The T.A.B. – FW series, Tweaking A Better FW, focuses on discussing the different mechanics of Faction Warfare, their strengths and flaws, and the different ways those mechanics affect Faction Warfare.
Today I would like to discuss one side of the Cal-Gal war that is not as visible as the one inside the EVE client but that is every bit as entertaining. Discussing that war will obviously also have me address the accusations of “spamming” I have received recently and the campaign that has been started to “blame” me, so in the best case this article might be a lesson in good game design, worst case it might be a good old salt-filled drama piece surrounding FW.
First off, I will start by saying I haven’t been able to login into EVE in a while. Real Life and moving around has been getting in the way at possibly the worst time. I mean, it’s not like I’m the target of a smear campaign right now, no big deal, EVE can wait… But, despite priorities being priorities, I did find the time to participate in that little initiative that is the #newfw channel on Slack (good thing that it doesn’t ask for a reliable connection). Anyway, as the linked article showed, some people have not been very fond of that participation. To the point of starting all the ruckus of that “Blame Dantelion” thing.
So, the #newfw channel. To make you better understand what happened there, I will talk a bit about my own experience of FW. My Corp lived in the system of Manjonakko. It is a Caldari system a few jumps away from Asakai and Okkamon, which are both two important Caldari systems (I will probably explain why in future articles) and better places to settle in. Manjonakko is also a couple of jumps away from the Ishomilken gate to high-sec, but the frequent gatecamps and activities of notorious pirate groups such as Sons Against Humanity, The Bastards, and even the respected Stay Frosty of A Band Apart, all those make the Ishomilken gate almost as enticing to use as the Tama gate… So most people instead use the Ikoskio gate next to Asakai and Okkamon. To sum it, Manjonakko is the not the best system to settle in. The market is better in Okkamon, and Asakai is closer to high-sec.
Yet this is the system my Corp chose to settle in. Why? Because the system was farmed to death!
See, the location of Manjonakko, far away from the overpopulated Okkamon, is rarely used by the Caldari, and is the start of a long pipe of systems with zero Caldari in them. All those made it the perfect o-plexing ground for all the Gallente living near Sujarento, Nisuwa, and Heydieles. So to counter that, SQUIDS decided to base themselves in the system. And we managed to make Manjonakko Stable again. But we still had two problems:
- The systems around Asakai and Manjonakko still had high contested levels. Anyone that lived there can attest to Elunala (fuck that place and its Medium btw), Ikoskio, and Mushikegi constantly being above 70%.
- Even with the system stable, farmers could still downgrade the levels of the system and put more pressure on the Caldari tier.
Thus I spent the very first months of my EVE career surrounded by plex farmers that would go to a safe as soon as I entered system. At the time, I used to have a catchphrase, and if RiverrKing is still around he can attest to that, which was ‘no fight no plex’ and then I would waste my time waiting for the farmer to come and try to retake his plex. Only to see the farmer leave system, and think I had ‘won’.
Of course that was naive. But I was innocent at the time and could not imagine that people could stay one system away from the guy who just pissed on their turf! And of course that’s what they did. After wasting my time in the plex, I would see the same guy still plexing one system away.
This is how I learned that chasing farmers was as fun as chasing that fucking rabbit in Mario 64 (except that at least the fucking rabbit dropped something)! This is also how I noticed that the population of farmers actually managed to get the Caldari ever closer to the dreaded 20.0% of Tier 1 every day. I would donate to upgrade Mushikegi and Manjonakko and get us out of Tier 1 only to see the system back to zero upgrades the next day.
So it is with that experience that I came to the #newfw channel.
Sharing my experience of farmers has been… complicated. I shared my concerns about their prevalence:
- They commit nothing and yet manage to make money.
- They frustrate and waste the time of a playstyle that is actually healthy for the game (both in press and player enjoyment), Hunting.
- They have an influence on the warzone despite how little they commit (making it harder to maintain Tiers).
- They encourage a risk-averse approach to the warzone (telling newbies to fit Warp Core Stabilizers).
- They kill the content in the warzone by helping the winners win more while keeping down the challengers.
Somehow some people failed to see those as problems. When they were not feigning ignorance and downright ignoring it, I got answers like this:
- There will always be farmers, you can’t stop it.
- Just fit 2 scrams and some combat probes! Easy!
- We still have the bloodiest space around! No worries!
- You just want to force everyone to fight!
- Someone please think of the new players!!
Even though they at least didn’t try to just play blind and ignore the problem, those answers were still all fundamentally flawed.
Before addressing those points they all stem from the false impression that plex farming only happens on the defensive side. The money actually is in o-plexing, and that money can be easily farmed with drone boats. So plex farming can be done in a way that affects the opposing side.
Anyway, first off addressing plex farmers will not prevent newbies from making money in the warzone (unless you need billions like some people), what it would ask of them is to group more often to increase their survival odds or isk/hour. Gods forbid we ask people to group up in a MMO right?! Same thing for farmers, it would ask a very simple choice from them, ensure their high isk/hour and fight for their plexes, or flee and have their profits reduced.
They would still be free to flee at the first sight of an enemy, that’s the important thing. But if they want their increased payouts they would have to fight when someone contest their claim to be rewarded. Instead of now, where the only gaming decision is to flee and come back.
So in a way what I want to do is introduce an actual gaming decision. That fabled risk/reward thing people talk about. And it puts PvP back into the equation again when it comes to making money in the warzone, PvP is what makes the space thrives and yet everyday we have to see people thinking the best FW fit is a stabbed frigate…
Also, by far their most annoying and dishonest point, the over-reliance on the Nirvana Fallacy made it even harder to find any legitimacy to those defending farmers.
“You cannot not have farmers”.
This is the point I’ve had to deal with the most. If the best argument against something is that it is not a perfect solution, it is as absurd as saying “road prevention is useless, you will never not have accidents”. It is both intellectually lazy, and morally dangerous.
And if the justification of all of that is that the Caldari-Gallente space is still doing good despite all those, well this is as weak as a justification as the previous ones. EVE as a game will only progress if all of its parts also progress and manage to satisfy more and more people in an healthy way.
Oh and against the “just fit 2 scrams thing”, those that had to counter a Trollceptors know that fighting a cancer mechanic with another cancer mechanic is an exercise in futility. This is also a classic case of a band-aid solution, the motivation that makes someone fit 4 stabs is not because he doesn’t want to be pointed, it’s because he doesn’t want to engage in PvP in the first place. That motivation can also be seen with Trollceptors and over-sized Entosis Cruisers. To top all of that it was very hard to give any credibility to those trying to defend the farmers when they themselves admitted to using AFK-alts to farm.
When the rest of the Caldari leadership was still active in the channel it was a lot easier to push all those points. But after a while I was the only Caldari left in the channel, which had the disadvantage of making me the figurehead when it came to discussing farmers. This also made me the perfect target to attack the idea of curbing farmers.
Plexes are a great conflict driver, probably one of the best in the game right now. Unfortunately this is not much of a compliment when you have a game that is full of conflict drivers that have been all gamed to the point of not only barely generating any conflicts but also becoming instruments of trolling instead of fighting.
The Encounter Surveillance System? “Lol. I will just have an alt nearby.” Moons and Null-sec? Once in a blue… moon they generate the greatest fights the game has seen, rest of the time they just shit insane amount of passive income in the economy and do nothing. War-decs? Abused mostly to farm the weak and inexperienced. Gatecamps? They will kill you all day, but as soon as any reasonable opposition comes nearby they can just dock up at will.
This game is full of great PvP potential that is all but wasted by, at the same, favoring risk-averse and trolling behavior.
The way the whole Entosis experiment turned out is symptomatic of that problem. How what is destined to be a generator of conflict and content ends up as yet another way to ruin both the game and someone else’s time. And another incarnation of that is how Plexes as a conflict driver is being subverted into yet another way to troll people and avoid all the fights.
Very early when I started being active in #newfw I proposed solutions to handle that problem in FW space. Outside of revealing the problem with farmers, I have also proposed mechanics that would help promote fighting, incite fights, and make Factional Warfare even more of a place for small-scale content and non-stop PvP.
My first proposal was A Deployable for FW plexes that would help introduce quick access to PvP and securities against blobs. I’m especially fond of this one as it would give options to those on a tight schedule, they would either massively profit for having the courage to put their necks out there, or get a fair-ish fight quickly (gotta get ready for that Garmur though).
Another proposal I did was the Factional Surveyor. And this one is special because it actually will be implemented in spirit through the coming FW Patrols in the Day 4 CSM Minutes. The goal of this proposal was to add one more activity for people roaming the warzone that would also serve as another conflict driver between militias. I still wonder if CCP will actually make sure those are worth committing to and hunting, and not just annoyances you have to deal with.
Finally, I tried addressing one of the missing links in the FW system in the form of a proper reward for winning out the warzone and that without killing the content by dealing a new hand to the losing side (thinking also about some bonuses to help out the losers into the grinder) with the The Retaking Mechanic.
Whether or not those proposals are shit or not, what matters is that each try to address glaring lacks in the current FW system. Fast content for a space that is suited for it. What I hope to address next is the other missing link, a system that would help the underdog put up more of a fight. As you confine them to less and less systems, the losing side would have more incentives for players to fight back and make it harder to get those few last systems before full warzone control. But of course with the Retaking you would actually be greatly rewarded if you actually manage to get those last systems.
There has been a lot of very good proposals in the #newfw document, many that I have supported because I saw the potential they had to better the warzone like:
- Proposal: Tier progression will slowly increase until it hits the warzone control cap + Proposal: Tier affects LP stores instead of LP payout
- Proposal: Plex timer rollback
Either by smoothing out the Tier progression to prevent the warzone being gamed like in the Minmatar/Amarr warzone or the plex timer rollback to ask for commitment and frees up time for the Hunters to go around and create content. Each one has the potential to help make FW even more vibrant.
As you can see, I have not just been using Slack to rail against farmers without a second thought. I have proposed solutions, it is unfortunate that the only people that saw them were those who saw no problems to solve.
Still I have a vision for FW, as a space where, for example, the few people who stream the game can easily find content for their viewers without having to deal with 20 or more jumps or yet another farmer warping away in front of them. A space with an endless battle where each side tries its very best to beat the other one without fear of killing their content, and that in a manner that can benefit the game, either through driven system sieges, or “constent” fights at the little-guy scale. A space that tries to teach the prime lesson of EVE, that losing is an opportunity to rise up and get back for more. And that despite all the spaces around it deviating more and more from this important lesson and only allowing for the fats to get fatter.
And with the incoming work on small-scale conflict, new ships, balance changes, and modules coming. The new T2 Destroyers that will allow for more spatial plays and counterplays, the Navy ECM frigates that will allow for ECM that is healthier for small-scale combat thanks to their hybrid nature, and the coming T2 Logistics Frigates that will allow for more powerful fleet doctrines at the Small size. If we make it even easier to find targets, if we keep incentivizing people to open themselves to conflict, we will be at the dawn of something that will be unique in the gaming space. A ruthless, open-world with gangs roaming all-around, rushing from locations to locations to further stoke the flames of the greater war. Pirates navigating the waters to avoid the bigger fish and find its target, unaware that he himself might be the prey.
For those who search for a game where you can always learn, where you thrive from conflict, this will be heaven!