Saturday, 24 November 2012

Eve: The future of Nullsec

Although Eve has moved a long way from its initial state it seems that at one time nullsec was envisioned as the end game of Eve. You start in high sec with safe low paying missions, graduate to low sec where the rule against interdiction bubbles means you can usually escape with your pod and the gate guns and stations create safe areas and finally graduate to null sec where the name implies there is no security, no safety. Ultimate danger, ultimate reward.

In a game so old and so based on emergent gameplay that picture has become distorted. Low sec has, for all the time I've been playing, been far more dangerous that null. Wormhole space is null sec on steroids - more dangerous, more rewarding although with peculiar local rules that limit the size of alliances. Bored nullseccers have turned their attention to high sec making some high sec activities (eg flying a freighter through Niarja, mining ice in Gallente space) amongst the most dangerous in Eve.

So what now is the point of nullsec? It's not the most lucrative, it's not the most dangerous. It's probably not the most interesting, null sec sov grinding being notoriously dull.

I think there are two answers, related to each other. 1) Politics and 2) Marking out a territory. Nowhere in Eve is the political game as important. You have to play politics and play it well. You have politics within your corp as people squabble over competing goals. You have politics within your alliance. You have politics within your coalition or if you don't have a coalition you have to politic your way into one. And all in aid of painting a corner of New Eden with your alliance's colours. (I'm excluding NPC null sec from this analysis as functionally it's more of an extension of low sec than typical null sec).

And what's the point of politics and conquest? Ego, marking your territory or even that weird consensual collective vanity that passes in the real world as nationalism.

So does null sec need "fixing"? It seems to be pretty popular. Although it attracts a high volume of moaning many of those moans are derived directly from how busy it is - lag and blobbing wouldn't happen if only 10 people wanted to do null sec.

There is perhaps a danger that the trend for growing coalitions could change the nullsec we know. What if the bigger coalitions become so dominant that you have to be blue or you're ousted? If that happened there would be no one to fight - nullsec could become a huge farming zone enlivened by the occasional cloaky ganker.

However that's possibly a matter for the players rather than the developers. If everyone wants to blue each other it's almost impossible to prevent, if everyone is relentlessly hostile and prefers a target-rich environment, likewise the players can force that to happen.

What we have seen in the last two years is the triumph of diplomacy over elitism. Alliance leaders who are bad at diplomacy, who make the key failures of making promises they don't keep or letting down other alliances who depend on them are on the way out. This is not necessarily a promise of perma-blue though as it's possible that leaders may decide against perpetual growth. There has to be a concern though as the TEST-led Honeybadger Coalition conquers Esoteria that the war machines may simply become too big not to feed and that Coalitions will be led despite their intentions into eliminating every possible enemy.

The next couple of years will be very interesting. But afterwards null sec Eve may become rather dull.


  1. Do you think the big alliances will need to keep manufacturing wars to keep their members interested?

    1. That probably won't be enough.

      Eve needs quite fundamental design changes to prevent null sec becoming a sea of bored blues, signed up to non-aggression with everyone, and hating it.

      Currently you'd have to be mad to move to null sec and not be part of one of the two big blob coalitions. If you're not with them they will at some point kill you. And they've grown so huge and amorphous that not even their leaders could turn around their inevitable and irresistible bloating.