Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Exegesis — Introduction.

[Continued from Dicing the blob (part 1)]

A few days ago I outlined a sovereignty model that I think would give us a more diverse and exciting nullsec map, where alliances of various styles and sizes could prove viable. The core concepts aren't exactly new, at least to me and some other spacenerds who have long been advocating a revamp of 0.0, but with Dominion around the corner, it sounds like it's the last opportunity we'll have to hope for a better nullsec before another 5 years (average cycle length of CCP's iterations on sovereignty).

Sovereignty mechanics that encourage alliances to preserve the wilderness around their colonized space would go a long way toward reducing sovereignty sprawl, and would create plenty of opportunities for skirmishes on the wild lands hunting grounds…which solves about 1/3 of the compound problem that stops so many people from punching their ticket into the frontier life.

The rest can be easily summed in one sentence:
Territorial warfare sucks, especially if you're the defender against a giant blob.
Beyond making you wish you were killing sewers bats to level up in Everquest instead, blob-centric territorial warfare has a nasty habit of making 0.0 colonization a near-suicidal project for any alliance under 2000 members, or without a direct line to the executor of one such, plus a solid set of filthy pictures thereof — believe it or not, that's a luxury many otherwise perfectly good and enterprising alliances lack, and which, in my n00b-lover heart I believe shouldn't be a requirement to get to play the end-game of EVE… paint me pink and call me a carebear now, please.

Thus, dicing the blob is not just about making territorial battles (more?) fun for a greater proportion of 0.0 players, it's also about giving small to medium alliances a fair fighting chance by allowing smart tactics to beat the numerical odds.

Hence, behold… Sovereignty 2.0, a.k.a Exodus-at-last, a.k.a Dominion-my-tushie, a.k.a:


[Fair warning: past this point, the easy mode ends, Exegesis model is a tad more involved than Dominion, and although the resulting in-game experience should have a fairly smooth flow to it, there are quite a few moving pieces underneath to make this possible.]

First, let me introduce my s33krit weapon to you: Commandeering !
Ouchie… yeah, it's a bit cold, sorry. It'll hurt but for a minute.

Commandeering (a.k.a FoF Tuning) is a non-destructive PvP mechanic, which allows you to capture enemy ships and space assets such as secure containers and other anchorables, POS control towers and Outposts, and seize control of stargates, acceleration gates and other Sovereignty Structures.
Not only does it open a wealth of opportunities for cool PvP such as convoy escort/attack, it is the pivotal element of a new, better sovereignty warfare system.

Gameplay-wise, it falls somewhere between EW jamming and capacitor neutralization/transfer: high-slots utility modules (FoF Tuners) allow you to project signal on a target, precisely tuned to your Alliance/Corp/Personal frequency.
  • As you pump out megawatts of tuning power into your poor victim's electronics, it drains the target's current tuning charge, assuming your FoF frequency and theirs differ… and if they match, it's still pretty much like cap/shield transferring mechanics: you boost them up to their maximum possible charge.

  • After you manage to suck your target dry (Neutralize it), your tuning signal starts charging them back up, only now it's on your FoF frequency instead of theirs.

  • The end result, if you push enough signal through to bring the target back up to its 'nominal charge level' is you hijack its controls, and Commandeer it.

  • Of course, the target doesn't have to be an entirely hapless victim: most potential targets enjoy some kind of passive recharge to their tuning, and it is possible for other players to counter your Neutralization/Commandeering attempts by boosting or Neutralizing your target with their own FoF Tuners.
It gets more brainy, but that's the gist of it, and it can do for the purpose of this article, so we'll leave it at that for now.

Why do we need yet another type of weapon/warfare ?

Glad you asked: because it's non-destructive, and that makes a big difference for sovereignty warfare. I also personally am all giddy at the prospect of commandeering enemy ships by forcibly ejecting their pilots after bringing them into structure — something I feel has been sorely missing from EVE like, forevah — but that's for a separate discussion.

Non-destructive PvP creates tactical/strategic parameters one can't just wish away through the simple invocation of obscene firepower, which is about the only thing a blob knows how to do. If you can't gank your way, every step of the way, to a railed victory, and you actually have to keep your eyes on many different goals at once, you soon realize you'll need more than a few brains to do the job(s), brains that should be granted some autonomy in how to play the ball… see where I'm going with that ?

FoF Tuning is straightforward and intuitive enough to entail almost no learning curve for pilots, yet brings an all-new dimension to how you think about seizing territory: because the goal is to affirm your superiority over multiple hotspots that can't simply be erased one after another with DPS (as is the case with POSes, or HUBs, or Disruptor Fields), you actually have to occupy those landmarks, and if you're in the habit of not going anywhere without your 800 blobmates, you'll find that the lot of you always ends up covering only a fraction of the playground you should.

Summarily, you'll now have to shoot hostile ships where they are messing with your stuff, instead of blowing up barns while the enemy's asleep on the other side of the Date Line.

Territorial warfare, Exegesis-style.
Besides the introduction of FoF Tuning, the three most significant new factors in Exegesis tactics, compared to Apocrypha or Dominion are the introduction of Planetary Sovereignty, real-time Occupancy, and dynamic, progressive sovereignty modifiers.

Planetary Sovereignty:

Where System Sovereignty is the standard unit of deep-space nation building, Planetary Sovereignty constitutes the finer level of territorial granularity that brings a new dimension to battles for solar-scale control: more than one faction/alliance can now benefit from active sovereignty (and associated defensive perks) simultaneously, inside a single solar system.
This simple (?) change allows to significantly boost the defensive benefits attached to each sovereignty level, making initially harder to gain a foothold in a well-defended system, but rewarding committed Challengers with a defensible staging point from which to take their next move.
The requirement to consolidate gained ground during an invasion also opens the Challengers to counter-strikes, making this much harder to rely on traditional scorched-earth strategies that overly favored those Challengers who could bring the most numbers to the battlefield without committing to defense.

Real-time Occupancy:

The ability to maintain, challenge or seize sovereignty in Exegesis is tied to one's ability to assert Occupancy over the coveted space by Controlling Sovereignty Tokens (through FoF Tuning).
There are no hard-timers restrictions on how fast one can seize or lose Tokens to meet of fail Occupancy requirements, but speedbumps exist to mitigate timezone and initiative advantage, in the form of nested Occupancy requirements that limit the capacity of a party to beeline for the heart of the enemy's sovereignty (see below).
Because most Sovereignty Structures (Tokens and Flagpoles) can passively recharge as long as sovereignty benefits are in effect, it is generally unpractical to simply pwn and move on when attempting to seize sovereignty — building Occupancy really entails occupation.

The most pedestrian Sovereignty Tokens are stargates, a number of which must be seized (or at least denied to other contenders) via FoF Tuning to gain access to a Sovereignty Flagpole of interest.
Stargate conquest comes with a twist in that one often has to work both sides of a jump simultaneously to gain Control of stargates — it is not possible to attempt Commandeering of a stargate while its sister (on the other side of the jump) is under the Control of a different faction.

Balance between Challengers and Defenders is achieved in large part thanks to asymmetric Occupancy requirements for any given goal, depending on each contender status relative to the coveted Sovereignty Flagpole (Owner/Defender, Controller or not, etc.) — this grants the model extra flexibility for easy tweaks to the balance during testing and after release.

Dynamic, progressive sovereignty modifiers:

Starting at Planetary Sovereignty level and going up from there, sovereignty benefits act both as boosters to the Defender(s) fighting abilities and as filters that help break the onrush of the enemy.

Most Sovereignty Flagpoles are now found in player-colonized deadspace complexes (Planetary and Solar Dungeons), which must be explored to reach the Dungeon Control Center (DCC) chamber before the DCC can be Neutralized or Commandeered.

Travel from a Dungeon room to the next is done via player-built acceleration gates known as Dungeon Mass Drivers (DMD) which are hardly destructible, yet can be used by pilots of any faction who manage to seize Control of the DMD (or enjoy a Defender right-of-way perk), provided their ship class is not restricted by applicable Sovereignty Immunities.

Basic sovereignty benefits, from Planetary level and up include:
  • boosts to your faction's ships Sensor Resolution (faster lock) and FoF Tuners' efficiency,
  • a blanket boost to all your space assets' (ships, structures, anchorables, Outposts) FoF Tuning strength (how much maximum Tuning charge they can hold),
  • …and to their Passive Tuning Recharge rate (where applicable).
Various levels of sovereignty benefits combine in beautiful an intricate ways.

Sovereignty and Occupancy not only affect your faction's ships and Sovereignty Structures attack/defense in FoF Tuning, or determine how many hotspots your group must cover at once to achieve its objectives, but they also inform which ship classes can reach any given Sovereignty Flagpole, and (to some extent), what kind of trouble they could run into on the way.

Other notable stuff:

4-tiered Sovereignty: Planetary, Solar, Constellar, Regional.
  • Planetary Sovereignty enables to control an existing outpost around the planet, and builds up Occupancy for Solar sovereignty, in addition to other Planetary Defender benefits.

  • Solar Sovereignty allows to build an outpost per system (on a Controlled Planet), and enables forcefield charge on outpost(s) owned by the Solar Defender. It also comes with Solar Defender benefits and contributes to build Occupancy for Constellation Sovereignty purposes.

  • Constellar Sovereignty allows the construction of a second outpost in the Constellation Capital solar system after all systems in Constellation are doted with one Outpost (not mandatory, and can be gamed by design by rotating capitals).
    Constellation Sovereignty also triggers Neighborhood rules in addition to Constellar Defender benefits, and contributes to Occupancy towards Regional Sovereignty.

  • Regional Sovereignty allows the Regional Defender to deploy an extra outpost in every system under its sovereignty (up to 3 in Constellar Capital Systems), and triggers Heartland Takeover Immunity in addition to other Regional Defender Benefits.
    Regional Defender's sovereign constellation connected to nothing but same-faction sovereign Constellations can still be lost, but the Challenger won't be able to claim Constellation Sovereignty over it until at least one connecting constellation is lost to the Regional Defender.

  • Can behave either/both as Sovereignty Flagpoles (when they're Constellation or Regional Capital) and Sovereignty Tokens (as they contribute to protect their respective planet from capture).

  • Can now raise a forcefield (with system sovereignty) and operate defensive modules, both of which cost fuel (besides applicable ammo supplies) to remain active.

  • Now with a self-destruct button ! Sounds crazy, but there could be real reasons to want to get rid of an outpost in Exegesis (due to the impact on Effective Security Status). No worries though, this one has a couple (long) hard-timers, and can be cancelled before it goes boom.

Dynamic Environment:

Effective Security Status is but a (big) part of the environmental changes introduced in Exegesis. Building up sovereignty and infrastructure may screw up with the local PvE resources, but it has the weird side effect of favoring the presence of more domestic species of NPCs, notably in Dungeons (see below).
Among the few PvE benefits of a high sovereignty modifier are the increased odds of Agents from NPC corporations setting up shop in your local outposts (if you allow them to), and higher-than-average chances to stumble on long-range wormholes (typically exiting far away, and deep in the red).
On the flipside, the odds of a long-range wormhole 'coming' from remote, very low Effective Sec Status and exiting into your cozy core systems are proportional to your own local Effective Sec Status modifier — expect many unannounced visitors of the non-NPC kind.


Starting as a beacon in a Cosmic Anomaly found within 4 AU of their respective celestial body, Planetary and Solar Dungeons can be colonized by player alliances by deploying Dungeon Mass Drivers (DMD) to explore their successive rooms before a Dungeon Control Center (DCC) can be erected in the deepest chamber of the mini-complex.
DMDs and DCCs are permanent structures that become virtually indestructible while a Dungeon is Owned by any faction — they can be Neutralized and/or Commandeered by any faction's pilots who meet Occupancy requirements.
  • DMDs will activate for their Owner faction pilots at any time, regardless of their Control state, while foreign ships must force their way through by Commandeering (or alternatively Hacking) them. Neutralizing and Commandeering DMDs is subject to Occupancy requirements. Seizing control of a DMD allows a foreign faction to activate it, but doesn't grant Ownership, which is inherited from the local DCC. Depending on applicable sovereignty modifiers, DMDs may restrict passage to certain classes of foreign ships, even if properly Commandeered.

  • DCCs are Sovereignty Flagpoles, and grant Planetary or Solar Ownership and Sovereignty to their Controlling faction. They burn special fuel pellets (manufactured from ice products and trade goods), and will revert to a Neutral state (but not Abandoned) if they run dry.

  • Planetary Dungeons are 3 rooms deep, including the entrance Space Anomaly and the DCC chamber. It takes two DMD warps to reach the DCC chamber from open space.

  • Solar Dungeons comprise a potential of 4 to 9 rooms (depending on planet count in system), not necessarily arranged in a chain, some of which can be left out (unconnected) at the colonizers' discretion.
    • Any direct path from the entrance deadspace pocket to the DCC chamber must range between 3 and 5 DMD warps.
    • Rooms can be set up as dead-ends, but no two rooms can be connected together both ways by DMDs (no 2-warps round trips).
    • Any room can fit up to 3 'exit' DMDs, and be reached from no more than 2 rooms.
  • Dungeons are home to a local fauna of drone-type NPCs, which can adopt a variable stance towards visitors, depending on applicable sovereignty modifiers, ranging from hostile to neutral or even friendly.
    The quantity and type of Dungeons drones scale dynamically depending on the pilots entering their room.
    Solar Dungeons, in addition to drones, may sport player-deployed sentry turrets and EW around their DMD(s), fueled from the local DCC CPU/Grid and fuel (requires Constellation and Solar sovereignty combined). These defenses inherit Ownership from the DCC, but can potentially be Neutralized or Commandeered by third-parties to be turned away/against the Dungeon Defenders.
Neighborhood rules: Cosmology matters in Exegesis ! …sorta.

Neighborhood rules (Nr) simply mean the sovereignty status of your surroundings have an impact on local conditions.

In their simplest form, Nr dictate that you can't Commandeer a stargate while its sister (on the other side of the jump) is Controlled or otherwise Tuned positively for another faction ; thus you must first Neutralize both, and only then can try and Commandeer the stargate you want, while making sure to keep at least some FoF Tuning going on the other gate to 'plug the tub'.
Fun fact: Nr apply to border zones of NPC space, too, so you may have to hijack lowsec/nullsec gates under the nose of the local Navy, which certainly won't mind… certainly.

On a broader scale, Constellation Sovereignty gives the Constellar Defender a boost to the tuning strength of all its assets in the constellation, even in systems that are Abandoned or under third-party sovereignty.
Sovereignty Tokens and Flagpoles belonging to the Constellar Defender also enjoy a bonus to their passive recharge rate, including every stargate in the constellation that connects to a system (in or out of constellation) belonging to the Constellar Defender (stargate ownership in Abandoned systems defaults to the Constellation Defender's if available).

The BigMap™ expression of Nr is Heartland Takeover Immunity, which requires Regional Sovereignty (rather tricky to claim and maintain), and prevents a Challenger from establishing a Constellation Capital in any constellation entirely surrounded by Sovereign Constellations belonging to the Regional Defender (that doesn't stop a Challenger from lifting the Regional Defender's Constellation Sovereignty, only from re-claiming it right away).


OK, I can see you're all dizzy already, so we'll take a short recess, and I'll see you after the break for some examples.

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