The “hunting” playstyle was hard before the watchlist change. It became impossible after. The watchlist allowed me to filter my targets somewhat: Yes, many people just logged out for the duration of the war - that’s life. If they dislike fighting me so much that they rather log out for a week, I don’t need to fight them either. However, if they didn’t log out right when I logged in, then chances were good that they weren’t scared of me. Some thought I could not catch them anyway, which then often resulted in a tricky cat and mouse game, involving all sorts of sneaky tactics and psychology (the best part, as far as I’m concerned), and others thought they could fight back, or lure me into a trap - rightly so, more often than not. However, with the watchlist gone, they don’t know if I am there, and I don’t know if they are there. They don’t know who to locate, and neither do I. Sure, I could spend 3 hours locating everyone in the corp and then randomly fly to those places to see if I can find someone, but that does almost never work out. So, unless they just stay in one place all the time, or I wardec a couple dozen corps and wait for the guy who didn’t get the memo at the Perimeter gate, encounters simply don’t happen anymore, even if they are willing to fight.
So, don’t play it down - the watchlist change is certainly not the only factor, but it’s the biggest one, and it was the final nail in the coffin.
I don’t necessarily disagree, though: I have pondered other possible ways to create encounters as well. One of them was structures. I have brought this up a long time ago, and I have received well put answers explaining, why structures may not be that good an idea after all.
But let’s think this through again: Let’s assume Highsec structures got something that they are really good at, and that other areas of space cannot compete with. Let’s say gathering a certain resource, for example, or manufacturing certain goods. This would need to be limited in some way, otherwise everyone and their dog would just anchor such a structure, and there would be very little reason to fight. So, let’s say it is limited, maybe by the number of moons or planets there are: If it really were profitable enough for people to care, what would keep the nullsec blobs from just rolling over highsec space and just claiming everything for themselves? If it were however not profitable enough to pique the interest of those large entities, then it would also not be profitable enough for smaller groups to really care about it. A good example are POCOs. Yes, they are limited, yes, they offer some profit, at least potentially, yes, they get attacked a lot, and no - they usually aren’t being fought over. Most of the time, the owner will just cut their losses and hide for the duration of the war.
My original take was a structure, that was strictly necessary to enjoy the benefits of a corp. Want to have corp recruitment ads? Want to have a corp Wallet? Want to set taxes? Want to declare war? Then you need to anchor a structure that allows you to do that. It does not need to be particularly expensive, it does not need to be particularly tough, and you can have multiples all over the place, if you want. But if you don’t have at least one, all you get from your corp is a common name and a chat channel. Maybe even the existing structures could fill that role - as long as you have any structures in space, your corp will work as such. If you don’t have a structure, then your Corp is basically just one of those “social groups” some people have been calling for. And then you have a reason to defend your structure … at least in theory.
But in practice, that’s just wishful thinking, really. Most people in Highsec simply don’t care. If they do not want to fight, they don’t fight. And if there’s a structure, this will mark a time and place where a fight would have to happen. This means, it’s always a fleet battle, provided an encounter happens at all. If there are just a handful of people in that corp willing to fight, they won’t try and do this alone, but hide with the rest of their corp. They will then rather accept the loss of all their structures and even their corp, if it means they can just ignore the wardec.
And then it will just be structure bashing without Dreadnoughts again, and only mining is worse than structure bashing without Dreadnoughts. So, unless we can find that magic sauce that will make people defend their assets in space and their right to have a corp, I do not think that structures will work.
Also, with structures, at least with how they work right now, there’s also again the danger of cutting out the smaller groups. A Large structure doesn’t cost all that much - 15B is by no means out of reach even for a group of just 10 players. However, without capitals, it’s almost unbreakable for an equally sized group. All the defender needs to do is time it for moontime on a weekday and have one guy online to defend it for 15 minutes in that time slot. It’s highly unlikely that the attacker can muster all the boys for that timer, and good luck breaking that thing with 5 people if it’s gunned. And even if you do manage to break it, it’s tedious as ■■■■.
On top of that - in the past, we preferred going against groups much larger than us. If the fighting is locked into a single location at a specific point in time, then fighting larger groups becomes pretty much impossible. Whichever side is larger will just draw all their people together around that single structure timer, so they massively outgun the other party - which will then in turn probably not even show up. Fast paced, flexible guerilla warfare needs to be possible, both for the attacker and the defender. And that does not work with structures.
So, ideally, fighting in a highsec war needs to be not about sitting in structures, but flying in space. How can we manage that? I have no idea. And I have not yet seen a good proposal either. But we cannot just keep things in this completely broken state forever.
So, until we have a better solution, can we at least get a way to tell if the guys we are supposedly fighting are even online pretty please?