Eve Fanfest proved to be a productive event for fans in attendance and The Mittani was on-hand to sink his teeth into the juicy content and panel discussions provided by CCP developers. In the latest Sins of the Solar Spymaster, The Mittani recounts what he learned at the event about the coming Dominion expansion, sovereignty, and more all while fighting a hangover.
Barely over one month to go until Dominion releases, and at last - amidst the flotsam and jetsam of post-Fanfest flus, hangovers, and developer chit-chat - at last we have some hard data, real numbers, and SiSi patches to pore over and analyze. When at Fanfest, the most jammed round tables were those for 0.0 and capital ships - with good reason, because these two areas are bearing the brunt of the patch changes. At the time, we had general information from the devs, but no numbers. There was still a few obligatory Fanfest 'big reveals': CCP at last disclosed how outposts would be captured, and demonstrated the new Doomsday graphics for Amarr.
Barely over one month to go until Dominion releases, and at last - amidst the flotsam and jetsam of post-Fanfest flus, hangovers, and developer chit-chat - at last we have some hard data, real numbers, and SiSi patches to pore over and analyze. When at Fanfest, the most jammed round tables were those for 0.0 and capital ships - with good reason, because these two areas are bearing the brunt of the patch changes. At the time, we had general information from the devs, but no numbers. There was still a few obligatory Fanfest 'big reveals': CCP at last disclosed how outposts would be captured, and demonstrated the new Doomsday graphics for Amarr. But it quickly became apparent that the main utility of Fanfest (from a gaming perspective, not to speak to the much more crucial drinking and hijinks) was the opportunity to have a say while Dominion itself was still being created, to make an opinion heard. Those looking for finished products and hard data were disappointed.
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Here is what we know about the Sov system now, based on Fanfest discussion, dev blogs, and Sisi.
The first point is that control of a system with an outpost is tiered. In order to sieze the system, first you need to take the outpost, then the upgrade hub, and then finally 'sovereignty'. Confusion will result because we currently think of 0.0 as all about Sov, but in Dominion the concept labelled 'sovereignty' will be an afterthought for the real contest over outposts and hubs. To take an outpost, you must siege its shields, deal with a reinforced timer, then its armor, and a second reinforced timer before control is taken. At Fanfest, the concept bandied about was adding an element of randomness and removing 'stront timing' from the equation; from the point an outpost is sieged, the timer for shields or armor will come out +/- six hours of the siege time. This adds an extreme element of unpredictability to the classic timezone war. This mechanic alone, in whatever final form it takes, will be the deciding factor of if the defender or attacker holds the advantage in Dominion. We do know that outposts currently have 150m hp and 100m armor, so they will require the deployment of a dread fleet to siege effectively, and will be large enough targets that single-cycling an outpost will be nearly out of the question.
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After the outpost is taken, the 'upgrade hub,' a separate and new station deployed at a planet like an outpost, must be taken. Presumably these also have randomized reinforced timers, like an outpost. This is where your system upgrades live; the big design question is if upgrades can be destroyed after a siege, or if it will be possible for an alliance to seize a 'prize' system built up painstakingly by the efforts of their prey. Once that's done, the now-famous 'sov disruptors' can be deployed on gates to render vulnerable the 'sov widget' which holds sov. A major change on Sisi, different from the Fanfest version of the sov system, requires that these sov disruptors be deployed only on a majority of the stargates in the target system, not every gate as before. However, since we know nothing about the upkeep costs of the new sov system - none of them had even been drafted by Fanfest, it seems, it's impossible to predict the ideal territorial size of a Dominion alliance. CCP wants to eliminate sprawling 'afk empires,' but how far they will go is a mystery.
At the moment it seems like alliances are heading for a smaller, denser, more heavily outposted setup which favors the defender slightly, but not as much as Sov 4 does now. Removing endless POS upkeep will lower the bar for 'entry-level' alliances, since as it stands currently only alliances with a core of expert logisticians can handle POS war. To limit the impact of randomness in reinforced timers and take advantage of the 'capstone' nature of an outpost at the top of the new sov hierarchy, alliances will probably begin creating more outposts - and if jump bridges are only allowed in outpost systems, this will become a necessity.
The upcoming changes to capitals have now been hashed out on SiSi, with great relish. On a recent weekend, everyone had their characters adjusted to max skill and hopped in Titans and motherships to play around.
First, motherships or 'supercarriers'. The name 'supercarrier' is laughably bad, but no one has yet suggested a better one, such as 'assault carrier' or the like. Please, for god's sakes, someone come up with a catchy name; supercarrier is so embarrassing, everyone will simply call them motherships, much as 'HACs' exist instead of 'Heavy Assault Ships'. Fighter-Bombers have enormous sex appeal, with very cool models, and tear up capitals but good. It's impossible to fit both a full rack of Bombers and Fighters, unless you happen to have a Nyx - which is about the only advantage Gallente have going for them these days out of their entire ship line.
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Titans seem to have been tweaked into monstrous anticapital death machines; for a time on SiSi they could swat battleships on the test server down like flies, and wisely this has been nerfed. Piloting a titan is now a lot like toodling around in a barely mobile station, given how many hp they have; unleashing single-target doomsdays every few minutes was a visceral thrill, and that's without the new graphics.
Regular capitals are at last getting some love, with short-range dreadnaught weaponry being adjusted at last to be able to hit POSes, something that only took how many years to implement? Phoenixes at last get citadel cruise launchers. And, of course, the Moros is getting nerfed. Note to devs: Gallente still suck ass across the board, with the exception of a bare few ships.
The battle environment will change substantially after these changes go live. Some have predicted that the removal of AoE doomsdays will see an era where carriers dominate and battleships are relegated to a second tier behind HACs. Some have also suggested that we will see a return to the pre-Titan era, where fleets of glass-cannon battleship snipers danced at 250km. Neither of these views is correct. Carriers have a relatively short engagement envelope given the delays in fighter fight; the best counter to a carrier blob remains a battleship fleet at range. "Classic" sniping fleets from the 2005 era will probably never truly return, because in those days there were no interdictors; on the modern battlefield, all it takes is one well-placed bubble and a sniping fleet is mired. The good news is that we've already seen a glimpse of Doomsday-free fleet battles; in late 2008 there was a patch which rendered Titans bugged and temporarily useless, and several alliances had a chance to square off in major engagements without that threat hanging over their head. It was an incredibly destructive slugfest, the kind of hours-long hairball that leaves hundreds of wrecks on each side, won the 'hard way' without any I-win buttons. If Dominion fights are anything like that, we'll be in a golden era.
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The most unpredictable area of nullsec change will be to the economy. CCP has a somewhat mixed record on economic prediction, and they intend to nerf alliance income from R64 moon goo while at the same time increasing income from ratting taxes and renters. The R64 nerf will apparently come in the form of a redistribution of moon products used in t2 items, with more emphasis on the lower and mid-range moons. Alchemy is getting a 4x buff, further adding to the supply of R64 goo. In theory, system upgrades will provide increases ratting and mining in 0.0, allowing alliances to get more from taxes, but if this adjustment is out of balance with the R64 nerf, chaos will ensue. The biggest variable in this mess will be the sov upkeep costs, which no one has any idea about yet. Even without solid data, the market has already been thrown into chaos as alliances are venting their R64 stockpiles on the market, causing promethium, dysprosium and cadmium (a core alchemy reactant) to freefall in value.
Just as market speculation has kicked in as the patch nears, alliances are beginning to seriously maneuver their positions to prepare for the post-Dominion environment. Everyone anticipates an outbreak of war on December 1st, and because of this many alliances are choosing to preemptively strike their enemies ahead of time. Things are getting interesting again.
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