Sov warfare can be fun after all

The ongoing war between Goon-led Imperium and PanFam doesn’t nearly make as much headlines as other wars in EVE Online have – and rightly so, unfortunately.

That’s not to say nothing’s happening – there’s fighting going on pretty much around the clock, every day. However, measured by the huge number of players involved the amount of destruction happening is rather miniscule. ISK-wise the highest damage isn’t done when combat fleets clash, but far off the front lines whenever yet another ratter or miner gets caught with their pants down by the other side’s raiding patrols or even third parties looking for easy kills.

I believe the main reason for this is that there’s actually not much at stake for both sides. Goons have stated from the beginning that they have no intention to hold on to whatever space they manage to take from us. Which means that, once they’re gone, we’ll just take it back. It’s not like anyone but Goons would be able to stop us from doing that.

As for ISK-damage done, that doesn’t matter a whole lot either. Both coalitions are more than capable of replacing any ships, citadels and whatever else the war might claim many times over.

Until now there’s been only one important and numbers-wise relatively huge fight – which Lakisa and I unfortunately missed due to it being very early in the morning in our timezone – after Goons had managed to reinforce the infrastructure hub in SH1-6P, our coalition’s main staging system. Had they succeeded to destroy it our position in this war would’ve been severely weakened. Our forces won that battle pretty decidedly and the I-hub was saved.

EVE_SovExplosion
Since I wasn’t there here’s a shot of an exploding Astrahus citadel instead

That linked article also talks a bit about the game’s current sovereignty mechanics. As usual you can read about it in more detail on EVE Uni’s Wiki, if you’re so inclined. This system, referred to as Fozzie Sov by most players, is in the game since 2015 when it replaced the Dominion Sov system introduced in 2009.

No one really likes Fozzie Sov much, just like no one really liked Dominion Sov. Or the system before that. The thing is – apart from the fact that MMO gamers in general and EVE bittervets in particular are never happy anyway – I don’t think it’s at all possible to devise a sov system that favours neither attacker nor defender too much and completely negates waiting periods and the chance for a whole lot of boredom.

That’s because you can’t actually force either side of a conflict to do anything. Whenever the attackers have reinforced a thing there has to always be a timer after which they have to come back and do another thing, so the defenders have a chance to react. There’s three possible scenarios for that to go down.

One – The defenders decide to not show up, either because they know they can’t win or they just don’t care. Everyone’s bored.

Two – The defenders show up in force, so much so that the attackers don’t like their chances and retreat or don’t show up in the first place. Everyone’s bored.

Three – Actual fighting happens, at least one side is happy. Probably the other side too, because considering the alternatives EVE’s PvPers generally like to get a fight at all, even if it doesn’t go their way in the end.

So no matter how the sov system works there will always be a good chance that you’re forming up for nothing.

That being said, last Sunday we were treated to an example of how fun Fozzie Sov can actually be. We lost the objective in the end, but most of us agreed that it was the most fun we’d had in quite a while.

Goons had reinforced some stuff in our home region Vale of the Silent, and we formed up in force to defend. Once the timer was up command nodes would begin to spawn randomly anywhere in the Z-DO53 constellation’s systems. PL and us formed a joint Muninn fleet, Horde came in Eagles.

EVE_SovPotato
Muninn fleet on the move in ‘potato mode’

In preparation for large numbers and the associated strain on the game’s client I dialed down the graphics to minimum settings, referred to as potato mode, disabled all sound – I really hate playing without sound – and turned off some other bits and pieces. The maximum fleet size of 256 pilots was reached well before we even undocked, and there were still people trying to get in. Hence having your client crash would most likely have led to losing your spot in the fleet, so I wasn’t gonna risk anything.

We were Titan-bridged into EIDI-N and waited there for the timer to tick down. Meanwhile multiple Imperium fleets were reported in KRUN-N, right next door. Since there was still time I fired up dotlan and assessed the situation.

EVE_Sov
As always, click to enlarge

I knew that we actually might have some fun when I saw the constellation’s layout and our starting position in it. Many constellations have kind of a ‘main road’ which you have to take if you want to reach every system in it. Often those are the fights that end before they even begin because neither side is willing to jump in first and be at a disadvantage from the get go. Here, though, we had many connections between systems, and apart from the IPAY-2 and V-OJEN branches neither side would be able to block the other from going anywhere by locking down just one stargate.

Sure enough, as soon as the first command nodes spawned we were off, zipping to and fro, trying to protect our ‘toasters’, the entosis-fitted ships that have to interact with the nodes, while killing off theirs. I say zipping…actually more like crawling, because there were over 800 pilots in the constellation already and TiDi was hitting pretty hard.

Time Dilation was CCPs answer to coalitions bringing more and more people into battles, crashing their servers left and right. Nowadays when a server is at maximum load everything gets slowed down to give it more breathing room. For us players this means the game effectively runs in slow motion, down to 10% of its normal speed at worst.

Additionally and unrelated to TiDi, session changes – for example when jumping through a gate or taking a jump bridge – have waiting queues when hundreds of people do it at the same time.

EVE_SovTraffic
We spent quite some time staring at this, though it rarely takes as long as it says

Nevertheless it was extremely fun. I think our FCs did a great job, but the true heroes were our Interdictor pilots. They dropped critical bubbles just at the right time and place more than once, ensuring that we didn’t get caught by fleets twice our size.

Still, after a while it became clear that we wouldn’t be able to win this. Even more reinforcements for Goons arrived while Horde’s fleet was effectively out of combat because they lost almost all of their logi due to some mishap. So at that time it was pretty much our lone 250 pilot Muninn fleet against all that stuff you see on the battle report’s red side. Time to cut our losses and go home.

Many people on our side say things like “Goons can only win when they outnumber us 4:1” or “If they blob us like that all the time they are the ones to blame when nobody gets good fights”. While that’s technically true I wonder what else they should do? I mean, are they supposed to fill up just one fleet and tell everyone else to stay at home? Just the other day Wilhelm portrayed what fleet formup looks like right now if you’re in the Imperium, and as I said, our own fleet was full too. Everyone wants a fight, that’s what we play EVE for. The difference is, if you combine all characters in the alliances on our side of that battle report you get about 24,300. The red side’s characters add up to almost 58,000.

So, yeah, being outnumbered will continue to be our lot in this war. As long as we get some good fights out of it I don’t care much. And, as I said, when it goes like it did on Sunday I might even start to actually like sov warfare. Who would have known?

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