Friday, 24 April 2015

A tactical and strategic analysis of the Entosis system

Fozziesov, as it's called, the system of sovereignty based on activating a specialised module will replace the current system of hit point grind on (probably) June 2nd. Rarely has an upcoming feature been discussed in so half-arsed a manner. Newbie alliances with large memberships talk about "winning Eve" as if the game will be handed to them all wrapped up in a bow. Other people spot the withdrawal from soon-to-be vulnerable nullsec of formerly major powers and predict the end of sov as we know it, as if vast swathes of space are about to be left abandoned and desolate as no one will be able to bear living there.

Let's start by getting the second point out of the way - what it means that certain alliances are withdrawing from sov ownership.

NC. are dropping their sov and have deployed to low sec to launch a campaign against Providence. (Possibly to spite Imperium who have announced that they intend to harass Provi in June).

PL dropped most of their sov and handed their renter empire over to XDeath for a tidy sum of cash. They then made more cash on top being hired to go back to defend it and, at the rate Triumvirate are going may be hired once again by XDeath in the near future. They are currently on contract to attack Nulli who immediately caved and thus are conquering Esoteria unopposed. Elements have already popped up in Provi as the movement of superpowers against the last game preserve in Sov Null becomes a stampede.

Nulli have announced they will move to Curse.

FA have collapsed.

Kadeshi have collapsed.

Darkness. have been pushed out of Delve by the CFC/Imperium.

Imperium are mopping up in Delve and then will retreat 3 full regions giving up Delve Fountain and Cloud Ring.

So is this disaster, is the sky fallling? No.

With the change to an occupancy based sov system people who won't fight for the sov they live in are no longer viable sov holders. So distant landlords like NC. can no longer own vast almost unattended empires. Nor are renters viable, the renter system does occasionally throw up a half decent kitchen sink pvp fleet but any well organised alliance will cut through them like butter.

Instead we are about to see a vast influx into null of alliances that previously would have been too weak to get a foothold. 1000 man alliances, finding their feet and working stuff out as fast as they can, patching deals where they can. Null sec will fill with small weaker powers clinging to a small corner of space and fighting as hard as they can for it. They will from time to time be utterly stomped on by superpowers like PL but those powers always move on, allowing the survivors to crawl out from the ashes and re-establish. Many of these small balkanised alliances will be former renters going it alone.

The dominant quality of entosis sov will be persistence.

This has been pioneered already in nullsec by -A-. When -A- is doing well they control Catch and look beyond its borders to make trouble for other people. When they're not doing well they turtle up in Stain and run missions until the heat dies down. Then they come creeping back into Catch. They've done this for almost a decade, a tide coming in and going out.

The North West corner of the map will belong to The Imperium, the last superpower standing in sov null. By drawing back they've increased the density of their players relative to their sov - all of it will be occupied. If they have weaknesses they can move more players to that spot. They will also hugely benefit from the tendency of everyone in null sec to seek out someone weaker than themselves as targets - why hit The Imperium when you can pick on Phoebe Freeport Republic or DIP?

The future of Brave - unless we start getting a lot stronger - is to be one of these Balkan ministates, Croatia or something. And that's planned for - our new home will be YZ- in NPC Fountain, a base that allows for and expects total sov loss.

The future of other alliances is a function of their playing styles. Alliances where most people rat, mine or run sites, breaking every now and then for pvp will be absolutely dominant. There are a lot of such alliances - almost all The Imperium works like this, Nulli, Brave, Test. Alliances that just want to be industrial and not pvp won't hold sov, they'll have to merge in with pvpers. No one will want to put out 5 fires a day in someone else's space, it's entirely too tedious. Alliances where everyone's a pvper and no one rats like PL and BL will have to develop leverage over the others so that they get paid - kingmaking wars, extorting tribute or whatever. In the long run I think the game will be gradually designed away from that playstyle but at first they will get paid over and over by people who just want to not have their space taken.

PL and BL at heart are Eve aristocracy. With PL approximately 100 real people multiboxed to victory against 1500 BRAVE formups, which would have been pretty close to 1500 real people. There's no way these Eve patricians want to play tug of war for half an hour at the time with grubby little scrubs in Moas over who gets to set off a timer, these guys simply don't play like that. One of the distinguishing features of Fozzie sov is that it's a time sink and a competitive time sink at that. If the other guy's willing to put in 3 hours a day every day for years you match it or you lose. It doesn't matter if you have a bigger ship, if he's there and you're not, he wins.

Hey Guys, let's move to Cloud Ring!

Let's now turn to the tactical side.

There's been a lot of rubbish written about trollceptors etc but the dev blog states:

The result of all these design features is that the best method to exert control over a structure with the Entosis Link is to establish effective military control over the grid around the target structure.

Trollceptors are an idea intended to subvert that goal but let's just suppose the goal is achieved without being subverted. I think this is by far the most likely outcome. And if I'm wrong whatever exploit will be fixed until it works as intended.

So it's all about grid control, otherwise known as winning fights.

And here's the thing - pretty much the same things will win fights in Fozziesov as win them now.

There are some tactical differences and they all favour the attacker. The attacker gets to choose whether to attrit the ships or try to capture all the sites. The defender has to be prepared to repulse either type of attack.

Let's suppose I have 50 guys and I want to attack an alliance that gets 100 in fleets. We make some timers and 2 days later we go back and the defender is positioning to defend command node anomalies all over their space. Let's say they split into 5 20 man fleets led by rookie FCs. My best move might be to defeat a 20 man fleet in detail while using dictor bubbles to delay reinforcement. As the attacker I don't need to win the event, hitting them over and over and winning many small victories is likely to demoralise them and reduce their numbers. If my opponent concentrates his forces in one large fleet I can split my guys, having them in fast ships that escape easily attacking multiple command nodes all over his space, again using dictors to slow my opponent's ability to re-position.

The best way to defend then is likely to be much more aggressive approaches to intruders, particularly in the time zone vulnerability window, with home defence fleets forming quickly and chasing down roaming gangs. If you dither on defence then all your stuff gets reinforced, your stations become freeports and command node crises burn out your guys.

It so favours the attacker that I think we will see more defensive buffs coming later in the year.

What it does mean is a huge demand for fast agile gangs, not so much to defend the command node events but to prevent them ever happening. We'll see more gate camps, more ambush tactics and other methods of hurting intruders.

In Fozzie sov everyone has to fight, the ability to ignore attackers and patch things up after they've gone is hugely reduced.

I think we'll see a lot of use of the T2 entosis links which cost 80 million isk or so rather than the T1. The shorter cycle time and long range of the T2 may help it survive contested fights as the Entosis ship is the obvious primary and can't receive reps. We are also likely to see variants of very tanky solo pvp fits, like triple rep Myrmidons, used as Entosis ships. A small ship could simply be blapped off the field by a dozen talwars even if protected by a substantial fleet. PL's arty Claw doctrine may see wider use for entosis defence. Warp in, blap it, warp out. Doesn't matter if they have 100 guys, if you can kill it in 5 goes you'll defend.

I think there's some confusion over the time it takes to entosify (or whatever) a structure. It takes an initial cycle plus base 10 minutes which can be improved for the defender by ratting and mining indices. In situations where both sides are killing the other side's entosis ships, each second their ship is dead and ours is working is +1 second to us, until enough time has accrued to capture or defend the node.

Example: Pizza decide to troll Goons and take a small gang of thrashers up to entosis the VFK station. They have a few ships with T2 entosis links. They start running one of them at 11.09. At 11.11 the first cycle is finished and a warning flashes throughout the system. Except for a few idiots who decide to take a look by themselves and get blapped by the Thrashers Goons are rather slow forming and the timer is now ticking up for real uncontested. At 11.15 Goons land on grid and start using a T1 Entosis link. This does nothing until it has finished its first cycle so time is still accruing to the attackers. For some reason no one rats or mines in VFK these days so there's no sov bonus. At 11.20 the Goon link starts working. The Pizza link ran uninterrupted from 11.11 to 11.20 so 9 minutes has accrued. At 11.23 Pizza manage to catch and kill the Goon defensive entosis ship. At 11.24 another minute has accrued (the next Goon supposed to run a link forgot his stront) and the station enters reinforced mode and becomes a freeport. Goons will have a nervous 48 hours before they run a major defensive op to regain control. If Pizza bring in allies to contest that op then the capture event could potentially last hours if closely contested and while it will start in Goons's 4 hour preferred timezone window it could run way past that opening up content opportunities for other timezones. This means AU timezone is relevant even where alliances set for US timezone if the event lasts for several hours spilling into the next time zone.

This is how I think it works, I may be in error on some of the details. The example shows how important it is to have some progress on the indices made by ratters and miners, in other words to actually use the space.

My alliance, BRAVE, typically takes 10-20 minutes to form up. Fozziesov is going to be .....interesting.

One of the interesting aspects of this is the metagame. We have a new system that was developed after extensive consultation with the CSM, a body that's always tended to have very strong CFC representation. We have a new null paradigm that has caused the CFC to be the last null superpower standing with their opponents giving up and leaving. Now the way this has been done is not by deceit or bribes or anything so crude, it's by that deadliest of political weapons - the reasonable argument. All the points that Goons have pushed are reasonable, make complete sense, are better than any of the advertised alternatives and suit Goons more than anyone else. And that's a level of metagame that almost none of their rivals even seem to comprehend, let alone contest. Gevlon, Cassandra-like, has been yelling about this all along.

Now don't get me wrong, the new sov system suits me down to the ground, will be tremendous fun for me as a Skirmish FC and will in general make Eve a better game. I'm just a little wry about how it came to pass. (And I flew with the CFC for a year, helping them dominate).

Now let's talk about time zones. There's been a lot of concern about lack of content for people outside the main time zone. If Brave sets all its timers to late US I'll rarely see a strat op. However there's still tons of stuff to do. I can reff pocos, reff towers, gate camp, attack other people's space where it's in a more convenient time zone and entosis links can be run on some structures including station services. So I can hellcamp someone's station while easily turning off all their services if I have grid control. And of course if I can win in my timezone I can make a case for putting timers to my timezone, especially if the US aren't doing well. Coalitions may split timers too to provide content fairly to all their members. There is a class of player who only likes strat ops, those guys will be a bit boned if they are outside their alliance's main time but for the rest of us there will be no shortage of things to do.

Regarding ships I think the ship to watch for will be the Jackdaw. I said earlier that the same things that win fights now will win fights (and therefore control grids) after Fozziesov comes in. Of course the Jackdaw itself is a change to the ship combat meta. I described how fast gangs with great disengagement potential will be key to contesting command nodes. Currently that meta is dominated by the Svipul and next week's nerf isn't going to be enough to dethrone it. The Jackdaw with T2 rigs can reach a range of 114km, both targeting range and missile flight range. The other T3 destroyers don't really project anything past 50km. This superior projection should be enough to see Jackdaw gangs completely dominate these grids, disengaging easily from anything able to fight them. There are a couple of small ships that shoot nearly that far. A cormorant can but it's absolutely tankless. A harpy can and retains a bit of tank so we may see The Imperium's massive harpy fleets doing pretty well. Within this meta it's hard to "quality up." You could use Zealots or Nagas as superior snipers but the Jackdaws or Harpies can just leave and hit an alternative site. People who don't theorycraft this may find that they're unable to cope with 50 man Jackdaw gangs that can hit them anywhere they want.


  1. Well, more D3 gangs. Doesn't that sound like fun...

    Unlike you, I am beginning to feel terribly disappointed by the Command Node idea of FozzieSov. If encouraging more people into meaningless Kiting PvP is CCP's aim, then congratulations to them. The lack of 'skin in the fight' kiting gangs commit is already stupidly low. If they can project to that stupid level whilst still fitting a 10mn AB (otherwise known as the 'get out of PvP free card), I suspect that most people will simply give up on holding sov. CCP will no doubt mis-read this problem as being to do with Ishtars or Supercapitals or some other bugbear CCP has.

    Honestly, I think the concept of power creep has simply evaporated from CCP's collective memory. CCP needs to introduce handicaps for being in one mode verses another, and make the time to switch between nodes much longer. Yes, Modes are a interesting idea, but when a ship can radically rearrange itself over a short period of time, maybe it might suffer from drawbacks as well. A ship shouldn't be able to engage and disengage so freely, whilst remaining so tanky.

    To my mind: Sniper mode should have a significant speed and tank penalty, above and beyond the base line stats, and the same with the other 2 modes. A ship in sniper mode should be as fragile as a china vase, and as slow as a tortoise.

    I don't believe CCP will do this, because they love their shiny new ships too much to see how totally they have demolished the strengths of the rest of anything sub-cruiser.

    The problem of exposure and risk whilst kiting is something CCP will have to figure out, because my solution is so radical that even the Bolsheviks would be hesitant.

    (and wow, was this a bitter post or what? I stand by the main points, even if I can't agree with the language)

    Rob K.

    1. Well they're nerfing T3 destroyers next week. The main effect of the nerf will be to rein in 10mn fits so it's worth giving them a little time to see how that pans out.

      I think we need battleships to enjoy a rennaissance. If Apocs could hit svipuls at 100km reliably then we might see a better meta.

      Personally I'm a real fan of brawler ships and even in the new meta they'll have their place.. All this movement within the constellation will make jumping into a bubble camp of 100 Merlins really unpleasant, especially for T3 dessies.