EVE Evolved: Player justice in Retribution

EVE Evolved title image
This week CCP released a new devblog on upcoming piracy and PvP changes heading to EVE Online with this winter's Retribution expansion. In addition to new ships and an as-yet unrevealed bounty hunter revamp, Retribution completely redesigns the Crimewatch system that decides whom you can legally shoot and stops players from docking or jumping out of the system in the middle of combat. EVE's aggression mechanics are notoriously complicated and buggy, but Retribution aims to simplify the system and put players in the driving seat of criminal justice.

The new Crimewatch system not only gets rid of old, undocumented code that was written when dinosaurs roamed the earth but also has far-reaching consequences for pirates, people engaging in PvE and the upcoming bounty hunting revamp. Pirates will now be able to escape into high-security space without police intervention, loot thieves will be subjected to mob justice, nullsec ratters won't be as safe as they think, and neutral remote repairing will be a thing of the past.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I delve into Crimewatch 2.0 and how the Retribution expansion will change the game for pirates, ratters, and people engaging in PvP across New Eden.

EVE Evolved side imagePiracy mechanic revamp

For a game that prides itself on letting players be anything they want, EVE is a bit harsh on pirates. If you attack another player in low-security space, you currently get a global criminal countdown timer that draws the attention of sentry guns for 15 minutes. If you jump into high-security space with an active timer, the police will drop in to say hello and relieve you of your ship. Retribution removes this mechanic entirely, replacing it with two new 15-minute PvP flags: Suspect and Criminal.

Attacking someone in low-security space will make you a Suspect, which means you can be attacked by any player. Sentry guns will fire on you only if you commit an aggressive act within their range, so if you kill someone in an asteroid belt and then warp to a stargate, the sentries won't open fire. If you engage someone near a stargate and the sentries attack you, you can warp out and back in again to make them call off the assault. Jumping through to high-security space with a suspect flag doesn't call in the police, but you'll be attackable by other players who might want to enforce the law. Most pirates are already below -5.0 security status, though, so they're attackable anyway.

EVE Evolved side imagePvE, saving your ship, and log-off timers

If a player quits the game while his ship is in space, the ship will currently emergency warp 1,000,000km in a random direction and disappear after about 30 seconds. If the player has been involved in PvP in the past 15 minutes and logs off, his ship will instead hang around for 15 minutes or until it's destroyed. This isn't changing, but nullsec ratters and explorers should be aware that engaging in PvE in Retribution will have a similar effect. If you see danger coming and quit to save your ship, your assailant may be able to scan you down and kill you in the 15 minutes that follow.

Attacking a PvP-flagged player after he logs off will refresh his timer, so once you catch him, he won't disappear in the middle of the kill. Scanning down and attacking a PvE-flagged player who has logged off, on the other hand, will not extend his timer and won't add a PvP timer, so you have until the end of the 15 minutes to kill him before he disappears. Since you can't add a flag to a player after he logs off, unflagged players who quit after jumping into a gatecamp will disappear after 30 seconds no matter what you do.

EVE Evolved side imageThe problem with global flags

Loot thieves will be flagged as Suspects, rendering them attackable by anyone in the game, not just the owner of the stolen loot. In fact, the whole system is transitioning to global flags rather than complicated individual ones. It will no longer be possible to let two players individually attack other for safe 1v1 fights, which could wreck player-organised tournaments. CCP is aware of the problem and will be trying to get duelling support back in the game in a patch shortly after Retribution.

The problem with global flags is that they prevent people from defending themselves from attack, so CCP is introducing a limited form of 1v1 flagging with one simple rule: If someone attacks you under any circumstances, you are personally able to attack that person back. It's a compromise that lets us defend ourselves, but it raises a few problems of its own. If you're globally attackable and someone opens fire on you, you can freely retaliate, but it's still a crime for your friends to help. This limits pirates who use small ships to bait people on stargates, but it remains to be seen whether that will be a major problem.

EVE Evolved side imageBounty hunter revamp incoming

The biggest yet-to-be-revealed feature of Retribution is a brand new bounty hunting system to replace the frankly broken mess we have had all these years. If you put a bounty on a player's head today, you might as well just hand him the ISK as he can collect his own bounty by killing himself with another character. We don't yet know how the new system prevents this, but the most popular player-created idea is to let players trade their Kill Rights to bounty hunters in exchange for a fee. Retribution might include a full bounty office where players can list their kill rights along with bounty fee and deposit and select a bounty hunter to carry out the job.

Kill Rights give you the ability to attack someone anywhere at any time for the next 30 days or until you kill them once. You currently only get them if your ship is blown up in empire space and you didn't fight back, but when Retribution lands, they'll be much easier to acquire. You'll get full kill rights on someone the moment they open fire on your ship in high-security space or your escape capsule in low-security space, even if you fight back or they fail to kill you. If a player does anything that gives him a Criminal flag, his victim immediately gets 30 days to exact retribution.

EVE Evolved side imagePotential bounty hunting problems

The new Crimewatch system is a step in the right direction, and getting rid of the old code means developers can tweak it without worrying about unintended side-effects, but there's definitely room for improvement. The Kill Rights additions are aiming to help make bounty hunting a serious profession, but to get Kill Rights, a player must be the victim of a highsec suicide attack or have his escape pod blown up in lowsec. In both cases, the kill rights don't really do any good. Lowsec pirates who are willing to kill escape pods are going to have -10.0 security status, so you can already attack them anywhere, and they won't be found strolling around in highsec.

Suicide gankers will more often than not use alternate characters for the attack and so don't care about dropping security status. It's technically an exploit to then recycle the character when his security status gets low, but that's never really enforced, and there have been ways to bypass security status for years. The attacking group can use an Orca to drop ships in space for the gank characters, who can then board them and warp to the gank target before the navy police intervene. We won't know how truly effective the new system will be until it launches and we see how it pairs with the new bounty hunting mechanic, so these problems may be ironed out for release.

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The new Crimewatch system is a big step in the right direction, and the new Suspect global flag potentially puts players in the driving seat of justice. Combat pilots will be able to protect miners from loot thieves, and the new bounty hunting system could make getting retribution on your attacker a realistic option. For me though, some of the smallest changes discussed in the devblog and its comment thread are the most interesting:

Risk-free remote repairing will be a thing of the past as assisting someone who's engaged in combat will cause you to inherit his current PvP flags. Interdictors won't be able to jump immediately after dropping a warp disruption bubble, which is good news for small ships roaming in nullsec but not so good for Interdictor pilots. Players also won't be able to eject from their ships mid-fight, so pirates can no longer cheat death by having an Orca scoop their expensive ships, and Tech 3 cruiser pilots won't be able to avoid skillpoint loss if the fight doesn't go their way.

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.