Elite Dangerous Isn't Sure How To Punish Space Murder

Elite Dangerous Isn't Sure How to Punish Space Murder

Elite's lead designer, Sandro Sammarco, has discussed possible changes to bounties and exposed an interesting issue with video game punishments: what if they're too effective?

In a post discussing an interdiction issue (this is the ability for a ship to pull another out of supercruise to rob or kill them, or claim a bounty) he touches on some interesting problems with virtual punishment.

There's a point in the list of proposed features called "Murder is not serious enough." The team are looking into changing how bounties work in a future update. The current idea is that these aren't just a fine to be paid, they're also "a green light for you to be attacked." If you kill another player, then you're fair game to others to pursue until you pay off the bounty or die trying. You're a virtual murderer after all.

The issue at the moment is that certain things in the game can remove the bounty when you're killed, something Sandro says is not what the team wants. The problem is, what's the alternative? He thinks that "it would be too punishing to have bounties that kept on being active after respawning," because "having a more or less permanent target on your back would likely just stop people committing crimes." I find that last part interesting, because in the real world that's exactly what you want. In a game though, it could potentially make certain avenues of gameplay impossible, or at least unpleasantly difficult for some if you can't afford to pay off a bounty, or replace things claimed by the cold vacuum of space. Here's Sandro's take on that:

"I just think it would be too punishing to have bounties that kept on being active after respawning. Sure this would not be an issue for the tiny minority of super wealthy Commanders, but our data suggests that losing a ship is a non-trivial event for the majority of pilots - and having a more or less permanent target on your back would likely just stop people committing crimes."

The team are currently thinking about varying bounties depending on rank or ship strength so that players could deal with bounties according to their level or status.

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This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour with a U from the British isles.


    This is hilarious...video game criminals, in the end, still wimps.

    “having a more or less permanent target on your back would likely just stop people committing crimes.”
    Good. Anytime proponents of FFA/Open PVP sandboxes want to shout down PVE'er concerns, it's always about how crime is an integral part of creating a believable world, with freedom and consequences. They always mock the players for not banding together to create a justice system just like people have in the real world. The problem with their argument is that in the game worlds, they're always on pretty much equal footing with the self-declared player-run law, if not bigger, so all they're really getting is more opponents to go up against, which they like. They fail to acknowledge that the reason law-enforcement is so effective in the real world is because of the staggeringly huge force arrayed against criminals by way of literally tens of thousands of officers with millions of peoples' tax dollars going towards funding them with better equipment and detection tools. And the huge, long-lasting, permanent repercussions of being caught. You don't just get to respawn and go again. You don't get to hold a job, you stay in prison for a truly boring amount of time, and while you're there, life is extremely unpleasant.

    For PVEers who don't want to be griefed without consequence, an actual dis-incentive is perfect. People 'not committing crimes' is the perfect result, the ideal result. It's what we WANT. Because there will always be some assholes think they can get around it or don't care about the result, so it will always still exist... but for the person who's just bored and wants to get over the boredom by ruining someone else's day? Yeah, fuck that guy.

      Crime can be a legitimate source of income in games like these. When I used to play EVE online, I played a pirate. Sure, it doesn't make you many friends, but the pay off is great.

        Yep. It's not just rewarding, it's 'legitimized'. And that's exactly the problem and what needs to be avoided in Elite.

        And -10.0 sec status is worn as a badge of honour.

      Yes. This. Post it on the Elite forums cos this is exactly the point. Griefers kill other players because they're normally stronger and the kick they get comes easily. Crime shouldn't be simple; remove the simplicity of getting off scot-free and the only PVPers left will be those who truly want to be criminals. Fuck the griefers.

    hmm heh this takes me back to 1997-1998.
    Ultima Online had player run justice. As long as you didnt murder someone in town, you were subject to being hunted out in the wild for your crimes so that someone might turn your head in for the bounty. You'd take a permanent stat-loss and you had to raise your skill levels back up again.
    At the time though- there was a lot of drama around it.
    For one thing- the distinction between PvP'ers and PK'ers was often confused.
    PvPers fought against other PvP'ers, it was never murder- it was consensual PvP. Perhaps if an enemy flagged themself such as a "blue healer" they'd be put down but other than that- nope.
    PK'ers on the hand were solo or groups of murderers picking on people who couldnt defend themselves. They seldom targeted PvP'ers as the chances of dying were too great.

    It looks as though Elite is largely wrestling with the same issue.

    I don't get the complaints about griefing. What griefing? Space piracy is a big part of the game. I mean there are NPC space pirates. Sometimes a space pirate wants space booty, and sometimes they just have to consign you remains to the void. That's one of the reasons trade is so lucrative. Think of it as danger money.

      Thing is, though, it's the Piracy which should be dangerous, too.
      The current system in a lot of games is backwards, where the risk/reward ratios need to be considered by the traders/PVE guys, where the pirates/greifers are maintained as a key gameplay mechanic with little to no risk.

      Instead, their needs to be severe consequences to criminal activity, to reverse the risk/reward dilemma to the pirate's side.

    I'm all for how the game is working and love that they're thinking about the player experience... The one thing I want is a warning system when accidentally firing on an NPC! The number of times an NPC has cut me off mid attack and got hit by a single bullet of mine, making me wanted is crazy annoying.

    EVE online already have this sorted. And it's hugely effective.
    By effective i mean it deters crime but at the same time, isn't so harsh that being a pirate is not viable. You just have to be careful.

    Last edited 22/01/15 9:28 am

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