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.
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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 EveTimeCode.com 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.