April 13, 2014

The Current State of Bounty Hunters

I'll be tackling the current state of bounty hunting in EVE with a series of posts and interviews, just as I did for the mercenary series. It took me a while to figure out how to tackle this topic, as it's very complicated and nuanced (like most things in EVE!), but I believe I've got the angle of attack figured out now. I hope you enjoy part one.

As someone who is interested in learning about a game, you can imagine that one of the first places someone would go is the game's actual website. Browsing www.eveonline.com can provide one with
a a lot of information. You can see how big the EVE universe is, for instance, or take a look at a large number of the awesome spaceships you'll soon be flying. Or you can get a few tips on how to focus your time in EVE via a few sample careers.

Let's focus on the bounty hunter career.

I remember when I was first getting into EVE. My imagination was limitless. I was going to make a name for myself. I was going to be someone to be feared. I can imagine a lot of new and would-be players may have a similar mentality when first exploring EVE Online and it's amazing that our game can support those dreams. Sometimes.

Bounty hunting is a classic career path for anyone living in a sci-fi universe. You can't turn around in the sci-fi section of your local library without bumping over a shelf full of books about mercenaries. It makes sense after all. Bounty hunters have a large part of their origin in the American West, back in the 1800s. The Wild West was the ultimate uncharted territory where anything could happen and there were no rules. Space is the modern day equivalent of that in many stories, and bounty hunters are just as necessary to the untamed reaches between stars as they were in the wild-open praries. So what's the issue?

Unfortunately, CCP has no idea what a bounty hunter is. Ok, I get it. You're from Iceland. The Wild West isn't part of your national identity or folklore. But honestly, there's no excuse for what you've turned the bounty hunter into in your game, CCP.

The ultimate carebear.
Look at that picture - expand it if you need to (or click this link). Do you see what CCP is saying a bounty hunter is? Yeah, that's right. According to CCP a bounty hunter is someone who is 86% focused on killing rats and doing missions. "Outlaws with bounties" is the only reference to players in the entire page, and that's not even obvious.

What the hell, CCP? Just because you needed a convenient term to make the rewards for killing a rat sound more sci-fi does not mean you should go all the way towards neutering what should be a thriving, cut-throat career for those who have what it takes. Unfortunately, before bounty hunting can ever really be made into a viable, entertaining career path for players, CCP has to first understand what is and isn't a bounty hunter. I think I've made it pretty obvious what a bounty hunter isn't, but I'll reiterate.

What a Bounty Hunter Isn't

Someone who missions or rats and then receives an ISK payout for doing so is not a bounty hunter. Plain and simple. You don't get a free pass by hiding behind a technicality in your terminology, I'm afraid, CCP.

What a Bounty Hunter Is

A bounty hunter is someone who tracks down and brings anyone who has a price on their head to fiery justice.

It's that simple.

Now, historically, a bounty hunter is someone who ensured that an accused showed up to court. You've surely seen a western movie with a wanted poster with huge block letters saying "Wanted: Dead or Alive". Well, people like this did exist. They're referred to as bounty killers in real life. In EVE, we go by the traditional science fiction bounty hunter definition though, and in that realm a bounty hunter brings someone to justice dead or alive in every situation. Obviously in EVE dead is the only real option. That's fine, but bounty hunting needs to be focused on players with prices on their heads and taking them to task for whatever reason. There's no criminal intent at play here, either. Did Boba Fett only hunt criminals? No, he went after whoever he was paid to. EVE follows the same guidelines: if someone is willing to pay, there is someone that is willing to do the work. You don't have to be a criminal or have pissed CONCORD off somehow to have a bounty put on you, and you shouldn't have to be a criminal to have a bounty hunter take you down.

Unfortunately, until CCP realizes that a bounty hunter's only focus in the game is against players and shifts their mentality to reflect that, we'll likely never see any forward progress on making bounty hunters a dynamic, enjoyable career path for people.