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

A Sense of Home

In the summer of 2009, when I first started playing EVE Online, I blundered through the career tutorials and then wandered around for a few days near my starter system of Bourynes, not really knowing what to do next. The novelty of flying a starship was fun, but I had no clear goals established for myself. Having joined the game on my own, I didn't really know what corp would be a good fit for me. It was like moving to a new neighborhood, but not yet knowing anyone there. I considered dropping from the game.

Then I read about the newbie-friendly EVE University, and I suddenly had somewhere to go that made sense. I still recall making the 15-jump journey to E-UNI headquarters in Aldrat, which seemed like a long trek to me at the time. As I got closer to my destination, I felt like I was going to the right place - somewhere I would belong.

My original plan was to stay at E-UNI for a few weeks to learn how to survive in New Eden, and then find another corp that might find my newly developed skills useful. But it never worked out that way. The more classes I took, the more fleet ops I joined, and the more ships I flew, the more I realized how little I understood the depth of EVE Online. At E-UNI, I could happily develop my understanding of different facets of the game to whatever degree that I desired. And so, my stay in EVE University stretched from weeks to months to years.

When you hang around somewhere long enough, you eventually get noticed, and the E-UNI teaching director at the time, Dierdre Vaal, asked if I'd like to run a class or two on some EVE fundamentals. That's when I discovered how much I enjoyed teaching, and helping new players find their own place in New Eden. I became director of education myself (twice, in fact), and was an active part of E-UNI for five years. 

Eventually, I grew weary of the administrative burdens inherent in a large corp, and I left E-UNI to become an independent industrialist in Metropolis (and actually undock once in a while). But I didn't resettle very far away. I was still teaching the occasional E-UNI class as a guest lecturer every few weeks, and besides, I was now very familiar with the systems between Aldrat and the nearby trade hub, Hek. I didn't see any reason to migrate too far.

In short, E-UNI gave me a sense of home in New Eden, and I liked it there.

Who moved my E-UNI?

For the last year, life has been good in my little corner of Metropolis. It felt familiar and comfortable. I would visit Aldrat from time to time, and I always enjoyed seeing a couple hundred blue crosses show up in Local chat whenever I entered the system - lots of new students attending my alma mater.

But then E-UNI established extended campuses in every type of space - wormholes, low-sec, null-sec, even a new one elsewhere in high-sec. They hosted a campus for miners in Amarr space, and another for explorers in the remote Solitude region. The population in Aldrat dwindled. The last time I went there, only a half-dozen blue crosses appeared on my overview.

It was a smart move by E-UNI's leadership. The extended campuses enable new players to experience every type of space in New Eden in a relatively well-supported environment. As a result, E-UNI has continued to thrive. But over time, only a few UNI's based themselves in Aldrat, the official headquarters.

EVE University's new home in Slays, in the Placid region.

EVE University's new home in Slays, in the Placid region.

And so, I was not surprised to see Azmodeus Valar's announcement that EVE University was moving its base of operations from Aldrat to Slays, in the Placid region, in order to be more centrally located relative to its multiple extended campuses. 

Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.
— Stephen Chbosky

It feels weird going to Aldrat now. None of my old corpmates are there anymore. I'm reminded of when my parents moved out of my childhood home. Even though I had left there many years previous, it felt odd to think of other people now living in "my" old room. Similarly, when I now fly by E-UNI's old headquarters station, I can't help but feel a little abandoned, even though it was I who left them some time ago.

Suddenly, my old stomping grounds in Metropolis feel a little less like home.

In search of a home

I have long wanted an opportunity to build a valuable base of operations in EVE Online - a place that feels permanent and useful to maintain - but I have been frustrated by the limitations of the game mechanics. Practically speaking, the current capabilities do not really encourage players to build a base that they want to grow, develop and defend - someplace they feel invested in personally. But I have some hope for the future.

When I decided to become a serious industrialist, I worked hard to earn the standings and skills needed to set up a Player-Owned Starbase (POS) tower in high-sec space. It took a considerable investment in time and effort to accomplish, and when I was finally able to anchor my own tower and get it online, I hoped that my ugly stick in a bubble might become my true abode in New Eden.

Since then, I've learned how silly I was. I've put up and taken down towers so many times and in so many places, they no longer feel like anything other than a tool - a more efficient device for industrial production. You can't live life in a bubble - and the same is true of POSes in EVE Online. They don't feel like a home at all, much to my disappointment.

When mobile depots were introduced, I got a little more excited. I hoped they might become the foundation of a new series of structures that might provide a way to build a base with some sense of permanence. But mobile structures were never intended for that grand a vision. They, too, are simply convenient tools for remote ship fitting and other tasks. Handy, but much more like a pup tent than a real home.

And so it was great anticipation and delight when I watched CCP Ytterbium's presentation at Fanfest about structures, earlier this year. Finally, it appears that a way to build something that feels like a place to live and work may be possible soon - a place that players will want to invest in and defend. A place that matters - a home.

Will this become my new home in New Eden? I certainly hope so.

I have high hopes for structures. In fact, I hope they eventually replace most, if not all, of the NPC stations we currently see in game, but that may be too much to reasonably expect anytime soon. Structures look like something that can be developed and defended, and which can be configured to suit a wide variety of purposes. Because you will be able to locate them anywhere, and that you will be able to dock in them, tells me they should feel like a residence in space. I can't wait to establish my own structure in "my" space.

Perhaps, someday soon, I may finally have a place to truly call my own in New Eden.

The emerging value of home

Though we have yet to see whether Fozziesov is a success in null-sec space, I am encouraged by two changes affecting the sovereignty system. First, the jump drive limits of Phoebe effectively expanded the relative size of 0.0 space, and made defensible territory and borders more important. Second, the establishment of designated capital systems now provides for a central rallying point for every 0.0 alliance - a place that becomes an useful anchor for developing an sovereign empire.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but I suspect that more players will begin to think of their part of 0.0 as "their" space - their homeland, in effect. This has always been true to some extent for some alliances, but due to the fluid nature of 0.0, it has not been uncommon to see whole corps and alliances pull up stakes and relocate across the cluster if it suited their interests. If Fozziesov encourages players to develop more personal affinity and affiliation with certain regions of space - if they begin to think of that space as their natural "home" - then I suspect we may see 0.0 shift its emphasis from skirmishes between wandering tribes to more wars between nation-states over territorial disputes.

People are often motivated to fight if their home is threatened. If Fozziesov establishes more of a sense of home for 0.0-based organizations, I suspect we'll eventually see a lot of emotionally invested people engaging in some very significant and interesting fights - and not just a lot of trolling of structures with Entosis Links. The introduction of very large but potentially vulnerable structures, and their eventual replacement of POSes and Outposts, may further enhance this desire to defend one's home against interlopers.

Home is where the heart is

Now that E-UNI has moved, I feel a little displaced. I still have my modest industrial operation in Metropolis, but I don't feel quite as grounded there as I once did. Perhaps it is time for a change. I have no rational way to explain this - it's only a feeling that I need to find a better place - a new home.

I'm not sure where that is yet, but I'll figure it out. I'm confident it's out there - somewhere.

Fly safe! o7

 

Bits and Pieces: July 2015

It's time once again to clean out some miscellaneous EVE-related topics that have been gathering dust in the back of my "must blog about this" file - none of which are sufficient to warrant a separate post. So, here are a few random mid-summer bits and pieces of EVE Online flotsam...

Hail, Fozziesov!

The last and most important components of Fozziesov (a.k.a., Aegis sovereignty) arrived this week, with much fanfare from CCP Games.

The old Dominion-style sov system, which relied on long, boring burn-downs of structures with astronomical amounts of hit points, has been replaced with exactly what null-sec players have demanded for years - a system that:

  • Eliminates structure grinds
  • Makes topography more important
  • Provides more tactical options
  • Makes territory more defensible
  • Drives more frequent and smaller-scale combat
  • Encourages development of conquered systems
  • Supports a higher density of players in a system

It's a brilliant design, and CCP Fozzie and all the devs who have been working on it should rightfully claim victory, and receive copious kudos and praise from all denizens of 0.0 space.

So far, the initial reaction of most null-sec residents to the new sov mechanics seems disturbingly muted. I hoped for more excitement, and some immediate and significant movement from the major power blocs. Instead, it appears that everyone in 0.0 is methodically testing the new system, and it looks like will take a little while before everyone gets used to the new status quo. There does seem to be some increase in 0.0 activity, if Dotlan is any indication, but no major invasions underway - yet.

I wonder if we will ever again see a null-sec alliance or coalition make a total commitment of forces in a concerted campaign for dominance, or has Fozziesov made that kind of large-scale strategic conflict too difficult, or unworthy of the investment? I suspect we will simply see the existing power blocs carve out their own defensible borders, albeit less than they used to be, and feed occasionally on any smaller entities that fill the remaining gaps. I'm concerned that political boundaries under Fozziesov may become as static as they were in the oft-maligned "blue doughnut" era  of late Dominion-based sov, though with a sufficient amount of smaller-scale skirmishes to keep most 0.0 PvP'ers content.

I don't live in null-sec space, and my current exposure to 0.0 is limited to running private hauling contracts in blockade runners. My main interest in the affairs of null-sec is limited to the economic implications of increased conflict expected with the new sovereignty mechanics. If Fozziesov increases the number of ships destroyed in 0.0, that is good news for everyone, as it will drive more industrial activity everywhere. I have a huge inventory of Tech II modules and ammo stockpiled in anticipation of a general rise in demand, as a result of Fozziesov. If I have guessed wrong, and that demand does not materialize, I'll be disappointed. More importantly, I will start to feel gravely concerned about Fozziesov's limited success, and what that might mean for the future of EVE Online.

There's a lot riding on Fozziesov. I'm hopeful that it will revitalize player engagement in 0.0. Meanwhile, I am watching movement in the markets with great interest.

EVE is Therapy, Sometimes

It's been a rough couple of weeks for me in Real Life. My mother-in-law died, which was expected but still sad (she was 92), and as we were finishing up her funeral arrangements, my father fell gravely ill and went to the hospital. It didn't look good for him for a very tense and trying week. At the same time, my boss mentioned that some "restructuring" might be coming soon, which as we all know is code for layoffs.

During times like this, when everything seems to be going profoundly in the wrong direction, it's nice to have something to do that is relatively comforting. Despite its cut-throat reputation, I find EVE Online to be a welcome respite from my troubles, and it certainly helped me cope a bit better with my recent burdens.

Being able to log in and chat with a few supportive online friends is helpful, by itself. When feeling depressed, I also like to do something relatively mindless but productive in game - a few missions, some mining, a few industry jobs. It helps take my mind off my worries for a while, and I always feel a little better afterwards.

There are people in EVE Online who encourage those who feel depressed or suicidal to "broadcast for reps". My anxiety wasn't quite that bad, but I wonder, how many game communities have such a thing? I've never seen it anywhere else but in EVE Online. Just the fact that it exists makes me feel a little more optimistic.

My dad got better and is back home now, and I got a new assignment at work, so things look safe there, at least for a while. I'm feeling emotionally stable once again. And as strange as it may sound, EVE Online helped. And for that, I'm grateful.

EVE Ain't Dead

I wrote a thing on Crossing Zebras about recent speculations that "EVE is dying" - not that we haven't heard that before.

Patch Day Blues

When I started playing EVE Online in the summer of 2009, scheduled updates were a big deal. Often, CCP took many hours to update the servers, requiring long downtimes. Veterans routinely warned new players as a patch day approached: "Set a long skill to train!' - just in case something went horribly awry and the downtime extended to the next day, or longer.

CCP Falcon posted this picture as part of his update on the official EVE Online forums about the unscheduled downtime extension after the Fozziesov Aegis patch - a perfect illustration of how things must feel at CCP headquarters when patches go awry.

CCP Falcon posted this picture as part of his update on the official EVE Online forums about the unscheduled downtime extension after the Fozziesov Aegis patch - a perfect illustration of how things must feel at CCP headquarters when patches go awry.

All that went away, for the most part, when CCP changed their update practices, sending out small incremental patches with much greater frequency, instead of storing them all up into one, massive server update and client patch download. We've all gotten very spoiled, now that patches have become very smooth and routine. New players have no idea what it used to be like, at all.

So, I am feeling a little nostalgic today. An update patch caused some massive server problems, and as I complete this post, downtime has been extended through the day. Everyone is running to Twitter and the forums in a semi-panic, wondering when - or even if - access to EVE Online would be restored. We veterans who have been through this sort of thing just shrug and smile. I admit I have enjoyed seeing how newer players are handling it - or rather, not handling it very well, I should say.

Aaaaugh! EVE is down! Whatever shall I do? PANIC! PANIC! All is lost!

Aaaaugh! EVE is down! Whatever shall I do? PANIC! PANIC! All is lost!

And naturally, people are asking for some sort of compensatory gift. Spoiled rotten, you have made us, CCP, with your typically excellent service. Personally, I want a Nyx - then we can call it even. Hell, let's make it supercarriers for everyone! It's only fair.

Entosis Link Building Update

As I reported in a previous post, I experimented with building Entosis Links. I've since completed building a couple dozen of the Tech II variety, which use a lot of exotic materials and are super-expensive to make. In fact, by my rough calculations, after costs for raw materials, invention and overhead, at current market prices, I stand to just about break even, if I'm lucky.

So, in summary, it's not worth building Entosis Link IIs if you are a high-sec industrialist. There's about a 10 percent margin on Entosis Link Is, however, if you collect the Antikythera Elements from Circadian Seekers yourself. But even then, relative to other kinds of ISK-earning activities available, you're not going to get fabulously wealthy making Entosis Links at any tech level.

What's next?

I still haven't really decided what I'm going to next in EVE Online. I think I may wait and see how the markets develop, now that Fozziesov is finally implemented, and unload my inventory if I can make a decent profit. Then I'll figure out where to go next.

The friendly exploration corp, Signal Cartel, still looks good to me, so I'll probably go there, if they will have me. They just crossed over the 500 member level. We shall see...

Fly safe! o7