Monday, May 11, 2015

Warp Core Stabs, Faction Warfare, Plexing, and Rewards

Rixx Javix responded to my defense of Faction War Farmers in his post titled "Two Algos Walk into a Bar" last week in which he writes this:
I mention this story for a couple of reasons, but primarily as a response to Kirith's post over on Ninveah. He makes the argument, which so many people have, that there is nothing wrong with people being allowed to play the game anyway they want. Which I happen to agree with. But he also lumps in the use of stabs in a combat zone into the argument. And I would like to make an intelligent counter point to that insane circle of logic. You don't need a crutch.
I didn't respond right away because I wanted to think on it hard and respond solidly. No one quite goes to war for something they believe in like Rixx Javix; he will fuck up the unprepared. (That is meant as a compliment, BTW.)

On Friday I did comment on his post:
I think you are not seeing the situation from the other side very well. Not all farmers want to be on constant vigilance when doing something as boring as plexing can be, similar to afk mining in high sec or ratting in null sec. I don't see stabs as a crutch for bad players but as a tool for a player to casually farm the plexes while doing other things with their attention.
But I do want to dig into this issue deeper and discuss some philosophical issues with Faction War in particular and grinding for ISK in general in the game.

* * * * *

One of the big  issues with EVE is that the PvE experience is vastly different than the PvP experience. You can run missions until you are blue in the face with 100 million skill points, it does not prepare you for your first instance of combat against another player. The NPCs, aka rats, are dumb, weak, foolish opponents that can be dispatched with ease once their scripted responses are figured out and cataloged. This has changed a bit with Sleeper AI, incursions, and the new burner missions but even there an NPC is never going to fit outside the current meta to catch you unawares or set a bait trap and crush you when you engage.

So this creates two divergent gameplays, one where interaction is with scripted NPCs and the goal is to earn (ultimately) ISK for the player's purposes, and another where the interaction is with other players and the goal is to beat them (roughly boiled down).

The friction we are talking about today comes from the fact that faction warfare plexing mechanics straddle both sides of that gameplay coin. Rixx and I, being PvPers, care not a whit about the ship fittings of mission runners, high sec incursion runners, wormhole sleeper farmers, or null sec ratters. Of course, they don't fit warp core stabs because they actually need to fight their NPCs, but I'm willing to bet if they did that it would not be a big deal because they live in areas were getting attacked while doing PvE gameplay is the exception whereas the dangerous waters of low sec doing PvE is pretty much impossible, hence why low sec incursions, mining, and missions are unheard of.

Faction warfare has no high sec option, nor does it have the vast stretches of null sec or wormhole space to stretch out in. So the plexing side of it is unusual PvE in that respect. The other unusual aspect is that defensive plexing requires no guns as the rats in the plex are friendly, allowing the situation where a pilot can fly a non-tanked warp core stabbed frigate and still do PvE content.

Is this acceptable?

My position has been stated as "yes" due to the fact that I don't see an issue with players doing this type of PvE in this manner any more than I have issues with almost AFK mining, mission running, or null sec ratting. I think the reward is congruent with the effort of this boring gameplay (boring unless someone attacks you I suppose).

Rixx's position (and correct me if I get it wrong) is that the implication of being in faction warfare is that you are ready for warfare at any time. After all, its part and parcel of being a low sec denizen that non-consensual combat with other players is one grid away at all times. Being in low sec in any capacity and being relatively safe and able to AFK do anything in space goes against the nature of the region and should be actively discouraged. In other words, warp core stabs on an ostensibly combat ship is in-congruent with low sec in general and faction warfare in particular.

In my opinion, it feels like I'm looking at the PvE aspect of the defensive plexing and Rixx is looking at the PvP side of it, and to be fair, I can see what he is arguing for and against and at first pass I would have agreed with him.

Here's the aspect that gives me pause.

Rixx and I have a very privileged position in the game in that neither of us is hurting for ISK to fund our PvP habit due to the fact that we are long time players and have built up reserves of assets and Rixx I'm sure can leverage his considerable skills for ISK-paying jobs much like I have done with my writing skills over the years. I'm pretty sure we don't have to worry about grinding out a few dozen plexes to fund the next set of ships we need for our PvP adventures.

Others are not so fortunate and, outside of buying a time code from or some other less-awesome retailer, they have to face the prospect of the mind numbing orbit of so many buttons with the constant threat of maybe being attacked. The best way to do plexing is with friends to chat with to whittle away the time but if you are alone, the internet beckons to distract you, so I can see the desire to only pay half attention and let warp core stabs save you when you inevitably get attacked.

What I'm getting at it is that plexing is SOOOO boring. But it is ultimately the only easy beginner friendly way to make money part of faction warfare. (I've heard that better money is in fact warfare missions but that requires a lot more attention and effort I believe.) So if you want Faction Warfare to be self contained in that pilots can live and make a living in the system without having to have outside sources of funds, you either need to have reward sufficient enough that the effort is worth it, or effort low enough so that the meager reward can be harvested relatively often enough.

Right now defensive plexing in faction warfare opts for the latter alternative and I think its a valid question of whether it should be that way, but I'm concerned that simply changing the paradigm by essentially making it require more effort (which is the end result of removing warp core stabs from the equation) might be most detrimental to younger pilots who want to be in faction warfare for the PvP but don't have the secondary sources of income to support the PvP expenses incurred. I don't want players to feel like they have to exit faction warfare to make ISK to enjoy it as a similar situation happened in null sec a few years back when anomalies were rebalanced and many line members of the old Northern Coalition realized they were better off running level four missions than ratting in null sec.Many left and didn't come back as they felt abandoned.

But this starts to lead into another philosophical discussion on all grinding for ISK in all areas of space, and perhaps further into all AFK gameplay like mining, high sec hauling, afk cloaking, etc. Players automate and go partially or wholly AFK when the gameplay is necessary for a desired outcome (getting ISK, getting to point A from point B, etc) but is extremely un-compelling to participate in. I don't want to lead to far into that tar pit today so let's stop there and get to my closing.

I can see the point Rixx is making about warp core stabs being a crutch. However, I can see the pressures that lead to such a choice on the part of a pilot running that plex, and I have concerns that changing the mechanics to put pressure the other way, or disabling the option altogether, might have knock on effects that are undesirable, such as lowering the ability of newer players to fully participate in the faction warfare environs. If we are going to approach the goal of getting warp core stabs off combat ships, we need to ask some question about how they got there in the first place and what can be done, if anything should be done, to alleviate the blowback from getting them off.


  1. Well argued as always. Two points I would like to make.

    1) Most of these supposed young players are in fact "alts" of older players made specifically to exploit FW mechanics to make isk. I know this because a lot of people I know do it. In point of fact a significant number of pirates, at one point or another, have created FW alts to do so. There are paths for true young players in HS and in Null that provide relative safety - you said so yourself. PvE content exists. My wife, who started playing only a few weeks ago, is doing them now in HS.

    2) My opinions these days are formed by a large group of active players that I represent, not only those in SF and ABA, but those I interact with in-game and out. I feel a certain responsibility to communicate and filter the "word on the street" if you will. And that word is increasingly frustrated with this mechanic. I would argue that there are few groups of players in all of Eve as dedicated and active as Pirates and that their concerns should not be cast aside. Just as those of true FW players should not be.

    I want to also mention that I encounter many more active, engaged and responsible FW players than I do the lazy WCS using ones. That was, after all, the point of my most recent article. Being aligned and watching d-scan, just like we have to do, is always your best defense.

    The sooner you learn that, old or young, the sooner your Eve experience will get better.

    1. Rixx, you're a great pilot and player, but I think you're stubborner than a whole planet of mules. I get the impression that there's a Commissar standing behind you chanting "Not one step back". I feel that you could, just this once, admit that someone else might also have some truth on their side too. :P

      As for this post, I'll think some more before doing a proper reply. Wouldn't want to get ambushed now, would I?

      Rob K.

    2. 1) First off, that's anecdotal evidence and may or may not reflect reality. I suspect it could be true but at the same time newer younger players may represent a large portion of these stabs FW pilots but don't communicate as loudly as older players with alts. So until we have exact numbers from CCP you could be only hearing from a louder minority.

      Secondly, I don't think players should be forced out of FW for their PvE content / isk generating activities.

      Thirdly: I think instead of simply treating the symptom of warp core stabs in defensive plexing ships, I would prefer to look at why that is considered the most cost effective way for players to make ISK in FW and what other more compelling and interesting ways can be created to keep the players in space, in faction warfare, in low sec, but also in combat ships.

    3. I agree it is anecdotal, I would never claim otherwise. It is also rather strongly compelling given the evidence. Just last night I had a much older player request we set his FW alts blue so he would stop hunting us. This kind of experience is not a one-time only event and it happens more often than you might think.

      I don't want to force anyone to do anything. I support FW and want to see it thrive. FW saved Low Sec in many ways. And I am a huge fan of it.

      I happen to believe it is bad gameplay. And no one has ever said anything to convince me otherwise. I'd like to be convinced otherwise, but essentially the other side simply seems to have accepted that "this is the way things are" so why change them? And I can't accept that. If a FW player, young or old, wants to avoid fighting someone they can do so without using stabs. Its easy. And it is something that you and I had to learn early on in our Eve careers. And I know you know this Kirith because it was beaten into our heads when we were in Null - be aligned and watch your d-scan.

      People use stabs because they are lazy. Pure and simple. And in my opinion, that has no place in Eve. It is, in fact, anti-Eve.

    4. To be fair, in null sec we just didn't orbit a boring button back in the day. ;)

      I think we should attack the problem that causes warp core stabs to be the solution. People will ALWAYS min-max the solution, its not laziness its efficiency. And that is the definition of EVE!

      Great debate though.

  2. Defensive plexing is how you defend your warzone against the opposing faction. It is not a PvE activity.

    WCS attempt to reduce the impact the opposing faction has on the defensive plexer, possibly even to the extent where you mistakenly start thinking that it is simply a PvE ISK earning activity rather than seeing defensive plexing as part of the conflict for control of the warzone.

    1. Most of the time, in my experience, pilots plex not to protect systems but to earn LPs so they can exchange them for ISK. The de-plexing aspect is a bonus.