Have Alliances and the sovereignty system limited the amount of PVP and RP potential in Null sec? Imagine a Null Sec where anyone could build outposts wherever. Would the reduction of the alliance game mechanic, and the removal of the sovereignty game mechanics (or the modifcation of it from Alliance level to Corp level for that matter) force more PVP into Null sec, or would giant power blocs like the NC still form themselves?"
Null-sec is something to which I have had only limited exposure and I have zero first-hand experience of the sovereignty mechanics, so this topic presents something of a challenge to me. I suppose my honest answer to all of the questions posed would be 'I don't know'. However, just because I'm not a participant in the perpetual Alliance sovereignty wars, doesn't mean I have nothing to say on the matter.
For me, one of the things that gives EVE Online its depth is being able to look at the star-map and know that vast areas of it that I have never travelled to are home to thousands of capsuleers who would and could kill me on sight and any journey through null-sec is a real edge-of-the-seat experience as a result. More than any scripted game mechanic could provide, the true unpredictability and deadliness of those vast roaming fleets gives those null-sec regions a genuine 'here be monsters' feel.
Furthermore, reading reports of huge fleet clashes with crushing defeats and phyrric victories makes for immersive and world-enriching reading, more so because it really happens. It makes me proud. Odd, I know, but it's part of what makes EVE unique. Whereas other MMOs have to rely on scripted developer-instigated events in order to change the landscape of the world, our giant dragons are our own players. Although I concede that we've now got incursions too, which diminishes my argument somewhat but the point still stands.
The specifics of what drives the shifting forces of sovereignty-holding alliances are unknown to me, as is a grasp of the sovereignty mechanics. Judging by what I've read, large-scale conflict wouldn't appeal to me, with huge uniform fleets requiring specific ships and loadouts whose pilots are then funnelled into an area where the underpinning server technology is pushed beyond its limits, resulting in a sub-standard game experience. But there must be some positives too, as thousands of players regularly participate in such conflicts, and I am glad that they do. In the same way I watch the world news with equal parts interest and shock, safe in the knowledge that I'll never have to go to those war-torn or lawless countries, I can read about the latest power-shift in null-sec and all its ramifications with detached curiosity.
To address Tetra's final question about the formation of giant power blocs, I think that the 'emergent behaviour' caused by EVE's design certainly encourages the formation of large and complex organisations. The introduction of the alliance mechanic was as a result of this natural evolution of community, so it is not improbable that a Coalition mechanic may be introduced to support multi-alliance entities like the Northern Coalition. Veteran players may remember when the largest organisation supported within EVE's game design was the corporation. I remember with fondness and amusement my attempts to organise one of the first proto-alliances in 2003, before any proper support was available. The United Corporations Defence Organisation was an amusingly naive and unworkable concept at the time, barely held together by a rudimentary website, but the alliance/coalition principle was there. I think it shows that the evolution toward the formation of 'giant power blocs' is an inevitability in the race for power, protection and territory.
[On a side note, the UCDO link above includes a negotiation chatlog between an old alt of mine (Eidas) and a Fountain Alliance representative called Molle. Whether there is any connection to Sir Molle of BoB/IT fame I have no idea, but it amused me.You can read the conversation here.]
With all this in mind, whatever changes can be effected to improve the experience for the participants of SovWar should, of course, be supported, especially if it could make it more accessible to a broader player-base. However, I'm pretty ambivalent about it and I'm happy just to read from afar about the latest clash of the deep-space leviathans.
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