CSM7 Summit – Factional Warfare

This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss the Factional Warfare section of the CSM7 Summer Summit minutes.

The long-awaited minutes of the CSM7 Summer 2012 Summit are now out.  The Summit was actually held two months ago now, which makes sections of the minutes very much ‘old news’, but there remains alot of stuff in there about CCP’s future plans.

I will be writing a few entries based on the minutes, and I can say that they are definitely the most comprehensive document ever released for a CSM summit.  The extra detail of who said what adds quite a lot to the context, so well done to everyone involved.  However, it has been a very long wait (2 months  of the CSM’s 12 month term!) to get them published which does detract from their usefulness somewhat.  There is a chunk of discussion in there about future plans to release some more NeX store items, which has already happened.  Next time I think the release needs to come faster even if it means a bit less detail.

But on with the discussion.  I’ll start with the factional warfare section, which is on page 107.

What has surprised me from the minutes, and I’ll talk more on this later, is that the winter 2012 expansion is going to be continuing the theme of the summer 2012 expansion; War.  And it seems that FW will continue be a headline feature, which makes 2012 ‘year of the Empyrean War’.

CCP Soundwave: “Factional Warfare. This is, for me, probably the feature I am the happiest about. I think we really hit the nail on the head. We’re going to make some more changes come December, we’ll keep iterating on it, even though it’s in a pretty good state. I’m fairly certain that by December we can have it in a place where we won’t have to go back and do major things to it for a long, long time.”

That is an interesting quote, I think.  By the time the next expansion wraps up, CCP will have been working on FW for a year.  It seems to be their intent to turn it from one of EVE’s most neglected features into one of its most polished before moving on to the next area (which I anticipate being either industrial or null sec, possibly both).  So once work starts on the summer 2013 release, FW will have had its development time and shouldn’t expect to see any further major changes for a long time.

This approach is pretty much the opposite strategy to what we are used to seeing from CCP in the past.  Previously they would spend one expansion cycle on a certain feature then move on to something else entirely and may or may not come back to iterate.  Now we are seeing them keeping their focus on one area for an extended period but it does mean that what you have at the end of that time is probably how it will remain.

Winter 2012 is going to be very important for the long term health of factional warfare then.  So what is going to be in there?  It looks like there will be iteration on the system upgrades mechanics.

There appears to be a strong desire for upgrades to enable ‘low sec production hubs’ where upgrading a system could provide up to double the current number of production slots, along with a bonus to production speed creating an edge over hi sec.  This all seems like a good idea.

Then there are a couple of more speculative ideas, the first concerning the debated station lock outs.  An idea floated is to move the lock outs over to the upgrade system, so that a low level or non-upgraded system does not restrict docking access, but reaching the higher tiers does.  Personally, I’m not against the lock out mechanic as I think it is a conflict driver.  But I’m also not against this idea as it does make sense from a ‘fiction’ point of view as well, where the upgrade level reflects the strength of security and control over the system.  It seems like a fair compromise, it should serve to give defenders the edge in well defended staging systems but give the attacker a means to establish footholds.

The other tentative feature was revisiting the cyno jammer issue.  Cyno jamming was dropped from the Inferno release due to uncertainty over how it would impact low sec users overall, or if null sec alliances would be provoked into interfering with FW in order to secure their logistics routes.  The suggestion emerging from the minutes is that cyno jamming could be purchased, using LP, for short periods of time.

This could avoid the issue of deciding who controls the jammer and has the power to toggle it on or off.  It also means that systems would not be continuously jammed, rather for brief windows of time used by the militias to protect themselves from hot drops during key battles.  Again, I like this suggestion.  Being able to purchase cyno jamming for say a 30 minute window would allow for Starbase or POCO take downs to happen without fear of a large third (extrernal) party raining down super capitals, or simply to let your own side deploy a limited number of capitals protected from the other side simply dropping more.  I remain against the notion of putting a ‘permanent’ jammer in the hands of a specific corp or alliance, but like this ‘burst jamming’ notion.

CCP Soundwave then took a moment to pose a philosophical question – “If someone joins FW, and just wants to run missions, is that actually a bad thing? Do we have to force people to PvP?”
Hans Jagerblitzen: “For Factional Warfare, yes. PvP is the point. We’re not Incursions, we’re a PvP venue. But again, mission running these days is stealth bombers chased by Inty’s”
Two step asked if there is a need to have FW missions at all?
CCP Soundwave said that he believes they are a valid profession, and that Factional Warfare caters to both playstyles at the moment, without mandating either. “I mean, we have some stuff like blitzing. Blitzing missions I don’t like. That’s definitely something we can take care of. But I really just want people to live in low sec, and I don’t really care what they do. I remember from 0.0, when alliances were kind of fail-cascading, people would say ‘yeah, its cause we only have 50 people on ops, everyone else is mining or running complexes’ and I kind of get that feeling from a lot of Factional Warfare players nowadays. Where now one faction is losing space, and ‘it’s because of the PvE-ers’. But if someone wants to join Factional Warfare, and just run missions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I have no issue with that, I’m not going to tell people how to play the game. In general, the more people I see in low sec, regardless of what they do, is healthy. I don’t want to ruin missions for Factional Warfare. But blitzing, let’s take a look at that for sure.”

I sort of get what Soundwave is saying here about mandating playstyles, but I’m not entirely sure he sees FW in the way that its community does.  Missions in FW have long represented an issue.  They pay out huge amounts of LP, but running them requires no cooperation with other players and bears no impact on the warzone.  For years they have been farmed by alts of people who realised that they could be considerably more lucrative than standard agent missions.  The people with these alts would seldom use them to PVP or offensive plex with.

My opinion is that these people do not constitute a genuine community (as they are actively avoiding interaction with others in FW), and would find equivalent entertainment value and human interaction from running standard missions.  The only reason they don’t is that they can extract more ISK from an FW agent than any other other type.

The purpose of FW is to provide a source of PVP and to promote low sec conflict.  The rewards need to be moved away from PVE activity and over to systems that promote PVP.  Which is where this excellent suggestion on promoting defensive plexing comes in;

Two step suggested that perhaps the defender could earn extra LP for killing enemies while defending a complex, in lieu of being paid to run the plex itself.
Hans noted that without any reward for defensive plexing, it quickly becomes an exhausting grind.
CCP Soundwave: “Yeah, let’s look at defensive bonus LP stuff. That might be an actual solution.”

I have been doing some defensive plexing lately and I have been doing so semi-AFK.  It is tedious and not all hard to see why so few players are unwilling to go do it.  There needs to be something put in place to make it more desirable than going off to do anything else in FW.  I think the reality is that most players will opt to go run a mission if they feel they can’t go offensive plex, as at least then they recieve a personal benefit.

The premise of factional warfare is that players will compete for control of systems.  The reality is that putting your time into defence is boring and unrewarding on a personal level.  Offering a substantial LP boost for defensive kills would be a very welcome change, but it will never be so appealing as mission rewards unless those are drastically reduced with the rewards moved to activities that directly benefit the war effort.

Dear CCCP, please remember.  To the players Factional Warfare is a PVP based activity.  Everything done to it should be done in a way that promotes one player shooting another in the face.  Minimise the PVE aspects wherever possible.

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