EVE Online is fast approaching its tenth anniversary. And it's also facing some fairly major issues: lack of new content, an aging crop of bitter-vets who have trained everything and who are looking for something new to do, massive invincible sov blocs controlling vast swaths of null, super-cap proliferation out of control, and a large population of players with far too much ISK.
Believe it or not, I've come up with something CCP can do to at least partially address every one of these issues, all at the same time, and celebrate their tenth anniversary in style.
It's time to open up Jove space.
I've thought through a step-by-step process for starting to do it, one that would be rather epic and have interesting impacts throughout New Eden without being overpowering or making the game all about Jove space. It would also protect new players from the major impacts of Jove technology without closing off Jove technology to new players that wanted to try it.
Before I start, let's quickly review what's been revealed about the Jove in EVE's lore. I'm not an expert on this, so I may have some of the details wrong, but I'm sure people will correct any mistakes I make in the comments. Still, I'm reasonably certain I have the gist correct, and any details I miss can be adjusted. The Jove are essentially human, the first humans to climb out of barbarism after the collapse of the EVE gate. Whereas it took the Amarr and Caldari some 8000 years to come out of the dark ages, it can be argued that the Jove never had any period of barbarism at all, or only a very brief one. As a result, their technology is several thousand years ahead of the younger races... but much of that technology is biological and genetic, in the form of genetic engineering of their own species. As a result, the Jove can only loosely be described as completely human.
Jove space technology is highly advanced, but not overwhelmingly so... or at least the space technology they show the other races isn't. In particular, in the one battle between the Jove and an Empire faction, the Amarr invasion of Vak'Atioth, the Jove lost one frigate or cruiser for every three Amarrian ships (of all sizes, but mostly battleships) destroyed. The Jove have moved throughout the galaxy several times, most recently from Curse to the three regions they live in today. The reason for these moves is a congenital disorder -- the so-called "Jovian disease" -- related to Jovian genetic engineering. This disorder can strike any Jovian and is ultimately fatal.
Other factions can adapt Jovian technology for their own use. Capsules were a Jovian invention, as were some types of boosters and implants. Jovian ships are invariably described as extremely fast and agile. It's rumored that the Angel Cartel ships -- also noted for their radical fast and agile designs -- are partially based on Jovian technology. This advantage apparently came from the Angel Cartel settling on previous Jovian worlds in Curse. And finally, in the last year or so, it's been hinted in various parts of the lore that the Jovians may well have died out from their genetic disorder. Certainly, there has been no sustained contact with the Jovians in the last several years.
So let's start from there: the Jovians as an archaeological prospect.
CCP could have stargates to Jovian space appear in three regions: one in Venal, linking to the A821-A region; one in Vale of the Silent, linking to the J7HZ-F region, and one in Perrigen Falls, linking to the UUA-F4 region. One stargate each would appear in each of those systems, looking very different from current stargates -- actually rather primitive-looking. In close proximity to the gates -- some 2000km or so -- would be small NPC dockable stations. Each of these three dockable stations would be the starting point for an epic arc: Jovian Research.
It seems groups of archaeologists and astrophysicists and engineers have heard that the Jove are all dead, and have set up shop in these locations and believe they can unlock Jove space. They've identified a number of Jove energy signatures that they believe can be used to build a primitive Jovian device that would cause the primitive stargates they've built to fling a ship into Jovian space. They'll provide the energy signatures: all the player has to do is track them down and bring back the appropriate artifacts. This leads to a 20 mission epic arc that will drag players right across New Eden -- starting in Curse -- seeking out sources of these energy signatures. At mission ten, the scientists manage to cobble together a Jove Frigate skill book. It requires that the player have all four racial frigates trained at Level V to train.
And at the end of mission 20, the scientists manage to piece together a primitive Jovian frigate... the Jove equivalent of a T1 tackle frigate. The gates into Jove space can only be activated by a Jove frigate, so after fitting the ship, into Jove space these first few players can go. The Jove frigate is quick, agile, tough, and superior to all existing faction frigates. And while you're sitting in it, you get a permanent Suspect tag.
Seems that CONCORD has been monitoring the experiments, and doesn't much care for capsuleers having potentially stronger technology than CONCORD does. But lacking null-sec resources, they have no way to combat the problem except with Suspect tags for everyone sitting in a Jove ship... and one other thing that I'll get to in a few minutes.
Once ships start entering Jove space, there are existing Jove stargates linking the three regions together. There are also scannable sites, with Hacking and Archaeology potential for additional Jove loot. Initially, none of the Jove loot is usable for anything in and of itself (that changes later). It can only be carried back to the three NPC stations in the Jove entry systems. And the sites should be guarded, but what they should be guarded by I leave as an exercise for the student. Some new class of Sleeper-like rogue drones is one possibility.
One thing there isn't in Jove space is evidence of the Jove: only their gates and the sites remain as testaments to their technology, plus evidence of terraformed planets. There's also two other interesting things: every system in Jove space appears to be cyno-jammed, all the time. And you can't anchor any structure of an industrial nature, including station eggs and POS-based manufacturing anchorables. You also can't anchor anchorable bubbles, but dictor and hictor bubbles work fine. You can't light a cyno anywhere in the three regions, you can't bring in capital ships, and you can't build them. You can't build anything in Jove space as a matter of fact; everything has to be imported.
But there's stuff to export. Oh my yes, is there. Enormous asteroid belts, lots of untapped moons, lots of untapped planets, ice belts of all four varieties... pretty much every raw material you can think of is available, and in large quantities. Plus all the Jove site materials, which eventually have to come out the three choke-point gates to be of any use to anyone.
As players complete more and more of the Jove sites and bring materials back to the three NPC stations, eventually (over the course of a couple of weeks), the NPC stations begin selling Jove Frigate skill books to anyone, then Jove Destroyer skill books. There's only two problems: they're horribly expensive, for one. 10 million ISK for the frigate book, 100 million ISK for the destroyer book. It takes a lot of effort on the part of the scientists to make one skill book, so only one is available for purchase at a time and the cost escalates after the first book purchased in the normal fashion with other skill books. And second, CONCORD doesn't think much of the practice: they start assigning bounties to anyone who buys a Jove skill book, equal to half the price of the book, whatever that is.
Eventually in Jove space, someone comes across an odd BPC. It's a small, medium, or large rig BPC: Jove Access Rig. It requires a small flood of T1 and T2 salvage parts to build one, but eventually someone does. Then they fit it to a ship. Then they discover that any ship fitted with this rig can transit a Jove stargate, including the entry gates. With this rig, normal capsuleer ships can enter Jove space. Without it, they can't. Capitals continue to not be able to use the gates.
But sooner or later, someone figures out that a Large Jove Access Rig fit to an Orca will work just fine. The race to colonize Jove space en masse is on. Carriers begin to be a common sight at the choke-point gates, both camping the gates and serving as loading/unloading points for the Orcas.
As more and more materials are brought to the NPC stations by any player, thresholds are reached in game that unlock new skill books, and eventually new BPCs. Every few weeks, the scientists come up with a new skill book, at steadily increasing costs. Jove Cruisers, for one billion ISK. Jove Battlecruisers, for ten billion ISK. BPCs for ships of these classes also become available as more and more Jove material is delivered. Building the ships requires materials from Empire, from null, and a few of the materials from the Jove sites as well. But they can be built. And flown. And they're completely awesome. Jove ships don't require the Jove Access Rig: they can use any Jove stargate. And you have a Suspect flag whenever you're sitting in any Jove ship. And as you buy the skill books, your CONCORD-placed bounties go up and up and up.
By this point, the three choke-point entry systems are probably the sites of a dozen major fleet fights a day. The three NPC stations are bubbled and camped around the clock, but someone always comes along and tries to push the camp away. The 2000km from station to gate is one giant grid strewn with wrecks, corpses, cans, and anchored bubbles. Super-cap battles in the system are constant and intense. The demand for Jove skill books and ships is increasing daily.
Pity the poor idiot that buys 20 Jove Cruiser skill books intending to haul them to Jita. First, that's 20 billion ISK, minimum. It's probably a lot more as the skill book code in game makes each book successively more expensive. Then he's got a 10 billion ISK bounty, minimum. And he's got to figure out a way to get these billions of ISK in skill books to Empire somehow without being ganked... only he's now appearing on the top twenty bounty list...
Jove weapon skill books begin to unlock, first the smalls, then the mediums. These require that you've trained all four types of T1 weapons to Level V, and are just as expensive as the ship skill books, and give you CONCORD bounties just as fast. By this time the bitter-vets don't care: like any drug, Jove technology is highly addictive. "Let them come find me in Jove space if they want this bounty," they'll say, and people will. Lots of very rich people will kill lots of other very rich people in their very expensive Jove ships to get at those bounties. And eventually Jove weapon BPCs are unlocked too and these require more Jove materials from inside the three regions, which have become constant bloodbaths around the site warp-in points. When you enter a Jove system, the first thing you notice is there are about a hundred scan probes out waiting for the next site to spawn, and a half-dozen fleets within five jumps all waiting for the next one to be scanned down.
Eventually, the Jove Battleship skill book unlocks. It costs one hundred billion ISK. But the first pilot to sit in one is a famous New Eden demi-god. Oh, and also a big fat juicy target.
That covers about the first year. About a month after that, the Jove wake up. It was all a trap, you see... they wanted capsuleers in their space, flying their ships, trapped far away from their enormous capital and super-capital ship fleets. But I'm sure someone else can take over from here. That's enough for now.
It's time to open up Jove space. If not now, when?
What do you think? ;-)
EDIT (12/Dec/2012): After I published this post, I thought of one way to game the system: use throw-away alts to buy the skill books and in that way avoid the bounties. I can think of two fixes: either don't allow Jove skill books to be sold, contracted, or traded, or more simply, apply the bounty to the person that trains the skill, not the person that buys the book.