Header art by Major Sniper.
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Wardecs – The mechanic behind CONCORD approved Hisec PVP – has been heavily in the spotlight over the past 6 months, going from a single pain point amongst many on the EVE Online forums, to one that garnered itself mainstream coverage. This led to it being the subject of debate on the various discords, reddits and talk shows where these sort of things are digested by the community at large.
This came in the wake of the minutes of CSM 13’s first summit (Page 12), where CCP publicly revealed what their data showed about the impact of wardecs on new players. This highlighted a key false correlation that a significant percentage of the community, and to some degree CCP themselves, held about the impacts of wardecs on the health of the game.
It’s been a long held notion that players who are killed in PvP are more likely to stay in the game than those who don’t, and data from CCP backing this up has been repeatedly shown to the community, which has in turn been used as a default argument for all forms of Hisec PvP – But Wardecs in particular.
The problem with that line of thinking is that it’s a non-sequitur argument for wardecs being good. It was assumed by the community at large that wardecs lead to deaths, however this proved not to be the case once the data was more closely examined. Wardecs lead to inactivity.
I would encourage readers however, to – in the vein of CCP – not make value judgements of those who participate in the activities as either attacker or defender. I have participated in one roundtable and listened to the most recent one, and have talked extensively with those who take part in wardeccing as their primary activity in EVE. EVE is a sandbox, and cutting an entire gameplay style out of the game (Non-Suicide HS PvP) is not a solution that would overall be a benefit to the game. The important thing is trying to rebalance the mechanics in such a way that they encourage healthy gameplay patterns, rather than ones that are bad for the health of the game, as I feel they currently are.
Multiple Problem Mechanics
One of the main problems with Wardecs in my opinion is that the system itself is a solution which masquerades as an elegant solution to two separate problems, but in reality is problematic for both. Wardecs serve as a solution to;
- Structures in High Security space need to be able to be destroyed, in order to allow people to take over places with limited spots i.e moons in 0.5 or PoS’, and contest control of HS trading hubs (Perimeter Wars)
- Highsec PvE (Mining, Missions, Incursions, etc.) has very little natural risk or chance for player interaction and the induction of the PvP/PvE player ecosystem, and as such players need a way of endangering these activities.
In theory, the way wardecs solve these two problems together is by allowing corporations to put all of their members and assets at risk in combat with one another. This leads to the wardec system being fundamentally hard to tweak, as both players and structures are the same degree of vulnerable, despite the intent of the mechanic to be to induce different outcomes to different problems. Creating a fight over a structure vs adding general risk to Hisec PvE and Travel.
As such we found ourselves in the previous situation, where hisec citadels are hard for people other than the owning corp to defend, due to corp-hopping allowing attackers to ‘slide’ away from allies, and small corporations were pushed into an inactive state by blanket declarations due to the perceived danger they presented.
The recent changes have somewhat abated this, by refocusing the mechanic on “Citadel holding corporations”, effectively creating social Corporations which are immune from the current wardec system. However, I don’t feel this adequately gets to the root of the problem, as there are still deep rooted issues with the system, most notably in its conflation between corporation and structure defenders, and in how it doesn’t change the problems experienced by corporations that are wardecced – although statistics do bear that they deal with them better than others.
A Modest Proposal
In order to properly ensure that wardecs are dealt with in a manner that doesn’t end up like the Sov system (another Multiple Problem Mechanic, in my opinion) and need reworking in another 3-4 years, I feel the best way to approach it is to exempt Structures from Wardecs and replace it with a more dedicated Structure Removal system in hisec.
We even have a good framework to allow people to opt-in to combat with one another in a limited basis in hisec to use as a starting point for fighting over structures in the Duelling system. In my opinion, there should be a “Eviction Notice” structure that you could place on a targeted structure in hisec, which would grant a limited engagement to all pilots who “opt in” to a siege of the structure, as well as the structure itself after anchoring and onlining.
This would serve to give an objective for the defender to fight against, as well as force the attacker to have some skin in the game when it comes to assaults, but leaves the process relatively easy for other defenders and attackers to join in – Hopefully nucleating fights in hisec without the worry of CONCORD randomly killing half your fleet.
This would also allow CCP to sit down and really refocus the war declaration mechanic on it’s intended purpose of making hisec less safe, without it being used as a tool to ‘overfish’ hisec in certain chokepoints, most notably trading hubs.
I have less solid ideas on how to fix this aspect of wardecs, but I’d like to imagine we could see a day where wardeccers have access to more intel on their targets – but their wars have an in-game casus belli. A system akin to “kill-rights” for wars may make them feel like they have a reason, as opposed to being a blanket risk applied to Hisec corps that garner any notice, although getting the balance right in this regard would undoubtedly be a delicate balancing act.
Why Does It Matter?
As a nullsec player, you might be wondering what investment I have in the wellbeing of hisec corporations, and why I’m writing about it as opposed to sov, or the new jump bridges, or rorquals – Especially given that it’s only a month until the next CSM summit, and this tends to be a time to gather important information to CCP from the community.
The reason for that is fairly simple; 70% or so of the game’s population plays in hisec. Whilst I don’t conflate game population with community participation, as the majority of invested, long term EVE players are in other areas of the game, it’s fair to say that all long term EVE players have to deal with hisec to get to those other areas of space. Having Hisec be in a state that turns off new players with mechanics that are as awful to deal with as cloaky camping or a hole eviction, with none of the associated rewards, seems like it will do nothing but keep people from progressing through their time in hisec.
These Hisec players are the eventual nullsec line members, lowsec pirates and wormholers of two years time, and right now they’re being crushed under the weight of this mechanic. As such, it’s a high priority for almost every CSM member, not just out of a desire to fix a broken mechanic, but also because we intend to be around in the game in 2-3 years time to see the benefit of a healthier hisec. It would produce new corporations and line members without the need for massive newbie corps to take people out of the supposedly safest are of the game in order to properly care for them.
I’d like to think everyone can see the benefits to the game of doing that, and their self-interest in the game doing well.