Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Death in Hallanen

PVP in low-sec is often more ‘hunt’ then fight. Targets dance around each other in slow, suspicious movements, and many fights end before they begin as one side or other decides committing is not in their best interest.

However, sometimes the stars align and all hell breaks loose –as it did Monday night when a general POS bash turned into a multi-alliance extravaganza in the low-sec system Hallanen.

For me, it all started the day before as an alliance op was called to go take down a different POS coming out of reinforced in Nennamaila. My alliance (Snuffed Out) dressed for the occasion in an assortment of Tech 3 cruisers and capitals, and intel showed that we were probably going to be in for a large fight. The Gallente were showing signs of preparing to defend their asset, and it appeared they would have help from at least one nearby alliance –‘Did He Say Jump?’

We arrived in our subcaps and began pelting the POS, as reports started coming in of a large number of hostile Armageddons and other battleships possibly preparing to head our way.

Around 37 Waffles arrived on the scene in a large Naga fleet, sitting at a safe distance eyeing us. They often third-party some of the bigger fights in the area, though someone had obviously alerted them to the upcoming action. 

Unfortunately, the fight was not to be. It may have been our carriers undocking to join us, or something else but the Gallente spooked and docked back up. And so we sat there, slowly shooting the Large tower. And Waffles sat there, probably cursing whomever told them something interesting was going to happen.

Eventually, someone pointed out in local that if Waffles were to help shoot the tower, at least they’d leave with a killmail. And so they did.

Typically after such disappointments, we disperse ourselves, hopeful for a fight another day. However, our FC had murder in his heart. And so we grabbed dreads and began burning things to the ground.

We reinforced three large towers, including one in Hallanen that had a pretty good timer for us.


I was market trading the next day when I was pinged to get into fleet. It was time to finish the job on the Hallanen tower and it was once again looking like the Gallente were going to defend. Maybe….hopefully?

There were also whispers of nearby wormholes, and additional hostiles possibly traversing those wormholes to attend the party.

We bridged our subs in and once again began bashing at the tower. We did not have long to wait –the Gallente showing up in a similar composition they were spotted in the day before.

And the party was officially started.

We committed fairly quickly, bringing our carrier contingent in. And the Gallente were obviously out for capital blood, as they brought a sizeable dreadnaught fleet with some carriers of their own.
The call was made to light the next cyno, and our Super Caps arrived. “All in, all in, everyone in!” our FC commanded.

I was in a proteus and occasionally the fight turned into a blur of managing dps targets and ewar targets and locking, and shooting and unlocking and swapping for new targets and anchoring and re-anchoring. All while local (and TiDi) slowly climbed up….up…up.

The field was awash with NC. HICs, and Waffles were there in their Nagas. Supers were pointed and then not pointed and then pointed again. Our subs (including me in a Proteus) were slowly burning down HICs in the slow motion of 30% TiDi, and around me hostile dreads were exploding to our Supers.

There was a low buzz in fleet as it became known that others such as Black Legion and Pandemic Legion had caught wind of the fight and were possibly on their way. Dropping supers into full scale combat in low-sec is a little like dripping blood into shark infested waters.

Our FC continued to hold everyone field, slaughtering the final dreads. I think he held on a little longer then was comfortable for our Super pilots--between us beating back waves of incoming HICs, and the impending arrived of BL, I could practically feel them sweating through my computer.

Finally, the dreads were mostly dead and the HICs were temporarily at bay. The call was made to remove our Supers from the field. They made an uneventful exit as the battle raged on with our subs and carriers.

Local was still climbing, however the call was made to stay and continue fighting. It was slow going between the TiDi and the sheer amount of hostile logistics that were on field, but we started work on squishier targets –taking down several tech 1 battleships, and a vigilant.  We also managed to burn down the last remaining hostile archon on field.

No matter what your comp is or how good you are at it, there reaches a point where if enough people are shooting you, you will inevitably break. We tried to get a few more people bridged in, as the 60ish we had on field were not holding up very well at that point. But, there were simply not enough other people online to make a difference. 

BL + PL arriving with close to +175  more people (lots and lots of Ishtars) sealed our fate. (Or perhaps made our already-sealed fate arrive faster…lol) Local peaked at around 640ish if I remember correctly, with just about everyone dogpiling to shoot our carriers.

Our subs held on as long as we dared –trying to fend off a few more HICs and possibly save one or two caps. But eventually, we were told to bail....if we could. It was time to minimize our losses.

Or caps continued to try fending off hics in the effort to get a carrier or two out. When that proved fruitless, they started discussing the best ways to save their pods. 

By my count, we lost around 25 Archons when all was said and done, and killed around 15 dreads and 4 carriers. The battlereport can be found here.

Edit: A Video of the fight can be found here.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Stabs, Plexes, and Risk

I didn’t really intend to write a ‘part two’ of my previous post but I quickly realized that in discussing various arguments people make for and against stabbed farming, I left out a rather important one.

That is, the argument regarding risk vs reward.

It is fairly common for people to say (or imply in some way) that stabbed farming is a risk vs reward issue, and that the ability to fit WCSs on a ship creates scenarios where people can farm ISK with little risk involved. (Some even claim that the ‘fix’ to all of this is to remove stabbed farmers’ LP rewards.)

The problem with this argument is that in order to receive a reward for plexing you must complete the plex. And Warp Core Stabilizers, in the context of stabbed farming, allow you to more easily leave the plex, if you want.

It’s a bit illogical to say that something that lets you leave your objective –and your reward! –is somehow making the achievement of that objective and reward less risky. In fact, the exact opposite is true.

Putting yourself at a disadvantage so that you cannot defend yourself or your plex is more risky to obtaining the rewards of a plex, than coming ready to stand your ground.

The primary risk of Faction War plexing comes from other players. Regardless of how you fit your ship or fly your ship, you are at very, very little risk from the NPCs that spawn within these plexes. Therefore, if no other player enters your system and comes to your plex to fight you, you are at little risk of losing the plex in general. (Unless you’re very, very bad.)

In the scenario where you have a stabbed plex farming running away from a pvper, the stabbed farmer makes ISK in the end because the pvper leaves, and the farmer is free to return to his plex and complete it.

Therefore, it could be argued that a problem with ‘risk’ in Faction War Plexing is NOT that stabbed farmers are unwilling to fight, but rather that pvpers are unwilling to plex.

Many have even suggested game mechanics that would produce some sort of punishment or consequence for running away, to ‘balance’ things. The most popular suggestion being a timer rollback.

There are multiple problems with this approach.

Firstly, when you punish ‘stabbed farmers’ you have to punish everyone. This means that people running away for what people would call ‘legitimate’ reasons would also be punished.  
Secondly, the way timers work in Faction War are similar to a tug of war. Therefore, ‘punishing’ a plexer by counting the timer backwards also REWARDS the opposing militia, by removing the time they would typically have to spend to counter the hostile’s actions.

However, my primary response to the ‘timer rollback’ idea is to point out that CCP has already implemented a fully functional system that slowly rolls back the timer. If a member of the opposing militia overtakes the plex from a stabbed farmer, his presence will then begin to count the timer back toward his side. =)

If this opposing militia member does not wish to take the plex for himself, then that’s his problem. The same goes for neutrals who not only don’t want to plex, but also haven’t chosen to be involved in Faction War to begin with.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Stabbed Farmer Debate

I’ve been reading the latest spontaneous bantering between Rixx and Kirith Kodachi with some amusement. The discussion regarding plex farmers and what they should and should not be able to fit inside a plex is about as old as the Inferno expansion, when CCP introduced LP for plex. And, it feels a little like beating a dead horse at this point. (Or perhaps the dead horse’s ghost.) However, it never ceases to amaze me how this topic always comes up, again and again, in various forms.

The first problem I have with the discussion is that Rixx, and many other like him, have essentially claimed that warp core stabilizers are the problem. When in reality, they are merely a symptom of the problem. Removing them might satisfy an ideological itch someone has, but it won’t solve or fix anything. Just like taking a cough suppressant might make you more comfortable for a little while but it’s not going to heal your underlying illness.

Making farming harder will result in less farmers. It will NOT result in more pvpers, or better fights.

Secondly, I have to make a few comments about the argument I keep seeing regarding “Faction War being about war” and therefore people should be expected to fight, and etc.

Faction War IS about war. But war is not necessarily restricted to ship to ship combat, nor limited to ship to ship combat.

The war, as implemented by CCP through the game mechanics of Faction War involves plexing systems to contest them, ultimately to take over sovereignty. If you run a plex against a Faction you are committing an act of war. If you run a defensive plex, you are committing an act of defense for your militia.

Running plexes is not ‘less’ an act of war or defense, based on any particular module you do or do not have fit to your ship. And running a plex is not more or less legitimate based on whether you fought another player or not. In the end, he who finishes the plex, gets the rewards --both in LP and system control.

Furthermore, I find it a bit ironic (and somewhat funny) when pirates  make arguments along the lines of militia plexers not wanting to engage in war. Pirates are neutrals chasing around militia inside Faction War plexes. Technically speaking, they are the ones not participating in militia or committing to the war within the Faction Warfare warzone.

Thirdly, “because of new players” is never a good argument to defend bad game mechanics. Now that I’ve picked on Rixx and pirates, I might as well pick on Kirith a bit as well.

Faction War is like a tech 1 frigate. While it may have been designed to be accessible to newer players as far as requirements and skills, that doesn’t mean it’s ‘for’ new players. (After all, many veteran pvpers enjoy flying tech 1 frigates, just as there are many veteran players in militia.)

Anything easy or accessible to new players is easier and more accessible to older players. And I would bet that many stabbed farmers are not ACTUALLY new players. After all, anyone that aware of how to min/max the current FW meta, is probably not new enough anymore to be called new.

While I would argue that WCSs are not the real problem, I also would say that arguing they’re okay because new players use them to make ISK is probably not the greatest argument in their defense.

Fourthly, good gameplay is more important than someone not having warp core stabs fit to their ship.

In this post regarding stabbed plexers, Rixx talks about encounters he had where people also ran away unstabbed, and implies that in that case it was okay. He even implies that they ‘outplayed’ him.

In other words, the gameplay of people running away is okay. The only thing that’s NOT okay is if they happen to have warp core stabs fit to their ship when they run away.

To be honest, this seems fairly ridiculous to me. I’d rather CCP make changes that produces good gameplay (ie: more fights!), then make changes that make it so someone else can’t fit a module I dislike… 

Rixx also makes claims about WCS being a ‘crutch’. However, if we use that logic against Faction War then we need to look at all the other ‘crutches’ people use to avoid engagements they do not want to participate in. 

Such as plex restrictions making people ‘safe’ from ship sizes they don’t want to fight. A common crutch solo pirates use to hunt in Faction War zones. =)

Fifthly, and finally, not all is as it seems, or is chalked up to be.

Many proponents of the ‘remove Warp Core Stabilizers’ movement paint a picture of hoards of stabbed farmers running away from a poor solo pirate who only wants a good fight.

But this is EVE. And we know better, right? In the end, you have a low-SP alt running away from a high SP, experienced pirate who wants to gank someone. 

After all, experienced pvpers who are looking for challenging and serious fights are probably not going to spend time crying over the stabbed, tech 1 frigates that ran away.

In the end, I hope that someday the conversation regarding Faction War turns and that people start talking about practical changes that will improve the gameplay. I hope that someday we can get beyond these ideological 'issues' that people seem to get so obsessed with –warp core stabs, gunless farmers, and etc.  and turn to solutions and ideas that will make Faction War (and EVE) a better place for everyone.