The Huddled Masses

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

"The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus

At the site of the Statue of Liberty, this inspiring sonnet commemorates that iconic symbol's unveiling to the public.

As we approach the release of the Citadel expansion on April 27th, I wonder: will the first player-built trading hub be constructed with similarly idealized aspirations in mind? Will it symbolize a new era of hope and economic prosperity for pilots in New Eden?

Or will it be an unassailable monument to absolute power and intimidation - the exclusive domain of a relatively small group of privileged masters?

Behold, the Palatine

CCP Fozzie recently revealed details of a new Citadel structure, the Palatine Keepstar - the most massive Citadel designed, with an additional low slot, two more mid-slots, and double the hitpoints of an XL Citadel. Based on current market prices, the Palatine will cost about 200 trillion ISK to construct. And most interesting of all, this behemoth will be absolutely unique - as only one will be allowed to anchor in New Eden.

Clearly, CCP Games is daring the largest player alliances in the game to be bold. The massive rush to construct the sole Palatine structure will become EVE Online's most critical strategic challenge. Like racing to build an atomic bomb, or to land a man on the moon, the first to build a Palatine will lay claim to being the most dominant force in New Eden. As a result, I expect we'll see rival alliances and coalitions pour their energies into "Project Palatines".

It will literally be a monumental undertaking. CCP Fozzie estimates that it could take "over a year" to accomplish the task. But EVE Online players have proven to be extraordinarily resourceful, so no one really knows for sure how long it will be before the first Palatine is ready.

And where will this massive structure be anchored? Almost certainly, in New Eden's most important trade hub, Jita.

The Inevitable New Jita

With the coming higher taxes for use of NPC stations, most commerce and industry will migrate quickly to player-run citadels. And the biggest prize will be the replacement for Jita 4-4, the most significant trade hub in all of New Eden by far. The player alliance that succeeds in establishing the "New Jita" trade hub will reap enormous riches, thus making them an extremely powerful political force.

There are great shifts in power occurring in New Eden today. The war against the Imperium now in progress may see the end of that once dominant coalition. Almost certainly, their power will be greatly diminished, at least for quite a while.

Nature abhors a vacuum. If the Imperium topples and falls, the resulting power gap will be filled by someone, and quickly. Some believe this will be Pandemic Legion, but I am less sure. Their relative power will likely rise as a result of the current war, but it could be only temporary. The alliance or coalition that builds a Palatine and establishes an extraordinarily defensible New Jita, whomever that may be, could quickly rise to the top of the power structure - quite literally - in New Eden. I do not think PL has an absolute lock on doing this.

Casting Dark Shadows on High-Sec

Some pundits, like Gevlon Goblin, despair over these pending events. In fact, he is planning to leave the game, once Citadels are introduced. He believes the new structures will destroy the EVE Online sandbox and make the game "pay to win". He foretells only dark days ahead.

I am much less pessimistic than Gevlon, but I am cynical about the changes that Citadels will mean for our game. Certainly, the opportunity to be a successful high-sec industrialist as a solo player will be greatly diminished, if not eliminated altogether. Citadels, even small ones, will require groups of players to operate and defend adequately. Unless the rules for wardecs change (and I hope they do, someday soon), the option to be a moderately profitable manufacturer as a sole proprietor will evaporate for all but the most dedicated and risk-tolerant.

Over several years, I made a small fortune running small and medium POS towers and using them for invention and Tech II module manufacturing in high security space. But from what I have learned about Citadels so far, it will be impractical to do this as a casual independent, once POSes are replaced with the new structures.

Perhaps this is a good thing, as it will provide incentives for players to establish Citadels with a team of players. More social interaction is not a bad thing to encourage in EVE Online. But I will miss the days when I could slap up a POS and crank out some modules and make ISK, without a lot of complications and coordination.

For high-sec dwellers, Citadels will dramatically change how and where they play the game. I fully expect to see most, if not all, NPC stations eventually replaced by player-constructed and operated Citadel structures, though I am not sure how quickly CCP intends to make this happen.

My main worry is that the vast majority of players who reside in high-sec - more than 70% of them, according to CCP Quant - may become economically enslaved by rich and powerful null-sec powers who take over the major trade hubs - not only Jita, but Amarr, Dodixie, Rens and Hek as well. With a small number of null-sec alliances controlling prices in New Eden, it may become impossible to make a decent living or amass modest wealth in high sec space any more.

Nearly three-quarters of active characters operate in high-sec space - by far the majority. (From statistics provided by CCP Quant in 2015.)

If this happens, then the vast majority of players in EVE Online may truly become the huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. A few will emigrate to more dangerous space, I am sure. But most will not.

And if they decide not to bend their collective knee to the few robber barons in power, they will most likely not rise up in loud revolt - instead, they will simply leave the game, quietly. And that could kill EVE Online, for everyone, forever.

Promises to Keep - or Forget?

I hope that my worries are unfounded, and that CCP's devs have considered this potential course of events. I trust they are making plans to ensure that there will be good gameplay options for everyone in New Eden, in every type of space, and for every kind of preferred playstyle. That is what CCP Seagull has promised, many times.

I hope she keeps her promises, especially to the quiet masses, and not just to the powerful few. The future of EVE Online depends on it.

Fly safe! o7