Thursday, April 20, 2017

Warzone Dynamics

In response to my last post where I said "[w]ithout intervention, Faction Warfare is going to wither and die" commenter Easy Esky asked:

How specifically is it dying? Has there been a noticeable decrease in the number of players in FW systems? Is there a way to overview LP volumes to see it reduced? Just looking at the number of ships killed in FW zones, is it smaller? I ask these questions, because if you can demonstrate actual decline then it will get traction with CCP.
Wasn't there a massive resurgence by the Caldari which saw them win against odds to take Gallante down? Events like this do not speak of a declining play style. 
I readily admit that I have no interest in wading through the records from ZKillboard or some other database and finding the statistics. I blog for fun of writing and have no time in my busy life to dedicate to that kind of project.

But I can tell you my impressions from being active in the warzone over the past multiple years, as well as talking to other players.

Yes, there was a massive resurgence by the Caldari militia that was fueled by new Alpha pilots from the Ascension release, and it saw them push Gallente down to tier 1 and took some long held systems like Vlillier and Nennamailia.

And yes, Federation Uprising had a tough campaign more recently against Black Shark Cult in the south of the warzone.

But the overall activity in the warzone outside of those conflicts has been quieter in my impression, and since the conclusion of those campaigns the opposing militia has seemed more subdued than ever.

Let's take a 5 second look at Black Rise kills for the past two years and a bit:

As you can see, Black Rise's heyday was late 2015, started to lose steam in 2016 until the Ascension release which powered the big spike on the right, but as 2017 wears on and the Alpha wave peters out we see declining numbers (and yes, the drop off on the end of the graph is the incomplete for April).

Now, one can look at that graph and say "March is usually slow as spring gets people out" but I counter with this: concurrent players is averaging higher due to Alphas but Feb and Mar for Black Rise were amoung the low points for the past two years. The rising tide of alphas is leaving the main battleground of Faction Warfare behind.

If I were a real journalist, or even am amateur one which I am not, I would sit down and spend a few days running over Zkillboard stats and player logins and what not, trying to prove that Faction Warfare is stagnating. I don't have the time. But I hope someone at CCP is taking the time to check on the health of this gameplay and see if it needs a shot in the arm.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Election Ruminations

EVE Fan Fest has come and gone and and a new set of faces have been announced as winning the election for CSM. Alas, Faction Warfare representative Scylus Black who I supported was not one the the ten players elected.

It was always going to be an uphill battle for a Faction Warfare rep to get elected with only 10 seats available, even if all the militias united behind him. But I'm still disappointed in the makeup of the CSM which sports 7 null sec members, 1 hard core wormholer, Fuzzy Steve who is unclassifiable, and a youtube video maker, only the last of which has an interest in a vibrant and dynamic low sec environment, and none that require faction warfare to be thriving. If FW were the gateway for new players (both Alpha and Omega) to be introduced to PvP before having the option to going to null sec or wormholes, then I'd feel like those candidates have some common interest with me and my alliance, but EVE is not a zone progression game and those other areas of space wisely setup their own new player organizations like Pandemic Horde and Brave Newbies to gather up the recruits. On the other hand, FW can be a destination and not just a stage for pilots... as long as its healthy.

I've discussed previously how structures have changed the warzone:
What this means is that NPC stations are quickly losing their cachet as homes for militia corporations and alliances, and they are being replaced by home Citadels that they cannot be locked out of by plexing enemy fleets. Furthermore, as faction warfare moves to concentrate on attacking and destroying enemy citadels, this provides upward pressure on fleet size and more frequent bat-phoning of capital heavy nearby entities top provide more firepower for destroying these large structures or counter-dropping firepower as deterrent for enemy fleets. No longer can a militia remain agnostic to the politics of the low sec entities that they share space with.

And threw out an idea to start to address it:
So I propose we extend the station lockout mechanic that currently applies to NPC Stations in faction warfare systems to anchored structures in said systems.
But the problem is not a problem for anyone outside of low sec (or even outside of the militias to a large degree) and any solution probably will have little to no impact on anyone outside of the militia pilots so the likelihood that any of the CSM 12 members will push to address it or be able to advocate well should CCP bring up the topic is low, and that is disheartening.

Without intervention, Faction Warfare is going to wither and die. Right now its quickly becoming only a farming mechanic with some jostling over tier levels and no strong desire for open direct conflict outside of meaningless good fights. Far more engaging is the emergent play over structures like POCOs, citadels, and engineering complexes as well as the refineries and moon politics next year, none of which has any hook into faction warfare. You might as well not be in a militia unless you roleplay or your members need the mechanic to make money. And that's sad.

It is often said that Faction Warfare suffers from "good enough" syndrome in CCP, but at some point we need to tell CCP loudly that FW is no longer good enough but is indeed dying. Do they want to save it?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Kynoke pictures from Postuvin (click for full size):

The infected mining colony and the SOE Keepstar surrounding it.

Going in


The Keepstar looms...

... all around us.

Monday, April 10, 2017


I've been fortunate that the last two weeks has been very exciting for my Sunday Night Fleet, with two Sunday's ago being the Boss Fight with the Chimera and friends on Abenall and last night seeing multiple small skirmishes with various small gangs and occasional ganks.

Overall, however, the theme that continues this spring is Caldari Militia's complete unwillingness to contest for space allowing Gallente Militia to gain and maintain valuable Tier III warzone control. TEMPLIS seems content to exist in Akidagi with the occasional foray and Black Shark Cult patrols Placid but is not making a lot of progress in any plexing effort, seemingly content to get the occasional fight and kill. The Bloc? Virtually missing in my experience.

To be fair, there have been efforts to anchor Citadels in Gal Mil systems but outside of those failed strategic gambits its been depressingly quiet in terms of Orange target fleets.

After a brilliant campaign in the fall and winter pushing Gal Mil harder and back farther then in recent memory, not only do they seem spent the State's militia seems broken, as if the failure to hold on to their gains in light of the rekindled fighting spirit of the Federation's forces was the straw that broke their back.

Another part of the problem could be a general malaise that despite making an effort no Faction Warfare candidate made it on the null sec dominated Council of Stellar Management, coupled with the signals from current CSM, CCP, and Fanfest that there are no refinements or refactors of Faction Warfare mechanics coming any time soon. With no promise of new or improved mechanics, veteran pilots frustrated with the current situation could choose to turn to other activities or simply not log in at all.

Its annoying that CCP recognizes that balance changes and new mechanics are necessary to ship balance to shake the meta and refresh the environment, and then leave Faction Warfare alone for multiple years in a row. Yes, structures have arrived and changed Faction Warfare, but its been tangentially and almost unintended effects, and not wholly for the positive as I've discussed before.

I'm hopeful a new force arrives to electrify the State and provide some excitement in the warzone.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Refining the Numbers

You have it slightly wrong. Being large enough a group to support the activity needed to operate this new moon mining is the new paradigm.
Small groups, individual players, need not apply. 
- Comment by Vince Snetterton on post "Rewards Drive Activity"

How many small groups or individual players participate in moon mining? This is a fundamental question to responding to Vince's comment I pasted above.

My gut feel is that the number is low compared to the overall population of EVE because any valuable moons (i.e. R64 and R32 moons) are typically identified and claimed by the various "super powers" who then use their military might to protect the POS on the moon while the extraction process is run by a small handful in the organization.

Still, there is a large number of less valuable moons still necessary to the reaction process to make the Tech II advanced materials, and I have no feeling for who runs those. An individual might do so but my understanding is that the cost of POS fuel to extract is more expensive than the value of the goo extracted, but POS can do more than one activity so perhaps it is supplemental income.

On the other hand, far more small groups / individuals are involved in the reaction process. The moon owners tend to avoid running the reaction farms to take the raw moon materials to advanced moon materials and instead sell the raw materials on the market where secondary producers purchase the matierals required to run the reactions to refine it. This can be done in any POS farm setup with silos and reactors and does not require access to the valuable moons. They markup the finished product to make a profit and pass along the reaction cost to the Tech 2 module/ship producers. Therefore a single moon mining operation run by a small number of pilots feeds into a lot more pilots running reactions.

In the Refinery structure future, reactions will be industry job based and thus limited by number of pilots, not number of POSes. This still lends itself to a large number of pilots running reactions, but since a reaction farm can be replaced by a single Refinery, large organizations might keep the reactions internal rather than selling to a secondary production market.


Yes, running a moon mining operation by a small group or individual will be next to impossible in the Refinery paradigm. However, I think that impacts a small number of players.

I suspect that the far larger impact will be on small groups running reaction farms who may face competition as Refineries will make such operations easier for the moon extractors to keep internally.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Rewards Drive Activity

All games come down to a simple equation when game designers are trying to get players to do something:

Rewards Drive Activity.

In more words, if a game designer wants a player to engage in a particular activity they have to offer sufficient rewards to make the player want to do the activity. The main job of a game designers is primarily one of balancing rewards to encourage the desired activity.

The challenge comes from the fact that rewards can be divided into two very different classes: tangible and intangible. Tangible are very easy to understand and measure; they are explicit rewards given to players as part and parcel of the activity. In EVE, examples would be ISK bounties, Loyalty Points (LPs), standings increases, items... anything that can be objectively compared to other rewards regardless of the player receiving them. For example, if I do Activity A and get 300 LPs and another player gets 400 LPs, I can objectively say she was rewarded more than I was.

Intangible rewards, however, are more complicated and are almost always subjective. Doing an activity like mining that Player Charles enjoys because he likes the zen-like nature of being in space alone with the rocks could be considered very rewarding by him, while I find it mind-numbingly boring and thus the reward being far below the threshold that would make me consider doing it.

Enjoyment of an activity is only one example of an intangible reward. Others include prestige in being known for an activity, power over other people, the joy of trolling or griefing or helping other players, etc. The intangibles are as diverse as the playerbase and thus very hard to plan for.

Ok, so what's my point?

POS moon mining had a very tangible reward (moon goo) and an intangible reward that it required very little overall player participation over time to operate and generate income. Refinery moon mining has the same (or similar) tangible reward of moon goo but a very different intangible reward that it requires a team effort working together to generate the income.

This will appeal to different players as some like the solo POS Silo tending whereas others will enjoy organizing and participating in the group effort to mine the moon debris field. CCP weighed the intangibles and decided that making more players be involved and feel their reward was more important than the fewer players that currently are involved and feel their reward. And that's OK as long as CCP has planned for all of that, which I think they have.

The real question is if the latter approach is rewarding enough to drive enough players to that activity to maintain the current prices of Tech 2 modules and ships.

Monday, April 03, 2017

It Was a Quiet Night When Suddenly It Was Quite a Night

Lately the Sunday Night Fleet I fleet command for has been an informal affair where doctrine is not strictly adhered to and people can pretty much bring whatever ship suits their fancy. This is primarily because the organized opposition we typically face has been largely absent last couple months since Caldari ran out of steam in their push and we pushed back hard in the South of the warzone.

Some weeks I call for frigates and inevitably see a cruiser heavy fleet we need to avoid, other weeks I call for cruisers and/or battlecruisers and try in vain to catch frigates and destroyers. This week I called for armour destroyers in hopes that I could get the best of both worlds: fast enough to catch smaller stuff and big enough to engage smaller numbers of bigger stuff.

So there we were, halfway through our roam in Aubenall in Placid region, we only a blobbed Black Shark Cult Thorax on our killboard when the scout calls out:

"There is brutix navy, hyperion, ferox, ferox, cerb, cynabal and chimera on gate."

Whoa. That was unexpected.

Our fleet was tickling the underside of 20 pilots with about 8 tech I destroyers (Algos for the win!) and my Hecate, with 3 or 4 tech I logistics frigates and a smattering of frigates. Even discounting the Caldari carrier we would be very hard pressed to engage those heavy ships and come out with even one kill if they were well tanked.

But our foes, an alliance called "The Glory Holers", had stumbled into an unfortunate occurrence of a perfect storm for them.

Before I could decide what to do, a pilot in my fleet pipes up "hey, I have a dread in this system I'm willing to throw at them". After checking its able to hit sub cap targets it seemed we had more DPS, but I was still skeptical...until a handful of Pen Is Out pilots, another Gal Mil alliance and long time friends of Aideron Robotics, we nearby and coming to the fleet bringing a Megathron with 4 days left on its insurance policy and a smattering of cruisers. On top of all that, we quickly pinged Gal Mil intel channels and reinforcements began to form in Black Rise. That gave me hope that we could engage and hold on to some targets while we mustered the DPS from these sources to contest the fight.

I sent my scout in to see what was going on in Renarelle.

"They are all zero on the gate."

"Even the carrier?" I ask.


At that point the Navy Brutix jumped in. He re-approached gate and I stalled for time by not engaging him since he was neutral and I didn't feel like dealing with sentry guns. Would he advise the rest to warp off? Or are they coming in...?

"They're jumping in."

And the fight was on. They brought the last piece of the Perfect Storm, a driving desire to fight.

They decided to engage a Comet and Algos first, but those pilots were not pirate sec status so that the enemy took suspect flags. That was an unexpected bonus and makes me suspect these guys are not normally from low sec; any low sec denizen would have known to attack the flashies like me first to avoid the suspect flag. This allowed us to pile on our first target, a Ferox, without worrying about gate guns. Indeed, the gate guns helped our cause a lot in the opening salvos.

We then traded four of our destroyers and a few frigates for killing a Vexor and Caracal. Our DPS was dwindling. Our destroyers killed another Ferox and the Phoenix dreadnought killed the Hyperion and the situation started to turn around. We lost another Algos but in exchange nuked the Brutix Navy Issue, Cerberus, and Osprey Navy Issue as the dreadnought continued to make its presence known and the reinforcements began to arrive.

We killed the last sub-cap enemy ship and tore into the tackled carrier and its fighter squadrons. It was well tanked and fought to the bitter end but it could not resist the fully armed and operational Phoenix and soon exploded.

There was a moment of panic as an unrelated Tengu appeared and scrammed our dreadnought before it could warp back to safety of a station, someone crying out that it was part of Northern Coalition come to get a capital kill themselves, but a desperation play by a Drake with only one module fit, a handy ECM module, got the jam and the dreadnought slipped into the cold safe embrace of the tunnel.

We lost a lot of ships in the fight, but killed far more than our ISK worth and earned some glorious kills. Its not often a random encounter works out so beautifully for us.

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