The wrong scene my friend

This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to debate the Factional Warfare changes.

I tend to read other people’s blogs during my break time at work, so today I read Poetic Stanziel’s latest couple of posts on the Inferno 1.3.2 FW changes.  Although In agree in places, I can’t say that I agree with much of the sentiment.

The first entry, “Same as it ever was” posits that CCP is ‘number massaging’ factional warfare in an effort to push us all into conforming with their expectations of how the players should behave.  He also adds in a dig at the CSM here for good measure.  I don’t normally comment on other bloggers here but I’m going to get this off my chest.  If Poetical Stanziel does not run for a seat on CSM8 then I will be very surprised.  Also I think that his writing has gotten increasingly cynical and kinda bitter since joining Fweddit, which is a shame.  Anyway, moving on.

Poetic posits that the CCP/CSM approach is leading FW away from emergent gameplay and towards a very proscribed nature where we all do what CCP expect us to do, and that the FW rewards will keep on being massaged until we do it.

He goes on to assert that the rewards system motivates the winners (they earn more) but that the losing side has/will simply throw in the towel and rather than attempt to compete they will instead switch to attempting to deny the other side LP, which is spiteful as hell but it is EVE I guess.  The losing side will continue to suffer a malaise in their attitudes towards warzone control and not engage with it as they just won’t be getting the same rewards.  Personally I’d rather improve my own lot by trying to take some space, rather than settle for somehow not ‘giving’ the other guy any LP.

This argument is summed up with his thoughts on what we should have instead – equal rewards for both sides regardless of warzone control, so no side is rewarded or penalized over the other.  In effect, a return to the pre-Inferno system but with LP awarded for plexing.

His second post, “Flocking to the easy money” goes on to discuss how players will always gravitate towards the activity that brings in the best ISK/hr reward.  We all need ISK to do much of anything in EVE and using the PVE content is often regarded as a means to an end as much of it is really quite dull.  When it comes to FW, that means that people are more likely to join the side that is doing well in order to get the better rewards, which is why the Minmatar militia became farming central post-Inferno.

He goes on here to compare the earning potential of FW plexing rewards at tier 1 and tier 5 to running lvl 4 missions.  I agree with his estimation that optimal plexing rewards at tier 5 are probably going to be somewhere in the same ball park as, or superior to the upper end of lvl 4 earning potential.  But at tier 1 you will likely earn far less than you would from running lvl 4’s.

He posits that in order for FW to attract and retain a vibrant player base, we must all be able to earn as much or more than the alternative we can earn from outside of FW.  If you can earn more ISK running a lvl 4, then why be in FW?  Ergo, penalising the losing side will only serve to drive players outside of FW to earn ISK thus reducing activity in the warzone.

I agree that I feel the newly revised rewards may still need some adjustment.  Tier 1/2 may still need some buffing while tier 5 may still prove to be a bit too good.  Time will tell.  Now, here is where our opinions differ.

I think that Poetic is placing his emphasis in the wrong places.  In all areas of EVE , which is at heart a PVP game, only one area of the game actively pays you for PVP.  Factional warfare.  In all other areas of the game (Sov null sec, NPC null sec, wormholes, non-FW low sec, high sec war decs or high sec ganking) the game mechanics do not pay you in any way.  The rewards come entirely from other ‘indirect’ sources (the loot you scoop from a ship kill, the moon goo you won from that POS bash or the bounties/mins that stem from securing your sov space).  Only in FW are you given a tangible reward (LP) for blowing someone up or performing an action to take space (plexing/bunker busting).

Factional warfare was designed to be a PVP activity, not a PVE activity.  The flaw of the Empyrean Age system which Inferno replaced was that it featured far too much PVE activity.  Until now the plexing has remaining practically unchanged since it was first implemented in 2008.  The NPC’s have required either a PVE fitting or speed tanking to deal with or negate unless flying with a reasonably sized gang, neither of which encourage PVP inside the plex.   The same can be said of the FW missions which were intended to lead players into hostile territory and so lead to PVP.  To complete them you will typically need either a PVE fit or a stealth bomber, so again you won’t be looking to PVP while out mission running.  If you want to actually fight another player then you are unlikely to be engaging in either activity as a solo pilot at all.

The principal sin of Empyrean Age however was that the territorial system was entirely irrelevant.  There were no benefits or penalties associated with gaining or losing territory whatsoever.  As such most players simply did not bother with plexing at all and regarded FW as nothing more than a free war dec.  I was in FW for a few months not all that long after it first launched, and found it utterly meaningless as practically no-one cared about the war itself.  There was nothing ’emergent’ about it, as the whole thing was an irrelevant side show.

What Inferno got wrong was that it accidentally created a PVE farming heaven by not tackling the flawed plex design before attaching rewards to it.  Then the tier spiking behaviour quickly emerged and it became painfully clear that in between tier pushes for cashing out, there was still little reason to care about keeping space.  In fact, you were better off losing it.

Retribution brings consistency to the table.  It is now in everybody’s best interests to take and then hold space.  Once the expansion proper arrives and the plex NPC’s are overhauled we will, I hope, finally be able to run plexes using PVP fits.  This means that we will be able to venture out into space and run plexes in ships that we can turn around and fight in if another player arrives.  That means we can run a plex with every intention of provoking a fight, not simply attempting to gain LP or quietly work towards flipping the system while hoping no-one turns up.

LP rewards from plexing may not deliver ISK/hr comparable to a dedicated PVE activity such as lvl 4 missioning, but it does mean that we will be able to earn a significant amount of ISK while out looking for a fight.  Compare that to going on a null sec roam where you could be out searching for targets for an hour before getting a fight (many null sec pilots reading this are probably muttering “if you’re lucky” to themselves).  That same hour in FW will earn you around 15mill ISK worth of LP rewards by Poetic’s own lower tier 1 estimate.

About that tier 1 estimate.  Throughout his argument, Poetic is repeatedly talking in terms of tier 1 vs tier 5, assuming that the Minmatar will be sitting pretty right up there.  I really do not think that any faction maintaining tier 5 is going to a regular occurrence, tier 3 or 4 is much more likely.  Likewise, I think that the losing side will be  spending more time on tier 2 than at tier 1 and even if they do drop down to tier 1 I think that tier 2 will always appear close enough to reach for.  And they will reach for it.  The ‘AFK plex farmers’ bloating the Minmatar/Caldari militias are dead in the water and that will impact on their ability to reach for and maintain the higher tiers.

Factional Warfare is about PVP.  The recent dominance of PVE over the scene is not what will attract players over the long term and the dramatic boom of PVE alts is about to go into sharp reverse as the mechanics are corrected to favor the PVP’er and active play styles over semi-AFK alts.  Yes, the PVE focused FW population is going to see sharp decline in the coming weeks and overall numbers will drop, but once that chaff is cleared out what will be left is the most small-gang friendly combat environment in EVE.

There needs to be both penalties and incentives within the system to give players something to strive for.  Without them the territorial conflict returns to being a toothless and irrelevant mechanic only of interest to the few that harbour feelings of ‘factional pride’.  With the rewards and penalties, you have both pride and incentive to drive conflict.

It is the PVP and sense of challenge in overcoming opposition that should bring you to FW.  If your motivation to engage with FW is rooted in ISK/hr, then you are in the wrong scene my friend.  Unless of course you like earning some ISK while you look for a fight.

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