EVE Evolved: Temporarily fixing starbases

EVE Evolved title image
With its exploration-focused Odyssey expansion on the way, EVE Online is about to be hit with a deluge of players (new and old) venturing into the unknown. The expansion will introduce the yet-to-be-revealed Discovery Scanner and will add a ton of new exploration content all across New Eden. Odyssey aims to follow the lead of 2009's Apocrypha expansion, which saw hundreds of corporations lead lucrative expeditions into uncharted wormhole systems. We don't yet know whether the expansion will open new systems for exploration, but when Odyssey goes live, the race will be on to find and lay claim to all the goodies hidden in deep space.

With no stations to dock at in wormhole space, corps currently have to store everything in destructible starbases that aren't really up to the task. Player-owned starbases were released in 2004 as sandbox-style tools for tech 2 industry and alliance territorial warfare. They were never intended to be the sole base of operations for an entire corporation, so they suffer from some pretty severe security and usability flaws as a result. Theft from ship and item hangars in wormhole space is commonplace, setting up corp roles for them is a nightmare, and living exclusively in a starbase provides a daily dose of frustration players could seriously do without. CCP has been planning to completely overhaul player-owned starbases for years, but some of today's issues can't afford to wait any longer.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at some of the chronic problems faced by starbase-dwelling explorers and how CCP plans to temporarily fix some of them for Odyssey.

EVE Evolved side imageProblem #1 - Starbase security

When Apocrypha was released, it was assumed that nobody would bother to set up and run starbases in wormhole space. Long-term exploration expeditions turned out to be so incredibly popular, however, that you'd be hard-pressed to find a good wormhole system today that doesn't have at least one starbase in it. Poorly defended structures are constantly at risk of attack from rival expeditions and PvP alliances that just want to kick over other people's sandcastles, but the biggest threat to a wormhole corporation actually comes from within. Ships and items currently have to be stored in communal hangars, so anyone on the expedition can potentially steal everything.

In a recent devblog, CCP Fozzie revealed plans to develop a new private starbase hangar structure that will show corp members only their own items. The new structure will work the same way as a customs office, giving each character his own 10,000m3 to 40,000m3 of storage. This has the side-effect of making its storage capacity scale up with the number of characters in your corp, as there's no limit on how many characters can use the hangar. These private hangars will definitely solve the security issue for items, but we'd also need a Ship Maintenance Array that works the same way, and developers aren't sure whether either idea is even possible.

EVE Evolved side imageProblem #2 - Daily frustration

The starbase system was designed back when CCP was a tiny indie company with a handful of developers, so user-friendliness was probably not at the top of the priority list. Players used to have to manually calculate the required amounts of eight different fuel types and haul it to the starbase in a slow tech 1 industrial ship with a maximum internal volume of around 35,000m3. Great leaps forward have been made since then with Jump Freighters and fuel blocks simplifying the fuel chain, but there are still plenty of irritating usability kinks to work out of the system.

We currently have to fly right up to a hangar to access it, which can take a long time if you're in a slow freighter or industrial ship, and ammo currently has to be manually inserted into every single starbase gun outside the shield. Hangars get cluttered with items as they can't be repackaged inside the array, and the tech 3 strategic cruisers designed specifically for wormholes can't even refit subsystems at starbases. All of these issues are due to be examined as part of Odyssey, but developers were careful not to explicitly promise anything. The starbase code is old, and technical challenges may prevent any of these problems from being fixed.

EVE Evolved side imageProblem #3 - Corporate roles and industry

Perhaps the biggest problem with starbases is the way in which EVE's overcomplicated corporate role system interacts with structures. Access to structures cannot be assigned to individual players or player-made titles, so it's currently not possible to safely let a corp member run his own starbase without giving him access to compromise every single corp starbase. Even just giving someone the Configure Starbase Equipment role to let him anchor a new control tower lets him switch off any other corp starbase's force field or unanchor and steal everything in sight.

Industrial players face additional challenges, as they need to be given access to corporate hangars in order to use mobile factories and labs. This not only opens hangars elsewhere to the possibility of theft but also gives the member the ability to cancel other corp members' production and research jobs. As if that weren't bad enough, industrialists are also still dependent on shipping materials to a full station in normal space as starbase refineries and factories are needlessly inefficient and will eat your entire profit margin in materials. Starbase access and corp roles are unlikely to be iterated on until a full revamp of the system is underway, but CCP Fozzie promised to at least look at starbase refineries in Odyssey.

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CCP has been putting off fixing the many problems with starbases pending a complete revamp that will arrive at some undetermined point in the future, but I honestly don't think some of these issues can wait. The lack of individual hangars in starbases has led to so many wormhole heists over the years that most wormhole corps no longer recruit new members. If that trend isn't reversed, new players could find it very difficult to find exploration-focused corps when Odyssey lands.

Getting into a corp with focused goals is possibly the single biggest factor in whether a player sticks with EVE, so fixing starbases should be a pretty high priority for an exploration-focused expansion. Creating new structures like the Private Corporate Hangar Array and fixing the most irritating quality of life issues for wormhole corps may be temporary fixes, but they're long overdue.

Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to brendan@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.