EVE Evolved: Three ways to break Retribution

EVE Evolved title image
EVE Online's upcoming Retribution expansion is set to revolutionise PvP with its brand-new criminal and bounty hunting systems. Players will be able to hunt down criminals who show their faces in highsec, and bounty hunters will track not just individuals but also entire corporations and alliances. If past expansions are any indication, however, the first thing players invariably do with any new feature is to try to break it. Some people will undoubtedly find ways to bend the new gameplay into scams, others will trick players into getting themselves killed for a few laughs, and a few will hunt for borderline exploits.

We now know enough about Retribution's new features to figure out some of the ways they can be potentially abused. The ability to sell kill rights opens up a whole new scam based on tempting players with a juicy target and then pulling the rug out from under their feet. The new Suspect flag that lets players dispense justice to criminals can also be used to bait innocent players into getting themselves killed. There may even be a way to get rid of bounties for free, undermining one of the expansion's core mechanics.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at three potential pitfalls in the upcoming Retribution expansion, how they might work when the expansion goes live, and how to protect yourself from falling victim to them.

EVE Evolved side image#1 - Avoid the kill rights scam

The ability to open your kill rights to the public for a fee will make highsec a lot more interesting, but it may also be abused in a brand-new scam. If you make an alternate character shoot your main character in high-security space, CONCORD will destroy your alt and give your main character kill rights on him for 30 days. You can then open those kill rights to the public for a fee and fly the alt around highsec trade routes until someone pays the fee to take a shot at him. Since you own the kill rights on another character, you pocket the fee.

The real trick is making your alt look like a tempting target. Some players will probably pay upward of 20 million ISK to kill an autopiloting industrial ship, but an apparently AFK freighter full of goodies could be worth over a billion ISK. As soon as the kill rights are purchased, it may be possible for your alt to escape by docking or jumping through a stargate and using web-support to insta-warp to safety. Smaller ships could also fit warp core stabilisers or could possibly even be stowed in an Orca. If there's a way to cheat death, you can be sure players will find it.

CCP has stated that if the target escapes, "the kill right is still available to be purchased (activated) later on," but it isn't clear whether that means the payment is only sent if the target player is destroyed. If this is the case, you could possibly have your alt swap into a cheap ship and destroy it to collect the fee. To protect yourself from this scam, just remember EVE's golden rule: "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is." Legitimate kill rights are unlikely to be found on real freighter pilots, and no kill right should realistically cost hundreds of millions of ISK.

EVE Evolved side image#2 - Watch out for Suspect bait

When Retribution lands, committing minor crimes like stealing loot in high-security space will let anyone attack you for 15 minutes. This is meant to help players enforce the law, but it can also be used to trick unsuspecting players into getting killed. Steal loot in a cheap frigate to get the Suspect flag and then warp into a crowded area like the Jita 4-4 undock point about a minute before the flag wears off. If someone blows you up, dock, swap into a bigger ship, and wait out the remaining minute. You can now kill the attacker if he's still hanging around, and no other players can help him without committing a crime themselves.

A more common bait trick I think we'll definitely see is players leaving loot cans or wrecks in space and having cloaked recon ships ready to pounce on anyone who takes them. Players already do this outside high-traffic stations, but the new global flagging system means nobody is going to steal loot in Retribution unless the coast appears to be clear. The best place to do this would be near a stargate on a well-traveled route or in an asteroid belt. If you see a wreck or loot container on your travels and suspect that it might be a trap, align your ship to a celestial body before stealing it so that you can warp out instantly. Alternatively, pick it up in a cheap ship you wouldn't mind losing or avoid the risk altogether and just don't steal anything.

EVE Evolved side image#3 - Can players remove bounties for free?

When the Inferno expansion landed, it brought in a new game system that estimated the value of a ship kill and rewarded the attackers with loyalty points. Using normal market manipulation techniques, one group of players managed to trick the system into handing out five trillion ISK worth around $175,000 US. Retribution's bounty payouts use the same system but will give the attacker only about 20% of the destroyed ship's market value. Developers promise that this will be robust enough to avoid the same exploit that hit faction warfare in Inferno, but it can potentially be exploited to remove a corporation's bounty.

If someone places a large bounty on your corporation and it's attracting unwanted attention, it may be possible to get rid of it using insurance fraud. You first need to find a ship that can be produced for below its platinum insurance payout value, which sometimes happens due to market price fluctuation and the fact that insurance prices take time to update. To remove your corp's bounty, just produce tons of the ship, insure them, and have someone else in the corp destroy them.

Platinum insurance costs 30% of the payout value, so if you got a ship for 100% of the payout value and did this, you would normally lose that 30%. With 20% covered by the bounty, however, the loss is reduced to just 10% of the ship's market value. If you can find a ship that you can put together for 90% of its insurance payout value, you'll be breaking even on every kill and stripping your bounty for free. Combine this with faction warfare's kill rewards and it becomes a whole lot more feasible. If the market conditions are right, I can imagine players selling this as a bounty-cleaning service to corporations and alliances and maybe even squeezing a profit out of it.

EVE Evolved title image
As with any EVE expansion, the players who adapt most quickly to the new game mechanics will be at a huge advantage, and not all of them will have your best interests at heart. Some will find new and inventive ways to scam people, others will figure out how to get innocent players killed, and a few may stumble across exploits. The above three pitfalls are examples of ways the new expansion mechanics could potentially be abused by players based on what we know of them so far.

The ability to remove your own bounty through insurance fraud would put a huge dent in the bounty hunting system, so hopefully it's resolved by the time the expansion goes live. Scams and baiting tricks are inherent parts of the PvP sandbox, though, and learning to avoid them is arguably part of EVE's Darwinian gameplay. My advice would be to wait a while after Retribution's deployment before you put a price on anyone's head, to mothball your expensive ships for a while, and to approach the game with caution. Re-test everything you know about EVE's aggression mechanics because PvP in empire space is about to fundamentally change.

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.