Wednesday, July 23, 2014

FW Sov vs Null Sov: Setting Phasers to Fun

I've noticed a bit of a theme when it comes to the sov grind. Your average FW line pilot tends to get excited about taking important defended systems. The average null pilot does not seem to get very excited about a Sov push. During a slow night on comms, our pilots will begin to fondly tell stories of past campaigns; taking Innia, defending Nennamaila, vacationing in Huola. A lot of the Null guys I talk to, with a few exceptions, generally don't have much to talk about.

During a FW sov grind the pilots are motivated to participate with lines like, "Holy shit guys! My kill cup runneth over, you should get down here before you miss out on this!" During my null days it was more like, "Ok guys, let's get our shit together, it's time to go RF some towers." (I left null just prior to Dominion, though I hear the excitement of RFing structures hasn't improved all that dramatically).

So what gives? Why do we in lowsec FW Sov enjoy the activity so much while our cousins in null sec get to it with a grumbling resignation of "Let's get this over with"? Is there anything we could learn from FW and apply to null? I'll take a look at some key differences, and see if there's not something to glean from them.

1: Your Supers Can't Help You Here

This is one of the most obvious differences. In a lowsec Sov push, caps are the next thing to useless. You *could* drop them somewhere in system and conventionally warp them into a large complex, but that will get you only 1 out of every 4 complexes. If you can get the system to vulnerable 5 dreads can knock out the iHub in a single cycle, but all it takes is a couple guys in frigates to defensively cap a plex or two for it to go invulnerable again. Your fleet can't even lock the iHub at this point, and your system capture is on hold until you can gain plex superiority again... with your subcaps.

I've been on both the giving and receiving end of the iHub going invul before the system can be taken. It's frustrating as hell for an attacker, but the defenders are usually skittering around having a laugh because they just gave their fleet a bit of extra time to mount a proper defense. In these situations, if the system already got this high to begin with, it's likely to fall at some point anyway, but not today. If an attacker is using caps, they will usually evac them before someone with more caps shows up, but even then, a 40 or 50 man mixed subcap fleet is more than enough to take the iHub in 10-15 minutes.

While a huge limitation to the power of supers in FW is one of the biggest draws we have, for feasibility in null, I'm not sure there's much to carry over here. While many people are quick to bemoan the proliferation and power of Supercaps, I don't see a forced push away from them as going over too well, especially with the people that rely on them so much. If there was some part of the null sov grind that required subcaps it might make people who don't enjoy flying caps and supers feel a little more useful, but artificially limiting fights in null seems a little against the grain, so that brings us to...

2: 1000 Paper Cuts, The Benefit of Many Smaller Timers

To take a system in FW, at least one that's actively defended, the attacking force needs an around the clock presence. Plex timers run anywhere from 10-20 minutes. A capture will either add 20 Victory Points to the contested pool, or take 20 out of it. In a non-dust modified system, it takes 3,000 VP to make the iHub vulnerable, and that iHub has no RF timer; you put it to structure, you win.

Good indicator that someone's house is on fire in FW.
A FW FC has decisions to make when assaulting a system. There can be 4 (and sometimes more) plexes open at any given time. If you ball your fleet up in one of them, the enemy can stick a single dude in each of the other 3, and you won't be accomplishing anything. This requires splitting forces to maintain plex superiority, or a very nimble fleet to constantly push the enemy out of plexes while trying to keep timers going in your favor. A HAC/T2 Logi gang can effectively hold 2 out of the 4 plex types, but you also need a good number of frigates and destroyers to support your fleet and hold the other 2 types. If your enemy ships down and becomes too much for your small ship support to handle, as an FC you have to decide if you need to ship down your whole fleet as well to deal with it.

While the FW way of doing things seems to play back into that whole bit about forcing people to fly smaller ships, there IS something that might translate here. As it stands in null, you drop fleet, RF structure, take note of the timer, and then leave with plans to come back in a day or 2 to push it to the 2nd timer, and then hopefully a couple days after that to finally destroy it. If you're lucky you'll get a fight, and it won't result in an atrocious amount of TiDi. If you're unlucky, you'll be reading a book or shooting the shit on comms while trying to remember to hit F1 every couple of minutes between reloads.

In FW, leaving a system for 18 hours means giving the defender every opportunity to plex it back down a long way towards stable. What if sov null consisted of a larger number of timers that were shorter, spread out location wise, and encourage guerrilla warfare against larger entities with big slow fleets. Maybe 20-30 minute timers akin to FW plex buttons that require pilots in proximity to capture instead of raw DPS and wrecking balls. Guerrilla warfare would be feasible at this point, allowing smaller fleets to outmaneuver larger less nimble ones, or forcing those larger fleets to break apart to hold multiple objectives at once. I could go on all day about the tactics that would be required to hold and take multiple short timers over a 3 or 4 day period instead of 2 or 3 planned fights at a RF timer expiration, but I think most of you could figure this out for yourselves.

What I can say definitively, is that highly contested running battles that last for days on end are some of the most exciting times for a FW pilot. Even the solo and small gang guys that despise fleets have a good time flying around catching stragglers that can't keep up with their FC.

Of course I haven't addressed the issue of iHubs and outposts, but a system like this would allow for there not to be 2 long RF timers between grinding those structures 3 times.

3: YOUR Space is MY Income Source

Holding a system in FW means having access to the station in that system and denying its access to your enemies, but if you want to make the big FW LP money, you need to go to enemy territory to do it. Our PvE mission agents will send us 9-12 jumps mostly into enemy territory (not as much when we hold the majority of the zone) and if we opt for the plex for LP route, defensively plexing in your own systems, while easy, pays a fraction of running them in enemy held systems. We can mine or rat in our own systems of course, but unless we get lucky with a Mordu's spawn, the money in FW is in LP or exploding someones ship sporting an overpriced fit.

In this sense, losing the system next door to a fortress system is both good and bad. While it does offer the enemy a staging area to assault a fortress system more easily, it also provides a fertile farming ground if that enemy isn't on top of their game defending that staging area. when these assaults happen, often major fighting will occur in both systems in a tug of war to see who can oust who first. The fighting in 2013 between the Gallente in Nennamaila and the Caldari next door in Enaluri was legendary, with fleets attacking and defending both systems for nearly a week non stop until the Caldari were finally pushed out, and forced to evacuate the area.

While this is a huge win for FW and people looking for fights (someone running a plex in your system is likely looking to do some shooting) I'm not sure there's a translation here for null sec. If each alliance was an island unto itself, it could maybe work, but with coalitions being what they are, I can't see a way for CCP to code the game to tell the difference between your coalition buddy's space and that of "the other bloc". On top of this, with the size of nullsec, it would probably be too difficult for a bloc to say, strike a non essential system at the heart of the other bloc, and keep the logistics up in that system for an assault on the enemy's capital.

4: Conclusions

Looking at what are probably the 3 most major differences between FW and Null sov grinding, it might be a little easier to see why FW pilots tend to enjoy the grind more than their null cousins. Unfortunately, what null really needs is a complete overhaul, and I'm not sure there's much that can be taken from FW's successes to translate. I do see some merit in the 1000 Paper Cuts approach over the current meta (amassing as much supercapital damage as possible, RF, Timer, RF, Timer, Capture, with almost no focus on smaller operations or need for subcap support) but such change would have to accompany other mechanics, and would be a major undertaking on CCPs part.

I think many people will disagree on specifics at this point, but one thing I think I see almost everyone out in null saying these days is that the current system isn't all that good or fun, and something needs to change. The rest is all just details.

1 comment:

  1. I've done the null sov war bit and the FW bit and I had loads of fun in FW and not a lot doing the null sov bit.

    I agree that FW mechanics cannot simply be cut and pasted, but maybe there is a way forward for null sov in the underlying principles of FW. The best thing I liked about FW was that it was a form of use it or lose it; like you point out, you had to be active in a system to either take it or defend it.

    I enjoyed going after the ihub in FW. I felt like we were making real progress and it didn't require that we try to cajole people into getting up in the middle of the night for a game. No jump bridges and no titan bridges made a huge difference. The fact that we were risking battlecruisers as our most expensive asset made things even better. No caps = more fun. Or at least that was how it was for my corp, and most of them were former null sov warriors of far more experience than I.