Thursday, September 27, 2012

Factional Warfare, the not so sandbox

The more I think about it, the more I begin to think that the reward scaling for plexes should either be minimal or removed completely, while creating some unique rewards for the "winning" faction.

I think we're starting to see how much both sides need each other for PVP to happen.  As fun as it is to punch one side in the face and be the distinct "winner" the Minmatar need to see new faces join and stay in the Amarr, just as much as the Amarr need the Minmatar for the same thing.

This is where winning in factional warfare differs from the nullsec sandbox.  In nullsec, regardless of tech, the "winning" conditions are defined entirely by the players in it.  Lose all your space?  Can't handle Goons? Getting throttled? NBD. Pick from any of the following:

  • Move to NPC Nullsec
  • Begin a new campaign against someone else.
  • Take over another region to live in
  • Find friends to help you push back
  • Go fight someone you can handle
  • Come to an agreement with your aggressor as a pet or ally
  • Farm ISK in FW before going back (lol)
  • Live in Providence and put stations everywhere

People that move to nullsec, generally stay in nullsec.  Wherein factional warfare, people write it off as a meh feature and never try it again.  In FW, your only real options are to leave FW or base out of the warzone.

You have tons of options so that even though you're in a "losing" situation as long as you don't failcascade from internal issues, you can insulate yourself from the constant feeling of being throttled and retain your membership and activity.  Being in a truly losing situation doesn't have to last any longer than you want it to.  Even wormholes have it.  If i'm in a WH corp and we get kicked out of our C5, we can downgrade to a smaller hole or find another C5 and keep making ISK and PVPing.  Its not like the only two choices you have are take the wormhole back over so you can run sites and PVP in the meantime or leave wormholes completely.

Factional warfare has none of that.  In fact, its the only place in EVE where you have a perpetual "loser".  You're either on the winning team or you're on a losing team.  Victory conditions are entirely pre-defined by CCP and so are the rewards.  You either have the numbers to push your ENTIRE warzone AND hold it, or you don't.

Even longtime Amarr FW corp WBR, that defined their winning conditions differently finding their enjoyment and "victory" conditions, from smallgang triage action realized that there is no point to being Amarr or even in FW, when they can just use their Minmatar alts.

Your side is either making bank or the other side is making bank and you have alts on the other side you're cashing in on.

CCP wants the LP reward to be the primary conflict driving factor of Factional Warfare, but in regards to actually creating and driving conflict, it has failed.  People's PVP habits and actual contestation of systems has reverted largely back to pre-Inferno where PVP happens for PVP's sake.  If you need ISK, you're either on the winning side or you have an alt on the other side.

The problem with the design choice of having new players join the losing side for PVP and the winning side for ISK is that the losing side needs ISK just as much as the winning side needs new people joining for PVP.    You need new PVPers joining both sides to keep things fresh.  Amarr need people joining their side for their own reasons just as much as the Minmatar need players joining Amarr so they have new targets.

Currently you have a situation where when enough new PVPers sign up for the losing side so they're not outnumbered in PVP, the action becomes stale due to the winning side being too outnumbered to fight and no one else to go mess with.  Then new players  leave due to a lack of PVP and because the make LP aspect of FW they heard about wasn't there either, so the losing side never really "comes back".

CCP doesn't want an elastic system, since they want everything to be open sandbox like the rest of EVE, but the hard truth is that under the current mechanics, there isn't much sandbox about FW compared to the rest of EVE.  Factional warfare is artificially small compared to the rest of EVE which is why I think that more elasticity is important.

I think that any sort of de-incentivization for the losing side is a terrible idea and stagnates growth to FW as a whole.   It shouldn't be any harder for the losing side to mount a comeback, than it is for the winning side to maintain their advantage.  Barring an exodus from the winning side, the losing side's ability to come back is directly related to it's ability to recruit and retain new members.  When joining the losing side means you don't get to enjoy any of the new rewards other than PVP, the amount of time new players are willing to try the feature without tasting any reward isn't more than a couple months at best.  Usually at that point, they leave FW altogether and just make alts in the winning faction.

Even with the new system, this is unlikely to change.  Running plexes really sucks and as much as groups would like to have loyalty to their faction, the only people who run plexes for the intrinsic value of factional loyalty regardless of profitability are people like Muad, Damar, Sasawong, and Poetic Stanziel's arch-nemesis Phobos Eversor, who I would argue are a significant minority.  Because of this, willingness to run plexes, especially among new players, are directly related to their profitability.  When trading factional loyalty and plexing for the opposing side means you're making 50b as opposed to 5b, it should be obvious what people will pick.

In short, the disparity of "winning" and "losing" in FW rewards is ultimately bad for FW's longterm growth.  Where the disparity goes wrong is anyone who joins a winning side gets the reward regardless of contribution.  Meanwhile, anyone who joins the losing side inherit the negatives of a situation they had nothing to do with creating.

People are worried about having a situation where nobody cares whether or not they win or lose, but you kind of already have that now because of this.  Everyone piggybacks off the winning side on alts, so it doesn't matter who's winning in terms of rewards.  Azual Skoll, kind of touches on it here.

Fights will be happen for the sake of fights.  People that join for PVP only plex for the sake of PVP it will get them fights so I really don't think removing the large disparity will have a negative net impact.  At the very least it won't make people as a whole not care about system control any less than it does now.

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