Imagine yourself many years younger and looking at EVE Online for the first time, with all the wide-eyed enthusiasm you’d expect from someone about to take their first steps into a new MMO game. You’ve read the stories, you’ve heard friends talk about this fantastic game or your best friend has dragged you into it at gunpoint. When you were told about this game you no doubt heard about all the tales of intrigue, extortion, corruption and piracy that take place within the dark world of New Eden. Excited and looking for your own taste of adventure, you eagerly head to lowsec space in your first frigate and go look for some trouble.
Instead of trouble, you find yourself either alone and without anyone to interact with, or swiftly deleted by an instalocking gatecamp preying upon those who pass by. If you are lucky enough to escape or get your pod out, your victory will often only be short-lived as you land on a cloaky Machariel parked off a gate, running a full rack of smartbombs. The fleet fights are few and far between in lowsec space, the few stories of epic struggle and loot piñata citadel kills ring out through a silence of mediocrity that defines the rest of lowsec. This isn’t the Mad Max-like scene you pictured in your head, this isn’t even Escape from New York. This is closer to the Sylvester Stallone-era Judge Dredd, replete with all the weird CGI, adorable puppets and crazy dialogue. Local is a wonderful channel at times. So, what can be done to try and improve upon the lowsec experience?
Plexes. For those who aren’t in the know, here’s a quick rundown on what Faction Warfare Complexes are. They are areas in Faction Warfare space which range from novice or T1 frigates-only size all the way up to large or battleship-size. Each size bracket allows certain ship hulls to jump through the acceleration gate there. Pilots in ships above that size are left on the outside, only to remotely observe the goings-on inside the Plex with their directional scanner. You cannot warp to a spot within a complex. These are the daily battlegrounds of lowsec where small gangs or solo players come to engage with each other and feast on their pound of flesh. Here, fights can escalate from simple 1v1 duels to epic brawls involving dozens of players.
Now this sounds amazing, and I can hear the questions already: “But Yaaar, you said that lowsec was desolate and deserted bar these exquisite oases of content?” You would be correct to ask that, but I am here to say that whilst Plexes are good for content, they could be even better. What’s more, if CCP were indeed to improve the Plexing experience, these areas would have a massive potential to inject the kind of life into lowsec space that we have all been craving. After my last article on the state of lowsec, I had an excellent comment on reddit explaining the problem, which I will quote below:
“We lowsec pilots use those plexes as arenas. That shouldn’t be put in danger, it would simply destroy the only beauty of lowsec, the small gang/solo pvp.
FW space is in my opinion an arena where ‘gladiators’, ‘soldiers’ and ‘criminals’ fight each other mostly for fun. In small gangs or 1 vs 1”
This quote really spoke to me and highlighted, to my mind, one of the many issues in this region of space. More importantly, it suggests a realistic solution for fixing these issues. In its current state, Faction Warfare badly needs reworking. In the days of old, if you lost control of your system because the opposing faction was sweeping through and taking control, you would lose the ability to dock in that system’s stations and be locked out of your assets until you took back control. This gave players an incentive to undock and get into the Plexes to restore control to their own faction.
With the introduction of Citadels two years ago, this key concept has been shattered. If you have a structure deployed in one of these systems, the opposing faction cannot stop you from docking there except by scramming you or destroying said structure. This mechanic works regardless of how deep in enemy territory you are operating, and a structure cannot be destroyed in less than 4 days. Obviously, this isn’t the desired result, as it means people don’t care if their system comes under control of the enemy faction, and the player interest guiding warfare in these parts is only really focused on PvP and combat.
Focusing player interest on PvP and combat sounds good, though, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. The current mechanics open the door to the question “Why should I risk my ship if you’re going to bring more friends than I have? I’ll just deny you content”, which isn’t a terrible mindset on its own, and often works well in risk-averse areas of nullsec space. It needs to be said, however, that this kind of attitude kills a lot of engagements before they have even begun. This is not exclusive to lowsec: people who feel this way don’t have incentives to undock beyond the fact that they enjoy PvP or want to go fight. The virtually trivial and meaningless nature of Faction Warfare itself only furthers the sentiment at this point. All this only weakens the position of lowsec space as a haven of PvP playstyles. So, how can this be fixed?
The answer is straightforward, but not simple. Structures need to be vulnerable to Faction Warfare changes. If you deploy a structure in Faction Warfare space, you should be forced to declare an “allegiance” for that structure, or at the very least ensure that the deploying corporation is a member of Faction Warfare. Now what if the system rolls over and the structure owner simply transfers it from one corporation to another corporation that is in the same faction as the new owners? This is where things would need to change.
Structures in Faction Warfare space should explicitly not be able to be transferred to a corporation outside its current faction. It’s as simple as that. No dodging the results of their own actions by swapping corporation to remain on good terms with the new owners. Ideally, the result of this mechanics would be a situation where you shouldn’t deploy a structure if you can’t afford the time and investment to keep the system under your control to your best abilities. Don’t anchor what you can’t afford to lose!
So what else could be done to make Faction Warfare space more attractive to players? You could offer incentives and bonuses for those who engage in FW by offering better market brokering fees for players in the same faction. You could increase bounty rewards for those who commit to a side in Faction Warfare. Whatever the form of these incentives, we need a system that encourages people to get into Faction Warfare and stick with it. In my opinion, fixing Faction Warfare along these lines will inject a lot of much-needed life into lowsec space. The rest of lowsec would benefit from this increased traffic beyond just a few little islands of activity, lowsec would yet again be a haven of PvP-focused playstyles and everyone would benefit.