The Expert View
In order to gain a better understanding of how Factional Warfare works, I spoke with prominent player and member of the Council of Stellar Management, Hans Jagerblitzen. Hans was elected onto the CSM primarily due to his involvement with the Factional Warfare communities and there are few people involved with EVE who are in a position to know more about how Factional Warfare functions, where there’s room for improvement and what the future might hold for enlisted capsuleers.
As an experienced battle-hardened veteran of three years of militia campaigns, what advice did Hans have for those who wanted to throw themselves into the fray for the first time? He accepted that there isn’t presently any central resource of up-to-date documentation for Factional Warfare rookies. He pointed out a number of player-written guides (as linked earlier) but accepted that the new player “has gotta find a friend fast.”
Despite the lack of an official tutorial, Hans identified that the new UI elements within the client are a lot clearer and more self-explanatory. “It’s one of the real high marks that doesn’t get enough credit. It’s not a narrative or a written ‘how to’ but it plays an important role in allowing players to know what to do and where to go.”
Motivating the Troops
Gaining a sense of what attracts players to Factional Warfare gameplay might seem like a simple question, but it turned out that there are many layers to what draws pilots in. Hans described Factional Warfare gameplay as “a structured form of PvP, there are objectives – get cookies, get kills have laughs.” He explained how it differed from the more “player-driven narratives” as found in null-sec, with Factional Warfare providing “a static war that gives a sense of home and a lasting sense of permanence. Also a taste of the bigger picture and participation in the story of the four empires that is so essential to EVE lore.”
Prior to the recent Inferno expansion, social interaction and storyline content was often the motivation of players as the gameplay mechanics were limited. Occupation of enemy territory was only possible by maintaining a constant presence. The ability to capture systems and deny enemy access to station-based assets changed that: “The station control lock-out mechanic introduced in Inferno was something many players were initially sceptical about, but it turned out to be one of the biggest conflict drivers. Historically Faction Warfare players have asked for real consequence, but prior to this mechanic there was no consequence, so Faction Warfare was heavily associated with RP culture. Players had to have arbitrary reasons – making up your own stories, have your own sense of racial identity or pride with the people that you flew with. If you didn’t have any of that then there was no reason to do any of it.”
“And it worked to a degree – it’s what kept the community strong all this time, but it hasn’t really been a growth driver and it hasn’t been something that has connected with the rest of the game and the universe at large and so I think that’s what’s exciting that we’ve seen since Inferno…”
The Point of Loyalty
Changes to the fundamental mechanics of Factional Warfare were introduced in the recent Inferno expansion and Hans explained that Loyalty Points are central to this. Although ISK is the ubiquitous in-game currency, for the militia pilot, Loyalty Points are the primary conduit for acquiring the ISK necessary to allow the pilot to purchase more ships. He explained that the new system was devised to give players more freedom of choice: “Formerly, people would have to take breaks to run missions in order to fund PvP, but if you just want to murder people, that should be a valid way to play Faction Warfare. Now everything we do gives LP, they are awarded for killing enemy, capturing dungeons AND missions.”
With the new ebb and flow of system control defining the battlefront, was Factional Warfare now the same process as found elsewhere in New Eden? Hans explained that the shifting battlefronts are dictated by a mechanic unique to Factional Warfare, with each Faction vying for the acquisition of Victory Points to increase the ‘tier level’ of their militia, with incremental benefits for all members being the reward.
However, he admits the system is still in need of a few tweaks – with no rewards for defending territory and high rewards for capturing enemy systems, gameplay has become a “tit-for-tat” exercise in territory exchange as militias allow the enemy to seize control of systems before taking them back for the rewards.
Additionally, not all players have embraced the new Infrastructure Hub concept, which requires player donation of their valuable Loyalty Points to increase and maintain the Faction tier level. “No one is really putting the points into the I-Hub. Because of the way the mechanic works, the I-Hub bleeds out LP with time based on enemy activity, so the only way you can sustain a tier level is by continually dumping money back in. The militias figured out that putting money in every day is like flushing money down the toilet. This has boiled down into a spiking behaviour, where basically you say Saturday is the day [you donate LP to the I-Hub].”
As much it may seem a little Communist, there are benefits to pumping Loyalty Points back into the system. Hans explains, “if you want to spend your LP at the LP store, you want to do it when you’re at a high tier level, because that’s when prices are at their lowest. At tier five, everything is at quarter the price it used to be – faction battleships become insanely cheap. If you’ve earned all this LP fighting and you’ve got your faction way up to a high tier level, that’s when you want to cash out at the store.”
Stories of the Future
With a concerted effort to create a dynamic system of territorial mechanics to drive the ongoing Factional Warfare conflicts, it would be a shame to see storyline elements becoming less integral. Thankfully, Hans was effusive about the idea of having some lore-driven events to complement the existing conflict: “There’s definitely some fun ways they could spice it up… If I could appeal to them at that level, hopefully I could make a case for the fact that – what’s the point of just pooping out a dry set of mechanical changes when you’ve got a community that is willing to invest so much more interest and imagination into what they do rather than just running through gaming the mechanics.”
Through his CSM role, Hans is optimistic that he will be able to communicate the desire for further improvements to the appropriate developers and the Winter expansion will include revisions that will continue to see Factional Warfare refined into an epic and immersive science fiction experience.
Tantalisingly, a recently released CCP Dev Vlog featured Senior Producer Jon ‘CCP Unifex’ Lander explaining that the PS3-based MMOFPS DUST514 will have Factional Warfare links allowing ground troops to play a part in the territorial wrangling. More details are yet to be revealed, but with bold design decisions coming down the pipe and an enthusiastic and dedicated player community driving things forward, Factional Warfare is certainly looking like the place to be in New Eden.
Pick a side pilot, it’s time to enlist.