Burn The Bridges?

This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss how Jump Bridges might be changed to improve null sec life.

jump bridgeLast week I touched on what I consider to be one of the major issues facing null sec – the increased ease of logistics due to mechanics such as Jump Bridges and Jump freighters allowing for safer and more convenient import/export of goods between null sec and hi sec.

Why is this such a big deal?  Doesn’t making logistics easier make the game less like a second job and leave more time for fun stuff like PVP?  To a point, yes.  That is why these features were introduced to EVE in the first place after all.  But over time I think there have emerged undesirable consequences.

Before we had bridges and jump freighters (or capitals for that matter), anything you wanted to move between high sec and null (in either direction) had to be moved conventionally, stargate to stargate.  It could be time consuming, it could be risky.  Ultimately, you would reach a point where it would be preferable to buy or build the stuff near to where you live than import it all the way from high sec.  Players would mine locally, in their own sov space, in order to build basic supplies.

That is often not the case anymore.  Today we have increasingly large numbers of capital ships (including Jump Freighters and Titans) and increasingly large and sophisticated Jump Bridge networks.  If you are a member of a large coalition then you could likely cross multiple regions via bridges within a dozen or so jumps.  This trivialises the logistics of moving large amounts of cargo between null and high sec.

Why sit in a null sec belt mining away when you could bring all the mins in from high sec much more quickly?  Why pay a premium to miners in null when you could buy in Jita at bulk discount?  Why buy mods or ships in null at a mark-up when you can bring it in from empire?  Why go to the trouble of collecting resources to build and sell stuff in null if everyone keeps bringing what they need in from high sec anyway (and undercutting you)?

If logistics are too good, then the need for local industry declines.  That means less activity in space and therefore fewer targets to prey upon for the PVP’ers.  Small gang roaming has been on the decline in null sec for years, a large factor of that is the scarcity of targets of opportunity.  You can’t gank a miner or intercept a freighter convoy if they aren’t there.

Further to the industrial aspect, I think that extensive bridge networks have been facilitating and perpetuating the super coalition politics that are seeing null sec becoming increasing entrenched.  Today we have two superpowers, the CFC and HBC, dominating the map.  Worse, they have non-invasion pacts and agreed rules limiting the scope of conflict between themselves.  It’s boring and uninspiring.  Part of what makes it possible is force projection.  Between bridge networks and the proliferation of Titans, large fleets can cross huge distances quickly.  The result?  Extended coalitions dog piling onto any prospective fight often making the whole thing into another case of blue balls as the side with inferior numbers opts not to get curb stomped by the oncoming horde.

Now, there is no silver bullet solution to all of this.  No single change is likely to cure the woes of null sec and I’m not suggesting that Jump Bridges are all bad.  They do serve a purpose, they reduce grind and open up access to more remote areas of the map.  But they have also been acting as a spider’s web of rapid transit shortcuts all over the place, which is less great.  What we need is a means of limiting their utility or flexibility.

One thought that crossed my mind was to change how bridges are fueled.  What if we did away with the fuel bays of the structures and instead required any ship that wanted to use a bridge to be carrying its own fuel?  That way the player would need to plan their use of bridges more carefully.  If we continue down this route, I think it would be a good idea to simplify the fuel usage a bit, maybe instead of burning Liquid Ozone based on a ships mass, there was a new type of fuel pellet?

Each activation of a bridge could then consume a set number of pellets based on ship hull size, allowing for players to easily gauge how much fuel to carry.  Frigs/Dessies use one pellet per activation, cruisers two pellets, BC’s three and BS four (adjust numbers to suit)?  Maybe T2/T3 hulls might consume less fuel than T1 variants as a nice little bonus.  Tiericide has seen the gap in T1/t2 balance close dramatically, affording them greater mobility without improving their direct combat power could be a decent means of keeping them relevant.

Another approach I have been thinking about is actually something that I first saw in the  minutes of a previous CSM Summit (CSM 6 I think).  I had since half-forgotten about it but think that it should be revisited.  The proposal was that Jump Bridges could only be anchored in orbit of plasma planets.  This would achieve a couple of things.  Firstly, the number of jump bridges would be cut significantly and limited by the availability of plasma planets in sov space.  That would dramatically reduce the flexibility and extent of bridge networks returning an increased need for moving stuff conventionally (or by Jump Freighter I suppose).

It also brings another factor into greater importance – regional geography.  It is a common complaint that there is not enough differentiation between systems, or enough conflict drivers.  Obviously it doesn’t have to be plasma planets, maybe DUST514 interaction and Space Elevators could come into the equation.  Regardless, tying bridges to a finite resource should promote competition to control that resource, particularly if it’s over something so useful.

So, a little less force projection, a little more need for local industry.  It might result in a less convenient null sec, but it should help to create a more interesting environment while retaining some of the benefits jump bridges bring to they who can hold them.

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