Monday, 26 September 2011

Fixing Eve: Bounty Hunting

I'm generally pretty optimistic about Eve, and very much enjoy flying in New Eden. That said, I do recognise that certain things could work far better than they do now. I've largely kept my thoughts to myself because I don't have nearly the same level of play experience that many other pilots have, and my own focus is very narrow: small ship pvp in lowsec.

However, people like Jester, FNG, and some members of the CSM, have been very, very constructive, underscoring game flaws and coming up with ideas and fixes that seem (at least to me) to be workable and easy to implement. For what it's worth, I intend to throw my own ideas out there from time to time in the hope that I contribute something useful to New Eden.

This is my first foray into "fixing Eve", and the subject is Bounty Hunting.

The problem:

Bounty hunting (players, not rats) is broken, and everyone knows it. If someone puts a bounty on you, you reship to a noob ship/blank clone and get a buddy to blow you up. You split the proceeds. For this reason few people use the bounty system, and rightly so.

Any fix to the Bounty Hunting system needs to pass a few key tests, though.

1) Is the system secure? In other words, can the proposed target extract a benefit? This is a test the current system easily fails.

2) Does it actually offer the person placing the bounty value for money? Another test the current system fails. Even without collusion, the bounty does not guarantee a commensurate loss to the target.

3) Is the system safe from abuse?

4) Is it easy to implement?

With those questions in mind, I've tried to come up with a solution.

The proposed fix:

Suppose that instead of being able to put a bounty on anyone, you could only put a bounty on someone if you had kill rights for - in fact, placing a bounty would use up your kill rights! This would prevent the much stronger bounty system we are putting in place from being abused by wealthy characters.

When a kill right has been obtained, a bounty can be placed, but only up to the damage inflicted by the target. So if they blow up your Rifter you are going to be limited to a much smaller bounty that if they blew up your Dramiel. In the case of multiple attackers, though, you could place a full bounty on each of them! There is no safety in numbers.

Once the bounty is placed, it persists until it is collected, but it can only be collected by registered bounty hunters! These bounty hunters would need to meet certain requirements before they could become registered with Concord. The exact nature of these requirements would need some looking into, but it should include a fairly high security status, which would prevent pirates from also being bounty hunters.

Bounties can also only be collected in Empire space - high sec or low sec. Concord has no jurisdiction in null sec, and can't/won't pay out bounties for null sec kills. This prevents null sec corporations from abusing the system in the course of their wars for sovereignty.

Now, once the bounty hunter has found a target with a bounty (or more likely, roamed through low sec killing flashies on the assumption that many of them will have bounties), he receives a payout.

However, this payout is limited to the value of the ship the bounty hunter has destroyed. Any unused bounty remains on the target! This means that the target cannot easily escape the bounty by letting himself be destroyed in a cheap ship. Bounty hunters will pursue the target until they have cost him as much as he cost his initial victim!

Applying the test:

1) Is the system secure? In other words, can the proposed target extract a benefit? The system is secure, even if collusion occurs (which will be difficult) because the target must suffer a loss equal to the bounty before any payout occurs. At best, the target is put back into the same position that he was before the loss. As an extra measure, there could be a percentage modifier to the payout; ie, the bounty paid out is only 90% of the damage done.

2) Does it actually offer the person placing the bounty value for money? Absolutely. The payee can be sure that a 100 million bounty will cause at least 100 million in damage to the target, assuming the Bounty Hunters catch up to him - and there is no expiration date on the bounty!

3) Is the system safe from abuse? It seems secure, in that the bounties can only be collected by a group of niche pvpers who are required to confine their pvp to targets that do not affect their sec status. Equally, the conditions under which a bounty can be issued and paid are quite restrictive.

4) Is it easy to implement? I'm not a programmer, but the main programming change seems to be a series of if/then statements relating to a preexisting interface.

Have I missed anything?


As originally proposed, the system worked against bounty hunters that wanted to track down targets with a non-outlaw sec status; these targets could only be attacked in low sec without triggering Concord, and they also gave the bounty hunter a sec hit!

Instead, in exchange for meeting the registration requirements, the bounty hunters would become agents of Concord and therefore able to engage ANY target with a bounty without triggering a Concord response (including a security status penalty) or gate aggression. Equally, no killright would be awarded to the target, meaning they could not then turn about and place a bounty on the bounty hunter.

This is why I feel that the registration requirements should be fairly strict, and should include a high sec status. Bounty hunters of the type envisaged are more like Judge Dredd than they are like Boba Fet; they are given the power to break some of New Eden's unbreakable rules, but are accordingly required to uphold the laws they enforce.

I would even go so far as to say that a bounty hunter should be unable to gain sec status while a bounty hunter, to prevent them just grinding their sec status back after a gank. However, having never had a high sec status, I can't know how easy or difficult it is to push your sec status to the upper levels. Hitting -10 certainly takes a fair amount of effort.


  1. 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? The market is free. Maybe a council could do? Or maybe bulid some analytical market engine into the game as well? This could be used to fix insurance as well. I don't know. But I like your thinking.

  2. I must admit that I assumed that CCP already has something like this in place; they come up with values for insurance, etc. Killboards also routinely value kills, so I don't imagine that it is difficult to implement, even if the structure is not already in place.

    Consistency is more important than accuracy here. Overvaluing a loss is fine, for example, as long as the losses of both the victim and target are overvalued to the same degree.

    Edit: for some reason I can't seem to comment under my username today.

  3. Seen a lot of threads about bounties on EveO--this is the most sensible solution I've ever come across.

    ..except for the high sec status requirement for registered bounty hunters :P

  4. "bounties can only be collected by a group of niche pvpers who are required to confine their pvp to targets that do not affect their sec status."

    As the system currently stands, bounties can be placed on any player with a negative security status. Currently, those same players are relatively safe from bounty hunting while in highsec. Those same players can be engaged in Lowsec, but only if they have a Sec Status below negative 5 (i.e. Outlaws) without damaging their attacker's security status. Players in Nullsec can have bounties collected, but aggression against them has no affect on their attackers security status. Your statement seems to restrict bounty placement to only Outlaws. Was this intentional? If not, how would envision it interacting with the current System Security structure (Bounties in High/Low/Null respectively)?

    All told, it was a good read. I'm letting some thoughts simmer in my head a bit, and may just try to start one of those fancy Blog Meme things by giving my own thoughts in a blog post.

  5. It seems like a sensible way of dealing with bounties and would make becoming a bounty hunter quite an interesting way of life. How would it work though if the said pirate then opens a bounty on the bounty hunter? Or would you make that impossible?

  6. Wow. Some really awesome feedback.

    I had not considered that people might want to put a bounty on someone who is not an outlaw; a foolish oversight on my part. There are plenty of weekend-pirates that commit crimes and then grind their status back up.

    If these players kill someone, then under the proposed system that player can use their killrights to place a bounty on their killer. The one modification I would make is to say that a registered bounty hunter can always engage a player with a bounty without triggering concord or gate aggression. They are, effectively, agents of Concord.

    In fact, you could even require bounty hunters to be members of the Concord NPC corp, although this might prove overly restrictive - people would probably want to form their own bounty hunting corporations.

    This is why the requirements to become a bounty hunter should include high sec status; players must prove that they can uphold the law they are enforcing, and the line between pirates and bounty hunters should be very clear.

    Am I right in thinking that there is already an overview setting that tells you if there is bounty on a player?

  7. There is indeed an overview option for it. I believe the default is a skull with black background, contrasting with outlaws which are skulls with red backgrounds.

  8. A nice solution, I like it. It slightly changes what placing a bounty is *about*, but to be honest I see that as a good thing. I also much prefer the idea of bounty for damage done rather than a bounty relating to a pod-kill, and rolling over the remaining bounty is a good way of extending the pain and avoiding abuse.

    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)?

  9. I do like your solutions here, but isn't having a bounty on your head supposed to be a bad thing though.

    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.

    What if you tied your bounty system to the insurance system, pay the bounty hunters what the hunted would have been paid for his insurance. The thought of not getting insurance for your ships may make people think twice about killing those mission running navy ravens.

    Equincu Ocha

  10. While this system might not make a lot of difference to outlaws, who can already be killed any where, any time, without consequence, I suspect it would make a huge difference to "casual criminals".

    If you regularly haul goods around high sec, would you risk ganking the noob in the Rifter? He can't put much of a bounty on your head, but ANY bounty allows a bounty hunter to engage your hauler full of goods on your way to Jita. Or your shiny, faction-fit, mission/incursion running battleship.

    Bounty hunters are going to want flashy killmails as much as the next guy.

  11. 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.

  12. Instead of blowing up your blog comments with a very VERY long comment, I wrote a post on my thoughts on Bounty Hunting as a profession, and how I'd do it if it had to be done. Thanks for the inspiration.

  13. Your logic is sound. What I would recommend is limiting the bounty to the loss mail value x 2 (time is money), and allowing the bounty to be collected if you blow up any ship or the pod (right now it is limited to pods).

    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.

    Thank you.

  14. 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?

    So, would players with bounties be flashy to hunters? Would hunters be flashy to the hunted (maybe they have flashy stars/shields instead of skulls?)?

    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.

    Farming bounties:
    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. Barring the criminals' untimely demise, maybe my hunter friends or corp mates get in on the action and funnel some of the cash my way too. This would/could really change how neutrals are treated in low sec. A brand new, neutral alt floats into an enemy/target system, pops a cyno, and brings in war fleet that trashes the locals. The locals either have to allow it or risk getting popped by a bounty hunter later.

    Limiting the bounty to a particular clone is simply avoided by not using the clone anymore - even an expensive one. Any clone, any time, is more of a concern than just a particular clone - the "gank" clone.

    Bounties would, and should, be able to be collected by anyone - especailly if limiting the bounty hunters to that of the victim's corp means the criminal only has to worry about a bunch of hardcore carebears.

  15. In the current atmosphere of neutral RR alts, those need to be accounted for by being counted as being part of the offending party. They would thus take a sec status hit. Any party involved in a killing should be able to be slapped a bounty on.

    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.

    I think the biggest resistances to changes like these would be aggression mechanics. Even small decisions that would keep gate and station guns from attacking bounty hunters engaging an authorized target could slow things down a bit. At the same time, should gate and station guns get involved with helping a bounty hunter kill the target? I think not, but this could happen if the outlaw attacks a bounty hunter, even if that outlaw is attacked by the hunter first.

    I think bounty payout should be calculated via the lowest regional average on all modules, cargo, and ships destroyed in combat. Dropped modules and cargo would not be included in the payout. This would require a new resource to be programmed altogether, and to reduce lag related to kills, the bounties should be paid out like NPC pirate bounties, ie every twenty minutes.

  16. Hey, found my way here through FNG's blog. 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.

  17. This needs to be paired with a fix to killrights, but I like it. That is, killrights should be generated any time a "criminal" commits an act that causes a global criminal countdown and succeeds in killing the target. So, any time a non-flashy is aggressed AND destroyed. Currently I think you only get killrights if you don't shoot back.

    I wrote something kind of like this a long time ago, but I was leaving the bounty partially in the hands of CONCORD -- as in, they would automatically apply a bounty in any case where killrights would normally occur that would be equal to the amount of the victim's ship loss. Maybe that was too far, but I think it would encourage PvP (and bring lots of would-be bounty hunters to low sec to be victimized by you criminals).

  18. 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?

  19. A lot of great comments and questions here. I'm not ignoring them, and I'll do a post on Thursday that addresses these (Wednesday's post being a combat report so that people who don't care about bounty hunting have something to read).

  20. Just an Idea on the side, how about the following: The bounty hunter gets the kill and is paid accordingly to the damage done and on top, he gets the insurance of the pirate. "We must inform you, that we cannot pay you the insurance, as we were informed by Concord, that the destruction of your ship was an act of jurisdication". On top: Getting killed by a registered Hunter should not give kill rights.
    That would
    A: Make a Bounty on your head a really bad thing indeed, as you could lose the insurance money on any ship you use.
    B: As you can only put a bounty on someone you have kill rights against, it cannot be used so easily to grief someone.
    C: Without Kill rights on the Hunter, no "I just put a bounty on you" is possible.

  21. "a griefer could can flip someone and then lose knowing he'll now be able to post a bounty with no expiration..."

    Kill rights don't work that way. They're only given out if someone goes gcc and manages to kill someone in the process. (suicide gankers / low sec pvp.) This is part of the bounty hunting mechanic I believe isn't broken and shouldn't change.

    I have some ideas of my own I'd like to share... but I'll save them for the next post.