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EVE Evolved: Dominion be damned


At the last EVE Online fanfest, it was announced that the Dominion expansion is slated for December 1st to coincide with Iceland's Sovereignty day. With less than a month to go until launch, there has been growing concern at the extreme lack of information on the new sovereignty mechanics at the expansion's core. There have been a few scheduled tests and several devblogs but few factual details on the mechanics we'll be using once the expansion goes live. I've even been on the test server and tried the new mechanics out but they're far from finished.

The worry was that if the specific details weren't revealed as soon as possible, it might end up being too late to make necessary changes based on player feedback. On Friday 6th, a devblog was finally released explaining the cost breakdowns in the new sovereignty system and what bonuses will be given for the various system upgrades. Rather than allaying people's fears, the devblog set the forums on fire. An intense debate has sprung up, with massive outcry from those that live in 0.0. Their concerns may well be warranted as the proposed mechanics don't quite match up with the original vision of the Dominion expansion that the EVE community has shown support for thus far.

Has Dominion veered off course and is time running out to get it back on track? In this opinion piece, I run down the new devblog and give an inside view into parts of the heated debate it sparked off.

The good ideas:

When the first morsels of information on the new sovereignty system fell from CCP's tables, the ideas were met with a generally positive attitude. In the first devblog, entitled "Sovereignty - Breaking the chains", a general overview of the topic was put forward. Sovereignty would no longer be tied to starbases and the logistical headache of fueling them was to be replaced by a simple ISK-based upkeep plan. A new "flag" module anchored at the stargates in a system replaced starbases in turf wars. This was designed to move the fights away from moons and toward stargates. Rather than telling players where to fight, CCP were building a new system that put the fights where the players usually have them anyway - the stargates.

Exponentially increasing upkeep costs were planned to push alliances into smaller areas of space and open up more space for other alliances. As star systems can't handle large numbers of players trying to make ISK, the carrying capacity of systems also had to be improved. That's where the most exciting part of the plan came in. A new "infrastructure" system was proposed to give alliances the tools to actually improve their own star systems. There would no longer be "good" or "bad" star systems, instead the majority of the resources would be added via infrastructure upgrades. Instead of a system's money-making potential being filled by two or three pilots, you could improve it and cram more players into the same space. It was an inspired idea and in their second blog on the issue, CCP took it one step further. They talked about emergence and explained their reasons for putting the tools for developing space in the hands of players. They outlined a committment to step away from "telling players what to do or how to do it".

Crunching the numbers:
When the new blog came out, the upkeep system was the first part of it to come under fire. The numbers seemed off by almost an order of magnitude. Just claiming a system was priced at 20 million ISK per day, a figure designed to match the current cost of running 5 large starbases. In contrast, the actual minimum required to currently claim a system is only one small starbase. For that 600 million per month you would get absolutely nothing except your name in the top-left corner of the screen. It would be another 300 million per month for an infrastructure hub and more for upgrades. A standard system setup with a cyno jammer and jump bridges would run you over 2 billion ISK per month. Claiming systems just isn't worth that much ISK and after around thirty pages of players pointing this out, CCP agreed. CCP Chronotis revised the prices to make the basic cost of claiming systems cheap but keep luxuries like jump bridges and cyno jammers expensive.

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