January 11, 2023

2023 Roadmap: What If We Brought the Frontlines to Nullsec?

As I was reading the Producer's Letter that came out last week, I couldn't help but view it through the lens of Faction Warfare since that's how I've been primarily playing EVE, plus the letter itself talks a lot about it. Disappointingly, the post was pretty light on future plans with the exception of mentioning the Excel plugin that's coming soon, and that there will be two expansions this year which leaves a lot of room for my imagination. 

It's clear that EVE players and CCP consider the Uprising expansion a success. Quoting the newsletter, "Since the launch of the Uprising expansion in November 2022, the activity in New Eden has exceeded our wildest expectations with active player counts swelling since release and - more importantly - pilots being more active in space. Particularly notable has been the sharp 75% increase in PvP kills in lowsec as well as the 11% PvP kill increase in highsec...This has pushed industry and mining significantly, with navy ship production rising 14,709% and capital manufacturing seeing a 34% bump!"

Personally, I don't know if capital manufacturing increases are a good thing or not - I'll let someone far more experienced with the economics of EVE dissect that information - but I certainly believe more kills equals a healthier game. The more people see value in logging in, undocking, and fighting for either what they already own or what they want to own is a good thing for EVE. 

The newsletter blatantly excludes nullsec statistics which makes sense; this expansion had nothing to do with nullsec so why point out that nothing has changed? But we do need something to change in nullsec. Stagnation equals death. I've been out of the game for years, I know, so I won't pretend to understand the nuances of nullsec politics for the last five years or the wars that occurred during that time, but I do know that things in nullsec are not pointed in the right direction. The whole of EVE Online rests on the shoulders of nullsec, like it or not. When nullsec is healthy, the game as a whole is healthy. Even if you have no intention or desire to involve yourself in a large, space-holding alliance, the activity in nullsec does concern you.

I think CCP knows this too and I believe they're going to implement a mechanic similar to Uprising's Faction Warfare change in nullsec.

And I can't wait because the other lens I view this game through is the mercenary frame. So let's dive into some "What Ifs" regarding the future of EVE, nullsec, Faction Warfare Mechanics, and mercenaries.

So, what if they did bring the faction warfare mechanics to nullsec. What does that look like? In general, pretty similar I think. The idea of funneling the fighting into front line systems, which contain the most lucrative of activities, bordered by command operations systems which are less profitable but are vital to the logistics, and finally by rearguard which are "safer" and contain even less profitable activity in space. That doesn't change much. The differences would come in the form of what the Frontline, Command Operations, and Rearguard systems allow and what activities are present in each. Here's where we get to let our imagination run wild.

Planting Your Flag

In Faction Warfare, the contested states of a system are clear: the other side always wants the system. In nullsec it's different. You may be at war with no one, or you could be at war with ten different alliances all vying for your system. Or you could be constantly harassed by people roving through your space with no intention to claim it for themselves. So there needs to be a way to determine if someone is fighting for control or if they're just trying to blow you up. You'd need to plant your proverbial flag and say, "I want this area of space." 

To avoid tedium, and to help shape the battlefield, you'd select twenty systems starting with a system that either borders your own or NPC space. You can plant as many of these flags as you want, as long as they're either bordering systems you control or NPC space OR a border created by an earlier flag. This means you could state your intent for an entire region, but you'd still have to work your through flag number one before starting on the systems claimed with flag number two. Or, of course, you could start multiple front lines from bordering systems/NPC space. Regardless, you can't jump straight to the heart of your enemy's system, claim it and work outwards. You have to crumble their empire from the outside in.


I've gone back and forth on whether plexes would or should be the primary method of contesting a nullsec system. Part of me thinks it's a mechanic that should stay unique to Faction Warfare. On the other hand, it's a great way to get people into fights. I don't want to spend too much time theory crafting the specifics of what may or may not need to change to facilitate plexes working for nullsec. Instead, I'll just say that if plexes are the primary way to contest a system in this future expansion, the ship restrictions should be heavily modified or removed entirely. Nullsec battles are about all-out, no-holds-barred fights. They're not about one versus one duels in frigates, which is the hallmark of lowsec. Perhaps the complexes of nullsec are more akin to open battlefields where it requires a small fleet but with a few tweaks so small ships can't drag the NPC ship out of the radius and win the battlefield without fighting even the AI.

System Advantage

This mechanic also carries forward into the nullsec version. Advantage is critical to flipping a system quickly or delaying progress. Like Faction Warfare, special sites will spawn in each type of system - Frontline, Command Operation, and Rearguard - which can be used to increase or decrease the advantage.

Frontline Systems

The Uprising changes were great because they help funnel players into a handful of systems by in two ways. The first method is incentivizing activity via higher rewards from frontline complexes. The more time you spend in a frontline system's plexes, whether your faction currently owns it or not, the more Loyalty Points you earn and the more ISK you can earn. The second method is through clever use of the User Interface. The UI focuses on your faction's war and highlights the hotspots, naturally funneling you into them. 

In the future of EVE, where these mechanics are carried over into nullsec, we won't see many changes in the UI. Frontline systems will still be highlighted, ensuring you notice where the action is. These Frontline systems will also feature higher rewards. To quote the newsletter "We much prefer these high-value sites in areas of substantial risk, rather than having highly defensible systems." This is in reference to "Contested Income", formerly known as "Passive Income". Whether this is in the form of planetary interaction, mining, ratting, or what-have-you, it seems clear that you'll receive some sort of bonus for participating in these activities in Frontline systems where you're more likely to run into an enemy. I'd like to see the hold on a system reflect who's doing most in space.

A big change that I'd like to see is PvP having a much larger effect on the contested state of a system. This should be the primary determining factor for whether you own a system or not. If you control a system but you're losing a ton of ships, clearly you're not the real owners.  A huge, all-out-brawl should determine the fate of the system, incentivizing alliances to pile into fights.

Frontline Systems are also the only systems that an attacking alliance can anchor stations in space, establishing beachheads to continue the assault. 

Command Operation Systems

Command Operation Systems are the backbone of any region. These systems are critical for the owner, as it's the only systems where jump bridges can be installed and used. These are the roads your troops use to respond to the encroaching threats on your frontlines. You can safely fall back to these areas if need be, the enemy can't stay too long here without a POS.

Rearguard Systems

Rearguard Systems make me think of the "Homefront" in World War II. These are systems where production occurs, in relative safety, but can also be harassed and disrupted by interlopers who want to hinder the efforts on the Frontlines. There are a lot of opportunities to revitalize the ESS mechanics here, turning off manufacturing or reducing mineral outputs. I'm only spitballing. 

What are some other ways you could disrupt the heartland of your enemy?

A New Null

I'm hopeful that mechanics like these could jumpstart more localized, smaller fights in Nullsec. It's a complicated topic, and I didn't go into the reasons why you'd want to or need to own your neighbor's space - that's a bit outside the scope of this post - but I'd love to see the methods of taking space from another group be tied to things you're actually doing while undocked over a period of time compared to the current method.

And any time people want to fight their neighbors, they look for ways to have the upper hand. Sometimes that upper hand is hiring mercenaries. More war, more fighting, is always good for business so I'm positive that if we saw an activity spike in nullsec like we've seen in Faction Warfare, we'd see more contracts being offered to the mercenaries in EVE.

What do you think? Did I miss something really obvious in my imaginary future of EVE?