Sins of a Solar Spymaster #33 - Preparing for Dominion

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With the impending arrival of the Dominion expansion for Eve Online, The Mittani returns with a list of things to expect and help prepare you for the game's 12th free expansion. How might server stability be? What kind of changes will be implemented? What can you do to get ready? Find out all this and more in this week's Sins of the Solar Spymaster.

This is EVE Patch Day 101 stuff, but every time we have a patch a bunch of poor schmucks get caught by surprise by the shocking news that Tranquility is hilariously unreliable for up to a week or more after a big content push. The best thing to do is hedge your bets and set a skill training that will take at least a week to complete on all your characters.

Survival in EVE is never easy, and life in New Eden becomes even more Darwinian when patch day hits. The Tranquility server goes up and down like a cheap whore, the markets are thrown into total chaos, and alliances scramble to adjust to the new features. Players try to find the inevitable bugs which snuck through QA, rush to try out new ships, and frequently get scammed and/or blown up by those with a more savvy view of what has changed in the galaxy. To prevent you from being blindsided, here's a guide for what to expect from Dominion, trimmed of all the CCP marketing hype and sifted from the near-daily adjustments on the Test Server.

Server Instability
This is EVE Patch Day 101 stuff, but every time we have a patch a bunch of poor schmucks get caught by surprise by the shocking news that Tranquility is hilariously unreliable for up to a week or more after a big content push. The best thing to do is hedge your bets and set a skill training that will take at least a week to complete on all your characters.

Moon Goo/Alchemy/T2 Material Tweaks
If by 'tweaks' we mean that the market in T2 materials and moon goo is going to become riotously unpredictable for a while. CCP has changed the material requirements for T2 components, the base structures which create the fancier sort of ships out of moon goo. I would bow out of the market entirely until things stabilize, because speculation is already rampant as to which moon material will be the new 'bottleneck'. The old bottleneck for T2 production was dysprosium and promethium, of R64 fame; it's now theorized to be neodymium and technetium, part of an expected 40%~ nerf of R64 use. If this is true, things may well be even worse in the T2 market than before, because technetium is a flavor of goo which only exists in the regions of the galaxy controlled by the Northern Coalition - it will instantly be taken over by a cartel to keep prices artificially inflated.

On top of this, CCP has quadrupled the Alchemy output from every reaction. Now, R16 and R32 moons can vomit out R64 materials. When you combine the T2 component adjustment with the alchemy buff, you get the prospect of serious economic dislocation. CCP may claim to have hired a professional Icelandic economist on staff, but you can expect the markets in EVE shortly after Dominion to resemble the Icelandic banking sector. (Hint: That's bad.)

Faction Ship Buffs
Faction ships of all flavors get a lot of love in Dominion - new paint jobs and massive buffs. Mission-running areas all across the server will be flooded with people grinding for LPs or cashing them in for fancy new ships. Lowsec piracy in mission areas will be off the charts as people compete to destroy all the new targets and their shiny ships. Faction ships will be up on contract at inflated prices; if you don't want to be ripped off, wait a week or two for prices to stabilize.

Supercapital Changes
Utterly in flux. The CCP dev team appears to have been huffing glue of late; they took the wildly popular 'CCP Abathur' version of supercapitals - which had been tested extensively by the playerbase on SiSi over a period of weeks - and chucked them out a window, putting a no-name dev on the project who apparently does not understand basic aspects of capital warfare. Last week we heard that motherships were being nerfed heavily; outrage ensued, then we were told that motherships would be nerfed but that they would be allowed to dock - this is very foolish, for reasons best explained in another column. Now we're told that no mothership changes will be happening with Dominion, and that they've been recalled for more testing and input, even though the poor Art Department has slapped pretty pictures of fighter-bombers on all the Dominion promo art. At this rate, I wouldn't be shocked to find out that CCP has renamed motherships 'smurfmobiles' and that their new role is to provide hugs and snuggles to all the good little boys and girls in the galaxy. I wish this was an exaggeration. 

The only bright spot amid this steaming pile of excrement is that the Titan AoE doomsday has been removed, which means that fleet fights will no longer be interrupted by gigantic smartbombs and battleships can now stop having to fit a 75k EHP doomsday tank on every single fit. However, since the new CCP capital team has decided that Titans shouldn't kick very much ass at all, and should be primarily logistics tools, it's unlikely that you'll see one on the post-Dominion battlefield except by accident or sabotage. All of this, of course, may well change at the eleventh hour.

Sov System Changes
POS war is dead. Long live widget war! Along with the removal of the AoE Doomsday, this section is probably the best foot Dominion can put forward. Under the new sov system, to seize an outpost you'll need to online 'SBU' widgets on the majority of gates in a system, defend them while theyÂ’re online, and then shoot an outpost. The outpost has two 48 hour timers, one for shields and one for armor. If you win both of those fights, you have an outpost. This will beat the hell out of shooting 40+ towers in the current system. However, there are a couple of nuances to the new system that are not immediately obvious. First, 'kiting' is dead; since the defender can always be assured that the outpost or hub attacked will come out within two hours of a chosen time. Second, with 48 hours of lag time between major outpost battles, when fights occur they will be dramatic set-pieces, since everyone has so much warning to muster hundreds of pilots. This implies that Dominion will see an uptick in 'bloc warfare', rather than a reduction as some have theorized. It's also highly unlikely that the nullsec map is going to change overnight.

There's a lot of talk about the upgrades that are supposed to make 0.0 more densely populated and profitable - worth holding for something more than bragging rights. Unfortunately, as Hammerhead let slip the other day in an interview, the upgrades for nullsec aren't intended to provide more income than running level four missions in risk-free empire. "The income however isn't being increased much over what players can get from level 4 missions in the initial point release so we don't expect a massive exodus of people out of empire space or a massive change in the influx of money or resources." Talk about a damp squib; the initial propaganda about Dominion was that it was going to create just such a gold-rush.

Lower Your Expectations
When this patch was first marketed to the playerbase, the level of excitement was extreme. It wasn't merely going to remove existing negatives (Doomsdays, POS war) but add a bunch of new positives (Supercapital carnage, riches in nullsec, an influx of new players and warfare in deep space). As patch day approached, more and more new features have been yanked. The treaty system didn't make it in. Supercap changes have gotten distorted beyond all belief, and motherships didn't make it in. When asked what was most exciting about Dominion, the first thing Hammerhead mentioned was... new planet graphics. What? Are you serious? Oh, also the in-game browser is better, saving us from the horrors of opening our own!

There's some good stuff in this patch in terms of tweaks. The "Fleet Finder" mechanic will really help the ability of players to log into the game and get into some action, which has always been a problem with EVE. There are some anti-espionage tweaks that make it harder for hostiles to join your fleet, and in general it'll be harder to sabotage or ruin an alliance with spies after Dominion - broadly popular ideas, even if I myself dislike them.  But on the whole, Dominion is about removing and fixing areas of EVE which are manifestly terrible, rather than adding in new positives.

Nullsec wars/politics
As of this moment, the post-patch action will be in Fountain, where IT Alliance (essentially just a Band of Brothers respawn) is invading Pandemic Legion's territory. In the North, Triumvirate and Red Overlord will be fighting the Northern Coalition, and in the east we can expect the usual endless dueling between Atlas and Legion of xDeath. With the removal of the "Sov 4" invulnerability mechanic, expect to see a lot of CSAA's attacked and kited, since vulnerable industrial structures will make for much easier kills than seizing an outpost.

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