategy to entosis structures in order to draw out defenders to fight, but there’s no actual fight to be had because the interceptor can evade. Even with the speed nerf, a disposable ship can be used to provide no practical commitment to fight. One small tweak that would make the system a lot better would be to make entosis links limited to battlecruisers and T2/3 cruisers. Interceptors are designed to break through enemy lines, hence the bubble immunity, and should not on their own be able to threaten sov. If at least a battlecruiser has to be used, then you know every attack involves something worth killing and is worth residents responding to.

Nyphur
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Nyphur

MorpayneRADIO  Same here, but the problem is that those with the most experience and
authority may also have their own in-game agendas to pursue. For years,
the biggest alliances shouted down anyone who said the sov system or
capital force projection were broken because they had a vested interest
in maintaining the status quo and accumulating power. It took years of
stagnation for them to finally admit that the old system was flawed and
would always inevitably lead to just 2-3 megacoalitions owning
everything.
A selection of alliance leaders and top FCs have
reportedly put together a document containing their experiences with
post-Aegis war and delivered it to the CSM to pass on to CCP, but for
some reason they decided not to make that document public.

Tithian
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Tithian

This is what CCP envisioned when they came up with the system:
1. Trollceptor harasses the system
2. Residents take out frigs to kill the ceptor
3. Ceptor’s buddies are waiting and jump in the fight
4. Frig’s buddies escalate and you have a small-gang fight on the grid.
5. Add several more escalations and capitals are starting to jump in.

What happens is:
1. Trollceptor harasses the system
2. Residents dock, because they are there to farm rats, not pvp. They might even be bots.
3. Systems get taken over

I’d be VERY surprised if PVPers consist more than than 10% of the population of the major powerblocks (excluding maybe PL). I mean, most alliances now depend on farmers to fill their coffers though taxes.

To all the people whining, I believe the appropriate response is “HTFU”. Adapt or die etc. etc.

masonweaver
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masonweaver

Kaloth MorpayneRADIO

I liked the idea that was tossed out by CCP to make some relic/data sites on astroids (or something like that) where you would disembark from your vessel to go explore the ruins.

Will likely never happen, but I think with all the pressure from other space games (SC, etc), CCP will need to start making some changes like this. Maybe fully integrating “Legion” into Eve, and allow players to jump between the two on the same client. Instead of ship spinning you would go pew pew in an FPS until something comes up with a fleet or roam.