I’ve been pretty critical of EVE Online‘s upcoming sovereignty and nullsec revamp, calling the constellation-wide battle fake and its use of reinforcement timers unnecessary. While I still believe that a multiple capture point mechanic without reinforcement timers would be the ideal system, being at EVE Fanfest 2015 this week has definitely given me cause for optimism. After spending the past few days sitting in on roundtable feedback gathering sessions and absorbing the enormity of CCP’s new plans for deployable structures, I can sort of see what the future looks like for nullsec, and it’s pretty awesome.
EVE is hurtling head-first into a future in which everyone from individuals and small corporations to the biggest megacoalitions can vie for control of a little corner of the galaxy. Territorial alliances will eventually be able to design everything about their star systems, building sprawling industrial hubs, employing NPC security and agents, and creating a space that reflects the alliance’s personality and style. Star systems that are heavily built up with infrastructure will become juicy targets for roaming fleets, and systems that aren’t actively used and defended should be more difficult to hold on to.
If you missed the big announcement from EVE Fanfest 2015, you may want to go back and give this one a look. Essentially, CCP is now planning a complete overhaul of the game’s player-owned structure system. There will be a whole series of different size classes of structures, from tiny personal deployables to extra large ones for alliances. They’ll all be customisable by adding shield and armour modules and weapons, and players will be able to board and control them just like a ship. All the current functions of starbases and outposts will eventually be migrated over to the new system.
In addition to industrial structures for moon mining and manufacturing, we’ll also be getting player-built stargates and player-designed advertising or propaganda billboards. A new observatory building will let players disrupt the local chat channels, mess with system scanners, and even pinpoint cloaked ships. And new administration structures will act as corp offices and let players interact with the NPCs that have been implicitly living in our space all this time. At fanfest yesterday, we also heard that players will be able to invest in improving the security rating of their systems, hire NPC mission agents to live in their space, and even hire CONCORD police to provide police protection in a limited fashion. This has me pretty damn excited, as it’s kind of reminiscent of all the empire building we did in nullsec back in 2004-2006 but turned up to 11.
Massively OP: What structures are we likely to see first? Are we going to see existing POS structures moved out or some of the new stuff?
Andie Nordgren: It’s really that team that can answer it properly, but I think that there might be some of the worst kind of industry like reactions that might get rapidly moved over because it’s so straight forward to do. But then there might be some of the things that are completely new.
The way I see it is that as the maker of EVE, we control the base layer of reality in the game, like what minerals go where and what are the properties of the world. And then of course we also control the next layer, which is like what buildings are in the world, what NPCs, and how those NPCs behave in the world; the new structures are really letting the players plug into that layer.
You’ll be able to change the behaviors of NPCs — like maybe you want to hire CONCORD to provide protection in your system, as an example. What I really want to see is that if you call a solar system home, you can put a bunch of infrastructure there that actually shapes what that solar system is like.
So there’d be industrial megaprojects, like when the first titans and outposts were being built and alliances were pulling together.
Nordgren: Yeah, in other games you get a little house and you can pick the roof or whatever, but in EVE you’re building up a solar system. It’s just a different scale of gameplay, and that’s what I think EVE is really the game for. It’s what I’ve been talking about for years really: space scale industrial operations. That, for me, is the appeal. One of the challenges for us is to find ways to make sure we have systems such as permission management that help people do this stuff together in a way that it isn’t just one guy calling the shots directly to a thousand other guys.
So one of the things alluded to yesterday was that the new structures might act as targets for people on roams.
Nordgren: Yep, there is a general thinking at CCP that you come to a system and it looks different depending on who lives there and what they’re doing. And just like in the real world, you don’t let the enemy troops march into your city or walk by your farms and factories. “Oh there’s a tank factory here; should we let that keep making tanks or should we explode the generator?”
While CCP may not have pegged down all the specific details yet on the entire structure revamp and discussion is ongoing on the sovereignty changes, the endgame is clear. We’re moving toward a universe more directly built by players, with each star system’s infrastructure built up and used by its daily inhabitants for a particular purpose. You might have a mining system with automated mining rigs installed on a mega-asteroid and an ore refinery and ship factory right next to it, or a mission running hub with Level 4 and 5 agents, some hired NPC police for protection and a scanner to find AFK cloakers.
Today’s alliances hold on to dozens of systems that aren’t really worth living in and try to rent them out, but tomorrow’s will build empires from the ground up that are worth defending. The new structures will hopefully act as industrial megaprojects that will require an entire corp or alliance working together to create and maintain, much as titans and outposts once did. They should also provide PvP targets of varying sizes for roaming gangs and a strong incentive to defend your space during the vulnerability window each day. Most importantly, undeveloped and underused systems may be easy for a small group to capture, but some work and investment will be required to make them worth living in.
I have previously said that no sov system will work as long as reinforced timers exist, as they allow both sides to gather their full forces and the bigger alliance invariably wins. The current system favours those already entrenched and in charge, due in part to reinforced times. But if the advantage in a sov battle goes strongly in favour of the alliance that actively uses a system and enough of the new structures can be captured or hacked into using the entosis module without triggering a reinforced timer or the constellation wide capture point mechanic, this might just work. As long as a roaming gang can inflict real damage and capture structures, then we really will have to actively defend our space.
At the nullsec and sov roundtable, CCP confirmed that limitations on the entosis module will stop players from simply evading attack while capturing an objective. Players also voiced concerns that alliances could swarm an enemy’s space with a fleet of entosis-carrying interceptors and reinforce whole regions, but this too seems easily solved. I previously suggested limiting offensive entosis capturing to capital ships so that there’s always something substantial at risk in a sov attack, but with the new structures, there could be a sliding scale. Systems with little or no infrastructure built up might be capturable by a frigate, while heavily built systems could require a battleship or capital-sized entosis module.
Andie’s vision for a civilised nullsec with distinctive player empires is definitely feasible, but it’s likely to take over a year to get us all the way there. The first of the new structures will be rolling off the production lines this year, and the sov revamp will start to take shape in the coming months. This staged approach means we may have some strange periods in which owning a star system won’t be immediately worth it, and a lot of unused star systems and stations will be up for grabs.
The first big stage is likely to be the introduction of the Entosis link mechanic, which in itself will change sov warfare in huge ways that favour small dedicated groups. Frank Fischer of Gamona.de likened the mechanic to Lineage 2‘s castle sieges, where a small group could burst into the throne room at the end of a siege and steal a castle if the owners aren’t paying attention, barricading themselves in while the capture spell is cast. That same strategy may prove effective in EVE, allowing small groups to steal space from the big boys and hold onto it.