It's been so long since anybody has attempted to fix bounty hunting: I think everybody has simply assumed that the issue is dead.
NO LONGER!! With the supposed focus on Eve again, perhaps crime and punishment deserve a second look. While there is no system that is completely immune to exploiting, changing the bounty system to a contract basis rather than a generic basis should reduce the ability of players to snag their own bounties
The Basics (aka TLDR version)
- Purchasable Kill rights - Ship and Pod - Players can create bounty contracts for any player with a negative security status, or that they have gained killrights on. The people who accept the contract gain standard killrights to the target. (not transferred killrights, it generates new killrights)
- Multiple acceptances per contract - To encourage both competition and cooperation (particularly for pod contracts) the contract can be undertaken by multiple people simultaneously, decided by the player making the contract
- Bounty hunters cannot go below -2 ... CONCORD does not want outlaws hunting outlaws. This also creates immersion in a "cops and robbers" sense. It also (mildly) restricts the ability of pirates to take their own bounties. See below for the counterpart "assassination contract" with slightly different rules.
- Tracked bounty kills - Player character sheet statistic for amount of bounty claimed and number of successful hunts
By Default, a player can create 0 hunts which are acceptable by up to 2 people simultaneously*. By default a player cannot accept any hunts. Three new skills will be introduced, one which will allow you to create bounty contracts, one which allows you to create them for more players at a single time, and one which allows you to accept multiple bounty hunts simultaneously. This last skill is designed to give the bounty hunter an investment in SP for the "profession".
*Any player can ADD both bounty and simultaneous acceptances to existing contracts, there's no need to train skills to simply add to a criminal's bounty, see below for details
Bounty Contracting (1x)
Ability to navigate the legal framework of CONCORD in order to register bounty contracts. +2 active bounty contracts per level trained
Explanation: Needing a skill and limiting the number of active bounties each player can have mildly restricts the ability to spam contracts
Bounty Contract Management (2x)
Each level of bounty management allows you to add 2 simultaneous acceptances to each contract (to a maximum of 12)
Explanation: Making this a skill is important for the same reason as above. People who are interested in crime and punishment will find it trivial to get to IV. Players must invest at least marginally in order to spam kill rights
Bounty Hunting (3x)
Registers your interest in bounty hunting with CONCORD. Each level of skill increases maximum active bounty hunts by +2.
Explanation: Requires minimal investment and provides "ownership" of the profession to the player. A 3x multiplier is low enough to be relatively easy to train, but high enough that only people who want to "be a bounty hunter" will train it to V, making it a point of pride for people who want to be identified as bounty hunters.
Wall of text version
Creating a contract - Buying kill rights
A bounty contract is an extension of the existing contract system. Any player with a security status below -2 (or below 0?) is subject to having a bounty contract taken out on them. A contract will have the following features:
- Target - The name of the player
- Bounty Hunters requested - This is the number of players that can participate in the hunt, it goes down as individuals accept the contract
- Bounty Available - The TOTAL payout, divided amongst players who accepted the contract AND are on the killmail. (that is, people who did not accept the contract do not count, and people who accepted but did not succeed in being in on the kill do not count)
- Pod Kill Bounty - This option triggers an additional registration fee (moar isk sink, also reduces podkill contract spam). Additional bounty provided on podkill is provided here. Bounty Hunts need not require a podkill.
Creating a contract allows bounty hunters to purchase the right to kill the target player. No pre-existing killrights are required, only that the target has a security status below zero or you have otherwise gained killrights to the target, and the accepting player has a status above -2. Noobships and shuttles do not count towards shipkill contracts, this prevents the target from erasing the contract by losing a shuttle. Contracts are considered complete only if the player loses his ship to somebody who is actively hunting him for bounty. This prevents random deaths and exploitation by self-killing to some extent.
EDIT: Raised the limit to ANY negative security status and added an exception for anybody who you have killrights on.
Adding to a contract
If a player wishes to create a bounty hunt for a player with an existing bounty hunt, he can instead add to the number of requested bounty hunters, and add to the bounty. He may also choose to add pod bounty to kills that currently do not have them. Note that this option does not require training any skills as by default you can add 2 more hunter requests to a contract and add bounty.
No insurance payout for ships lost to bounty actions
Criminality ceases to be rewarded by the insurance company
Discussion - Restriction to shipclass or total ISK loss - Obsoleted by ability to use ingame loss values
Bounty is awarded by payout based on the loss value of the ship/pod. Payout is split between pilots appearing on the mail who are part of the bounty hunt (that is, they accepted the contract).
Discussion - Bounty awarded in part from the target's wallet
To prevent exploitation and add burden to criminals and pirates, a successful bounty hunt kill will remove <some amount> of ISK from the targets wallet. This could be RP'd as some sort of CONCORD legal fees. The deducted ISK could either be added to the killer's wallet (final blow bonus perhaps?) or treated as an ISK sink.
Discussion - Bribing officials to remove bounty
Target players can bribe CONCORD by an amount equal to the bounty contract to remove killrights. Bounty total and the fine will be treated as an ISK sink. This function must have a material effect on player time AND wallet to be viable or else all bounties will be simply be bribed off. Limiting the locations where one can make a bribe (perhaps force them to travel to a CONCORD or DED Station?) and perhaps graduating the effects of bribes (full price only removes still-open hunt slots, pay double the anticipated bounty and remove the contract entirely, for example). Alternatively, if the faction war expansion is used, force pirates to hack a DED control module to gain access to the bounty system. Payments might be at a 2:1 basis if this is the case, since searching for, hacking, and holding the site will be difficult in itself.
EDIT: Added smuggling, and assassination to OP
Customs' effectiveness will be drastically reduced. Players can change their cargo status from "open" to "concealed" in stations. "concealed" cargo will not be found by NPCs, however, A customs officer scanning smuggled cargo will incur a slight drop in faction standings. CONCORD will reward any player who discovers another player smuggling illegal items via ship scan. Player ship scanners will still be able to penetrate "concealed" status cargo on a relatively high chance basis. A cargo scan (player to player) which shows contraband will cause the faction navy to engage in their typical smuggling interdiction pattern, and the player will receive a standings increase and security status boost, and kill rights to the smuggler. Refusing to give up the illegal goods will cause the smuggler to become a flashy enemy of the faction and other players for 15 minutes. The player can dock, run, fight, etc. to get around this as usual. Two skills will be introduced, one which increases the concealment rating of your smuggled cargo, and one which increases a scanner's chance of penetrating the concealment. This way a very "skillful" smuggler against a "novice" antipirate will still have a good success ratio. Introducing modules which increase concealment rating, and differentiating the meta-levels of ship scanners by success ratio will increase the use of named scanners as well. Obviously the smuggling module will itself by illegal as well.
To make this more interesting than simply drug running, some items will become regionally taxed. Regional gates will now have tax officers, who will act as current customs agents do (high rate of scan success). Goods deemed to be imports (generally, any item of the "opposing" faction, e.g. minmatar and gallente weapons in to amarr space) will be subject to a tax of roughly 3-5% of "base price" on jump. The mechanics of tax evasion and discovery will work identically to drug smuggling. Discussion: There's probably some better ways to come up with reasons to smuggle stuff. This could be up-to-and-including the introduction of new items (T3 modules or items which influence DUST 514) which are illegal on introduction due to, say, being illegal involvement in planetside war or too dangerous and experimental for approval in empire space. This will minimize the disruption suggestions such as new taxes on existing goods would have.
Assassination (pirate -> antipirate bountyhunting)
How about increasing the "cops and robbers" sub game by allowing criminals to create contracts referred to as "assassinations"? This would function identically to bounty hunting with the following differences:
1) Players on an assassination contract will be identified and marked as outlaws by faction navies unless they travel in concealed mode as described above for smuggling. Players who successfully scan assassins identify them as such and make them temporary enemies to players and the system-controlling faction for a standard aggression timer. The player may be rewarded as well.
2) Attempting to assassinate makes you flashy to all players as if you had GCC in low-sec, i.e. CONCORD doesn't show up and faction navies will not interfere (possibly gate guns will still automatically open fire though?). Additionally, players get the option to "tune in to the police band" and get pop-ups of "assassination in progress" with an option to warp to the originating distress call. This will drastically decrease the problem of suicide ganking in mission hubs given a few white-hat types.
3) Players who have completed an assassination contract in the last 24 hours can be targeted for a bounty hunt regardless of security status. Furthermore, the number of players eligible to accept the contract is doubled to reflect CONCORD supporting the assassin being brought to justice.
4) While you are the target of an active assassination contract you AND YOUR WHOLE CORP will have killrights on the assassins. This essentially allows for a miniature war-dec, and allows for White Knight players to band up in Motsu to defend rich carebears. (it also allows for extortion and "protection money" by convincing people to be part of a corp of people who will not be the target of assassinations in exchange for tax money)
5) Assassination contracts can only originate and be accepted within low security non-empire stations (perhaps nominate a particular corporation from each faction with a good lowsec presence for this purpose) and NPC 0.0