Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fan Fest Sweepings

I swear, March has been a blur. And not your cheerful Fan Fest induced sort of blur.

Alas, while the luminaries of the Eve blogosphere partied the long nights away in Reykjavik, ol' Mord has toiled neigh ceaselessly at his laptop. Probably just as well. My last encounter with the nubile descendants of Viking marauders did not end well. Limped for a week after.

'Nuff said.

Anyway, by my standards it's been a productive month.  The SF/Fantasy webzine is in motion, I've a couple of stories in revision, a film school student has asked to base his senior project on one of my published pieces, the novel's into chapter three and I've a writer's workshop starting next month.

But it's meant precious little time for Eve. I'll put end to that and undock tonight. Hopefully find my way into a little CTA mayhem.

It's meant fewer posts for The Edge too; a trend I'll try to turn around. There are some interesting goings on in former IT space that are worth attention. I'll see if I can shed some light on them.

Fly safe, don't panic and go easy on the emo.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Battle of the Bands

Many of you will have heard that CCP Greyscale took to the podium during Eve Fanfest to announce the first in a series of changes to nullsec.  In essence the change is an alteration of ratting yields in improved systems, hands-down the easiest and most common way of making the ISKies down in nullsec. Nullsec systems will be divided up into five bands based on their current truesec values. The least valuable systems in the first and second bands will get no high end ratting sites (Haven and Sanctums) at all. Middling systems in the third and fourth level bands will get the current max of four high end sites. The remaining band containing the best classes of system will have up to six high end sites.

Call the first and second band Shallow Nullsec, the third and forth bands Middle Nullsec, and the last band Deep Nullsec.

The original system improvement scheme, which gave all systems the same maximum possible high-end sites, was designed to get more folk out into nullsec. However CCP Greyscale believes that by making the low value parts of nullsec as valuable as the high value parts of nullsec, they've dampened the hunger for PvP in nullsec. He also thinks that by re-introducing Shallow Nullsec - parts of nullsec that he thinks nobody will want when the ratting yields go down- he's creating fertile ground for small new alliances just entering nullsec.

The reaction of nullsec residents to this change has not, generally, been positive.

OK, to be honest it's been viscerally negative. Ripard Teg's blog entry, while more thoughtful than many, is pretty representative of the overall tone. The others range from annoyed to frothing at the mouth. I predict increased attendance at next years Fan Fest as nullsec players from around the world line up to whisper unpleasant truths into Greyscale's ear.

For myself I need to sit down and have a think over this one. It's a change with a lot of twists in its tail, not all of them necessarily bad. I doubt we'll see the ones CCP's hoping for, but that's business as usual. The most interesting change will be the sudden drop-off in the amount of money pouring into the New Eden economy; a tightening of the money supply that will cascade in a lot of unexpected directions. Economic upheavals tend to result in a lot of unanticipated macro level outcomes.  

Ironically, none of these will make more space available for small start-up nullsec alliances. Likely the opposite. I expect a thinning out of the population in Shallow Nullsec regions, but the occupants won't be starter alliances unless they're under the protection of more powerful nullsec patrons. Even without Havens and Sanctums, all sovereign systems have value as there are things you can make and do there that you can't anywhere else in New Eden. The doctrine of "nobody else wants it" is dead as long as that's true.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Carebears Ascendant

"ISK win wars."
                - Krutoj the Destroyer

I did tell you this day was coming.  Way back in August.  I even used pictures.

Even the amount of venom currently pointed in the direction of the new merchant princes of nullsec was quite predictable.  As I said in August, all this has happened before, and all this will happen again.  To a warrior elite, the only thing worse than a bunch of shopkeepers and their dirty money is having their asses handed to them by a bunch of shopkeepers and their dirty money.  It tends to inspire a certain resentment.

As many of you are aware by now, the new currency of nullsec sovereignty is, well, currency.  Holding space in Nullsec has become a cash-intensive proposition.

This is due in part to the introduction of sovereignty upkeep fees in December of 2009.  While these fees are quite manageable for an alliance as long as it's not carrying a lot of dead weight systems (systems an alliance is unable or unwilling to exploit in order to get the wealth necessary to pay for sovereignty) they've caused alliances to actively administer their space, keep an eye on their bottom line and think of systems as a resource - as an investment of sorts.  

However, the impact of sovereignty upkeep fees is small potatoes compared to the other big nullsec cost driver; supercapitals.  In order to hold nullsec these days you need supercapital ships and the pilots to fly them.  And this, my friends, is the real money sink when it comes to nullsec sovereignty.  You see, alliances holding nullsec now have to not only be able to afford to field a supercapital fleet, they have to be able to afford to lose and replace supercapital fleets on a scale unthinkable a short time ago.

The recent supercapital smack-downs in Geminate between the Drone Russian Forces (DRF) and the Northern Coalition (NC) puts the increasingly ISK-intensive nature of sov warfare in sharp relief. In two fleet battles that occurred within a week of each other, the NC lost 10 Titan class ships to 11 for the DRF.  At a 55 billion build cost for the hull and another 30 billion for a proper fit, we're talking on the order of about 1.8 trillion ISK lost by the two alliances in the course of two battles - not including the flocks of Super Carriers on either side that escorted the fallen Titans along on their way to Valhalla.

Recall that the armada IT Alliance sent to support The Initiative in Catch last December numbered thirty Titans and fifty Motherships; a mighty force by anyone's reckoning at of the time and a profound show of strength.  In less than a a week the NC and DRF have between them lost more than half that number.

And neither side is showing any sign of backing down.

Upon a time, losses on this scale would have been, at best, a near death experience for a nullsec alliance or coalition.  However, as the knock-down of IT Alliance showed, having a supercapital fleet and deploying it only in low risk situation (when your enemy has none, for example) is not enough.  You have to be willing and able to take that fleet into harm's way.  And that means an alliance or coalition with the means to quickly and reliably replace supercapital losses without going bankrupt has a strategic advantage.  Both the NC and the DRF have a secret weapon that make this possible.

Carebears.  Lots and lots of carebears.

Obviously, the best way to ensure a reliable supply of these behemoths in a cost efficient manner is to control their means of production.  Both the NC and DRF have accomplished this on a large scale, though they've come by this capacity in different ways.  

The DRF are PvP focused, but maintain a vast portfolio of nullsec rental space.  Standard policy for renters is that the sovereignty holding alliance has right of first refusal on all supercapital builds at a fixed rate over build cost.  Thus, the carebears in the DRF rental alliances, which are presently the largest and most expansively situated in the game, can be leveraged to provide their landlords with as many supercapitals as the DRF pilots could want.

With the NC, on the other hand, the alliances and corporations that comprise the coalitions maintain the supercapital build capacity.  The means of supercapital production are, aside from guest and renter alliances, internal to the coalition.  Some NC supercapital pilots are themselves alternates of nullsec bears involved in the production of the engines of destruction they fly.  So that carebear you popped back in Hulkageddon I may be among the pilots of the Nyx fleet that hotdrops your roaming BC gang tomorrow. 

Now, if you are on the outside of the supercapital sweet shop looking in, this is all something of a troubling development.  Even at near-cost, supercapitals are stratospherically expensive.  Buying them at full market price (if one can be found for sale at all) is nose-bleed inducing.  Assuming the "never fly what you can't afford to lose" doctrine is in play, this new economic component to nullsec warfare puts PvP alliances with limited access to nullsec industrial capacity at a profound disadvantage.  "ISK," as Krutoj the Destroyer observed last Fall, "Wins wars." 

As a recent commenter on The Edge pointed out, supercapitals, the essential tool for acquiring nullsec sov wars, require nullsec sov to acquire.  It also requires a large complement of industrialists - a body of players toward whom many dedicated PvP alliances are not kindly disposed.  Carebears, after all, are for ganking. Renters are beneath contempt.  The idea that carebears in any capacity are essential for winning in nullsec must be galling for the PvP purist.

This may be why the NC, more than the DRF, has been the subject of so much vitriol in the digital public square.  The DRF are PvPers after all, using carebears as a means to an end.  The Drone Russians keep their carebears in a separate renter's space; at arms length and in their proper place.  The Northern Coalition, on the other hand, are perceived as carebears themselves.

Thus, in the eyes of the PvP community, the NC has sinned doubly, both by being carebears and leveraging their industrial advantage to succeed in nullsec.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Last month in Size Matters, I introduced some really interesting numbers with regard to the population density of various nullsec alliances and coalitions. I'm sure you remember them.

I mean, those were sexy numbers; all revealing and provocative and stuff.  They're the kind of numbers your mother warned you about. They sidle up next to you in a smoky bar where a drowsy sax plays a blues counterpoint to their smiles. They beguile you with small talk and glasses of unremarkable Merlot. Next thing you know they're into your brain and firing off synapses with wild abandon while doing the crazy monkey dance with other ideas in your head....

OK. I need to get out more often.

Anyway, though I'm sure they're still burned into your memories, here's a refresher, updated to reflect current data as of March 11:

Systems: Total number of systems over which the alliance holds sovereignty
Outposts: Total number of outposts within an alliances sovereign systems.
PPS: Average Population Per System - Alliance population divided by total system held.
PPO: Average Population Per Outpost - Alliance's population divided by total outposts held.

Alliance Coaltn Players Systems PPS Outposts PPO
Legion of Death DRF 1131 122 9.2 38 29.7
Solar Fleet DRF 1058 69 15.3 19 55.6
White Noise DRF 1438 87 16.5 25 57.5
Red Alliance DRF 1938 98 19.7 38 51
Razor Alliance NC 2097 52 40.3 25 83.8
Magesta NC 2808 50 56.1 18 156
Morsus Mihi NC 3723 64 58.1 21 176.8
R.A.G.E. NC 3773 52 72.5 15 251

The population disparity between key alliances of the two coalitions is pronounced, and the heavy correlation between population density and coalition suggests it's not a coincidence. By the pricking of my thumb, something causal this way comes.

This population to system count disparity is especially intriguing when you consider that the Northern Coalition (NC) and the Drone Russian Forces (DRF) are, for the moment, arguably the two most successful coalitions in New Eden.  This may reflect an in-game process of natural selection, with the two coalitions proceeding down distinct, but equally successful paths, the sources of which go back to the two coalitions' approaches to the game in terms of finance and game-play style. 

As a dedicated PvP organization, the DRF generates income via rents, ratting and moon mining; historically the primary means of making money in nullsec for PvP alliances. In this financial pattern, the highest value moons are usually reserved for the alliance's cash stream or allocated to favored corporations, leaving remainder for individual member or corporation use. Each of the DRF alliances maintains a rental alliance with extensive real-estate holdings that provide significant income flow to the parent alliance. While some PvP coalitions maintain a few Indi players who might engage in a bit of mining and manufacturing on the side, such activities are usually farmed out to the renter's alliance in order to limit the possibility of "carebear rot" within the PvP alliance proper. This leaves ratting anomalies as the primary source of income for pure PvP alliance/coalition pilots and their corporations.

The more systems a PvP alliance holds, the more income generation is possible for individual players within that alliance. Thus, a large number of systems held by a PvP alliance optimizes income for individual pilots, particularly if the pilots prefer to bypass less profitable anomalies and rat exclusively in Havens and Sanctums; the ratting opportunities with the highest value returned on time spent ratting.

The NC alliances, on the other hand, tend to have a sizable strand of carebear in their DNA and that gives them a wider range of options when it comes to income generation for individual pilots. While moon mining and ratting anomalies are a key source of income, belt mining mining, PI and industrial occupations are also engaged in my many corporations. Thus, an alliance's systems can be fully utilized by the resident player population allowing more players to gainfully occupy fewer systems. In effect this model allows for a more financially efficient use of space. 

If you've followed large scale PvP actions by the two coalitions, you'll know that this difference in population density is reflected in their respective defensive strategies and tactics.

When faced by a tough invader, the DRF tends toward the rope-a-dope strategy. This involves falling back into their extensive real estate holdings, giving ground slowly, and waiting for enemy forces to tire of the sov warfare grind. Once that happens they move back on offense to reclaim their territory from the wearied foe. In employing this strategy, the DRF often invoke the historic invasions and subsequent retreats of enemies of Russia, such as Napoleon's disastrous retreat from Moscow, or the blunting and turning back of the German invasion during World War II at Stalingrad.

The NC alliances, on the other hand, typically leverage their denser population in defending its territory. As described in Galactic Settlers, while the NC alliances retain a solid core of PvP players, their fleets contain a relatively high percentage of "citizen" soldiers - players who are PvP capable in times of war but engage in "carebear" activities when the coalition is not on a war footing. While the conventional wisdom holds that the NC alliances are inferior to their nullsec enemies when it comes to individual and fleet PvP skills and experience, invaders of NC space tend to find themselves heavily outnumbered and under constant counter-pressure across all time zones. Thus NC opponents often complain of  "blobbing" and deride the coalition as a "carebear" organization. However, over time the quality of NC pilots and fleet commanders has improved. While the coalition still leverages their numeric advantage, they have shown themselves to be capable of sophisticated and nuanced tactics with both conventional and capital fleets.

"But Mord," you're probably saying now, "While numbers are way sexy and the self-organizing patterns of MMORPG populations in virtual economies are endlessly fascinating, what does this have to do with the price of beer in Delve?"

Well, I'd like to believe that, like butterflies, self-organizing patterns of MMORPG populations in virtual economies need no excuse. Still, I'm glad you asked.

Recall that back around the turn of the year we talked about changes CCP is mulling over in order to create barriers to alliances cooperating and forming large-scale coalitions. Among the changes being considered is the elimination of Jump Bridges, which allow the rapid movement of an alliances' conventional (i.e. non-jump capable) fleets across their sovereign space; sort of like the roads of the old Roman republic. There's talk of changes to make the logistics of moving large volumes of goods more difficult and and introducing scarce, high-value resources in order to create incentives for conflict (because there's apparently a real scarcity of that in nullsec these days). The underpinning thought here is that creating barriers to cooperation, making the movement of goods and services more costly and creating new reasons to go to war with your neighbor is going to make nullsec a small alliance/small PvP friendly place.

But what if it doesn't?

The trouble is, this thinking assumes that a given set of changes will be universally bad for all coalitions. However, coalitions are unique entities, driven more by internal culture and player preferences than by CCP's software. They are human institutions, each with it's own character. And each will respond to changes introduced to the game in its own way, adapting to the degree its cultural DNA allows. Some large coalitions may indeed break down if such changes are introduced. Others, however, may thrive.

If there is safety in numbers in the new order, the more spatially compact and densely populated alliances of the NC may become the successful collaborative model in a post Jump-Bridge nullsec. No doubt the CCP designers wake in a cold sweat each night with nightmares of NC-like coalitions overrunning nullsec and turning it into one big group hug.

On the other had a DRF model, sporting a smaller, supercapital-intensive population spread out over a large geography may be more successful in a nullsec with less mobile conventional fleets. In that case we could see the rise of a nullsec populated by a large tenant class overseen by a small, PvP-elite landlord class.

There is an undeniable advantage to collaboration. It is a very human tendency, deeply etched into our genetic instruction set, and responsible to a large extent for our success as a species. Meanwhile, Eve is a collaboration-intensive game, and CCP cannot undo that without rewriting the game from the ground up. Coalitions themselves are evidence that players of the game will not be constrained by the organizational constructs in Eve's software, but will create new out-of-game constructs in order to achieve in-game goals.

Despite CCP's best efforts, coalitions are going to persist within Eve. Sweeping changes meant to break down large-scale coalitions may have the opposite effect; merely weakening less successful coalition models and making them prey for their more robust competitors resulting in a nullsec that is even less friendly to the small alliance than it is today.

By undertaking the extermination of the large coalition, CCP's designers may merely be leaning into the very punch they wish to avoid.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Guardian Angel

'Listen. It's a tough universe. There's all sorts of people and things trying to do you, kill you, rip you off, everything. If you're going to survive out there, you've really got to know where your towel is."
                Douglas Adams - The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

I don't often post about flying cartoon spaceships, but I can't let Rixx Javix and Laedy have all the fun all the time. 

When I answer a CTA, more often than not I'll end up bringing a logistics ship. Flying a logistics boat can be more than a little intimidating. You're sort of like the medic in a World War II movie, running around in a battlefield with a BIG red cross on your front and back that practically screams "Shoot Me First!  Shoot Me First!" to the enemy. 

You go into combat with little in the way of speed or firepower at your disposal and surrounded by a fleet of heavy hitters. Yet, when battle is finally joined, you know the FC on the other side will have your demise very high on his list of things to do. If you're packing a flight of light drones you might get in on a kill or two, but in the overall scheme of things you're not there to collect kill-mails. It's a high risk job that doesn't pad your kill stats.

But, heck, I'm a giver.

Besides, flying logistics follows my first rule of getting on in your corporation or alliance: Be of use. In terms of ship cost to value delivered, logistics ships offer a high return on investment. Owing to their non-sexy mission, there are rarely as many of them in fleet as an FC would want. For that reason, the brave and selfless logistics pilots are welcome in almost any fleet. In addition to a warm welcome in fleet, many alliances will reimburse logistics lost in CTAs for more than the ship's market value. They know you're a prime target and want to make you're not shy about coming to the big fleet fights.

Up to now, with my skills slanted toward the Gallente as they are, I've been flying an Onieros for armor fleets. But the true flavor of the month for armor logis is the Guardian. I recently notched my Amarr cruiser skill to max so I can finally fly this little wonder (as well as a Zealot) which I'm presently fitting up for its maiden sortie.

Like the towel, in Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker's universe, the logistics ship is an accessory whose humble, innocuous and somewhat dull nature belies its importance. After all, nullsec's tough. There's all sorts of people and things trying to do you, kill you, rip you off, everything. If you're going to survive out there, you've got to know where your logistics pilots are.

Don't Panic

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Black Matter for the King

Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it;
- Shakespeare, Henry V

On February 21, a year after losing the Providence region and after a year of trying to take it back, Curatoris Veritatis Alliance's (CVA's) Aralis resigned the leadership of his alliance, passed control over to Leo D'Green, and said he was quitting Eve Online. In a farewell message, Aralis held forth as to why he'd been unable to re-take the Amarr Holy land from the infidel:
CCP have made it clear they have no intention of fixing Dominion and there is thus no hope that what I wanted to do can ever be done. I don’t mind a hard road, I’ve been struggling to keep things going and hope alive since Dominion hit. Trying to do something impossible is just stupid and I don’t wish to stray from the path in Eve and CCP have made it painfully obvious they don’t intend to fix Dominion. 
In Eve, as in real life, turning hard times into good times often hinges on one's capacity for honest self-assessment. CVA's leadership has consistently come up short in this department. The "You don't understand CVA" excuse for bad decisions is heard so often from CVA's leadership that it could replace "Ammar Victor" as the alliance's rallying cry. Aralis' self-absolution and his attempt to pin his own failures of the last year on CCP continues this proud tradition.

As most of you know, the one-time lords of Providence were evicted from the region in the first quarter of 2010 by Against All Authorities (-A-) after an ill-considered decision to 'liberate' an -A- constellation CVA leaders considered part of the Amarr holy land.

I've detailed elsewhere how opportunity has knocked time and time again for CVA over the last year. Each time it dangled a chance to take back Providence under CVA's collective nose. Each time that alliance has failed to snatch it back. And they've failed in this regard because their leadership has not positioned or prepared them to do so.

Early on CVA took a 'last man standing' approach to recapturing Providence, the strategy being that they didn't have to take the region my main force of arms. They would remain in place, harassing the foe and wearing them down, until fortune turned on the enemy and dropped the region back into CVA's lap. After all, the reasoning seemed to go, nobody wants low-value Providence with the passion of CVA, so sheer persistence should allow CVA to simply outlast all other contenders for the region. 

While griefing is a perfectly reasonable form of sov warfare, one still has to be able to hold such systems that come one's way. Time and again, by enemy missteps or outright gifts (on two occasions alliances abandoning the region gave whole constellations to CVA in order to aggravate third parties), Providence systems fell into CVA's hands. And time and again CVA was unable to hold onto them except in instances of enemy indifference.

Simply put, post-eviction CVA did not have or cultivate the skill and strength needed to defend nullsec space on its own.

Following its eviction, CVA systematically alienated every reliable ally at its disposal in exchange for short-term gains. This ensured that CVA would be limited to its own resources in the fight for Providence and that members and corporations departing former allies would be disinclined to join CVA. At a time when CVA should have been cultivating friends with the long game in mind, they were doing the precise opposite.

Rather than husbanding their resources and building up their sov warfare assets and skills, CVA insisted on squandering those resources in vain attacks on enemy systems and paying sovereignty fees on systems for which it received no strategic advantage, utility or financial returns. Instead of opening up secondary operations in an alternate nullspace location, which would have allowed them to generate the revenue, supercapital ships/skills and political connections needed to execute a successful nullsec sov campaign, CVA chose to operate solely in hostile Providence. 

Where operations should have been carefully selected with an eye to honing their own pilots' skills and morale in exchange for damage to their enemies, CVA chose instead a constant grind of losing battles. Instead of wearing down the enemy, these fights gradually burned through CVA's resources and wore away their pilots' will to fight. By December of 2010, fully half of CVA's remaining 800 pilots were unwilling to leave lowsec in order to support nullsec operations.

In the end, Providence was not as worthless as CVA imagined, and the old doctrine of "nobody else wants it" proved to be flawed. Even after Against All Authorities (-A-) was overwhelmed by The Initiative, and the vassal alliances -A- placed in Providence after CVA's eviction had departed, new suitors came to court the region. Ev0ke and NC[DOT], both experienced sov warriors, landed in Providence having been pushed from their own former homes by even stronger enemies. With limited pilots and resources at its disposal and limited sov warfare capability, CVA was unable to hold its ground in the face of the newcomers and has been pushed from Providence altogether.

Happily for CVA, there may be better days ahead.

The alliance has not failscaded altogether in the face of recent events, and has found, ironically, a powerful patron in Against All Authorities. While pushed from Providence, CVA remains in Catch nullsec at the border of their holy land, acting as a buffer between -A- and Providence. Working with -A-, CVA should finally begin the long overdue rebuilding of their alliance and learn from their new mentors how to conduct a proper sov campaign.

With careful planning by Mr. D'Green, some help from -A- and a little luck, CVA will be prepared next time opportunity knocks. Then we may see the lords of Providence return.

From everything I've heard, Aralis is a well-intentioned and capable leader. I would truly love to give him a mulligan on CVA's misfortunes and let him lay the blame at the feet of Dominion and CCP. However, many of CVA's wounds over the last year were self inflicted; born of bad decisions, willful ignorance and a profound resistance to adapting to nullsec's new reality. As leader of CVA he bears responsibility for its fortunes. Change, as I've said before, is the only constant. And it is a leader's responsibility to navigate the strange seas that change portends.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Human Factor - Eve Blog Banter 25

Hello. I'm back.

Welcome to the twenty-fifth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week or so to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to crazykinux@gmail.com. Check for other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

This month's topic comes to us from @Tetraetc - "Tetra's EVE Blog" - who asks: "Have Alliances and the sovereignty system limited the amount of PVP and RP potential in Null sec? Imagine a Null Sec where anyone could build outposts wherever. Would the reduction of the alliance game mechanic, and the removal of the sovereignty game mechanics (or the modifcation of it from Alliance level to Corp level for that matter) force more PVP into Null sec, or would giant power blocs like the NC still form themselves?"

There's this ongoing assumption working its way through the Eve community that large nullsec power blocs somehow reduce the amount of PvP going on in nullsec. This is another one of those ideas that a person in CCP has thrown out as a given with little in the way of supporting data. And everybody running an alliance that's presently on the losing end of the nullsec sov wars, and every pirate who's all big and bad in lowsec but is afraid to go play snatch and grab in nullsec (where even the carebears could bubble and cap-drop him and his jolly jack tars) start waving this supposed factoid about as if to say, "See, I'm not a loser! Nullsec's broken!"


This year has seen some of the most exciting, kick-ass, bitch-slapping sov warfare in the history of Eve. Intergalactic empires have crumbled. Legendary names have fallen. Alliances and coalitions never seen before in nullsec have arrived and shaken the thrones of the mighty. A coalition, largely derided by their enemies as a bunch of carebears, has everyone trembling in their anti-gravity boots. There have been last minute plot twists, spying and plotting worthy of a Le Carre novel and double-dealings that would have done Machiavelli proud.

And this is only post-Dominion year one.

Instead of the dull old days when the big boys sat fat, happy and neigh impregnable in their space, the nullsec map is wildly fluid with change. For the first time, alliance space has to be actively defended, and the space you take has a cost component. Perfect? Of course not. But we have a much more interesting nullsec than we've seen for some time.

There's plenty of PvP going on in nullsec. How much depends on how you define PvP.

And that brings us to "the blob". As near as I can figure, the a blob is any formation of ships that significantly outnumbers your formation of ships - especially if their formation just handed your formation their collective ass. I'm sure Custer was a big opponent of blobs about midway through the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Somehow the well-established doctrine of overwhelming force, standard issue thinking in modern warfare, is lost on many Eve players who want the rise and fall in intergalactic empires to be played out via small gang warfare rather than the clashing of vast space armadas.

New Eden has plenty of space that supports sharp, quick fleet combat using small to medium sized gangs. It is the principle type of combat employed in lowsec and is frequently exercised in nullsec as well. However, there must be a place for epic large-scale space conflict as well. 

Now, a lot of people are hand-wringing because small alliances can't go out and stake their claim in nullsec. This is plainly not true. There are a number of small alliances that maintain small holdings in nullsec.

"But Mord," I hear you say. "Those are all vassals of larger alliances, or guests, or (worst of all) renters. They're alliances who hold space by dint of their relationship with a protecting alliance or coalition. I want to be able to take my hundred-player alliance into nullsec and hold my space by sheer force of arms."

I hate to burst your bubble, but human aren't wired that way. Our history is, for the most part, the big guy rolling over the little guy. The little guy's defense against this has often been to seek out a patron who can intimidate the barbarians who are at the gates. With a little luck, the patron doesn't turn out to be more of a threat than the barbarians. Historic feudal systems the world over are deeply rooted in this basic human dynamic. Sooner or later, the little dog seeks shelter in the shadow of the big dog. And, as long as Eve is a sandbox, there's no way you're getting around it. 

To a certain extent, the coalition concept is an extention of this and illustrates that Eve is shaped as much by its players as CCP's software designers. There's no coalition mechanic in Eve. There's not even a commonly agreed-upon definition for it. For example I define coalition as 
...a collection of alliances that choose to closely coordinate their foreign and defense (and possibly trade and industrial) policies on an ongoing basis for the common good. In essence, they operate as a loosely coupled macro-alliance.
Other people would call alliances having a non-aggression pact (NAP) a coalition, however I believe that's too loose a definition. Mutual defense pacts come closer to (and, in fact, are often the first stage of) a proper coalition as I define them, but still don't rise to the level of coordination I use in defining a coalition. 

Now, coalitions aren't something CCP designed. They are a product of the sandbox and have evolved within the player communities. They are a player invention that's grown up over time in order to overcome limitations in the Alliance mechanic and to establish social and administrative constructs not supported by CCP's software. Working in coordination with a well-run coalition, alliances can overcome weaknesses and vulnerabilities CCP has allowed to persist in the Alliance mechanics.

Since CCP doesn't control coalition mechanics, they're unable to nerf them. All they can do is to attempt to impose a cost on cooperation and, in the December CSM minutes, that was the direction they seemed inclined to take. But the monkey-wrench in those gears are the players themselves. In order to create barriers high enough to deter players from developing new "out of Eve" means of cooperating on a large scale, CCP would have to completely remake almost every aspect of nullsec; a strategy fraught with unexpected outcomes and financial risk.  

Eve has become a complex game, comprised of many interacting mechanics. Changing one mechanic introduces a cascade of possibilities elsewhere in the game. Because of the Eve player's penchant for innovation, changes to the game can have much broader repercussions than envisioned by designers and developers. Over a year later, impacts of the Dominion sovereignty changes on nullsec are still making themselves known. Layering additional large-scale changes on top of those may be ill-advised.  

Small changes in nullsec may be called for. However, despite the current panic about nullsec devolving to one big blue carebear hug-fest, that's a very small-probability event. The flip-side of the human tendency for cooperation, is the human tendency for war. Each drives the other and feeds on the other, rising and falling in a tidal manner - ebb and flow. I quite guarantee that, six months from now, the political landscape of nullsec will be very different from what we see today.

In Eve nullsec, as in real life, the only constant is change.

Other participants in  Eve Blog Banter 25:

  1. BB25 What sov changes will come? | A Mule In EvE
  2. Confessions of a Closet Carebear: Alliances and Sovereignty
  3. Blog Banter 25: Nerfing Nulsec « OMG! You're a Chick?!
  4. Have Alliances and the sovereignty system limited the amount of PVP and RP potential in Null sec? | Nitpickin's
  5. Blog Banter #25: Alliance and Sovereignty Limiting PvP in 0.0? | Sarnel Binora's Blog
  6. Blog Banter #25 - Mad Haberdashers
  7. Alliances and sovereignty | Eve Online Focus
  8. ...Shall we not Revenge?: BB 25: What if the Alliance vanished?
  9. Blog Banter: Alliances and Sov
  10. EVEOGANDA: BB25: Sov 'n Go!
  11. » TBG:EBB#25 – Alliances and Sovereignty To Boldly Go
  12. Freebooted: BB25: Leviathans of the Deep
  13. Wrong Game Tetra ~ Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah
  14. EVE Blog Banter #25 – Human nature what art thou? | Way of the Gun
  15. Who cares about Sov? - Hands Off, My Loots! ~ well sorta like an entry! :p
  16. The 25th EVE Blog Banter: Alliances and sovereignty - The Phoenix Diaries
  17. Achernar: The space commute
  18. Wandering the Void…my EvE musings. – Blog Banter: Alliances and sovereignty
  19. (OOC) CK’s Blog Banter #25: How To Break EvE. « Prano's Journey
  20. Captain Serenity: Blog Banter #25 - Crappy mechanics
  21. Helicity Boson » Blog Banter #25 Nullsec and sov.
  22. BB #25 – “With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?”
  23. Boom! Hull-Shot?: It's the End of the Eve as We Know It
  24. sered's lives: EVE Blog Banter #25 - Size does matter
  25. 25th EVE BB – Medieval Solutions to Spaceship Problems | Inventions of a New Eden Industrialist
  26. More to come...