Sovereignty - Breaking the Chains

"Do not fear change, embrace it."

This blog is the first in a series which will focus on giving you a glimpse into some of the big features of our next expansion, Dominion.  In this one, we want to give you a high level overview of how we plan to change the sovereignty mechanic.  Subsequent blogs will detail things such as the theories behind some of these new concepts and, eventually, the actual mechanics as well as a few other key bits we feel directly affect the massive sandbox of null-sec game play in EVE.  For now though, let's get started.

Out with the old...

In the beginning, there was no sovereignty... then there were starbases.  Intended to be ‘homes' of a sort for corporation or alliance members, or even a lone miner in deep space, these venerable structures have since been pressed into a multitude of roles for which their initial design was never intended.  Their link to attaining control of star systems is something which we will move away from in Dominion.  So now comes the words which so many have longed to hear:

Sovereignty will no longer be tied directly to starbases.

This decision was an obvious one, as there is no one thing that causes more consternation amongst players than the seemingly endless task of shooting towers.  Once the choice to do this was made, we then went ahead and pretty much scrapped the entire current system and started to build a new one from the ground up.  Literally years of forum posts, player experience and feedback from the CSM contributed to what was a long, arduous process.  What has emerged is a much leaner and infinitely more expandable system which we can continually evolve over time.

The thoughts and theories behind this process will be detailed soon in a following blog, but I'm sure you're ready for some actual information.

Planting the Flag

There are no sov ‘levels' anymore; you either have sovereignty or you do not.  The mechanic for claiming a star system will be much more simplified and symbolic.  You will plant your ‘flag' in the form of a new claiming module and it will sync up with the traditional ‘borders' of a star system, namely the stargates.  The exact mechanics of how this works and why will be explained later, as we are still in the process of balancing the system, however we can tell you one of the more important bits.

Upkeep

Who makes sure all those stargates in 0.0 continue to run?  Who pays the bills to the crews and funds essential services to ensure there are no breakdowns?  When Dominion is released, the answer is simple - if you want to control the space accessed by these stargates, you will be responsible for their monthly maintenance and upkeep.  The current design calls for this to be a simple ISK transaction, representative of things like duct tape for reactor maintenance, Amarrios breakfast cereal and other important stuff.

The other major factor is the more space you spread your ‘Dominion' across, the more expensive it will become to maintain your stargate network.  We do not want to see alliances holding space simply for the sake of holding it or just making their color on the map bigger.  We want to see alliances more properly utilizing their space and providing more places for their members to generate income.  In order to facilitate that, we are going to let you do some really cool stuff!

Home Improvement

One issue that we intend to specifically address is that of ‘infrastructure'.  This is a word you are going to hear a lot more of in the months and years to come.  Essentially, we are going to give you the tools to improve the space you hold.  There will be many ways you can do this, but they will all fall under one of three categories: Military, Economic and Industrial.  These are not set ‘paths' that you can follow, simply a classification of daily activities that take place in EVE.

The idea is that some areas of space are obviously considered of less worth than others and always have been.  This is going to change.  YOU are going to change it.  Through the investment of time, money and effort at all levels, an alliance will be able to directly affect the value of and develop the space they hold.  This will consist of things as simple as investing in improvements that allow your members to discover new riches in systems long thought barren and useless.  The resources were always ‘out there', hidden or out of sight, and now you will have the tools to access them.  Other developmental areas will concern the expansion and efficiency of your industrial base.  

In essence, you are going to be able to make your space more attractive to both your current alliance members and also smaller entities that might be looking for incentives to take their first steps out of Empire.  The goal is to provide incentives for you and your allies to not have to spread out so much in order to provide reasonable rewards for your pilots.

I want to blow *%#$ up!

No matter what happens, there will always be important things to shoot.  The key is finding a balance between allowing smaller gangs of raiders to disrupt the day to day operations of your space against requiring massive battleship and capital fleets to actually remove you from the same space.  Conquest of space in Dominion will differ greatly from what exists currently, as will the ability of roaming gangs to cause an ‘AFK Empire' no end of frustration.

Just as raiders will be presented new opportunities to create havoc, aggressors intent on all out conquest will have to carefully weigh their plans and make decisions on what and where to attack first.  Strategies that work in one system may completely fail in the next.  Defenders of space in Dominion will have new ways of defending their space as well.  These tools will not replace a proper defense force but they will provide new and exciting options which ensure that not every fight is the same and will reward investment in military infrastructure.

Dominion Tools

Tying all of this together will be a feature we are tentatively calling the "Sovereignty Dashboard" (cooler name pending).  Depending on your level of access in a corp or alliance, you will be able to use this new feature to get up-to-the-moment information on what is happening in a given system of space that your alliance controls.  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.  This is just an overview of basic functionality.  This feature may be expanded upon and you can expect more details soon.

Iteration & The Future

One very important point to take away from this blog is that everything described here is only the beginning.  One of the mandates that we've followed in our recent development cycles is that any new features we introduce be open ended enough to allow for future development and improvement.  The wormholes of Apocrypha are a prime example of this in that who knows what else might be lurking in the darkness of wormhole space?  Likewise, while we felt that the old sov system was at an evolutionary dead end, with no ability to properly expand upon it, the new one we plan to introduce in Dominion is specifically aimed at allowing us to continually tweak it and introduce new content.

As an example of this philosophy, one feature which we plan to implement early next year as a direct follow-up to the new Sovereignty system is the introduction of Treaties.  Without going into too much detail, Treaties will be a fully functional mechanic that formalizes many of the agreements already in game.  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.

As you can see, we are not doing this by half measures.  The sandbox is about to get bigger and badder than ever.  This is EVE Online - Dominion.

-    CCP Abathur