Friday, November 30, 2012

Burning Bridges

I recently formed an alliance by the name of Sadistica Alliance. We formed with a corp we'd known for a while, and the idea was that I would finally be able to lead an alliance in the manner that I find appropriate. We got the alliance off the ground and have been busy making a name for ourselves in Aridia.

We've fought several groups over the last month, EVE Uni's Low Sec Camp, chief among them. Not because they're good, though they have killed us plenty of times, but because they're just as blood thirsty as we are. Two weeks ago Drunk & Disorderly and Lost Obsession, two notorious gallente faction warfare alliances moved into Aridia. They excel in tactics similar to Rooks & Kings, flying heavy armor tanks, usually faction battleships, and cyno'ing in triage carriers as a form of force multiplication. They also keep numerous capital alts on standby and, like most titan hugging alliances, will bridge onto anything their scouting Arazu can tackle.

They don't seem interested in good fights, merely in winning, which is a stance I can respect. Winning is something that everyone enjoys, even if victory was achieved by bridging in a horde of battleships on a 5 man BC gang.

Our encounters with DnD/FATE have raised an interesting, and often ignored edge case. There are NO counters to titan bridges in lowsec. That is, once a group has a titan, there is nothing you can do to keep them from bridging on top of anything.

Common Anti-Bridging Tactics
Now there are popular anti-bridge tactics, most commonly, popping the cyno. However many titan hugging corps and alliances bridge in heavy tank ships like vindicators or legions with cyno's fitted so that they can simply light a replacement cyno when their cloaky alt explodes. Another popular counter to popping the cyno is to jump a capital in first and light a replacement cyno with the capital itself. Due to the raw EHP of a capital ship there is very little you can do to kill a capital before the bridge fleet manages to click the "Jump through to [Cyno System]" button.

A second tactic is to scout out the hostile titan, and simply not do anything if they have a superior fleet waiting on it. While this does keep you from getting bridged on it, is equally boring for both sides.

Nullsec Anti-Bridging Tactics
Occasionally some fleet commanders will pile a bridge fleet on the edge of the POS shields to keep the titan safe. This is used as a means of keeping paranoid titan pilots from getting bumped around by blues. It also ensures that no one can bump the titan, thus making the whole fleet have to chase him to stay in bridge range. Should the bridge fleet you're trying to counter be doing this, it is possible to bomb the ships on the edge of the shields with stealth bombers.

This was carried out to great success during the CFC's war in Tenal and around 60 'welp canes' were destroyed. It was accomplished by warping a hictor to the titan's bridge fleet and bubbling up while the bombers decloaked and dropped bombs.  The bubble kept the fleet from simply bridging out, or warping away, and the POS shield, which is capable of stopping bomb damage inside it, was locked to the fleet resulting in their death. Had either of the hictor or the POS shield not been configured/deployed in this fashion, the fleet would've been able to evade the bombs. For this reason many bridge fleets stay in the POS shields. Bombing a hostile fleet bridge fleet is not a regularly deployable anti-bridging tactic due to the shields ability to stop incoming AOE damage.

Titan Bridging Counters
The only counter is to find the hostile titan POS and station a cloaked dictor on it during fleet operations. This dictor can then maneuver him/herself onto the side of the POS the hostile titan is sitting at and decloak then bubble the titan. As illustrated above, bubbles will prevent a hostile fleet from jumping through the titan bridge. The bridge itself can still be activated though. The dictor can then either burn out of his bubble and warp off, or burn and recloak. Regardless of the dictor's choice, the enemy fleet must now either reposition out of the bubble, smartbomb the warp disruption probe or wait for it to decay (2 minutes). This tactic forces the enemy to react in a way often unexpected by fleet commanders and because it forces a delay in the bridge, is an effective counter to bridging.

Cynosural System Jammers (Cyno Jammers) may also be considered a counter to titan bridging. However they're really more of an area denial weapon as they do not keep the fleet from bridging in, they simply force them to bridge in one jump out from their cyno jammed destination. They also have much wider positive and negative consequences for both the owners and invaders of any system they're deployed in.

Only two counters?
Yup, there are only two counters to titan bridging in EVE and both of those counters are currently unavailable in lowsec. This means that as the game stands today, there is no way to counter titan bridges in lowsec, they're the "I Win Button" of lowsec. Be it dropping in a fully fit faction battleship fleet as DnD/FATE enjoy, or slipping a damnation into system at some far off celestial, titan bridging is an immutable advantage that wealthy pilots and alliances enjoy in lowsec. I believe it is this immutability that has lead to the prevalence of titan bridging in lowsec.

Hey now! Cyno jammers are coming to Lowsec!
That they are.  However they do not appear to be included in the retribution patch notes :(. Should CCP go through with the changes listed in the forum post linked above, the cyno jammer will be able to function as a counter to titan bridges in the same manner as nullsec jammers for a limited duration. Unfortunately, they will only be available to faction warfare participants and not the general lowsec population.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

[Proposal] Lowering the Barriers

Right now there is a dearth of players in null, this is nothing new, nullsec has historically been full of empty space. What is new is the lack of independent entities struggling against each other. There are three major power groups in nullsec today, CFC, HBC and Everyone Else. This is a player created element of the sandbox, it was not created by CCP, though dominion sov did help propagate it. I believe this could be solved by tweaking the HP and reinforce timers of sov structures based on activity indexes. Now stick with me, this is going to take some explanation.

The basics
(skip this if you know the terms, hitpoints and sov mechanics)

Currently, to siege a system with three entrances I must: acquire and deploy at least two SBUs. I must online them, and defend them until they online. I must then grind down any Ihub and/or stations present in the system to their first reinforcement timers. Then I must grind them down to their second reinforcement timers and kill the TCU. Once I have done all this, I need to anchor my own TCU and the system is now mine.

A current Sovereignty Blockade Unit (SBU) has: 10m shield @50% resists, armor @50% resists and structure @ 0% resists = 50m EHP.

A current Infrastructure Hub (IHub) has 192.25m EHP and two reinforcement timers, one in shield at 25% shield (after 56.5m shield) which it exits at 0% shield and one in armor at 50% (after 56.25m armor) which it exits at 25% armor.

Current stations have no documented health, but I understand them to be similar if not exact clones of IHub EHP and reinforcement.

A current Territory Control Unit (TCU) has: 10m shields, armor and structure at 0% resists, so 30m EHP.
To take a three gate station system, my forces and I need to destroy 320.76m EHP. (145.38 for the Ihub, 145.38 for the Station and 30m for the TCU)

To defend a three gate station system, my forces and I need to destroy 100m EHP (50m EHP for each SBU). This assumes that I don’t want to clean up the 3rd that they invariably dropped as well.

For comparison’s sake, lets talk about some structures more people have had dealings with. A small Caldari control tower, and a Player Owned Customs Office (POCO).

A small Caldari control tower has 14.5m raw HP, if you are shooting it with EM it has 0% base resists. It has a reinforcement timer at 25% shields that is no longer than 41.5 hours and it exits that reinforcement timer at 25% shields.

A POCO has 14.5m raw HP and no resists. It reinforces at 25% shields and exits reinforce at 0% shields, saving you 2.5m EHP of grinding. It’s reinforcement timer is variable, but averages ~36 hours, and is always under 48.

Dealing with all that EHP
Now that you have an idea of just how much EHP we’re talking about. Lets explain what it takes to reliably chew through all of that. Your average DPS battleship or Tier 3 BC does 1k DPS. So to chew through those 320.76m EHP with 30 of them is going to take you ~3 hours (178 minutes).  If you have 100, you’ll get it done in just under an hour (53.5 minutes).

Let us say you’re fielding capitals. Carriers average 1k DPS (Thanatos get as high as 1.75k) and dreads average 10k DPS (Moros get as high as 15k), but are stuck for 5 minutes at a time. With 10 dreads, it’ll take just under an hour (53.5 minutes). With twenty, it’ll take about thirty minutes (26.7). Bare in mind, those dreads are stuck, so you are very likely going to lose them. You can use supers though, and that will drastically improve your survivability, but instead of 30b in dreads, you must field 300 billion in supers (average nyx comes to 30b between hull and gear).

Not too bad right? Sadly all those lovely numbers assume you are doing it in one sitting. In reality it takes you at least 2 separate operations, so add on 30 to 40 minutes of form up time and however long it takes you to get there and back. This means that each of those operations is a 3 hour grueling structure grind operation, and between each of those operations you have to wait on average 36 hours for a reinforcement timer. This means that to take a system it takes at least a 4 days! It can get worse though, you might be unable or unwilling to take the station and the ihub down at the same time, so now it takes FOUR separate operations. Those four will be slightly faster, but still be in the neighborhood of two hours each, and then it can take up to a full week to take the system!

So, in summation, taking a three gate station system requires between six and eight hours of fleet ops over the course of about a week and each op must have either 100 DPS Tier 3 BCs or BS, 10 dreads on a suicide path, or 300 billion isk in supers. This is for a single system, and it discounts passive regen on all the shields as well as the deployment and onlining time of SBUs (3 hours).

This massive block of EHP and time is why we have the super coalitions we have today. The numbers are required to play the game. If we want to see new groups in nullsec duking it out, these EHP bricks need to change.

Desired Effects
I would like to make it so that territory is held based on activity level more than the owner’s capacity to project force. That is, if a sov owner is out attacking some other alliance, I would like a smaller group to be able to come in and take a few of that owner’s outlying systems. Think of it as the barbarians versus the Romans and the fall of the Roman empire. This is currently impossible because it takes a week and 8 hours of fleet operations to take a single system, let alone a constellation.

Undesired Effects
The ability to rapidly sack another group’s capital

The Proposal
To this end, I propose that the current HP for all sov structures, excluding SBUs, be tied to military and industrial indexes. Each structure would then have it's base hitpoints reduced to 10% of it's current hitpoints. For each index level, excluding strategic, the structure gains 10% of it's hit points under the current system. Should the structure have had a reinforcement timer under the current system, it will gain one reinforcement (based on stront, not some timer) for each index at lvl 5, excluding strategic.

Under the proposed system, an ihub in a solar system with military and industrial at 0 will have just under 19.25 million EHP and no reinforcement timer. An ihub with industry 5 and military 0 will have one reinforcement timer and roughly 115.5m EHP.  An ihub in a military and industry lvl 5 system will have 211.75m EHP and two reinforcement timers. An unused system with a TCU and Ihub will have 23.25m EHP and no reinforcement timer.  A heavily used capital system with a station, ihub and TCU will have 456.5m EHP along with 2 reinforcement timers for the station and 2 for the Ihub.

Outcome Analysis
The proposed system will make it HARDER to take an extremely active system by INCREASING the EHP  of sov structures in it. However it will make a lesser or unused system substantially easier to take. This means that active areas of space, such as a capital systems will be much harder to take. Active ratting or mining systems will be noticeably easier to take while still being difficult, and unused systems will be substantially easier to take. In essence, it will lower the barriers to nullsec by opening up guerilla warfare as a viable tactic.

By scaling EHP and reinforcement timers in this manner, we create lesser controlled border zones between the activity hubs of large alliances. This will fundamentally alter the status quo of sov holding alliances as new vulnerabilities open up all across their space. Small groups will be able to border skirmish with larger alliances and potentially hold space despite their smaller size.

To be precise, that 30 man BC/BS gang from earlier that would've taken just under 3 hours to take a system, can now take an unused system in twelve and a half minutes. They must still place and wait for  SBUs to online (~3 hours), so it doesn't allow for pure harassment, but it definitely opens the door for smaller groups.

But what about Moons?
Those of you who are in the know realize that this change does nothing to help the young alliance acquire moons. That is O.K. The goal of this proposal is to get people into nullsec. When there are more people in nullsec, those new people will find a way to acquire moons.

Possible Supporting Changes
-        It may be necessary to reduce the strategic index level for cyno jammers to support younger groups holding space.
-        It may be necessary to tweak the activity levels required to move indexes up or down to better balance EHP distribution across a space empire.
-        It may be necessary to increase anomaly spawns to increase player density per system to allow for large alliances to concentrate force.


Hello, my name is islador and I run Sadistica Alliance. We’re a bunch of ‘lowsec pubbies’ living in Aridia. I have been playing since 2006 and have seen two sovereignty systems come and go, along with several capital and super capital changes. As a director I was in 3 nullsec alliances, B.L.A.C.K, Sc0rched Earth, and Gentlemen’s Club. As the CEO of FELON I have been in two nullsec alliances, both renters, The Methodical Alliance and Rebel Alliance of New Eden. I have spoken at EVE Vegas twice now, the first was on transitioning a HS corp to nullsec and the second was on surviving a renter alliance. The first is not worth watching, it was horrible. The second was great and I would love to find a recording if possible.