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.