INTRODUCTION AND CURRENT ISSUES
War is a way of life and of course – death. For EVE Online, war is weaved into the very ships we fly. Armed to the teeth and never built for destruction. We are the pinnacle of what it means to go to war.
Not long ago the war declaration mechanic saw an overhaul. While a better system than the previous one; it still is not where it should be. The most notable aspect war declarations are lacking is the ability to scale how deep one entity can legally engage another in empire space. On one end of the spectrum, wretched peace where you are not allowed to legally engage each other outside of kill rights and low security status. Then on the opposite end of the spectrum is all out war across all empire space, legally allowed to engage anything belonging to the enemy. There is also no legal way to target specific players or corporations outside of the entire corporation/alliance they belong to. You either go for the entire corporation/alliance, every ship class across all of New Eden, coughing up an enormous amount of money. Or – you do nothing.
The lack of options is crippling!
There are even issues with defending groups closing their corporation then reforming it rendering the war obsolete, wasting the ISK of those who declared the war. Corporation hopping to alt corps, running back to a Non-Player Corporation (NPC); all of these things and more invalidate the mechanic completely.
THE FALLOUT OF POOR WORDING
Before we dive deep into the changes I have in mind, it is important to take a few moments to mention some smaller things that need to be addressed. One being the notification that a war is about to start or end.
While the mails and notifications of a war declaration do their job, the one notifying that the war is coming to an end is worded very poorly. For veteran players we know there are still 24 hours people can legally fight after that second to last notification, but for younger players; it is confusing. I spent some time talking to groups who spend a great deal of their time taking part in war declarations. They brought up the confusion of the final notification and how many new players are killed during that 24 hours thinking the war was indeed over. Here is an example of such a notification:
CONCORD invalidates war declared by The Pursuit of Happiness against Northern Coalition.
Sent: 2014.05.04 20:36
CONCORD has declared this war invalid as it breaches one or more articles in the Yulai Convention. The war will be declared as being over after approximately 24 hours.
If you take away the very end part, in bold, and read it again; it says the war is over at that very moment the mail/notification was sent. The header plainly says Concord has invalidated the war, but only at the very end does it say in 24 hours it will be over. I understand EVE doesn’t need to be turned into some theme park game, but things like this need to be reworded and have better interaction with the players when a war starts and ends. Changing the notification wording is a start, but we can go further to improve the player experience. There should be more visual indications, especially with the changes I am suggesting. There should also be helpful indications and a User Interface (UI) on the game map. I’ll explain why this is needed a bit later in the article.
At the very least the notification/mail should start with, “In 24 hours the war will end…”
REAL VICTORY CONDITIONS
There is a victory condition in place now. The issue is that even after a surrender is agreed upon; there will still be 24 hours of war. Fighting can still take place and in fact does. This flaw becomes even more apparent for a group who has several wars and is not easily able to determine who is who on the overview. A group surrenders and is still being shot up regardless. The end effect is the mechanic is rarely used and if so only for a bit of extra cash to milk from the target. It echos the same reason why ransoms never really work. Anyone who pays is killed regardless and is out additional Interstellar Kredit (ISK) for nothing.
Perhaps the intent is so it cannot be used to grief smaller groups, but in the end it is broken. This needs to be iterated on badly. Not just changing the war to stop completely once a side surrenders, but also look into the possibility of other victory conditions outside of one side cutting a check. Introduce a variety of conditions that could be met.
Instead of declaring war against an entire alliance across all of empire space; I want to see more scaling of the scope. The ability to not just pick an entire alliance, but the option to go after a specific corporation or even a single individual. As you scale down the list of targets, the price would drop as well. In addition, the ability to scale down on where these legal conflicts can take place. From the entirety of empire space (high and low) down to regions, constellations and even a single system. Again, the cost would scale down along with it. Finally the ability to scale on ship classes.
With these three customizable sliders on the war declaration mechanic we are able to change the scope of the conflict to things that would fall under blockades, sanctions and even personal vendettas. This would kick open the door for smaller entities to actually be able to affect the ultra large alliances. Instead of having to declare war on the entire alliance, spending up to 500 million ISK a week and only having a select few legal targets to go after; you can be a bit more thrifty with your money and go after the actual targets that will be empire space.
WHO, WHAT AND WHERE
There are three sliders to adjust. Target, location and ship class. Each category has several variations that dictate the impact the war will be. Because it has many options calling it a war declaration is not entirely fitting anymore. Things start to act more towards sanctions, blockades and if on a single person scale, something like bounty hunting.
The only limit on who, what and where would come down to your wallet. The possibilities of the type of legal combat becomes limitless. You could do an empire wide scale against an entire alliance for capital class ships. Then add another in a specific constellation for battle-cruisers and larger against a specific corporation in the same alliance. Or maybe you just want to go after freighters in Jita only. Sure it would be very cheap, but you need to remember we are talking just the one ship class in one system. They could easily use haulers in that system to bypass being a legal target in Jita, move the goods to the next system and then board a freighter and go about their way. So these things would need to be taken into consideration.
The important thing is both sides have options for how far they want to go with the war and how they can work around it. Instead of the current all or nothing we have now.
How much does a war declaration cost? It costs 50 million ISK, plus an additional cost for each member in the target corporation/alliance above 51. It will now start to increase with the 51st member and reach the ceiling of 500 million ISK at 2000 members.
Unfortunately, and I could be wrong about this but it includes characters that belong to an account no longer subscribed. Basically making the attacker pay for additional targets they will never have the chance to engage. To a degree the same can be said about characters in a group that serve as nothing more than cyno alts, Player Owned Structure (POS) stront alts and things like that. More targets that the attacker will never be able to have as a target. War fees should never take into consideration players who are not subscribed.
With this new system you could single out targets you know can be a legitimate target and pay for that. Perhaps the logistics corporation of an alliance. Maybe it is simply 20 players who will actually be in empire space. The fee for a corporation of 20 would be vastly smaller than eating the cost to declare war against 10,000 players – of whom most will never be in empire space during the entire war.
FROM GRIEFER TO TEACHER
What I am proposing is ⅓ of the war declaration fee be directly deposited from the attacker to the defenders wallet. I know, it sounds completely insane. Why on earth would an attacker pay the defender anything? Allow me to explain and try to have an open mind.
Making ISK for a new player is actually pretty rough. Outside of scamming or some other uncommon thing; they will be counting every single ISK. Sure they can stay with the NPC and farm missions, but they decide to broaden their game-play. Perhaps they are with some other friends that are new to the game. Basically they are new blood. Something the game desperately needs.
Enter the griefer group. Basically players who have tons of skill points, experience and most likely billions upon billions of ISK to fund themselves as they look for easy prey. They are too cowardly to look for combat in low sec or even faction warfare, because they might actually be shot at. Essentially, in my opinion, a cancer to the game. A cancer because every action they take with that mindset does a tremendous amount of damage to the game without ever adding anything positive to it. Again, cancerous cowards.
So this griefer group targets the new players and using a variety of tools is able to track down all the new players and keep them from actually undocking from the game. From adding them to a watch list to search agents, the new players don’t stand a remote of a chance against the griefers. They don’t have the skill points, the knowledge of game mechanics, the ISK, the ships and most likely not even the same number of pilots to even remotely compete against the griefers. They have no chance.
Now when you factor in the ⅓ war declaration fee income things change drastically. Now this small corporation of new players have a sizable amount of income. Which can be used to replace their tech 1 ships and maybe even hire some mercenaries to aid them. Combine that with the varying stipulations of the war declaration; they can decide to scale down on the ship they want to fly with and not be a legal target. Even relocate to areas that are not part of the war declaration. They now have options. Even if they decide to fight the griefers and lose, the ⅓ fee income will help supplement them.
Now this new player corporation is learning combat. Learning mechanics and not being griefed back to an NPC or deciding to leave the game completely. The once waste of space griefer group have actually funded the new players’ learning process. They still get to go after easy targets, but the degree of damage they want to inflict will dictate how much they are funding the defending group. Are they really griefing if the new players are becoming more experienced, learning and even making a profit? Something to think about for a group looking to grief only.
I’m sure some of you are still scratching your head in confusion, but hopefully the longer you think about it you will agree it helps. Even if it does not make sense in any real world environment. If it squares the circle, so be it – no matter how odd.
SOMETHING TO FIGHT FOR
As I mention earlier, there is very little to fight over. The only two things that fit this category is a POS and Player Owned Customs Office (POCO). These two things can easily be attacked in low security space without having to issue a war declaration, so it really only comes into play for high security space. There needs to be more goals/objectives during the war declaration period so that the declaration fee does not cost as much as the goal/objective itself.
Regarding a POS in high sec; there is another problem. If the defending side thinks they will not be able to successfully defend the tower; they unanchor everything and pack it up leaving nothing. I’m not implying a defender should risk everything, but there needs to be some risk in losing assets. Even if that means increasing the benefit of risking those assets in war.
Perhaps there could be some things that could not be removed. Maybe something in relation to where a group has their headquarters and offices. Something that can be interacted with if a group decides to not fight at all. The POCO has a decently high risk when you consider extremely large groups already have a monopoly on almost all the good planets. We need some entry level objectives to battle over.
There are many possibilities that this could entail and would help bridge the gap between existing in high security space compared to the rest of the game. It doesn’t need to be crippling to the side that decides not to fight for it, but offers a bit of an incentive to do something instead of sitting on one’s hands.
NO – THE COST OF SHIP CLASSES IS NOT BACKWARDS
It does look backwards when you consider the value of each class, but it is by design. With it scaling this way a group always has options of scaling down to a ship class to mitigate the war. Players start with the skill to fly frigates and the learning process takes them through the other ship classes as they scale up. This also makes it more costly for griefer groups to prey on new players. To reach a level of ships new players are flying, they will be paying a good amount of ISK to do it. ISK that will seem like a fortune to the new players. ⅓ going to their wallet. Something to keep in mind.
If it were the other way around it would be ultra cheap to lock out new players and be dramatically in favor of players who scale up to larger ship classes to escape the war declaration conditions. It also allows players the option to keep doing missions as they can choose lower level missions to do with their smaller ships. So they are not entirely locked out of making income. When you think about it this way, I assure you it makes sense.
NPC NO LONGER 100% SAFE
Right now it is impossible to have any legal action taken against players in a non-player corporation. One of the main reasons is to keep griefers in check a bit. One of the side effects is NPC is very commonly used by null alliances for empire logistics. Even when the alliance is under a war declaration, the logistics remains 100% safe behind the NPC – avoiding all risk. This needs to be addressed.
One of the great things about a new war mechanic is the ability to target NPC players. As much as I would love to allow all NPC ship classes to qualify, I think the only one allowed to be selected is the capital class for now. Perhaps in the future with enough balancing on the cost of the war declaration it could be extended to include more if not all ship classes. This is thanks to the ⅓ fee going towards the defenders. Going after a new player for all of empire space would be very costly and the whole time the new player is being showered with ISK. You begin to ask at what point are you going from being a threat to being an angel showering them with that amount of ISK? I also believe the sooner players are involved with combat with other players the better. But it needs to allow the ability for them to mitigate it to a degree instead of the 100% everything anywhere mechanic it is now.
There is a way to become involved in a war while in NPC beyond capital ships, which I will explain next.
REAL RISK FOR NEUTRAL ASSISTING
One of the biggest problems with empire war declaration is neutral assistance. This can be in the form of gang links and logistics giving a group a tremendous advantage. So much that it is not uncommon for the majority of characters involved in a war to be outside of the actual groups who are legally part of the war.
Sure anyone who provides assistance via a module like remote armor or sensor boosting becomes suspect flagged allowing anyone to engage them, but the flag only lasts for 15 minutes and most likely involves so many that if someone were to attack one of these it would just result in other alts or buddies of the target remote repairing your target. Which of course means if you are doing this on a station they could easily dock and grab a combat ship. Then undock and engage you back. Except they have an army of logistics propping them up and most likely – you do not. Thus forcing you to drag along alts and or friends to perform logistics on you as well, resulting in some odd stalemate. Hardly compelling game-play.
So how does one increase the risk of neutral assistance without flat out disallowing it? The best way is to simply include them into the war situation when they do assist. If their wallet does not have the ISK needed to do so whatever module that would be doing the assist does not activate.
Let’s say you are a Guardian and your friend is in an assault frigate engaging one of their war targets in a battle-cruiser. You decide to be ‘that guy’ and start to remote repair your friend.
You will automatically issue a war declaration against your friends target. The extent of this new war declaration is for the system you are currently in, against your friends target and anyone else in the associated war declaration with them. Also taking into consideration the smallest ship involved in the engagement. The smallest ship being used in this engagement being used is your friend in an assault frigate. So the ship class your instant war declaration will be for frigates and larger.
So for that specific situation your wallet will be automatically charged whatever that specific war declaration would be for the location, person involved and ship size. Just like a normal war declaration, this new one will last for a week. If you do not have enough ISK to cover this, you will not be able to use any assistance module to aid them. This also includes links.
So whilst it is still possible to call on your friends for help, it really only can be done once for that specific system and will not be for free. Just as stated above, ⅓ of that fee will be going towards the target entity. You are either neutral or assisting; impossible to be both.
A TWO WAY STREET
Whatever conditions the attacker picks, the thing to remember it is very much a two way street. Here is an example:
Flameburst corporation declares a sanction (war) against Talon corporation. The conditions:
Location: Coriault constellation
Target: Talon corporation which is part of Eagle alliance
Ship Type: Battle-cruiser
Even though the Talon corporation is part of an alliance, it does not mean the rest of the alliance can legally attack Flameburst. Sure they could provide assistance via remote repairs or gang links, but it would fall under the neutral assistance rules as described earlier.
Flameburst could fly around the Coriault constellation in cruisers and smaller ships. If they come across a member of the Talon corporation in a battleship, they can choose to engage them. Remember the ship type selected also includes any larger ship classes. So they can legally attack the Talon corporations battleship while in the Coriault constellation. Remember that even though Flameburst was the initiator of the war declaration, it means the situation could easily be reversed with the Talon corporation flying in Dodixie with heavy assault cruisers finding and attacking a Flameburst Raven in a mission.
If both corporations are flying cruisers and smaller, neither can legally attack each other. If both find each other in battle-cruisers they both can legally engage at will. Back to the previous situation where one is in a heavy assault ship and finds the other in a battleship; the battleship will have to wait for the heavy assault ship to attack it before it can defend itself.
BOUNTY HUNTING AND INCENTIVES
On a previous article, I touched on changing the bounty payouts on ships if they were war targets and if they were on the most wanted list. I want to emphasize that again:
An additional 10% bounty is paid if it is a war target and or an additional 10% if they are the most wanted list. This means that if the target falls under both – the total bounty payout is 40% of the kill value.
This section of the sandbox needs some serious iteration. While the specific changes I have proposed is not the only way to fix it, something similar that offers the players a variety of options to engage each other is needed. Not just how to go about war declarations, but how to mitigate it if so desired.
The formula used to determine how much the war fee is really up to balance team at CCP. Perhaps security status would affect the amount? Other aspects? It really depends on how far they want to take it. I thought about an option to adjust how long the war declaration could be, but decided not to include a fourth slider. A week still feels about right.
I believe the key to helping new players want to stay in the game involves a few aspects that need work. I have mentioned in the past how terrible things like missions are. Constantly teaching players to be awful at PvP. Another one is the war declaration mechanics. When they are introduced to them, it usually involves a situation where they have no control or time to learn. I believe these changes would help tremendously.
Finally I would like to remind you that reading all of this gives an initial impression this system would be complicated. It actually would be rather simple on the player end. After all you are just deciding who, what and where. Perhaps adjusting to a new overlay for the map that shows where wars are and the conditions, but I think that is a good thing and the opportunity to revamp the map system at the same time would be nice.