Alpha Clones: Factional War or Farmland Woe?Lynx Artrald
New Eden is in a state of turmoil with all of the changes that have been announced recently. Off -grid boosts will soon be a thing of the past, industrial arrays are coming, and perhaps most intriguingly, Alpha clones will offer new players a chance to enjoy EVE for free, indefinitely.
This last piece of news struck me more than any others, because I help run a new player corporation and community called Black Shark Cult [-JAWS]. Our mission is to take in people who are new to PvP and introduce them to the joy and terror of small gang PvP in lowsec. More often than not, our recruits are new to EVE, and many have only created their characters a few days ago. We do everything we can to inspire them to get them to be social, to undock, and to engage other players, before they have the chance to become disenchanted with EVE – which is what happens all too quickly if they stay in high security space on their own.
When you are new to EVE, the warring factions are some of the first things the game tells you about
Black Shark Cult is a Factional Warfare corporation (Caldari militia), because we realized that many new players spontaneously gravitate towards Factional Warfare. When you are new to EVE, the warring factions are some of the first things the game tells you about, and because this conflict is so recognizable, many players spontaneously decide to check it out very early on in their careers. As a result, being in one of the militias gives us a constantly replenished pool of new players to recruit from, fleet up with, and generally hang out with in our PvP-oriented community.
As a new player organization – a small one, granted, but growing nicely, thank you very much – we immediately started making plans for an influx of Alpha Clones into Factional Warfare. You can imagine our excitement, as our newbie-friendly ship fittings would work fine within Alpha Clone limitations, and Factional Warfare in itself presents a great environment for teaching PvP in an instantly recognizable and easily understandable setting. Factional Warfare really is quite easy for new players to get to grips with.
For example, in just a few words, we can point our members to a realistic source of income through plexing and mission running (LP). When our new Sharkies go roaming, it’s instantly clear who is the enemy (“let’s go blow up that Gallente scum!”) and who your allies are. And what’s more, the individual actions of our newest members immediately have an impact on the warzone map – making players understand and appreciate that in EVE, losing or winning a fight actually matters.
For all these reasons, I firmly believe that no other part of EVE is more enticing and easily accessible to a new player than Factional Warfare.
However, not all is well in the war zone.
The current Factional Warfare mechanics provide an ideal environment for AFK (or semi-AFK) farming. Hundreds of low-skilled alts are used across the warzones every day to run plexes warp core stabbed frigates, with very little to no risk to the farmer. If a war target comes into the plex to attack the farmer, they can warp off thanks to the warp core stabs, or even simply shrug off the loss, because the rewards of plexing for a militia in Tier 4 or 5 are huge. Even if you lose a few cheaply fitted frigates or destroyers in the process, a couple of hours of semi-AFK defensive plexing will easily make 50 million ISK.
Because the farming alts always follow the side that offers the best LP payouts, fighting back as a militia becomes very difficult…
a major psychological let-down that diminishes the engagement level of our new EVE players
But most important of all, the fact that they encounter so many obvious farming alts is a major psychological let-down that diminishes the engagement level of our new EVE players.
Many people have talked, blogged or otherwise discussed the importance of story and lore to attract and hook new players. Well, let me tell you what we saw these past six months – nothing takes away the “EVE is real” fire in our newbros’ eyes like finding out that the fleet you ran for three hours with your new corp friends, where you chased off and maybe even killed some war targets, did not make any lasting progress in system control because during the quiet hours pre-downtime a bunch of AFK farming alts simply undid all of your work. Similarly, nothing does as much to take away the pride and joy of your very first solo kill – a career milestone as big as any – as figuring that it’s actually an AFK, unfit Atron. It breaks the suspension of disbelief for new and old players alike.
And what’s more, it even goes against one of the core principles of EVE, the fabled “risk vs. reward” game design philosophy. A Factional Warfare alt that farms plexes in 400K ISK frigates is as low risk as you can get, but the rewards are on par with Incursion running and all but the most optimized nullsec ratting. And remember, you’re not risking a battleship or faction fit Ishtar; no, you’re flying (if you can even call it that) a half-fit Merlin.
So what should be done? Easy: fix Factional Warfare, CCP. There, done!
Now, you may ask – is it that easy? Why yes. Over the years, many people from various backgrounds, from experienced bittervets to novice players, have raised possible solutions. CSM members have made proposals that have been discussed and all but beaten to death: make offensive plexing an activity that needs piloting by buffing the faction NPCs that spawn; implement (partial) rollbacks of timers when you warp out; increase the LP payouts for killing war targets; revise the Tier system so that farmers are less likely to massively shift to one of the factions; add “front line” mechanic that rewards fighting over strategic systems; and so on.
None of these ideas are new, I’ll grant you that. So why the urgency? Why write yet another plea to CCP to fix something?
Alpha Clones. November. That’s why.
in Bob’s name, let’s get rid of the farming problem
Because we want to present the masses of new players who will discover EVE with the best possible experience. Factional Warfare is “prime real estate” for the new player experience, so in Bob’s name, let’s get rid of the farming problem. Everyone has known it needed to be done at some point, and that point is now.
Let’s turn the legendary conflict between the warring factions into it one of the key aspects of the game that improves the retention rate of new players. Let’s get rid of the farming alts that slowly leech the life out of the war zone, and replace them with a horde of wide-eyed, bloodthirsty Alpha clone capsuleers who madly rush at each other in their shitfit tech one frigates, eager for the kill.
EVE will be a better place for it.