I ended my essay on gaming the Faction Warfare with a short suggestion on how to fix it. Honestly, I didn’t expect anyone would get seriously interested in this part, but since Hans Jagerblitzen voiced his interest, let me spell it out in much greater detail. Might as well do it in public. I don’t claim this doesn’t have any holes in it, and there’s probably something I’m missing, but I think it will work, and any holes you can poke in it can probably be plugged with minor alterations.

The suggestion consists of four steps, all of which are required:

  1. Completely remove the ability to donate LP directly into infrastructure hubs. The hub upgrade menu can remain where it is, but the textbox for LP amount and the ‘donate’ button have to go.
  2. Make defensive plexing give LP directly towards infrastructure hub upgrades. The LP reward should be the same as for offensive plexing, but should not end up in the plexer’s pockets at any stage. That’s one part that will actually require writing a few lines of fresh code — five or six, maybe, depending on the design of the logic and how hard it is to get at the right object from that section of the code.
  3. Increase the amount of LP required for full system upgrade from it’s current 150k to 500k or higher. (25% of the total victory points required to capture it or more.) How far higher exactly is a matter of discussion, but my estimate is that 25% should do fine. The buffer portion of it should be about 100k LP, because step 4 is…
  4. Increase the amount of LP removed from system upgrades when offensive plexing to 1:1 for LP earned when offensive plexing from the current 2:1.

By themselves, these suggestions aren’t new — I definitely know step 2 is not new, it has been previously suggested on the Eve-O forums more than once. The really important part is that it needs to be coupled with step 1, which has not been suggested yet as far as I know. Steps 3 and 4 are there mostly to fine-tune the equation, but they’re still quite important in achieving the expected outcome.

Here’s the logic how this would work:

By themselves, steps 1 and 2 make defensive plexing the only way to upgrade systems. That immediately makes an upgrade day strategy impractical, and makes raiding Faction Warfare just as impractical. One won’t be able to just have a ‘defensive plexing week’ to upgrade everything. Any raiding entity that tries to do so will have to commit to a long drawn-out campaign of defensive plexing that is relatively easy to disrupt, unless they actually commit to it like they would to a proper shooting war.

This will remove the temptation to hoard LP in general, as there will no longer be a way to save extra with a long upgrade-cashout cycle. As a result, militia leaders will want to call for constantly keeping tier as high up as possible, by defensive plexing every system their faction currently owns. That will also include systems already vulnerable, because even if a system is vulnerable at over 100%, defensive plexing will still get it to upgrade level 5 in the exact same amount of time as any other one, and at such rates, may actually get it out of the vulnerable state. Step 3 actually ensures this is quite likely to happen by bumping the required amount of plexing to max out the upgrade.

This means that hoarding vulnerable systems becomes likewise impractical, if you have gotten a system vulnerable but haven’t called for a hub bash to flip it, it will be too late by tomorrow. That puts a stop to farming undefended systems and hub bash fleets that run for the entire day until everyone falls asleep — a system actually going vulnerable will be a call for action for the entire militia online at the time instead, you have to flip it now, or lose the chance to do that. Once upgrade days no longer exist, and the faction attempts to keep tier high up indefinitely, holding a system becomes more valuable than capturing it regardless of direct upgrade benefits, as it keeps providing warzone control points which are constantly in use and extra LP earnings bonuses for high tier. That promotes settling warzone systems and fighting fiercely for them and the neighbouring station-less systems.

At the first glance, speedplexing still remains a viable tactic after these changes. But it actually isn’t anywhere as attractive anymore, because defensive plexing random systems has become a required strategy. Assume someone did actually earn millions of LP. At T1, these LP won’t be worth a whole lot, so if he wants to turn them into ISK, he has to put in some defensive plexing time — at least 25% as much to have the same effect as he would by donating LP. He can’t really rely on others to have done it, because upgrade levels are now lost just as easily as they are gained, and his personal contribution to defense is much more valuable. Simply abandoning the plex in case an opponent shows up wastes the effort of defense for the same reason. With the increase of LP required for full system upgrade, bringing a system to upgrade level 5 will take most of a day or several. As a result, whoever earned a lot of LP while offensive plexing will probably want to defensive plex as well, and they will have to do it in PVP fit ships. Sure, it might still be a cheap frigate, and probably should be — the friendly NPCs will take care of DPS if anyone comes in to stop him, his job is just to tackle, web, and survive. But a proper fight will still be required.

Proliferation of defensive plexing in this manner will greatly increase the chance that at any given moment, all plexes available in any given system are camped by someone in a PVP fit ship, ready to fight whoever comes in and use NPC DPS as leverage. Such plex camping will be a job well suited for newer characters in T1 frigates who used those same frigates to run minors in the enemy systems just hours ago. Finding a plex which isn’t camped to speedtank it will become a hassle most people will avoid, but those persistent enough to keep doing it will mostly find cloaky campers instead, which I have already described in this blog. So they will be far more likely to come in a ship more appropriate to the plex size, and endeavour to kill both the NPCs and whatever defenders are found within.

Which gives us back the small gang and solo fights in plexes all over the warzone that we wanted. They’re going to be different from your usual solo duel, because the environment they happen in and the way it’s being relied on will have to be taken into account, but that can only be a good thing.

At the same time, LP store payouts are unchanged. Constant defensive plexing will keep tier levels floating around T3, jumping up and down at random times during the day and constantly moving, which will ensure that new players joining FW find themselves with a ready source of income to replace their losses as they happen,1 without planning for months ahead, and see their contribution to warzone control fairly close up. The casual crowd joining FW mostly for the self-sustaining pew opportunities, which is actually the majority membership of every faction as far as I can see, will find that quite preferable. Monthly faction item dumps on the market will be replaced by a constant trickle, which will stabilize prices.

In short, I expect these changes to smooth out the extremes of Faction Warfare, without actually making them impossible to achieve by sustained effort, if someone can whip a faction into sufficient frenzy.

These four steps are good because they are trivial to implement,2 requiring only a few pinpoint changes, and they are sufficient to bring warzone control back into focus as a PVP opportunity generator.3 It wouldn’t be ideal, but for the developer effort required, it would be the best bang for the buck. You could do this tomorrow during a regular downtime and see positive effects by the weekend, even a client patch to remove the ‘donate’ button can wait, server can just return an error message instead. Further improvements along the same lines that are not quite so trivial would include:

  1. Getting rid of tier levels as such, or rather, making 606/404 individual tier levels for every point of warzone control score, with a smooth LP price scale between them. (Both ends of the scale can be kept where they are.) This is quite important, though may be challenging to implement. That would make defensive efforts immediately apparent and give each militia member a ready indicator that even their smallest efforts matter for the whole — which is actually a strong motivation, no matter how backstabbing and evil Eve players want to present themselves.
  2. Share LP rewards between all plex attackers regardless of the distance to the button. This has been elaborated on enough already, this needs to be done. If there’s a worry they’re safe from NPCs in there, well, just move the warpin 20-30km closer to the button and they won’t be, this has also been called for enough already.
  3. A warning system that actually notifies the militia when enemy plexes a system. Highlighting the friendly systems which are currently being offensive plexed in the existing Faction Warfare window would be ideal — it would actually promote fights and ensure the forces are more evenly distributed, without actually forcing the players to trust each other for intel, which in the current Eve simply doesn’t happen often enough for objective reasons, which I wrote about already. This window has a certain delay anyway, which would give offensive plexers a fair chance.
  4. Return of the ability of stealth bombers to sneak into plexes undetected which has been removed by Inferno 1.1 patch. Yes, the one that removed "you cannot jump because you are cloaked" message. CCP’s response to me saying that it was a side effect of a change was "you’re asking for a feature, post in features and ideas forum". Well, it isn’t a feature, it’s really a stealth stealth nerf. Stealth bomber plex sneaking tactics were ineffective against ships bigger than frigates in plexes well beyond their size anyway, and were the only thing that worked against them reliably. It may be impractical to mess with the gate decloaking code again, but this could possibly be compensated by making the warp-in beacon a non-decloaking object, which would allow stealth bombers to sneak in every time, while still ensuring they stay on scan for 15 seconds before that.
  5. More direct benefits for upgrading systems would help. Lots have already been suggested, I imagine, so I won’t dwell on them here.
  6. As mentioned above, the proposed changes make it beneficial to settle warzone systems. There are other things that prevent this happening on a wider scale than it does now, namely, the logistical problems. Currently, it is impractical to promote settling systems by seeding markets in them with equipment at reduced prices, simply because the enemy always has the option to buy it all up and relist it at inflated prices even if they cannot actually dock. Some way to counter that would help. While it is probably impractical to alter the availability of market orders based on standings due to the way market system seems to be designed, it is probably easy enough to make it possible to create contracts only available to members of a specific faction, rather than just a corp or an alliance. That could prove to be sufficient, even though it’s still relatively easy to disrupt.

P.S. I should mention that while many people are calling for removal of docking restrictions, actually doing so would pretty much invalidate this whole plan, so it should obviously not be done.

P.P.S. I’ll admit I don’t have particularly high hopes about this plan being eventually accepted by CCP in any fashion. They appear to have a view of Eve that is fundamentally different from mine, and Faction Warfare is just a small part of these differences. :)

  1. Kills are paid out at a rate of 1 LP per 10k ISK destroyed already. Assuming regular T3, a few kills will get you a ship, so if you don’t suck too much, your pew will in fact pay for itself without actually making you fabulously rich. People interested in pew are rarely out to be fabulously rich in the first place, so they’ll probably like it.

  2. Or should be, unless the code is in a far messier state than I think it is.

  3. Actually, my next theoretical article will be about conflict drivers, and I’ll have to discuss this and related issues to bits. There are a few fundamental things about conflict drivers that CCP apparently completely ignores, which seems to be the root cause of many a questionable design decision made in the past few years.