Bounty Hunter: The perfect class for solo players?

The concept of a mercenary guild or individual bounty hunter has always interested MMO fans. The idea of taking contracts from the highest bidder, hunting down a target, and returning to collect your reward is something many fans dream about in any MMO pre-release. It’s not uncommon to see multiple mercenary guilds spring up on forums, promising to be elite fighting forces willing to work for whoever has the gold to pay them.

And in all but a few games, the concept of a mercenary dies when the game goes live. It’s not because the players loss interest, or even because a game does not have an adequate bounty system, but simply because no one is willing to hire the mercs. Why? Because when death is meaningless, what good is a bounty hunter? No matter how much I hate someone in WoW/WAR/etc, what good is it to hire a mercenary to kill them? At worse the target has a quick run back to their corpse, happily resuming his adventures without any ill effect. How much gold is that worth, compared to the effort of tracking that player down? Obviously, the two don’t add up, and hence mercs don’t exist.

Even in DarkFall, with a harsher death penalty, what does a single kill of an enemy get you beyond some replaceable armor and a few minutes of interruption? Effort/reward once again does not add up. Where mercs DO factor in is during city defense/siege. This is because gaining or losing a city/hamlet is a relatively big deal, and hence is worth spending the gold to capture one or keep yours safe. Without any impact to the PvP, the concept of a merc guild or bounty hunter does not work, and impact PvP is avoided by any MMO aiming for the masses. Who wants others possibly effecting their MMO gaming time anyway!

All this brings me to a post by Keen, who wonders about the possible future of the bounty hunter class in SWTOR. Now unless SWTOR has a harsher death penalty than DarkFall (about as likely as WoW bringing back Nax40 quality raids), the bounty hunter sounds more or less like the perfect solo PvE class, hunting down NPC ‘targets’ in little more than veiled story-driven ‘go kill x’ quests. No matter how slick the bounty UI will be, or how feature-rich the whole system might become, unless one player actually gains something from another players death, bounty hunters won’t be worth a damn when it comes to player conflict. (assuming the game allows any to begin with) But in a story-focused themepark, perhaps that won’t really matter. As themeparks evolve, more and more emphasis is being placed on a $15 a month solo adventure with a chat window, and the bounty hunter in SWTOR might be the fully embraced version of this. The lore will support the loner style, and built that way from the ground up, the style will certainly appeal to a segment of the gamer population looking for an ‘accessible’ way to play an MMO. Clearly not my cup of tea, but perhaps it will be enough to extend a tourists stay beyond a month, and that in itself will be a giant step forward.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in MMO design, PvP, SW:TOR. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Bounty Hunter: The perfect class for solo players?

  1. Melf_Himself says:

    You seem to define the merit of a PvP conflict by how much of a pain in the ass it is to be beaten.

    I define the merit by how much fun, team-work and strategy are involved for both sides.

    Don’t confusing griefing with PvP.

    Example:
    UO is griefing.
    Counter-strike is PvP.

    It is easy to imagine the class being quite useful in PvP conflicts, whether because of their all-round utility or because they really are the “Jedi killers”, or whatever.

    It is not easy to imagine it being useful for griefing other players, which I’m sure is true of every class in this game, and indeed any game released by a major publisher who wants to actually sell copies.

  2. syncaine says:

    Not talking about utility or PvP, I’m talking about bounty hunting. If the death penality in SWTOR is similar to WoW or WAR, are you saying some in-game mechanic will make one player post a bounty on another, in some actually meaningful way?

  3. Einherjer says:

    The system could work if there was some sort of factions points towards other players. The counting would be invisible and would reset at a given interval so it would increase if other players aggravated you. The aggravation can be a predefined number of actions and wen reaching a certain level it would give the player some sort of retribution quest.
    The player would have, for example, 1 day (game time) to kill the aggravating player who would drop a token that could only be used by him. Hence, bounties and nobody would really lose anything. :)

  4. Melf_Himself says:

    “bounty hunters won’t be worth a damn when it comes to player conflict”

    Sorry if I misunderstood ^^

    I think Einherjer’s example is a fine way that people could RP being a Bounty Hunter without it necessarily involving a virtual bitch slap of somebody else.

  5. syncaine says:

    Yea not worth a damn in terms of bounty hunting, not combat effectivness. In the traditional sense, not in a built-in token system or something. Player to player interaction.

  6. spinks says:

    I have a general problem with the concept of bounty hunters in PvP. Why would I play a PvP game if I had to hire another player to make my kills for me?

  7. Hirvox says:

    EvE has bounties, but the system is highly flawed:

    Anyone can claim the bounty, and the harshness of the death mechanic relies on the ship and the clone the target is using. If a bounty exceeds the price of a clone contract, the target can simply switch to a clone without implants, exit a station in a newbie ship and let a friend cash in on the bounty. In effect, any bounty large enough to spur interest turns into a donation to the target.

    However, players have devised a slightly more workable system with mercenary corporations. Mercenary contracts usually specify the losses the mercenaries must incur on the target. These losses can be in the form of combat and the subsequent loss of ships, loss of player-owned structures or even outright theft.

    Hopefully TOR developers can keep their eyes open, learn from others’ mistakes and thus avoiding their own.

  8. Einherjer says:

    The social interaction would be there but in a game like SWTOR you can’t have someone losing anything. They are not aiming for niche. Let’s make the “retribution quests” also gives the player 10 bounty scrolls. He can set them up in bounty boards with a amount of gold and hunters could bid for the contract or the scrolls could be traded directly with players in which the negotiated fee would then be taken from the player and mailed automatically to the hunter when he sends the token.
    As for the token it could be traded for vanity items, utility items (extra earth-stone) that could have a slight impact on gameplay but not “purple” gear, to avoid abusing the system.

  9. Bonedead says:

    I just hope they bring something new to the table. How does the saying go? I’ve already played Warhammer, it’s called WoW? Or was it I’ve already played Diablo 3, it’s called Diablo 2?

    I just don’t want to end up saying I’ve already played SWTOR, it’s called (any MMO that’s just like every other one).

    What kind of mechanics for player interaction amongst classes besides BH would give bounties a purpose? It would have to be some sort of competition, be it who is the best weaponsmith or something. But then would it be worth it for someone to put a large bounty on someones head if the marked player just respawned with no sort of loss whatsoever. How can you make it so that the weaponsmith who put a bounty on his competition actually sees a difference in his sales due to his competitions death?

    I just hope it isn’t another of the same thing, this time with more shiny! (because more shiny is so innovative and new!)

  10. Swift Voyager says:

    SWTOR is not a good example, because as Einherjer correctly stated, it’s just not going to be ‘that’ kind of game.

    In Eve and DF I would love to see a better implementation of a PvP bounty system. I’ll stick to what I know, which is Eve. In Eve, I’ve often wanted to melt the face off of another player but could not do it due to game mechanics. If another player does something to attract my attention, but he’s in an NPC corporation and lives in Empire space, then there’s really not a darn thing I can do about it. I’ve hired mercenary corporations several times in my Eve lifetime, and it’s really great fun. However, there are restrictions. Your merc corp can’t declare war against an NPC corporation, and most good merc corps require the target corp to have a minimum number of active players before they will accept a contract. I had to pay an outrageous fee to get a merc corp to take a contract on a 11-man corp once.

    I would love it if there was some way to place a contract on someone’s head and assign that contract to a specific person or corp. Then there would also need to be some way for players to attack people in Empire space, but people would exploit any such system and use it to grief people. Then you even have to think about how different people define griefing. I have noticed that my own definition of griefing has changed quite a bit since I started playing Eve. Heck, the very concept of hiring a merc corp to attack some total strangers because I wanted to eliminate some market competition would have seemed like griefing to me two years ago. Extending the contract and hiring new mercs for four weeks straight, to force the target corp to disban and then changing the contract to their new corp when they re-formed seems a bit like griefing to me even now, but tough luck. This is Eve, not WoW.

    There IS a mechanic in Eve that will make a player attackable in Empire space, by lowering security status to the point where they are red-flagged to everyone, and there’s also the 15 minute global criminal flag, but that just isn’t enough for me. When players behave badly, there should be a way for other players to melt their face off later, and it should be personal. Eve does have a kill right mechanic that lasts for something like a month, but that only comes into play when someone attacks you in Empire space and you don’t shoot back. That’s too limited, and it only allows me to hit them back one time. When I take revenge, I want to make it really hurt. I want people to really be afraid that if they piss me off I could do bad things to them.

    That kind of system would encourage people to form strong in-game groups to defend eachother. It would discourage people from griefing, rather than encourage them to do more griefing. Knowing that being an asshat will get you into real trouble is the best way to deal with that kind of player. Games that rely on the GM staff to dish out the only punishments are fighting an up-hill battle. If you let the players decide and take action, then you have the entire population acting as a police force to keep the game fun. It would shut out the solo player who wants to be a lone wolf asshat and grief newbs, but that’s fine with me.

  11. Morane says:

    The bounty trading that Hirvox describes was also the bane of player bounty hunting in SWG. Likely as not, if you posted a bounty on another player the reward would be claimed by one of his buddies.

    In fact it was pretty common for bounty hunters to pick up a bounty, IM the target and offer to split the payout.

    With low death penalties and player collusion I really can’t see bounties working in the MMO space.

  12. James says:

    How about taking a page from a non MMO’s book? Back before CounterStrike, there was a Quake 2 mod called “Action.” One of my favorite features of AQ2 was the way points were awarded, the emphasis was put on staying alive. If you were able to kill say four players without dying, each subsequent kill would be worth two points instead of one. Eight, points jump to four. Now that I type it out, it was basically the same thing as multipliers in Guitar Hero.

    What if an MMO was to implement a mechanic of this sort? Dying resets the multiplier you receive for the game’s flavor of gain [xp/skills] to 0, and it’s only increased by playing the game naturally (gaining xp/skills, killing monsters, killing players, etc…).

    Sorry for this turning into such a long post, but how about adding some flavor to it? Instead of just killing the player, how about implementing a bounty system that lets you set up specific consequences for a player, and a system that allows bounty hunters to achieve those consequences (reduce the player’s faction with some NPC group, etc…) for a significant investment (into the game’s economy, not just the bounty hunter’s) by the person offering the contract.

  13. Lucian says:

    @Melf_Himself

    Did you play UO for an extended amount of time? You define merit of PvP by fun, team-work, and strategy for both sides, and this is exactly what I experienced in my 3 years of Ultima Online.

    Granted I was in a guild and rarely solo’d, so most of are targets were other guilds with similar numbers resulting in fun, team-work, and strategy.

    Now, there was griefing, but it took place on a solo scale, and rarely in large guild wars & factions.

    So, to say UO = Griefing is just a blanket statement when there was plenty of fun, team-work, and strategy in the game, yet all people seem to remember is that one PK that res killed them outside of Minoc =(

  14. Lucian says:

    Sorry to go off-topic in the above post.

    As far as a bounty system in a theme park MMO; I think it could work if the person lost time spent. What I mean is they don’t have to lose their gear, or some other tangible item, but rather something like faction standing that took them time to get. The loss would have to be annoying, but not game breaking since most players of theme park MMOs don’t like to have interrupted gameplay (aka downtime).

    I do like the idea of the PvE side of it in a Star Wars setting. It would take awhile to track down the target NPC, but once the bounty was completed, it would reward the same amount of XP as the time spent by the player farming mobs outside of town.

  15. Centuri says:

    EVE is missing is the ability to sell/contract your kill rights to another player/corp. With a feature like this you could see a whole new class of corps springing up in Empire to track down targets for revenge killing.

  16. Melf_Himself says:

    Lucian, while I’m sure there was fun, teamwork and strategy involved, I hope you’re not going to tell me that it’s comparable to Counter Strike as a PvP experience. Even if you hate FPS, you can still appreciate the tactics and co-ordination that goes into a game like that.

    Most RPG’s are just simply too tactically shallow to offer the same depth of gameplay. The outcome is decided before the battle even plays out. Which is, of course, why those who enjoyed the PvP were the ones on the side of the largest zer-, I mean, guild.

  17. Oakblade says:

    So, let me tell you a story of an actual bounty hunt in the World of Warcraft.

    The story happened on The Venture Co (US) server. It’s an RP PVP server… and this is an RP PVP story.

    A few Alliance guilds organized an RP event, and invited the Horde guilds to participate. There was a willing sacrificial Tauren player who was being held captive in a certain pvp-enabled location (Halaa) and the deal was that the Horde guilds needed to rescue her by force of arms in 30 minutes at at a certain date and time… this is an example of players making sandbox gameplay in a game that doesn’t support it. There was no point, it was all “for fun”. The Alliance guilds defend the five ritualists wearing red newbie robes, the Horde guilds need to kill them to free the magically “held” Tauren sacrifice.

    All went according to plan and the attack started… except this one alliance jackass shows up and kills the Tauren hostage. Red is dead, you know. The Alliance present tell him to go away and he doesn’t. The Tauren hostage rezzes and kills him. He brings a friend… the event stalled, but the problem was resolved by letting the Tauren just stay in “spirit” form while the battle raged on around. But the incident left a sore taste in people’s mouths.

    Realm forum, shortly thereafter, saw an epic thread, where leaders of the alliance guilds posted a bounty.

    Horde bounty hunters were offered an obscene amount of gold for 30 screenshots of the griefer’s corpse. A lot of people offered to chip in.

    The griefer’s guild fell apart from the outside political pressure (perhaps this was the straw that broke the camel’s back), and he wasn’t able to find another guild (as far as I know, years later, he’s still looking)… but I digress.

    The amusing thing about the bounty (there were a few individuals pursuing it for a while, but noone collected the needed screenshots) was its effect.

    The griefer cowered, for the lack of a better term, in Goldshire, Elwynn Forest, not flagging himself for pvp, for at least a week.

    He was on a lot of people’s friends list, and they periodically checked up on his location for a giggle.

    He eventually manned up and walked out of there, after the heat died down a little and people gave up on the bounty. I feel that the bounty itself was quite a success, for the sheer psychological effect it had on the poor guy.

    Names witheld to protect both guilty and innocent.

  18. Milena Jakova says:

    No I don’t think it’s solo at all, I always join the Corp of the contract and wait for the right time, I never lose but it’s not solo cause I’m iteracting with the Corp of the player I’m hunting. Milena Jakova

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