tl;dr The discussions about wardecs lacks a constructive approach that tries to get the meta changed with adding tools for the sandbox instead of limiting the currently existing mechanics. The recent addition of metrics presents an interesting opportunity to extend the very successful contract system and add a way to formalize conflicts, not just for wars, but in general. Read on to find out about the reasoning and details of this proposal…
Most proposals that attempt to fix wardecs focus on the mechanic itself and attempt to limit it’s reach or impose a certain direction or “goals” in the hope of enforcing a certain behavior in the players using the mechanic. I believe this is the wrong direction to go and this is an attempt to describe the reasoning why I think that and a possible approach on how to change the current situation in another way than limiting gameplay.
First of all the current wardec mechanics are a pretty free form tool. Wars can be declared for every reason someone may come up with or for no reason at all. It is important to recognize that this tools allows the players to use wardecs however they want.
That means that if we limit the mechanic, impose more rules, add goals etc. the resulting feature will be a subset of what we have today where we try to remove a certain behavior in the hope that whatever remains is still interesting enough for people to still use the feature.
The reason why we got where we are and why wardecs are used the way they are today is complicated, but the reason is not the mechanic itself. It was other mechanics that changed, like for example the watchlist feature that lead to a change in the behavior of those who used to hunt targets.
I’m of the opinion if the removal of tools which where used in wardecs changed the behavior of players then we can probably change it as well by adding tools not just for the wardecers but also for the defender, an aspect that is completely missing from the current discussion.
The ideas I present here are not mutually exclusive to other ideas. Concepts like a “social corp” or various other approaches may as well coexist. I believe that there is no single concept or attempt to fix wardecs, but a whole range of ideas that have to be considered.
Make hunting and hiding viable again
One reason we hear over and over again from wardec veterans is that the removal of the watchlist made it basically impossible to hunt which “forced” them to increase wardecs and just wait at the trade lanes or in Jita for some of them to stumble into their fangs. If you have used a wardec yourself you may have experienced the same issue as you don’t know anymore if any target is even online so you are basically chasing ghosts.
I don’t propose to bring the watchlist back, what I would like to see is some kind of mechanic that allows to locate an active character but also allows the hunted to screw with the results and hide their tracks.
The following idea for such a mechanic emerged from a discussion in the wardec discord but is just an example and not a fleshed out mechanic
If you want to locate someone you will need to create some kind of search contract. Such a mechanic could also be tied to a surveillance structure of some kind. Other than just an automatic response this will flag the members of the target corp or the player as wanted. People who find such a wanted person can similarly to activating a suspect flag activate a ping that will inform the hunter of the position of the person, in which case he gets a reward. But he may also send false information in which case he does not get a reward. Maybe because he contacts the hunted and arranges a better deal. Other people of the searched group can’t see the search contracts, but neutral alts can if the contract is public, so it is possible for the defender to check if someone is looking for them and screw with the information themselves.
The implementation details are not that important here. It’s more about the general idea that both parties are involved in the process and can possibly influence the result.
An metrics based extension to the contract system
From time to time the topic about wardecs comes up and complaints arise, that they don’t have any meaning, that they are just there for bullies who want to prey on people who can’t fight back. And then someone will usually bring up an idea that CCP should change the mechanics and forcefully introduce some kind of meaning by tying the mechanic to structures or something along those lines.
However, we all know that the most interesting stories of EVE come from those emergent conflicts, from stuff that happens between different players. Chance encounters, but also rivalries between groups, no matter the part they play in this living and breeding world. So I think it would be only natural to support those interactions with more tools which players may use or not than to enforce an artificial framework of fixed goals or mini-game like mechanic.
Recently CCP started to add more metrics to the game to track all sorts of player behavior, and with those metrics comes an interesting opportunity.
What if I could use those metrics in a contract?
Let me make some example where I’m going with this. Keep in mind that this are just examples and not a set of fixed contracts I propose. The players should be able to craft the conditions of the contract out of the available metrics.
Example 1, mining competition:
A certain mining corp has settled in a quiet little system with an ice anomaly and they are happily mining ice every day. Suddenly a new competitor arrives with a massive fleet who just melts the belt in minutes, completely putting the little corp out of business.
In their desperation they seek help from other players by investing in a contract:
- target characters, corps, alliaces: “that other corp”
- timeframe: 2 weeks
- conditions: (ice_mining_amount < 1000 blocks) and (system = Oppold)
- reward: 2bil ISK
- collateral: 2bil ISK
Now this means, that anyone who takes the contract has to make sure that the listed characters can not mine more than 1000 blocks of ice within the next two weeks in the system of Oppold. If they successfully hinder those character in gathering the ice they will get the reward of 2bil ISK. If they fail the mining corp will get 2bil ISK for having wasted 2 weeks with incompetent mercs.
It doesn’t say how they exactly should achieve that, just what the result should look like. This is important because this isn’t exclusively tied to the wardec system. The merc who takes the contract could use a wardec. He could also just bump them out.
The “target” corp on the other hand could do everything they can to fail the contract by ninja mining in fast t2 mining frigates or similar strategies.
Example 2, eviction:
There is this corp which just annoyed the hell out of everyone in the system and they have to go. So another corp sets up a contract to drive them away.
- target characters,corps,alliances: “that annoying corp”
- timeframe: 2 months
- condition: (player_count < 10) and (constellation = foo)
- reward: 10bil ISK
- collateral: 2bil ISK
The corp who takes the contract now has to make sure that the target corp moves the majority of their players out of the constellation.
Again the way this is achieved is open. It may involve a wardec, it may just involve some bribery or a corp infiltration and takeover. It doesn’t matter, both parties have an goal.
This are just two very simple examples, but hopefully you get the general idea I’m trying to describe here. The point is not that exactly something like this would happen. But maybe something similar. Maybe something completely different. The list of possibilities is potentially endless and the sandbox will decide which forms of those contract will make sense and are accepted and what doesn’t work.
The point is that it is just a tool. A simple system which can use the various metrics CCP are collecting about players, corps and alliances to create meaningful contracts between two parties in the game for whatever purpose there may arise in the sandbox. Some of this metrics will be completely useless, but the more there are available the more creative stuff will happen neither CCP nor anyone else can even imagine.
A system like this will add REAL purpose to wars and conflict in general. This purpose is already there, one may argue that this is not really needed since mercs already create contracts with their customers. But the formalized contract adds another element, which is that we can do business without necessarily trusting each other.
RedFrog could also ship cargo for customers without contracts, but I would argue that there would be far less people using the service without the formalized deal the contract system allows and certainly independent Freighter pilots would really struggle because of the missing trust.
The new metrics would simply allow to expand on this massively successful feature.
While I made the obvious merc examples because this is more or less in the context of wardecs, this system can potentially do much much more. It isn’t hard to imagine some contract examples for rewarding activity inside the corp or alliance or similar things.