Monday, October 26, 2009

How CCP handed 0.0 over to the goons.

[Continued from part 2 on Dominion]

…and there was much rejoicing.

In keeping with the spirit of the supercapitals 'fix', CCP once again demonstrates how easy it is to make things worse on 5 fronts by not thinking through the fix to one problem.

Last September the 9th saw many 0.0 players fall on their knees in ecstasy upon reading a few simple words in a Dev Blog:
"Sovereignty will no longer be tied directly to starbases."
…Then it went south.
Through several dev blogs, followed by a couple confused presentations during fanfest, CCP started unveiling what the new sovereignty system is supposed to look like — we're Oct 26th, the expansion release has been carved in stone for Dec 1st, and by all accounts, the final design for that stuff is far from frozen, meaning they expect to finalize design and have it good for production under a month time… this bodes well.

[Fair warning : Don't bother with this wall of text if you're not in one of those alliances already big and rich enough to sustain a megablob of SuperCarriers (pfrrt… this never gets old): Dominion will ensure you'll stick for the foreseeable future to Empire space where SuperCapitals aren't allowed — unless you fancy "pet" as a nickname.]

Dominion Sovereignty at a glance.
  • The sovereignty flagpole count per system goes down from N (between 1 and total # of moons in system) to one, and is now a player-deployed structure anchored near a planet that becomes functional (and invulnerable) 24h after launch time, thereafter granting sovereignty to the owner faction.
    • Sovereignty is challenged by deploying anchorables (disruptor fields) around stargates in system (at this writing 1/2 +1 of stargates # in system), which will render the flagpole vulnerable to attack after 12h of continuous occupation of the stargates with disruptor fields, then by destroying the flagpole to lift sovereignty on the system.
    • Once the system is returned to unclaimed state, it becomes possible to anchor a new flagpole to reclaim sovereignty.

  • Sovereignty levels are removed, and perks like constellation capital immunity with them.

  • Outposts are the new POS:
    • OP are captured by getting shot at enough, which kicks in a reinforced mode, then a second pass of shooting is required to finally seize the outpost… sounds familiar ?
    • Outpost control is no longer dependent on holding sovereignty, but informs whether the flagpole can be rendered vulnerable to damage — in short, if an outpost is present, then the OP must be captured prior to kicking down the flagpole — presumably you still need sovereignty in first place to deploy a new outpost.

  • System upgrades: The sovereignty holder can deploy a new "System Upgrade" structure (separate from the sov flagpole), that allows the installation of power-ups for the entire system. [Hopefully only the owner faction reaps the benefits, but I sense fun bugs ahead]
    • System upgrades are divided by fields and ranks, and will allow an alliance to boost PvE resources (more/better rats, wormholes, exploration sites), enable the deployment of industrial/tactical/logistics advanced modules on POSes (cynogen/jammers, bridges, capital assembly arrays, etc.) or extra abilities for outposts (SuperCarriers parking).
    • CCP is undecided at this stage whether system upgrades vanish when sovereignty is lost/seized, or if they can be reclaimed by the conqueror as spoils of war.

  • A new Treaty system is underway, which is intended to help formalize relationships between an alliance and third-party corps or alliances. Main stated goals are to ease standings management, and allow alliances to formally rent or loan estate in their space to non-member corporations. This part being even fuzzier than the rest of the big-item features of Dominion, it's hard to comment on specifics (see more below about the implications, though).

  • New Upkeep fees are put in place, that space-owning alliances will have to acquit for each of their systems. The stated intent is to discourage alliances from hoarding space they don't use via fiscal pressure.

  • In semi-separate news, the revenue of moon mining is somewhat rebalanced by changing the recipes for many T2 items in order to favor lower-rarity materials, and Alchemy (which enables one to cook rare materials by combining less-rare ones) sees its output boosted significantly (x3 to x5 last time I heard).

Now, for the fun part…
The stated design goals for the Dominion sovereignty rewrite, as far as I can gather from various panels, dev blogs, forum posts and presentations:

1.— Get rid of POS warfare, especially of the spam flavor:

Arguably check, and a welcome while long-overdue change, although the lack of imagination displayed with the 'new' outpost capture mechanics (essentially a POS-like system with some random factor thrown in the duration of reinforced mode) is disappointing.

2.— Discourage 'afk alliances' and make room for new colors and more conflict on the map:

The notion of imposing diminishing returns and progressive penalties on alliances that hold more than N-value space, it's not entirely off-mark, except for two things:
3.— Make territorial warfare more 'cerebral' (I'm not making this up) to break the blob, also sovereignty is now 'descriptive, rather than prescriptive' (not kidding either).

Assuming my translation of T0rfi-speak is not too far off, 'more cerebral' territorial warfare is to be understood as 'less of a rail-guided race', and there were also some wishful words about it reducing blobbery.
Since we all know a blob is a faceless and brainless way to win wars, I guess CCP fallaciously concluded that invoking 'cerebral' as a power-word would magically shoo the blob away. Let me know how that works out for you next time you try to stop an incoming train by standing very still and using nothing but the power of your brain.

If you've read the summary of Dominion sovereignty mechanics above, one thing is obvious: there is neither obligation nor incentive to split the blob across multiple locales in system, much less across several systems.
  • As an attacker: enemy outposts are vulnerable at all times, so the obvious optimal path is to steamroll each and every foreign outpost system in sequence down to reinforced mode, while dropping disruption fields at every gate on the way, just for kicks ; then take it again from the top right on time to finish the outposts off, and presto, you have evicted the locals from their space housing.

  • As a defender: cycle-blobbing each gate in turn should be a viable strategy to waste hostile onlining disruptor fields, thus repeatedly resetting the 12h timer, negating the impact of outpost losses on your sovereignty's defense— not that it will do you much good, as we'll see in a moment.
If the attacker ever manages to lift flagpole invulnerability by smartly playing timezone offsets with its disruptor fields, the next obligatory move (that would be prescriptive in Greyscalespeak) is a giant dogpile over the flagpole — that's every ship in presence forcibly duking it out inside one grid. Good times.

The predictable pattern resulting from the confrontation of reasonably matched contenders is quite a few outposts ping-ponging every couple days, regardless of sovereignty, which becomes rather meaningless.
In the case of unevenly-matched contenders, and immediately after the local outpost has been surprise-raped, the blob will split, indeed, to the tune of one blob per gate until it's time for the aforementioned giant dogpile on the flagpole. Expect quite a lot of that.
Fun fact: the blob was already split over gates during an invasion, in order to control access to the system, so the benefits of this model in terms of blob-splitting hotspots count are exactly — count'em — zero.
Interestingly, assuming CCP goes for the option of not allowing capture of the 'Upgrade center' and instead decides to have it go poof on sovereignty shift, it may be more interesting for an invader to entirely ignore sovereignty and be content to focus on seizing outposts, leaving for the defender to pay Upkeep bills while the attackers milk the juicy NPCs attracted by the now-homeless defenders' system upgrades.

I'm sure a great many wars won descriptively through cerebral harassment tactics applied to renters by swarms (not blobs) is exactly what CCP had in mind when they came up with this design — they, the goons lovers.
Oh, poetic justice.

[On a lighter note, I'll cover tomorrow some of the more promising among Dominion features, and after that, I'll move away from pointing and laughing to offer some possible solutions to the 0.0 clusterfuck. Stay tuned.]

No comments:

Post a Comment