Capsuleers eagerly await the new structure system currently under design by CCP. It is fascinating to follow the numerous discussions and feedback threads on the issue and it is a pleasure to see the developers seek this close contact with the player community. Clearly CCP wants to get this right.
One thing that the developers stress over and over again is that structures will be designed for every part of New Eden. And although many discussions revolve around the interplay between structures and sovereignty or the special situation in wormhole space, probably most Citadels (and later many other structures) will be installed in empire space. And the game designers appear to have a clear vision of how this will change highsec.
As always the goal is to enable more player interaction across the board. The paradigm to design towards that goal is to let players provide the services that currently are offered by NPC stations, such as the market, refining, factory slots and so on. A complete rework of the access rights on the new structure system will allow landlords to give other players save access to various services on their structures.
How fine-grained this access control will be in the end is not completely clear yet and we are awaiting more details in the devblogs coming out during the winter as we approach the big spring expansion. What is already becoming apparent, however, is that owners of a citadel will be able to collect taxes for the various services, and the amount can be made dependent at least on standings (possibly even more fine-grained) between customer and landlord.
So players will start collecting taxes on essential services. Capsuleers take over the infrastructure of New Eden. And all this happens in times when the empires are under deadly threat. New Eden will not be taken over by the nullsec empires. It is the massive highsec population that will play a crucial role here.
With power comes responsibility
In a hypercapitalistic frame of mind this concepts makes a lot of sense. Enable enterprising individuals to provide services. Reward them with a source of income to be spent on their whim and let the market weave it’s magic.
There is a catch, though. And this catch could provide for the most interesting gameplay opportunities.
Any capitalistic economy is vitally dependent on the state protecting the market actors and enforcing rules of conduct. In highsec this is provided by the Empires and by CONCORD. Protection like this is expensive and we can assume that the various taxes and market fees you pay in empire space partly go to finance the upkeep of the security in high security space.
But what if capsuleers become the important players while the Empire forces are weakened? What if, by getting more power, the capsuleers would feel the responsibility that comes with it? Presumably they want to enjoy the security of their space. But maybe now they want a word in deciding how the collected taxes are being spent!?
What if each constellation had a certain upkeep? The budget would need to be distributed onto different departments: defense, to keep up the security status; prospecting, to keep up the spawn rate of resources; infrastructure, to keep jump gates working and NPC station services online….
When resources are limited the decision how much taxes to collect and how to spend them becomes an interesting trade off. Two years ago I wrote a concept for a political system for the high security regions of New Eden where I outline in some detail the challenges and the potential that such a system would face. With the plan to give players the opportunity to finely tune taxes CCP is actually laying down some of the foundations that would be needed. The issue of citizenship, i.e. where do I pay my taxes and where do I have a say on political decisions, may be solved with the new structures. You become a citizen in the constellations where you anchor a citadel.
Adding a constellation budget and a political system to let capsuleers “vote” on how the budget is distributed, adding upkeep for empire services and making the security status of solar systems dynamic (depending on the allocated defense budget) would be new game mechanics to be implemented in the future. It would complete the vision of handing control of the world over to the capsuleers.
Let me end with a thought about the players and their expectations in highsec. This is obviously heavily biased by my own limited experience and riddled with stereotypes to which you will find countless exceptions. So please bear with me.
When people in nullsec enjoy to build up their own empires, with a huge meta infrastructure outside the game, with an enormous organisational framework to set up and manage, highsec dwellers enjoy the structure that is provided within the game. I don’t believe they are more risk averse or less social than the big alliances. They simply want to enjoy the game without having to log into half a dozen third party tools before they can play. I still remember my first months in the game, when I was offended by the thought that I should run something like teamspeak in parallel to the client. It almost felt like cheating to me back then. The market is the most successful device how this type of player interacts with the rest of the community. It provides a well defined interface and mechanic. Empowering capsuleers to better shape the market by setting up their own citadels is exactly how CCP wants to deepen the immersion of these players. A formal political system, implemented in the game through a constellation budget would be an exciting next level of that rabbit hole.