NPC Nullsec Upgrades
There are eight areas of NPC nullsec in the game:
Curse (Angel Cartel)
Delve (Blood Raider)
Geminate (The Society)
Great Wildlands (Thukker Tribe)
Outer Ring (Outer Ring Excavations)
Syndicate (The Syndicate)
Of course, not all NPC nullsec areas are equal. Four of them (Angel Cartel, Blood Raider, Sansha, and Guristas) are proper pirate factions, whereas ORE, The Society, Syndicate, and Thukker Tribe exist somewhere between the Empire factions and piracy. Some of these factions offer missions across many regions in hi, low, and nullsec, whereas others offer missions only in their own nullsec space. Some of their LP is worth more than others, depending on the market. Some span entire regions, whereas others are only a constellation or two. Some are occupied primarily by small gangs and unallied player corps who defend the space with varying levels of tenacity, whereas others are de facto extensions of sov territories.
I have often lived in NPC nullsec, and it’s still one of my favorite areas in the game. The LP from missioning is usually profitable, and it offers the interest and challenges of living in nullsec without all the fuss and bother of sov ownership or living in a sov alliance. However, I’ve often felt that something is missing, and I want to offer CCP a suggestion about how to fill that void. It’s often been suggested by players that CCP allow us to drop iHubs in NPC nullsec and install ratting and mining upgrades in these systems. The motive is obvious: players want that super sweet nullsec ISK, and they don’t necessarily want to remain beholden to sov alliances in order to get it. Unfortunately, allowing player alliances to essentially establish sov in NPC nullsec defeats the entire purpose of NPC nullsec. It privatizes the commons. I am an anarchist. I do not support privatizing the commons.
I think the far more elegant solution would be for NPC nullsec factions to drop their own TCUs and iHubs in their own nullsec systems. Their sovereignity index would be a measure of either the missions completed or the reputation gained with that NPC Faction over a particular time period. CCP could go so far as to require that the missions/reputation be gained with the Faction within the constellation of NPC nullsec associated with a particular iHub, but this has drawbacks which I will analyze shortly. Once the NPC sov index is maxed out, military and industry iHub upgrades automatically unlock and apply across their systems. Those indexes may increase in the usual manner. If CCP really wants to make it interesting, perhaps once all the indexes are maxed out, a special NPC-themed event spawns in some random constellation, much like a Sansha incursion, where players can defend the Faction’s sov from attack for an opportunity to make even more ISK.
This system would have several virtues. First, it respects missions as a popular activity in NPC nullsec and brings missionaries into the player ecosystem in a new, very positive way. Obviously as the space becomes more valuable for ratting and mining, it will attract a more diverse group of carebears, as well as players hoping to attack those carebears, which will necessitate defense fleets to protect those carebears. This creates a synergy which makes the game more interesting for everyone. It also creates an incentive for those unfamiliar with nullsec to come out and try it without having to get involved with sov. I expect the ISK generation might entice another generation of hisec and lowsec pilots out into NPC null, and from there they might even decide that owning sov is worth doing.
Speaking of sov, sov-holding alliances are now the most shameless carebears in all of EVE. With player-owned stations, large, organized defense fleets, and new cyno and gate structures, sov will probably remain far safer for players to quietly rat and mine undisturbed even with these changes. It will still remain the only place for super manufacturing. If necessary in order to spare sov’s feelings and fears of inadequacy, the iHub upgrades in NPC nullsec might even be made slightly less lucrative, although I really don’t see why that would be necessary given that NPC nullsec players will actually be operating in the most dangerous space in New Eden. The rewards should be commensurate. This change will allow mining corps greater freedom, however, since the current meta requires industry players to either settle for much lower ISK generation or join a sov alliance. Some of them might be happier in a more stable but still lucrative version of nullsec. CCP, set my people free. Let them come home to the Promised Land of NPC nullsec, where the ISK will flow like milk and honey and they will serve the Lord their BOB and fear Pharoah no longer!
Another compelling feature of this system is how it creates story-driven opportunities across New Eden. For example, it makes me sad that Outer Ring is not the best mining space in the game. Story-wise, that doesn’t make any sense. With the new player-owned bases and Rorqual buffs, the place should be abuzz with ORE-themed mining fleets, but instead it remains one of the quieter areas of New Eden. So much beautiful, unused space. A single tear rolls down my cheek. However, if players had a way of improving the number and quality of anomalies in this region, that might change. This is, BTW, the reason I would prefer the sov index be determined by total missions/rep gained with the Faction across New Eden instead of simply the constellation, however: Curse, Delve, Stain, and Syndicate have a good concentration of mission agents across their respective NPC constellations, but Geminate, Great Wildlands, Outer Ring, and Venal do not. Outer Ring and Great Wildlands in particular would still be pretty limited if the upgrades are determined by constellation. I think it would be far more straightforward for the sov to simply be measured by how many players are missioning with those Factions. Pirate faction space in particular is primed for story-driven events. The rats spawned in the anomalies there should be the same standings-tanking rats one encounters while running missions for them. Many players develop a strong player fantasy of association with the pirate factions, and this would only add more opportunity for that fantasy.