Thursday, 29 September 2011
Bounty Hunting: Competing Visions
One of the concerns people have repeatedly expressed about my proposed fix for the bounty system, best articulated by FNG, is that it does not allow for the kind of bounty hunters that we all grew up reading/watching in our scifi, typified quite neatly by Boba Fett from Star Wars.
Well, they're right. As I say in my initial post, I envisage bounty hunters more like Judge Dredd, a futuristic, wild-west style law man. Competing visions; it happens.
However, I think my vision has the edge here. Not because it's "cooler", but because it's more workable. Let's take a closer look at Star Wars.
Finding work: When Boba Fett gets up in the morning, he does not log into some galactic bounty network to find a target. Why? Because he's a bad guy, and what he's doing is illegal. This means that people who want him to do something tell him personally.
The client base: The only people who hire Boba Fett (Jaba the Hutt and Darth Vader) are also bad guys - they are telling him to kidnap or kill people, after all.
How he gets paid: Because of the shady nature of what they are doing, there is no escrow system, no contract, and no guarantees. His employers have to hope Boba Fett does not scam or double cross them, and Boba Fett has to hope that he gets paid at the end of the day. The only "security" they each have is their respective reputations and the knowledge that each party is a dangerous, dangerous individual.
You can conduct this kind of bounty hunting in Eve right now, and I know of some people who do. All it involves is someone promising to pay you some ISK for an API verified killmail or a corpse.
If it sounds risky, like you might not get paid or your bounty hunter might try to scam you, it's because it is. Welcome to the shady world of underground bounty hunting; I hope you enjoy risk, uncertainty, and forging personal relationships.
Marketing Star Wars
Ignoring the fact that the Star Wars model requires no implementation by CCP - this is the sandbox, right? - let's look at the difficulties that CCP would have trying to "sell" the idea to existing players.
Finding work: Unlike Boba Fett, who lives his life 24-7, most Eve players spend a limited amount of time online. A full-time bounty hunter would need to spend much of that time cultivating the contacts he needs to actually find work. This would be a bar to many would be bounty hunters, who would rather spend their time pew-pewing.
The client base: Dangerous men in New Eden don't need bounty hunters. There, I said it. The vast majority of combat pilots have the skills they need to settle their own scores, and many industrialists have sufficient in-corp muscle to do the same. The people who need bounty hunters are new players or socially isolated players. Exceptions will exist, to be sure, but I've never heard a Tusker complain that he can't find a reliable bounty hunter; if he wants something dead, he just advertises a fleet.
Getting paid: Eve is full of scams. Not many people, bounty hunters or potential employers, are going to trust someone they don't know when large sums of ISK are on the line.
In short, I don't see the Star Wars model taking off in actual game play. I'm cheating here, because I can already say it hasn't taken off - CCP does not need to implement a thing to duplicate the Star Wars model.
Marketing Judge Dredd
Finding work: My proposal would have bounty hunters and potential employers linked up by an automated system; bounty hunters fly around looking for fights, and when they kill someone with a bounty, they get paid. This model works; I know because it's based on piracy, which has many adherents.
The client base: Any victim can easily place a bounty, regardless of time in game or social connections.
Getting paid: By ensuring value for money, this is as risk free as it gets in New Eden.
Wow, that looks pretty easy to sell to people!
"But wait!", I hear you say. "Why not just use your system without the high security status requirements? This will allow us to play lowlife bounty hunting scum. Surely the best of both worlds!"
Sadly, I disagree. The first point of disagreement is on principle; if you want to play lowlife bounty hunting scum, then go ahead, nobody is stopping you. Just don't expect all the trappings and advantages of respectability to boot. That would be like me complaining that being -10 comes with disadvantages; it's part of the choices I've made.
However, I actually have a more important reason for disagreeing; I don't think it would work as well.
Perception is everything
My proposed model is very different, largely because I make it respectable. This isn't about vengeance, it's about justice.
Instead of paying some lowlife to kill some other lowlife, and hoping the new lowlife is a little better than the old lowlife, I'm now paying a Concord sanctioned law-man to deal justice to the asshat that ganked me.
This change in perception is, in my view, absolutely critical. The people who want to hire bounty hunters are not pirates like me and FNG. They are not hardened nullsec warriors. They are carebearscarebears.
As awesome as Boba Fett is, there is very little market for his services. The Lone Ranger, though, is going to be in high demand. I'll bet a good 50%+ of anyone suffering from a suicide gank would happily place a bounty under my proposed system.
For the system to work, it needs to be used, and the people that will actually place bounties are, in my view, far more likely to do so in a system that they feel fits with their "moral code". Argue all you want about bringing real life values to New Eden, the fact is that many people do (including me, incidentally, and anyone following the Tusker Code).
Other comments on the proposed system
Looks good! Only problem I see is determing the values: A fitted rifter can cost anything from 500k to, well, anything, really. My regular Rifters set me back approx 10-15 mill. So who should determine value? And how?
There would need to be some kind of automated system that determines values. I'm not sure how this is done, but I know that most killboards have a program that does this, and CCP clearly has one that determines insurance payouts. Accuracy is not terribly important, only consistency. Undervaluing or overvaluing is fine, as long as everything is overvalued or undervalued in the same proportions.
I guess one question to consider is, are there any ways in which an experienced player could trick a new player into unintentionally giving them kill rights (and thus place a bounty on the newbie which is trivial to them, but is enough to effectively keep that player out of ships and ultimately drive them from the game)?
The noob would have to kill someone, without getting concorded, and without them fighting back or aggressing in any way. That's only going to happen in low sec, and only under some pretty strange circumstances. While possible, I think it unlikely. Perhaps something that could be dealt with via GM petition?
There is still no reason not to have a bounty, you lose a ship and someone else gets paid, doesn't affect me as long as I get my insurance payout.
You are right, having a bounty ought to be a bad thing. This is another reason to limit bounty hunters to high security status pilots. Lowsec dwellers fight each other all the time, and the bounty would be a bonus, not a cause. We want bounties to cause loss that would not have otherwise happened. As for insurance, it's been a very long time since I lost a ship where insurance came close to covering the true cost.
Make it so the bounty is on the clone used at the time of killing somehow? that way they cant change out of expensive clones.
This system does not revolve around killing clones, just quantifiable ship loss.
In terms of who can collect -> registered bounty hunters, the person who placed the bounty (who per the rules you stated must have kill rights), as well as a member of the corporation (at the time of the bounty) of the person who posted the bounty.
An interesting suggestion. However, a person or corp capable of avenging the loss in the first place probably won't place a bounty in any event; they'll just go out and kill the target. In the interests of keeping this simple to implement, I'd probably limit bounties to just the bounty hunter.
Cool idea. Making the sec status requirement high for bounty hunter qualification, means there would potentially be fewer bounty hunters. Too many hunters and not enough prey would really curtail PVP in Empire, unless that is the plan?
There is certainly a balance to be struck, and any qualifications for registration (including security status) would be designed to keep the number of bounty hunters down. The lawbringer model does not encourage casual or opportunistic bounty hunters. This would mean that dedicated bounty hunters should be far better able to support themselves.
Would bounties immediately become active or would they take 24 hours to become active after an evemail to notify the criminal (like an individual war dec)? IE, I could slap a bounty on someone while my alt sits in space right beside the criminal. As soon as I submit the bounty, my alt alphas the criminal before he even knows he has a bounty on him.
War decs are actions against a potentially unknown third party, and thus require notice. In order to receive a bounty, you must have killed someone, so you have already had effective notice of a possible bounty. I have no problem with "surprise" bounties, but in reality bounties would probably become active only after each downtime.
I take my alt and derp around where I think I will have a good chance of getting popped. I run, like, quad reppers on my boat or something, hoping to get as many dudes, to come help the criminal pop me, as possible. My ship is insured, and I put full bounties on all the people I have kill rights on. If all goes well, I take my main hunter, go pop them, collect the bounty, salvage/loot the wrecks, and funnel the money back to my main.
You could do that, sure. But at best, you recover the exact amount of money that you put in; ie, you recover the bounties that you placed. There is also a fair amount of risk, here, as you might end up losing the fight with your bounty hunter, or some other bounty hunter gets there first. I don't see this as an exploit. They still needed to decide to kill you, after all.
I like the idea of bounty hunting corps. Maybe integrate this with FW by creating a CONCORD militia, where people can register themselves or their corporations as bounty hunters.
Indeed, I could see this being very popular with pvpers that want to be "good" guys. The more people into pvp, the better for all pvpers. Perhaps registered bounty hunters would HAVE to be in registered bounty hunting corps; this would allow pirate corps to wardec the bounty hunters! Then they would know how it feels to be hunted!
Under your proposal, unless I missed something, a griefer could can flip someone and then lose knowing he'll now be able to post a bounty with no expiration. It also still seems to encourage vengeance-seeking, wealthy carebears who lose their pricey ships and then can unload a walletful of hurt on their aggressors. Please let me know if there is a solution.
My proposal revolves around killrights. These are not awarded if any aggressive action has been taken, so can flippers that get blasted can't then place a bounty.
I'm also a HUGE fan of asymmetric warfare. It's something that I will eventually post about, but in my view the problem with lowsec revolves is that it penalises carebears; they have to invest skillpoints into their industry AND combat skills, whereas the pirates only have to focus on combat skills. Allowing carebears to use their wealth to fight back is going to encourage them to actually venture into low sec. And that's a good thing.
Currently I think you only get killrights if you don't shoot back.
True, and I have no problem with this. You are either a combatant, or you are not.
I can see a way for a criminal to bypass your proposed bounty system. Lets' say a pirate has a $100m bounty placed on them, they can simply purchase a $100m ship, fly to a safe spot and have an alt char kill them. Bounty is paid and the pirate breaks even or close to it. Now there's no more bounty hunters chasing them through space. Does this sound right?
Assuming the alt is a registered bounty hunter, yes, you got it right. There is very, very little you can do to stop collusion between two people, or one person with multiple accounts. Another reason why potential clients need to have confidence in the bounty hunters as well as in the system.