Friday, November 21, 2014

War Decs: Feet of Clay

War Decs: An Incomplete Triangle
War Decs: I'm Sorry That I Hurt You

I am introducing a new tool into this discussion. The comments have been a great ground for discussion but I'd like to expand this a bit more. I have gone to Steve who has gotten our 'things' websites together using SSO for authorization. I've asked him to give me a war dec subsection. These are things that I, the CSM, and CCP can see and read the results on and you the player can write and vote on. Comments are wonderful for discussion but as we move towards the Winter Summit in January, I plan to drag this topic kicking and screaming along. I'd like you all to come with me.

This is the third post in my open, crowd sourced, discussion about war decs.

From how it looks to me, as I've worked through Eve's history, the early days of Eve's development where geared towards war and the concept of space battles and players fighting each other as the focus of the game. The first six expansions, or three years where geared towards this goal.

 In its earliest phase, Eve had no gate guns, no station guns, and no Concord. These things where added later to balance out the game. CCP built war focused expansions and often discussed player conflict, player empires, and supporting the war machines out there through their corporation efforts. It was supposed to be hard. Players would work from the ground up building their spaceships to go to war in massive battles against each other.

The game was not about killing wolves for some rotten leather and better ability to stab with sharp sticks. It was about building empires and going to war with them.

Somewhere, something didn't go as planned. Shocking. Eve has changed. It has grown. It has evolved. What now exists is not something that could have been fully conceptualized ten years ago. Game play has changed. The player has changed. And as we as players challenge our game, CCP must do the same to continue to build Eve.

This was a different Eve and a different game development focus. However, we have to learn from the past and we are in a position where we have been working with the game design decisions of the past. I bring this up to discuss the fact that we try to understand war decs in our current game when the implementation was for a different world.

Why are we fighting? I am seeing a lot of why questions as we walk along this discussion that is war decs. They are quickly followed by discussions about objectives. Well, the objectives are the other players. The goal is for both sides to fight... we think.

I was going to start writing about objective war dec systems and non-objective war dec play styles. But, I think that is moving to fast across this topic. That is why I went to Steve to see if we could use his 'things' system some. That is why I am focusing not yet on the mechanics of war decs but on the reasons for war decs. We cannot simply rampage about and push for mechanical changes without understanding why and what we are trying to accomplish.

We cannot have objectives without a reason to have those objectives. And when I speak of objectives, I speak of game mechanics. Currently, war decs function on player objectives and purely player objectives. When people ask for reasons, when they ask for objectives, I first want to ask, "What are we fighting over?"

There is a problem of one size does not fit all. We could sit down and define the most fascinating, best sub game of objectives ever. However, I do not think that any of us or even a collective of us will come up with a way to give everyone objectives. We first need to figure out what are we fighting for and what part of that fight is an actual war dec.

Inside of the game mechanic war decs we have a whole host of things that may be going on.

  • Territory dispute
  • Revenge
  • Harassment
  • Logistics chain interruption
  • Profit
  • Mercenaries
  • For fun wars
  • Targets of opportunity
  • Structure removal
  • Gate gun/Station gun removal (low sec)
  • Sec status loss avoidance
  • Amusement
  • etc...

Not all of these make sense as something to go to war over. Most are good reasons to fight for those that want to fight. But a war isn't about want. A war is forced. How many of these common reasons for war decs under the current mechanics are actual for war?

Does this mean that we break down into different mechanics? We've had suggestions for area effects. There have been suggestions for players to defend territory for bonuses. There have been reasons to pool abilities together for greater gains. Many of these ideas provide fascinating conflict motivators that on their own would stand as interesting game play additions.

To discuss revamping war decs we have to not just discuss how we'd like a war dec to look. We also have to look at what we are affecting. There are people on both sides of this discussion and many more shoved in between. If I where to say, latch onto and campaign for war decs involving targets and a neat system, how many other players and play types would simply stop existing? I think I know what we could gain but it is as important to think about what we may lose.

I've been part of a marginalized group more then once as Eve has expanded. It is a terrible situation to be in. I do not think that we can stop that from happening fully. Change is exactly that, change. But, I want to look at them and make sure that people are not casually cast people aside.


33 comments:

  1. This ignores a fundamental reality: when eve started, it was as basic a game as it could be. It wasn't necessarily that everything was "suppose to be hard" it was that they built an engine for combat first and the rest came later. It's a business and a process. Those concepts are as important to the game as "sandbox."

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    1. I'm not ignoring that. I am looking towards the design path and decisions. They mapped how long it would take someone tongsther resources for a battleship. Players then jet canned and used haulers to create a more efficient path. Instead of nerfing it they let it stay and Eve is becoming its own thing.

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  2. I think a question should be answered publicly (I am sure the CSM has asked it already): How many wardec's are declared today as opposed to 5 years ago? Even that question is useless when asked in a vacuum. I think an indepth analysis should be done on the war dec trend. Is the mechanism used primarily as a griefing tool, or does it have some value?

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    1. Wardecs can either be a valuable game mechanic or a tool used to facilitate griefing. What do you consider to be griefing?

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    2. I think attaching the online-hours of both target and initiator and then looking at the averages both before and after might be good to figure this out. Also things like corp-hopping, alt usage (if trackable) and undocked time, compared to the average. Wardec initiators probably rarely think of themselves as griefing, but if that's the end result of what they do, then how do we change wardecs to reduce this effect?

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  3. Sugar,

    I’ve both appreciated your series on wardeccing and appreciated reading the many thoughtful comments it’s produced. As things proceeded, I, more than once, found myself looking up the definition of the word. If you’ll forgive me going a little formal for a moment . . . War:

    “A state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state” is typically listed as the first definition. In Eve these kinds of conflicts occur in Nullsec, Wormholes, Faction Warfare and around Low-Sec moons and POCOs. Curiously, to conduct these types of wars, players don’t really need to make use of the wardec mechanic because no powerful NPC entities are going to interfere anyway. In fact, in this nation/state sense, the only necessary occasion one has to make use of wardeccing is if you’re tussling over Hi-Sec POCOs and comparatively speaking, that seems a very small thing.

    “A state of competition, conflict, or hostility between different people or groups” is typically listed as the second or third definition. With the exception of POCOs, this is the only type of Hi-Sec warring since there’s nothing else (territory, structures) to fight over. Since Hi-Sec also presents the prospect of vigorous NPC interference, it is also the one location making robust use of the wardeccing mechanic. Curiously, however, even here wars can and do bust out without utilizing the mechanic. CODE has pretty much declared war on all Hi-Sec miners without deploying the mechanic and simply letting NPCs interfere as NPCs see fit.

    So . . . in many ways, the current Eve setup ends up entirely bass ackwards. The biggest wars don’t really need the mechanic and the smaller wars utilizing the mechanic are rarely about anything (in the territory/structure sense). The net result is that small wars, the very wars that actually utilize the mechanic, usually appear illegitimate, mere griefing.

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    1. I find your point of view very interesting, Dire. High sec war decs are something you are familiar with.

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    2. Doh! I woke up thinking “There are Hi-Sec POSes too!” I suspect my failure to incorporate that simple fact reveals how often Hi-Sec wars are not primarily about claiming territory.

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  4. Hey, I'm gonna repeat myself.

    Wardecs are broken since their only function is to force PvP into people who don't want to PvP. The irony is that the people who do that don't want to PvP in any of the areas where they can do to their pleasure without any game mechanic... but with CERTAIN player opposition.

    Want to PvP? Go low, find someone, lock and fire. Oh, wait: you don't want PvP. You want to PvP someone who does not want to PvP. He does not want it and so he is not flying PvP ship. Pay 50 million ISK and nobody will interfere in no way in letting you kill him, if he's fool enough to keep playing.

    Wardecs are overly broken from the start. Wardecs are a griefing tool disguised as a legit mechanic with the paltry excuse of "structure removal".

    So either CCP gets rid of it altogether, or provides the victims with a way to fight back IN THEIR TERMS.

    EVE neds more NPC interaction. It's the natural counterbalance of player interaction. You come to me, my NPCs come to you.

    Or maybe make it different. Make so that only mercenaries can do war and make war as expensive as paying mercenaries for their job. Just the defender may choose to not hire emrcenaries and drop to NPC corp. Then that would be a real deterrent to going to war for nothing. Wars shoudl be declared on targets that could be forced to fight back. There would be far less wars, but them would be much involved and dramatic events.

    As wardecs stand, they're broken and only are useful to keep players away from player corporations and not play the game if wardecced. They're second only to bounties as the shittiest mechanic ever "iterated" -and just because unlike bounties, you can't wardec yourself!

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    1. Aye, Onions. Others do not agree. If I am listening to you, I am also listening to them and trying to gather all of it and see what it makes.

      Both validating and invalidating will be hard.

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    2. Players should not feel entitled to be immune from PVP because they 'don't want to' in an open-world PVP sandbox game. The threat of PVP is not a flaw with the design of the game, it is the soul of EVE Online.

      High-sec should not be a PVE area or low-sec a PVP area. One should be safer and the other more profitable but you should still be vulnerable in both. Making high-sec safer skews the reward versus the risk, yet I cannot see how you would nerf high-sec income to compensate for the removal of wardecs.

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    3. Anonymous, I don't want to be free of PvP threat. I want that if you threaten me with PvP, I can threaten you with PvE.

      I want more PvP, not just "I-shoot-your-face" PvP. I want to outlaw your POS. I want to evict you from all Caldari stations. I a want to hand your freighter alt -10.0 security while he's undocking from Jita. You play the sword, I want to play the pen.

      And of course, I want you to fear a war going wrong, and have the ability to make your war go wrong without firing a single shot nor wasting billions hiring some mercenaries so you must stay docked.

      More... how would I say... reciprocity? You increase my risk, I increase your risk, not just your reward.

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    4. Onions,

      From the 10,000 AU perspective I’m very intrigued with your approach since, at its heart, it grows out of a desire to see NPCs working for their Capsuleer Overlords rather than the other way around. If pursued carefully, it could be very sandboxy since it remains a belligerent response to belligerence. (It’s still player vs player competition, just by other means.) If you’ll forgive me using you as a jumping off point let me elaborate . . .

      It’s already the case that Wardeccing hands the aggressor interesting avenues of game play (if it didn’t it wouldn’t happen so often). What’s usually missing is looking at the situation from the defender’s point of view. If Eve is to be intriguing for all involved then *being* Wardecced should also hand defenders interesting avenues of game play they didn’t have before. (It’s important to note that fighting back in the classic sense isn’t an interesting *addition* since defenders are already able to wardec aggress others, they just haven't chosen to.) If Onions’ dastardly responses are limited to defenders only, there’s suddenly reason to look forward to being a defender. Something along this line would have to be very carefully balanced and could prove far too intricate to actually implement but, at minimum, remains a stimulating thought experiment.

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    5. That's the point. In my view, Capsuleers would be too Warren Buffet, not just Eric the Red. Why war when you can pay someone to war for you? But in game, players are a very expensive asset, so NPCs come to play the role of mercenaries for hire, but only if you're a defender and don't want to fight yourself. Which is the case with 95% of all wardecs.

      The fine details of course are very complicated because this would go against CCP's prejudices (thus they never did anything like this), and yet in the long term would be a very healthy addition to gameplay.

      EVE's sandbox is lacking in the fact that the only option to PvP is to go and arson someone's restaurant, rather there is no way to close it for "public health concerns" by a venal NPC with suspicious ties to certain capsuleers...

      Fantasies aside, wardecs should be interesting to the defender in his terms, and nowadays 95% of defenders are being attacked because they don't want, don't know or can't fight a war.

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  5. If we really want to get down to brass tacks, war decs exist to allow pvp in highsec. That's it. They also have a secondary effect of allowing combnat in lowsec that does not affect security standings. And before the howls begin, yes, there are people for whom that matters. Me, for a start :)

    So, in that context, wardecs are working and they are working well.

    I've been in Angry's situation many times. At the start of my EvE career when I was new and later when I was in null, so I know where he's coming from. He's wrong, but I understand him.

    I suck at PvP and a wardec forces me to alter what I do when I'm in highsec. There's nothing wrong with that. What IS wrong is the knee-jerk reaction that far too many players have, vets and noobs alike, and that is to dock up for a week. That is an option, but it's not a great one.

    When I was brand new, flying with players who were mostly brand new, we got wardecced. Our one vet told us to dock up and go play another game. Some took that advice, others did not. Some of us wanted to fight, but we didn't know what we were doing and I'm not fond of suicide missions when playing a wargame. So what those of us did who remained active for that week did was scatter across EvE instead of staying in the same place. I mined, I ran missions. I kept an eye on local. I never saw a WT and I didn't let the WT win by forcing me to dock up. A PvP condition was forced on me and my response was to not engage while still playing the game.

    Honestly, I really think we're wasting a lot of time and effort discussing why we go to war/use wardecs when we should be putting that effort in to how to change wardecs, if they need changing.

    Unless CCP gets rid of Concord entirely, or changes the way Concord works in highsec, we need wardecs. That's what it really boils down to.

    All, or virtually all, of the passion surrounding wardecs is applied to the mechanics of wardecs and that's where we need to focus, in my opinion.

    Or, in other words, we've studied the why's of wardecs to death and the answer has pretty much been given. Time to move on/move back to a discussion surrounding what wardec mechanics are working and which ones aren't and possible changes.

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    1. I will have to ask your forgiveness for not moving fast enough through teh topic. There are a lot of emotions involved and it is very easy to leave people feeling trampled and without an oppertunity to speak and present themselves.

      Also, the why in my opinion affects the mechanics. People have many different expiernces. it would be very easy for me to take who and what I am in game and my philisophies of combat and use them to build a proposal. I'd wind up alienating many of the people who are most affected by this.

      I am sorry to bore you and talk to death a talked to death topic, but I feel the need to walk slowly down this path.

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    2. It's not a case of being bored, Sugar. There's been post after post after post for a long time now discussing if we need wardecs and why. In fact, we're basically seeing the same arguments posted again and again.

      Surely we've covered the whys by now?

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    3. “A wise man never knows all, only fools know everything.”

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    4. So what, in your view, Kaeda, is missing from the 'why' discussion that's been going on the past several days?

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    5. Again, I am sorry that it frustrates you. This is not a fast topic for me. When i hopefully sit down and talk about this during the Summit I want to have a lot of information and concept backing this up.

      I've trying to think out in the open pretty much.

      You want to move over to fixing or what have you. I'm not satisfied yet with where the breaks are. It is easy, to easy, to impose a system that makes sense and looks good and find that it does not address the actual issues.

      I have in game conversations as well. I've been getting eve mails too. I feel that if I storm past the why and what of things I will stomp across people simply for not taking the time to stop and say hello to them.

      This method is experimental for me. So, I'm going about it as it feels right to me. I can see changes in the conversation. Arguments are tightening and gaining more cohesive and less emotional form. There is a lot that I am asking people to move past or put aside to look at the core. It, in my opinion, is a deeply buried core with many false coverings.

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    6. The basic issue PVPers fails to see is that a dedicated PVEer will not PVP with you. If you wardec him he will do what it takes to get out of being forced to PVP.

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  6. Griefing or RMT without bots...try a 2 man corp with over 40 war decs (and still growing).

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  7. The wardec system is the rope in a tug of war between players who want corporations to be mechanically meaningful entities that battle with each other for supremacy and profit, and players who just want to play the game in peace but want to connect socially and perhaps form a community in the process (rather than be stuck in an NPC corp).

    You can only appease one group by changing the wardec system but you can satisfy both if you change the corporation system instead.

    At the moment, we have one type of player corporation. Through wardecs, you can use corporations to fight over moons and POCOs, or over resources and kills using the wardec system. It is flawed because you can remove a POS during the grace period or even drop from corp to evade a wardec entirely. There is no reason to undock during war and little to fight over. 'Fixing' this or expanding on reasons for corporate conflict would further alienate those who only joined a player corporation for a casual social connection, who are otherwise disinterested in vying for dominance or fighting to survive as a formalised entity.

    We could implement a second type of corporation. It would have all of the restrictions of an NPC corporation except that is name, logo and recruitment is controlled by the player that made it. It would disallow AWOXing (allowing AWOXing to continue to exist in 'real' corporations), be immune from wardecs and the tax would disappear from the game rather than go into the hand of the owner. It would have all of the mechanical advantages of an NPC corp but is a player corporation with all of the implied social connections that CCP explicitly wants to encourage, to help with player retention.

    Wardecs and AWOXing will continue to exist as before, except that CCP will now have room to expand the system and make it more cut-throat (such as by having wardecs follow individuals) without having to worry about hurting high-sec carebears. Those who would log off or drop to an NPC corp during a wardec (or are in an NPC corp on a permanent basis) will now get to mine in peace as a second-class pseudo-corp citizen.

    Just a thought.

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    1. Honestly what I think should be done is let a PVE corp surrender to PVP corps and be taxed at rate below that of the NPC corps. Then let the PVP corps fight over their tax bases. Store a week's worth of taxes, and the PVP corps deposit in a POCO like structure. Destroy another corp's tax structure and get a week's worth of taxes plus the ability to tax their corps.

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  8. All not "some" of the reasons given are valid reasons for going to war. Wardecs are fine, NPC corps are the things that need fixing.

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    1. What do you want to fix in NPC corps?

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    2. I think npc corp pilots flying freighters around need to be nerfbatted into a coma.

      If corps are supposed to fight each other, then moving their assets around is a prime opportunity for a defensive or offensive occasion.

      Critics of EVE justly declare it to be boring because players generally abuse every mechanic possible to avoid any possibility of risk. Even when they are heavily armed and loaded for bear, they still adopt risk-avoidant engagement practices. If trivial combat in disposable frigates is uncommon in FW, then substantial conflict is an almost extinct species. Bittervet alliances are able to throwaway T3 fleets because they take few risks elsewhere in the game.

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    3. lowrads, everything you do to NPC corps with the excuse that "big boys abuse them" is going to hit way, way, way, WAY harder the soloers, the noobs, the PvErs... They have very legit reasons (being outmanned, out-skilled, out-gunned and out-everything) to shelter under NPC corps.

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    4. The primary reason to leave the NPC to further a social connection within the game. Thus the reason people remain for the opposite. To say that people stay in NPC to avoid war is a narrow and one-sided view.

      What I keep hearing is that people should be forced into player corporations. I can and have been cooperative with player groups when it suited me to. (mining boosts and incursion logistics). Why do I need to tether myself to a corporation who may not always align to my narrative?

      Avoidant personality disorder - how to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

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  9. In nullsec, people fight over territory, supposedly. More to the point, they fight over stations, which give them market access and storage.

    Imagine an EVE without freighter alts, and the ability to kick a rival corporate entity out of Jita. How would we do this? Could we restrict market access to those who hold corporate offices in a station? Would it be simpler to just give them a tax bonus? Would EVE be playable if non-instant orders could only be placed from an expanded corporate wallet.

    What if we had docking fees for npc controlled stations, and those could only be paid from a corp wallet. If players want to be in starter corps, they'd be restricted to starter stations. The idea of null sec players having to pay a premium to dock in the npc stations of the same factions whose npc henchmen they've been farming amuses me, but it also makes me think we need a few Mordus Legion et al stations in low security space.

    The war system should be deeply tied into access to the markets, and the factional system. For far too long we've not had market pvp by other means. Most sectors of the market are dominated by characters that never see the light of day. War decs in empire should have specific goals, and specific consequences. This gives them contrast to conflicts in nullsec, which are scorched earth campaigns of total war. Losing a war should mean losing access to something, while having a war shouldn't mean loss of access to undocked areas in general, especially for less organized players. A common phrase for victors should be something like, "We pushed them all the way back to Everyshore," or "Orbital Metallurgy Inc. has lost all holdings in the Throne Worlds."

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  10. I feel like War decs are currently very powerful in the game. For a low cost you get to attack targets across high sec, as you know alot of corps just stop logging in, some better corps will move to Low sec. It's not an original idea by any means but i do believe that war decs should be broken down so that war deccers have options to either dec a region, an entire factions space, High sec, low sec, or the entire of Eve (low and high). Deccing everywhere should be expensive, because it's a very powerful griefing tool, deccing a region could be just as expensive as it is now for a war dec, or cheaper. Make war deccers make choices on where they choose to operate, and, conversely, give high sec corps options and incentives to move around high sec. The thing i like about it is that it incentives corps to be mobile and reactive, as opposed to sitting in their preferred mission hub system and logging off for a week. It seemed like CCP wanted to prompt people to move around high sec with the indy changes and this would build on this, especially so if war deccers continue to mainly operate in the Amarr <-> Jita area, which could prompt people to set up and develop other hubs.

    Another Issue i feel strongly about is One Man Alt Corps, or OMACs. The idea of being able to drop corp and exist in high sec risk free from war decs is not something i can support, doubly so when OMACs are often alts of 0.0 and sometimes low sec players who make money in High sec to PVP in 0.0. This ties into incursion balancing too, but that's a topic for another day. Essentially there is no incentive to wardec OMACs, as stated above by an Anom user, even though they can often be found flying blinged out PvE ships. I can see a few ways around this, requiring multiple people to start a corp, make creating a corp alot more expensive, have time constraints on how often you can form a corporation, Individual war decs, have war decs carry over when you drop to NPC corps (ie. you are deccing everyone in the corp, not the corp itself).
    Limiting corp formation is key, because OMACs exist purely for avoiding NPC corp taxes, it's currently trivial to setup a corp, make it a real commitment.
    Having War decs follow people isn't a perfect solution but i think it's the best to counter corp dropping, the opportunities for griefing with individual war decs are far too strong for it to exist without a hefty price tag.

    That's some ideas i have and think would make War Decs more meaningful anyways. Thank you for your time.

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  11. I am a bit late to this party, but have been mulling over how I feel about wardecs. I don't personally like the implementation, but there is some derived gameplay out of it, so maybe it's good enough as is. That's the 'sandbox' argument - keep your fancy schmancy rules and structure out of my sandbox.

    I think that historically, CCP assumed that corp-on-corp warfare would be between two near-equals. At least, that was my sense of how wars should work back in 2003 as a new CEO. Anyone can gate-gank, but a wardec was a far-reaching political move that had point- and counter-point ramifications as I gathered my allies and you gathered yours and we threw down like it was the OK Corral. Somewhere around 2006 or 07, I started seeing the trend of disposable wardecs; at the time it was an absurd idea that somehow worked with the mechanics.

    But, I think there's room for improvement, I think we can do better. I won't promote my own ideas of what war could/should/oughta be, but I'll tell you what my design goals would be:

    The ideal solution would:
    a) Not alienate the people who currently enjoy the existing wardec system
    b) Not cause wars to be disposable as they seem to be today (which may conflict with bullet (a). This gives rise to the idea of "wars should have meaning" but I''ll stop short of proposing an objective-based complex system. I don't care if we have objectives as long as there's a way to bring forward the overall feeling that "wars are a serious matter" and shouldn't be jumped into lightly.
    c) Not have unintended consequences of making corporations disposable. Corp-hopping and closing/reforming corps as a means to evade wardecs is a tactic that erodes the "social structure value" of what it means to be a corporation. Said another way: Prolific and cheap wardecs means a whole lot of small, disposable corporations, and I think that's not good for the game.

    I may be repeating what others have said, sorry. :)

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