As with Incursions, so with Factional Warfare?

This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss the proposed changes to Factional Warfare I-HUB’s and war zone control for winter 2012.

P.S. I have been slack in updating lately, this is due to the effects of ‘summer’, ‘work’ and other excuses lumped under ‘totally valid, honest!’ – I’ll try to get a few posts written up over the next few days. 😉

Do you recall the time when CCP sat down to ‘fix’ Incursion rewards?  They made something like four major changes that were designed to curb the potentially huge payouts that hardcore Incursion runners had been generating for little actual risk (because they were in high sec and knew the sites backwards).

The rate that Sansha Influence penalties regenerated was increased.  The payout for Vanguard sites was lowered.  Additional NPC’s were added to Vanguard sites to make them less blitz-able.  And there were one or two other changes.  All of these things on paper looked and sounded pretty good individually.  Right up until you apply them all together.  The end result was that the combined impact of these changes kicked the Incursion community in the balls really hard .  So hard that huge numbers of players gave up on running them altogether.  Incursion running activity dropped like a rock and CCP ended up rolling back a couple of the changes, having realised that they changed too much in one go and run into the game design equivalent of module stacking penalties.  Tried fitting 5 Gyrostab’s?  2 or 3 was enough.  😉

Reading the proposed changes to Factional Warfare I-HUB’s & System Upgrades for the winter expansion, I find the Incursions thing coming to mind.  Now, on the whole I like much of what I am hearing about CCP’s initial plans for winter.  But I think that a couple of things taken together might cause issues.

The core change to my mind is moving the tier system from being ‘item price focused’ to ‘LP rewards’ focused.  Rather than the war zone control tier influencing the prices of items in the militia LP store, those prices will be set at current tier 3 prices (the pre-Inferno prices) and instead the amount of LP earned through plexing will scale according to the control tier.

I like this.  As part of the changes, the disparity in rewards between tiers will be greatly reduced, meaning that there will be a less brutal handicap at work in worst-case scenarios.  This system also means that the LP you have managed to  earn will no longer devalue massively each time the WZC tier drops; the prices in the LP store don’t change, but your earning potential does.

As part of all this, CCP are looking at all of the sources of LP in FW and how they work together.  My personal opinion is that CCP should greatly cut the amount of LP paid out by all FW missions as soon as possible (preferably before the winter expansion).  They are currently far too generous and pump huge amounts of LP into the system in short order, which is often what allows for players to single handedly upgrade I-HUB’s straight to level 5.  Mission payouts should also scale with the WZC tier.

The main impact intended with the WZC tier change is that players will move away from the current ‘tier 5 push’ mentality, where all systems are upgraded in one huge LP donation drive that unlocks tier 5 for a short period while everyone cashes out all of their LP together.  WZC is then allowed to drop right back down to tier 1 until the next organized push.  By tying rewards (the amount of LP you can earn) to WZC, an incentive is created for players to defend and maintain their territory; because if they don’t, their ability to earn LP decreases.  Those defensive actions should then create more opportunities for PVP.   The flaw with the current system is that in between pushes players earn and accumulate vast stockpiles of LP without having to worry much about defence.  That also means that players are under less pressure to commit to fights as they don’t care much about losing some ground/infrastructure between pushes.

My opinion on this change is that defensive plexing should become a more valuable use of time.  If players don’t actively defend their turf then the WZC tier is at risk, and so is their income stream.  This is I think good news for FW, as defence will be incentivised.

Which bring me to the part I’m not convinced about; awarding LP for defensive plexing.  Under the Inferno system, defensive plexing is thankless, unrewarding and as a use of your time surprisingly difficult to justify.  So adding some sort of direct reward does have some appeal (even if I’m still wary of it).  But this is where that Incursion analogy comes in.  If you change the WZC tier system to rewarding defending space with an LP boost, then also reward defensive plexing with LP, you are adding carrots with both hands.

I think that it would be wise to change the WZC tier system but hold off on actively rewarding defensive plexing.  Even with the proposed scaling reward for defensive plexing based on the system contested level, I think this could still be too much of an encouragement to farming.  Don’t change too much in one go.  Defensive plexing currently does not pay out LP as it could be used and abused heavily for farming; I suspect that would still be the case after these proposed changes go through.

So it’s a yes to the new-look war zone control tiers, but a no to LP for defensive plexing from me.

Now, moving on a bit.  Cyno jamming is back on the table.  It is worth reading the proposed implementation twice, as it isn’t all that clear on first read.  Quite a few people responding to the thread have fallen into that trap.  The proposal boils down to this.

At level 5 upgrade, any militia member who is in a player run corp may anchor a ‘militia issue’ cyno jammer at a starbase in an FW system (no NPC corp alts then).  It costs about 100-130mill isk to build from a BPC bought in the LP store.  The cyno jammer will have a 5 or 10 minute spool up time and then it will come online for 1 hour.   At the end of that hour, it ‘burns out’ and is destroyed.  I like the sound of this implementation, it opens tactical options while preventing a militia from perma-jamming whole regions of low sec.  It also requires preparation and expenditure (in buying, building and deploying the jammer).  I don’t think their use will be very common, but its a new option.

Other new upgrades include adding a starbase fuel bonus and various lab slots to stations.  Also faster production slots.  I can see all of this stuff being useful to industrialists, but maybe not useful enough to lure them out of high sec.  But for those prepared to accept the risks and develop low sec markets…   Well, I’d love to see more places to go buy and fit a ship away from the four or so major hubs.  Market tax discounts should help there too.

Another welcome change is the end to LP payouts for offensive plexing in already vulnerable systems, and the addition of a cap to victory point buffers.  And end to unassailable vulnerability, as requested! 😉

I think it is starting to look like a good set of changes for FW on the way.  The question is of course about which things to change and which to leave alone.  But the time for feedback is certainly now.

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