Lowsec: A Detailed Examination

With the election period rapidly approaching, I’ll be taking the next few weeks to do a more in depth look at some key parts of my platform. We’ll be starting off with lowsec, in large part because CCP does not. They at least mentioned a desire to redo Faction Warfare ‘at some point’ during EVE Down Under, which is better than ‘we have no future plans’ from Hilmar’s AMA, but not by much. My trust in that ‘at some point’ being any time soon is not super high given the past few years of promises. I remember in 2015 they promised a big FW revamp that we got all excited for in Brave, which turned out to be some minor tweaks instead. It’s now 4 years later, and the only changes in FW have been actively harmful ones like citadels.

As mentioned in my About Me, my love affair with lowsec, specifically FW, stems in large part from when I put Brave into FW. I, and Brave, have a massive debt of gratitude to FW and Calmil/Galmil in particular for providing an opportunity to not die as well as teaching us a lot of how FW works. There’s a ton of content on the Brave wiki to this day that is sourced from consultations with the militia. Since then, I’ve been keeping up with as many of the militia dudes as possible, in part because it’s interesting to see the events, and you generally can’t find much info on what’s going on in the war zone on news sites or reddit despite the massive scale of the system contests. Sadly, due to a lot of the changes CCP has made, a lot of these guys have left FW for other regions, or even quit EVE entirely. There was one recent bit of good news, with Aideron leaving FEDUP to go back to lowsec, but on the whole it’s been a steep slope in FW. I mention Aideron in particular because we had an excellent and challenging campaign against them towards the end of my time in FW, and I’ve had great respect for them since then, they do a great job with the new guys.

On a side note, the reason I focus so much on FW here is I think it’s a great stepping stone towards lowsec as a whole coming back. While lowsec is arguably in even worse shape than FW specifically, it’s also a much longer term job. FW, meanwhile, has some clearly identifiable and agreed upon fixes that can be made, and when you have more people active in FW, that tends to bleed over into regular lowsec. Case in point, the Placid area, which was always very high activity due to its proximity to CalGal and beneficial geographic location.

Why FW Matters

Before I get into fixes, I’ll take a moment to go over what I think is so good about FW, and why I think it’s key to the game, in particular retention. Historically, I think one of the main reasons CCP tends to ignore the area is that they don’t think it’s important enough, which results in lower player counts, which results in CCP thinking it’s even less important, in a vicious downward cycle. Faction Warfare is, when not abandoned by CCP, the ultimate area for PVP players not looking for the massive F1 null blobs. One of the biggest reasons for this is the ease of entry, a day 1 player can go right out the gate and immediately join FW. This gives the new guy accessible PVP instead of just grinding a rock all day, and creates a much higher population when properly directed, meaning you aren’t roaming through 8 regions of bots and cap umbrellas to maybe kill a VNI, while getting 0 interesting fights. Instead, when the population is healthy, you can often sit in a plex or roam to other plexes and get a fight. While this fight will sometimes be a crazy kiting faction frig, or a dscan immune curse, it’s also often a legitimately interesting fight. I’ve found a ton of content even now by sticking an alpha in FW with a cache of T1 frigs and taking just about any fight that pops up.

In the previous paragraph I mentioned that FW represents a substitute for the grinding rocks in a venture gameplay that new players often get directed into, and that’s the next big point. FW represents a tremendous retention opportunity, because you can very easily fund a newbro PVP habit off the LP you get from plexes, even if you’re not specifically farming. What this means is rather than having 90% of players burn out right away, as shown on CCP’s EDU presentation on retention, in part because they have to spend so much time making isk for very little payoff, they’re instead able to get good action in cheap ships and not feel like they’ve lost everything they own if they die. One of the most consistent stats on retention is that players who tend to seek out combat and lose ships stick around more, so directing people into a situation that incentivizes exactly that can only be a good thing. It’s also much easier to comprehend what to do, as while FW is still very sandboxy, it does have clear objectives with an appreciable effect that anyone can understand, rather than most of EVE which tends to overwhelm people with choice.

I’ve talked a lot here about newbros, but it’s important to note that FW is not just for newbros, and that’s what’s so great about it. It scales very well, all the way from a solo T1 frig to full on Rattler fleets with some cap support. I know we’d always get a butterfly effect kind of feeling when we’d go out in algoses to save a buddy who was ambushed by a galmil gang, and then get dunked on by another group, so we’d grab our vexors and exequrors to shoe them off, and then BEBOP(RIP) or RDRAW would come in in their fancy shmancy stuff, and we’d be like ‘oh fuck we’re screwed,’ since we had no real escalation past there, and then blammo out of nowhere CALSF comes in and is like sup dude with their faction battleships. In nullsec, that engagement would have basically consisted of galmil shooting our dude, who would light a cyno, and then we’d drop 50 supers on them, and then they’d either dreadbomb us or, more often, die. I can tell you which I’d prefer. One of the big issues has always been corp level income in FW, which I’ll get more into later, but on the PVP side, it was a great place to be at its peak, with far more content than any other meta.

What Needs to Be Better

Reading the previous section, you may be thinking ‘wow FW is so great right now.’ That would be very wrong. FW has gotten dumped on over and over by changes that ignore their effect on FW while focusing on the rest of the game. There’s a reason you’ve seen so many of the big names either shut down or leave FW, and that reason is a very good one. This isn’t an overreaction to minor changes, this is an accurate and reasoned response to a game that does not seem to care. When your choices are leave FW or die as an entity, you tend to take the leave option.

One of the biggest changes in the past few years has been citadels, and boy is it a doozy. With one careless action, CCP basically destroyed the FW meta, as well as a lot of the reason for system contests, which are what really tends to generate a lot of those massive multi-thousand ships fights. It also took away moons as a content driver later on, which has had a pretty negative effect on lowsec as a whole as well, which is why I’d like to see some kind of module with reduced yield but automatic mining in a lowsec exclusive module similar to how the Thukker array worked with POSes and now citadels.

Specific to FW, however, citadels meant that rather than getting locked out of your staging when the system flipped, and not being able to access markets and similar in opposing space, you instead just stayed in the citadel you were already based in, because most people moved out of stations when the changes happened. That made system captures pretty much irrelevant for anything other than tier, especially since CCP stated no reissuing of the warzone capture. Why expend an enormous amount of ships and time for the total net benefit of a few minor system benefits and the visual of an ihub exploding? It’s pretty fun to shoot each other, but it’s also a massive amount of time and energy, so most people aren’t going to spend a few days straight taking care of all the logistics and FCing for 0 change. This also meant that system captures became much easier, as previously the defenders had a massive advantage because the attackers were forced to either reship from a POS or go out of system, requiring a lot of work or time, both of which are very valuable in a situation where you can blanket deplex the system the entire time they’re reshipping. With citadels, you just dock up and grab new ships, exactly the same as the defender.

The clear solution here is to treat citadels as stations for the purpose of docking, where anyone in the opposing militia to system control can’t dock at the citadels either. The incentives could also use a bonus, I mentioned the really crappy system benefits earlier. Having these be something worth fighting for, and varied by system, would create a unique benefit to FW that actually means something found nowhere else in the game, encouraging people to use it and fight for it. I’d also like to see an FOB-style replacement for the role of POSes in FW that would essentially function like an SMA, allowing for similar gameplay even after POSes are removed.

The other big negative right now is the economic factor, because ultimately the economy tends to drive everything in EVE. While the traditional FW groups have always been able to exert concerted force, the one constant force has always been LP farmers, who often sit in totally unfit ships raking in the LP. This has a monumental effect on the warzone, as whenever farmers decide they’ve farmed enough and want to dump their LP, they just bounce to the other side and farm it up while offloading the LP they’ve gained as the price increases again. As a result of this, FW tends to constantly move back and forth without any intervention from the people invested in the zones. This sucks, because it means a lot of your effort feels completely meaningless. You also see a lot of missioners, even after the mission changes, who are very tough to catch, and therefore provide minimal content. I’d like to see a few changes to fix this.

The biggest one is detaching LP gain from tier, and instead assigning it to the existing rank system, which would be altered to degrade with inactivity and be voided when you leave the militia. This reduces the incentive to hop back and forth across the warzone, as your LP gain will be the same regardless of how your side it doing. It also incentivizes characters, though not people using alts, to stick to one side instead of loading all over. The other point on the fork of pronginess is the further nerfing of FW missions, with corresponding gains in rewards to plexing, along with a combat requirement being added to deplexing as it is with oplexing currently. This drives more people into a situation where a) they’re actually in a position for combat to happen and b) they have guns so they might even fight back in a dream world. As part of this, some revisions to the plexes themselves, with the return of gate sliding, the removal of dscan immunity in plexes, a rebalance of what classes go in what plex, and better tackle on the plex rat to stop farmers from just warping out constantly, would be very useful.

Conclusion

While I will be very upfront about the fact that it’s a pretty steep and rocky mountain to climb to make FW better, and I cannot guarantee some or even any of this occurring, what I can do is ensure the conversation ends up in the direction of FW, which is something that has not happened with the current CSM. The most recent minutes mentioned FW one time offhand. That’s not something that should ever happen for such an important chunk of the game. I can firmly promise that FW will see consistent and actually existing discussion, based on conversations with current and former CSM members about the way topics are brought up. There’s a lot of missed opportunities from CCP ignoring lowsec and FW, and I’d like to see that come to an end.

Cornak Firefist