The winning strategy:
Each day, the farming groups would get together and gather up missions to run in a favourable system. They would repeatedly request a mission from their agents and decline them until they received one in their constellation or star system of choice. Certain missions that required the collection of an item from a wreck or killing a lot of ships were eliminated as they would take extra time or pose extra risk. By doing this with a number of different agents, each pilot in the team had around 15 missions to run all within one constellation. They could then head there and run all the missions in each system of that constellation consecutively, eliminating the travel time variable.
With intense practice, missions ended up taking as little as 30 seconds each and at most a few minutes. By using a strong PvP presence to lock down the systems in which they took missions by force they were able to keep their mission-runners safe and run 45 missions in an average of one and a half hours. Others were able to do around a quarter of this without a significant PvP presence. The Caldari were even able to do their missions with stealth bombers, being practically immune to the Gallente NPCs short-range blasters so long as they kept moving.
In the months leading up to the Dominion expansion, several FW mission runners began taking pre-orders for the new Navy Issue ships backed by enough LP to buy the ship at launch. One corp in particular farmed over 15 million loyalty points in a month with just three members. When the expansion hit, three members of Quantum Cats corp headed by CEO Chatgris converted their month's worth of farmed LP into ships and filled their pre-orders for a total income of over 50 billion ISK. Even split between the three of them, that's enough ISK to pay for their PvP losses and game time PLEXes for years to come. Chatgris and his crew now talk of their time farming missions as one of the most mind-numbing experiences they've ever taken part in. They now tell of how the unique mission rewards have turned faction warfare into a farming game and may have ruined what was supposed to be a primarily PvP experience.
What made this speed of farming possible was an oversight by developers. When the penalties for declining missions were taken away, the full impact those changes would have was clearly not realised. Pilots were able to pick the locations and types of their mission with ease. Although the issue was never declared to be an exploit, a restriction was released for the Dominion expansion. Declining a faction warfare mission now comes with a small standing penalty, enough to put off people doing it repeatedly. Unfortunately, another development oversight has rendered that fix useless. There's no standing penalty for failing a faction warfare mission once accepted, so you can just accept the mission and then click the fail button to get rid of it and get a new one. Be aware that a fix for this issue is sure to come soon and keep watching the official news at login too in case it's ever declared to be an exploit.
The entire debacle surrounding faction warfare missions goes right from the Empyrean Age expansion to today and has been the result of numerous development oversights. The missions were developed with the assumption that they would become focal points for small scale PvP. When it became clear they weren't being used, unique rewards were added in an attempt to revitalise the system. But since people can effective pick where they want their missions and can abandon them with zero risk, the changes had the opposite effect. The contested zones quickly filled with armies of mission-runners farming LP for ISK. For the year following its release, faction warfare was a fantastic fleet PvP experience but it has since had more than its fair share of problems. At this point I wonder if the glory days of faction warfare PvP are well and truly over or if it can be saved.
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at massively.com. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you want to message him, send him an e-mail at brendan.drain AT weblogsinc DOT com.
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