This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss the little guys in null sec.
I want to talk a bit about this article over at TheMittani.com on being the little guy in null sec sov holding. It actually links in with my recent decision to leave null sec for the forseeable future. As I have spent most of my time in EVE living in null sec, I think I can talk about this. At length, it seems. This is a long one….
The article is written by Mynna who I gather is tipped to be Goonswarm’s CSM 8 delegate, given how successful The Mittani’s CSM 7 campaign was it seem a safe assumption that he’s pretty much guaranteed to get in. The whole tone of the article is about reminding us all that the biggest alliances in the game also have a valid play style and that the little people should not be allowed to take all their stuff without consequences. I think I heard a small violin playing in the background as I read it. ;P
Yes, big alliances are ‘people’ too. Yes they should be allowed to profit from their organisation, victories and what not. The problem that I have with this piece is that it comes with an attitude and more than a bit of hypocrisy in its reasoning. We start off with this statement:
A significant number of those ideas seem to be formed around the notion of being able to coexist alongside big alliances, harassing and annoying each other and those big alliances at will, being shielded from “excessive retaliation from those alliances”, those alliances simply no longer existing under new game mechanics, not having to deal with sovereignty but getting all the benefits of it, or any or all of the above, and more. In short, it’s not “how do we fix null-sec so it’s fun for all, including me” but “how do we fix null-sec so that it’s fun for me, everyone else be damned.”
And it goes on to finish with:
But if you want to do all of that, while living in a place where you can do it without material repercussions from your target’s victims, then perhaps what you should be calling for is a revamp of NPC null-sec or low-sec instead.
You people complaining should get out of my null sec and go play in the ‘kiddie pool’. Don’t change my game, go change someone else’s. Everyone else be damned. The whole thing reads as an argument to preserve the current balance of power above all else, which is a shame. I often hope that the major players will develop a desire for change and fresh challenge, but I don’t hold my breath.
Mynna concedes the issue that smaller entities find it very difficult to get into null sec but sets out a number of options on how they actually can get started. It reads like a list of things I’ve done myself over the years and intend to never do again!
If you, as a little guy, want in, it’s most often as a renter, a pet, or at best, a minor member of a coalition. In any of those cases, with few notable exceptions (Walltreipers and their defense in Delve comes to mind), if the little guy is left alone, they’re dead without much of a fight. Understandably, none of those options appeal to many people.
A renter is an alliance the coalition overlord sees as worthless other than as cannon fodder or an income source. A pet is probably seen as useful for bolstering the PVP numbers in larger fights but still an ultimately expendable little fish. That ‘minor member’ can consider themselves privileged indeed for such a respectful title, although they will probably still be doomed to be regarded as the master’s pet by the opposition. With my years flying as Ushra’Khan in null sec, I think I can safely claim to have been all of the above at some point.
At its largest and most prominent, Ushra’Khan was a 1,500 member alliance fielding substantial fleets of sub caps and respectable capital ship numbers. We took part in removing CVA from Providence in a campaign spanning months of sov grinding. The decisive early battles were decided by Against All Authorities then mighty super cap fleet (immediately post-Dominion -A- had perhaps the strongest super capital fleet in New Eden) but their attention wandered during the long, dull middle of the campaign in which it was Ushra’Khan pilots making up the bulk of the structure grinding fleets (Our long standing feud with CVA giving us the drive to see the job done). -A- pilots returned in force as the end neared and victory was of course credited to -A- as leaders of the coalition. U’K's contribution seldom gets credit by anyone, after all they were ‘just pets’ right?
Back to Mynna:
Or if that’s not to your taste, make the same agreement with a handful of smaller like-minded entities; you’ll raid and shoot each other for fun, but if the big guy next door comes over the border, you team up to repel the attack. Show some creativity in your diplomacy and resulting agreements, because like it or not, it’s a fact of life in sovereign null-sec.
Following the eviction of CVA, it coincided that -A- needed the space in Catch occupied by Ushra’Khan to give to new corps they were taking on. And so it happened that Ushra’Khan moved into ‘liberated’ Providence. As Ushra’Khan really did not want the mantle of Providence overlords (kicking CVA in the balls was the whole plan, not replacing them), what emerged was a re-population of Providences with alliances that would live side by side under a NIP while pew-pewing each other fight club style, but to band together against external threats. Just like Mynna proposes here.
It was hell. It lasted about three or four months before everything fell apart completely. Although the idea was that it would be a loose ‘coalition’ with no specific head honcho alliance, tensions quickly rose as some of the alliance pressed for influence and concessions from the others in attempt to become that head honcho. There was also frictions between alliances over their losses incurred by roaming neighbours. Not everyone quite got the idea I guess. ;) But perhaps most importantly to the discussion, external threats. For one reason or another, alliances kept ping-ponging blue-neut-blue-neut. It created a lot of mixed signals and confusion, plus bad blood from having to put up with guys now in fleet who ganked you just a few days earlier. Once this coalition eventually did face a serious threat it had no cohesion and shattered.
It may well be that the Provi Fight club was not the way to go about this, maybe you simply must have a clearly dominant alliance to call the shots and maintain order. But if so, doesn’t that undermine the whole concept to have a dominant ‘master and pets’ relationship? Maybe a single region was too small an area for the number of alliances involved, but then if each needs more space then you soon start running into the old problem of having to intrude into space valued by a major coalition, which these days is most of it. It seems that in order for a ‘fight club coalition’ to work, you need a group of alliances that all get on well but want to fight each other (and can stay on good terms afterwards) and you need to be able to do it in an area compact enough not to step on the big boys toys too much. Good luck finding all of that.
Ultimately, my issues with null sec come down to two things. One is game mechanics, the other isn’t. Mechanically, there are few targets for small gangs to pursue. Sov warfare is all about structure shoots against targets with huge amounts of HP. This boils down to the side who brings the most big guns to the fixed timer always wins. That puts all the power firmly in the hands of massive coalitions, against which smaller entities, often even groups of them, stand little hope. Worse, small or even mid-sized gangs trying to do things within a coalition are fairly impotent at doing their own thing. Smaller alliances often can’t really achieve much on their own without resorting to the batphone. Instead you become a small, ill-informed cog in the machine often turning up to an op with only the vaguest details on wtf is going on. The smaller you are, the harder it is to feel connected.
Null sec needs smaller scale tactical objectives. In that sense, factional warfare has one up on null sec as even the smallest of groups can do something to directly contribute towards the war effort and can do it at any hour of the day, not just at that all important timer. I sometimes wonder if a reasonable option might be to have some sort of activity to either deploy or destroy a device that reduces the HP of strategic structures in system (making the eventual assault easier), or impacts on ratting some way (incursion-style disruption effects?). The point of it all being that small scale fleets can be in enemy space doing something that their opposition will want to encounter – and so result in more fights and stuff to do outside of the big fleets.
The other aspect of null sec that has finally turned me off is those massive coalitions. They may lead to larger battles, but they also lead to stagnation and increasing conformity. Unfortunately this is an issue of player mentality, not game mechanics. I hope that someday as CCP introduce small scale tactical objectives, we might see a move away from such large entities as smaller groups find things to do by themselves.
Should small alliances get to steal from the big boys ‘without consequences’? No. But neither should the super coalition’s play style be the only game in null sec town. These days, it feels like it is. And no, revamping NPC null or low sec instead is not the answer to this problem.