For those of you not in the know, CCP is planning a rework/rebalance of Factional Warfare (FW). CCP Affinity went as far as to create a public chat channel on Slack called “#newfw”, where you can be an armchair developer. In this article, I plan on being that “armchair developer”, by discussing all aspects of FW and how I would want to see them changed.
The last time CCP provided a fundamental change to FW was during the Inferno expansion (April, 2012), and it caused some major problems when it was first released. In what was clearly an exploit, some Goonswarm members managed to create huge masses of loyalty points (LP) by killing their own freighters filled with items that had an inflated value due to market manipulation. CCP realized how badly this would have disrupted the economy, and removed the offenders’ LP. Unfortunately, this was not the biggest issue with the changes.
Back then, the tier system didn’t give higher LP payouts when militias pushed for higher tiers. Instead, it drastically cut the prices of everything in the LP store. This meant that keeping a high tier was not favorable—unless you had the ability to quickly flip a lot of systems and push the tier up to V briefly for a cashout. During that release, Minmatar had more or less total control of the war zone for long durations and could freely run missions. This is where CCP made the biggest mistake by not taking min/max’ing into consideration. A good pilot who knew the mission triggers could easily pull in 1b/hour or more if he held onto the payout items. This caused all kinds of problems with the market; CCP emergency patched it in Inferno 1.3.2. However, the damage had already been done. I know many players who walked out with over 100b ISK and the biggest multiboxing krabs hitting 1t.
After that, there have been no major changes to FW in years. The most recent changes prevent cloaking close to the beacon within a plex and some minor tries to stop AFK farmers, which, as anyone who has spent time in the war zone recently can tell you, were not very effective.
Here are some of the problems I feel FW has at the moment:
Low LP payouts for PvP
No Suspect status for neutrals entering plexes
Plex sizes and farmers
LP stores have some really horrible conversions, and the UI isn’t the best.
The value of systems and the shifting FW ownership
LP corp tax
The Rank system
Let’s go over these and explain them in more detail:
First, we have the low LP payouts for PvP in FW. This is something a lot of people want buffed, and for a good reason: PvP is the lifeblood and core of FW space, but the payout is pennies compared to risk-averse plexing or mission running. The problem here is that CCP can’t make the payouts too high because it becomes exploitable (see Goonswarm dudes blowing up their own freighters in paragraph 2). I think that locking PvP payouts to Tier 5 regardless of the tier your faction is in would be a good start.
Suspect on entering a plex?
Then there is the problem with neutrals entering a plex. In my opinion, everyone entering a plex should get a suspect timer. This is something so basic that I think CCP needed to add a long time ago. If a pilot opens up and enters a FW plex, he is attacking a faction and should get a suspect timer for that. The same goes for neutrals entering the warzone and going into a plex where the faction is fighting. They should also get a suspect timer. Beyond roleplay reasons, this will somewhat lower the barrier of entry for FW, and it won’t hurt new people joining by locking them out of highsec because they PvP in plexes. CCP might consider the option of a shortened suspect timer. For example, five minutes for acceleration gate activation instead of its default full length.
As one of the primary sources of revenue for FW capsuleers, missions are sometimes a proportional source of drama. Many people have said that they provide way too much money for what they are. Additionally, they feel very unpolished because certain factions have much easier missions than others.
Let’s go over some numbers first. FW missions are at the moment best completed by doing a loop around all the mission systems and picking up all the missions at once. Doing this ensures that the mission objectives all spawn in roughly the same area. The loop to pick up the missions is up to 42 jumps for Minmatar pilots for example, and is dependant on how many mission stations the Minmatar currently own. A full cycle of 15 missions for Minmatar takes about two hours to complete; this includes picking up and running them. At Tier 4, this pays out around 800k LP, worth around 800m ISK. This puts FW at around 400m/hour, give or take maybe 100m/hour depending on ganking or a bad mission spread. This is lower than totally min/maxed level fives or WH escalations, and a bit higher than highsec incursions.
Personally, I don’t think this income level is acceptable. Remember that the ISK/hour is based on other people, and if your faction is pushed to a lower tier, you won’t get much ISK. The missions also provide additional value to certain systems, because if the enemy holds them, you won’t be able to mission them. It’s also easy to kill bombers by camping in one of the mission-spawning systems, and racing the bomber to the beacon with an interceptor.
What are the problems with these missions?
Some of the FW missions feel like ghetto-burner missions, where you kill one big boss and then warp out. I wouldn’t mind reworking all of them to be more burner-style missions that teach PvP. They should be doable in simple PvP fits, and teach skills like kiting or keeping range to the target. Ultimately, they should teach simple PvP tactics while providing an income that makes living in FW space viable.
Another problem with the missions is that they are totally unbalanced, depending on what faction you choose. Minmatar and Amarr have much easier missions due to the EWAR that the rats apply. Fighting Target Painters and Tracking Disruptors is easier than fighting ECM or Sensor Damps. This is also something that I would want to look at. I also wouldn’t mind lowering the amount of travel you have to do. Right now, the missions themselves are done quickly with the majority of the time spent traveling.
Another problem with the missions is that they give you standings losses. I understand the lore motivations behind this, but let’s be real: Standings are an old mechanic and probably deep into the legacy code. The current system feels just as old as the clone mechanic used to feel or how the attribute system currently feels. I wouldn’t mind seeing a total standings rework at this point. I would also love to see mission progress get changed, so instead of grinding lower level missions to slowly get into higher ones, there would be some better system in place.
Another thing I don’t like is that you do not get any standings hits for shooting your allied militia faction. Amarr can shoot at Caldari freely, but they still show up as purple on the overview. My solution to this would be to simply remove all allied militias. This would also increase your targets and PvP. Fortunately, CCP seems to already have this plan in the works, so we might see this as a major part of the upcoming revisions.
One last thing for standings is the losses for shooting your own militia. I think this is a good thing and something that should be kept in the game, but there needs to be some checks here to see who shoots first. Right now, friendly militia members can attack you, but if you shoot back and kill him and then you are the one who loses standings.
I think this copy/paste explains the problem nicely. The plexes are currently very limited in size and there are ships that totally outclass anything else that can be brought into them. The biggest example of this is small complexes, where tactical destroyers reign supreme. For novices, the Garmur and especially the Worm murder everything else that can fit inside, and mediums allow far too many ship types. Also, certain ship classes such as battlecruisers are almost completely irrelevant because they can’t fit in any common plex size, and putting them in a large plex allows the enemy to bring a range of far superior ships as a counter.
I would propose adding an additional plex size. First, I would restrict Novice to standard T1 frigs only, and make Smalls accept T2 frigs, T1 destroyers and faction frigs. Then make Mediums only allow T1 cruisers. We then create a new plex size called Large, and allow battlecruisers and T2 cruisers. Lastly we rename the current large plexes to Extra Large plexes and keep them ungated, allowing all ships.
The end result would be this
Another problem with the plexes is the fact that so many people farm them and warp out as soon as any danger shows up. I understand well enough that you can not force someone to fight, but it is often a wild goose chase that only wastes your time.
I think that a different method of capturing the plexes would be better than what we have now—kill a rat and wait. I don’t think this is a fun mechanic at all, as it involves a lot of waiting and D-scan spamming. Defensive plexing is even worse—where you just sit there and don’t even shoot the rat—requiring basically the same amount of involvement as mining. I have discussed this with many people, and one of the ideas we came up with was to tie in the Entosis link for FW. We did, however, identify a few issues that might make this problematic. The first concern is the cost of a T1 Entosis Link at around 25m ISK; the worst was that it is quite limiting to fit on a T1 frig, and would eliminate any that don’t have a utility high slot.
We discussed many different options here, such as allowing the Entosis Link to just speed up the timer or making a new FW Entosis module that only worked in FW. Another thought was making the NPC stronger, and having the Entosis shut him down or adding a deployable entosis bubble that points your ship but captures the plex.
The elegance of using the Entosis module is that it prevents warping and would help combat the farmer problem where people just farm all day and warp out as soon as any danger presents itself. This would force them to commit a bit more before taking a site.
I like the deployable idea the most, because it doesn’t have the fitting problems or the slot problems that the regular Entosis Link has. It might also be possible to scoop up the hostile Entosis field generator if they didn’t defend it for the capture time. I would probably have it emit a bubble that prevented warps inside it, similar to an ESS. I would want to limit the effect on pods and only allow it inside FW plexes in order to prevent creating a lowsec variant of the bubble.
As I’ve said, an Entosis Link might create unnecessary complexity and has many problems associated with it. The fact that you lose a slot, reducing the combat value of your ship, is bad enough.
Plexing should be a conflict driver, not something you do when it’s quiet. The obvious solution is still timer resets: If you leave the plex, you lose all progress. This would have to go hand in hand with a plex timer length adjustment, of course, because some timers are simply too long for that. It clearly sends a message that you are supposed to fight for the grid. If you can hold the grid, you make progress, otherwise you lose progress. It would be a very intuitive mechanic. The main argument against it is neutrals, which I don’t see as a problem. I see it as a feature of a sandbox. Timer resets fix the problem cleanly at its roots, with WCS suddenly becoming useless. (They will still save your ship but you won’t make LP with them.) CCP could even revert the decloak field changes (because they wouldn’t matter anymore).
Other ideas: Resetting the beacon timer via LP donation, defensive plexing via LP donation at beacon (closing the plex defensively with a single donation). In general, trading player time vs. player time without conflict should be avoided at all costs. Deployables for defensive plexing only would also be an option.
I would love to hear what thoughts and suggestions you guys/gals have.
The LP store
I think anyone that has used the LP store at least once knows how horribly outdated the UI is. There is no search function, the filters are really confusing, and the multibuy function doesn’t tell you how many you can buy with your current LP. While I was on the CSM, I proposed a total rework of this entire window. I assume it isn’t high priority; I think it would help greatly to have the LP store be similar to the market window, where you can see prices, available (to you) quantities, ISK/LP values, etc.
ISK/LP used to be an open secret where everyone had their own spreadsheet and refused to tell what items they were converting in order to keep profits up. Thanks to Fuzzysteve on the CSM, we now have https://www.fuzzwork.co.uk/lpstore, a public spreadsheet that shows the ISK/LP for all LP stores. Apparently, the whole LP concept is still confusing for many of new players, and I have met people who have been doing highsec missions for a long time but never converted any of their LP because they didn’t know much about it.
I am all about helping people play better, and this is one of the things that will make your profits much higher than simply blitzing missions for the ISK payouts. For level fours, this isn’t obvious since they pay somewhat similar ISK and LP, but for FW you get around 100k LP per mission and a lot less ISK, so people have to convert LP in order to make any profit.
Reworking this UI into something prettier with more information would be a good first step.
Let’s talk about some of the items offered in the LP store. Requiring tags to convert items seems like some hardcore legacy code, and there’s no good reason to keep the tag costs there. Tags make the whole system overly confusing and create items valued at negative ISK/LP, tricking people into losing ISK by converting them.
The value of systems
Right now, the value of controlling systems in FW is next to zero. I am a fan of certain systems having more value than others. For example, mission systems are worth more and consequently, more people put in the effort to defend/attack them. Historically, certain real-life regions or cities have always had more significant tactical value as well, so this adds a level of realism to the game. Currently, the upgrade system provides pretty worthless bonuses, and it became worse after CCP removed the clone discount and neglected to replace it with anything else. Another problem is that all discounts and bonuses were always available for everyone, regardless of participation in FW, which made them practically worthless.
At the moment, the only reason to keep your systems upgraded is to push a higher tier; the rewards you get are not at all relevant for FW . I would like to see something else here that rewards FW pilots for donating more LP. The first thing that comes to mind is increasing LP payouts even further in systems that have level V upgrades. But let’s not stop there. It doesn’t need to be straightforward bonuses. You could allow control of gate guns or increase aggro timers for people not in your faction or increase insurance payouts like an SRP light. There are many innovative things CCP can do here.
Something else that’s problematic, is the constant switching of who owns the warzone and the fact that actually capturing all the systems provides no reward other than to shut down most PvP from the other side. Apart from the pretty—but useless—medal for winning the war zone, I am talking about a more concrete reward or event if that happens. For example, CCP could have the faction itself start some type of incursion, capturing a couple of systems, and providing PvP opportunities for both sides. This would make EVE feel more alive and have the factions’ NPC forces actually doing something in the war besides exploding ignominiously in plexes.
This is a concept a lot of corporations have been asking for in order to help with things like SRP or funding bigger corp projects. I am all for bottom-up income, and would definitely want my corp members to be self-sufficient and able to replace ships without SRP. But that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be an option for directors to tax their members. And as always, it is up to your members to decide if they want to join a corp with an LP tax.
The Rank system
I think the whole FW ranking system is a missed opportunity. Right now, the ranks are nothing more than decorations on your character sheet. Ranks should be something meaningful and provide some benefits. I think higher ranks show that you have contributed immensely to your faction, and they should unlock special things for the people who hold them. Ship skins and special missions/storyline missions are the first things that come to mind. Being a Valklear General for the Minmatar Republic should involve some equivalent perks.
I don’t know any specifics or how far CCP Affinity and Sugar Kyle will go with the FW rework. They might not keep the war zone system at all.
Though it’s hard to say how, the new structures CCP is implementing will definitely change FW in yet unforeseen ways. I wrote this article from the very common lowsec perspective of small gang/solo. However, CCP also needs to consider larger groups in FW to keep stagnation to a minimum.
My personal vision for FW is an easy-to-access system that provides new players with PvP opportunities and enough ISK to support a PvP lifestyle. Any income in EVE will draw farming and individuals refusing to actually take part in any conflict; I also wonder if those guys are as big a problem as people seem to think. Sure, they are frustrating and boring to chase around; sadly, there are farmers in all parts of EVE. If you were to completely “fix the farmer problem”, you would just end up with empty space. They wouldn’t suddenly take up arms and start fighting back.
FW needs to promote fighting, and bring more meaning to the last word of the phrase “Factional Warfare”. In a perfect world, the upcoming changes would cause ships to get blown up, incentivize fights, and continue turning lowsec into a humming metropolis of PvP action.
Thanks to Niden, Motorbit, Julianus Soter and Tarek Raimo from Gallente Militia, Muad ‘dib and Bienator II from Amarr Militia
Tags: Factional Warfare, gorski
Gorski Car was a CSM 9 member whose theorycrafting and knowledge of mechanics has had a key role in helping CCP adjust how we play EVE. He is an avid small gang PvPer with a background in lowsec, but flies in all areas of space, depending on his fancy.