Thursday, January 7, 2016

Should the War Dec System Simply be Removed?

High Security space is, statistically, where a large number of players spend their time. High security space may even account for the majority of players, but CCP has never released statistics that are fine-grained enough to know conclusively. High security space is also one of the most neglected areas in terms of balance passes on the fundamental mechanics underlying the space. Security status, corporation standings, Concord/faction police, and the war dec system are all mechanics that have not seen serious developer time since I started playing. That's not just an issue by itself, but with the new Citidal expansion and structures coming this spring, it mounts a huge problem. At the very least, I would argue, the war dec system is the main mechanic that needs a serious overhaul with and not after the Citadel expansion.


I've been thinking about the war dec system in EVE for as long as I've been playing, and I've been "abusing" it for almost as long as well. As readers will know, I've looted something like 50b in inactive POSes in HS that I've destroyed using the war dec system, and purely on a casual/weekend type of gameplay. And the longer I've thought about war decs and theory-crafted changes, the more I've come to the conclusion that the current system is inane and broken. It adds almost nothing to the game in its current form. And the conclusion I keep coming to is that nothing of value would be lost if the entire war dec system were removed from the game.

Here are some of the most important facts underlying the war dec system in EVE that must be considered before changes are suggested:

1) NPC corporations cannot be the target of player wars. This is incredibly important. It means there are already thousands of players in EVE who cannot be killed in HS unless you get them to attack  you (e.g. in a duel), or suicide gank them. Of course, everyone with a shred of knowledge about EVE puts their trading and hauling alts in an NPC corp for this very reason.

2) Most important PVP and group versus group content in the game occurs independently of the war dec system. Of course, the war dec system is almost entirely independent of NS/LS/WHs conflict. Few in NS/LS/WHs would even notice if CCP quietly removed war decs one day, for instance.

3) Many PVP encounters in HS occur indenepndently of the war dec system, namely, by CODE. and other groups who "forcibly" destroy targets independent of declaring war on them, as well as by players who acquire a criminal status in order to be freely attacked by other players ("baiting" them, but no less consensual for it).

4) The major conflict that occurs in HS that depends on the war dec system is POS and POCO take overs (given that they cannot be realistically suicide-ganked!). However, these are also the types of structures that are in the "old system," currently being replaced. New structures like deployable structures operate independently of the war dec mechanic, and are better off for it. Sure, POSes and POCOs won't entirely be replaced for a few years, but balance changes should not be made on the basis of old and soon-to-be obsolete features of the game.

5) The only other use for the war dec system is for easy kills in high sec. HS war dec groups are some of the most risk averse players in EVE. And, as we all know by now, the game does not in any way require this to be possible to exist. It is a marginal and highly risk averse play style that only a small segment of the EVE playerbase engages in, and one that adds virtually no content of value to the game.

6) Balancing the war dec system is notoriously difficult, potentially even impossible. The system is blind to whether the group is full of new players. It is balanced by "isk," from the scaling fee, but as we've all learned, you cannot balance anything in EVE by isk value alone. Many rich solo players could perma-run wars on all of the largest groups in EVE, for instance. The current isk fees for war decs are inane, but the problem is, there's not actually a good way to balance them around isk alone. Furthermore, there's no real counter-play to having a war declared on your corporation--besides dropping corp and sitting in an NPC corp, which is what many active players do in response. That's a sign it is a broken system, but there's no good way to actually fix it.

Given these facts, I see no reason for the war dec system to even exist in game. It could easily be removed if CCP did the following:
First, make all structures (POCOs and POSes) operate on the same aggression mechanics as current deployable structures. You are free to attack them any time and anywhere, but you receive a criminal flag and they go into a reinforce period after a certain amount of damage, notifying the owners. This means that even in HS you could freely attack a POS or Citadel, but recieve a criminal timer and have to return during the vulnerability period. CCP could allow structures in HS to have extra-narrow vulnerability periods, to allow for the relative "safety" of the space (as opposed to null or wormholes).
Second, remove faction police from High Sec. This would allow players of negative standing to PVP in HS, but be freely engagable by everyone, without Concord intervention.

Then, simply remove the war dec system in its entirely. If you want kills in HS, you either have to get them to engage you, or attempt to gank them but lose your ship in the process.

The benefit to simply removing the war dec system and replacing what's useful about it is first that it removes a problematic, broken mechanic from the game that is otherwise in serious need of balance changes; second, it unifies the aggression mechanics across all areas of space; and third that pairing it with the removal of faction police from HS and only criminal timers for engaging structures replaces war decs with meaningful, content-driven PVP in HS.

The only thing that's lost, of course, is the ability to score easy kills on targets in HS by declaring war for irrelevant amounts of isk. However, there are still many ways to disrupt player groups in HS without wars. You can siege their structures, if they have any. You can attempt to bait or gank their miners, haulers, or mission runners. You can engage in market PVP against them. You can engage in reddit warfare against them. And so on.

So, as far as I can tell, the best option for CCP this spring is to remove the war dec system entirely, and replace it with a structure aggression system and the removal of faction police. It requires very little dev time, and everyone wins.


15 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I do like the idea of no police and leave it up to players to kill guys with negative standing. I dont entirely agree to remove wardecs. What I would agree is with Gevlon suggestion that player corps who accept 10% npc tax get same immunity as npc corps. Corps with non-npc tax system are not immune from wardecs.

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    1. I like that suggestion too, but only if corporation/alliance taxation can be extended to more than just bounty payments

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    2. I have not heard of this idea before. I think in essence it's not that bad. I have a question. What would stop a corp from doing this:
      Members pay 10% tax and the CEO gives 90% of those 10% back to the player.

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  3. Good post. Wardecs have always been a misnomer. They are a bribe to facilitate the destruction of player owned structures. There is no other mechanism for their removal such as abandonment, depreciation, etc - The consequent mess is a result of that design decision. Personally I would like to see a counter bribe option to at least give an option to the defender if they are active.

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    1. Counter-bribes would definitely be an improvement on the system if it continues to exist, I agree

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  4. Simple, coherent, playable. Excellent suggestion. As a once upon a time Marmite, I'd bemoan the loss of extortion opportunities Wardeccing Hi-Seccers provided but it wouldn't be the first time byzantine Hi-Sec criminal play had to take one on the chin for the overall health of the game. Criminals are clever folk. They'll adapt.

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    1. I think you are exactly right, speaking from a former HS mission-baiting PVPer! There are plenty of ways of getting PVP in HS beyond the war dec system, so the idea that HS would suddenly become too "easy" or "safe" is likely false.

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  5. Yes, the wardec system should simply be removed. The last attempt to fix it actually made things worse, at the joint expsnse of wasted dev time and more high-sec unsubs. You can't force players to PVP, if they don't want to PVP - to try to do so is an act of utter futility.

    As for high-sec POSes and POCOs....

    High-sec POSes should simply be made innulverable, but limited to the smallest capabilities. Ie. if you want to do some 100% safe and limited POS stuff in high-sec, fine; let's encourage the solo industrialists to do BP research and build low value stuff like T1 modules. But, if you want to do the bigger and more profitable stuff with a POS, such as ship building, then you should need to use a POS in low/null sec (and accept the additional risk of getting it popped).

    High-sec POCOs should simply revert back to NPC ownership. And, the NPC taxes should be set sufficiently high, as to provide more incentive to use a low/null sec POCO instead. Or POCOs could just be scrapped. The whole Planetary Interaction system is NOT fun - I did it for a short time, but haven't bothered moving extractor heads in years... it was more tedious than mining roids. And, the launch rocket into orbit option is lame beyond all belief - what idiot designed that?

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    1. Well, first, the idea that anything in space should be "invulnerable" goes against the spirit of EVE, in addition to the stated goal of the current developers to make nothing, not even NPC stations, "Invulnerable." You're preaching to the wrong audience if you think anything in EVE should be immune to player take-over or player-destruction...that's simply what makes EVE unique in the current MMO market.
      Second, though, player-owned POCOs in HS has provided more PVP content to HS then likely any change in the game's history. You are basically asking for a huge source of content to be removed simply for the safety and convenience of HS industrialists. The fact that PI is not fun is more of a problem for the PI system than the relative safety of the ability to do PI.

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  6. I have read this well written suggestion a few times now since Luobote linked to me. There are a few concerns I have with the suggestion, avoiding the main point of removing war decs all together, which I can't see working for EVE. There are some very good suggestions here in regards to some of the mechanical changes around structure removal.

    In part 3) you state that many PvP encounters in HS happen outwith the war dec system, but ganking is not true PvP, the only other PvP in HS would be faction warfare pilots, or as you mention suspect flag engagements. There would still be some ships blown up in HS but this would have adverse effects on the in-game market over time.

    Thanks for a great post and some great suggestions. I am going to write an article in reference to why the war dec system shouldn't be removed. May I include this post in the War Dec Project on the Space Cadet website?

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    1. "ganking is not true PvP" is a contentious claim that largely does not capture either the player-base or the developers of EVE over the past decade-plus. Ganking has always been and probably will always be one legitimate playstyles in EVE. You may dislike it, but it is a permanent and notable feature of EVE's gampepay nonetheless.
      The other mechanic in game to consider is that a large portion of HS players are already immune to war decs--namely, those in NPC corporations. And, the game is not broken because some/many players in HS are immune to war decs, so the question to ask is whether the game would be broken if war decs were simply removed. So far, I've yet to read any argument to the effect that the game would be so broken if war decs were gone.
      Include the post where ever you like mate o/

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  7. The more I ponder wardecs, as they are now, the more I think they can be dispensed with altogether, and replaced with other conflict driving mechanics. Anything would be better than the current system. I don't agree with all of the ideas in your post, but I applaud your efforts to further the dialogue and exploration of alternatives. I sincerely hope CCP takes another look at wardecs soon.

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    1. Well, we seem to at least agree that they would be better off replaced by some other mechanic(s) which capture the point and use of war decs (such as some way to engage structures), so I'd be interested in hearing what you'd suggest instead.

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  8. Looks like CCP might take the first steps towards this idea!. http://i.imgur.com/ADboxKG.png (from the tweetfleet slack)

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