Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What Are Wardecs? What Should They Be?

Sugar has a couple of posts up thinking about wardecs (onetwo).  In the minutes of the summer summit we see that CCP has discussed the issue with CSM, which is good, because wardecs currently are a bad game design.  I have my own ideas about what should be done, which I will probably record here.  (My longest explanation so far is in Sugar's comments.)  I have also been reading others' ideas and trying to synthesize the broad themes around wardecs.  Thus, this post.

Just so it is clear, I live in wspace, not highsec.  I have one character in my corp who could be affected by wardec: my Jita alt and freighter pilot.  If I got decced, I could simply not use him for a week, or I might drop corp with practically no loss of functionality.  So the wardec system has essentially no effect on me in my current game.  I feel I can be impartial.  I would love it if wardecs became a fun and interesting play mode.  (I feel the same way about null, actually.  Die blue donut.)

Wardec as Corruption and Crime

It seems the most common current explanation for wardecs is that they are a bribe to Concord to "look the other way" for a week.  Then you get to be a criminal without repercussion and kneecap weak players.  In this view Concord is inherently and totally corrupt.

This explanation works in the sense that it accounts for many of the features of wardec: you pay a fee (real wars don't have fees), it's good for a limited time, and it feels criminal because it is typically deployed to beat up weak corps.  On the losing end, wardecs suck, and that is how being a victim of corruption feels.

It makes very little sense in terms of the in-game reality (the "lore").  Has there ever been a government that has allowed open warfare in its domain?  (No.)  Have there been cops that one could bribe to allow mayhem in public?  (No.)  Will any public sit still while, lore-wise, thousands of people are being killed due to corruption?

Also, being the subject of a corrupt government is inherently unfair and generally unfun.  Fun game play is at some level fair, and current wardecs are deeply unfair in practice.  This is why people dock up or don't play for a week.  Thus, wardec as corruption does not seem to suggest any reform that would make a fun game play for most players.  A game mechanic is probably not going to be fun when it is based on corruption.

Wardec as Sport

Another view of wardecs is that they are a Concord-sanctioned form of sport for capsuleers.  Capsuleers pay a fee and then get to play war for a week.

This explanation has the virtue of aligning with the IRL reason for the feature.  That is, it really is sport for us players, designed by CCP, supposed to be fun.  In practice, it is not fun for the vast majority of the players.  This makes it a bad design, but the intent is obvious.

Lorewise, the criticisms of wardecs -- that they are unfun for either side most of the time -- apply even more here than for bribes.  Why does Concord push this awful "sport"?  Can't they think of anything that is more fun than being docked for a week?  And why do they call it a "war" if it is a game?

On the other hand, the sport metaphor does offer a way forward.  Sports by their nature are not fun unless they are fair.  My little league baseball team does not play the Orioles, and that is good because such a contest would be totally imbalanced to the point of absurdity.  Sports are highly segmented by ability, typically via both age and sex, in the attempt to level the playing field.  Also, sports are voluntary; they are opt-in affairs on both sides.

The suggestion of the sports metaphor is thus to make "leagues" of some kind, or more generally to require only "fair" wars, and/or to allow only consensual wars.  I disapprove of this -- EVE should be about real conflict, not staged -- but it is a redesign idea that makes sense in its way.  (Indeed, the game Clash of Clans, which several in my corp are playing, seems to have taken this metaphor for its warfare.)

One suggestion in this line that I do strongly support is Gevlon's idea to have "safe" corps.  These would be player-run corps that have the safety of an NPC corp.  They are taxed a little less than NPC corps, can't anchor POSes, and are immune to wardec.  It seems like this should be a relatively easy change to program.  It would, at a stroke, remove a lot of the whining about the current wardec system, because many (perhaps most) highsec corps are basically social clubs.  So there's big bang for the CCP programmer-buck.

Here's a further idea along the line of wardecs as sport.  I might suggest that all corps be assigned a power rating, as in chess.  (Here's wiki on the Elo rating system.)  Any war declared against a corp of sufficiently lower power rating could be declined by the would-be victim without penalty.  (Wars between relatively closely rated corps could not be declined.)  Either side could "resign" and halt the war (at the expense of losing) at any time.  The resolution of a war would have to be automatically generated, and a winner/loser/draw assignment made, and the power rating adjusted accordingly.  New corps should not be allowed to wardec until their average member time in corp was, say, two months.

Wardec as War

One other view of wardec is that they are (or should be), as the label says, wars.  That is, they are the ultima ratio regum, the "continuation of policy with other means".   This idea of wardec seems to be what most people want them to be, me included.  So it has that going for it.

On the other hand, wardecs as they currently exist are very little like war.  Corps are not sovereign in highsec; Concord is, and there is very little reason to suggest they have any interest in allowing wars to be fought there.  Also, Concord's in-game power (to stop gankers) is so far beyond that of capsuleers as to make any pretensions to kingship by the latter a joke.

Furthermore, wardec "wars" don't have many features of normal wars.  Normal wars do not require paying off a higher authority.  There is no higher authority.  Wars are never known to be finite in length.  They don't always involve a warning period.  And while they can end by negotiation, they often end by the unconditional surrender of a side when it is utterly destroyed.   And they are always about something: there is some question at issue or possession being contended for.

Wardecs as war is the explanation that least fits the reality of the existing game.  Nevertheless, this would be the explanation that I most favor CCP developing on.

Wardecs should be war, which is to say they should settle something.  There should be something at stake in every wardec, for both aggressor and aggressee.  And a war should, if won, have some meaningful outcome.  Wars should be unbounded in length, because we want the test of strength to actually happen and some resolution to occur.  And a successful war should make some change in the state of the game.


  1. Wardec as corruption... agree not good.

    Wardec as Sport... I feel this no better and Gevlon's idea to have "safe" corps I believe does not survive the test (which is also my test and my basis for looking at EVE interaction mechanics)... The "Does this work IRL? and if so, how?" supposition.

    There is NO real safety IRL... there are only times and places where political and military might create a strong enough sphere of influence that there is the appearance of safety for a given populace in a given geographical area. The PAX Romana, The Peace of Rome, is one such example.

    The idea of a form of Corp War Rating to me, does not fulfill the test and I feel it would be highly gameable and simply confusing and very hard to balance.

    Wardec as War... this, IMHO, is the only way to design a workable, balanced War Dec system. One thing all War have in common is Goals… reasons for War. No one and I mean NO ONE goes to War in Real Life for the Lulz. I have written up my take on this in, "Lebensraum", which is not so much a guide or a set of desired mechanics so much as a way to look at how wars might be prosecuted in New Eden.

    A few nights ago my corpmates and I were fixing the problems of the worlds on TS and we hit on a few ideas I really liked along the vein of 'War Decs as War'... I hope to have something written up soon... I'm still waiting out my Feature Fatigue timers TBH... =]

    1. It's true that IRL nobody wars for the lulz... but then, IRL we are all mortal and beyond that, highly fragile. I think if you were guaranteed to come out of a war 100% intact, there might actually be a lot of young men willing to do it. So that aspect of real life may or may not map well into our capsuleer reality.

      You are correct to fear pretty much any "rating" system. Any rating can be gamed to a certain extent, depending on what it is being used to do. Take my weakman proposal to use Elo ratings... you could game that by intentionally losing fake wars against a controlled corp, so that (now being lowly rated) you could war against a low-rated corp.

      I like Gevlon's idea in the context of (a) NPC corps, which are utterly safe and exist already, and (b) the reality that there are a lot of players (majority?) who simply will not fight. They are not playing the game for (direct) PVP, and don't want it, and will quit if overly forced into it. I feel our goal for any highsec war system should be to get people willing to fight at all to (maybe) fight, while still allowing those who will not to opt out. And this is where I find the sports analog helpful.

    2. You could quite easily argue that paintball, laser tag, air soft, etc. is war for the lulz. In which case if you are looking for an equivalent in EvE it would have to be the thunder dome or whatever that deployable that was made recently was called.

      I think the original intent of war in EvE was to be a battle over resources. In EvE, there isn't really a functional claim to resources by the empires (such as asteroid belts, moons, etc.) as they simply don't get used if capsuleers don't do it. I'm not sure lore wise how the rights to resoucres are handled. Issuing a payment to Concord can be seen as a declaration to staking a claim over resources or rights and directly naming a violator of your rights to be punished.

      As for what war should be, I think you should be able to war dec a corp for any reason such as it is now. All I think that needs to be added is for a way for the defender to win the war. If there is an explicit goal that a defender knows will end the war if they achieved it, I think you would see a lot more high sec players willing to fight. As it stands, fighting is seen as only prolonging the war. If there is a clear possibility of fighting shortening the war or even benefiting me as a defender (such as compensation if I win the war) I am far more likely to undock and shoot at my aggressors.

  2. Actually, there is one faction for which the lore supports the current wardec system: The Caldari. Their corps are free to go to war with each other, as long as they don't endanger the State by doing so.

    The Matari are a grey area, as I doubt they're as united as they seem to want us to think, but the Amarr and the Gallente? No sir, open warfare inside their space would be stomped on right quick. Esp since all it does is harm trade :)

    As I've posted elsewhere, including on Tur's old post before I realized it was an old entry (sigh), wardecs must have the 'war' bit front and centre. What we've got to do is limit abuse, like the Goons doing a forever war on someone. (And before anyone says anything, just dropping corp or setting up a new one are not solutions - some folks get very attached to the corp names they create and they shouldn't be forced to give that up).

    I do not like the sport ideas, or ideas along similar lines, because it comes dangerously close to making for EvE Arena Battles Online.

    1. Good points on the lore. I still feel no sane state would allow warfare in its turf, but that's a beef between me and the lore-writers.

      I kind of like the idea of wardecs having different kinds of effects within the four empires. Imagine if the current wardec system was unaltered in Caldari space, and in all of lowsec. In Minmatar space you could war half-normally: you get a criminal flag when you initiate hostilities with a war target. Amarr and Gallente don't allow it at all. Of course, this sort of thing would probably be confusing to the players, so, maybe not a good idea. Still, it's kind of cool.

    2. I can easily imagine a corporate state allowing wars. Plenty of SF books that embrace the concept in one form or another.
      It usually involves an allpowerful oversight commitee (like concord) to enforce the rules/agreements made for the conflict.

      Can't you imagine the UN telling Congo and Cameroun they are free to go to war (over water, religion, race or whatever) as long as they keep combat limited to their own countries, try to limit collateral damage to civilians and stop when certain criteria are reached that define a winner?)

      Had the invasion of Iraq by the US (and pet allies) been sanctioned by the UN you could have called that a legal agreed upon war.

  3. War as a sport.. the wardeccing party gets to set duration of the war and surrender conditions. The attacked party can then bribe concord to alter the rules of the war.

    Limit the ship sizes that can engage each other to noncapital or frigate sized hulls only? No industrial ships can be attacked during the war, or only industrial ships.
    Declare the war over after x amount of damage has been dealt/received.

    1. Interesting ideas there Raziel. Of course this is war as semi-sport... sort of like dueling. I challenge thee! Weapon of your choice! But it does sound kind of fun to have a frigate "war".

    2. I don't like the 'sport' aspect... (I'm not a sporto as we used to call jocks) but I do feel the Declare the war over after x amount of damage has been dealt/received. fits in nicely with the War for a Reason, IE War for Goals approach... We need a way to metric War, to 'count coup' as twere fr War Decs to be viable...

      The rot and stink of corruption in the very roots of CONCORD MUST be wiped clean with the bleach doused rag of holy justice!!

    3. I like the idea of goal based wars like the war is over after destroying x amount of isk. The only caveat I would add is that the defenders don't want the war and without providing the defenders an incentive I think you ultimately end up with what you have now.

      If you just say the war is over after 1 bil in isk has been destroyed, the view will be the defender needs to undock 1 bil isk so the war is over or just stay docked. If you say the war is over after the attackers destroy 1 bil isk OR after the defenders destroy 750 mil isk (I think the defenders goal should be a percentage of the attackers since they do not want the war) and the winner receives a percentage of the war dec fee, I think you will see a lot more defenders willing to fight.

      I think this structure also provides an incentive for corporations to fight on even footing. If you bring out bling T3s to fight me, I can undock 20 rifters. destroying 1 of your bling T3s could very easily win the war in my favor while my 20 rifters will give you less than 100 mil destroyed.

    4. Sorry for the double post but I thought I should add something about the war dec fee.

      With this model the initial war dec fee would go up, possibly substantially (it would have to be scaled to the amount of damage you want to inflict and be large enough to pay for a lot of the damage to the defender if they win the war.) The idea would be if you win you get back all the money except the current war dec fee. If you lose, the extra money you spent gets paid to the defender as compensation.

  4. Corporations need a way to settle their disputes and protect their various properties. Concord only offers a rough sort of frontier justice for uncontrolled aggression, and rougher means of controlled arbitration: the declaration.

    Rather than dwell on what conflict between players mean, maybe we should think harder on what a corporation should mean. To my way of thinking, they should be the road to profit. To that end, any number of paths can be followed, but I'll suggest a few.

    First, no more freighter alts. Maybe there could be dock fees that can only be paid from a corp wallet. Maybe caps should be allowed in empire, but are FFA without a license, something on the market obtained from LP, especially FW LP. Instant content to my way of thinking.

    Second, strip individuals from making 300+ market orders. Better yet, make each market order skill at one market slot per skill level, per station. Nerfs market bots into the ground, and rewards players who move around and train up range skills. It also spreads out the hubs. Meanwhile, increase orders made from corporate wallets ten fold. Better yet, make another margin costs skill affecting corp orders and another margin costs fee specific to station owners and their controlling entities.

    Third, make corps have to own stuff. Whereever the HQ system is, they have to have a kind of locked deadspace pocket. In empire, the most secure room is protected except in event of a war dec. Lose your holdings, lose significant privileges in that faction's space, including the ability to declare wars.

    Alternately, make war decs on a per region, per constellation or per faction basis. Mutual faction standings govern the cost of each war dec. Declarations in more areas increases the cost on the usual exponential scale. This gives corps the ability to force others around, to force them out of areas, to create a sense of boundaries or geography to space.

    1. The people who smoke the best stuff never share. The current problem with wardecs is that they are one sided and make life hard or impossible for people in corps other than NPC. Everything you suggested is an aggressors wet dream, and exactly not the way you get more people to participate. In fact if there were hard opposites to many of your suggestions they would probably be the dream solution to get more people involved.

  5. I still think an easy solution would be to limit the war to one region / constellation. With that option you get an easily defined target ("this is my constellation, leave!") and anyone who doesn't want to fight will just say OK its yours, understood and settle else where.

    We would see Marmite and Co. win a lot of wars in Kantanen (the const in which uedama lies) as many will simply avoid that system. On the other hand you would have a decent target to fight back. Dominate that constellation drive out the aggressor. That would stop the most annoying fact of current war decs: if you manage to assemble a response fleet, they simply dock.

    Add some FW flavor to the mix with domination points inside that region/constellation that the aggressor must place to start the war. If it is dominated by the defender too often you loose the war.

    This would help to make defender contracts more targeted like "get me control of that domination point and you get x mil/bil ISK". The current system of "hey i offer you help for x mil" is most of the time not helpful.

  6. Again, hard coding victory conditions into any war system is a recipe for disaster.

    What metrics would be used? Isk? Kill ratio? Number of ships killed? Days without kills? Fun?

    The problem with hard coding victory conditions is that victory conditions in EvE are infinite. If I'm an industrial corp, victory is not having operations cease. If all my members dock up for the week, we've lost. But if we can keep doing our thing, even if we have to move to do it, we've won. On the flip side, if a PvP corp declares war on a carebear corp, what are they looking to get out of it? Kills. So if they get blue-balled, they lose. Or say they do get actual fights, but they lose the isk war. Have the lost or won? What about the carebear corp that decides to fight? If they get smashed but their members all had fun, have they lost or won?

    It's also entirely possible for both sides to win a war. Or lose. How do you code that?

    Let's take an example from history. The War of 1812. The American goal was to conquer British North America. The British goal was to prevent that. In order for the Americans to win, they needed to win, whereas the British just needed to not lose. In the end, while the Americans did fight off the British counter-attack, the Americans lost the war because they failed to achieve their own stated War Aim. At the same time, while the British didn't conquer the US, that was never their War Aim, so they won the war without actually 'winning'.

    Try coding that in EvE.

    If we MUST have an in-game way to measure if a war is won or lost, then Chanina's suggesting of incorporating FW mechanics would seem to be the way to go. A war is declared, the game then generates war complexes that only the combatants can enter. Control of the complexes over the course of the week generates a War Score and at the end of the war, the side with the higher score 'wins'.

    A further problem rears it's head though. What does 'winning' entail? Why would CCP go to all that effort of coding War Complexes if victory or defeat didn't mean anything? Is there an isk prize, standings adjustments, etc? And how would we ensure that those rewards couldn't be abused?