We recently mentioned that the next expansion for EVE Online is called Dominion, and will focus on revamping the sovereignty game mechanics -- arguably one of the most crucial aspects of the game for the most hardcore players. So why, then, is sovereignty so important to the game's players?

EVE Online is a game where everything takes place in a single setting, the New Eden galaxy comprised of thousands of solar systems. While a large percentage of the game's playerbase remains in high security space controlled by NPC factions, for others it's 0.0 space (aka nullsec) where the real action is. In a nutshell, 0.0 is a lawless frontier where the rarest ores and minerals, the highest bounty NPCs, the most lucrative exploration content (in known space) is found. Of course, these regions are the most hotly contested territories in EVE Online and those resources found within are a driver for the continual conflict that engulfs New Eden.
For the most 'hardcore' of the game's subscribers, 0.0 is where the real game is played -- player corporations form alliances or even coalitions of alliances -- to carve out a foothold on the territory map. Establishing and building upon sovereignty gives an alliance the ability to build capital ships and establish outposts or 'true' space stations, which are (presently) indestructible.

Sovereignty also allows alliances to create networks of jump bridges (essentially teleportation) between controlled solar systems, while preventing others from jumping into your own (jammed) systems. The longer an alliance can maintain sovereignty, the more potent these benefits become.

Paradoxically, even though sovereignty is crucial to any space holding alliance, most EVE players operating in 0.0 will agree that sovereignty is a broken system... and has been for quite some time. For all this playstyle can (and should) offer, there are some major problems with how this aspect of the game works, namely that it's been tied to Player-Owned Starbases (POS).

That's going to change this winter with the Dominion expansion. According to CCP Games: "Sovereignty will no longer be tied directly to starbases."

While we don't have a clear picture of the specifics at this time, today's dev blog from CCP Abathur, "Sovereignty - Breaking the Chains", gives an overview of how dramatically the game is going to change in the months and years to come. He says,"What has emerged is a much leaner and infinitely more expandable system which we can continually evolve over time."

  • No sovereignty levels. You either have sovereignty or you do not.
  • A new module will be introduced that allows an alliance to 'plant a flag' in a system.
  • "Infrastructure": This is going to be a major aspect of sovereignty moving forward. Alliances will need to keep stargates running in systems they hold. This means alliances will need to focus more on building up their infrastructure and really tapping the potential of their held space, rather than going Manifest Destiny on New Eden. There will be three broad types of infrastructure -- military, economic, and industrial.
  • Dominion will balance out the relative 'value' of space, as the income alliances gain from sovereignty is less about having a much-coveted location and more about the investment of time, money, and effort to make that space lucrative.
  • "Dominion Tools": EVE will get a Sovereignty Dashboard of sorts, which will give alliance directors up-to-the-minute information about what is happening in the solar systems claimed by the alliance. CCP also says that "you will be able to see where the efforts of your alliance are going, what areas of space are being developed and how you as a member, director, or executor might help."
Overall, Dominion is an open ended system that will be built upon over time. New content will be introduced once the initial foundations are established. CCP Abathur gives the example of Treaties, which will become part of the game early next year. "Treaties will be a fully functional mechanic that formalizes many of the agreements already in game," he says. "The plan is to give alliances the tools to 'rent' out areas of their space to other alliances or corporations, create formal military treaties and establish diplomatic boundaries with regard to your alliance interests."

The coming weeks and months will bring more news about the sovereignty revamp in Dominion and most likely how the console MMO Dust 514 will impact territorial control for the major alliances, and perhaps open up 0.0 expansion to some new groups of players.

What CCP is doing with Dominion isn't just about introducing new ships or missions, it's really about making radical and needed change to how alliances of EVE's players establish their empires. As Abathur puts it, "The sandbox is about to get bigger and badder than ever."

This article was originally published on Massively.