An oft-repeated line these days is that power projection in EVE is just too easy. Titan bridges, jump bridges and jump drives all combine to make the establishment and defense of super-empires too easy. This, in turn, makes it difficult for small groups to compete.
Today, I'd like to take a look at one of those elements in particular: the jump drive. Thanks to jump drives, capital ships of all kinds can cover great distances with ease. Massive forces can be moved across the galaxy with leapfrogging titans, while enormous logistical undertakings are trivialized thanks to jump freighters. Clearly, if we reduce the range, the amount of space held by powerblocs will necessarily shrink, allowing smaller groups to live and thrive.
Or so proponents of such changes claim. I happen to think otherwise. Nerfs to jump drives would, in fact, have little meaningful impact on those larger groups and only increase the burden on a notional small group of newcomers.
An analogy often provided by proponents of a jump drive nerf is the real life movement of warships. Without fuel and other supplies, those warships don't move, and their support fleets of subcaps are badly equipped or non-existent. That makes logistics the most important thing potentially affected by these ideas. In the current state of EVE, everything is imported, from ships, to guns, to ammo. Even in a far future, where locally available low ends combined with good production facilities may allow for easy production, importation will still likely be required. Fuel for POSes and capital ships is regional and so must come from elsewhere. Unless CCP goes so far as to make all moon materials available everywhere (which would be a bad change for other reasons), Tech II production would continue to require regional moon products. Whether you opted to run the production chains yourself or skip the effort and buy from Empire, you're moving something in, most likely by Jump Freighter.
So let us present a scenario. You're the head of a close-knit three hundred pilot alliance, small by most standards but able to punch well above your apparent weight class thanks to high participation. Well aware of the necessity of logistics, you've taken it upon yourself to handle them, with your trusty maxed out Rhea alt. You set your sights on your alliance's new home: Period Basis. Opposition is light - the larger alliances in the prime space to the north (and your future roaming targets) seem uninterested. Before long, you've settled into your new capital, TPAR-G, and pop open a jump planner to start your logistics work.
Well versed in good logistics practice, you know what to look for: A lowsec point to jump into, with a highsec route straight to Jita. A few likely candidates appear - Efa, Ashmarir, Nourbal. But you have a problem. Cynoing a jump freighter into anything but a station is quite risky, yet required. You've already had plenty of good fights shooting those to the north, so they're not about to let you dock. A POS will be required, and it will be surrounded by hostile space - the most direct route to any lowsec endpoints pass through two midpoints in Querious. Despite what is often decried as an excessive jump range, you can't even take the option of going through NPC Delve to avoid hostile midpoints! Doing so requires a midpoint in hostile space both before and after 319-3D, and adds an extra jump as well.
Suddenly, indescriminate raiding of your northern neighbors seems like it might have been a bad idea. All the high participation and PvP skill in the world do you little good when you your midpoint POS are constantly being attacked, your freighter under perpetual threat of "nyncing".
It's a good thing, you think to yourself, that Jump Drive Calibration is a 25% per level bonus. Why, if CCP listened to the forums and dropped it to 15%, you'd have to make four jumps instead of three, operate and defend three midpoint POS in hostile territory instead of two.
At this point, I'm sure many readers would like to point out that I'm OBVIOUSLY cherry-picking regions to make a point. They'd be half right - I am trying to make a point. The point is that even today, with the supposedly "excessively long" jump ranges there are many areas of space which can be cut off logistically from Empire by their neighbors. As a result, anyone living in those areas has a couple of choices. They can suck it up and try anyway, hoping they don't get ganked, or that they're able to defend their midpoints against the hostiles surrounding them. Or, they can blue up to guarantee safe passage, which rather defeats their reason to be there in the first place.
Coming back to the cherrypicking accusation, however. What I've illustrated here is by no means limited to the Delve/Querious/Period Basis area. Let's take a trip north, though we'll leave the story behind.
A Trip Around the Clock
We'll start first in Deklein, my home. Life is good. Access to Empire from the capital of VFK is just two jumps. We're surrounded by allies, but even if they were enemies, it'd be no matter - both of those jumps can be plotted through comparatively safe lowsec.
At least, they can be right now. Knock the JDC skill to 15% per level and, well... we're lucky. It now takes three jumps instead of two, but the NPC systems of Pure Blind are far more conveniently located than those of Delve, and our extra midpoint can be located there. So, we're fine. But the point of these nerfs are smaller empires, so let's play along and pretend Deklein is split in half. A belligerent alliance controls the more northward section, with a capital in 3JN9-Q. As it turns out, they'd better not be too belligerent - their jump paths in this scenario must go through either Fade or our own portion of Deklein. They'll be making friends with someone or risking their Jump Freighters every trip they make.
And to the residents of Branch, based out of BKG? It's ugly for them. Even now, a stop over in Tribute or other player-held space is unavoidable, and it only gets worse with 15% per level.
Lets leave the North and move around to the Drone Regions. This is where things to get a little absurd. It's not readily apparent on the nice flattened out maps of Eve, but the Drone Regions are extremely isolated. You can make it to a nice jump-in point such as Frulegur in just one jump from L4X-IV, but that's exceptional. Frulegur is two jumps from 1ACJ-6 in Etherium Reach (with the midpoint in L4X-IV), It's the same two jumps from Kalavela's HVGR-R, with the midpoint in either Geminate or right next door to L4X-IV. Residents of NBW-GD in Malpais make it to Frulegur in three jumps, and get to bargain with the owners of LXQ2-T instead. Residents of Oasa's FJ-GUR make the same bargain and must contend with the residents of their other midpoint in Perrigen Falls. And those poor boys in Cobalt Edge, living E-BYOS, get to pick. Four jumps through either L4X-IV or Geminate, or five through LXQ2-T, but they've got two hostile midpoints either way.
And in our nerfed jump drive world? L4X-IV is suddenly two jumps from Frulegur. 1ACJ-6 adds a hop, albeit in lowsec. Residents of the HVGR-R area now make either three jumps through LXQ2-T and Geminate, or four down through L4X-IV, and those in NBW-GD have the same choice. Four or five jumps for our FJ-GUR dwellers, and five or six for those in E-BYOS.
The More Things Change...
I could continue clockwise through regions such as Cache, Detorid, Omist, and Feythabolis, but I think the point is made. Logistical concerns alone already encourage groups to either control far reaching chunks of space to guarantee supply lines, or make nice with those who are closer to Empire, and nerfs to Jump Drive range would only exacerbate this problem. Small groups may well thrive, as they do now, but they won't be alone. After all, what is a power bloc but a grouping of smaller entities?
How about those warships I said we'd come back to? People argue that big nullsec groups can effortlessly move across their own space in just a single jump or two, trivializing its defense, and have no problems with making trips across Eve, for they know that they can make it back before an attacker can do serious damage. Admittedly, they're correct about that - with proper preparation, moving capital forces around is relatively straightforward. Their natural conclusion is the same as before - if only the jump range were shorter, holding space would be harder and smaller groups could compete!
It should be obvious that I disagree with this idea as well. Forcing our capital forces to make another jump or two to move around our space won't dissuade us from holding more space. We'll simply spend the extra resources and move on with our lives. Likewise, a jump drive range nerf won't dissuade someone like Pandemic Legion, famed for their ability to rapidly move capital forces across Eve. Their recent move to Uemon would have required at least six jumps from Fountain. A similar move to X-7OMU in Pure Blind for a notional CFC vs HBC war scenario is at least five jumps, while a trip to Curse to wage war on the nearby residents would take eight or more. Nerfing JDC to 15% per level would increase those numbers to nine, six and ten, respectively, and change little. A few extra accounts for more cyno alts, more prepositioned fuel stocks, all things that PL can afford. But a smaller group? They're hard pressed to do it already, and those extra accounts are a deal breaker. Making it harder to defend their own space or strike against neighbors does them no favors, either.
Even now, the geography of Eve can make logistics difficult to those attempting to go it alone. The threat of "nyncing" alone means hostile neighbors can cut you off, nevermind the challenges of defending a midpoint POS inside enemy territory. A reduced jump range as proposed by many only makes this more difficult. Meanwhile, the increased costs (whether by requiring more jumps, or increased cost per jump or both) do little to cramp the style of already large and organized groups while simultaneously placing a larger burden on the small groups the suggested changes are meant to help. While proponents of these changes are well meaning, they're also short sighted.
Perhaps, in light of these facts, they should advocate for increased jump range instead.