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Last week I looked into the major PvP changes coming in EVE Online's upcoming Retribution expansion, from the piracy revamp to a new global flagging system that puts players in the driving seat of justice. This week CCP Games revealed full details of the upcoming bounty hunting system revamp, and I have to say I'm really excited. The new bounty system not only makes bounty hunting a viable profession again but also gives players a way to deal significant financial damage to their enemies without getting their hands dirty.

As if that weren't enough, players will even be able to enforce the law on their own terms, trawling high-security space for criminals and lighting them up for everyone to kill. Corporate- and alliance-level bounties will push grudges to new levels, enabling a new type of passive financial warfare. The new bounty system can also be used as a tool to motivate troops into battle, a way to incentivise boring but necessary starbase warfare, and even a method for running tournaments.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I get ridiculously excited about EVE's upcoming bounty hunting revamp and explain why it makes the Retribution expansion a complete game-changer.

EVE Evolved side imageBounty Hunting 2.0

The old bounty hunting system was designed as a way to draw attention to pirates, letting you put a price on someone's head only if he had less than -1.0 security status. The bounty is paid out in a lump sum and then only if the pirate's escape capsule is destroyed. Unfortunately, this system doesn't work at all as players can collect their own bounties by having a friend or alternate character podkill them. Lowsec piracy is also a tiny fraction of the PvP that happens in EVE, so even just fixing this loophole somehow wouldn't make for a very inclusive bounty hunting mechanic.

The new system is all about helping you get revenge and causing someone financial damage regardless of his security status. You'll be able to put a bounty on any player's head, and it will be paid out in chunks to anyone who causes your target financial damage. The payout is about 20% of the financial damage inflicted, so if you destroy a ship worth 100 million ISK, you'll get about 20 million ISK of the owner's bounty. This uses the same valuation system that enabled the five trillion ISK Faction Warfare loyalty point exploit to work, but bounties aren't generated from thin air, and CCP has promised that the system will be a lot more robust in Retribution.

EVE Evolved side imageGetting revenge

The new bounty system really is inspired because now when you put a bounty on someone's head, you know it will help cause him five times that amount in financial damage. But you don't have to just hope someone will hunt down your target; you'll actually get proof in the form of notifications every time someone kills him. We're even getting a new bounty interface in which we can track our bounties as they are paid out. More importantly, we'll be able to set bounties at any time from the user info screen instead of having to go through a station service.

When Retribution lands, it will be possible to be an actual bounty hunter again. A list of the people with the biggest bounties will be on public display, and the top bounties will even have a higher payout percentage. I could imagine corporations forming for the sole purpose of tracking down and hunting those players, though this may be difficult if the top bounties are all on highsec alts in NPC corporations.

EVE Evolved side imageHunting for criminals

As expected, part of the bounty hunting revamp is the ability to sell your kill rights. Instead of creating a kill-rights marketplace, however, CCP has something 10 times more awesome planned. When you get kill rights on someone, you can now open him to the public either for free or for a price. When you're pottering along through empire space, you'll now notice some players have a new icon bracket that indicates there are open kill rights on them. Any player can instantly buy the kill rights to activate them, and that's where things get hairy.

Instead of just giving one player the ability to attack the target, buying kill rights activates a 15-minute Suspect flag that lets anyone attack him. It's the ultimate consequence for criminal activity -- you have to constantly watch your back because at any time, you could suddenly come under attack. Some may even see this as a challenge and set up open kill rights on themselves deliberately. There is still the problem that kill rights are given out only for highsec suicide attacks and lowsec podding, however, so you're still unlikely to see someone worth killing in highsec. Players should also be aware that a juicy target with open kill rights could be a trap, so your gank could go horribly wrong.

EVE Evolved side imageCorporate-level bounties

We're all familiar with the idea of putting a bounty on a player's head, but what about putting one on an entire corporation or alliance? While it may seem like an after-thought, Retribution's corporate and alliance bounty system is a serious game-changer. If you put a bounty on a corporation, it's paid out any time a member of that corp is killed or a structure belonging to it is destroyed. It's a fantastic way to get the general public to target corporations by offsetting the cost of waging war against them.

If your corp typically deals five times more financial damage than it receives during a war and you target a corp with a bounty, you could actually come out of the war in profit. Bounties even affect highsec and industrial corps by adding an extra incentive to suicide gank their pilots. Not only will you get the loot that drops, but you'll also earn 20% of the value of the destroyed ship and loot.

I could really see this taking off in lowsec and nullsec, too. Since bounties are split between fleet members, a large alliance can put a bounty on its enemy to motivate troops to join fleets and fight. PvP fleets currently use killboard stats to see whether they dealt more financial damage than they received during a battle, but with a bounty in place, individual pilots may actually come out of a battle with more ISK than they went in with.

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There are, of course, still issues and concerns with the new system. Players worry that the bounty system will let people check whether a character is active or not, which could be used to gather valuable intelligence. If the market conditions are right, people may also be able to repeatedly kill themselves in insured tech 1 ships to remove a bounty without taking any financial loss. Ultimately, though, the new bounty hunting mechanic is bigger and better than I could ever have hoped for, and I seriously hope it works out well.

When Retribution lands, you'll be able to trawl highsec looking for people with open kill rights to gank and hunt down players with bounties. The system could even be used to design interesting new tournaments in which the contestants are given bounties or to found PvP training corps based around starbase warfare. If I could make one single suggestion to improve the revenge-based mechanics coming in Retribution, it would be to expand the kill rights system to include more than just the most severe crimes. The more legitimate players flying around with open kill rights, the better!

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.