Monday, April 6, 2015

The Faction War Farming Issue

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post about Faction War. A few months ago, I left militia to join a pirate alliance with most of LNA. While viewing Faction War from ‘the outside’ hasn’t drastically changed my opinions, it has given me a new perspective to chew on.
One thing that never seems to go away in any discussion about militia, is the topic of the plex farmer.
I say ‘farmer’ and not ‘stabbed farmer’ because the rage regarding farming in militia hasn’t always centered around the fact that many farmers are stabbed. In fact, the center of the discussion changes quite a bit over time. In the past, I distinctly remember a time when the primary rage over plex farmers was the fact that they didn’t fit any guns on their ships. 

The evil “gunless farmers” was a raging hot topic. In fact, there was such a hubbub that CCP finally got sick of hearing about it and did something –forcing players to shoot the NPCs during offensive plexing, which subsequently forced farmers to fit some semblance of guns to their ships.

Of course, this did not fix plex farming. Just like eliminating the usage of warp core stabs, or enforcing any other particular fitting measures will not fix plex farming.

What is Farming?

In order to fully understand the ‘issue’ of farming in Faction War, one must understand the mechanics of Faction War:

In a nutshell, taking sovereignty in Faction War requires a militia to run plexes to contest a system, until it becomes vulnerable and the I-HUB can be shot. The number of plexes it takes to take a system from 0 contestation to 100% varies based on whether there is resistance. But typically, it takes a minimum of 150 plexes—upwards to hundreds of plexes to successfully take a single system.

Warzone Control –the primary objective in Faction War—requires that you take more and more systems in order to achieve higher levels of control (and higher levels of LP payouts.). Taking a single additional tier could require taking a dozen or more systems (depending on the warzone)–with minimum numbers of required plexes surging into the thousands.

To say that ‘farming’ is a problem in Faction Warfare, is kind of like saying that structure bashing is a problem in null-sec sovereignty. Currently, the mechanics of Faction War are designed around the concept of farming plexes and grinding down systems.

Nerf It!

Over the years, when people talk about ‘fixing’ farming, they usually mean that it should be nerfed in some way. Whether this is to eliminate the ability to fit a module, or ‘force’ pilots into some sort of engagement in each plex, most ‘ideas’ on how to ‘fix’ farming in Faction War involve making running plexes harder.

When you understand how Faction War works, and how the entire system is designed, you understand how problematic this is.

Let’s put this into perspective a bit: Fixing ‘farming’ by nerfing peoples’ ability to farm plexes would kind of be like fixing structure-bashing sovereignty in null-sec by significantly increasing the number of hit points on all the sov-based structures.

This wouldn’t just not fix anything, it would probably make things worse. 

There is a general misunderstanding held by many that plex farmers are risk-adverse pilots trying to min-max the system in order to gain easy ISK. While this may be the case in some situations, it’s not the full story.

Many plex farmers are actually alts of legitimate militia PVPers. They farm on an alt in order to defend and take systems, simply because farming in general is boring, but it’s something they need to do.

Believe it or not, there’s a great number of people out there who don’t particularly enjoy sitting around in plexes watching timers count down, waiting for someone to come after them. *gasp* Many, many people use alts instead so that they can do something more interesting with their main characters, and eliminate or deminish the burn-out that often accompanies larger campaigns to take/defend space.

Fixing It

So, how do you ‘fix’ farming when the entire system is designed around it? Well, you can’t eliminate farming altogether, unless you rewrite Faction War game mechanics. But, plexing in general is not inherently bad.

Burn-out is bad. Sovereignty and warzone control being dictated by a bunch of stabbed alts seems like pretty bad ‘gameplay’. Players looking for fights, only to find people who run away is frustrating.

It is my opinion that plexing in Faction War is in need of a good old fashioned rebalancing. Everything –from how many spawn at one time, to how long it takes them to respawn could use a good, hard look.

Same time, less plexes

In general, I think the time it takes to contest a system is fairly good. However, it takes grinding way too many plexes. Furthermore, there are way too many open plexes in the warzone with pilots spread too thin, and less and less chance of their being bottlenecks that encourage conflict.

How about reducing the number of plexes that spawn at once, but increasing how fast they spawn? So, instead of four plexes with a respawn rate of 30 minutes, what if there were only 1-2 plexes, and they respawned another plex within a few minutes?

Victory points and plexs spawnage could be rebalanced in such a way so that it takes significantly less plexes to contest a system fully, but around the same amount of time.

Also, we’d get rid of the legacy plexes spawnage, where a large number of old-fashioned FW plexes spawn right after down time.

Pools, not Predictions

Since only a small number of plexes would spawn, what if which sizes spawned came from a pool, instead of all of them spawning at once? It would be semi random, but in general, a ‘Compound’ is most likely to spawn, with there being a slight chance that one of the more valuable ‘Strongholds’ or less common plexes could spawn instead. 

So for example, once a Small was closed, any size compound could respawn next, with a slight chance of a stronghold or other type of plex spawning instead.

These changes would accomplish a few things:

  • It would funnel pilots into a smaller amount of space, increasing the likelihood of conflict
  • It would decrease the grind – pilots could focus on less plexes that spawn more often rather than trying to spread out to farm more and more plexes
  • There would be no more plex pileups in systems, with bunches of plexes cluttering the overview
  • Pilots fighting over ‘hot’ systems would never have to wait long for the next plex to spawn
  • Since people are funneled into less plexes, it will be much harder to simply farm, stabbed. And the increased chances of combat happening could make stabbed farming nearly a moot issue entirely, depending on how well it is balanced.

Finally, another idea I’ve been toying with is the idea that plexing uncontested impacts the capture status similarly to how Dust 514 does. So, if you run plexes uncontested in a back-water system, the system becomes easier and easier to take. (Unless someone comes to defend it, or etc.) That way, systems no one cares much about are significantly easier to flip then systems that are well defended –also eliminating some of the ‘grind’ of pilots taking systems for warzone control.

Anyway, those are a few ideas. I know first hand that burn-out is a really big reason people leave Faction War, and a big reason why stabbed farming exists. And while it will probably take more than a plex rebalancing to get me back into uniform, I’m still a little sad at the current state of Faction War and hope that CCP does a serious look at it again someday soon.


  1. Yay for a serious suggestion about FW that does not focus on a single unnamed module.

    Back to the drawing table, what is the goal of FW? pvp, pve, arena, income source, combinations? Is it even possible to reward plexing without luring in min-maxing farmers?

  2. Way back when, I used to play Total Annihilation on the Boneyards online server. In it, players would choose one of two sides and fight it out on a large map with two homeworlds separated by a checker-board grid of various planets in between. The only areas that were contested were border systems that were connected to both Core and Arm planets. Players would have 1v1 or 2v2 games on these border worlds, and at the end of the day, the side who had the most points would win that world, shifting the front.

    I always thought Faction Warfare with battle fronts would be an interesting take, where the only worlds that could be contested were those border worlds. It's a mechanic I haven't seen since, but which was totally awesome.