Allow me to repost a couple of ideas from the old thread, as they fit, I believe, squarely into the "solutions" category:
I'm not sure I much care for the NPC bounty hunter idea. The bounty hunter's job is to hunt down hard merchandise and deliver it to the employer (or, in SWG's case, kill the target). I don't want NPC bounty hunters the same was I don't want NPC smugglers.
That said, I do not think PvP should be required for all people all the time. Here's an old idea I had that I'll throw out for everyone.
Novice Smuggler to Underworld 3 allow for PvE smuggling missions. This is basic stuff. Grab cargo from employer, deliver to recipient, get paid. Maybe even throw in some NPC engagements at the meeting point or something. Allow the slicing skill to help determine whether or not opposition is to be expected, and possibly to misroute any authorities from the dropoff point. In this case, death equals mission failure.
Underworld 4 not only ups the level of mission you can take PvE-wise, but also allows for missions that may result in a bounty being placed on your head. The mission descriptions would say something similar to: "Warning: Failure of this mission may result in a bounty being placed on your head by the employer. Accepting this mission signifies you accept that possibility." Since these missions have a higher degree of risk, higher rewards would be offered. Master Smuggler again increases mission difficulty.
This isn't a case of PvPers vs. PvEers. It's a simple matter of those who (like me) want to take the risk of being hunted by a person in exchange for a higher reward if we are successful. I'm no PvPer, but I'll gladly accept being hunted by a BH if it means we have a meaningful profession in this game.
Granted, this only takes into account smuggler missions. I think GreenMarine's expanded visibility idea would be good, so long as there is decay over time, and possibly a way for smugglers to slice terminals to relieve that visibility (which does exist in GM's current plan). Those who wish to take the chance are rewarded with the ability to use better weapons, at the risk of being hunted, but there is a way to get out of it.
I respect the PvE position greatly. I am a PvE player. I rarely PvP outside of RP events and friendly duels. But it is time for people to realize that spices and sliced weapons and armor are not rights. They are priveleges for those willing to take the risk of using them.
One thing I don't really care for is all the attacking. For one, it would suck if I'm on my way to Endor to meet up with a group and I end up having to go get new buffs because I got scanned at an inopportune time. However, I don't think there should be no penalties for carrying illegal items.
What I recommend is a fine system that allows fines to be built up over time. For instance, under GM's system above, if you're caught with a quasi-legal spice (thrusterhead maybe), you are attacked. According to the in-game lore, the ONLY current spices that are banned or outright illegal are muon gold and scramjet. What I recommend is the following:
Quasi-legal items result in a small fine. Not too much, but not too little either. It should sting a bit, but not hurt financially. The fine is not paid immediately, but the player must travel to an NPC town (maybe even just capitols) and find an Imperial Desk Clerk to clear up the fine.
Banned items will result in stiff fines and a small amount of visibility. Again, the fines are paid at a desk clerk in an NPC city.
Highly illegal items are as above--attacks, high visibility, etc.
Fines can go so long without being paid before a warrant is put out for you. Since there is no incarceration, a "warrant" would put a flag on your character that would be checked during scanning. If a warrant is found, the scanning team will attack. Death removes the warrant and pays the fines automatically. Surviving adds visibility.
Visibility would go to the BH system. When a certain amount of visibility is reached, the Empire (or whoever) puts out a bounty for you. Death clears the bounty (and automatically pays the fines owed, if any). Killing the BH adds visibility. Visibility is sort of an "infamy" system in itself. High visibility means a high frequency of breaking Imperial law. Visibility should decay over time. The goal is to send BHs after repeat offenders--not the recreational spice user (unless that spice is on the "banned" list).
Smugglers will have the skill at Slicing I to slice in to a bounty terminal to check on visibility and warrants. Warrants and bounties can both be removed, resetting visibility and all fines up to that point. The more visibility and fines accrued, the tougher the job. Detection of the smuggler causes a bounty to be placed on his/her head at maximum visibility AND a warrant is issued for the smuggler. At this point, it is wise for the smuggler to lay low for a while. At this point, we could add in the false ID skill for scanning checkpoints to fool the NPCs for a while.
It's really a small change to the overall system (though I have no doubt it's somewhat more complicated to code), but I think it adds a decent "realism" factor to the game. Since I don't think Stormtroopers have "kill all criminals on sight" in their job description, fines make more sense and are more internally consistent to the game world.
I'd like to keep the amount of "attack on sight" to a minimum. Consequences need to be real and fitting of the crime. Also, the "casual" player needs to be considered. Those with very limited time to play per day could find it extremely irritating if they were killed when about to go join a group. This is also a reason I'd like to see covert scanners restricted to bases only, but that's a different discussion.
The fines system allows those who do not wish to participate in PvP an out. While they are still penalized for their illegal actions, PvP can be averted merely by paying the fines.
I would rather not see contraband penalties removed from the revamp and then later put in, as we will see (as we are seeing now) stiff opposition to adding it in. "Why should we be penalized for doing something we've always done?" The longer we go without penalties, the harder it will be to garner support for their addition.