Ever since I wrote a post detailing the history of Faction War mission mechanics, and some of the balance problems we have with missions, I've been thinking about how I would change them.
There are the obvious choices. You can nerf things, adjust payouts, and change NPC behavior to make things riskier in some situations. But I think more than making missions balanced, I'd also want to make them fun and engaging gameplay.
Missions in FW are not your typical missions. They are not like high sec missions. Beacon are lit in space, alerting locals to the fact that someone is running a mission. in the original design, they were supposed to take you deep into enemy territory, and be yet another catalyst for sparking pvp and other pilot engagements. This is Faction War, after all. Not Faction Farmville.
I have this idea for a different kind of mission, quite a bit different then general missions in EVE. It goes like this:
In a Faction War mission you have a primary objective. This is usually to take out a NPC Fleet Commander, destroy a stargate, or kill a bunch of hostile Haulers.
However, in addition to this we would add a 'counter' objective. Something that an enemy can also do inside of a plex. If in enemy completes their objective before you complete yours, you fail the mission and your enemy gets a LP reward for their militia instead.
So, for example. You pick up a mission. You travel to the system where the engagement is going to take place and you warp to the site. This causes the beacon to appear in local.
An enemy in system sees the beacon, and comes to your mission. Previously, mission runners could simply run away until the hostile left. There was not a lot of reasons for a hostile to even go there. But now, the hostile can actually disrupt the mission by running their own objective --and cause you to fail the mission if you are not prepared to fight them off.
I would also make the following additional changes:
1. Failing a mission because a hostile took it over will result in no, or a very tiny militia standings loss--Nowhere near the loss you get if you decline multiple ones yourself. (And would not affect Factional standings at all.)
2. Missions will now take you to a system owned by hostile militia. If your militia owns less than 5 systems, it will adjust the 'pool' to include the most heavily contested systems.--There will always be a minimum of five systems you could potentially be sent to. (For example, if one militia only has 2 systems left, the hostile militia will either be sent to one of these two systems, or one of three of the most contested systems their own militia owns.) Otherwise the 'pool' is all hostile systems.
3. LP Payouts for completing a mission would remain as-is. Given the new risks, I think there should be high rewards. However, counter mission payouts would have a static payout, unaffected by Warzone Control. It would be a decent payout, comparable to a Tier2-3 payout--making running counter missions a very good tool for underdog and struggling militias to fight back, and gain an income doing so.
4. Finally, I would have missions affect the war effort, even if in a very small way. Successfully running missions (or countering them) in a system will now affect the Victory Point factor that Dust 514 currently also affects. The number is up for debate, but I'm thinking something to the affect of 1% for every 25 successful missions.
This means that running missions will make systems either easier, or harder to take, depending on who's completing it.
Other details are also up for debate. I know that completely revamping missions to a kind of thing never seen before in EVE (missions that others can steal, etc.) is probably no easy or small change. However, I think missions of this sort would fit in very well with Faction War, and would give a sort of starting point for content that players can directly affect and participate in creating and shaping.