May 9, 2014

The Current State of Bounty Hunters: Part Two

My first post on the Bounty Hunter subject was focused on how CCP seems to have a misunderstanding of what a Bounty Hunter actually is. This post is focused on laying a foundation for changes, changes that should make bounty hunting a viable career path for people. It's not meant to be an easy life, but it should be fun and dangerous. My goal is to present ideas that try to prevent loopholes without being overly complex. I'm not arrogant enough to think these ideas may be perfect, without necessary changes, but I do hope that it will be solid food for thought.

Before we can really get into the meat of things, it's always important to have a firm structure in mind to build off of. Let's define a few things as constants.

1. Bounty Hunting is a PvP activity.
2. Bounty Hunting is not meant to be exploitable in ways that make bounties pointless.
3. Bounties should not encroach into the territory of wardecs.
4. Bounty Hunting should be an active career.

With those in mind, let's look back to what Bounty Hunting used to be and why it was changed. The main goal of the bounty hunting changes back in Retribution seemed to be focused more around stopping abuse than nurturing a career. The changes succeeded in the first, but failed spectacularly at the second. You could place a bounty on a target, much like today, but when the target was killed, the entire bounty was paid out at once, no matter what. A player with a bounty on his head would undock in an inexpensive ship and kill it with an alt or the help of a friend, thus gaining the bounty himself at no real expense. Now, of course, only a portion of the bounty is paid out relative to the cost of the ship. This means that it's not economically responsible to kill yourself, but it also means that anyone trying to hunt bounties isn't paid very well in most cases.

So how can we prevent the first while avoiding abuse? I've already laid out the things we must keep in tact with a new bounty hunter system, lest we create another broken system. The best way to introduce my idea is to walk through a hypothetical scenario, I think. From there, I can break down the finer points.

As a Bounty Hunter, you must start by purchasing a license from CONCORD at a bounty office. This license gives you the right to kill anyone with a bounty above 500,000,000 ISK at any time, any where. There are several license tiers, each costing more - each coming with more responsibilities. We'll call these License Tier One through Ten, Tier One being the cheapest with fewer responsibilities, and Tier Ten being the most expensive with the most responsibilities. But let's say you're a new player, and you don't have much money, and you're not even sure if you're going to enjoy the career, so you buy a Tier One license. You're now a legal Bounty Hunter. You may now begin to hunt legal targets, but other Bounty Hunters are free to hunt you as well1.

As a Tier One Bounty Hunter you're paid a smaller percentage of the bounty than a Tier Ten Bounty Hunter, starting off at 20%. Each Tier increases the bounties paid by, say 7%2. However, unlike today, you aren't paid your bounty immediately upon killing someone. No, each tier requires a certain amount of kills during the license period. A Tier One license may last, say a week, and require claiming five bounties. Successfully doing so will pay out all of the bounties at the end of the license period. Failing to do so pays out nothing. A Tier Two license will require seven kills per license period, and so forth.

No bounty under 500,000,000 ISK can be claimed to avoid stepping on the toes of wardecs. A player can place a bounty of any amount still, but unless the cumulative amount tips over the 500,000,000 mark, it can't be freely claimed. Furthermore, a bounty can't be claimed for 24 hours after its been placed. Therefore, someone can't sit around looking for juicy targets and place a quick bounty to cash in.

Concerning groups of Bounty Hunters, I think the best way to handle it is by paying out the highest bounty plus 10%, then splitting it between everyone that was on the kill in the fleet. This encourages people to group together for a slightly higher payout, but makes it increasingly more difficult for someone with a very high Tier license to pay for their license outright via the bounties, if they continually group with others.

There are two options for non-bounty hunters that I think both have merit:

1. Non-Bounty Hunters can claim bounties like normal, except at 5% payouts. For those in nullsec, or those who are legally killing someone in high sec, they still receive part of the bounty - after all, the person who placed the bounty doesn't necessarily care who claims it.
2. Non-Bounty Hunters can't claim bounties whatsoever. This creates incentive for people to actually become bounty hunters. If you're not collecting bounties in your big fleet fights, maybe you'd prefer to pay for a license.

Honestly, I could live with either of those options.

Those who have bounties placed on them should be warned, very loudly, when their bounty is 500,000,000 or more. There should be no confusion that if you undock from this point forward, you can be hunted by a Bounty Hunter. I'd also like to see the ability to pay a bounty off. Paying the entire thing off would offer an option with less interest, saving you more money in the long term, but someone could pay chunks of their bounty off at a time. Maybe even NPC payment plans could be set up, sort of like sovereignty bills. You continue to pay your bounty every month when the taxman comes a'callin and everything is fine. But if you don't, your interest rate goes up - or maybe the bounty is just replaced altogether.

Talking with a corp mate, we came up with some interesting iteration ideas that concern factions and faction LP. I won't put the details on that in this blog as I want this to be fairly straight forward and simple, but if I get good responses I'll talk about this idea in detail later.

Short and sweet, really. Nothing too complicated. It seems to get the job done without inviting abuse. However, the idea hasn't really been stress tested yet. Do you see any major loopholes or flaws I'm missing? I tried to envision a system that scales well, where a major organization can't simply game the system by throwing their deep pockets at it - although deep pockets are a slight advantage in almost any case.

Let me know what you think. Is this a system you'd be interested in participating in? Does it seem interesting or exciting?

1. It is important that this isn't abused somehow - just not sure yet how.
2. This percentage is just an example and can easily be tweaked without crippling the idea.