Sins of a Solar Spymaster #48 - The Trends of the Nullsec Metagame

We live in interesting times in New Eden; the metagame of nullsec is changing, and I don’t just mean in espionage.

We live in interesting times in New Eden; the metagame of nullsec is
changing, and I don’t just mean in espionage. These are a
number of long-term gameplay adjustments that are only now becoming
obvious, and they will impact everyone who plays style="font-style: italic;">EVE,
not just those participating in territorial warfare. Let’s
examine them:

Death of the Fleet Battleship:

When the first detailed plans for Dominion began to leak in September
09, the more prescient among the fleet commanders began calling
attention to the potential for a massive change in the way the game is
played. Since the dawn of the conquest in 0.0, the ultimate tool of
alliance warfare has been the sniping fleet battleship. In some corners
of the galaxy, it is heavily tanked; in others, it is a more
maneuverable glass cannon. Even after the rise of capital fleets, the
vast majority of pilots involved in alliance warfare used battleships,
particularly because only a properly-fit BS could hope to survive the
AoE Doomsday weapons used by the Titans of that era.

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Nowadays, there’s nothing unique about a BS that a HAC or a
Supercarrier can’t do better. The biggest influence here is
the rise of the Logistics ship; with enough Logistics in a fleet,
almost anything can survive in the post-Doomsday age. The current vogue
is split between two primary fleet types. One is heavily armor-tanked
HACs backed up by armor logistics, using skirmish mindlinks and
boosters to lower the signature radius – and thus incoming
damage – to anything in the fleet. The other doctrine appears
to be
some combination of shield logistics plus massive numbers of
Drakes, relying on the high alphastrike of the Drake missiles with the
durability of their inherent resistance bonus.

Personally, I think this is long overdue. There is now a tremendous
‘debate’ (of the sort which is played out in
unpredictable – and thus entertaining – combats) in
the metagame of fleet composition, and no clear winner has emerged. For
more than six years the unquestionable endgame subcap ship was a
sniping BS, but outside of a fleet context these ships were not much
fun to fly – and utterly helpless if caught out alone. The
shift in tactics to HACs,  battlecruisers and logistics ships
has opened up a lot of avenues of subcapital gameplay which simply
weren’t available before, or were consigned regretfully to
the province of small gang warfare. In the present moment,
we’re seeing alliances calling for pilots to train ships for
main fleet work which would have been unheard of six months ago.

and Power Density:
This is
the flip-side of the end of the Battleship Era. Previously, to
participate in nullsec politics on a grand scale, one needed massive
fleets to contest for sovereignty. Now, however, Supercarriers have
become so singularly powerful that they are a counter for themselves.
large number of Supercarriers (between five and ten on the field at
once) is, itself, a power bloc that can only be answered by another
blob of supercaps. While this is certainly less game-wrecking than the
old Doomsdays, it does have an intriguing shift in the power dynamic
away from large numbers of pilots. We’re beginning to see
small, wealthy alliances with under a thousand pilots but with a very
large number of Supercarriers wreaking havoc with traditional Great
Powers. Who needs a battleship fleet if you have a corp with 30 Nyx
pilots? The other side effect of this is that demand for Titans has
flatlined; Supercarriers are much cheaper and still stupidly durable,
and more capable of engaging in combat with subcapital ships.

as a Team Sport:
As the Great
Powers begin to balkanize and these smaller, supercapital-dense
entities begin throwing their weight around, diplomacy as a profession
in EVE
is radically changing. In the past, one could have one or two people
filling the role as an alliance diplomat. Now, however, there are so
many entities involved in nullsec that diplomatic corps are beginning
to expand into entire sections.

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This also has the practical function of making the lines between
intelligence gathering and diplomacy blur, as there are now so many
smaller entities around that it’s hard to fully infiltrate an
area with spies. For example, the recent conflict around Scalding Pass
and Insmother would once have merely been a contest between Atlas,
Goonswarm, and Pandemic Legion. In the modern environment, however,
these two regions were an ugly nest of squabbling microstates. While
the blocs were certainly involved as main forces of pressure, the
infighting between Honorable Templum of Alcedonia,
Gentlemen’s Club, Cult of War and Primary required multiple
diplomats working overtime just to keep track who was pissed off at who
at any given moment.

as a Sov Mechanic:
After the
disastrous attempts by the ‘Southern Coalition’ of
Atlas, -A- and IT to dislodge the Northern Coalition, there are few
people left in the game who honestly want to bother with the tedious
process of the Dominion sov system, with its excruciating
‘sit around and guard a widget for between three and eight
hours’ mechanic. Yet war and grudges must continue, lest we
all run off and play href="" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">World of Tanks
(which, incidentally, is massively populated with style="font-style: italic;">EVE
players). One of the more interesting workarounds to the whole SBU/TCU
rigmarole has been using mass-scale griefing tactics to essentially
harass the victim entity into giving up their territory and cutting a
deal to evacuate. This was what was primarily used in the
aforementioned Scalding Pass/Insmother conflict. Also of note is the
fact that the ships used for griefing are never traditional fleet
battleships, so this trend further accelerates the turning away from
fleet BS.

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