Traffic Control: Nullsec's High Bar

You ever wonder why you don't hear stories about scrappy groups from NPC 0.0 trying to take sov space and getting smacked down by the blocs who attempt to defend their territory? In theory this should happen all the time. In practice, it almost never does. 

There's a 'You must be this high to ride' bar in front of sov null. Unless you are a bloc or are backed explicitly or implicitly by a bloc you're not going to get to get a slice of sov - and supercapitals are entirely to blame. 

Whoever has the biggest supercapital group near a quadrant can ensure that an organization trying to gain entrance into sov null or build up any real capital fleet in NPC 0.0 gets utterly splattered. You want to try to build up a capital group in lowsec? Good luck deploying against a tower without someone in a bloc finding out and dropping a pile of bored supercarrier pilots on you. You want to build up or buy enough supers that you can take down sov structures without seriously questioning your life choices? You need to have more than a bloc can destroy to prevent them dropping on you - which means you essentially must be a bloc already. 

Each supercapital birthed from a CSAA anywhere in nullsec raises that bar of entry ever higher. The path to sov null for corporations and alliances now is to rent or to swear fealty to one of the blocs. We don't think about this as a crisis point regularly because the bar is so high now that it's been aeons since someone actually 'broke into' sov null the old-fashioned way. No, BRAVE isn't an example of someone breaking into sov null; they were handed Catch by N3 over the corpse of the already-broken RUS bloc, which fell victim to the Red Queen effect. We'll get to that in a bit.

In the days before supercapitals, subcapitals were enough for a group to wreak havoc. Capital fleets existed, but were vulnerable; some of the most amazing fights during the Great War were classic subcapital + capital engagements, with chaos unleashing as Dreads jumped into an engagement and sieged on contact. For ten minutes per siege cycle, you were going to unleash hell and/or go down in flames, and every ship had a useful role.

Even in the setpiece 'good press' battles CCP loves so much, subcaps in the supercapital era are a waste of time. You want to know the dirtiest secret of B-R5? We ordered CFC subcapitals to stay out of B-R5 and only sent a handful of fleets, mostly diverted outside of that system to interdict N3 staging systems. The subcaps were literally not worth the lag they created. Welcome to Eve Online, where you should probably just go sit on your hands and twiddle unless you've got Jump Drive Calibration 5 and can fly a capital at a bare minimum. 

Nowadays, anti-structure Dreads are prey unless they're already under the umbrella of a superior supercapital force. It's better with the five minute siege timer, but there's a reason everyone uses cap-boosted "Ninja" dreads to hit towers and scamper for cover before the supercapitals come raining down on top of them. 

Supercapital apologists will blame Dominion itself, rather than their favorite endgame toys. The reality is that even if the code was rolled back to before December 2009 and we suddenly had POS Warfare in 2014, the issue would be identical: imagine trying to grind towers to take sov without having supercapital dominance first. 

Here's a look at the midpoint of the Great War between Delve I and Delve II. That's an era when there were only a handful of supercapitals in the game - already they were a tremendous imbalance and examples of worst-in-class game design, but they hadn't yet blobbed together enough to completely break everything. Here we are today.

We - and by 'we' I mean the blocs - have sov nullsec in a stranglehold. You want to play in sov null in 2014, you need to regularly engage caps or supers against structures, and you can't do that unless you already have supercapital dominance. That means you need to either rent from one of the blocs or hope to be sponsored into one of the blocs, or get one of those wacky 'You're not officially in our bloc but we use you as content generation when everyone is bored' situations like XIX, BRAVE and CVA.

The reason non-sov entities don't even bother to attempt to break into sov nullsec without bloc sponsorship or renting is that the above is entirely obvious to basically everyone with a pulse that doesn't have a vested interest in defending the status quo.

Yet not only do supercapitals raise the bar for entry in nullsec, the necessary arms race for supercapital dominance strongly drives bloc formation. In the past history of Eve, there were once up to six blocs, if one is generous and grants Provi 'bloc' status - and years ago when battleship fleets and capital fleets mattered, they could be counted as a small bloc. Now there are three blocs, two if you count PL and N3 as one. 

Sov Nullsec is essentially in a constant arms race, and supercapitals are the driving force behind the dreaded Red Queen Effect. When a bloc fails in the supercapital arms race, it goes extinct - see the collapse of the RUS. The surviving blocs get ever more effective and acquire ever more supercapitals; should one falter or fail in this race, it will vanish from the map to be replaced by a swathe of rental space. This is worse than simple 'mudflation'.

The only solution is to completely remove the current org-level need for supercapital ships to maintain sov space - which is to say to remove their status as the ultimate counter. If someone handed me a big red button which would allow me to delete every supercapital in Eve and remove every BPO for the damn things in the game, I'd punch that button so hard that I'd break my fist.