Sunday, September 2, 2012

Numbers are meaningless when they don't come from CCP Diagoras

I've had a lot of thoughts regarding FW mechanics lately.  Pages upon pages of unfinished material going back to when Amarr cashed out.  Maybe one day i'll actually be able to finish them, but in the meantime I give you this post.  Since sometimes its easier to respond to someone else's thoughts rather than start your own from scratch, here is a follow up regarding a post Susan Black made.  While she is very capable at discussing game mechanics, she tends to be incapable of doing this without injecting the conversation with heavy bias against the opposing faction, so just do your best to ignore it.

"It would then be logical to predict that in this scenario (with equal plexing numbers) that the Minmatar would flip systems much, much faster than the Amarr.  Since the plexers are condensed in only the 12 systems, these systems would reach vulnerability faster.

However, looking back on the events in the weeks and months following Inferno, we see that this did not happen. In fact, during some points of the war, the Amarr flipped systems faster than the Minmatar, reaching at one point, +7 more systems then the 12 they originally went into Inferno with.

There could be a few reasons for this:

1. Once the Minmatar reached a smaller number of systems, it became more difficult, since the Amarr pvpers were also condensed in this area. However, this would not explain the Amarr surpassing original Inferno system numbers.

2. The Amarr could have coordinated their plexers within specific systems. This seems especially unlikely, as the Amarr admit themselves to not having particularly stellar coordination. Also, it’s somewhat a stretch to think that an LP farmer would care much (or even know) about their militia’s particular objectives."

While the Amarr were able to outplex the Minmatar and take more systems for this brief period of time, what Susan fails to mention, is that immediately upon reaching the peak of 19 systems, the Minmatar captured 4 systems that single weekend and a remaining 10 or so in the following week, easily recapturing systems at least twice the rate it took the Amarr to capture them.  This is where one of the biggest impacts of farmers truly come into play.  Farmers exert almost constant plexing pressure against a militia in addition to dedicated militia pilots, so without farmers of your own you are essentially fighting a 2v1 battle.  They also cover plexing in time zones that aren't peak for your non-farm alt groups.  It was during this time as we were losing our space, before we broke the Minmatar farming alts of their dependence on Amarr space, that I remember flying through The Bleak Lands during very late US TZ and commonly seeing Minmatar farming alts argue over plexes as they suddenly had to adjust to less Amarr plex real estate for the first time.

In retrospect, as much as people want to criticize the strategy of immediately flipping systems, the truth is, the gratification of seeing your warzone move was what kept people logging in, since it gave new players to FW a sense of purpose.  Unfortunately, even that enthusiasm wore off when these new players were left with a sense of having "useless" LP due to the ridiculous LP store tiering and when we switched to the "better" strategy of getting lots of systems vulnerable to spike your tier, people stopped logging on due to a lack of purpose.  In fact, I think the only reason so many people stuck around and didn't just quit, was because we had gotten word Nulli was joining in a few weeks.

"We are left then, with the possibility that perhaps the Amarr, in fact, plexed more than the Minmatar in the months following Inferno. Not, as many believe, the other way around."

This one makes me chuckle.  According to the VP numbers, people enlisted in the Amarr militia did in fact plex more in Minmatar space, than the other way around in the months following Inferno.  The problem with this statement is lumping "the Amarr" in with Nulli Secunda, a group who joined specifically to farm after the Amarr warzone effort had largely gone stagnant, pretty much did their own thing, and farmed the hell out of already vulnerable systems, which still gives VP and skews the overall numbers when making a direct comparison.

Currently Gallente are beating the Caldari in regards to VP, if you look at just the numbers you would think that the reason the Gallente are pushing back against the Caldari so hard is because they're simply more willing to put in the hard plexing work.  This could be true, but only partially.  What the raw numbers don't take into account is that Caldari VP numbers simply must go down due to having less systems.  All of the Caldari farmers have moved to Minmatar space and as the Gallente consolidate systems, the remaining ones they do own become more dangerous to plex in for Caldari.  Meanwhile, its a well known fact that due to no reward most groups don't defensive plex.  I would really love to see how much of the Gallente push back against the Caldari is purely Gallente and how much of it is Minmatar.

If we could see the numbers of how many VP for offensive plexing in Caldari space are earned by Gallente and how many are earned by Minmatar since Inferno, it could perhaps be useful to quantify how many Minmatar farmers there are.  Of course, it wouldn't really be useful unless you scaled it by weeks, since in the beginning most Minmatar farmers farmed in Amarr space, and the numbers are going to shift based on the Cal/Gal warzone itself so looking at the average isn't going to show any magnitude.  Actually running with this point, it would be great if we could see breakdowns on a weekly basis the spread in offensive and defensive VP for each militia against directly opposing militias as well as allied militias.

"When I checked the stats this morning, we are at Amarr – 10.28 million, and Minmatar – 10.27.
This means that between the time that Inferno went live and now, the Amarr have earned around 1.68 million VP, whereas the Minmatar have earned around 1.44 million VP."

In a completely closed system where you no longer gain VP once a system reaches vulnerable, the number of VP earned between each faction should theoretically remain the same over a large enough time scale with several warzone flips.  The only time that these numbers become skewed is when alts in a diagonal opposing militia run offensive plexes or a side plexes heavily past the vulnerable state.  While we don't know the exact numbers, we do know that most recently for Amarr, Nulli and other farmers plexed systems heavily past the vulnerable mark, so its not suprising that since Inferno the Amarr have plexed more VP than the Minmatar.

In short, without more accompanying data, VP is a completely useless stat.

She also brought up some of CCP Soundwave's thoughts regarding the warzone.

"According to the data, there isn’t any evidence that one
side is steamrolling the other in terms of activity or kill success."

This isn't suprising at all, since he mentioned "data" rather than looking at the situation at large with actual context taken into acount.  The PVP numbers on the Amarr/Minmatar front were relatively even at least US TZ prior to the Great Exodus, and any sort of VP discrepancies were totally thrown off by Nulli Secunda.  Like I said earlier, VP is a pretty much useless longterm stat.  Its like trying to infer how a sporting event went by simply looking at the box score on yahoo.


I want to finish up this post by making it clear that i'm not trying to take away from the Minmatar's success, they've done an excellent job taking advantage of all the tools at their disposal.  The abundance of old guard players was and has been a definite advantage. However, I do feel that moving forward with game mechanics discussion, it would be folly to dis-include the role of farming alts on warzone control.

My closing thoughts.

1) After the Amarr had gone down to 3 systems, there were two tier 5 cashouts, the first one being entirely funded by the general militia.  This means there was enough farmers to necessitate and complete a tier 5 cashout, twice.  Prior to Nulli joining it was not uncommon for Minmatar militia chat to outnumber Amarr militia chat 2:1.  I would really love to see CCP's numbers on the number of players who had joined Minmatar FW after Inferno who have cashed out over 1m LP with less than 15 FW kills against the other militia.

2) A lot of people seem to be under the impression that farming alts have little impact on the warzone because they only farm in already vulnerable backwater systems.  Well let me ask who got that system to vulnerable in the first place?  Probably a farming alt, and 30 hrs of plexing that a farming alt does is 30 hrs of plexing that an actual FW person doesn't have to, allowing them to focus on systems that matter.

3) LP farmers are about maximizing ISK/hr, meaning they farm more than a traditional FW player other than perhaps a sasawong.  They farm wherever they have the least resistance, which doesn't have to mean backwater systems, since a stronghold during EU TZ can become a ghost town during US TZ.  Unlike traditional FW players, LP farmers don't take PVP breaks from their farming.  Also, as long as they farm away from PVP hot spots or staging systems, the only real limiting factor on how many plexes they can complete generally tends to be other farmers.

4) When coming up with new game mechanics, LP farmers who are in it for the ISK will always take the path of least resistance, always.  This is something that needs to be considered, but before we can consider this we need to be able to accept that farming alts do in fact have an impact on the warzone.  While I think that a lot of the upcoming changes will help the farming issue, as long as its more lucrative to run plexes solo than run Incursions or wormholes, there will be people doing it.


  1. Wait, which of Susan's numbers were factually incorrect?

    That is the accusation implicit in your title, I'm just wondering where you support that claim in the text of your blog post here.

    1. No need to be defensive, I never said any numbers were factually incorrect so i'm not sure where you're getting this implied accusation from. I was merely pointing out that you need more data before you can come to any meaningful conclusion since the raw numbers that Susan presented are extremely limited in the context they present. Numbers don't lie, but they don't always tell the entire truth of what happened.

      A perfect example would be looking at the box score of a basketball game without actually watching the game itself. You see that team A made 30 out of 90 shots and team B made 50 out of 90 shots. The natural inference would be to say that Team B must have played better defense and Team A played bad defensive, but the reality of it could be that Team A just had a bad shooting night, missing wide open shots, and Team B was able to make anything they threw into the air.

      CCP gives us lots of numbers, but the problem is a lot of the numbers they give us are of relatively limited use which is why CCP Diagoras' tweets are nice because they give us a bit more detail and context than what we're normally used to.