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The Changing Nature Of Alliances In EVE Online

Posted Thu, May 19, 2011 by Space Junkie

CCP has fired a shot across the bow of the null-sec alliances. The first major change has already happened: sanctum cosmic anomalies of the most lucrative variety are no longer found in less desirable solar systems. The next change is just around the corner, and promises to reduce the functionality of jump bridges.

Without a doubt, EVE Online's political end-game is changing. The question is now whether these changes are for the best, and what further changes lie in store for the denizens of conquerable space. Though it is an unpopular position, I am going to attempt to defend these changes where I think it appropriate.

Big Changes

EVE Online

Alliances must have a steady income stream or they will not be able to pay the bills on controlling their space.

The crux of alliance-level income is based on four things:

  • Moon Minerals: Good moons are rare, and constantly the source of contention between alliances. Most alliances spend the bulk of their time chasing these, though there are some disparities in moon distribution that make the northern alliances a great deal richer in valuable technetium than alliances inhabiting other areas. This causes some alliances to aggressively pursue alternate revenue streams.
  • Taxes: Corporate taxes are often the biggest source of income for corporations and alliances. Most of these taxes come from players earning bounties at cosmic anomaly sites.
  • Rent: Agreements to lease solar systems or portions thereof to smaller entities. Get enough of these and your alliance can make more than a region full of technetium moons. Just don't expect keeping track of it all to be too easy.
  • Supercapital Production: Though more often the bailiwick of corporations or even single players, some alliances supplement their funds by producing and selling supercapital ships.

Not every alliance in null-sec has access to worthwhile moons. Those that do own such moons are unlikely to acquire many more and hold them for very long due to the way null-sec politics tends to break down along natural borders, with territory swelling and receding to roughly the same size as previous inhabitants of that area.

An so it is that taxes are the most important factor in most alliances for the purposes of cash flow and paying for the upkeep of space. Pilots run cosmic anomalies to earn ISK. That ISK is taxed and spent on upgrading the space to have more cosmic anomalies. It is a lovely economic ecosystem.

Fortunately or not, depending on your point of view, this changed. Someone at CCP realized that under the game mechanics at the time all solar systems were pretty much identical. This removed a lot of the pressure for alliances to invade space: if the space did not have technetium moons, there would be little to distinguish it from anywhere else. CCP fixed this by linking the quality of cosmic anomalies to system security status, with a lower status resulting in better sites.

The Sound And The Fury

Nobody wanted to scrape and save ISK, drop a station in null-sec, and then find out that CCP was suddenly making that system worth only a fraction of what it was. Indeed, I think it very likely that players can make better ISK per hour running missions in high-security space than trudging along in a system with wretched security status.

This is a good example of something I have noticed about MMOs: it is a game designer's job to force players to have fun because, if players are left to their own devices, they will naturally pursue strategies that are effective rather than those that are fun. Someone has probably written the idea more succinctly, but you get the idea.

Particular players were deleteriously affected by this change, but the game as a whole is much improved when there is ample cause for conflict between null-sec groups. It is also improved in an economic sense when there is less ISK pouring into the market, though this effect is largely invisible to the player. Population pressure players a big part of giving alliances reasons to fight each other. Making the ideal solar systems more scarce is going to help incentivize that, even if it is not enough to break the iron grip that the big alliance blocs have on politics. For that, rather more changes will be needed.

Oh, My Sweet Jump Bridges

The next big change is slated for later this month. It will result in a maximum of one jump bridge per system (instead of two), an inability of capital ships with jump drives to use bridges, and a larger fuel hangar for the bridge. The long-term effects of these changes cannot be overstated.

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