EVE Evolved: Wars are literally ruining EVE Online

    
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EVE Online is fundamentally about real conflict between players on massive scales, and yet I would venture to say that wars are literally ruining the game for a lot of people. It’s not the massive territorial conflicts that rage on in the depths of player-controlled nullsec space that are the problem, nor the faction warfare crowd and roaming pirate gangs in low-security space. It’s not even the wormhole corps rage-rolling holes and evicting smaller groups from their homes, or the groups claiming all the planetary customs offices and holding other people’s citadels for ransom.

I’m talking about that most hated of conflict-drivers in EVE Online, the high-security war declaration (or wardec for short). This system essentially lets any corporation or alliance bribe the police to look the other way while they clobber another organisation’s head in, and throughout EVE‘s lifetime it has been almost exclusively used by powerful PvP-focused groups to prey on newer players and non-combatants. I’ve always believed that this feature is turning new players away from EVE, and last week CCP casually revealed that … yes, it is. It really is.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I make the case that war declarations are turning people away from EVE permanently and suggest several possible ways it could be fixed.

How are wardecs ruining EVE?

I’ve argued before that the wardec system is used almost exclusively to harass newbies and industrial or social corps, and that I believe it’s turning new players off the game. We’ve read as much in the comments of EVE articles over the years from ex-players who quit due to wars as they had no way to realistically fight back and win. EVE is arguably supposed to be that harsh, but a game that systematically drives away new players is ultimately a game that dies.

It’s standard operating procedure for any corp that becomes the target of an unwanted war to practice target denial by staying docked or literally logging off and not playing the game until the war ends. I’ve long suspected that some of those players just don’t log back in again, and this week confirmation of that problem emerged from the minutes of CCP’s latest meeting with the player-elected Council of Stellar Management. CCP Larrikin showed the CSM a set of stats indicating “considerable activity drops in all activities” during wars and confirmed that “the low activity continues after the war ends.” This is evidence that wars can push unprepared corporations past breaking point and cause permanent harm that they don’t recover from.

Solution #1: Just remove wardecs?

The CSM was reportedly so surprised by the stats they were shown and the obvious impact of wars on new player retention that member Brisc Rubal suggested “immediately removing war decs as a mechanic and promising a fix after the fact.” The vast majority of wars are declared by a very small number of corporations that have thousands of them going at any given time and will just camp trade hubs, looking for easy kills and docking up if anyone forms up a fleet to oppose them.

Removing wardecs entirely from the game is a real option and would fix all cases of abuse, but there are legitimate uses of wars that would be impacted too. Groups in low-security space sometimes use wars to attack an enemy without triggering criminal flags and gate guns, and nullsec alliances sometimes declare war on each other to mess with their enemy’s highsec logistics. Wars are also the only way to attack player owned citadels, so even removing them temporarily would render highsec structures invulnerable.

Solution #2: The War HQ

In an article last year, I made the case that wars need to be redesigned for the Citadel era into something that takes place between two structures rather than between two corporations or alliances. The crux of the suggestion was to make it so that the attacker would have to select an Upwell structure such as a Citadel or Refinery to be its headquarters for the war. Corporations without any structures simply wouldn’t be able to declare war, and if the defender destroyed the war HQ then the entire war would end.

This single change would solve most of the abuse cases with war declaration, giving the defender a way to actually win the war and forcing the attacker to commit to defending something or lose the war. CCP could even make it so that corporations with no Upwell structures anchored in space can’t become the target of a war, which would protect new players and purely social corporations. Black Desert Online handles wars in a somewhat similar manner, with only guilds that build forts being able to participate in inter-guild territorial PvP.

Solution #3: Corporation Upgrades

CCP has teased the idea of adding new corporation types a few times over the years, and has expressed at Fanfest that one of its long-term goals is to overhaul the corporation and alliance system. This could be a great opportunity to solve the problems with wardecs by allowing players to create specialised corporation types with a variety of different bonuses and restrictions. It would be up to the CEO to decide what route he wants to take his corporation, weighing up the options.

New corps could automatically start out as simple social corporations with no bonuses and then work their way through an upgrade tree to specialise as a different type. They could start without the ability to capture customs offices or anchor Upwell structures, and unlocking those abilities would have to make the corp vulnerable to wardecs in order to prevent unkillable structures from being erected in highsec.

CCP could also introduce a hard limit to the number of active wars a corporation can have at the same time and add a series of upgrades to increase the limit, replacing the ineffective ISK cost limit with something that might actually work. Other unlocks could include skill training bonuses for new players, new tools for sharing corp blueprints, automated ship replacement systems for PvP corps, bonuses to certain types of Upwell structure, tax and broker fee improvements, and maybe even access to corp agents.

The war declaration system has been broken and heavily abused for almost all of EVE Online‘s lifetime, and now CCP has confirmed the scale of the problem. Corps that are the target of war declarations often collapse and never recover, with extreme consequences for retention of new players and purely social corporations.

There are several ways that the problem could be solved, from a simple change to block wars against corps without Upwell structures to a full overhaul of the corporation and alliance system. We hope to hear more about how CCP is planning to approach the issue next week at EVE Vegas 2018, along with broader plans for what the future holds for EVE Online.

EVE Online expert Brendan ‘Nyphur’ Drain has been playing EVE for over a decade and writing the regular EVE Evolved column since 2008. The column covers everything from in-depth EVE guides and news breakdowns to game design discussions and opinion pieces. If there’s a topic you’d love to see covered, drop him a comment or send mail to brendan@massivelyop.com!
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Tithian

“The CSM was reportedly so surprised by the stats they were shown and the obvious impact of wars on new player retention

If this is true, it kinda shows how out of touch these people are. Wardecs have been a cancer on high-sec ever since I was playing (almost a decade ago), and it took people more than a decade to realize that it was killing the new-player communities?

And before the “hardcore” M Wolf tries to shit-talk, no I was not a highsec bear, I lived in NPC-nul and then Low-sec, and definitely not in deep-nul carebear lands.

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Ket Viliano

Yep.

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M Wolf

Let me say anyone who wants to be safe in Eve Online or advocates it has never really understood what Eve Online is about and should be commissared forthwith.

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Ket Viliano

No, that is why so many quit rather than develop further in the game.

People want to play with their friends, not strangers in an NPC corp. Some people are not ready to just jump into ganking, I was. Letting noobz make HS corps that cannot place Upwell structures, or PoS, nor take customs offices, nor hold null systems, would let new players get used to the game without being ganked out before they even know what they are doing.

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Bob Kaster

This is an issue that I’ve been dealing with as an indy CEO over the past 9 months, and it honestly has put a serious dent in my corp’s activity. Sure I’ve got 100 plus members, but what good does that do me if 90% never log in because we’ve had to take a defensive stance against wars? As much as I want to continue bringing newbros in, I also have to balance my operations to accommodate combat pilots so I have some form of defense. Fixing the wardec issue is a good start, but ultimately they’ll also have to fix the issues with other forms of harassment (like all of that miner permit crap and drone stealing that CODE does).

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M Wolf

If you want a ‘safe space’ go play Minecraft.

Eve is not the game for ‘safety’.

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Bob Kaster

Well, looks like we found the “hard core” PvP’er.

Honestly it’s not about safety, it’s about being able to respond to aggressive tactics that ultimately resort in players unwilling to continue playing.

Case in point – the current Orca bumping drone stealing tactic. Unless you pull your drones as soon as the bumper lands on grid, there’s no way to recover your drones or stop the attack unless you have a counter bumper on grid, or someone else to scoop the drones.

That’s not safety, that’s exploitation of the mechanics.

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Sally Bowls

This has been well known for years. So I am not expecting much change. Although perhaps now the numbers are clear enough to force CCP’s hand.

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Ket Viliano

Bit late.

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Khrome

Wardecs can stay, but before hostilities can begin they have to be made mutual. Simple.

Once a war has been made mutual, both corps can opt to retreat and cede victory to the other corp, but there is a one week period before the war is actually dropped.

Non-consensual wars are toxic. I’ve only ever seen them used for griefing.

Zennie
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Zennie

What do you mean by mutual? What exactly you want to be changed?

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Khrome

Wars can be declared non-consensually. You can declare war on *any* corp, as long as you have the money. They don’t need to agree or accept it, as soon as you do they’re fair game to you anywhere in EVE.

However, the other corp can accept the war and make it mutual, making it free but much more difficult to cancel again for either side.

You can imagine the problem with the first one. They are almost always used to grief newbie or smaller industry corps with no reason other than to get free, easy kills with absolutely zero consequence. Given how easy money is to get in EVE there is zero downside to this for griefers.

You can escape this by leaving your corp, but if it has *any* infrastructure at all, you lose it if you do. Attackers usually don’t bother with that, giving them yet another advantage.

You can see the problem. I’ve seen a lot of people leave the game since they could not undock to do *anything* without being blasted to bits.

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Denice J. Cook

Lots of games have consensual PvP, like Tera’s Guild vs. Guild, etc. Corp vs. Corp would be very similar to that, wherein both parties sign up ahead of time for a time-restricted amount of PvP between just the two of them, in lieu of wardecs. If one guild/corp bows out early, the other one wins.

Eve could even have in-game rewards with different tiers you could work up through for the winners. That could really rock.

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M Wolf

Lots of games have consensual PvP, like Tera’s Guild vs. Guild, etc. Corp vs. Corp would be very similar to that, wherein both parties sign up ahead of time for a time-restricted amount of PvP between just the two of them, in lieu of wardecs. If one guild/corp bows out early, the other one wins.

Eve could even have in-game rewards with different tiers you could work up through for the winners. That could really rock.

Consensual Disney World style pvp of the WoW sort is the complete antithesis of what Eve Online is.

What a disgusting concept.

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Denice J. Cook

The game being shuttered by the new publisher who took over this old MMORPG due to a lack of profits, a la the City of Heroes debacle, is the complete antithesis of what Eve Online should become.

What an ignorant concept.

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M Wolf

Non-consensual wars are toxic. I’ve only ever seen them used for griefing

Griefing is a dumb word used by stupid carebears.

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Khrome

High sec wars are for those without the balls to go to low sec and without the brains to go to null.

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Helothane

Remove wardecs, then make attacking structures in high sec just give you a suspect flag, much like attacking a mobile depot in high sec does.

the_gaardian
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the_gaardian

War, war never changes.

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Leroy Brown

The solution is obvious… gtfo of high sec and stop playing like a scared pleb. The only character I ever put in high sec is a jump freighter pilot to move materiel… most of my combat/capital pilots haven’t seen high sec in years.

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kgptzac

That’s not a solution… that’s a workaround, a shitty one if you want to pretend that it’s a solution to a relic system in Eve that still stands today that has been heavily abused.

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M Wolf

Abused?

I is being used as intended.

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Erik Heinze-Milne

You are part of the reason for the game’s poor player retention. High-sec needs to be safe, or people simply won’t stick around long enough to learn the game and gain enough confidence to wander into low/null sec.

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M Wolf

Safe doesn’t exist in Eve.

And never will!

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Sleepy

Wow, talk about closing the stable door after the horse has bolted! I find it hard to believe they’re so tone deaf that they’re only figuring this out now.