6 February 2015

The futility of war

At it's heart EVE is a game of conflict. This ranges from the macro-scale of massive coalitions down to the micro-scale of little corporations who try to eke out their niche in New Eden. Ostensibly the heart of high security in empire-space provides a safe haven for the workers who provide the materials of conflict. In hisec industrial ships fly hither and thither packed full of the raw materials of construction or completed wares being hauled to market. Of course, these conceivably safe trade routes are nothing of the sort. Your wise and wary industrialist tempers his risk to the hands of the marauding gankers who occupy pinch-points on the most frequently trodden paths. Impatient or ill-advised industrialists may pack just enough value into their ships to tip the balance of risk/reward in the carefully manicured equations of these gankers. Doing so is an almost guaranteed death for the unlucky industrialist but those are the choices to be made and the risks to be taken. And there are wardecs...

A declaration of war, more commonly known as a wardec, is a means to temper the relative safety of hisec space. An essential strategy in any war is disruption of enemy supply lines. Without wardec mechanics any force in New Eden would be able to resupply indefinitely (well, until they ran out of ISK that is). From this point of view the wardec is an essential tool in New Eden life. A wrinkle in the mechanic is the ability for any corporation or alliance within EVE to declare war on any corporation or alliance they feel the desire to. No rhyme or reason is required. A token payment is offered up to have Concord turn a blind eye and weekly repeat payments extend the war into perpetuity. Strategies and objectives are irrelevant in these 'wars' initiated by these bored and wealth alts of nullbears. Just as they desire risk-free mining and ratting rights in the supposed dangerous regions of nullsec, they equally desire risk-free shooting of random pilots who are doing little more than restocking ship supplies in hisec. The phrase "war is meaningless" pales to insignificance when related to New Eden wars.

From the above it is pretty clear my alliance has been on the receiving end of a wardec. In fact we've received two wardecs in the past two days. In the real world this would be as a result of the breakdown of diplomacy but in New Eden nobody has a clue why we were selected for this honour. In the real world two forces would face off against each other to attack or defend strategic objectives in a series of battles. The outcome of the series of battles would determine the victor of said war. In New Eden at least one side (us) doesn't know what the objectives are. Only the aggressing corps can confirm the likely truth - there aren't any objectives. We could go and hunt those responsible for declaring war on us. Their killboard shows an almost exclusive habitation of Jita so finding them isn't tricky. Experience tells us if we take a force large enough to challenge them they will dock, likely to go play something else. For a total cost of almost quarter of a billion ISK, what's the point?

A long time ago when New Eden was half the age it is now a wardec meant time for me to play something else. Just prior to moving into wormholes I realised I could hang out in lowsec where the wardec corps were too scared to go. These days it makes little difference to me as I can be shot in space any minute of any day I'm online. A wardec makes little difference to the vast majority of my corp as they too can be shot every minute of any day they are online. The people it does negatively affect in my corp and alliance are the most active ones who like to spend time out of the hole running missions or incursions when the rest of us aren't around. The wardec means our most active pilots do something else. If all the targets of our brave aggressors are forced offline then the aggressors also log off and play something else. When you really think about it, the only real use of wardecs is to reduce active pilot numbers in New Eden. It is highly unlikely that this is in the best interests of EVEOnline so what is the fix?

I honestly wish I could answer my own question. The existence of a mechanic allowing corps to declare war on each other is essential for far-reaching real wars. How to temper abuse of said mechanic so it doesn't force pilots offline in the face of war which cannot be fought is the tricky part of the equation. Possibly some way for the aggressor to declare what their objectives are and define their success in the war based on those objectives is somewhere for CCP to focus on. Failure to achieve declared objectives during the war requiring reparations be paid to the defending corp would hopefully force potential attackers to pick interesting fights and go out searching for completion of those objectives. Surely that would be preferable to passively hugging the Jita 4-4 dock ring? That's got to be more boring than mining, right?

And my plans for these current wars? I'll be in Jita, Amarr and any other trade hubs I feel like. I'll be buying the ships, mods, ammo, POS fuel and anything else I want or need. I'll be doing all this in perfect safety. How? My hauler alt will take care of it all. No worries. No dramas. No wars.


  1. Yeah... Wardecs... meh.

    Sugar Kyle stirred that one back up a bit a while ago, and lord knows I have devoted more than a few recycled electrons to the topic myself... Bottom line, War should not be a bribe to CONCORD, period. To go to War, the aggressor should have definable Goals, even if those goals are simply 'we want your stuff', IE POSes systems, POCOs etc. Those goals should have meaning and some form of metric... a mechanic that says;

    (1) if goals A, B and/or C are not reached by X date, then the War is invalidated by CONCORD as Lost... or
    (2) if goals A, B and/or C are reached before X date, then the War is concluded as Won etc., etc.

    Hell, even make it x number if kills or some such... but make it have a REASON other than for the lulz or we're bored FFS... I don't have the answers but it's not for lack of typing and wracking my brain... just don't have any yet... We too were War Decced recently... and we have a batch of newbs incorp... they of course were all astir and asking questions... and for the first time in my EVE life I was one of the vets and got to say this...

    "In answer to the what will happen question? Nothing. We do everything as usual, the only change will be no one goes shopping. I have an OoC (Out of Corp) hauler alt in Amarr... If any one needs anything, send me a shopping list and she will buy, haul it out and down to the POS, drop it off and send you the bill. Easy peasy."

    "Daily ops are to continue without changes. We scan home, we scan the connections, we scan the losec and it's immediate systems, we look for C5's with good sites, we look for ToOs (Targets of Opportunity) and we run sites, we do PI, we defend our home, we roam adjoining hole and the losec systems we connect to... and we attack whoever we please... War deccing an Anoikis corp is a foolish waste of ISK."

    The reason this was important to me is that when we were noobs the Alliance we were in we got wardecced and the standard, "Everyone, DOCK UP and don't let them get any kills!" order came down from on high... Really? We have to dock up and go do something else? In a PvP game? Really... but as usual the guys deccing us were older, richer and better skilled... plus they, like all of us, did not want to take fights they knew they could not win... so the few times we did fleet up and warp all over, they just docked up...

    I hated the idea that they cold control our game that way...this was one of several things that decided my boys and I that Anoikis was where we wanted to be... if anyone jumps the crazy marble, they are targets... War dec or not... =]

    1. In my head I've been toying with whether forcing the wardec corp to place a bounty on the war would work as an idea. Basics being they are gambling on getting their ISK back by killing enough ships and if they don't the war is marked as lost. Not sure that goes far enough though, maybe throwing away the current system and entirely replacing it is a better idea.

      "if anyone jumps the crazy marble, they are targets" I may need to keep this as a quote :-)

    2. I still feel there must be War Goals... my vast preference when looking at the mechanics of EVE is to ask, "How does this actually work IRL?" Granted real wars are historically most oft over population pressure and the attendant need for resources... food, water, lebensraum... such is not a actual 'pressure' in New Eden. Even in Null the ISK streams even for the poorest Alliances and Sov holders is more than sufficient for their membership to have SRP and PLEX their accounts...

      While some the wars there have been over Tech moons and such, some have also been a way to keep the line troops from being bored and/or simply to shoot enemies in the face when possible... it's not like we have come anywhere near running out of empty systems in null.

      We also need to allow for the simple fact that EVE is a game, and as seriously as we can take it, it is not in fact ‘real’... So the 'reason' players in EVE mostly go to war, especially in Hisec which is what we are talking about, is for Tears, Killboard epeen and/or Teh Lulz... I think we need to take that into account but going to War against anyone should have a definable reason... something that can be measured in some way and 'War Goals' are reminiscent of RL but also allow a wide range of potential for coming up with rationalizations to cover the actual goals of Tears, Killboard epeen and/or Teh Lulz...

      I'm all for junking the whole thing and replacing it... as CCP is doing with some of the changes we have been and are seeing today...

      Yeah... I so love my crazy marbles and the life we live on 'the other side of the sky'... At the EVE Meet I was asked over and over, "Who are you with?" meaning what corp/Alliance are you in? And I knew that unless they had read my blog no one there wouldn't know me at all... and the reactions I got when I said, "I live in a wormhole." were the icing on the cake of my virtual life...

      Nullseccers and FacWarboys and, well, everyone (except of course my brother wormholers) looks at you a little funny when you say that... I was grinning from ear to ear all night. =]

    3. I know that look from the occasional meet and Fanfest. The concern in the voices of people on comms who aren't used to being in w-space is priceless too.

  2. Oh yeah... I finally made it to Sugar Kyle's EVE Meetup in NOVA and met Epi... he's tall... and German... who knew? =]

    1. Yes, yes he is. He also has a collection of homebrew beers which are being used to ransom me into visiting him. Unfortunately flights from Scotland aren't cheap.

  3. Scotland huh? Well, (1) I now hate you (because I envy you) and (b) flights from America TO Scotland aint all that cheap either...

    But, I did hear tell of the potential of an upcoming business trip to parts European from a certain tall, gangly, weird and oft wrong Germanish person whilst attending the above mentioned gathering of nerds... (just saying...) =]

  4. The main thing that seems to be missing from DOWs is consequence. There is absolutely no consequence for 'losing' a war. Nor is there any for 'winning'. In fac, there are no victory conditions at all. I've argued against hard-coding victory conditions, primarily because I don't think CCP is up to the task - they aren't wargamers. Neither are the vast majority of people who play EVE, for that matter (at least not in EVE, anyway). Since relative balance of forces can be so completely out of whack, designing a set of victory conditions would be a bit of a hard nut to crack. But maybe that's one route to a possible revamp of wardecs.

    As for reasons to wardec someone, including a w-space corp, there are lots.. As has been pointed out, the lulz, the opportunity to get some quick kills, a desire to alleviate boredom, are all probably the main ones. There are other reasons, too - force enemy corps to alter their activities, cut them off from resupply (i.e. market hubs), etc.

    All those are valid reasons, particularly the latter - though just for fun is as valid as any other - but I wonder if part of the re-examination of the wardec system shouldn't include abolishing it altogether? It's clear that CCP intended the wardec system to allow for, and result in, wars raging across highsec as various corps fought to drive one another from system X or constellation Y or some such, but what the system has ended up being is little more than an arena in which to club baby seals. Yes, RvB gets a lot out of it, but that just reinforces my point; their 'war' isn't real, it's just for fun, for something to do. It is, in effect, a mobile gladiatorial arena.

    So why not get rid of the concept of wardecs altogether? One thing that getting rid of wardecs would NOT do is make highsec any less safe; people can be ganked without a wardec. Yes, there are one or two gaping holes in this option. Namely, what is to be done with player-owned structures in highsec? What about the wardec groups like Marmite? What about RvB?

    I suppose the real question is, what value do wardecs provide right now? If they do provide value, then how do we keep that value while changing the way the system works so it, well, works?