This article is a collaboration piece between JokerGuy and Zander Exvirus. Header Art by AnuranonthecoucH.
Bounties, a system of “justice” when the law, or in EVE’s case, the game rules can’t provide it. The idea is simple: another player wrongs you; you place a reward as an incentive for another pilot to right the scales. Sounds perfect for the space sand-box game EVE Online, right? Well, there are some vocal community leaders questioning if the system can be removed, and while their personal motives have some broad range improvements at heart, we ask, “Why not just fix the Bounty System?”
Why Talk About Bounties, Again?
The CSM (Council of Stellar Management) is a collection of EVE pilots; most have deep ties to NullSec. As one could guess, they tend to push for systems, features and balance changes that would have a greater effect on NullSec life. However, after reading the CSM13 Winter Summit Minutes it was noted that the Bounty System ranked 4th on their list of issues. While the topic and heated discussion of what to do over bounties is nothing new, the CSM gave it high priority during early summit meetings.
Even with it being high on the CSM’s hit list, there wasn’t a direct discussion of the Bounty System during the CSM13 Winter Summit, or at least not one documented within the minutes. The title “Bounty System” sounds like something a sand-box should have. Then why would CSM members ask if it could be scrapped? Sort Dragon asked if the system could be removed. The short answer is that the current system is broken and under-used.
The current bounty system in EVE Online doesn’t work, as anyone who has placed one or gotten one knows. Currently, a player can place a bounty on another pilot at anytime, anywhere, for any reason. Should the bountied player be killed, a small portion (20% of the killmail value) of their bounty is released. The system is not very complex and allows no incentive for a player to actually go hunt another player.
The system was designed so that solo players, or small groups, would go out and hunt high value targets. The main way bounties are being released means that during large fleet battles, which do not reward you for hunting a specific player, you might just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Bounty payouts are then split among fleet members, resulting in each pilot only getting a few thousand ISK. These splits add to the server’s load during fights. If mass amounts of players suddenly die, say from a titan death, then all of those bounties have to be calculated, and payed out. Bounty hunting in EVE, while advertised as such, isn’t a profession. The current system is just sitting there: a boring, nearly forgotten feature of a great game. To add insult to this problem, pilots can just farm their own bounty if they desire, which a lot of people tend to do if they have a high enough bounty.
Bounty System Repair Team
Few great ideas have a single mind behind them and to that effect Zander Exvirus and JokerGuy have teamed up to brainstorm through some possible enhancements, and maybe an overhaul, of the current forgettable system.
Bounty System Repair Team: We both feel that the Bounty System is a required component for EVE’s type of sand-box. Another player wrongs you, but the game rules weren’t violated? Place a money incentive for another pilot to right the scales.
Zander Exvirus: During INN’s own review of the CSM13 Winter Summit Minutes, the Bounty System took center stage. Minor changes were talked about, such as simply moving bounty payouts to downtime, or having bounties only paid out at a Bounty Office.
JokerGuy: As noted by another voice during INN’s internal discussion, CCP has been reducing down time and would like to see it removed. Therefore, the idea regarding pilots collecting their bounties at a new Bounty Office seems to be a winner. Killmail generation wouldn’t have the artificial load of calculating bounty and dividing it out to pilots.
Zander Exvirus: Start by making bounty placement on a capsuleer mean something. Have bounties require a pilot to set a bounty at a Bounty Office. Make it so that either one person or a corporation can accept to hunt another player and then claim the bounty. Bounties would need to be made and claimed in systems with bounty offices, which would open up PVP opportunities, as Joker will explain next.
JokerGuy: CCP talks a ton about play and counter-play, which I truly believe allows features and mechanics to feel balanced. Having a few Bounty Offices per region would draw players into the bounty profession, as players would begin to see familiar faces in local. Having centralized Bounty Offices would make them systems for new players looking to “get in” and find in-game help.
Zander Exvirus: Barring CCP releasing some stats, the community seems to believe that gaming the Bounty System is too easy. Bounties being 20% of the killmail value was intended to minimize this. It still happens, as people use an alt with a need to pad a killboard. One solution to that problem is to have the ship killed be worth more than or equal to the bounty itself, which would make it impossible to profit by killing yourself, and farming alts would also be pointless. However, this fix makes the system game-able in a different way. A pilot with a bounty above the cost of any ship they would normally fly basically exempts themselves from being hunted.
JokerGuy: Every system with rules can be “gamed.” The idea is to prevent “easy” methods. Another author here at INN, Humanis wrote a good review of the EVE’s Forgotten Profession and brings out a great point: “When placing a bounty, would you rather pay for a bit of scrap metal, or your target’s head?”
System Enhancements & Overhauls
CCP Habakuk mentions the experiment done in a recent fleet fight where the bounty system was turned off. The bounty system is processed on a different node and would not affect the fleet fight node directly, however, the bounty service was disabled due to proxy load which would result in an “experience” of lag on the client side.
– CSM13 Winter Summit Minutes
CCP has been experimenting with different ways to address the “experience” of lag caused by the Bounty System during larger engagements. Therefore, after discussing the current system and things we would like to see in update, we have refined our thoughts into a pair of lists. The first list is focused on enhancements designed to reduce the server load. The second list is more of an outline for a possible overhaul of the system. The lists be combined or only a single idea used.
- Bounties paid at down time
- Reduces server load, especially in larger fights
- CCP wants to remove DT, making this a temporary upgrade.
- Bounties paid only at a Bounty Office
- If Regions only had a small number of offices it could create a dense community of like-minded pilots and possible friction points
- At the time of KillMail creation, the Bounty wouldn’t have to be calculated and paid out, reducing server load, especially in large fights
- Have a CONCORD +% bonus for LowSec Bounty Hunting; maybe double reward for FW systems when the bountied pilot is of another faction.
- LP could be used to move a pilot to “Most Wanted” Status and a portion of the LP would be awarded along with ISK
- Make Bounty Hunting like a War Dec
- Bounty Hunting Permit would last say 3 days
- Bounty Hunting Permit would grant -50% Locator Agent cost and -80% cycle time (Numbers to be tweaked; the idea is to allow more ISK to be spent with much faster results)
- CCP is looking for more ISK sinks that don’t feel like sinks. This method would be players trading ISK for intel.
- Locator Agents would become relative to a large pool of players.
- Grant Bounty Hunters a +100% payout reward during this time (If a ship kill would have paid 366k, it would pay out 736k or the cap of the bounty).
- Utilize the idea of small Upwells and have a Mobile Bounty Enforcement structure (MBE).
- 24 hours after a pilot’s bounty has reached “Most Wanted” status a hunter can anchor an MBE and after 5 minutes of anchoring locks the target pilot in the system for a limited amount of time.
- Under the effects of MBE CONCORD wouldn’t take action against the hunter.
- Times are to layout in such a way as to minimize use against haulers and non-large bounty targets.
- Small Upwells would get more use and would provide a place to balance counter-play
- Split the Bounties into “Anything” and “Biomass”
- Anything – would pay out for killmails or podding (as long as the corpse was delivered).
- Biomass – would only payout on delivery of a corpse to a Bounty Office.
- Players with a bounty on their heads would have to visit a Bounty Office to find the amount of bounty on their hide.
- Bounty Agents could allow (for a fee) bountied players to see the last 3-5 players that took an interest in their collection
- More counter-play as intel would place hunters and pilots closer together.
It doesn’t matter if CSM13 wanted the Bounty System discussed as a way to remove a source of lag for large NullSec fights. It is something that needs to happen. CCP too often presents us with half-baked features. Updating the Bounty System is a chance to attract a whole group of possible players, old and new. How many people wouldn’t jump at the chance to play as a “White Knight,” correcting the wrongs of others, or others looking for the thrill of the hunt? Let’s be vocal about having a hard discussion about the Bounty System and make it a core feature in a future release.