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In the next EVE patch, Rubicon, highsec customs offices will be capturable by players (actually you destroy and build your own, but it’s easier to consider as capture). The NPC owner that has all the customs offices in highsec set 10% tax. Players can set it to any value, but NPC tax portion will remain, affected by a new skill.

Players owning a Customs Office can tax the users of it or use it for themselves, locking other players out. This means personal profit. The lack of personal profit while creating content is one of the plagues of EVE Online. Anything that is interesting to any other player costs you money instead of providing to you. This means the activity cannot pay itself. WoW raiding is self-paying, if your guild kills the boss, you get loot that you couldn’t get anywhere else. If your EVE alliance captures a region, you get nothing. You can later use the region to rat in it, but considering the amount of time invested, you are surely better off just renting some space from someone who currently owns it. The same plagued my own failed ganking project: it provided nothing for the gankers, we did it only for the idea of fighting morons and slackers.

POCOs are different. There is money in them. The exact value can’t be known, as there are lot of POCOs in low, null and WH, so looking at the Jita volume of planetary materials gives you nothing. You can only guess. The value can be trillions and can be trivial. But there is surely money in it. The problem with POCO ownership is that there are awful lot of planets in highsec, each with a Customs Office. Highsec planets aren’t too good for extraction, most of the planets are used for factories, combining low level materials extracted in null/WH/low into high level materials. For that purpose, the approximately 25000 planets are created equal. While proximity to Jita is a plus, it’s not that big, considering the low Red Frog prices. As they transport 1B worth of stuff 18 jumps for 10M, setting up your planet 18 jumps from Jita costs you as much as 1% tax increase. This means that if you capture a customs office and set the tax higher than the NPC tax, you probably get zero customers or just ignorant noobs who don’t know better.

The only way to get profit from highsec POCOs is monopolizing them, giving no other options to PI people than going to lowsec or stopping PI besides paying your tax. Monopolizing 25000 POCOs is totally impossible due to the size of the task. Grinding down 25000 NPC customs offices is itself an inhuman job, considering their 10+2.5+2M HP. That’s 363 billion HP and you can’t use capitals. If you use an 1600 DPS marauder to do the job, it will take 7.2 years to kill them all. And that’s without player opposition. Other players can take NPC customs offices before you, and then you can only take it if you wardec them, meaning costs, reinforcement timer and the risk of getting into PvP.

However I see a way to create the needed POCO monopoly, that fits very well to the result I’ve found, that solo players are extremely effective: instead of an organized monolith, having an alliance of corps. The alliance just have a formal leader, there is no real alliance life. The alliance is just a price cartel agreement. Anyone can join, as in highsec, being blue doesn’t let you awox. By joining you have to set the tax rate the same as everyone. Until every NPC and non-blue customs offices are taken, there is no conflict of interest between alliance members. There is no alliance level income, you take the tax from your own POCOs.

Now comes the nasty trick while such super-large alliance can be successful. NPC customs offices can be destroyed AFK by NPC corp Marauders, easy thing. Player owned Customs Offices can only be attacked if the player corp is wardecced. You can’t wardec a player owned corp if it’s in an alliance, just the alliance itself. Such act has high cost if the alliance is huge, protecting the alliance from wardecs for their customs offices. I mean it’s much more profitable to simply join the alliance and accept the cartel price than setting up a max-cost wardec for the chance of taking some POCOs. Remember, if you use the POCO yourself, the tax rate is irrelevant as you are paying it to yourself.

What about PvP-ers, who wardec the alliance not because they want POCOs, but to get fights? Well, they won’t get any. The in-alliance corps never fight. They never even undock, except in haulers for that one trip carrying the POCO to the planet. So for their max-cost wardec they get nothing but the opportunity to shoot customs offices. How can you defend your customs offices? If anyone wardecs the alliance, it makes the war available for mercenaries, so you can just join with your shooter corp and defend your POCO.

How does the alliance attacks customs offices owned by other player corps? It doesn’t. If you want to take a POCO, you grab your out-of-alliance corp and wardec the owner. This corp shoots the POCO, and when it is destroyed, your in-alliance corp plants the new POCO.

In the initial period, while there are still lot of NPC owned POCOs, the optimal tax is below the NPC tax, so players will pick the alliance POCOs, providing some income. After all customs offices are player owned, the tax can be elevated to make it 20% including perfect skills NPC tax. It is high enough to provide decent income, but low enough to not drive too many people to lowsec customs offices.

Important note: this alliance can include nullsec alliances too. I mean the nullsec alliance makes a POCO holding corp that joins the alliance for its benefits and the nullsec alliance acts as the “shooter corp”, destroying non-blue POCOs and defending their POCOs by joining to the war as allies.

One question remains: how to prevent alliance members attack each other using their shooter altcorps? There is no need for such prevention. If a member is so weak and overextended that it worth paying the max-cost wardec fee and risking allies entering the war, he deserves his fate. You need to be rational with your POCOs and if you overextend, simply sell some of your POCOs, saving the shooting and getting some money. I’m sure there will be some form of POCO transfer way, if no other then selling your whole corp.

What do you think?

– Gevlon Goblin

PS: While currently I’m thinking about this POCO monopoly, this isn’t a plan declaration yet. I’m looking for options, and that includes another highsec project or going FW or WH. While nullsec is the least possible option now, I even prepare for that: