Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The CSM 13 One-Coat Summit Minutes Part III: War Declarations

"Before suggesting change, one should have a rationale for making said change. My reason is simple. When the optimum solution for a plurality, if not an outright majority, of players when faced with a war dec is to either disband their player organization, leave their current corporation, or just not log into the game for seven days, then the game system is broken. The mark of a poorly designed game feature in an MMORPG is one that discourages or otherwise hampers social bonding. Industry-wide, the biggest indicator that a player will stay engaged, or in EVE's case subscribed, for a long period is having friends to play with. Those social bonds make leaving a game more difficult."

- The Nosy Gamer, "High Sec War Decs The Chicago Way", 28 December 2015

The discussion of war declarations in EVE Online during the CSM 13 Summer Summit extended across the fourth and fifth sessions. The fourth session was dedicated to a discussion of what is wrong with the war declaration system while the startling statistics players are talking about occurred in the following session on the economy.

Here is the passage from the minutes garnering all the headlines:
"CCP Larrikin pulls up activity data for players of corporations that have wars declared against them and it shows considerable activity drops in all activities during the war. They also show that the low activity continues after the war ends. Brisc Rubal noted that the numbers here were so stark, it would justify immediately removing war decs as a mechanic and promising a fix after the fact.  The CSM in general were surprised at how stark the numbers were and noted it was clear this mechanic was having a significant impact on player recruitment and retention."
In the actual session on war declarations, CCP let the CSM give their take on the mechanic before giving their ideas on how to fix the feature. We don't know much about CCP's ideas, apart from CCP Guard's idea of creating a giant mosh pit of combat or tying war decs to structures, but the CSM was not shy about giving their opinions.

I should add that in the Executive Leadership session, the CSM had heard that the situation concerning war declarations was bad.
"In the EVE Leadership meeting the CSM was presented with numbers resulting from research into the state of war declarations in EVE and those numbers quite starkly showed how asymmetric the situation is, and how war declarations allow a small number of players to negatively affect a huge number of people, with low risk. These numbers may be discussed further by CCP at a later date." 
First, the views of various members of the CSM about the current mechanics.

Aryth: "Aryth says it's too cheap. The cost needs to scale based on duration, the issue is the workaround here would be to move to a new corp and declare the war again at the lower price."

Brisc Rubal: "Brisc Rubal goes on to say that other games have war mechanics to offer PVP but eve is such a pvp centric game that this mechanic has become a niche mechanic which lies outside of the intended original design. He feels that this is not a mechanic which anyone would be happy with removing altogether, however it needs to become something that is useful and not just a means of griefing. Giving victory conditions to both sides. giving them both an incentive to fight is something which needs to trigger the end of the war."

Innominate: "Innominate says the issue with War Decs is they can't be removed completely due to the high sec structures. Having war decs limited to corps with structures and adding victory conditions would be one way. Opting out completely would mean the corporations would only exist as a social structure."

Jin'taan: "Jin'taan goes on to say that some entities do not necessarily want to use the war mechanic to camp station and catch people off guard. They would want to see more emergent game play associated with it, which the current system doesn't offer. Jin'taan also doesn't want to see 100 man corps with hulks being invulnerable to any form of attack through inability to war dec them or super safe high sec."

Next, what members of the CSM would, or would not, like to see in a revamped war dec system:

Aryth: "Aryth brings up a king of the hill scenario as a new war mechanic."

Brisc Rubal: "Brisc Rubal speculates that the war mechanics are heavily tilted towards the attacker and CCP Fozzie says this is indeed the case. Brisc Rubal doesn't expect any version of it to ever become fully even. He asks if the ratio being closer would be a favorable goal for a new system."

Innominate: "An example is mentioned: An industrial player undocks from Jita and gets attacked by 5 war deccers and their logi alts. This makes Innominate point out that assistance from those who are not party to the war needs to be addressed."

"Innominate feels a great wardec is two groups of equal sizes fighting and not playing 'deaggressing games'."

Jin'taan: "Jin'taan mentions war objectives which can be achieved"

"Jin'taan suggests a goal being ships killed. This encourages docking and The Judge is curious to know what kind of community this would spawn."

"Jin'taan suggests a propaganda structure to be deployed on other structures to declare war, the structure would be expensive and be worth destroying, clustering them together would also mean that they gain attention and would be destroyed by null blocs."

Sort Dragon: "Sort Dragon brings up an invulnerability of some kind to avoid a permadec, such as paying a fee of some kind. He feels that there never comes a point where newbro corporations can catch their breath after an initial war before the next war comes along."

"Sort Dragon mentions the idea of using propaganda structures as a means of ending the war in the form of a victory condition to end the war."

Sutonia: "Suitonia feels that it needs to be tied more to structures, and that there currently there is no real way to retaliate against a corp that war decs you."

While getting the recorded thoughts of the members of the CSM is worthwhile, I believe CCP's thoughts are critical. First, CCP Fozzie's summation of the situation around war declarations, with details following.
"CCP Fozzie goes on to clarify that the metrics for the current system clearly show that it's in a state that CCP is not happy with. The current system is extremely skewed in the favor of aggressors. There is also the fact that people involved in wars will simply not play whilst the war is ongoing. They also want to see a scenario where the defenders who may not normally be interested in wars would engage in them as they see a clear scenario where they can get a victory condition and end it."
All of the concern for making a change in war declarations for new players, at least in CCP's eyes, falls under Malcanis' Law, "Whenever a mechanics change is proposed on behalf of ‘new players’, that change is always to the overwhelming advantage of richer, older players."
"Lebowski brings up the data which shows that it's not actually a lot of brand new players that are being war decced, because they are not worth declaring war on most likely. Typically it´s more established corporations that get hit once they are big enough to be a target. This does however still affect new players such as in Karmafleet, Brave Newbies and so on indirectly through which corporations are being decced."
The CSM countered with the claim that CCP should analyze the players affected by the war decs, not the corporations.

So what is CCP planning to do to fix the war declaration system? The information falls under the infamous Non-Disclosure Agreement. Probably a good move, because I am sure CCP came up with some pretty hideous ideas in addition to practical ones. CCP created the Council of Stellar Management for situations like this one. Hopefully the CSM will keep CCP from falling too far into a bear trap.

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