Faction Warfare. Introduced in 2008, Faction Warfare, or ‘FW’, has been a part of the EVE landscape for almost 9 years now. (It’ll be 9 years old as of Oct 7.) In that time, EVE has seen the warzones grow and change, as the endless cauldron of war bubbles, spilling over into new nooks and crannies, leaving others with a temporary respite. Loyalists from all four Empires have hardened their resolve and their commitments to their people, drawing a clear, bright line between themselves and the mercenaries who fight for nothing but the next payout.
Well, no. Actually, none of that has happened. FW started off strong, but then the inevitable happened. By 2012, it was shifting toward a population of mostly LP farmers, switching sides to maximize the return on their time. The ranks of actual loyalists, the people for whom FW had originally been crafted, slowly decayed. Some of that was inevitable: players move on, to other games, or other parts of the game. But the mechanisms for bringing new players into FW were entirely aimed at the farmers. Players simply adapted to play the game the way the mechanics encouraged them to play it. It was all about getting people in and encouraging them to go run the complexes. What was advertised as ‘PvP’ became mostly ‘kill rats, orbit button, run away if someone warps in’.
Still, there was activity—enough ‘activity’ in the complexes from LP farmers that the FW mechanics were exported to nullsec as ‘entosis warfare’. It was hailed as a way to ‘spread out the fighting’ and produce a higher number of smaller engagements. For the most part, though, the result was ‘sov warfare’ that mostly consists of ‘orbit button, run away if someone shows up’. It was, sadly, predictable… and predicted.
CCP’s informal statements off the record at Fanfest, and more official ones during the CSM Summit, make it clear they know “FozzieSov” needs to go. But at the same time, they’re looking at the current landscape of FW, where farmers flock to the winning side, again and again, where the players who are actually invested, who care about the outcome, continue to wither away, and planning to only go after ‘low hanging fruit’.
Where We Are
This article presents a proposal to CCP for a different approach, a comprehensive approach to revitalize faction warfare and lowsec, while simultaneously making lowsec matter to highsec, and giving players’ actions greater weight in New Eden. As with earlier articles in a similar vein on other topics, in order to properly present a proposed solution, it’s first necessary to understand what conditions are now.
Right now, CCP continues to approach Faction Warfare, and lowsec in general, as just ‘the other place’. It’s not the safety of High Security Empire, nor the player-built sandcastles of Sovereign Nullsec.
We see examples of this in the approach to moon mining. Refineries are clearly aimed at use in nullsec. That’s where the big moongoo empires are, whether PanFam and Guardians in the north, the Russians in the Northeast, or the Imperium down in Delve, nullsec is, and has been, where the vast majority of moon mining really matters.
In lowsec, though, the passive moon mining of POSes has given low-sec groups something to fight over. They provide income, of course, but mostly, they’re set-pieces that can be attacked at any time, whenever an enemy gets bored and decides to poke someone for a response. With the Upwell structures, that window almost completely vanishes. If CCP goes through with their plan to reverse the window structure, or to make the shields ‘always vulnerable’, that ameliorates things, but regardless, active moon mining is far less likely to be of any interest to low-sec groups. It’s just not going to matter to them.
If CCP wants to see low-sec mining, they need to make it matter to someone. And it’s not just mining.
Right now, low-security space is looked as a fundamentally different type of space when compared to high-security space. In high-security space, if a player shoots another capsuleer without some separate, specific flag that gives you legitimate cause, CONCORD shows up and blows the attacker away. How quickly that response happens depends on the specific security rating of the system, and each 0.1 you go down lengthens the response time. One way or another, though, CONCORD intervention is inevitable, and it is inescapable. (In fact, if you figure out a way to escape CONCORD, that method’s been pre-emptively determined to be an exploit.)
Once you go down that last 0.1 into low-security space, though, CONCORD doesn’t bother showing up at all. Other than static defenses (gate and station guns), there’s no response at all. Lowsec systems are nominally owned by the empires, but most of the protections of highsec are gone.
Environmentally, lowsec is similar to high. PvE still works like highsec. Ratting is mostly done through Missions given out by NPC Agents. Mining for minerals (right now) is asteroid belts, when it’s done at all. Where player interactions are concerned, though, other than limitations on a few area-effect weapons (bubbles, AoE doomsdays), PvP in lowsec is basically the same as PvP in sov-null, only with none of the relevance.
Player-run corporations and alliances carve out their spheres of influence in low-sec, but ultimately, they’re not even the equivalent of bands of pirates, organized criminals, or cartels. There’s really nothing to indicate to anyone that they even exist, beyond killboards and gate camps. In places controlled by criminal syndicates, the common resident feeds into that syndicate’s power. Businesses pay protection, unfamiliar people hassled on the street might get charged an ‘air tax’, and by and large, the locals acknowledge that the syndicate, not Johnny Law, is the real power in the area. None of that happens in lowsec. None of what the lowsec groups do matters, except maybe to the people they fight—and even that’s questionable.
Taken all together, though, lowsec’s tie, and relevance, to highsec is tenuous at best. Even within faction warfare space, the only thing that really gives lowsec any feeling of being part of the four empires is the sov-holder listing, and the type of stargates.
So what does all this mean for the future of low-security space in New Eden? Is low-hanging fruit the best that FW players can hope for, after nearly a decade? Is FW, and all of lowsec, doomed to be the red-headed trailer park stepchild of EVE Online for another ten years?
It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way
Fortunately, there are ways to fix things, and people with reasons to care.
When the Aegis sovereignty system was rolled out, one of the new, innovative bits they built into everything was the Defensive Indexes. The Industrial Index, in particular, measures how much is mined in a system in a given day. With the introduction of Refineries and the mining ledger, CCP has introduced tracking of who has mined how much in a particular system, in a particular day. Through bounties, and the Military Index, they also have the ability to log who kills how many (and which) NPCs in a given system on a given day. And then, of course, there are killmails.
All of these little bits currently fit together in a particular, disjointed way in nullsec. Taken together, and with the Sovereignty Index—which measures how long someone has held a system—it all produces the Activity Defense Multiplier, or ADM. The ADM determines how much time and effort attackers need to put into taking a system under Aegis sov. The fractured bits can be assembled in a slightly different way, though, to produce something far more far-reaching in low-security space… or rather, in Empire space.
A Unified Whole
Over the last few years, CCP has developed a number of new tools and systems that could help fix this problem. In the coming months, they’re going to be unveiling even more. As a result, CCP has the means to completely transform this disjointed picture of highsec, nullsec and ‘that other space’ in between into a cohesive whole.
The first important step in creating a cohesive whole of New Eden is seeing New Eden as a cohesive whole. Each of the Empires is a singular entity. The Amarr Empire is a single, unified entity. Aridia is just as ‘Amarr’ as the Throne Worlds section of Domain. Western Metropolis is just as much a part of the Minmatar Republic as eastern Metropolis. The same can be said of the Caldari and Gallente lowsec areas: these are parts of those empires, and shouldn’t feel like some different area of space.
More, though, the fortunes of lowsec shouldn’t be static. Economies aren’t static. Wars aren’t static. Life, in all its aspects, is not static. Nullsec, for all its never-ending accusations of ‘the blue donut’ reflects this. In the last five years, nearly every major power bloc in nullsec has been forcibly uprooted and kicked out of their space at least once. Fortunes have risen and fallen. In FW, systems have changed hands back and forth. And Nalvula, seven gates from the largest trade hub in New Eden, along one of the most heavily-traveled shipping routes western nullsec, far removed from the Caldari/Gallente Faction Warfare zones, still hasn’t managed to make the jump from 0.4 to 0.5 security status. In the Caldari State, touted as the most modern, most capable-per-capita Navy of the four Empires.
Seriously? We can build Delve from a patchwork wasteland of no single alliance holding more than a single constellation into one of the most heavily-fortified regions in the game, with more mining going on than any highsec region even while we’re deployed three regions away, in a single year, and the State can’t make the other side of one lousy gate safe?
Let’s look at another weird result of this stasis, Raa. Raa is a lowsec system in Devoid. At the time of this writing, it’s a Minmatar system on the border of Amarr space, but it is currently being contested. Raa is a 0.3 system. Next door, Mehatoor is a 0.7 security rating Amarr system. On the edge of the Faction Warzone. Consider that for a moment. Directly adjacent to the front lines of FW is a system that is safer than Niarja, a 0.6 system along the single most heavily-used trade route in New Eden, the Jita-Amarr pipeline.
Right next door to the Somalia of Black Hawk Down, there’s a Disney resort. You have to admit, between those two examples, it’s a little bit of a head-scratcher.
Applying The Lessons of Aegis
It’s ironic that, in a way, a sov system birthed from Faction Warfare should illuminate the way to fix Empire. It’s certainly nothing anyone would have expected when the Dominion system was nearing the end of its life. It is, however, true. Aegis ushered in more than just the hated entosis warfare. It also brought with it something nullsec leaders had been seeking for years: occupancy sov.
Occupancy sov is a very simple principle: live in the space you own. In null, it’s helped to shrink the footprints of large coalitions and open up sections of the map to smaller entities who never could have held space in the days of the CFC/N3 cold war. It gave people a reason to get invested in their homes, as more than just ‘where I build my supers’. And it can be the key to unifying Empire and making things more lively.
So how’s this all apply to Empire? Well, the first step is to start deconstructing the artificial lenses in the way we approach Empire, and the empires themselves. The biggest of these artificial lenses is Faction Warfare itself: the controlled, limited conflict even some members of the roleplaying community call ‘the pendulum games’. From a lore perspective, the limited ‘let’s get our capsuleers involved’ approach made sense nine years ago. From a game design perspective, having an area without the empire-building that rewarded PvP certainly made sense. At this point, though, the game mechanics aren’t keeping people invested, and the story element is getting old, and making the people who want to feel connected to the game and their preferred faction feel like hamsters trapped on an endless wheel. The empires have been in a limited-but-open state of war for almost a decade. It’s time to fish or cut bait.
Ok, Enough Of The Build-Up, What’s the Idea?
It’s simple: Scrap FW. Then introduce Faction Warfare 2.0: Occupancy Edition. Here’s the broad strokes:
First, every system in Empire can be attacked—at least, in theory. To actually be vulnerable to FW, though, the system must be a border system contiguous with the attacking faction’s space. You can’t just go streaming a massive flotilla of Gallente loyalists in and start trying to take Amarr. It’s just a wee bit ridiculous.
Each system gets a set of Indices, similar to the ADMs in nullsec. These indices are used to generate two ratings for the system. The first is the Security Rating, 0.1-1.0, just as it is now. The second is Control Rating—in effect, the same thing as the Control Bar currently displayed in FW and Incursion systems. The Control Rating would only be visible to members of the militia.
Next, nearly every activity in those border systems would have some ‘weight’ to it, for either shoring up or degrading the status of these Ratings. For example: Mining and Industry would contribute primarily to the Security Rating—the cops pay more attention to places with more money—but when undertaken by members of a FW Militia, these activities would apply a slight pressure on the Control Rating toward their faction. In the case of allied space, like Caldari Militia, or CalMil pilots mining or building in an Amarr/Gallente border system like Niarja, this pressure could be halved, perhaps. Similarly, attacking Navy NPCs would pressure the Control Rating, with a much smaller immediate pressure on the Security Rating. NPC mining fleets would work against both Security and Control Ratings. Missioning—fighting against pirate NPCs at the behest of the agents of the local ruling faction—could easily be tied in as a way to increase the Security rating as well.
Ideally, these would be balanced so that if nothing but attacks on NPCs take place, the system’s Control Rating remains static. Any system where there’s no violence going on will slowly solidify to the full control of the current owners.
Attacks on capsuleers… well, they’d carry much greater weight. The intent of the system is for FW to actually be PvP, after all, and not simply ‘kill rats, orbit button to collect Victory Points, run if someone comes to kill you’.
So It’s To Be Faction War, Then?
For members of a militia, attacks on members of an opposing militia in high-security space would not trigger CONCORD response. Instead, it can trigger a (delayed) response from the local Faction Navy. If a Minmatar Militia pilot attacks an AmarrMil pilot in Amarr territory, the Amarr pilot can expect reinforcements—eventually. If that same MinMil pilot shoots the same AmarrMil pilot in New Caldari? The Amarr is on their own. Faction Navies do not reinforce the aggressor, though.
Similarly, militia capsuleer’s ships get rated with a value, maybe 1 point for every 10 million ISK the killmail is worth. These points are then divided up between the ships on-grid with weapons timers who are not members of the same or allied militia. While this does mean that logistics pilots won’t get points for anything their fleet annihilates before they can deliver any remote reps, as long as they have 1 repper running on someone before the shooting starts, they should get the rewards for everything. That is, unless the first shot is enough to vaporize the first target. (Go, artillery, go!) But that’s a numbers issue CCP can work out the fine details of, if they choose. In the end, these points would be used for determining LP rewards the next time the pilot docks up in a station with a Militia LP store.
For non-Militia pilots, PvP remains somewhat unchanged. In systems over 0.4 Security Rating (ie: highsec), aggression against another capsuleer without the appropriate flag/timer/whatever still gets you CONCORDed, just like it does now. 0.1-0.2, there’s only the static sentry guns. Again, this is just like now.
The difference comes in the 0.3-0.4 range. In these systems, the faction navy steps in to protect local militia pilots, similar to militia conflicts in highsec. Anyone else is on their own. At the same time, as a system’s Control Rating drops, its maximum Security Rating should drop, too, slowly weakening to 0.4. The more pressure the system comes under, the harder-pressed the defenders are to respond to any particular call for help.
Taking And Losing Space
So what happens when you degrade the defenders’ Control Rating far enough? Ideally, this is where defenders would turn up to protect a sov structure, like a TCU or IHUB. As one experienced FW pilot told me, the goal is that “without a certain amount of pewpew, the system won’t flip.” The only problem with the requirement of PvP is that it opens itself to abuse: the enemy can defend by refusing to fight at all, and that’s no good.
There are ways to ‘encourage’ a defense, of course: Improve LP rewards for defending, perhaps with a sliding scale that increases the reward based on how low the Control Rating gets. Or maybe simply a penalty applied to all members of a Militia if a system is flipped without any defense. This starts getting into the level of nuts-and-bolts theory work that might be better left to the CCP devs, though, especially when time zones are taken into account.
Once the Control Rating is completely suppressed, and enough PvP (and/or structure bashing, but let’s hope for PvP) takes place without the Control Rating recovering (ie: the attackers keep winning), the system flips. When it flips, though, it doesn’t just change owners. The newly-acquired system is now a 0.1 system. If it can be held, the Security Rating will slowly improve to a 0.4 on its own, but unassisted, that would take months. And without capsuleer investment of time and effort, CONCORD is never going to bother patrolling that system. Otherwise, if players want to help their faction consolidate their gains… well, there’s mining and industry (including PI). Of course, now the system next door is vulnerable.
Putting The Loyalty Into Loyalty Points
One of the problems CCP identified in the CSM Summit Minutes was the issue of FW players being loyal to their faction. The way it was phrased was:
“The topic of the Warzone Tiers came up again, with the CSM highlighting that players will always switch to the faction that is winning. The idea of tying the bonuses to pilots or corporations so that people would have reason to stick with a side even if it’s losing was raised, and was met with a positive response.”
What does that mean? That means CCP’s realized that the LP farmers are going to follow the money, period, and not follow any particular loyalty to one side or the other. Which means they’re looking for a way to encourage people to stick with one faction.
For many players, that’s a perfectly valid option. For others, like mercenary groups, there’s always going to be reasons to want to be able to move from faction to faction. If CCP wants FW to be a viable PvP play style for both sets of players, they need both to be rewarding. Unfortunately, as long as the rewards available in the FW LP stores are scattered and varied, the market will determine who the real winners and losers are in LP-farming. As a result, FW will remain inextricably tied to the nullsec meta.
But the time is right for the current style of LP rewards to be reworked. With the introduction of Resource Wars, new PvE-oriented LP stores are being introduced. LP reward bundles (the much-maligned ‘Loot Crates’) represent a significant shift in how LP is redeemed. Soon, refineries will change how moons are mined, including bringing in new ores. Between these new ores, and CCP’s stated willingness to consider new non-’goo’ moon minerals in wormhole space, a number of new avenues of industry are poised to open up. FW can be part of that.
Right now, the Caldari State Protectorate LP Store sells Shield Extenders and active and passive shield hardeners (among other things). The 24th Imperial Crusade LP Store sells Armor Plate and active and passive armor hardeners. To get these, you pay LP, ISK, NPC tags, and a non-faction module of similar type. The Tribal Liberation Front and Federal Defence Union sell similar assortments.
Instead, the LP stores could be retooled to move back a step in the production process. Instead Large Shield Extenders, or 1600mm Plates, LP Stores could sell ‘Naval Large Defensive Frameworks’, which could be used with the appropriate T1 module and an appropriate amount of racial inputs to produce the specific types of Large Shield Extenders and 1600mm Plates.
The same kind of step back could easily apply to active and passive hardeners (‘Naval Resistance Booster / Naval Resistance Amplifier’), local repair modules, weapons, and on down the line. Even implants could adopt this approach. The more options for industrial production there are, the more industry (and the refineries and engineering complexes that support it) will be used.
Most importantly, it can be applied to ships. Where now the LP stores sell ‘Raven Navy Issue’ or ‘Tempest Fleet Issue’ hulls, instead they would simply sell a ‘Naval Refit Package’, available in sizes S, M, or L, which can be applied to the appropriate frigate, cruiser (and battlecruiser), or battleship hulls. BPCs for the refit packs would replace the ship BPCs, as well.
The entire structure of the LP stores can be simplified. All four militia LP stores would have an identical inventory, top to bottom. LP for any of the militias could potentially even be converted to CONCORD LP, with the same slate of goods available from CONCORD, as well.
Almost as a side effect of that approach, the benefits of FW LP become evened out. Any faction becomes a viable choice for those involving themselves for monetary gain—be they mercenaries or just farmers. The unified reward offerings and CONCORD LP conversion even allows mercenaries to consolidate their LP value as they move from client to client. And faction loyalists aren’t penalized for being the loyalists CCP is (and should be!) clearly interested in encouraging.
In the bigger picture, this means the front lines will move. Borders will move. The map will become less static. For a fair number of people, this won’t matter much. For the people who care about their standings, for the empire loyalists, even for the merc groups, lore nerds, and many others out there, this will all mean more engagement.
As borders move, faction loyalists feel like their actions matter. CCP’s been saying for years now that “the Empires are losing their grip on the reins of power”. Angry CONCORD Guy™ has been pretty irked that eggers seem to be benefitting from this. Really, though, other than the potential and oft-dangled carrot of ‘open up routes to new space’ with player-built stargates… what shift in power has there really been?
Before Faction Warfare, when there was just, you know, warfare, player groups with ties to the Empires felt engaged and involved. Events happened that reinforced that by involving them. CVA, PIE, Ushra’khan, Electus Matari, and others were notable parties to events that shifted the course of the Empires. Compare that to the Battle of Caldari Prime, where the outcome was determined in advance, and capsuleers could blow things up, but there was never a chance to actually affect the results.
Rewards for the Militia wars become tied to actually engaging in warfare against the opposing Militias. To encourage people to stick with their faction, CCP can give a slight boost to the rewards for defense, or increase the defensive reward bonus as an Empire is pushed further and further back. Shortening supply lines make it easier to get materiel, or something. But the player-engagement goes beyond just the militias.
Ganking becomes not just a ridiculously fun way to be the villain, it can also serve to make future ganks easier, as CONCORD’s resources are stretched thinner, and response time lags. Miners become a major tool to shore up trade routes. As a result, the forever-war between CODE and Every Highsec Miner Ever™ takes on an actually consequential scope.
EVE is a sandbox game. There’s no ‘one right way to play’. We hear it all the time. Sure, usually, we hear the ‘sandbox’ bit from the people who are getting upset about someone else not being made to play the way they want people to play. But ironic as that is in execution, the principle’s still true. There are limitless ways to play EVE, and blend different activities and play styles to come up with your specific play style. With this proposal, though, just playing the game your way actively reinforces your style of play. Doing the things you do improves the picture for people who do the things you do—and provides an impetus for other people to push back by doing the things they do. You’re a miner who really doesn’t want gankers in the systems where you mine? Great! Your best defense is to mine the hell out of those systems. Of course, as the systems are more heavily worked, there’s more people competing for those minerals. You may have to risk a lower-security system a jump or three away to keep making money. But not only will that get you better profits, it will also help to improve the stability of that system, too.
Events, Direction, and EVE
In the recent CSM Summit Minutes, we learned the new ‘Live Events’ team isn’t actually doing lore-heavy things like the old one did. We weren’t told whether or not the old team is still doing events, but given that the CSM skews heavily away from people who give a damn about the lore, that’s hardly surprising.
The new direction for live events could tie into a system like this pretty well, and even bridge the gap between ‘event seasons’, ‘faction warfare’, and ‘lore-heavy events. Sure, there’s an Agency Event going on (for example) March 12-24, but on March 15, maybe Empress Caitiz issues a directive to Amarr loyalists to focus on taking a specific constellation, or Sanmatar Shakor declares ‘We will hold Raa at all costs!’ For the next 2-3 weeks, FW rewards in the specified systems increase. Maybe Mentas Blaque, over in the Federal Senate, orders militia capsuleers to be on the lookout for a specific class of vessel, like battlecruisers, or even Drakes, increasing the point value of those hulls (and the points scored while flying the ship everyone’s hunting) for a while.
It doesn’t even need to be limited, strictly, to low/high-security space. Eventually, a system like this can be expanded to the pirate factions. NPC Null becomes a kind of ‘Pirate Militia Lowsec’, where capsuleers can actually sign up with the pirate factions and try to take nibbles off the edges of the Empires. There’s certainly a significant segment of the EVE community that is interested in flying for, or as, members of the pirate cartels. But that’s just a potential, down-the-road idea. In the end, there’s a huge number of ways to take advantage of a more robust system for Empire vs Empire conflict. You might even call it… EvE.