Sunday, November 22, 2009

DevBlog #714 — dominion upkeep and upgrades

Catching up on Dev Blogs, I found the mouth for Dominion's sovereignty overhaul has spoken again, although no cute flowcharts this time…
After the giant whinethread, the Upkeep costs have suffered a big hit of the nerfbat, in addition to a healthy boost granted to the weakest type of PvE upgrade (more mini-plexes spawns) both of which were obviously things to do, and arguably the right reaction (although it's still pouring fresh water down a leaking barrel, design-wise).

A welcome — if overdue — change is the announced reduced price of tier 2-3 upgrades for Outposts: the tier 3 are currently so stupidly pricey that spawning another tier 2-upgraded outpost is actually running cheaper than upgrading from tier 2 to tier 3, limiting the instances of tier 3 upgrades to a count of roughly 0 to date. Only question being: who'd want to sink more ISK in high end outposts when they basically can't be defensible anymore ?

Other changes are less enlightened: the halving of the online time of SBUs (from 6 to 3 hours) is not so bad, as it hastes a bit the pace of Stargate contests, but the reduction on the random factor variation applied to reinforcement timers (for Outposts and HUBs) fosters blobbery even more than before.

Where CCP designs smarts really shine however, is with the "Usage indices": now decoupled from the actual Infrastructure Upgrades that support the boosts on PvE/industry resources.
The intended goal of this significant change to the model is to allow the conquerors of a well-developed solar system to be able to readily deploy their own Infrastructure HUB and PvE upgrades to replace those they've just destroyed, as the Usage Indices that determine which PvE/Industry upgrades can be installed/onlined will persist for a little while (couple days at most) after the previous landlords's HUB has been wiped out.

This is… wait for it… awesome ! Broken™ !
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 and roids attracted by the now-homeless defenders' system upgrades.
Unless I missed something, this approach would remain entirely viable in this last revision.
Although the invaders have to somewhat 'suspend' sovereignty immunities in order to seize an Outpost (by spamming SBUs on 51% of the gates long enough for the Outposts to be captured) there is no indication (from the published Dev Blogs) this would magically destroy or disable the Defender's TCU or Infrastructure HUB permanently, until they actually get shot at.

There's a giant and obvious loophole here: it looks like it's perfectly practical to invade en masse, scare the lemmings away by stealing their outposts, but leave sovereignty and HUB alone, then for the squatters-conquerors to reap the benefits of the upgraded space at zero cost, while leaving for the evicted faction to pick up the tab of Upkeep Costs… Or did I miss something ?

Yes, I know there's this line in Seleene's previous Dev Blog:
Sovereignty is a requirement to have an Infrastructure Hub and it is not be possible to have a scenario where a system has an Infrastructure Hub and no sovereignty.
But unless the actual game mechanics support Abathur's statement, it's about as imperative and effective as asking ore-stealers to "Leave my cans alone !".

Assuming I fail reading comprehension, or it's just something that didn't make it into Dev Blogs, but really is addressed in the ruleset, that still leaves the possibility to invade a system with 800 peeps, not bother with capturing shit (maybe just screw a bit with gates and SBUs for dramatic effect), and mine / rat away at no Upkeep Costs, then head back home (say NPC 0.0 stations nearby).

I'm sure this is CCP's idea of 'dynamic, cerebral sovereignty warfare', and people will just jump at the irresistible opportunity to spend bazillions of ISK developing and maintaining infrastructure for others to (ab)use, when they could more easily go rape the small-alliance neighbours instead — because we know how kindhearted and caring blobbing alliances are.

Quoting myself once again:
Strong defensive and industrial benefits should come from developing high levels of sovereignty and infrastructure, which should incur heavy penalties for local PvE resources.

Keep true-sec as it is, significantly boost base wealth in conquerable null-sec, make loot/spawn tables adjust dynamically (downward) based on local infrastructure, average population, local and surrounding sovereignty 'score' (which conversely boost and enable industry/defense perks), and you have a system that gives the edge to small-medium alliances built on a well-coordinated mix of PvPers and industrialists over sprawling herds of PvE hunter-gatherers, while forcing codependency between both styles, and creating interesting friction areas in the interstitial, richer wild lands.

Funny-in-a-sad way, how easily this doomed race against design cracks could have been avoided by simply having local PvE resources adjust the other way around relative to player sovereignty and infrastructure, but have no fear: slapping patch after patch over leaky pipes is a proven way to make spaceships fly happily forevah.

Madness, baby, madness.

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