A year ago we began hearing the first official hints of CCP's plans to re-work EVE's criminality and aggression management system: the game engine known as Crimewatch. Yesterday, CCP MasterPlan posted a quite thorough and detailed update on Team Five-0's current designs for the new system's deployment with Retribution in December.
Hang with me here, Crimewatch is not a simple topic.
MasterPlan outlined the salient points they wanted to achieve with the new system: simplicity, robustness, and performance. If the system is simple enough with clear-cut rules there should be little to no opportunity for bugs and exploits, plus it ought to be easy to figure out. CCP is being abundantly clear that the main desire behind these changes are to make it as smooth a transition as possible; if you can do something now, ideally you should be able to do it afterwards one way or another. So:
Let's pretend the Crimewatch update has been released as described. What exactly has changed?
- Aggression flags have been simplified. When you steal from a can, everyone can shoot at you, not just the owners. They can pod you, too. This is called the Suspect Flag, and it lasts 15 minutes; it's kind of like GCC Lite. As long as you don't do anything horribly illegal, you can still kill all kinds of people without ever getting a Criminal Flag (GCC).
- Logistics and other remote assistance will get the same timers as the person they are repping, including the one that keeps you from docking in the station or jumping (now called the Weapons Flag). The Weapons Flag now not only keeps you from docking or jumping for 60 seconds after aggressing another player, it keeps you from switching ships or even ejecting.
- Anyone fighting NPC's will have a 15 minute timer that prevents their ship from disappearing when they log off, same as if they had been shooting players. The main difference here is that this timer cannot be extended indefinitely if you were to probe out their logged-off ship: you have to kill it before the timer is up or they will disappear like normal.
- Losing security status does not automatically = CONCORD. It's possible to lose security status in hisec by giving remote assistance to someone with a Suspect Flag or Outlaw security status (under -5.0).
- Shooting and destroying ships in lowsec no longer gives killrights, but it no longer gives you GCC either. You lose all the security status you are going to lose the moment you start shooting and begin to take sentry gun fire, but once you leave the sight of the sentry guns they will not continue to shoot you on your return until you commit new crimes. You can safely jump through the gate into hisec without being CONCORDed if you aren't a criminal and NPC police will not interfere, though you will still be a Suspect there (and thus shootable by every player).
- Shooting innocents in hisec, and pods in lowsec, DOES give you Criminal Flag, same as ever. This time the full security status hit is given immediately. Regardless of whether the victim returns fire or whether you succeed in killing the victim, they will have kill-rights (which, we are hinted, will have good uses in the bounty system!)
- All aggression flags and timers will be carried over between systems no matter what. At least, that is the plan. Those of you who have been praying for this, you know who you are.
What hasn't changed? You can still shoot back at anyone who shot you; that will always be legal. In fact, you can even pod them now.
These are great changes, making sweeping fixes to everything from the near-invulnerability of neutral logistics to the undue complexity and bugginess of obfuscated aggression chains. Of course there are also numerous people expressing fears that their livelihood and interests will be crushed by these changes.
- "What about 1v1s on the station? How can I possibly fight when taking a can means everyone can shoot me?" CCP MasterPlan knows your fears. Team Five-0 has high priorities set on making sure that there is a dueling system in place, if not immediately upon release, then As SoonTM As Possible. Not only that, but duels after the changes will be cleaner and imbued with 100% more Honour: anyone remote repping one of the combatants will receive both a 60 second Weapon Flag preventing them from docking but a Suspect Flag making them attackable by everyone.
- "What about baiting missioners and miners?" Well, remember: everyone will be able to shoot you. This only makes them safer, right? Be creative. I'm sure you have a friend who can convince the poor missioner that 'help' is on the way.
- Finally... why would all these changes need to happen? Why, when we just had the game figured out, does CCP have to pull the rug out from under us and wreck the game all over again?
It is understandable that not everyone wants to go along with the outlined changes (or at least not all of them), but the developers' reasoning is clear: the system as it exists today is simply too complicated. As someone who has spent the last two or three years pushing its boundaries day in and day out I can attest that there are far scarier things you can do with the system than most people realize. There are many esoteric jukes and tricks in 'Crimewatch 1.0' you can use to screw over your opponent or turn the fight in your favor, such as extending aggression indefinitely on wrecks and drones or killing someone for repping you by first committing a crime against yourself.
Equally so there are intrinsic bugs in the system that just can't be fixed as is: aggression takes a while to carry between systems, some actions may or may not flag you arbitrarily, and my friends and I have on occasion been CONCORDed without warning for doing something we had just done five times. Crimewatch 1.0 is a byzantine ruleset that results in situations that are even more complicated and takes a lot of experience to fully get the hang of.
Even ignoring those issues with the system, the fact remains that aggression graphs (systems where anyone may or may not be able to shoot anyone else at any given time) are mathematically difficult to simulate. Every time a fight in empire space doubles in size there is at least 4 times as much work that needs to be done just to check if anyone has gone GCC. A certain spontaneous lowsec fleet fight caused TiDi to the tune of 10% for nearly an hour in some highsec pipeline systems as the node strove to bear up under the load of all the Crimewatch checks it suddenly needed to complete.
I believe that these changes, properly implemented, could be a huge boon to hisec and lowsec PVP. The potential for large and bloody fights is eminently present in the rules and we can only hope that is what will happen.
If you have more questions or want to read it all from the horse's mouth, check out MasterPlan's awesome DevBlog and the associated comment thread for his clarifications (keep clicking that Dev ribbon!).