Examining the New Bounty System

Iam Widdershins here, back again to give you the rundown on the other big new mechanical changes coming with EVE Online: Retribution in December: Bounties and killrights, detailed by CCP SoniClover.

Most people reading this will already be aware that the bounty system in EVE has essentially been useless from the outset. Bounties can only be put on characters with negative security status, and collecting the bounty requires that the person actually be podded — eminently rare outside nullsec, where there is no particular motivation to attack and pod anyone over anyone else regardless of bounty status. Outside nullsec it is actually illegal to pod, again regardless of bounty status — unless the target is already an outlaw, in which case it still makes little difference in the actual motivation to hunt and kill the target.

Not only all this, but any sizeable bounty is effectively a donation to the party you're supposedly inconveniencing. All the guy needs to do is get himself podded out of an empty clone by an alt or a friend and collect the ISK. The largest bounties in the game are all advertisements or ego-trips, and any effort to hunt down the characters in question will be utterly futile.

Killrights are also broken. They're only awarded if you don't fight back, they are only a 1-on-1 affair, and the chances of ever seeing the guy again outside of the same outlaw gang that wrecked you the first time are slim indeed. Fulfilled killrights are rare to the point of absurdity.

All this will soon change.

Fixing bounties

In Retribution, bounties will pay out based on ISK lost upon the destruction of ships and pods. Killing yourself to claim your own bounty will be break-even at best, and probably not even that. Bounties will be more visible and will pay out multiple times until the bounty pool is depleted. Large bounties will not only mean you may be effectively bountied in perpetuity, but the largest bounties will confer a bonus percentage encouraging career bounty hunters to prioritize pursuing them. The only way to clear your name of this will be to unsubscribe for five consecutive months, returning the ISK to its original owners. Harsh, indeed.

You will also be able to place bounties on corporations (minimum 50 million ISK) and alliances (minimum 500 million ISK), each one conferring the same bonus structure for highest-bounties as player bounties do. Placing a bounty on a corporation or alliance creates an excellent incentive to declare war on them or hunt them actively as killing their ships and pods can generate some pretty handsome payouts from the wallets of their haters.

Bounties won't have a lasting impact on large spaceholding alliances who frequently get into clashes causing hundreds of losses, but for smaller skirmishing alliances and corps/alliances in empire space this could indeed have a significant impact on others' interest in fighting you.

So bounties are being more or less fixed and made relevant again. Excellent. This brings us to the more controversial aspect of the dev report:

Killrights: making them matter again

As I already described, killrights have long been the best part of useless; this is about to change. Killrights will now be saleable to anyone for a price. This price can be anywhere from free (which allows the target to activate the killrights on themselves and lose only a rookie ship, clearing their record) to absurdly expensive (at which point you probably shouldn't have bothered offering it for sale). At a reasonable price it offers vigilantes the opportunity to activate the killrights on a target they find in any space (or at the very least any empire space), immediately making the target gain a Suspect timer for 15 minutes and allowing anyone to shoot them. If they succeed in killing the target's ship, the killright is fulfilled; if not, the buyer loses their money to the seller and the killrights live on. (The original victim and owner of the killrights can opt to activate their killrights at any time.)

If you feel like there isn't any good price to choose where people will be willing to purchase rights but the offender themselves would not, never fear: CCP has plans to iterate on the system, probably in the quarter-patch or half-patch, to allow you to restrict who is able to buy the killrights thus preventing the killer from clearing their own name on a whim.

Other plans that were outlined: Putting bounties on specific structures, and allowing for privatized bounties that restrict who can claim in the same way that killright purchases can be restricted, providing rewards to a specific party rather than as a blanket applying to everyone.

What should we feel about this?

I have real reservations about certain of the blogging community's interpretations of these changes. Virtually everything is interpreted under the laser-focused lens of "CCP wants to turn hisec into a fairground MMO." Even descriptions of the new ability to bait people and earn money by selling your own killrights are tempered with the saddened warning that CCP probably will ruin that too because they want everyone to be safe and cozy and happy and are prolifically anti-fun. I could hardly disagree more.

Coverage runs in the vein that both the bounty changes and the killright changes will serve to reduce PVP in hisec and are specifically built with a nerf to freighter-ganking and PVP shenanigans in mind. Personally I don't see how killright changes could possibly affect freighter gankers as they generally go GCC the moment they land on the field anyway; the Crimewatch changes that give indiscriminate global timers to looters will have a vastly greater effect on freighter ganking than any of these changes ever will.

Further complaints that these changes only serve to drive PVP out of hisec are unfounded: killrights will become much more uncommon, as well as more meaningful, since they are only awarded to suicide gankers and those who pod-kill fleeing innocents in lowsec. Killing ships in lowsec will never give out killrights; bounties in hisec will only fuel the fires there, giving ever more excuses to bring the fight to players and organizations encumbered by bounties placed by their enemies.

No, I believe the greatest threat to hisec PVP both at present and in the future lies in the exorbitant scaling of war costs that create an absurdly high entry barrier into limited group PVP engagements in hisec — the only place in EVE where such a thing is still possible. You'll be hearing more on this in the future.

I am a member of Project Nemesis, a small and dedicated PVP organization with a long and storied history. I have an in-depth knowledge of ship fitting, small gang warfare, and most game mechanics. I have a strong interest in improving hisec warfare.