On docking games: safe harbor for criminals
This is slightly old news, but there is an interesting tidbit from the February CSM (Council of Stellar Management) meeting notes about docking games. Essentially, the term docking games refers to the shenanigans of any pilot who repeatedly un-docks and re-docks while one or more hostile pilots attempt to engage near the undocking point of a station.
Usually the term is used to derisively describe a very frustrating experience where there has been neither a combat victory nor a combat loss. Though, often a larger ship will be able to destroy a smaller ship and be able to last long enough to wait out the aggression timer and re-dock while being pounded on by the victim’s buddies.
A recent experience where members of an opposing alliance used this mechanic flawlessly served to further cement my opinion that docking games are bad. The enemy nestled their ships against our home station and waited for unwary pilots to undock; these aggressors always flew strategic cruisers or faction battleships with the ability to absorb immense amounts of damage. In the cases where force sufficient to retaliate was brought to bear the aggressors simply docked. Their defenses were too strong to be overcome before the aggression timer wore off even if dozens of ships were applying damage.
I’m a big proponent of finding a solution to this mechanic which I see as a big problem.
CCP suggested a solution to the CSM:
Noah asked what the CSM thought of a feature where ships that were scrambled or under other module effect could not dock. This was received with mixed comments but it was pointed out that it would open up something which would give unfair ganks. Noah asked if it would change anything if you could get overview information before undocking. There were more mixed views about that and nothing conclusive came out of subsequent discussions.
This was followed up with further discussion later in the notes:
The issue of the docking game was discussed again. The CSM, having had time to mull things over since the previous day, approves of the idea put forth by CCP to make the overview available within stations to show what‘s outside. That option however HAS to go hand in hand with warp scrambled ships not being able to dock.
I think this is the wrong way to go about it. Even if you can see what’s outside the station, that intel can change in an instant. The act of undocking often takes ten or more seconds to accomplish. If there is no hostile ship on the overview before undocking, there very well may be by the time the act is complete.
This mechanic encourages the use of instant undock warp points, which I view as another poor mechanic. Encouraging bad mechanics with new and questionable mechanics is just poor design. This kind of special-case mechanic-mongering punishes new players. Meanwhile, it doesn’t really do a lot to deter the primary offenders who will have plenty of time to see what is undocking before those ships can even spring into action.
My own proposal was this:
There is a problem with station docking mechanics which results in a very common phrase “docking games”.
The problem is that for a capital ship, battleship or other well tanked ship it is very common that even if they aggress, they can de-aggress and still have plenty of time to dock. This makes it safe for these ships to wait by a station, aggress any target that comes into range, and have an “out” if things get too hot.
I propose that if a ship aggresses, any aggression by or against that ship should extend the timer; the change here is that aggression against the ship extends the timer as well.
So, if a carrier is sitting outside a station happily attacking any and all battleships which come in range, he should be prevented from docking (because he aggressed) as long as somebody is still shooting at him.
It’s too safe now; make it an all in or an all out situation. It’s still opt-in, as the pilot has to aggress to start the timer.
Please be clear that I don’t advocate a pilot being prevented from docking because he is being aggressed; it is the combination of aggressing and subsequently being aggressed that should trigger this condition.
Think about it for a minute. Surely the docking authority would offer shelter to a besieged pilot who was simply going about normal operations; but what docking authority in their right mind would admit a pilot who had just committed assault, and possibly murder, while combat was still underway? As soon as you open fire, you should lose all docking rights until the conflict is resolved or one party has escaped.
I think an all-in or all-out mechanic such as this would solve the problem and end these games for the primary set of offenders without unjust punishment for others. All of the protests I received were that it would discourage pilots from even attempting combat resulting in more boredom for all — but surely it’s better than CCP’s idea.