Introduction to Sovereignty Mechanics

The following is an introductory guide to the basics of sovereignty mechanics in EVE Online. This content is adapted from an article published originally on the EVE news site, Crossing Zebras. I wrote the original article in April of 2016, but it has since been lost, as CZ relaunched their site shortly thereafter and did not convert all of their prior content to the new format. I have preserved the original text here, for those who are seeking a general understanding of this important aspect of EVE Online's gameplay in null security space.

Last updated: June 26, 2016

In the spring of 2016, “World War Bee”, the great conflict between Imperium forces and the loose alliance of opposing organizations known as the Money Badger Coalition (MBC), began in the northern regions of null security space. This war was so large, with many tens of thousands of players involved, that even non-gaming media outlets reported about it.

In the early stages of the war, all combatants spun their propaganda machines at full speed, making it difficult to discern who was actually winning. In truth, most of the interested observers of the war did not understand the mechanics upon which it was based. The news reports about World War Bee spoke of timers and I-Hubs and TCUs and Entosis Links and Vulnerability Windows – it was all very confusing for those unfamiliar with the details of war in 0.0 space.

This kind of confusion about how war really works in 0.0 space remains common. As ownership of systems changes in null-sec space, the uninitiated often wonder: what does it all really mean?

Sovereignty changes often in 0.0 space. Maps for tracking the ebb and flow of system ownership can be found at http://sov.space/

Sovereignty changes often in 0.0 space. Maps for tracking the ebb and flow of system ownership can be found at http://sov.space/

Intro to Aegis Sov

In the spring and summer of 2015, CCP Games rolled out a series of dramatic revisions to how player alliances control and hold sovereign territory in null-sec space. The most significant parts of these revisions were released in the Aegis update, so the current sovereignty system is officially called “Aegis sov”. (Note: the blog posts announcing these changes were authored primarily by developer CCP Fozzie, so some players refer to the current system as “Fozziesov”.)

“Holding sov”, as it is generally known, provides the owners of a system, and their approved allies, with improved returns for their activities in that system. Occupying the system and actively conducting military and industrial operations there also provides special bonuses that make the system more defensible against invaders. Perhaps more importantly, in addition to these advantages, holding sov also provides the psychological benefit of “planting a flag” in a null-sec system, and thus declaring: “This space belongs to us. Try to take it only at your peril.”

Planting the Flag: the TCU

Territorial Claim Unit (TCU)

To plant that flag of ownership, a player alliance must deploy a Territorial Claim Unit (TCU) near a planet in a system. There can be only one TCU deployed in a system. The owner of the TCU is listed as the owner of that system on the game’s starmap.

In addition, all player-owned starbases (POS structures) in the system that are owned by the TCU’s player alliance get a 25 percent reduction in fuel consumption.

Developing a System: the I-Hub, System Indices, and ADM

To improve a system and make it more valuable and defensible, owners can deploy an Infrastructure Hub (I-Hub), which allows the system to generate combat anomalies, ore sites and signatures more frequently. Players may then harvest rewards from these locations in the system and generate higher levels of income.

Infrastructure Hub (I-Hub)

I-Hubs also allow system owners to set up more advanced POS structures, such as Jump Bridges, which act like temporary stargates to nearby systems, and Cynosural System Jammers, which help to prevent others from entering the system through a back door in space-time from a remote location.

Each upgrade to an I-Hub requires a physical unit to be produced and installed. I-Hubs may be upgraded as system indices increase. The three types of system indices are:

  • Strategic Index: Automatically increases over a continuous period as an alliance maintains control of the I-Hub
  • Military Index: Increases in proportion to the number of non-player character (NPC) ships killed in the system, mostly in anomalies and signatures
  • Industrial Index: Increases in proportion to the volume of ore mined in the system

As the System Indices increase, they also contribute to an Activity Defense Multiplier (ADM) in the system, which affects how long attackers must wrestle with control structures like TCUs and I-Hubs in a system. The higher the ADM, the more time an attacker must dedicate for a successful attack.

Because of their vital importance in establishing control of a system and enhancing its defensibility, wartime attackers in null-sec focus mostly on capturing TCUs and I-Hubs. There also may be other structures in a system, including POSes and stations, which are important for providing safe harbors from which to stage operations.

Setting Windows in Time

Alliances influence when their systems can be attacked, to a significant degree, by setting a vulnerability window – this window can be set for each structure they control. The length of a vulnerability window is 18 hours divided by the ADM in the system, which produces windows ranging in length from 18 hours to 4 hours.

The vulnerability window allows an alliance to set ranges of time when they are best able to field a sufficient defensive force. This is a significant advantage for defenders of sov space.

Capturing TCUs and I-Hubs

One of the biggest changes in Aegis sov was the introduction of the Entosis Link, a ship module that affects structure control. During a structure’s vulnerability period, any player can fly within range and activate an Entosis Link on it. The alliance who owns the structure is notified of the attack so they can respond.

Depending on the ADM of the system, a successful Entosis Link attack can take anywhere from ten minutes to an hour, if the attack is uncontested. That last point is important, as it means that the defenders can activate one of their own Entosis Links on the structure, and thereby reset the time needed for an uncontested attack. For this reason, Entosis Link attacks often result in significant firefights, as each side tries to clear off any enemy ships that may interfere with their Entosis Link attacks.

Using Entosis Links can be tricky. A ship using an Entosis Link cannot cloak, warp, dock, jump, receive any form of remote assistance, or exceed a velocity of 4,000 meters per second. Additionally, as long as just one defender has an active Entosis Link on their structure, all attacking Links will be negated, no matter how many. The only limitation for defenders is that their allies cannot use Entosis Links to help defend their structure directly. From the structure’s perspective, any activated Entosis Link that does not belong to the defending alliance is an attacker.

Entosis Link capture mechanics

If the attackers are successful in completing an uncontested Entosis Link attack, the structure enters a reinforced mode, which ends at a random time within the structure’s vulnerability window, two days (48 hours) later.

When the structure comes out of reinforcement mode, a new phase in the capture process begins. Command Node anomalies then spawn at random locations throughout the constellation of that system. Players may then use Entosis Links to put the various Command Notes into reinforcement, as was earlier done to the structure itself. If attackers can successfully capture enough Command Nodes, they then win the attack on the structure, and the TCU or I-Hub explodes. Any alliance may then deploy their own replacement structure

Capture Process for TCUs and I-Hubs

Capturing Stations

For stations in a system, the capture process works the same as for TCUs and I-Hubs, but with two important differences.

First, after an attacker is successful capturing a sufficient number of Command Nodes, the structure does not explode. Rather, it goes into Freeport Mode for two days (48 hours) which means that anyone can dock in the station.

At that point, a second set of Command Nodes is generated at random throughout the constellation. The Alliance that captures enough Command Nodes becomes the full owner of the station.

Capture Process for Stations

Tracking War Progress

Aegis sov requires successful execution of a series of attacks and capture events for each structure in a system. How does an observer keep track of all the comings and goings, to see the ebb and flow of the war?

For the casual observer, these resources are very useful:

  • TimerBoard is a handy utility for tracking all of the various timers for TCUs, I-Hubs and Stations.
  • Dotlan keeps track of what systems are contested, and is useful for visualizing how the war is progressing.
  • Maps that illustrate current null-sec system ownership by alliance and coalition, as well as for factional warfare, can be found at http://sov.space/

I’ve covered only the critical aspects of Aegis sov in this guide – there are many other details involved. But for those who just want to understand what is going on in null-sec space, the previous explanation should provide you with a sufficient awareness of the essential mechanics.

Fly safe! o7

BB #75: What Does Project Nova Need to Succeed?

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 75th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are please visit the Blog Banter page.

At Fanfest, CCP showcased their current iteration of the FPS set in the Eve Universe. Following on from DUST514 and Project Legion, Project Nova is shaping up to be a solid FPS with CCP taking the decision to get the game mechanics right first. However, with so many FPS out there, what will Nova need in order to stand out from a very large crowd and be successful? What are the opportunities, and perhaps more importantly, the dangers for CCP? How can Nova compete against CoD, Battlefront and Titanfall, to name a few?


I do not own a gaming console, and have no intention of ever buying one. I have always been a PC gamer, and I always will be. My keyboard, mouse and monitor are my preferred means of interacting with gaming entertainment.

Still, I looked at DUST 514 when it was first announced, and considered buying a PS/3 in order to play it. My main interest was driven by the promise of integration between EVE Online and DUST. The planetary bombardment feature demonstrated at Fanfest 2012 was one of the highlights of that event. 

Demo of planetary bombardment in DUST 514 shown at Fanfest 2012.

CCP Games also stated that they intended to bring the worlds of EVE Online and DUST even closer together by eventually integrating the two games' economies, and possibly providing players with the opportunity to use the same characters in the two games.

"If only DUST ran on a PC," I remember saying to myself at the time. "Then I'd be able to switch back and forth between EVE Online and DUST missions. That'd be awesome."

I figured it would be only a question of time before CCP saw the light and ported the game to the PC. I decided to just wait. I planned to be one of the first to play the game, once it was available on my preferred platform.

Then came Fanfest 2014, and the infamous "Rouge Wedding"...

CCP Rouge describes and shows a prototype of Project Legion, a PC-based version of DUST, at Fanfest 2014.

At last, DUST - or at least a version of it - was coming to the PC. I was thrilled. Unfortunately, this announcement also annoyed and alienated the PS/3 console players, who immediately saw that this was the inevitable future of their game. The path was clear: DUST as a console experience was doomed - which is exactly what eventually happened.

I've been eagerly anticipating this PC version of DUST for the last two years, though there has been very little news about it coming out of CCP Games since the initial announcement. In fact, I started to worry that it was never going to be released. But then CCP showed Project Nova at Fanfest 2016, and my enthusiasm returned. I had a chance to try the game at Fanfest, and I enjoyed it a lot, though I felt it still needs some tweaks. The critical gaming press agrees: the game has lots of potential, but is not quite ready for prime time.

So, what does Project Nova need to succeed?

First and foremost, it must provide a consistently competitive FPS shooter gameplay experience. This is obvious and fundamental, but it is exactly what many players felt was missing from DUST 514. The play must be smooth and quick and graphically state-of-the-art, and it must be favorably comparable with other competitive FPS games.

Fortunately, everything that CCP is saying about Project Nova indicates that this is their #1 priority, above all other else. I frankly thought the gameplay in the prototype was very good, though the developers I chatted with said they want to make additional improvements. That makes me confident that CCP will get this critical aspect right.

Once this essential element of solid FPS gameplay is ready, I think there are four additional factors that are needed to make Project Nova a success:

  • Multiplayer at core
  • Emergent gameplay
  • Player-driven economy
  • Part of New Eden

That's right - these are the same four elements that CCP Rouge talked about in his Project Legion announcement at Fanfest 2014. He wasn't wrong then, and more importantly, these elements are even more important now.

Project Nova must get the multiplayer aspects of the game right. Specifically, the match pairing must be much better than DUST, which sometimes put players with dominant skills and equipment together with less capable opponents, resulting in boring one-way routs. The monetization method of Project Nova will likely be free-to-play with purchasable upgrades and enhancements - care must be taken to make sure that these items are not overpowered "pay to win" buttons.

The opportunity to set Project Nova in a meaningful way in a larger context, such as being mercenaries in New Eden's faction warfare, would provide players with a strategic aspect of the game to compete within. In addition, providing in-game support of teams and corporations, operating within this higher-level game context, would encourage emergent gameplay by those groups. I think this is where CCP wants to take the game eventually - at least, I hope so. The orbital bombardment feature of DUST was super-cool but required too much planning and effort to coordinate. That degree of linkage between EVE Online and Project Nova is not needed for the latter game's success, but linking Project Nova to the success of faction warfare in EVE Online could be an exciting way to provide a larger context.

One thing that makes EVE Online interesting is that the economy is almost entirely player-driven. Project Nova would benefit greatly by using a similar model. As much as I would love it, this player-driven economy does not need to be linked to EVE Online to work well within Project Nova. Rather, there only needs to be a way to sell and buy items in a separate mercenary-only market - and earn in-game profits in the process.

I've already alluded to some ways to make Project Nova feel like it is a part of New Eden, but this can't be emphasized enough. I think the initial target audience should not be players of other FPS games, but rather, players of EVE Online. We already understand and love the world of New Eden, and want to experience more of it. If Project Nova uses settings that we EVE Online players recognize - the interiors of faction stations or ships, for example - and if it remains consistent with the look-and-feel of the universe we already know, we will be more likely to be attracted to the game. We are the principal target audience for Project Nova - even those of us who aren't FPS players now.

Bring it on!

I hope that CCP greenlights the development of Project Nova, and brings the game to market. On the PC platform, I think it will appeal to every EVE Online player - and it could also attract an entirely new audience to the EVE universe.

I'm already sold. Make it happen, CCP!

Fly safe! o7

Bits & Pieces: May 2016

I'm on vacation in Florida, which is sort of strange, as I was at Fanfest in Iceland only a couple weeks ago. You may be wondering, why is Nev taking two vacations in a row? Well, if you've ever been to Fanfest, you know why. Even though I paced myself - mostly because my charming bride accompanied me to Iceland this year - Fanfest is pretty much a non-stop party for four days. At the ripe old age of 57, I just don't bounce back from that kind of sustained festivity as I once did. So, I'm here in Clearwater Beach, enjoying a view of the Gulf, surrounded by family, with nothing to do but eat, sleep, and watch the waves roll in. I have discovered that this kind of lackadaisical lifestyle agrees with me.

To help you appreciate my dire situation, here's my view this morning...

I'm definitely living like the 1 percent this week. I could get used to this.

I'm definitely living like the 1 percent this week. I could get used to this.

While sitting here counting the seagulls and sipping a rum-based concoction, I find my mind inevitably meanders to thoughts about EVE Online. Perhaps it is the recency of Fanfest that has me dwelling on ideas about New Eden. Or maybe I'm just bored - it's hard to tell. In any event, I thought I'd jot a few random thoughts here as I'm sitting on my balcony overlooking the aquamarine-hued waters.

At this moment,  I'm thinking, "This is the best way to do a blog post, ever." (/me sips rum drink contentedly)

Happy birthday, EVE!

CCP designated May 6th as "Capsuleer Day" to commemorate the 13th birthday of EVE Online. I haven't picked up my Upwell Consortium pod skin yet, but from the banter on #tweetfleet, people seem to like it. I already have a "golden pod" that I got from the EVE Online Collector's Edition package I bought a couple years ago, so I'll probably use the new skin on one of my industrial alts.

Commemorative gifts are nice, to be sure, but more importantly, we should recognize the achievement that CCP Games has attained: 13 years and still going strong is very unusual in the volatile field of Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) games, which tend to have an average life span of about three to four years.

To what does EVE Online owe its longevity? Certainly, the decision to make EVE Online a single-shard virtual world has a lot to do with its long life. As a direct result, player actions matter much more in EVE Online than in other multi-server MMOs, and they have lasting impact. There is a real and universally shared history in New Eden, and players make the biggest marks on it. No other MMO can make this claim. This factor, more than anything else, is what gives EVE Online its lasting appeal.

There is one other factor that must also be acknowledged: the ongoing dedication of CCP Games to the continuous improvement of the game. Certainly, they have stumbled along the way, but they have recovered each time, and inexorably and consistently increased the game's options and entertainment value, year after year.

When I first joined the game in 2009, EVE Online was a much less robust world. Today, we have so many more options - more ships, more modules, more player-controlled mechanics, more structures, and even more types of space to explore. And with rare exception, those new options have also proven to be better for the game - generally, they have brought more fun and made the game more rewarding to master.

From the very beginning, EVE was built to last. And over the last 13 years, the caretakers of EVE have continued to nurture and develop the game. For these reasons, we are able to celebrate its 13th anniversary. We should all be grateful for the opportunity.

I look forward to the next 13 years in EVE Online!

A Spike of Interest

Another obvious reason for the relative longevity of EVE Online is the undying passion of the player community about the game. It's blatantly apparent to me that people really care about this game. The recent spike of interest in my last post, Occupy New Eden, demonstrates this passion very well.

I've been extremely gratified and humbled by the amount of reaction and thoughtful commentary to my admittedly very critical post. (If you haven't read it yet, you can find it here.) Not only did this post garner the most number of comments I've ever received on this blog, but it also was cross-posted by more blogs, and generated more analysis posts by other bloggers, than anything I've ever published here. Clearly, the subject struck a chord, or a nerve, depending on your point of view.

The comments and perspectives on my post ranged from full agreement to complete rejection. I expected as much, but not to the degree on either end of the opinion spectrum that I received. I got some particularly hostile and highly argumentative comments, which I did not publish, and some extremely well-articulated opposing points of view, which I did.

Some readers disputed my "85 percent" figure, saying that many non-null characters are alts of null-sec players. This is true, but according to CCP's analysis, the number of alt characters and multiple accounts is lower than generally believed. Regardless, no matter how you look at the numbers, the majority of players do not operate principally in 0.0 - this is a fact that a few null-sec dwellers simply will not acknowledge, apparently, despite any CCP-produced statistics to the contrary. There is little I can do to convince people who refuse to be convinced, and so I simply leave that small minority to their own opinions, and wish them well.

I enjoyed reading all the comments and reactionary posts by other bloggers. Many of these helped improve my understanding of the situation, and what might be done about it. But my essential point of view remains unchanged - CCP's development is currently focused mostly on features of primary benefit to null-sec space, and that isn't going to change significantly for the remainder of the year. I think this focus is clearly out of proportion to the distribution of players in EVE Online, and that needs to change.

I'm a patient man. I can wait until 2017 to see if the tides of CCP development efforts shift back towards a more balanced distribution across different types of space. I will bide my time and watch - and continue to share my observations and opinions here.

Meanwhile, thanks again to everyone for the level of interest you demonstrated. I am very flattered by all the attention, and will strive to be worthy of it.

Back to the beach

My family is beckoning me to sign off and join them on the beach, so I'll wrap this up for now. All the best to all of you poor capsuleers who don't have the opportunity to live in paradise, like I do. I'll see you in space again soon - I'll be the relaxed, mellow one. Please don't attack me too quickly, as my reaction times will be dulled by all this sunshine and surf.

Fly safe! o7