The mobile Depot is a small feature that was no-doubt trivial to implement, but it could have a massive impact on the shape of the EVE sandbox. The module offers a way to store your items and refit ships in the middle of hostile territory, and this is the first of a new breed of structure that will ultimately unlock deep space for exploration. This expansion will also give us a new auto-looting tractor beam structure and a Siphon Unit that actually steals resources from nearby starbases. Not much is known about these three deployables beyond the basic information already released, and there's a ton of potential for new complementary structures that could be released in the future.
In this week's EVE Evolved, I examine the impact that Rubicon's two biggest deployable structures could have on the EVE sandbox and think about new structures that could be released in the future.
The Siphon Unit and disrupting economic activity
One of the most interesting new deployables is the structure tentatively named the Siphon Unit, which can steal a percentage of the output from a starbase's moon harvesters and reactors. This is sure to be a lucrative enterprise for small groups and individuals, as much of the game's supply of advanced materials actually comes from vast reactor farms scattered throughout lowsec and nullsec, with some reactors running in wormhole systems. With just a few hours of work each week refilling and emptying silos, a single person can currently maintain a huge reactor farm that churns out billions of ISK in materials per week.
The only way to disrupt this kind of operation currently is to attack the starbases yourself, and then the owner's alliance can show up to defend it or just abandon it; Either way, it'll take a great deal of time and effort on your part and you'll have very little to show for it at the end. The ability to sneak in and steal reactor output while nobody's looking is the exact opposite, requiring very little cost or effort to set up. The starbase owner's only defense is checking in periodically to make sure nobody is stealing his output.
Building your own little home
The Depot structure will let individual players build and defend their own little homes in space, complete with item storage and a ship fitting service. Players currently sometimes anchor secure containers in deep safespots or asteroid belts to store loot or ore, and the Depot will likely replace them in this role. Depending on its capacity and how quickly it can be set up, it could be a huge boost for solo highsec miners who normally ninja-mine or mine into jettisoned containers. If you're planning to use Depots in highsec, remember that anyone can attack them and they'll only get a suspect flag.
The information released so far suggests that the Depot will have a reinforced timer and period of invulnerability when attacked just like a starbase, but that you'll be able to retrieve the contents while it's reinforced. This deployable was first suggested by developers years ago as part of the Smallholdings concept, and now that we have one part of that plan, it's reasonable to assume the rest will follow. We'll probably get new modules over time to add onto our depots, extending them with manufacturing arrays, research labs, refineries and other services currently limited to stations and starbases. In the future, industrial activity carried out in the Depot could end up being faster or more efficient than in a standard station in order to offset the risk of having your Depot destroyed.
Though the ability to deploy the Depot anywhere will make it extremely versatile and extensible, it's actually structures like the Siphon Unit that I think have the most potential for future iteration. As the first deployable designed explicitly to screw with existing infrastructure, it represents a shift in the way CCP is thinking about territorial control. Previous expansions have made huge mechanical changes to the sovereignty system and tweaked the bonuses gained by owning space, but small groups haven't really been able to meaningfully interfere with the economic infrastructure of an empire and get something valuable out of it.
By giving players more options to interfere with infrastructure that's not being frequently checked and tended to, CCP will be making it more difficult to hold onto territory that isn't being actively used or patrolled. We may see more deployables in the future designed to interfere with other aspects of territorial control, such as hacking structures that can eject the contents of a ship hangar or corporate hangar array if left uninterrupted for 24 hours. We could even see deployables that shut down various station services or that can steal the output from factories or tax revenues from market sales. Personally, I'd love to see more tactical structures like a deployable that hides you from the local channel, adds a wormhole-style tactical effect to the grid, or interferes with the system upgrades.
Predictions for Rubicon
Though it's just a simple item store with ship fitting facilities, the Depot really does have the potential to transform how many of us play EVE. Highsec players can use them to stake their claim to an asteroid belt and then have rival Depots destroyed, or use them to store mission loot and ammo in systems without a station. Lowsec players will be able to set up a base of operations for when their station is camped, and long-term expeditions into nullsec and wormhole space will be feasible for individual players.
The Siphon Unit is certainly interesting, but its long-term effect on the advanced materials market might not be so awesome. Setups that use mined materials directly as inputs to reactors will be unable to react at one cycle per hour while being siphoned, so a less efficient setup with a buffer silo will be required. Reactor farms will also only operate as long as it's profitable to react moon minerals bought on the market, and thefts from siphoning could cause a reactor to make a financial loss.
Forget to check on your reactor starbase for a few days and you may find some output missing, and missing the reinforced window on your Depot will cost you the opportunity to get the items in it to safety. It'll be very interesting to see how CCP will expand this in future updates as it puts more control of the universe into the hands of players.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.