In the days before the sovereignty system, alliances unofficially claimed vast swathes of space and lived out of NPC stations. When the sovereignty system was introduced, POS (Player Owned Starbases) were used to officially claim systems. Those POS were used to produce the products needed for Tech 2 production so it wasn't long before territorial wars erupted over domination of those resources and the first sovereignty wars as we know them today began. It wasn't long before people got bored of shooting down massive numbers of enemy POS and setting up their own to steal their sovereignty. Wars became time-consuming and more about morale than combat. The sovereignty system was what CCP refer to as an evolutionary dead-end and it's due for some change.
Details on the new system were released in a devblog but the image describing the process has since been mysteriously removed. For those of you that missed it, I'll detail some of the changes. To claim a system, claim markers are anchored at a stargate. To break that claim, the enemy must anchor and protect a claim disruptor for 12 hours. At any point in that 12 hours, the defenders will have to field a fleet to take it down. If the claim disruptor has enough hitpoints and the attackers are warned when their disruptor is attacked, protecting it for 12 hours may actually be feasible. As it's been presented, this system is still open for timezone abuse and players could wake up to find they've lost a system during the night. Additionally, in this system there are still no functional borders for enemies to attack - they can pick any system in your empire and attack its sovereignty without having pushed your claim borders back to that point. There doesn't seem to be much real difference between this system and the current one but developments are still forthcoming.
One of the big changes coming is that 0.0 systems are having their carrying capacity increased. Currently, one solar system is only really enough to support a few active players at a time. As a result, large alliances have to claim huge areas of space around their outposts for peak usage times and much of it still goes unused. In a revolutionary twist, CCP are giving players the tools to "discover" more resources in their solar systems as part of their new "Infrastructure" system. The current plan is to allow alliances owning outposts to scan out new resources in the outpost system but little has been said about what type of resources other than that the changes are big. I think we can expect to be able to increase the quality of NPCs in a system, scan out new asteroid belts, find more NPC hideouts and survey new materials in the system's moons.
Additional infrastructure upgrades may include cynosural field jammers, jump bridges, anchorable sentry guns and other tools that are useful in system defence. This new infrastructure system is tied into the cost of maintaining sovereignty, making it expensive to maintain security upgrades in systems that aren't being used to their fullest. The idea is to make it too expensive for alliances to protect areas of space they aren't using. Alliances can choose to invest heavily in a core set of systems rather than expanding so much. One of the goals of the system is to free up some of the 0.0 space that's currently claimed but underused and to encourage smaller political entities to claim 0.0 systems of their own. In that respect, I think it will succeed. But unless the sovereignty system makes it harder to push small entities out of their space, mega-alliances may still dominate the 0.0 landscape just because they can.
EVE is a game that is constantly undergoing evolution, both from a player perspective and a development standpoint. Old avenues of gameplay may be heavily modified or even removed to keep the game fresh. The revamps proposed for the Dominion expansion are currently undergoing heavy testing and player feedback is going to be at the core of which design decisions are changed or finalised. To get your say, check out the Test Server Feedback forum.
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at massively.com. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you want to message him, send him an e-mail at brendan.drain AT weblogsinc DOT com. GOOOOOOOOOOOONS! D: