An outpost is a player-constructed station that can be constructed in the lawless regions of null-sec space. These outposts then serve as the base for the corporations and alliances that build them, acting as forts, marketplaces, and home, all rolled into one. Any corporation that controls an outpost is considered to be heads and shoulders above those that do not.
This guide is the first of a two-part series dealing with constructing an outpost. This portion deals with an overview of outpost types and the strategic concerns of when and where to build them, while the second part will contain an in-depth look at the particulars of outpost construction.
Why Build An Outpost
Outposts should only be built after careful consideration.
Building an outpost is expensive, usually costing somewhere in the vicinity of 25 billion ISK. The risks are immense: the outpost might get blown up before it is fully built, or stolen by a more powerful alliance at any point after construction is finished. They can attract pirates seeking to prey on the players making use of the facilities. They can be regarded as trespassing in areas of space that, though unclaimed via game mechanics, are nevertheless considered the territory of one or more alliances.
Why, then, would anyone ever bother going through the hassle of building one? There are many reasons:
- Outposts can act as a home base of a corporation or alliance. You can't beat a station for cohesive, tangible evidence that an alliance is well organized. While docked your alliance members (and friends) can fit ships, build modules, refine ore or loot, and research blueprints.
- Outposts store goods in a way that prevents them from being stolen via force (as compared to a POS, that can be destroyed in order to steal goods that are stored there). The worst that can happen is that the goods end up locked in a station, unable to be retrieved but still able to be sold on the market or with contracts.
- Outposts can bolster recruitment for new members and improve the quality of recruits. While building an outpost is impressive, retaining an outpost is more so. If you can hold onto an outpost despite EVE Online's shifting null-sec politics, mischievous pirate corporations, and greedy mega-alliances, then you are an alliance worth a damn, and automatically considered to be of a superior cut as compares to all the alliances and corporations that do not control areas of space.
- Outposts are market centers. As soon as your station is built, pilots can begin listing buy and sell orders there and, as station owner, you get a cut of the sales taxes. The more well-stocked a station market is, the more players will want to live there, and the more market activity will occur, in a self-reinforcing trend of financial development.
- Outposts enrich your alliance and your members. If your station has refinery options, you can keep a percentage of any refining activity that takes place. If your station has factory or research slots, you can set fees for the usage thereof. Repairing damaged ships or modules can carry a fee. You can even charge a fee for merely docking in your station. Entire alliances have funded themselves purely off of these fees.
- Outposts add security. Hiding inside of a POS is rather lacking compared to the complete invulnerability that pilots enjoy whilst docked up inside of a station. Ships stored in a station stay there, as opposed to POS-stored goods than may be stolen by unscrupulous corp- or alliance-mates.
- Outposts leave a permanent mark on the landscape of EVE Online. There have never been any indication of plans to make outposts able to be destroyed. So any station you build will exist where you build it, for the foreseeable future. It is effectively a permanent customization to the game of EVE Online. This adds a certain aspect of leaving a legacy in the game. Dozens of stations have been built for purely egotistical reasons.
- Outposts are the natural complement to a solar system that has an upgraded Infrastructure Hub, allowing loot and ore to be refined, reprocessed, resold, and used for manufacture.
Outpost Profit Models
The most important consideration, barring some kind of larger strategy or unusual motive, is "will this outpost pay for itself?" The usual answer is that if the outpost is left in relative peace and the inhabitants are able to go about their business without too much harassment, then it will eventually pay for itself. Depending on how clever you are about leveraging control of that solar system and the station's facilities, and especially how many people are making use of your station, it may turn around a profit faster or slower.
Maintaining sovereignty in a single solar system costs at least 6mil ISK per day in maintenance fees, and probably a great deal more if you want to make use of any of the bells and whistles like jump bridges or cynosural arrays. In order to pay for this, it is imperative that any ISK-generating activities that take place in your solar system contribute toward that bill. Usually, this occurs by having a corporation tax that applies to NPC kill bounties, a refinery tax in the station (if applicable), and/or charging players ISK to remain in your corporation.
Alternative profit models are not currently incentivized by EVE Online's game mechanics. Supercapital construction is like painting a big target on your solar system.
Allowing some kind of open access to your upgraded solar system will increase population pressure without improving your profit by very much, if at all. Basically, if there is a better way to run a station system, nobody has thought of it, and CCP has not expended a lot of resources to make alternative corporate models feasible.
Varieties Of Outposts
There are four kinds of outposts, with one type for each race in EVE Online. Each type has a specific purpose, but can be upgraded to provide additional services. The kinds of outposts and their primary bonus are:
- Amarr Factory Outpost: A production specialized outpost with a base 20 production slots and a 30% bonus to manufacturing time.
- Caldari Research Outpost: A laboratory specialized outpost with ten each of blueprint material research, production speed research, and copying slots, and a 30% bonus to the research speed.
- Gallente Administrative Outpost: A corporation office specialized outpost with 24 corporate offices, which is very helpful to a larger space empire that wishes to rent out access to their space.
- Minmatar Service Outpost: A reprocessing specialized outpost with a base 35% refine rate. This means that with really good skills and an "H50" or "H60" implant can get very close to a 100% refine rate (before any taxes levied by the outpost controller), which is pretty good.
Though an outpost provides protection and is a great base, it can also paint a target mark on your solar system for pirates.
For most alliances, the optimal configuration is to control two adjacent solar systems, one with an Amarr factory, and one with a Minmatar refinery. That way you can reprocess loot in one, and manufacture with the minerals produced in the other. No access to a refinery means that loot needs to be exported or melted inefficiently at a POS. No or limited production slots means that local production cannot take place, and the market will not be able to support a large number of people, or will be entirely dependent on imports.
Where To Build An Outpost
Since the Dominion expansion to EVE Online, true security (the actual security class of a null-sec solar system, like -.60 rather than just 0.0) is no longer the holy grail of station location. This is because any solar system can be via an Infrastructure Hub to be about as good as any other.
Now, the considerations of where to build an outpost are usually along the following lines:
- Where can I build an outpost and not have it immediately be stolen by pirates or a mega-alliance? Building a station in a worthless section of Pure Blind might seem like a great idea in theory, but in practice it will immediately be conquered by another alliance out of pure boredom.
- Is this solar system so close to high-sec or low-sec that pirates will be able to roll in and shoot people without us noticing them first, or with great ease? Regions like Geminate or Scalding Pass may seem nice at first glance, but they are actually very porous and vulnerable to any pirate corporation that feels like rolling in and nabbing a few killmails.
- How many gates does this solar system have out of it? The more gates, the harder it will be to defend the system if it is attacked with "Sovereignty Blockade Units?"
- How close is the system to the edge of high-sec space, via capital jump drives (rather than stargates)?
- Are there any moons containing valuable moon minerals in that system or nearby?
- What are the prospects for expansion, should this solar system end up being not enough for our growing alliance?
- Are there any good locations nearby to which I could connect a "Jump Bridge," especially if I wanted to have a private connection to high-security space?
- What type of NPCs live in the area? Will my space be more or less desirable if it has
- How close is my space to NPC-controlled null-sec space? Proximity to a region like Stain, Venal, Curse, Syndicate, et ceteras, gives access to missions but also gives hostile alliances or pirates a base to work out of for attacking your alliance members or space.
- How volatile is the larger political situation in that region or the regions nearby? If a potential station system is sandwiched between two hostile power blocs, then you may get rolled over or conquered, purely as collateral damage in the larger conflict.
Building an outpost is expensive and risky. In a lot of ways, it may be better for your corporation or alliance to use POS for your industrial needs, since those have much less of an incentive to be attacked, and will pay for themselves much faster, under almost every circumstance imaginable.
Just be sure of your business plan before you pursue it, rather than assuming that it will pay for itself and work out in the long run. For most alliances, building a station is kind of like buying a freighter: if you need one, you will know it. Otherwise, don't bother.
Check back with us later for the second part of this article, dealing with the cost breakdown and material ingredients used for the actual construction process.