It has been a heck of a year, especially for Faction War pilots whose experiences in both politics and game mechanic changes have resembled a roller coaster ride. Looking back, and skimming through the events of the past 12 months, I think to myself, did that really all happen just this year?
The Dawn of the Militia BlocsRight around the beginning of the year, a patch was introduced allowing alliances into FW. This was a hugely controversial change, as the Faction War community was generally opposed to becoming anything ‘like nullsec.’ Only allowing individuals and corporations was seen as a buffer from massive interference from people who could potentially bring ‘blob’ warfare into Faction War.
The results of the patch were mostly anti-climatic, with very few alliances initially joining FW. As time went on, several groups, already operating like an alliance within the militia, began to form officially. Others joined later, and the concept of ‘mini-blocs’ in Faction War was born.
The Minmatar polarized into two primary blocs –separated by time zone. Iron Oxide., containing some of the leading Minmatar masterminds and FCs, became leaders of the European time zone. On the US side, Late Night Alliance was born out of an unlikely group of individuals and corporations –many of whom had less than stellar reputations for working well with others. However, both sides brought many unique talents to the table, and for the first time in many years of Minmatar history, the different time zones began to collaborate on a completely new level.
An Unlikely KillThe Amarr seemed to have a much more difficult time organizing in the same way. Alliances were slower to come together, and those that did, did not necessarily get on well with other groups within their militia.
To contribute to their growing problems, a falling-out occurred between major Amarrian FCs after an argument about a planned, multi-Faction operation. The operation –which was discussed between major leaders of all four militias, ultimately ended up being pulled off by SOTF and Wolfsbrigade –members of the warring factions of the Gallente and Amarr.
Members of the EVE community were in shock at the success of the operation, whereby this group of Faction War players dropped a capital contingent on Pandemic Legion--successfully taking down one of their titans.
As far as I know, it is the only recorded time a group from militia has ever successfully taken out a titan, or carried out a planned operation of that extent against a major null-sec alliance.
Another VictoryWhile this was going on, militias were joining together for another unlikely operation –a CSM campaign.
For the first time in EVE history, the four militias, along with many of our low-sec friends, banded together and actually got someone elected who was experienced with our gameplay style, and could represent many of our long standing concerns to CCP.
Accompanying the election of Hans Jagerblitzen, it was announced at fanfest that CCP would finally be turning their eyes on the stagnate, and long ignored mechanics of Faction War.
Change is in the AirThe war and chaos that the Inferno expansion was supposed to embody really began for FW long before the expansion was released. The fanfest discussions on potential changes started massive political upheaval, as pilots started to blur the lines between in-game politics and game-mechanic debate.
Hardly a discussion could be had without one side or the other accusing each other of political bias, and many game mechanic discussions quickly turned into a mud flinging debacle where each side accused the other of having agendas for pushing through changes for personal Factional gain.
Hans Jagerblitzen, the rest of the CSM, and CCP, had their work cut out for them. The only thing the community really agreed upon was that changes needed to be made. Every suggestion posed for feedback--every game mechanic discussion--was laced with the bitter clashing of a community at war with itself. Polar opposite opinions were expressed, and both sides proclaimed objectivity while barely agreeing on anything.
The Amarr Find a FwiendThroughout all the drama, and political upheaval, we witnessed the birth of an unusual group of pilots who called themselves ‘Fweddit.’ Like the Test Alliance group Reddit, these pilots found each other on the popular website ‘Reddit’ and started a corporation together which was early on identified as being destined to join Faction War.
I encountered this group pretty early, before they had even joined militia –and before many of them could even fly real ships. A corpmate and I were attacked by a swarm of ibises and other beginner ships one day, much to our confusion and amusement.
We probably both logged well over a total of 50 noob ship kills, as these strangely energetic, and highly enthusiastic pilots docked up to acquire more ships, and came back with guns blazing.
Fweddit ended up joining the Amarr militia, and accumulated well over 600 members during their peak recruitment. They focused on introducing new players both to Faction War, and to the game in general.
While opinions regarding their unique style, their attitudes, and their competency remain varied, it is undeniable that they have left their mark on Faction War.
Inferno – The Beginning of the BeginningIn the late months of spring, Inferno arrived, and with it, a whirlwind of chaos and bloodshed. In the week leading up to the expansion, as pilots fought over systems in a last-chance effort to grab space before it became harder to do so, systems around major front lines recorded record breaking kill numbers. On many days, Dotlan showed many FW systems as being the most dangerous systems in EVE—at one point showing more kills then dangerous null-sec systems by a factor of three or more.
On one particularly momentous day for the Amarr and Minmatar warzone, shortly before the expansion was supposed to go live, over 500 kills were logged within a few-hour time period. Massive battles broke out, lasting huge periods of time as pilots reshipped and came back to the field of battle. Major trade hubs were completely sold out of certain resources as Faction War logistics freightered in thousands of ships and modules for either side of the war.
The fighting calmed down a bit in the weeks following Inferno, however, killboards still recorded killrates several times higher than seen in the years before the expansion. This, as well as the increasing pilot count in all four factions, had people labeling Inferno, in general, as a success.
Houston, We Have a Problem!The new Tier system in Faction War, as time went on, proved to have some interesting effects. The Minmatar, who had strategized early on and went into the expansion with a significant amount of space, quickly reached Tier 4.
Unknown to the FW community, or even the rest of the EVE Community at this time, several members of Goonswarm had found some interesting loopholes within the system. However, in order to proceed, they essentially needed the use of a militia that was more or less ‘winning.’
The Goon discoveries, and the quick arrival of the Minmatar in a position of high tier levels proved to be a perfect storm. While pvpers and militia members battled over systems, eventually reaching a point to get to tier V, a few Goons were working in the background, loading I-HUBs with LP and manipulating assets.
It did not take long for them to release information about what they were doing. While all the details are not completely known to this day, nor the amount of ISK that was accumulated through their methods (it is believed to be multiple trillions of ISK) the effect was great on the Faction War community, and had some long lasting repercussions.
In many ways, the Goon debacle riveted the eyes of the community onto Faction War in a way that had never happened before. People flooded to the ‘gold mine’ finding other ways to make massive amounts of ISK, simply using the legitimate game mechanics available to them. Billions of ISK was made at little risk, and little investment.
While many eyes focused on plex farming, and the controversies surrounding plex mechanics, players made bank on easily farming missions in stealth bombers and other ships that were capable of avoiding pvp encounters.
The warzone quickly resembled a teeter-totter, as Faction War became a game of tier spiking. Militias purposefully gave up their space in order to make ISK taking it back. Markets suffered upheaval, as thousands of factional products were dumped during major tier spikes.
A Helping HandThe Amarr, who were hailed as the major Factional underdogs within all this mess, picked up a new ally part way through the summer. While I’m not completely familiar with the politics and events of null-sec, it is known that the major null-sec group of Nulli Secunda decided to join militia after losing sovereignty of their space in nullsec.
They made no secret of their plan –to farm in the Amarr militia, and then turn the Faction around, cashing out for billions of ISK and tons of Amarrian factional battleships. Their stay in Faction War was temporary, and their objective, simple.
Many in the Minmatar have believed, and hypothesized that they may have had other agendas. Either way, they provided the Amarr with a needed boost to reach a point of being able to cash out long accumulated LP. After reaching Tier 4, flipping I-HUBs using super capitals and large caravans of pilots, Nulli returned to nullsec.
Unfortunately for the Amarr, their newly acquired space quickly flipped to Minmatar control within a week of Nulli leaving.
Enough is EnoughCCP finally said “enough is enough,” this fall, and released a patch quickly flipping around the system to prevent more tier spiking. Faction War pilots were given a mere 24 hour notice—and many people predicted panic and chaos would break out, as militias clamored to take back systems they had previously given up for ISK purposes.
But, panic did not come. Many people had already made more ISK than they would ever need in militia, and for the most part, militia members were relieved at the change –even if it left their militia in an awkward position.
In a short week, vulnerable system farming halted altogether, and warzone control tiers began to stabilize. While there were still problems with plex mechanics, and other issues, militia pilots seemed more or less willing to live with it until the promised changes came in Retribution.
RetributionIn my own circle of people I fly with, there was probably more anticipation for Retribution than any other expansion. While many of the changes were not direct changes to Faction war, they significantly affected the gameplay of FW pilots.
Ship additions and re-balancing focused heavily on ships classes used a lot by FW players. Mechanics surrounding timers and flags greatly affected low-sec–the primary locale of the FW front lines.
Even bounty hunting made its mark on Faction War, as pilots threw bounties on alliances and corporations in the opposing militia –encouraging people outside of FW to hunt them.
Looking ForwardThere is much more that could be done with Faction War –from opening up the mechanics to affect outside factors, giving warzone control more meaning in the overall community, to creating leaderboards and introducing new kinds of system upgrades.
However, for the first time in years, Faction War feels like it is in a state where it can live and thrive without major CCP intervention. While people will still provide feedback, and suggest good ideas for future work, Faction War members can now once again focus on the politics, battles, and strategies of playing our internet spaceship game, instead of the debate surrounding how to fix it.
In closing, as the year draws to a close, I have to give CCP a hearty applause. We were not an easy community to work with this year. But you did it.
I also have to thank you for your tireless effort in communicating with us, even when it wasn’t easy. In all honesty, I saw more player-CCP collaborative discussion this year than I have ever seen in my history of playing EVE. In many ways, I feel like we are being encouraged to not just play the game, but to become a part of it--thank you for the opportunity.
To my corpies, fellow Late Nighters, militia members, fellow bloggers....and to CCP,
Merry Christmas, and may the start of your New Year be Blessed.