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.
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.