“War”, “Retribution”, “Wormholes”, “Avatars”. These are some themes of past EVE expansions. One thing that has come out of the minutes, and recent dev blogs is that CCP likes themes. Themes help tie things together and give a sense of cohesion to the various things that come out in a design cycle. They allow lines to be drawn and features to be decided upon. Themes are also marketable. Moving forward, instead of one feature or change being the big driving push of an expansion, they want a theme that touches on a broad swath of aspects of our interactive sci-fi universe.
One consequence that has come of this it seems pretty clear that Summer will not be the “Modular POS” expansion, nor will it seek to complete a revamp of the Null Sovereignty. Although they have been quick to point out in Two Steps new threadnaught that POS revamp is still on the table, it is likely to become a lesser push for CCP and will be spread across multiple development cycles (read: expansions). CCP has also stated that such an endeavor such as modular POSes would be very great, likely taking up an entire expansion, and that POS management only impacts a small section of the EVE playerbase.
And that is where the fatal flaw of their logic comes in. Right now only a small portion of the playerbase manages POSes, not because they are uninteresting, but because only a small portion has the tenacity to work with such a decrepit system. To put things in another light, “exploration” is a fairly minor profession in EVE. This was especially true prior to Apocrypha. What if CCP had said “wormholes are basically about exploration, and only a small number of people do that, so lets not worry about them”? We would never have had what CCP seems to feel is their most successful expansion of all time, and the model for their theme based development. As mentioned earlier, “wormholes” is but one theme of many CCP have tried, so what makes it so much more successful than themes such as War, or Retribution. “Wormholes” are a thing.
Instead of abandoning their idea of wormholes because they only address a niche interest, they thought about how it could impact a wider audience. “How will wormholes impact industry? How can we have wormholes impact combat? Null sec? The fleet meta?” These questions were asked and we got new materials, production, and Tier 3 cruisers out of it. The theme came from taking a thing and seeing how it could impact all aspects of EVE.
When features are added without this thought is when we get flops such as PI (which had some thought put into it and so is somewhat a viable feature), and Incarna (which had nearly no thought into this issue and was rendered completely irrelevant). Instead of an outside in approach defined by abstract themes such as “war” and “retribution” the idea of wormholes allowed them to design from the inside out, and piece together a cohesive, interdependent fabric.
So instead of spreading POSes across several themes and hope that in the end you have something cohesive and useful, why not make POSes THE THEME? Half of the work is done for you. POSes are already relevant to industry, production, and resource gathering, though all three systems could use some love. However, the exercise of making this relevant to other aspects becomes nearly trivial in nature. “How do we make POSes interesting to PVP?” Tie in to the POS situation the aspect of home systems, fleet boosting, and off grid boosting. Also, by making POSes more meaningful, you make them nicer targets, and facilitate further conflict points. “How do we make POSes more interesting to exploration?” Perhaps the smaller level of POSes could be one man affairs, like a small science research outpost explorers can bring with them to help analyze and study the mysteries they discover. These and others may not be the best of ideas, or even be what CCP should go with. Instead, they should serve to illustrate that once you think about it, the question of having POSes impact more than just a small portion becomes a non-issue.
One of the interesting question is how does POSes interact with nullsec empires? One of the primary themes of nullsec is the idea of building empires. Massive legions of troops fly into battle at the command of politically powerful leaders. Logistics chains are carefully maintained, meticulously tracked by spreadsheets and those who build them. These aspects are so important that CCP has coined new terms for these folks: Instigators and Enablers. Battle lines are drawn nightly, alliances between organizations are forged and shattered - one can not argue that the aspect of player run empires is alive and well in Null. But one aspect of empire remains absent in EVE online: the majesty of its constructions, the icons and monuments to successes great and small. Imagine for a moment if, instead of scaling back module POSes, CCP shot to the stars. Modular POSes could be scalable, and powerful testimonies of alliance strength, cities in space, controlled, created, maintained, and destroyed by the players as the ebb and tide of war flows. New York City is a testament to the power of America not because of how much money flows into the stock market, but because of the pure grandeur of its skyscrapers, of its skyline. POSes could be expanded to show, through physical representation, exactly how much power, and hubris, an empire has.
One argument against radical revamp is that trillions of ISK worth of assets are already in existence built into, and protected by, POSes. This concern is a valid one, but there are solutions. For example one may call the new POS system “Tech 2 POS” and keep the old system in place for players. A new set of value added to POSes does not necessarily mean that the old system must be totally eradicated... though with an appropriately long phase-in period, it could be! None of these ideas would be easy. But that only points to the fact that it is perhaps time for this system to be given the development effort it deserves.
The idea of spreading POS revamp thin because it impacts a small group is a mistake. The greatest moments of EVE development were about how to take something that seems to be limited in scope, and expanding it to be interesting to the masses. Almost anyone who has played EVE for any amount of time has dreamed of owning a POS, and most only abandon that dream when they discover how much of a pain, for how little reward it is. And yet, many continue to try. Instead of shying away from the revamp do to the amount of effort it might take, I sincerely encourage CCP to press forward, with the idea that, due to the effort required, they better make damn sure it is useful to as many people as possible.