Player-Owned Customs Offices In The Crucible Expansion (EVE Online Guide)

Crucible is almost upon us, and with it will come a new tool for managing planet colonies: the player-owned customs office. This will allow players to earn ISK by taxing all exports from a given planet, and will be a huge opportunity for small corporations to make their mark in EVE Online. Crucible goes live on November 29th.

The Crucible expansion is rightly hailed as the mother of all iteration expansions. Tons of long-untouched corners of the game will receive a thorough dusting and perhaps a wipe with some lysol. The best example of this will be the new customs offices. Read on to find out why. If you could use some more information about planets in general, you might check out some of our guides to that effect.

Planets In EVE Online: The Present

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As things stand, players can happily establish colonies on planets nearly anywhere in EVE. The colonies churn away, producing valuable material with applications in starbase fuel and in tech two production. Eventually, the colonist stops by his planet to pick up the finished goods. Goods on the planet surface are rocketed up to an orbiting NPC-controlled customs office, which levies a light ISK tax in exchange for the player collecting his products. The product is then used locally or moved to Jita for sale, where it can be worth some big stacks of EVE ISK.

The whole system works well and all, but isn't exactly riveting gameplay. Well, CCP is about to make things a lot more interesting.

Changes EVE Online's Planetary Interaction

After the patch, every customs office currently not in high-security space in EVE Online will automagically be the property of the Interbus corporation, an in-game faction that is on pretty good terms with most of the other NPCs in EVE. These customs offices will levy a slightly high tax, but generally function as they do now. What's the twist? Well, we the players can blow them up and replace them with our own corporate-run customs offices. Think of it as aggressive privatization.

Once a customs office has been replaced by a player-run corporation, that corporation will collect the taxes coming off the planet. The taxes are player-controllable, within a certain range, so they can make them high or low, as they prefer. You most definitively cannot stop other players from using a planet, except in ways that you could already, such as by having sovereignty in null-security space. Otherwise, you can only reduce the profitability of items by taxing them. If you don't like how a planet is being taxed, you can either move to different planet or destroy the new player-owned customs office, then replace it with your own. I expect a lot of plasma, lava, and storm planets to change hands, over time.

Over time, we can expect pretty much all of the planets in EVE Online to slowly become player-run, depending on how valuable the planets are and where they are located. Player-run null-sec will switch over pretty quick, but I expect low-sec and NPC-controlled null-sec to convert piecemeal, over time. The best spots will probably get fought over quite a bit, at least at first. The customs offices will have a reinforcement timer similar to starbases or territorial control units, and have a big chunk of hit points (50,000 last I heard). They will otherwise not have any defenses, though, meaning that if you want to keep control of them you will need to be able to defend them over time.

The Crucible Expansion: Meanwhile, In High-Sec

The changes to customs offices in high-security will be less destructive, though they will surely result in some serious market repercussions. High-security customs offices will not be attackable or replaceable, at least until DUST 514 (CCP's upcoming console game). All bets are off, then.

The main change to high-sec customs offices will be pretty unpopular to a large segment of the players there. The ISK taxes paid to NPCs when you move goods off of a planet will be increased. How much they will be increased is uncertain, though it will definitely be a significant increase. That increase in taxes will probably mostly come out of the consumers' pockets, meaning people that need fuel for starbases or build starbase structures. Then again, those ISK costs can be passed even further along, increasing the cost of tech two components, ingredients, and eventually modules and ships.

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Some of those costs, however, will surely come out of high-sec players' bottom lines. After all, they are competing with players in wormhole space and null-sec that do not necessarily have much taxes, or low-sec players that produce more volume even if they pay a some ISK for it. While this will provide some much-needed enticement to move out of high-sec, though I don't imagine the migrants will be happy about it.

Bypassing The Customs Office In EVE Online

There is a way to bypass the customs office, though it is both unpleasant and impractical. Rather than using a launch pad to move goods to the customs office, you can use your command center structure to perform a rocket launch. This is a one way transfer in that it cannot allow you to deposit goods on the planet, only remove them. There are other limiting factors. These include: the high cost, which is currently half again the export cost of customs office taxes. There's no telling if that will still be the case, post-patch. Another problem is the small volume, which is a maximum of 500m3 at a time. Finally, you have to warp to a random bookmark that appears in your journal, that anybody could theoretically loot, rather than just going to the customs office.

These issues are severe enough to make orbital launches the last respite of someone about to abandon an over-taxed colony or one whose sovereignty has changed, but that's about it. Then again, this is the only way to get stuff off a planet without a customs office, where it is unfeasible to install one. As when a corporation decides to take a scorched earth approach toward planets and customs offices, for example. Still, you should carefully consider whether it is worth the ISK or not, before bothering.

Some Final Thoughts About Crucible And Player-Owned Customs Offices

One of the more interesting twists of the new system is that, although you cannot harvest materials from a planet in another alliance's sovereignty, you can destroy and replace a customs office. That leaves open the possibility of alliances controlling an area of space, but not retaining control of their planets. I am interested in seeing whether there will be much in the way of dangerous pirate organizations encroaching on alliance territory. Each customs office will probably end up costing around 100mil ISK, eventually, so constantly replacing them could get tiresome.

Another interesting possibility is that of a corporation setting itself up as a sort of sprawling financial empire across low-sec or NPC-controlled null-sec. You may not be able to take control of the space, but you can still put the squeeze on the planets there. Hopefully this will be some peoples' first taste of controlling space and fending off competing interests, because EVE could use a good proving ground that the alliances won't bother taking.

All in all this is a really clever expansion feature, and I think CCP have really out-done themselves. More things to to fight over is one thing EVE needs, and it needs things worth fighting over that alliances won't just completely dominate, even more.

GG CCP, next map.

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