Greedy Goblin

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The fundamental nullsec emptiness problem

Ali Aras had a very interesting take on intel and (AFK-)cloaking, but stopped a step before the really important conclusion. Let me summarize her post: in WHs you can control your entrances, in nullsec you can't, since every ship can light a cyno pouring hundreds of enemies. To make it worse, they can do so next to you, while they are tackling you (hotdrop). Therefore if we remove local, no one will undock as he will rightfully assume that he does it into a massacre. She finished by adding that she still considers AFK cloaking a valid mechanic.

I don't argue with her. I just finish what's missing, because she also mentions how she is unhappy that nullsec is almost empty. However, because of what she wrote, nullsec will always be almost empty, even if the EVE playerbase and even nullsec alliance membership doubles. There would be twice as big Asakais, but in the meantime, nullsec will be just as void as today. Why?

Because local channel is actually an emptiness checker. If a player finds the system not empty, he docks/safes up, therefore removing himself, making it emptier. If we remove the tool, they will just leave nullsec forever. Currently a nullsec system has two states of emptiness outside of a timer battle, either there are a few ratters/miners are in the system, only blues, or one or more hostiles (neutrals) enter the system and everyone docks up, leaving only the hostiles to linger. Some are lingering for long due to being AFK-cloaker.

To make nullsec not empty, we must change the mechanics that makes "ratting while neut is on local" equal to "being a suicidal idiot". In WH it's not the same, people run sites, despite rightfully assuming that there can be hostiles on the system. However they have a chance to win. Unless the hostiles sneaked in a large force and logged it off, waiting especially for you, their gang is facing a few roamers that can be easily disposed. In WHs, you can't just jump around looking for someone to kill, because you can only enter in a wormhole which is camped by a local scout if they aren't totally incompetent. Your scout who is already in the system can find the siterunners, but by the time you roll your static to them, they'll be gone, and even if you are very lucky, the scout has to be tanky enough to keep someone tackled long enough for your fleet to jump the hole and warp from it to the site. A 1-day old rifter with a T1 cloak won't make it. In nullsec, you just gather on a titan, send out scouts and as soon as any of them finds anyone outside of shields/stations, your fleet can instantly appear on top of him.

What about lowsec? You can cyno in too, and low isn't that empty. At first, most lowsec PvE is done behind acceleration gates where you can't cyno in. You need at least 2 pilots to "hotdrop" a missioner, one who lights the cyno on the gate and another inside the mission tackling. The missioner is also pre-warned by the incoming scan probes. Also, most lowsec entities don't have titans.

The force projection of the cynos needs to be seriously decreased to decrease the emptiness of null. I'm not sure if titan and blackops bridges add anything to the game instead of taking away. If you could only drop unsupported capitals or a fleet of blackops battleship alone to a cyno, it wouldn't be so undefeatable. There could also be a spool-up period for cyno: after you press the button the cyno starts to form for 2 minutes. The beacon that others can warp to does not appear until the cyno is complete, but it is visible for anyone on grid. So you need to be off-grid to light the cyno, giving a chance to the targets to get away. Obviously you can't tackle and cyno with the same ship, unless it can live 2 minutes under fire and somehow prevent its target to just slowboat out of tackle range in 2 minutes. A commenter made an even better idea: to make the bridge, the titan must jump first, leaving behind a bridgehead. People can use that item to jump after the Titan, as long as it is next to the cyno.

There can be other fixes, but the point is this: as long as force projection is so powerful, everyone will remove himself from the system when he sees a neutral coming, making the system forever almost empty.

PS: tomorrow (if the administrative work won't be even longer) you'll be very surprised, don't miss the post.


Anonymous said...

A fix, analogous to what you propose, is to change what ships can light a covert ops cyno. Currently bombers and cloaky t3's can light them, as well as blops. This is a large part of the problem, if you're feeling cheap you use a warp while cloaked afterburner bomber. If the target is worth it you use a 100k+ ehp warp while cloaked, interdiction nullified (warps THROUGH bubbles) t3.

If only blops could like covert cynos you would have to use a ship that cannot warp while cloaked, giving a substantial chance for people to get away.

For regular cynos I think the appropriate fix to bridging is to make it so that at the end of the 60 seconds the Titan jumps through, regardless of whether the cyno is still up. You can still bridge for fleet movements to pos's, and you can bridge for ganks if you're willing to at least field the titan for a few seconds before it warps to a safe and cloaks.

Stabs said...

"The force projection of the cynos needs to be seriously decreased to decrease the emptiness of null."

I'd love to see this addressed but I think that CCP would be scared to antagonise the nullsec players.

You need to be quite a subtle thinker to see that you have to take 10 gates instead of instantly teleporting creates a more fun more pvp rich game because everyone else is also taking gates. Imagine if supplying nullsec was a matter of escorting half a dozen (non-jump) freighters with 50 battleships with scouts out 3 systems in every direction!

Incidentally did you want to rejoin Test? I put in a word for you on the Test forums and the reaction was mostly positive (with a couple of very vocal objections).

Anonymous said...

@previous Anon

I'd say it should go further - the "Bridge" should be built before it can be used; that is, the Titan needs to jump through first and remain on grid to allow the fleet to follow. Initiating warp or jumping would immediately shut down the entrance, cutting off whomever remained on the other side. That, or introduce 30-second cooldown period when Titan's warp drive is disabled.

Lucas Kell said...

I think you misundserstand the situation. The reason people safe up when there is a neut/red in system has nothing to do with hot drops. Hot drops like that are not that common, most pilots flying around null are in cloaky T3s or combat frigates and cruisers. It's rare that when someone is flying into hostil territory that they will have a titan in bridge range waiting to deploy a reinforcement fleet.

The problem is that when you are in null, outside of ops, you are either mining or ratting. Mining barges have no defense against a PVP fit ship, and when you are ratting you have your resists set to the specific rats your are fighting. If someone were to drop on grid while you were tanking EM & Therm, while you are already being primaried by null sec rats, and the pilot was to hit you with kinetic, you are dead, simple as that.

Most people then need to safe up as fighting is futile and the loss of their ship undoes all of the progress the've made with ratting/mining. They then tend to just wait the roamers out, as thats normally the fastest way to get back to ratting. If the roamer is in a cloaked, nullified T3 (as normal) you have no chance of catching him anyway, so he will only pick fights he can definitely win.

Wormhole space is acutally the same. Most people will safe up as soon as the D-Scan shows a new ship. The difference with WH space is that generally you are omni tanked anyway, so you will survive more. WH pilots tend to rat in teams too, so there's safety in numbers. WH pilots normally have solo and small gang ships on standby too, which is why fights can happen but only if they want to engage and lose ratting time.

Both yourself and Ali are pretty new to the game in comparison with most, and your exposure to the different parts of space is clearly limited. I thinks it's important you fully understand the real differences between them before making suggestions on how to fix them. The removal or reduction of titan bridges would only bring null sec wars to a halt. People would still safe up as soon as a neut arrived in system.

Chris K. said...

@Lucas Wormhole space is acutally the same.

WH space is nothing like null.

In null a corporation is spread over a constellation, in WHs your home system is usually all you get.
The limitations on ship size and the lack of cynos means no capitals can drop on your ass from the major players, promoting small gang play.
The fact that the sleepers are super-rats on steroids promotes group play and comraderie. Being omni-tanked makes no difference whatsoever when a rival gang lands on your site; if you let it happen, you are screwed either way.
In null, the scout/cyno alt has the advantage when roaming. In WHs the natives almost always get the home advantage.

Lucas Kell said...

@ Chris K. "WH space is nothing like null." I didn't say WH space was the same as null. Read my comment in context. In WH space people still safe up, just like null.
The omnitank comment is simply to say that people fighting sleepers are difficult to plan for. If I was going into a WH to fight people, I'd have to be sure I can break an omnitank, and be prepared for anything. If I was going into null, I'd know what they are primarily tank against, so I could plan to exploit their resist gaps.

The problem here is the idea seems to be that there's cyno alts flying all over null with PVP groups ready to bridge in at any second. That's not the case. Null roamers roam the same as people that roam in WHs. I've been in null a long time and with various chars in various parts of null, and I've maybe seen 2 instances of a hot drop that weren't related to ongoing wars.

Anonymous said...

Is the big "suprise" tomorrow post about you rejoining TEST, because now that they're broke they need your money again?

A Tourist said...

I don't think a game mechanic is the reason for nullsec beeing deadspace.
It's the behavior of the players living there.

As Lucas Kell said:
Nullsec player are carebears par excellence, they are horryfied by the risk of losing their exhumer or missionrunning-ship.

Now take an average highsec player in an average highsec system:
Should he stay docked with his Retriever just because 1 of the 20 players in local could be a ganker in the name of New Order?
Should all traders stay docked at Jita 4-4 with their T1-haulers because there are several Tornados waiting at the undock and one of them could shoot without warning?
Should we run in panic just because our cargo got scanned at nearly every single gate between Jita/Amarr or Jita/Dodixie to prepare the gank two gates later?

I don't feel safe in highsec because of CONCORD - they don't protect me.
I feel safe because there are dozens of "neuts" with me in every system.
Chances to become ganked are 1:10 if you are with 9 neuts in a system as the attacker can't probe down all of you simultanious and he can't shoot all of you simultanious.
You'll read it in the local when the first one is being attacked. Enough time to safe your a**
Instead of bubbleing the gates and shooting every new player looking for adventures, nullsec should consider "open borders", bringing more players to the systems.
Closed borders can't keep their enemys outside as they could simply jump in or put a spy inside the corp/ally for some awox.
So all they can protect is bittersweet carebear-ISK on the moons, the planets and belts.

It's their choice to be isolated and paranoid and I really enjoy sitting cloaked inside a nullsec system for days while a long skill is trained.
As I am in a NPC corp I have to be a cyno alt...
Hell, my unarmed ship jumps into a system and even carriers log off... that's ultimate power!

Whenever I hear news about North-Korea I think to myself: "they try to protect their nullsec on planet earth... they'll fail."

Michael LeBlanc said...

@Lucas Kell
It's not titan bridges that worry me, it's black ops. And while I can't speak for the rest of the galaxy, they're quite common in fountain. I run 3 RR domis and they can, at the very least, tank if not kill any single ship, but I still dock them up at the first sign of a neut because I've lost them more than once to Blops reinforcing.

Von Keigai said...

The difference between null and wspace is entrance control. In wspace you can zip up a system -- pop all live wormholes entering it, so that there are zero active entrances. Then it is nearly completely safe to run operations in. (And with the new discovery scanner, every pilot in the system gets immediately notified if a new wormhole pops up. Penny laments this, as should every right-thinking wspace pilot.)

In a zipped up wspace system, only people that were inside before you cut off the outside game can gank you. And they cannot cyno in help. They must either fit cloaks or log out. I have read that people do this to get fleets and extra capitals into a system to evict. (I.e. when there will be a predicable battle.) But I have never heard of it being done provisionally. It would most likely just waste your time. Regardless of what happens PVPwise, once you are ready to go home you no longer have a known route. You have to scan out of wspace, then find your way across known space. It's one thing to travel 30 jumps to a known battle; it's another thing to guarantee yourself 30 jumps of hassle without even knowing if you'll get any fun at all for it.

That said, for the most part wspace is completely empty of pilots. It is probably even worse than nullsec in that regard. In null, you can do things much of the time; most systems are empty or only have blues and you know this with certainty due to local. You just have to stop every time someone neutral or worse enters. In wspace, you can do things in an open system and hope for the best. Even when a wormhole is open, wspace is so little traveled that usually you get away with doing stuff because nobody sees you. But ganks do happen with some frequency.

It's true, though, that in wspace if you are PVEing in an open system, you'd best put a picket on each wormhole to listen and watch. If anyone enters, or as soon as you see an unexpected ship or probes on dscan, you hide.

Lucas Kell said...

@A Tourist
It's not really the same though. In high sec, you know most neuts won't attack. In null sec you can be almost positive that neuts will attack you. It would be the equivalent of being in high sec and being at war with everyone. You wouldn't undock because you know those tornados WILL shoot you, not they might.

Most sensible nullsec players know the difference between a cyno pilot and a combat pilot. So seeing you we probably would assume cyno. But that doesn't mean safe up, it means "stay aligned". Seeing the cyno beacon drop means safe up. I'll quite happily rat and mine with a cyno pilot in system.

@Michael LeBlanc
Yeah blops are a bit of an issue. They are still not all too common though. Blops can only send certain ship types through too. You usually get to know the common blopsers too.

Greasycarl Semah said...

Just to add to the discussion, Von Keigai made great points about W space. It is all about control, typically my W corp will have someone assigned exclusively to monitoring signatures. This is after we have closed all entrances. The minute one pops, all miners return to station immediately. Depending on the size of the invading force, we may strap on our combat ships and head out for some fun or we may sit.

One important thing Von Keigai didn't really mention is that because of the mechanics there is a very short list of PVP tactics people can use to get you into a fight. This is important because a lot of wormhole invaders are small groups and want an engagement to their advantage. The playbook they can run has little depth however because of the mechanics of W space. You only have to see someone hump the hole a few times before you know he has friends either cloaked or on the other side waiting to jump.

The playbook in null sec has a lot more depth and I think that is part of the reason it is a bit of a ghost town. That and the previously mentioned tendency to only fight the fight where you have an advantage. The simple way to solve this problem is to force the fight. Make it so the space HAS to be defended by the sovereignty holder. Whether the mechanic is somewhat similar to factional warfare or something entirely new, there should be a reason why you have to have folks present in your territory defending it.

Anonymous said...

Yes Gevlon, we know Test came crawling back to you because they're broke.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gevlon! I'm leaving you a line here given the poor reception your article had in the cesspool of the larger newssites' commentary sections.

Like Lucas Kell said, there are some fundamental flaws in the reasoning both you and Ali put forward when it comes to this topic. I understand that it's difficult to wrap one's head around when hardly any high-profile roamers still play enough to provide ample examples of it - but it needs to be said that the two blog entries leap to a number of conclusions that just are not true.

They presume that a ship finding itself decloaked upon is a pointed ship and that a pointed ship is a dead ship. Any experienced player will remind you that so is not the case.

It doesn't matter if you're a small-gang roamer or a supercapital dropper - there are ways out. In Odamia 3/10 PL Supers got out despite facing 30 tacklers alone. It's all about experience and knowledge of the game's mechanics and effects on a grid.

That's very important to understand when you talk about cloakers, bubblers, cynos or droppers.

There are ways to deal with them that heavily improve your survival rate. It's just that in a day and age like this it's quickly becomming a "lost art", like many other mechanics and practises that involve those mechanics.

A bubble has a certain radius and a certain uptime. No bubbler can warp cloaked. A cyno require a certain sequence of actions (that already come with a delay, even if that doesn't discredit the possibility of a spool-up solution). A cloaker often have a decloak-time, always have a lock-time and can never MWD under cloak. A jumpdrive have a certain distance, and it's not very far (a gross overgeneralization would put it around ~10 jumps; while roams of old could be over 300 jumps). Things simply don't magically appear and if you know these things you'd know that there are ways to counter the boogie-men you, Ali and inexperienced players on the EVE-forums are trying to discuss.

Not comming to terms with that, that is the looming stupidity in this game that we need to counteract, not spur on with blog posts about how difficult things are when they really are not. It's a shame because we are getting a generation of EVE players at all scales who have simply not learnt how to fly their ships and protect themselves. There are things that used to be common knowledge even among the most ridiculed alliances that pilots today seem to think impossible.

The real reason you don't see life in nullsec anymore is because CCP's design direction regarding their ships and in turn their values have made it pointless to use said space to either PvE or PvP in a spontaneous manner.

Roaming is not lucrative because the ships you shoot cost nothing. Ratting or mining is not lucrative because T1 ships can be passively mined in highsec or paid for through passive income (moons et. al.). Is that because moons are too powerful? No it's because powerful ships are too inexpensive.

If people want roaming and life in nullsec back all that have to change is making ships so expensive again that they are worth killing, that killing them impact the game and help drive the narrative of EVE (losing 100+ Talwars should yield as much news as losing 10 Supers - yet no one writes articles about 100 lost Talwars because they don't cost anything so they have no value in any definition of the word).

If ships cost money: they are worth shooting, they can't be covered by passive income and will force players to use their space to PvE. It's really a no-brainer. Players using their space provide targets and people roaming other's space provide targets for a defensive effort in this cat-and-mouse game we call EVE.

No to the "more explosions" directive of CCP and yes to old EVE where subcapital ships had both monetary and strategic value.

/ Noisrevbus