20 August 2009

Planetary Control Part I

The following is the fictional narrative portion of Crazy Kinux's Planetary Control Contest which I conveniently missed the deadline for.


The Mindrill Refinery in Taisy’s a filthy place with more than its share of reprobates, but it’s the first quasi-friendly place we could get to. The Cairn’s a mess. The crew repped the armor back as best they could but the hull’s breached in at least seven places. On the chase here we overloaded four of the five pulses, not to mention the microwarp drive. They’ll need fixing before we move on. I’ve got the scratch in my personal account to get the repairs sorted, but the company’s sit-rep is FUBAR at best. Sixteen billion down the corp drain; additional personal losses probably equaling four billion more.

And Barker made it sound so damned easy.

Two months ago when the news broke on the wire about advances ship tech Barker and a few other high-ups got it in their head that here, finally, was something the Foundation could make a killing at. "We’ll find ourselves a little spot," he said. Somewhere "out of the way," he said. "There’s ISK here for the taking." Some of us were skeptical that we could swing it. We’re a small group by most standards, numbering a little shy of two hundred. Even then weeks would pass when I won’t hear even a peep from most, but Barker and Tesh insisted.

My experience back with the Expeditionary Company down Hiematar way pretty much dictated my role in the folly. Those many months learning the finer arts of advanced electronics, cloaking techs, astrometrics and signal acquisition; all that may have just saved my and my crew’s collective skins.

Once the ball got rolling it took me the better part of two weeks to find it, but find it I did. An entirely uninhabited class 1-A. I couldn’t believe it when the hit came back off the globe probe. It was in the wee hours. Most of the crew was bunked down and only one other pilot was logged into the corp comms. I pinged Fedder.


"Hor! You’re up late. How goes?"

"I think I found it."

"Well, it’s pretty small from what I hear. You better check again before you call the ladies."

Nice. "I think I found what Barker’s sent me after."

There was a long pause.



"Is it good?" he asked.

"Better than good, Fed. An zero-pop 1-A. Data’s still coming in but it looks like a 99.5 or .6 match. Gravity’s nominal. Weather looks … looks perfect."

"Where at?"

"Way out there. 85-B52."

Another pause.

"Nice neighborhood. How are the locals?"

"The usual types. Always looking to separate a pilot from his pod."

I waved Fedder off, we exchanged "fly safes" and I shut the comm channel. I desperately wanted some sleep but needed to finish the geologicals and ship them up the food chain.

And so it began. My findings proved to be just what Barker was looking for and three days later Carlisle and Qu’eser showed up in-system. Carlisle’s Pilgrim-class recon dropped a cyno and seconds later the upper atmo around my little find was peppered with fifteen ships, among them a Panther and two Widows, Possy’s Orca, and Barker in the Sower. I’d never seen one before, having only read the specs on it, but damn if she wasn’t an odd looking thing. Massive and odd. Barker moved her into position, giving minimal orders over comms. The Sower barely seemed to move, but slowly crawled into her high-orbit position.

Barker’s colonizer was fitted for a light landing. With no indigenous population to contend with he saw fit to only send down five hundred marines under the control of a green officer, a Colonel Ashram from somewhere in the north of Empire. Perimeter, maybe? No matter. There were only forty-five hundred colonists; nothing Ashram couldn’t control.

Once in position the Sower fired up her telemetry package. The instrument pulsed for a cycle as it scanned down a landing site.

Five minutes later Barker came over fleet comms. "Found a nice spot," his voice crackled. "Nice stretch along a river on number two land mass, hugging right up to a fat vein of Bistot."

Thirty seconds later the Sower was locked into geo-sync and the first of the twelve landers crept out of her hanger. That first one had the marines, I think. At least that’s what Barker said he wanted to start with. Marines then supplies, then the industrial kits, followed by the colonists.

The crew and I watched from the Cairn. Barker and the Sower were about a hundred and fifty clicks off starboard, with the remainder of the fleet bunched closely on the Sower’s far side. By all estimations we’d be done here by lunch.

Or not, as it all turned out.

I caught it first. A new ship signature came through the local beacon. Before I could open the fleet ops channel the local beacon started getting flooded. By the third I had the channel open, but local kept growing. Seventeen, then thirty-two, then …

Shit on a stick.

"Break," I said, my voice cracking against my will, "This is Horace. We’ve got company, people. Last count … Eighty-seven in local."

"Eighty what?" screamed Barker. The Sower was on its second lander. With no override on the geo-sync Barker and his eleven-hundred member crew weren’t going anywhere until the last of the ten remaining landers were planet-side.

That wasn’t going to happen.

The new fleet arrived within thirty seconds of appearing on the beacon. Maybe fifty ships in all, and mostly heavies. Glancing over HUD I counted three carriers, two Moros and a Nix; the rest being battleships, mostly, with some support including a handful of interceptors. This wasn’t going to end well by anyone’s standards. Fighters immediately streamed from the bellies of the carriers. The Cairn informed me she was picking up target acquisitions from no fewer than six ships. Six out of fifty-odd? I felt a bit slighted.

Barker dialed up the local comm channel. "Morning, gents. We’re all a bit busy here at the moment. Can we wrap up here and then reach some sort of an agreement?"

After a brief pause a familiar voice came through the wire.

"No, that doesn’t work for us," said Fedder.

19 August 2009

Planetary Control Part II

The following is the technical specifications portion of Crazy Kinux's Planetary Control Contest (the deadline for which passed fifteen hours prior to my posting this).


Technical Specifications

Planetary control is an extension/improvement on sovereignty. While there is some room for low-sec interaction (see section V below), issues of planetary control would be restricted to 0.0 space and akin to Firefly’s outer rim systems where lawlessness reigns until someone comes in and takes control.

With considering bringing planetary control into the Eve universe there’s the very real issue of creating an entire other level of meta-game that could be introduced depending on what macro- or micro-level of control is to be introduced. This post, while long, is more of a macro-level introduction.

I. Planetary Ratings

There would have to be a system for rating planets similar to the ratings currently in WH space.

It’s understandable (or expected, even) that the star systems within the Eve universe would hold habitable planets, but as is within our own galaxy the occurrence of those planets would be exceptionally rare, and a planet with an equivalent atmosphere to Earth’s being the rarest. With planet-side conditions taken into account, some places would be cheaper to colonize or control than others. Colonization of some planets (ie gas giants) would be just plain impossible.

Conditions to be accounted for include but aren’t limited to:

a) Gravity, Atmosphere & Weather
  1. Affects the cost of infrastructure
  2. Affects the cost of getting someone to live there besides the military forces required.
  3. Could feasibly control the size of supported population
  4. Affects cost and effectiveness of combat
b) Resources: Affects the value of the planet/colony as well as the cost of recovery of said resources.
c) Existing population and their pre-existing infrastructure: Can work for you or against you.
d) Ecology: Think critters.

II. Finding the Right Place

Planets already colonized wouldn’t require “finding” per se, being uniquely named within the system. Unclaimed planets -- possibly with minimal indigenous populations with varying levels of pre-existing infrastructure – would need to be discovered via an extension of probing.

III) Ships

Any ship that can fit (or, in the case of the Minmatar, spot-weld) a probe launcher to the hull can find a suitable planet. For taking control something more substantial would be required. These could be drawn from existing ship types (Battleships, the Orca, Carriers, etc.) or a larger new breed of T3 ships. Two things dictate the size and type of the ship required:

a) Planet-side resources required: The number of troops and types of ordinance/equipment required. Atmospheric conditions come into play including indigenous population. All this requires storage (probably) greater than available in the current line of ships.
b) Orbital Support: Warfare Link mods and the ability to launch landing craft. Orbital assistance could also include space-to-surface bombardment for softening of reinforced areas.

Immediately option a above raises the problem. Logistically a battleship currently can’t hold – much less launch – fitted ships which would be required for landing troops and equipment. This furthers the argument for the Orca or entirely new ship types (and modules and skills).

III) Taking Control

Terrestrial operations would range in increasing difficulty. From easiest to hardest:

a) Uninhabited & unclaimed planets scaled by planet-side conditions.
b) Inhabited & unclaimed planets scaled by planet-side conditions.
c) Inhabited & claimed planets scaled by planet-side conditions.

For the purpose of taking control of a planet troops would be required. This feasibly could be a tie-in to the recently announced Dust 514, but not necessarily. Anyone who has run missions for PVE is familiar with Marines. These are soldiers from the four races presumably coming from station or Empire planet populations and they could be given something meaningful to do, like colonizing other planets. The unit types could be expanded with higher cost prestige units being brought to market as well as equipment and armaments.

Time required would vary on circumstances (see a-c above). Uninhabited planets could be taken relatively instantaneously, with mitigating factors extending the time required. Reinforced or controlled populations, especially those with friendly forces nearby, could be exceptionally difficult. Think of a POS warfare, giving the controlling entities an opportunity to respond via warnings and countdown timers. Furthermore building (or repairing) infrastructure would take time and resources. Utilizing orbital bombardment on hardened structures would cause not only extensive strategic and collateral damage, but might not sit too well with an indigenous population. There is also the constant threat of someone else coming along with a superior force to disrupt you, possibly annihilating your forces and resources in the process.

IV) Skills

The pod pilots skills could come into play here as well:

a) Bureaucratic Connections: You could be dealing with established local gov’ts, after all.
b) Criminal Connections: This is 0.0 space, after all and there’s bound to be some nefarious types about.
c) Military Connections: Aides in effectiveness of marines and prestige units.
d) Leadership.
e) Warfare Link Specialist: Ship-based control.
f) Charisma: It doesn’t do much else, does it?

V) After the Fight and Low-Sec

Once you have fought and gained control of a system you can then start reaping the benefits. Controlling a system’s population – depending on size – would improve (or establish?) sovereignty in the system, perhaps with better or easier control of stations. This wouldn’t bring an end to POS warfare as it’s a different style of game; more an expansion on the established system. With planetary control comes the recovery and sale of lucrative resources and locally created products and technology. Also would come secured trade routes to your planet. Interactions between planets within a system would be conducted via stations. The ships to date in Eve aren’t atmospheric-friendly so there would be no direct Pilot/planetary contact; business would be conducted in stations perhaps with the introduction (again) of planetary vehicles for retrieval of goods.

For those not in control of a system – including planets in low-sec already under faction control – operations can still be carried out, including trade with the indigenous population. Player and corporation standings could come into play when figuring who will buy or sell from you, as well as the price they’re wiling to pay to deal with you. Lucrative markets for products in 0.0 would erupt if the controlling entity didn’t see to the needs of its population. Running with a cargo hold full of spiced wine might just prove profitable yet…