Traditionally, EVE Vegas was just a community meetup—a place where players could gather in the smoky casinos and drink until they were numb. But after last weekend and the massive details unleashed for EVE's next big expansion pack, many are wondering how long it will be until EVE Vegas eclipses Iceland's EVE Fanfest. While there was a variety of topics discussed at the conference, few were as anticipated as the details behind EVE Online's Citadels expansion coming spring 2016—a return to the big expansion pack style releases that the team hopes will contrast nicely with their monthly update schedule.
While the sweeping changes to the way EVE Online's capital ships are flown are exciting, it is the citadels that were the subject of just as many drunken discussions over the weekend. As Cameron Royal, a senior engineer for EVE Online and better known as CCP Nullarbor, puts it: "EVE Online is a sandbox and the structures are the sandcastles. The capitals are a big boot for smashing down sandcastles." If that is the case, sandcastles in EVE Online just got a whole lot more exciting.
Although some information was made available prior to EVE Vegas, the keynote presentation and subsequent structures panels and roundtables offered up plenty more details about the upcoming changes that will, as CCP Nullarbor was able to confirm, eventually replace player owned starbases entirely.
"For a long time people have been asking us to improve the [player owned starbase] system and improve the outposts," CCP Nullarbor said during an interview in Vegas. "If you go way back to when POSes were first introduced, they have a lot of the same design goals of what we are doing now. We're just having another shot at it."
"They achieve what the POSes were originally intended to do, and with that in mind we're going to phase out POSes and then eventually phase out the outposts as well and have these new structures replace them."
"We have a lot of work to do to get [citadels] back up to the same feature set that you can achieve with POSes," Nullarbor said. "But we're not in a rush to do it, and we want to give everyone a lot of time to make sure that they do it on a timeline that is comfortable with them."
Though the specifics and relationship between the two structures might take some time to really settle, once citadels are available, the new features already make them infinitely more desirable than player owned starbases. Though not every EVE pilot can attest, those that have ever spent countless hours of their time configuring and setting up starbases were likely the same that cheered during various points during the presentations.
Talking Specifics (As Much As Possible)
Because EVE Online is so dependent on the numbers, CCP was unable to really give too much concrete information in the various features that will accompany the new citadels. By and large, they will be acting as structures that can be placed anywhere in space (yes, even low and high security space), and will become the new focal point of sovereignty warfare. As CCP Nullarbor so properly put it, they are the new sandcastles of EVE Online. In the spirit of Fozzie Sov, the new sovereignty mechanics that allows an alliance to determine when they're systems are most vulnerable, each citadel has a certain time frame where, each week, they are susceptible to attack.
Like player owned starbases, citadels will come in different sizes to match the needs of differently sized organizations. The medium citadels will cost under 700 million ISK, depending on modules, and docking will only be possible by sub-capital and capital type ships. Medium citadels will also only be vulnerable for three hours a week. The large citadel costs a significantly higher 7 billion ISK but also offers more weapons, defenses, and station services. They can take a much bigger beating than their medium counterparts, but are also vulnerable for six hours a week. X-Large citadels cost 70 billion ISK, with services and fittings costing between 1 and 23 billion ISK each. While they represent the absolute epitome of damage and defense, they are also vulnerable for a whopping 21 hours a week.
As I mentioned, the small citadels can only be docked by regular capitals and sub-capital ships, but the X-Large variant is large enough to handle the docking of EVE's largest ships: super capitals and titans. Each player who docks will have access to their own private hangar that cannot be accessed by other players—even the owner. Of course, pumping a citadel full of all of your largest ships will come with some risks. If a citadel is destroyed, its contents are ejected into deep space and the coordinates are provided to the station owner so that they can, god willing, retrieve them. In wormhole space, however, those contents are merely dropped as loot.
For weapons, citadels will come armed with standard weapon types, but CCP is also bringing some really exciting armaments to bear in the new expansion. Among those will be area of effect torpedoes, energy neutralizers, and tractor beams for grabbing and holding ships. Even more exciting is the addition of a new citadel doomsday weapon that will fire a beam that bounces from ship to ship up to a set number of times.
Another interesting feature is tethering, which envelopes ships with permission to dock at a citadel in a protective beam when they are close enough to it. The goal here is to allow pilots to defend their stations while eliminating the often tedious and predatory "docking games" that attacking forces would use to siege a station.
"This kind of stuff just isn't possible with POSes," CCP Nullarbor said. "It's definitely some rough edges that we want to improve, but the big one is we're moving towards a paradigm of 'I can build infrastructure in space, and I can have other people come and use it, and that will make me money.'"
CCP Nullarbor went on to explain how they drew inspiration from EVE Online's custom offices, which allows organizations in the game to install their own offices and claim a small portion of the taxes of goods travelling from a planet's surface. "it creates a lot of localized conflict and is quite profitable for people if they're willing to invest to putting them down and defending them. We really like that model, so it's sort of an expansion on that. That is something that POSes don't really have at all, and outposts have a little bit but it is restricted to big null-sec alliances," he said.
The team isn't concerned that the new citadels will pose too much of a threat for smaller alliances either. The structures will also feature a damage mitigation mechanic which places a cap on the amount of damage that can be applied per second. This allows them to also lower the hit points of a structure to much more manageable levels, meaning even a small force of battleships can make reasonable work of a medium citadel. "It's a lower barrier of entry than current POSes and definitely lower than outposts, and that's going to create a more interesting scale of combat."
"We want the structures to fight asymmetrically, you know, fight a little bit outnumbered," CCP Nullarbor said. "That's why we are introducing more AOE things, lots of movement type modules to push ships apart and manipulate fleets so that if you are faced with overwhelming numbers you're not just a sitting duck. You have some means of trying to disperse a huge group and actually apply a bit of damage. We're just exploring this new space."
Still, even what we covered is only a fraction of the new functionality available in citadels. As we near their release of the new expansion and more information becomes readily available, we will be discussing it. As of right now, initial thoughts on the upcoming changes seem positive. Many of the players I talked to were optimistic, with even a few more excited about the potential of never having to work with a POS ever again.
EVE Vegas was a massive dump of information regarding the future of EVE Online, and citadels are only one other piece of the puzzle. Be sure to check out the rest of our coverage of the event as it rolls out, or watch the keynote presentation for yourself to get a great overview of what pilots can look forward to this winter and spring.
Disclaimer: Travel, accommodations, dinner, and a ticket to EVE Vegas 2015 were provided by CCP Games. They have not requested, nor were granted any oversight on the topics or opinions expressed in the coverage of this event.