A swing of the (nerf) bat

This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss the upcoming changes to force projection in EVE.

And lo, CCP did swing the nerf bat and it did strike hard upon the jump drive!  The masses did cry out in terror at the force of the blow, and in its wake there was much wringing of hands.

So CCP went and announced their plans to tackle the thorny issue of force projection in EVE.  I’ll give them this much, they definitely are not messing about here!  This is an issue that has been a cornerstone of the structure that defines null sec as we currently know it.  Over the years power blocs have grown larger as capital and super capital strength has become an ever increasingly large and concentrated aspect of null sec politics.  Both the ability to field the greatest amount of fire-power in the form of New Eden’s largest vessels and the ability to move both sub-capitals and freight via jump bridge with ease has created a formidable bottleneck and arms race that has led null sec into an increasingly stagnant and dull place.

Tackling the above is hard, and no half measures is ever going to fix it.  CCP had to find a way to put the break the players out of the cycle we have all become locked into and begin to break down the handful of monolithic war machines that dominate the game.  Their solution is, I think, is deliberately heavy handed.  It is not good for the game to allow players to ‘teleport’ entire vast fleets across the map in a trivial amount of time every time a fight of any significance begins.  We have simply ended up with a small number of fights that grow to be so big that the game cannot physically handle them properly.  That needs to change.

The changes that CCP have proposed are I think surprisingly uncompromising but also what needs to happen.  Some of the numbers probably need to be tweaked, but only tweaked.  Null sec needs to be hit hard and if people are being made to feel uncomfortable then I think that is a good sign.  The status quo has not been working for some time now, comfort zones need to be challenged and this will require bold action, so I think that CCP are broadly on the right track.

I have some pretty high hopes for the impact of these changes.  My best experiences of null sec were of epic struggles involving hundreds of players clashing repeatedly over a span of weeks, rather than of thousands descending upon a mere handful of pivotal battles.  Today’s infrastructure running EVE’s servers is able to handle much larger battles than I used to take part in with relative ease.  If we do see the average battle becoming smaller then we should also spend more time playing under better conditions than ever before.

A major factor behind my decision to opt out of null sec was that coalitions had become too large, sprawling and impersonal for my tastes.  I hope that as the ability to project force across the map declines, we will see smaller entities return to more autonomous decision making, politics and conflict.  If that happens we will see new leaders and personalities begin to emerge again which re-opens the door to a greater diversity of player narrative top unfold.  Far too much has been locked up in the hands of far too few for way too long now.

I’m interested to see what response players give to the impact of restricted jumps on those all important Jump Freighters.  Will we see an exodus of players leaving the outer regions for fear of untenable supply lines?  Will increased traffic through wormholes become the alternative?  Will anyone be able to buy anything if they live more than 5 light years from empire space?  Time will surely tell.

What I think will happen is that for the first month or so everyone will try to carry on as before but bitch more about the inconvenience while they lobby CCP to increase jump ranges and tone down the fatigue mechanic.  I suspect that CCP may relent slightly on one or both counts, but not by much.  The emphasis is going to remain firmly on the players to adapt to the new reality.

After as few weeks and the big players have gotten a feel for how the mechanics will play out in the wild, we will begin to see the real response.  I don’t think that the largest coalitions will suddenly cease to exist, but I do think that there will be some pruning.  Each will decide which regions they value and which alliances they most want to keep close.  Those out on the fringes will find themselves increasingly unsupported and isolated until they eventually cease to be part of the coalition any more.  Then the fun begins.

Somewhere out there will be hungry alliances that believe the time is coming for them to finally stake their own claims to null sec.  They will look to those increasingly isolated sov-holding alliances and try to break in to null sec.  When this happens and new players begin to take and hold space independently of the existing power houses we will be able to declare successful change.  I’m hoping that we will start to see this happening some time around Christmas.

The great unknown right now is to what extent capital ship warfare will change, and how groups will begin to manage their deployment.  It will no longer be a viable option to hurl fleets of capitals around the map or to make jump after jump in rapid succession to hit one target after another.  At some point jump fatigue will cut short your ability to redeploy capitals leaving you unable to counter an enemy action.  It seems likely that alliances will start holding their capital strength in reserve while making smaller tactical deployments than before (fewer dreads being deployed for more siege cycles?).  Jump fatigue and the need to manage it will become a new strategic resource which is a very difficult dynamic to predict.

CCP are making a bold move in offering the players a complex new set of challenges to take on.  It is a move I very much welcome.

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