Once every couple of years the pendulum swings all the way. As predicted here on Lowlife, the Gallente militia assumed 100% control of the war zone on August 26th at 05:58, with the taking of Ladistier. The last time this happened was in January of 2013, and what was since then a wild and unpredictable war initially, tuned more and more into into an inevitable and predictable onslaught as the months drew on. As if the aggressive Gallente offensive wasn’t enough, numbers swelled with those looking to join the winning side and tier four.
Everyone knew this was coming, like you know the end of that awesome single player campaign is coming on a console game. Essentially the goal of the game is to beat it and stop playing.
Born to kill
“If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will be a weapon. You will be a minister of death praying for war.”
– Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, Full Metal Jacket
I’ve quoted Alekseyev Karrde (Noir. Mercs, Declarations of War podcast) before, he called Faction Warfare a “closed circuit” once, and that description comes to mind yet again. Because not only can it have that characteristic when looking at it from the outside, but from within as well. Essentially the Gallente are a raging bull, but the matador just chucked the red cape and decided to quit. Now the bull doesn’t really know what to do.
It’s easy to get comfortable in Factional Warfare – it is a system that is rich in content. By the same token players seldom feel the need to step out of it to get action and it essentially becomes their world. Like Americans who think Europe is a country and don’t have a clue where Belgium is on a map.
Herein lies the catch: Factional Warfare is a fabricated and fixed narrative and militia are not used to going elsewhere or learning anything else for their enjoyment of the game. Like those Americans, why would they? Everything they need is right there. Until you win. Game Over, insert coin (Caldari) to play again.
What you get in the end is a considerable number of players who are essentially war veterans, to the point that it’s the only thing they know how to do. Soldiers through and through who are not used to going out in the wider world of New Eden and have not developed the skills or contacts to do anything but wage Factional War.
There are certainly pirates in the war zones willing to step up and fight, but this does not provide nearly enough conflict, as well as proving to be a more difficult cause to rally the troops around. Wormhole connections and forays into nullsec or the other war zone provide an alternative, but one that few utilise with any regularity. Those that do often find themselves chasing AFKtar nullbears through largely empty space, who will, more often than not, run at the first sight of danger and patiently wait for the intruders to leave out of boredom, or trying to find gud fites in Amarr – Minmatar space, tipping the balance in that war zone as well. It does not help that militia are used to getting a fights promptly and not accustomed to patience.
Essentially the Gallente, in this case, need the Caldari to do what they do, but what remains of the ‘squids’ is virtually a guerilla force and disorganised warbands without central command.
The meek shall not inherit
The way Factional Warfare works today means that the ISK incentive to conquer territory also makes the winning side more popular. As a militia take territory and upgrade the systems under their control they raise in tier, and the higher the tier, the better the LP payout for ‘plexing’ (i.e. running FW plexes in order to reach a “vulnerable” state, after which a system can be occupied). Meanwhile, the militia that is losing systems will quickly drop in tier and hemorrhage members who are not willing to bleed for their colours, leaving a hard core. If this cadre is not strong enough or structurally unsound, the militia will break, resulting in a seesaw effect.
Let’s look at it from another perspective. When you play a good single-player game campaign, the game gets harder as you progress, providing you with increasing challenge and forcing you to improve and learn new things as a player. Imagine a game that was really challenging at first, but then got so easy that it felt like you were just going through the motions. This is essentially what happened in the Caldari – Gallente war. Ever since maintaining critical strategic systems through both the invasions of both Ev0ke and TEST, the Gallente have grown and thrived where the Caldari have fallen apart. And once the ‘frogs’ had established a superior tier and the upper hand there was little incentive for newcomers to join the Caldari while morale was low amongst those that remained (certainly not all however, it has to be said, there are what I like to call ‘true’ Caldari, like Templis CALSF and other dyed in the wool groups).
Essentially this equates to a system of “kick ‘em while they’re down.” But because EVE is not a single player game, it lies in the hands of the opposition to provide the content none the less. Some will argue that the ‘winners’ should take responsibility and not hunt their prey to extinction, but Faction Warfare is about waging war and winning, not balancing the game for CCP in order to get content. Indeed that smacks of agreements met in nullsec that cannot be viewed as anything but the expressions of a failed system.
This is where the discussion gets complicated. How do you put the breaks on the seesaw effect, providing the winning side with the challenge they crave and the losing one with the incentive to keep fighting? Should you?
Two fundamental concepts stand out. It should be considered if a system of diminishing returns should come into play once one side of a war zone becomes very dominant, however, not at the cost of conflict, which, after all, is why most people come to Faction Warfare. Another, perhaps much more feasible solution, assuming one views the current state of affairs as less than perfect of course, is that there should be some form of incentive or boost for the side that is down and out.
Possibly it should be easier for a faction that has been in tier 1 for a month to offensive plex, or something along those lines, allowing them to get on their feet again. One idea I found particularly interesting (coming from an alliance mate of mine that I can’t remember the name of for the life of me, sorry), is that once a side acquires 100% control, powerful NPC fleets would invade the war zone to retake a certain percentage. The NPCs would be rich in loot for the dominating side to take, but would also retake systems for their faction.
Ultimately I am not a fan of any of these ideas. I think it’s fundamentally anti-EVE to meddle in this way and wars should be decided by the actions of players, not game mechanics or NPCs. I do however believe that the range between tier 1 and tier 5 LP payouts should be brought closer together in order to lessen the amount of turncoats we see.
As things stand now it will be a slow process as the Gallente engine slowly revs down and the Caldari find the will and energy to recruit and go on the offensive. Although certainly an achievement and an honour that will not soon be forgotten, controlling the war zone is not a prize in itself for those that that live by the sword.