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

Fly All the Things!

As I've mentioned before in this blog, I suffer from a moderate compulsion to collect things. If I have an interest in an item that is part of a set of similar items, I feel an overwhelming need to possess the entire set. I'm sure this makes CCP Games very happy, as there are enumerable things in the game that are well suited to becoming collectable. For example, as I've learned to fly different types of ships, I find I must have all the ships of that type in my hangar. This includes all the cross-trained pirate ships, of course.

  I love to collect things in EVE Online, but I'm not nearly as obsessed as this guy. Well, OK, except for ships - I must have all the ships. And modules. And mission loot. And... OK, never mind.

I love to collect things in EVE Online, but I'm not nearly as obsessed as this guy. Well, OK, except for ships - I must have all the ships. And modules. And mission loot. And... OK, never mind.

Cross-training across races is a logical thing for capsuleers to do, once they have finished training for whatever ship types are of interest within their original racial selection. I started as a Gallente character, and trained for everything that was greenish, drone-laden and blaster-covered, from frigates to battleships, before considering cross-training into other factions. What motivated me to do so initially was the desire to fly a Rattlesnake, which was then - and still is, in my opinion - the ultimate Level 4 mission-running machine. For that, I needed to train Caldari ship skills - and so began my love affair with pirate faction ships.

I find that many new EVE Online players don't yet understand that in order to "unlock" access to pirate faction ships, they must cross-train their characters in different races' ship command skills. The Gurista pirate ships, for example, require both Gallente and Caldari ship skills; Angel Cartel ships require skills for both Minmatar and Gallente - and so forth. The various combinations that unlock different pirate factions are depicted in the following chart:

Note that training Gallente ship command skills lead to a disproportionate number of pirate factions - five of them, in fact - more than any other race. All the other races - Minmatar, Caldari and Amarr - connect to only three pirate factions each. Clearly, Gallente ship pilots are more independent and piratey-natured than the other races.

Before the Mordu's Legion pirate ships were announced as part of the Kronos expansion, most EVE Online aficionados expected those to be a result of cross-training Minmatar and Caldari ship command skills, as there is no current pirate faction that is unlocked from that intersection of skills. But CCP Games threw us a curve ball and decided to make Mordu's Legion a result of cross-training Caldari and Gallente instead. To date, there are still no pirate ships unlocked from Caldari/Minmatar cross-training.

I've since collected and flown all three of the Mordu's Legion ships - the Garmur frigate, the Orthrus cruiser and the Barghest battleship. All are designed to be kiting PvP ships - with bonuses for much increased missile range and velocity, as well as longer longer warp scramber and disruptor range - but they each accomplish this to different degrees of success.

I had high hopes that the Barghest might give the Rattlesnake a run for its money as a Level 4 mission-runner, but it just doesn't have as much tank or punch as the venerable 'Snake. Plus, it's far more expensive, costing around 800 million ISK, compared to the much more affordable Rattlesnake at around 345 million ISK. Still, I do fly my 'Ghest every once in a while, because I love its unique "giant spatula" design. But most of the time, it sits in my hangar, looking pretty.

The Garmur is a fine fast frigate and very good for tackling duties. But compared to interceptors, which have an MWD signature bonus, and to much cheaper Tech I alternatives, it's nowhere close to a cost-effective option, and therefore is not widely used.

I expect CCP to nerf the Orthrus soon, as it is generally considered to be overpowered. Arguably, it is now the best heavy tackler ship in the game, with a double missile damage bonus, scram/point range bonus, strong tank and speed. Fitted with RLMLs, or even Heavy Missile Launchers, the Orthrus delivers deadly damage. It also seems to be well-suited to Fozziesov as an Entosis Link-fitted ship. It isn't cheap, at around 300 million ISK each, but for the money, it is very effective, and hence, it has become a popular choice. 

My Favorite Pirate Ships

Having now flown every pirate ship available, I have developed fondness for particular ones. My affection is based on two criteria - they do their jobs extremely well, and they are pretty. I admit I'm shallow and find slick, modern-looking designs more enjoyable to fly. That's why I rarely take out any of my Sansha's Nation ships - they all look like crude spiky clubs. Give me something that looks fast, and I'm a sucker for it - cost be damned. 

So, here are my favorite pirate ships, in ascending order:

The amazingly speedy Machariel, battleship of the Angel Cartel pirate faction

Machariel - it's big, fast, agile and delivers incredible alpha damage - and it looks like a hot rod ready to scream down the highway. What's not to like? The Machariel does all damage-dealing duties extremely well: Incursions, Level 4 missions, ratting, fleet ops. Because it moves like a cruiser, even in warp, it can hang with gangs of smaller ships and never get left behind. Next to the 'Snake, the Mach is my favorite battleship.

The versatile Gila cruiser, mainstay of the Gurista pirate faction fleet

Gila - before it got a facelift from CCP Games, the Gila looked like an ungainly can-opener. Now, it's streamlined and functional-looking, and reminds me of the Serenity from the old Firefly series. It's basically a cruiser-sized Rattlesnake, but faster, which is not a bad thing to be. Strong damage-dealing from drone and missile bonuses, decent speed, nice shield tank resist bonuses, and relatively affordable as pirate faction ships go (about 265 million), the Gila is nearly always an appropriate choice.

Behold, the king of Level 4 mission-running, the Gurista Rattlesnake battleship!

Rattlesnake - often have I praised this incredible Gurista battleship in this blog, and I do not apologize for it. Apparently, a lot of people agree with me that the 'Snake is a fantastic mission-running ship, as my fitting guide post continues to be among the most popular articles I have published. This ship is tough, with an amazing shield tank, and it features very strong bonuses for both missiles and drones. If you want to earn ISK from running Level 4 missions, you just can't go wrong with a 'Snake. I've made a couple billion on mine over the years. Plus, they are fairly cheap as pirate ships go. I actually have three of them now, stashed near useful agents, and I often clone jump to one and then happily spend a couple hours killing red icons, and watching the ISK roll in. If mission-running is your thing, get a 'Snake - 'nuff said.

The beautiful and extraordinary Sisters of EVE exploration cruiser, the Stratios

Stratios - you might think my favorite pirate ship is the 'Snake, seeing that I've extolled its virtues so frequently, but you'd be wrong. It's a great mission-running boat, to be sure, but does not offer the utility of a Stratios cruiser. This boat is stealthy with a covert ops cloak, well-tanked with armor resist bonuses, and a decent damage dealer with drone and laser bonuses. It also is bonused for exploration duties, for probing and hacking. This makes the Stratios the ideal ship for running Ghost Sites, which can blow up in your face if you aren't careful - in the Stratios, you can run them with an excellent chance of survival, even if all goes wrong. I keep a Stratios based in Solitude and use it for exploration in low-sec, and I've never gotten caught, though many have tried. The Stratios is simply too elusive to catch, if you keep a watchful eye on d-scan. It's a fun ship to fly.

Some EVE lore experts speculate that the Sisters of EVE faction ships have some mysterious capsuleer-tracking purpose hidden within them. This only makes them more interesting, if you ask me.

Plus, I think the Stratios is the coolest-looking ship in the game, with its sleek lines and clean white and red color scheme, and a beautiful translucent blue shimmering warp affect in its ringed aft section. I never get tired of admiring the appearance of this fine boat while in flight.

The Future of Yarr Ships

Perhaps we might see more pirate ships released in the future. There are still other factions in EVE Online lore that are not yet unlocked by cross-training. Interestingly, there are no obvious candidates for the as yet unoccupied Caldari/Minmatar intersection, though.

Two criminal factions that are begging for their own player-flyable ships are the Equilibrium of Mankind (EoM), a pirate faction spun off the Amarr, and the Intaki Syndicate, black marketeers spun out of the Gallente/Caldari conflict. We have some Intaki SKINs for some Gallente ships already in the game, as well as the Victorieux Luxury Yacht - and some EoM SKINs for Amarr vessels - but no dedicated ship designs for either faction yet.

I'd be surprised if the Intaki was not a Gallente/Caldari cross-train, if CCP ever decides to release ships for this faction - based on the lore, it's an obvious choice. As for the EoM, they'd have to be Amarr/something - probably Minmatar, I would suspect, but that is only a guess.

There are other options for cross-trained ship lines as well. The Ammatar Mandate is an obvious Minmatar/Amarr cross-trained faction. The Khanid Kingdom could be Amarr/something as well. Perhaps the Amarr may eventually lead to more pirate cross-training options than the Gallente do today.

The SoCT faction battlecruiser - the Gnosis

We already have one Society of Conscious Thought faction ship - the Gnosis battlecruiser. The SoCT is affiliated with the Jove. This is the only faction ship that does not require cross-training, making it unique. Perhaps we might see SoCT frigates, cruisers and battleships someday, which also do not require cross-training to fly.

Also notable is that the Gnosis is the only faction battlecruiser - I wonder why pirates don't like battlecruisers? Clearly, this is a gap in every pirate faction ship line that CCP could fill, if they chose to do so.

According to the lore, Jove technology is a what gives CONCORD ships their amazingly punishing powers, and supposedly it is what makes Angel Cartel ships so speedy, too. And now we have the Drifters, also of Jove extraction. Perhaps the empty Minmatar/Cadari cross-trained slot might be reserved for a CONCORD-inspired Jove-enabled faction ship line. Now, wouldn't that be something?

Fly safe! o7

 

About these new icons...

I think I like the new overview and bracket icons, but it's going to take some time before I'm fully comfortable with them. For example, I'm having a hard time differentiating between an NPC ship and a player-operated one, as the grey filling designating NPCs is very subtle. But I'm sure I'll get used to them eventually. They do convey more information at a glance than the old set of icons, to be sure.

I studied the icon listing on the EVE Updates page and downloaded the graphic provided there. Basically, if it's got a pointy top, that thing can shoot at you, and if it has a flat top, it doesn't, in general. There are exceptions, of course - unarmed shuttles are a single chevron, and a capsule is a tiny arrowhead. And drones have their own symbols that aren't universally pointy, as well. So, the pointy-top rule is not completely consistent.

I inverted the colors of the above graphic and printed it out, so now I have a quick-and-dirty reference guide next to my keyboard. Feel free to download this image and do the same for your own use.

I'm sure someone more graphically adept, like Rixx Javix, will make an icon reference chart that is more attractive and readable (nudge, nudge...). (If someone does, please link the location in the comments below.) But for now, this image will have to do.

Hopefully, I won't get blown up while I'm trying to figure out what the heck that thing is that is shooting at me.

Fly safe! o7

UPDATE: Rixx Javix to the rescue! Here's a cleaner version of my crude reference chart. He promises: "I'll have a better one shortly" - I'll post the link when available.  Thanks, Rixx!