EVE Evolved: Faction warfare unleashed

When talk of how Faction Warfare was going to work began, the goals it hoped to achieve were laid bare for all to see. EVE Online developers CCP wanted to encourage small-scale PvP combat and make the experience easy for even new players to get involved in. Now that Faction Warfare has been live for several days, the dust is beginning to settle and the question of whether or not those goals have been achieved can be examined. In this article, I will examine faction warfare based on my experiences of it since launch.

The early days:
The first two days of the Empyrean Age saw a flood of news posts and some in-game events, carrying on with the momentum generated by the trailers and build-up news stories. Early reports showed that the Caldari militia organised itself well to begin with, leading fleets of over 100 ships. Since then, comparable fleets have been organised by the Gallente and Minmatar militias, with multiple gangs of over 80 ships being a daily occurrence. The Caldari faction retains its size advantage for now but statistics show that the Gallente militia is the most deadly, having over twice the number of confirmed kills per pilot. Epic fleet battles and tactical manoeuvres that were once the sole domain of 0.0 alliance warfare now rage across EVE in the border zones between faction territories.

Read on as I discuss the state of faction warfare and examine whether or not the goals announced earlier have been met.

The number game:
As corporations had to wait until the next downtime before their application could be processed, pilots joining the fight as individuals got a head-start. By sheer force of individual pilot numbers, the first two days of the Gallente-Caldari war were dominated by the Caldari. Minmatar and Amarr numbers were low in the first days, with Minmatar taking the early lead. Since then, the balance of numbers has shifted back and forth but Caldari have maintained their massive lead in terms of player numbers. At the time of writing, the militia member count stands at:

  • Caldari – 5671 pilots
  • Gallente – 3221 pilots
  • Minmatar – 2753 pilots
  • Amarr – 1933 pilots

These numbers mirror the proportions of the player base which play each race, showing that players from all walks of life are getting involved in Faction Warfare. Early days showed Minmatar fleets to be devastating against their Amarr foes, outnumbering them by almost two to one. Recent days have seen a surge in Amarr fleet members and organisation, a trend which has gained the faction much acclaim. What's interesting is that although the Caldari faction have the most pilots, it's clear from the statistics available in-game that they aren't using them as effectively as the other militias. Despite their size, the Caldari militia's effectiveness on the field is being closely matched by their Gallente counterparts.

PvP for the masses:
The big promise of faction warfare was that it would make PvP accessible to every player. More importantly, it was designed to give those who want it almost instant access to PvP without the long waits between fights. On both counts, Faction Warfare has been a complete success. Fleets routinely form up at all times of the day with squads of frigates and cruisers, both of which are easily accessible to a new player and cheap to replace. In addition, some of the complexes used to help capture a system and all of the low level missions have weak acceleration gates and cannot send larger ships in. This gives goals to squads of players in small ships, making them more than welcome in fleets.

Should an enemy faction's fleet decide to attack, the usefulness of small ships doesn't end there. The roles of tackler and scout in PvP are essential and both are best performed by frigates or fast cruisers. Cruisers also deal a significant amount of damage for their cost and have formed the backbone of many faction warfare fleets so far. New players have found themselves more than welcome in fleets and several good fleet and wing commanders have arisen from each militia to lead their side to victory.

The flow of new pilots into low security space has also revitalised piracy in the contested regions. The most skilled pirates have been hunting both sides of the conflict since day one but with the abundance of quality PvP to be had, a lot of pirates have been spotted joining a militia themselves.


PvP-lite:
Amidst the initial discussions on Faction Warfare, one topic continued to surface. Players feared that Faction Warfare would be a devalued form of PvP with decreased consequences. Words like "battleground" and "arena" were tossed about, with fears that faction warfare would be taking EVE a step closer to the unthinkable. Developers promised that the PvP in Faction Warfare would be no less real or consequential than usual and on that promise they have definitely made good. Faction Warfare has provided a context and location for pilots to engage in war and the players have filled in the gaps, with deadly results.

Small skirmishes and huge fleet battles have erupted across contested space, with several high profile kills along the way. In the scramble to claim valuable moons in the new Black Rise region, 0.0 territorial alliance "Red Alliance" received a bloody nose courtesy of the Caldari militia. Three Red Alliance carriers camping an important stargate used by the Caldari militia were destroyed when an organised 200-man militia gang attacked. The remaining two carriers that had not engaged anyone were allowed to leave, serving as a reminder that interfering in a militia's business is not good for your health. As if to add insult to injury, the Caldari militia then proceeded to attack and disable one of the alliance's valuable moon-mining structures.

In a similar high-profile engagement two days ago, a small Gallente militia fleet that I was part of faced off against a pirate in an Archon carrier. A pirate in a Nighthawk had dropped the carrier onto a small forward section of the militia fleet, with the bulk of the fleet one system away for backup. Upon receiving the call for backup, the militia fleet responded at the expert command of its fleet and wing commanders. The ensuing engagement left a carrier wreck in its wake and saw the Gallente militia's spirits raised to an all-time high.

Real ships are being destroyed on the battlefield every day and the effect of faction warfare on ship sales has been noted by producers. Sales of popular cruisers has doubled in some regions and frigate prices have increased by up to 15% across the board. Battlecruiser prices have recovered from an earlier market slump and tier 1 battleship sales are sky-rocketing as players are realising how cheap they are to lose. Due to current market prices, the cost of losing a cheaply fitted tier 1 battleship can be as little as 10 million isk when insured.


Problems:
The Empyrean Age expansion has seen far fewer problems than usual for such a large patch. The update was applied on schedule, the server was back up ahead of time and there have been no major bugs or issues found so far. The few actual problems that remain are gameplay issues that require balancing and tweaking. The effort required to capture a system, for example, is currently so huge that no systems have yet changed hands. Added to this, the rewards for doing so are immaterial as pilots can currently dock in enemy stations without problem. With no lasting consequences to losing or taking a system, faction warfare feels a little hollow for those interested in gaining ground for their militia.

The final issue most players are having with faction warfare is the lack of reward in general. The main reward for taking part is instant action and a good PvP experience but some players are frustrated that faction warfare missions have very little tangible rewards. Completing missions and capturing bases in a system will earn a player standings with their defence militia, which directly translates into increased rank. However, rank currently doesn't offer a player any advantages beyond bragging rights. It is suspected that the lack of reward was a form of pre-nerfing to let CCP gauge how fast players are gaining ranks before assigning rewards to them.

Summary:
Overall, faction warfare has achieved every single one of its main goals and for those involved has completely revitalised EVE's gameplay. If you've been sitting on the fence regarding signing up to EVE, now is definitely the time to give it a shot. Get your free trial and get stuck into the best PvP experience this side of the wormhole.

This article was originally published on Massively.