WAR! What is it good for?

 

Conflict is the fiery heart of everything in EVE Online. It drives both our highs of innovation and the lows of depravity that drags us down. Conflict is what sets EVE apart from other hobbies. The struggle and partnerships forged from conflict sets it apart by bringing true value to the virtual achievements we create and disrupt. And while high security space may be safer under the watchful eye of CONCORD, so too must conflict come to those who wish to seek greatness in the starlanes.

This highsec conflict can take many forms. Market PvPers work to undermine economic rivals and compete to devise even more elaborate plans to make riches. Explorers race to be the first and the best at clearing the various signatures that dot the landscape while miners wrestle with other industrial organizations fighting over the limited resources within the safer regions.

However, the most direct form of conflict is the visceral feeling of shooting other players with your weapons. While it is true that dueling and other form of fighting in high sec exists, violent conflict generally manifests in two forms: suicide ganking and declarations of war. While both have their own nuances and both are essential to the ecosphere of EVE, of the two war declarations are far more broken. But they don’t have to be…


War Declarations In EVE Online

Currently, the wardec mechanic is mostly used to circumvent CONCORD in highsec. A corporation or alliance can wardec another group allowing them to attack each other’s assets and players without any CONCORD intervention for a period of time. The presented goal of this feature is to allow players to impact other players and to handle grievances. However, wardecs have always popularly been used to allow people to “pick on” smaller entities that come up on their radar.

Wardecs, like many other features of EVE have evolved over time but the basic mechanics have largely stayed the same. A fee is paid by the attacking side and the defending side is given a 24 hour warning window, after which all hostilities between the two groups is legal. Currently the fee paid scales upwards, with the minimum being 50 million and the greatest being 500 million ISK. Wars last for one week and can be renewed automatically. The defender has the option to make the war mutual, removing the cost of maintaining the war, and perpetuating it until one of the two retracts the mutual status. A corporation under attack can also open the wardec up to offers of assistance, paying a nominal fee of ten million isk for each ally they bring in.

warcostchart

Additionally, while the mechanics of wars have gone largely unchanged, other mechanics of EVE have changed causing large ripples in how the wardecs operate. Most notably, the changes to “buddy lists” from the previous “watchlist” has crippled both side’s ability to collect intelligence, simultaneously hampering predators while removing a tool of safety defenders would use during wars with smaller organizations that did not have good timezone coverage. While it is true that conversation requests and location agents can provide some tools, the former seems very mechanically ugly while the latter still feels too clunky.

The one thing both sides seem to agree on is that the system isn’t great, with many to argue it is worse than it was before. A little over a week ago a Wardec roundtable was convened and watched over by several members of the CSM. Their grievances were stated and ideas thrown around. The majority of the voices at the roundtable seemed to be from organized wardec organizations, particularly mercenary organizations, and that heavily impacted the discourse that was had. Still, there were several things that were agreed upon by all. It’s an interesting listen in any case:


Building a Better War

From this point on we are entering clearly into “armchair developer” mode. First, a list of things that are wrong with the current Wardec mechanic:

  • The system incentivises attacking smaller entities, and disincentives attacking larger institutions.
  • The person under attack often feels that the best form of recourse is to simply avoid the war.
  • The attacker has no risk, and doesn’t even need to actually engage in the war to see it’s effects.
  • Both attacker and defenders lack tools to cleanly engage with one another.
  • Wars are often less about territory or slights, and more about griefing and “for the lulz”
  • At this point the most successful way for aggressive entities to seek fulfillment is Wardec as many people as possible.
  • The fact that aggression can be unlimitedly piled on disincentives smaller groups from committing war on each other.

Additionally there is several reasons why Wardecs are valuable, and should be preserved.

  • Nowhere in EVE should be safe and Wardecs, along with suicide ganking, allow for high points of danger as well as periods of relative safety.
  • Interactions between players (especially ones such as war) draws people deeper into EVE’s core engagements
  • Wars enable narratives and stories to be created as well as presenting adversaries to be overcome and allowing weakness to be exposed.

To drill into this a bit further, EVE without interactions between entities can be a very boring place and, while for most highsec entities a war is an annoyance at best and corp destroying at worse, the truth remains that many players are drawn deeper into the game through their attempts to handle non-consensual wars. Leaders are put to the test and poorly prepared corporations often leave members disillusioned . Members who then go on to other organizations that can properly defend themselves. Wars function as a natural litmus test, if you never do anything big, you never get noticed.

However, the payoff of this is the suppression of highsec activities. If a corp is under constant war, it becomes very difficult to maintain the kind of operations most high sec corps attempt to specialize in (primarily Industry, Incursions, and Mission Running). In many cases the mere act of being at war suppresses this kind of activity due to the risks involved, the removal of the watchlist only compounding this issue. Where occasional wars can break up the monotony of peace time, the larger a percentage of time that a corp attracts a war, the more difficult it will be for that corporation to maintain any semblance of normal operations. If the default practice to seek content is to Wardec every entity in Jita (as an example) than the balance of power shifts too far towards the predator, farming out the prey and destroying engagement builders in the game.

The bottom line is that Wardecs need to provide flashpoints of interests for highsec “carebear” organizations, while not becoming so ubiquitous as to just not make it worth being a public entity within the game. This problem is even further compounded by the fact that even if an entity “fights back” the aggressors can simply avoid the defensive actions and continue to prey on the soft underbelly unless all such operations are ended. Even then, organizations are then criticized for asking their membership to dock up and not expose huge losses to otherwise uncaring predators.

thewarroom


Introducing: The War room

The “War Room” is a new service module that can be fit onto any of the Upwell structures (Citadels, and the upcoming Engineering Complexes), however it can only be used by the members of the corporation/alliance that owns the Citadel. This War Room allows several different tools for those who wish to go to war. Including the following:

  • Review of all active wars, their status, and objectives
  • Ability to declare new wars, and end existing wars.
  • Allows members to view a list of war targets that are currently online and can run location agent style searches for them.
  • Allows wars to continue (Wars that have no War Room to keep them running are automatically invalidated at downtime)
  • Allows those permitted to declare war on an organization by targeting some structure or asset of that entity.

All wars must be declared through an active War Room, and all members of an ongoing War can discover which structure is providing the war. This allows defenders of the war to be able to end the war by destroying whatever structure is being used to project the war.

The process of declaring wars now require a specific objective to be declared for the war, such as a specific structure, or sovereignty. The defenders can also “forfeit” the war by either ceding the target to the aggressor or removing it altogether. Entities that have nothing to take, or destroy, cannot have wars declared upon them.

What is presented here is by no means the only solution to this problem but rather a point of discussion

While the cost of maintaining the War Room will be minimal in terms of fuel blocks, the wars themselves will still cost ISK, however as general consensus from the wardec roundtable showed, the cost scaling should be reversed. The best notion would be to make the cost change based on the difference in size. Entities can declare war on groups of similar size for low cost, but the further in size your organization is from the target, the more the war itself will cost. One interesting idea is to move this cost from raw isk payout, to additional fuel block consumption, but then you are taking a ISK sink, and funneling it back into the game.

Additional organizations can still offer assistance, but only through their own war room. The central conflict point of the war still exists as the linchpin however, and if it is lost, so too is the war.

There are definite problems with this system, most of these issues coming from the larger issues of structures in EVE. These tools are still very new and come with a host of their own issues (such as timezone tanking, and the fact that it takes a full week to clear off a structure). Obviously one such fix is to make the War Room shut off after the second reinforcement so that a properly motivated force can end a war within 24 hours of active effort. Even with this, there are plenty of edge cases as the timing of wars/vs structure timers may conflict.

What is presented here is by no means the only solution to this problem but rather a point of discussion. The most important thing to remember is that the best features are the ones that are fun for both sides. That contrasts heavily with the present system that doesn’t seem fun for either participant. Creative solutions will be needed to hit the true potential of high security wars and these creative solutions will require significant change. Additionally, no system will be designed perfectly on the first pass with iterations being necessary as time goes on. All this is a baseline for the potential of such an integral feature of EVE Online.

Special thanks to Blastil for helping design the War Room, and all those who hosted and participated in the Wardec roundtable.

 

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Tags: Ashterothi, high sec, highsec, pvp, wardec, wardecs

About the author

Ashterothi

Ashterothi has spent the last five years learning and teaching EVE Online. He is a host on the highly successful High Drag and Hydrostatic Podcast.

  • Z

    How does this help with declaring war on an industrial corp who someone puts a contract out against, when said corp has no structures or space anchored asset to declare as a target? This is a nice idea, but it relies far too heavily on declaring war against the entrenched, and ultimately feeds into a ‘smaller is safer’ mindset and playstyle which is divisive.

    • Ashterothi

      The notion that ‘smaller is safer’ is an interesting design point, and one I must admit I assume in most of my arguments. I think exploring that as a concept and what value versus cost it may bring may be in order.

      • Soulxlight

        Then you’ll just have larger corporations break themselves into tons of smaller corps that work together. The problem is you have two completely different mindsets you’re trying to develop for. On the one side you have people that want to play and build but not fight and on the other more often than not you have entities that wanna fight people that don’t know how, or don’t just plain don’t wanna fight back. War deccing is a broken system not because it is designed wrong but because it is trying to mesh opposite mindsets. Maybe introduce a concept that the real world would have, a NPC police corporation that players could join. Entities with more that 3 past war decs against other corporations are automatically added as targets and players who are members of the police force can attack them, but the police force members can’t be attacked first.

        • Ashterothi

          Not when what is at risk is the infrastructure itself. Split your organizations how ever you like, as long as structures become increasingly important to necessary as the complexity or scope of the operations increase, at some point you get to the point where you have to plant a flag down, or have your corp mates leave you for more productive pastures.

          • Soulxlight

            And who exactly is going to chase down stuff when a large Corp has alts holding stuff in one and two man corps. This is a terrible strategy that seems to mostly be pushed by people that don’t even live in high sec or occupy high sec Merc alliances. Who exactly wants to push structure conflicts in yet another area. They are boring, in null. Boring in low sec and will be boring here.

  • Jamwara

    OP – Have you ever run a mercenary group in High Sec?

  • Black Pedro

    While I like the general direction of this idea, there is still the problem of bashing structures in highsec as you identify. If a big entity can end a war by blobbing and reinforcing a structure, they never have to worry about defending their own structures. They can just go around ‘turning off’ the ability to declare war for their opponents and they never have to even fit defensive weapons.
    In fact, it would give far to much power to the big groups (nullsec and entrenched highsec mercenaries) who could just go around dictating who gets to use the war mechanic simply because they are larger than than other groups. Guerrilla-style wars would be all but impossible.
    Perhaps allowing the war to always run its course might be a solution or there is some other more clever modification, but in general giving the large groups more safety and the ability to end wars seems like a poor idea if you are trying to promote and enable conflict.

    • Sven Weihusen

      If you attack a group that can squash you, it’s your problem not theirs. And if the group can squash you, you will moste likely be unable to really do harm to them because they can always defend their station.

  • Bill Bones

    Just get rid of wardecs. The main flaw of the system is that they allow to force PvP into people who doesn’t wants to PvP, thus the natural answer to such wardecs is to avoid PvP by any means necessary. POSes are dismantled and stored and PvE is carried under a NPC flag for a week, thus people who don’t want to PvP, effectively don’t PvP. You can lead a horse to the water but can’t make it drink, so get real and remove wardecs as a mean of non consensual PvP: nobody is gonna PvP just because he’s been wardecced.

    Of course, something must be done about removing highsec assets without CONCORD interference, but that can be achieved by other means, like a deployable structure disabling CONCORD response for a specific structure, for a fixed running cost of n ISK per agressor ship in fleet and a period of time (as in “1,000 ISK per ship and minute” or whatever numbers made sense). So the more ships an aggressor brings, the faster the bashing but also the more expensive, with fewer ships it would be cheaper but need more time so the price would scalate back.

    The deployable could be destroyed by the structure owner’s fleet, thus allowing CONCORD intervention; that would bring PvP opportunities to people who want to PvP for their shit (and some epic tears when agressor fleets were concordokken out of existence…). Also, any ships firing at a structure under the deployable would get a suspect (yellow) flag, allowing passer-bys to take a chance on the aggressors. The deployable would be single use (could not be retrieved) and should be linked to a specific structure (not a ship) to work. Maybe could be introduced lore-wise as a sort of communications hacking relay to block help calls to CONCORD.

    To provide a warning to the owner, the hacking structure would take 24 hours to anchor, and would be invulnerable for that period. Also to put a cost to trolling by dropping structures, they would self-destroy unless someone fires at the structure when they go online.

  • Lyel

    It seems strange that as an attacker you can bribe CONCORD to turn a blind eye but as a defender you can’t pay them to intervene.

    What if it cost $50m to declare a war but the defender could invalidate for $50m? That cost continues to escalate and it would test the resolve of both parties in their “bidding war”. Financially speaking, being able to wardec all of high-sec tells me that the finances of the system are way off.

    Also, I always thought systems that encouraged people to come together in other games were sort of neat as well. The fact that the high-sec mission runner has no incentive to be part of a corporation/alliance tells me that the current systems doesn’t incentive it properly. Passive bonuses; reduced sales tax, +1% bounties or whatever, for being in a corporation (could scale with size and time in corp/alliance)

    With those two changes I believe it would reduce the number of “troll” wars and focus on wars of substance. On the flip side, hopefully incentivize carebears to come together and create those substantial targets, with people and assets worth attacking.

    • Bill Bones

      Don’t be silly, there’s already an incentive to be in a corporation, but it serves nothing when wardecs come. I am a mission runner and I own a one-man corporation to avoid the 10% tax on bounties of NPC corporations, that’s your incentive to be in a corp. My corp’s CEO is an alt who never ever undocks, thus in the few occasions I’ve been wardecced, my main just quits the corporation for a week and returns to it once the war is over. Paying 10% taxes for a week is preferable over losing a ship.

  • Lord Razpataz

    I liked the article.. until I got to the “War room” part.

    How about this instead?
    https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&m=6690111#post6690111

  • Kamar Raimo

    The problem I always had with wardecs was that they seemed to arbitrary. Anybody who’s bored can just declare war on a defenceless corp of soft killboard padding targets.

    Especially since wardecs are effectively a petition to CONCORD for allowing open aggression, it would be great if there were a “casus belli” system in place. Those miners who always strip the belt we want to mine too, they are a valid wartarget, the guys who are flooding the market with competing and cheaper products, the marketeers who hog all the sell orders, people who have given offence by ganking one of your own in lowsec and so on.

    The problem with this would most likely be implementation, how to keep track of such activities and using them as opportunities to declare war. In any case, I would like to see it if the side declaring war would have to have a vested interest in attacking their target that goes beyond easy kills and that requires more than just paying ISK.

    • Ashterothi

      I agree with the sense of the arbitrary nature of wardecs. That is one of the biggest reason I want to go to a “territory” based process which feels more like intentional attack rather then fishing for griefing targets.

  • Lady Ayeipsia

    How does this permit Red vs Blue to exist? Both would have to have a citadel and hope they don’t get harassed? Or would a mutual war be different?

    What about if Gal militia wants to hire a merc group to attack a Cal militia Corp and harass them in a hi sec staging system? The cal militia would need a space asset or would be invulnerable.

    What about a group of miners who I want to kick from an ice belt? They may be a Corp but with no space assets other than ships. At least now they would have to go to an NPC Corp and lose some mission bounty because of the tax.

    Here in lies the problem with most war dec solutions. They only try to solve the problem for one aspect of the sand box but do not take into account the other uses.

    • Sven Weihusen

      Well, there is still the ability for suicide kills. If you really want someone gone you have to pay a price.

  • One Two

    If you look at wardecs there are two main styles of play, the first one is to dec everyone and use the dec as cover to gank easy targets in highsec, either in trade hubs or on the main pipes. The other is used by the highsec mercs to allow them to attack structures and assets in highsec.

    I don’t see an easy way to have a single solution that caters to both play styles. It seems to me that any solution proposed including the one above seems to favor one style over the other, and discourages or eliminates the other.

    Id like to see both styles continue.

    I’ve always felt that the wardec for ganks should be re-envisioned as a letter of marque style of game play, and shifted to being empire relevant. With this approach corps or players would buy a letter of marque from a specific empire, which then allowed them to attack any player with negative standing (or perhaps of a level eg -2.0) towards that empire anywhere within that empires space. It would give those that want to attack easy targets a vehicle for their game play, plus bring a risk for players that have negative standing towards an empire.

    I’m not sure how to solve wardecs for merc corps wanting to assault structures, but perhaps something along the lines of the suggestion in this post, it seems reasonable to limit the space affected (eg constellation/region), and also for defenders to pay there way out of a war dec. But I don’t think it should be limited to just structures. If you want to drive ice miners out of a specific system, you should be able to war dec them and attack them. (or have your hired mercs do that)

    my 2c… probably all its worth.

  • Andre Vauban

    I kind of like the idea. It makes things easy where there are workarounds to the current system.

    If you don’t have any assets in space, you cannot be war declared. This makes sense. Under the current mechanics, people can achieve this by moving all their characters to NPC and have their corp function as a Eve chat channel, they lose the ability to have corp offices, but with coming alpha clones this is easy to circumvent by having alts in the corp that never undock and just contract things in and out of the corp hangar. Now people can have a war immune corporation and the ease of in-game tools so long as they don’t anchor any assets in space that can be attacked. At some point in order to survive, those corps will need assets in space (POCO, Citadel, Engineering Complex, Drilling Platform, etc) that can have the owner war decced.

    I think the current cost structures are broken, but I’m not sure changing them will help with Alpha’s. What is to stop the small guys today from creating 3000 alpha accounts to artificially make their corp seem bigger? Maybe it is time to just go back to a flat isk cost.

    I don’t like the idea of killing the structure immediately ending the war though. I think this can be abused by the larger organizations to stop all asymmetrical attacks against them. I’d just prefer the idea of having to have the structure up and running to start and renew a war.

    I still think some of the biggest problems with war decs is the ability to transfer ownership of structures and corp/alliance hoping during wardecs. I’m not sure how to solve those problems though, as prohibiting those actions during the war seems like the wrong approach.

    • Sven Weihusen

      You could just add a timer: You can move things around BUT under a wardecc you get a 7 day timer. So will have to endure the current wardecc but further wardeccs will not stop you from doing what you want indefinitly.

  • Sven Weihusen

    IMHO the structure should have vulnerable hours which run along with the timespan that the war is “open”. This will give small groups the opportunity to fight groups which have members in all timezones while it will inhibit timezone shenengaas. If your target has it’s main time in EUTZ you have to put the vulnerable hours in this timezone because otherwise you will just not have any targets. And I think there should be a hard limit on wars. 2 or 3 weeks with a 8 week cooldown is enough for any corp maybe even so short as 1 week depending on the size of the decced group.

  • ymarsakar

    FW has victory points and null has entosis timers. It might be nice to have objectives for high sec wars, that turn on gate guns or turn off services, based on the defender setting a defense system or the attacker setting an isk they need to kill goal. High sec wars are almost impossible to balance because it affects people too broadly, all of high sec essentially. No gate guns. Podding is okay. Is podding without consequence in low sec? Suddenly a war makes high sec into null, without the added rewards or extra mechanics like bubbles. Then there’s high sec mercs that want to take contracts and shoot individuals or structures. IN that case, iterating on the bounty and kill rights system, again, would deal with individual targeting, and structures would need to be separated out in another issue. They don’t need to put every asset into danger in a high sec war at once, because changing one thing will change everyone’s gameplay at once.

    To keep things simple for CCP to balance, the high sec war dec system needs to be broken down into separate components, which can be iterated on or just outright disabled in certain ways. That way the poco shooters can do their thing, without affecting another part of high sec life. A phase change, like with upwell structures slowly replacing old pos, might be called for.

    I remember one time a low sec entity decced a large corporation in high sec, just because they didn’t want to take gate guns shooting them in low sec. Casus Belli was being camped in their station by said bored high sec players who always maintained a positive sec status due to missions or ratting. This, of course, affected the industry and mission running of high sec corp, but it took awhile for it to actually affect the low sec entity. Other than turning gate guns off, it also escalated the conflict because now the mission runners have high sec mercs after them, so they start being motivated to come to low sec to fight the one who put the high sec mercs on them. That maintained its status quo for a month or 3. I don’t think it was a particularly efficient solution to a problem, but it was people trying to use the war dec to resolve their grievances. Although in a very limited fashion due to war mechanics. If they had an option to only turn off gate guns in a few systems, it would have been simpler and the war could have ended in negotiation sooner. The high sec mercs don’t negotiate peace deals, that isn’t what they are there for, so another system needs to be in place, from ccp, to motivate the resolution of conflicts, not merely starting one up in high sec.