EVE Evolved: Fixing the wardec system

EVE Evolved title image
EVE Online's new Inferno expansion is almost here, bringing with it a massive PvP revamp. CCP will try to resurrect the dead faction warfare system, and new modules will be introduced to significantly shake up the PvP landscape for the first time in several years. The war declaration system is also getting a complete overhaul, with the goal of forcing the aggressor to commit to the war and making wars more structured and meaningful. Unfortunately, the implementation described at Fanfest doesn't look like it will achieve that and doesn't fix any of the system's other problems.

The attacking corp can no longer stop a war mid-week, and the defender can hire mercenaries to join his war, but this doesn't add any risk for the attacking corp and doesn't force it to commit. The attacker can always stop paying the war bill, and the war will then finish at the end of the week. As most empire wardecs are initiated by small shell corps full of PvP alts, the attacking players won't mind logging out for a few days if the war backfires. The current war system is plagued with issues, from a complete lack of victory conditions to the fact that the attacker can pay for the war indefinitely. It allows bizarre asymmetries, like tiny alt corps declaring war on major military alliances, and offers no way for even the most militarily powerful defender to win the war.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I lay out some of the problems with EVE Online's upcoming wardec revamp and propose an alternative system that fixes them.

EVE Evolved side imageProblems with the current system

Very few players would argue that wardecs are fine as they are now, but until now, CCP has always been reluctant to change the system. The main issue is that it's hilariously biased in favour of the aggressor, who can prepare for the war and will always pick weak or industrial targets. The defender gets just 24 hours' notice to get a plan together and warn its members of the threat and typically won't be in a position to fight back. The new mercenary system will help even the odds, but it won't be that useful if the attacking corp can weasel its way out of the war by not paying the bill.

Another major problem is that a small corp of alts can declare war on a legitimate corporation, and there's nothing the defender can do about it. As long as the war fee is paid each week, a handful of alts can disrupt a corporation or even a major alliance like EVE University. Nobody will fly a mining ship, hauler, freighter, or expensive mission-running ship while a war is in progress, and many corps require that pilots just stay docked for the entire duration of a war. The new fee calculation makes it more expensive to target larger organisations like EVE Uni, but as we saw with the proliferation of titans, ISK never works as a balancing factor to prevent abuse. There's literally nothing that the defending corp can do to stop a war, an asymmetry that underlies every problem faced by the wardec system.

EVE Evolved side imageVictory conditions

The main thing that I think needs to be fixed with the war system is the complete lack of victory conditions for either side, particularly for the defender. The aggressor will instigate a war for his own reasons, usually hoping to kill a few expensive ships, get some loot, or convince the target to pay to have the war removed. Surrender isn't currently a very good victory condition as no corp wants to get a reputation as an ISK piñata. The new surrender system has a week of enforced peace during which the attacker cannot declare war on the same target again. This might help, but a week isn't very long, and a longer period could be easily bypassed if war is declared again using a separate alt corp.

It's also pretty bizarre that no matter how militarily powerful a corporation or alliance is, it can't physically win a war declared against it. There is simply no system in place to let the defender win the war. The sad reality is that this means the optimum strategy for beating a wardec is currently to stay docked and wait until the attackers get bored and stop paying the war fee. Even a massive alliance like EVE University asks its members to practice target denial during a war because fights are exactly what the attacker wants, and no matter how many fights you win, there's no way to actually win the war.

EVE Evolved side imageA new system

The ideal war system would be one that forces the attackers to commit and has clear victory conditions. It should make small corps engaging large entities riskier and encourage people to fight a war rather than dock up for a week. To start a war, the attacker should have to place the war fee into a war command structure that would be in space, orbiting a planet, or at a starbase. If the defending corp destroys this structure, it would collect the war fee as a prize, and the war would end. This way a larger corp that costs a lot more to wardec would have more incentive to fight, and small alt corps wouldn't be able to reasonably pursue a war against large alliances.

If the defender wants to surrender the war, he would pay a surrender fee equal to the war fee and the war then ends. This would make declaring war on small corps less profitable as they can surrender quite cheaply, encouraging war corps to take on the largest target they think they can handle in order to get a larger reward. The attacker could also surrender and forfeit the war fee, preventing the defender from dragging out the war indefinitely. In this system, the weekly war fee would be thrown out the window and be replaced with a larger one-off fee. This means a war could only be ended by either side completing its victory condition: the attacker's command structure's destruction or either party's surrender.

During the Fanfest stream, CCP described plans to eventually move all services to player-owned structures of some kind. My proposed war system would integrate seamlessly with this when it happens, as you could just make the attacker pick one of the defender's structures to become its own victory condition for the war. Only that one structure would be made vulnerable for the duration of the war, and all assets inside it would be locked down so that the attackers could get it as loot. This would completely replace the surrender option, adding very real consequences to a war that cannot be avoided without military conflict.

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While I'm excited for the possibilities of a wardec revamp, I got the distinct impression from the Fanfest stream that CCP doesn't understand how wars are actually used in the game. It's currently a pay-to-grief system that actively discourages conflict, a system in which the defender's job is to avoid fights and bore the attacker into submission. Wardecs allow a handful of PvP alts to pay some ISK and shut down a large corporation's highsec operations for a week at no risk to itself. That's not fun, and it can't be good for EVE that the best course of action during a war is to log off and play another game for the duration.

The system I've described above would solve all of those problems. It gives the defender incentive to actually fight the war, makes it risky to pick a target too large to tackle, and makes wars more meaningful. The UI improvements, usability tweaks and mercenary marketplace that CCP is planning to add are all awesome, but any war system that doesn't make conflict the best option for both sides is fundamentally a failure. After all, the whole point of the wardec system is to get players to smash ships against each other.

Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to brendan@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.