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War Declarations: The Pink Elephant in the Room

October 26, 2018

EVE Vegas 2018 wrapped up this past weekend, the subject of Wars in Eve was brought up as a concern. The simple appearance of a slide caused the room to murmur angrily and staggered the speaker from saying the words “War Declarations.” As many in the Eve community have felt that War Declarations are a far cry from what the intended purpose for them were. Effectively, they have become Legal Piracy permits for High Security Space, while in nullsec and J-space they are worthless.

War Dec Facts

The most staggering information, only 5 corporations were responsible for 50% of all declared wars in the last year. On average defenders would lose about 105 ships to every one attacker. When CCP looked into this they found another interesting data point. When the defender had a structure, such as a citadel or engineering complex, they would average 1.655 kills compared to the defender that did not have structures, which averaged .0034 kills.
CCP did not release the numbers of people that stopped logging in or reduced their activity during wars. There was no information either of new players being war dec’d, and how many of them quit that first month of the conflict. It was mentioned that this mechanic has been used to grief players. This mechanic has been misused & abused to a point at which CCP felt the need to step in.

Top 5 War Dec'ers

Top 5 War Dec’ers

Possible Future

The change that seems to be the largest is the limiting of War Declarations to only defenders that own citadels. This also pertains to the aggressor as well, so both sides have to own citadels in order for a war to be declared. While this is not the final form of CCP’s solution and it will not solve all the problems such as one side putting up a cheap citadel in the far corner of space, CCP agrees this is only the first step in the refinement of this mechanic. The changes will be finalized and released in 2019.

I went out into the community and spoke to some players at Eve Vegas to hear what they had to say about it. FranktheBank from COGG Alliance, a member of Provi-Bloc and streamer, believes the changes are going in the right direction but not enough. He commented that CCP did not show what he believes to be an even more staggering number, which is the ISK lost on both sides of the conflicts. Despite the attackers losing 1 ship for every 105 defender ships, the 1 ship from the attacker is usually relatively inexpensive, such as a tackle interceptor, compared to what the defenders are losing.

We still need War Declarations, remarked Frank. If they didn’t exist then Horde would still have their horde of citadels in Perimeter. Frank said that Test Alliance Please Ignore did a very good job at utilizing the War Declaration to clear the area of their foe.

I spoke with a group from Brave Newbies Alliance and asked them their opinions on the changes. They said that they liked where it is going but it needs more detail. Newer players suffer the most under constant War Declarations in High Security Space. These new players’ first taste of Eve becomes so bitter that they stop playing. This experience is a very common story in Eve as some people quit after going through this their first month in the game, and either stay gone or come back a year later.

I asked several Waffles pilots about the changes in War Declarations and they said that for the most part this type of game play (meaning the aggressors) is a small niche in the community as we can see but it affects a greater part of the Eve community (meaning the Defenders). For the most part they are positive about the changes but wonder how many loopholes can be found to circumvent the system.

Marmite’s Position

While these were all very intriguing and interesting opinions, I thought to myself that I needed to go to the source of much of this debate. I was able to contact Tora Bushido, the CEO of Marmite. Tora was able to give me a point of view that is seldom seen and brings great insight to the situation which few can see. Despite the infamous nature of Marmite, they perform a function like many High Security PVP alliances/Mercenaries. This is what Tora had to say.

Many people think it’s easy to change a mechanism that has been in Eve for so long. How wrong they are. Some shout “Remove all wars from highsec!” and don’t realize what the consequences are. No wars mean, no structures can be shot, no competition can be killed, flooded markets, etc. It is also not in the spirit of how Eve was meant to be, a sandbox where you can do everything you wish (within the rules of course).

I think the war dec changes are going to crash the markets around the end of November, right before they implement it. Time will tell. We do a lot of contracts for industrial’s, who want their competition gone. Almost none of them have in corp structures, so no wars for them. They can now mine risk free, dump it all on the markets and that will affect the prices. Do you think the demand will stay as it is now? What will happen if we suddenly stop killing trillions of ISKs in ships every year?

CCP also knows that no wars in highsec, isn’t an option. They suggested that to war dec someone, they need to have a structure. At first, we were ok with that, as its easy to bypass. But in the second part of their presentation, they also showed us what issues they would still need to fix: existing wars, transferring of structure ownership, mutual wars (like RvB). It would have been easy to just buy a poco, anchor it in WH space and transfer it to a target you wanted to declare war on. Then add the price of this poco to the contract. Another option to bypass it, was to have an alt corp with a poco, go piss off your target, wait for the war to be declared on you and have mercenaries join as allies. If there are so many things that need to be fixed before you can even implement this temporary change, why not just wait and do it right?
What also bugs me is the data that CCP seems to have on the retention period. At Fanfest 2015 they admitted being wrong about people getting killed and if that would influence their choice to stay or leave Eve

(https://youtu.be/A92Ge2S8M1Y?t=123). Now 3 years later they seem to say the exact opposite. We also seem to have a kill/death ratio of 1:105. I checked the kill boards for marmite and PIRAT but couldn’t get any higher than 1:30-40. Am I missing something here? Has CCP ever wondered if maybe people don’t log on during wars, because they can also play on their new free alpha clones?

Null sec, Low Sec and WH alliances often tell us that high sec wars do not affect them but are the first to cry that these wars need to be removed from Eve. To them I say, HTFU. These are also the same people in the CSM who advice CCP about changes. See the real problem here?

So, do we think the war decs are broken? No, not broken, but there are many things that could be improved. My focus would be to protect the smaller corps, so they have time to organise and grow. Same as fishing. You don’t catch all the small fishes or in time you won’t have any fish left. Introduce social corps that can’t be war decced like NPC, but can function as a normal corp. Of course, with many restrictions (no structures, max number of players, etc). Raise the war dec fees for small corps to 150 and lower the cost of huge alliances. Link war dec fees to the average age of the players. The younger they are, the more expensive it becomes. Make the trade hub undocks invulnerable. This way people at least get a chance to warp out and people must hunt them.
People seem to think we enjoy killing newbies in Eve. I can tell you, it’s terrible! They are hard to find (yes, CCP killed the watchlist and with-it targeted wars), they don’t undock and if you get lucky you kill a 1M isk ship with even worse loot. The joy! Many of these small corp wars we have are purged inactive corps from big alliances. I wonder if CCP has taken this in to account with their data. We do love going after the big alliances outside highsec who think they can’t be beaten, but it costs us 500M/week for just one alliance. We can spend around 6-7B per week, but we don’t have unlimited funds. You would think, that alliances that think they can’t be beaten, who have low risk rat areas, who make a lot of isks and are well organized should be way cheaper to war dec? The juicy freighters that enter our highsec (not in an alt corp, lolz) fuel our war wallets and tear buckets.

I would like to see a clearer coloured something in the UI when you re at war. Even if this is only for chars 1 year and younger. We often see people who don’t even realize they’re at war. Don’t tell anyone we often SRP them and give them more than they lost. We have an evil reputation to uphold.
If CCP keeps on this road and “fixes” the war decs, I wouldn’t be surprised to see all mercenary alliances group up and war dec even more people. Imagine the wallet size if we did. Maybe call the new alliance “The United Middle Finger”? The changes will probably also kill the small solo mercenaries, who can’t afford replacing the structure they might need to even start a war.
In the end, we will adapt and continue as usual. My moto is: “If I can afford it, I should be able to do it in Eve”. Really want me to end marmites CCP? Than give me CEO of CONCORD.
Tora Bushido
Alliance CEO – The Marmite Collective

PIRAT’s View

While CCP presented some assumed ideas, the facts were shocking. Faylee Freir, one of the leaders of PIRAT, was able to take some time for questions and he had some different opinions to the future.

EN24: Do you think the changing war declarations as a good or bad thing for Eve?

Faylee Freir:  It would depend entirely on exactly how CCP re-creates war decs. I am personally fairly paranoid with all this talk of giving wars more definition and whatnot. I think there’s a lot to fix with what we have now, but most of the issues lie in Highsec pvp and its mechanics rather than the mechanic of declaring war.

If CCP managed to leave wars mostly untouched and instead worked to solve issues related to general highsec combat, then we’d see a huge difference in my opinion. The whole issue is that in the ocean that is Highsec, there are very few sharks. So yeah you see this situation that might be seen as “unfair” because there aren’t a lot of pvp groups shooting at each other in Highsec.

I find that CCP is going to have a difficult time balancing the system when essentially what you have now is a focused and dedicated group of pvp’ers against carebears and their structures. There are very few groups that are on our caliber of dedication and knowledge that find it worth the time to come kill us here. So can CCP take a group of players that are most of the time worse than the aggressor and make them better? Can CCP make getting farmed by players that are in another league due to their focus and knowledge fun? Even if it’s possible, should CCP be artificially balancing the gap between these section of players just because one side is better than the other?

EN24: Do you believe the economy will become inflated with goods if war declarations are changed?

Faylee Freir: I think that the market would definitely be impacted if War Decs were removed, but I’m not convinced it’d be game breaking. I don’t think that preserving Eve Onlines economy is the best arguing point. A good point of reference is data from here: https://www.evedata.org/killmailAreaEntityStatistics

If you look at the chart, you’ll see that Highsec makes up of 11.49% of total game losses. If you click specifically on the Highsec part of the chart you’ll see some familiar faces in the wardec groups, but you’ll see that it really balances out decently against other non-wardec related entities. In short, no I don’t believe it will impact it much.

EN24: Do you believe trade wars will be hampered by these developments?

Faylee Freir: No, not at all. If CCP focuses on attacking structures then yes.

EN24: Do you believe that CCP is hurting the aspect of game play for High Sec PVP?

Faylee Freir: I think that CCP has damaged gameplay for Highsec PVP because of their neglect. People and even war dec groups have been wanting various forms of change for a long time now. I would say that this is even more of an issue than wardecs are, because often times it’s the convoluted mechanics and weird ways players use them to gain an advantage that disincentivizes pvp and actual conflict.

EN24: Is there anything important that you feel I should add?

Faylee Freir: I feel that there’s a real distinction between some random guy using wardecs to prey on new players and an organized pvp force operating as mercenaries. I don’t deny that war decs can drive players away, but I would argue that it’s not these blanket dec’ing trade hub campers we have now, but instead it’s the small group that’s intentionally focusing on 5-10 small wars. The groups that actually operate in a small area and terrorize newer and weaker groups.

I feel strongly that CCP needs to host a focus group centered around Highsec war decs and highsec pvp in general. I don’t doubt the intelligence of what we currently have on the CSM, but I think they lack the specialized experience that’s required in order to tell CCP how “x” change can be abused, and why “z” change will actually result in a domino effect that changes the meta to be even worse.

I also feel strongly that we need people that are actively advocating that Eve Online maintain it’s core set of fundamental values that make the game great. There should be room for players to play the villain and not be crucified and witchhunted for it. Eve Online is a harsh game that doesn’t appeal to everyone, nor do I think it should try.

Defender’s Thoughts

While this is an interesting look at the other side of the isle, I also went out and found a corporation that is actively engaged in a war with one of these two individuals and I wanted to hear what they had to say. An individual which doesn’t wish for his corp or alliance to be named, having suffered losses into the billions, had this to say in regards about the mechanics.

For me I see that the changes will help the newer players coming into eve from being destroyed by elder more established players in eve. While this does not change what is happening to the bigger alliances it is a reprieve for the High Sec newbie Corps.

The mechanic, like many mechanics in Eve, if given enough time players will find a way in which it can be exploited. It has created a way in which to target and group of players that traditionally do not harm others or carebear inside High Sec. Many of these new players will never return to the game and effectively we eliminate the new blood before they can be established in the game and move out to null or join any of the major power blocs.

For CCP they need to look at the original intent of War Decs and then look at how they are being used today. We do need honest debate and round tables on how we can still have War Decs but save the junior players of eve not to be war dec’ed to death in the beginning of their careers.
– Defender

In Closing

For now, good reader, I leave you to ponder what CCP will do and the insights of these players on the subject at hand. While many of us believe that the War Declarations need to be changed it also begs the point of “why?” What is the in-game goal of the changes? For now, the community must wait and see what are the next changes to come.

Very Respectfully,
Kyle Saltz