EVE Online: A Look at Factional Warfare
MMORPG.com EVE Online Correspondent Andrew Wallace writes this overview of the factional warfare that was brought into the popular sci-fi game with the Empyrean Age expansion.
Tama is a 0.4 system in Caldari space and has become a love shack for the Caldari and Gallente militia, with pilots from both sides trying to shaft each other there on most nights. Tama sums up the current state of factional warfare, but I'll get to that in a minute. First, though, an introduction:
The Empyrean Age expansion brought with it a major new feature: Factional Warfare (FW). Relationships between the four main factions have broken down into a two sided conflict, with the Amarr and Caldari on one side and the Gallente and Minmatar on the other. The battlefields for this war are broken down into a handful of low security regions, where players must capture complexes in order to seize systems for their chosen faction, turning low sec into a massive arena for the militias to fight it out. Every system involved in the conflict has a control bunker at its center, which belongs to the faction that currently has occupancy. Complexes are randomly spawned in each system and it's up to the opposing militia to scan them down and hold them for a certain amount of time, while fighting off the defending NPCs and enemy militia.
Bringing along a battleship fleet isn't going to be of any use for capturing these complexes, though. There are various classes of complex, which restrict the types of ship than can enter. For example, the smallest of these can only be accessed by tech one frigates and destroyers. Capturing these sites gives that side victory points for that system, and puts it into a "contested" state. If the contesting faction can get enough VPs then the system becomes "vulnerable" and the control bunker can be attacked and captured, switching its occupancy to the victors. Of course, the defenders can also capture the complexes for their own side; each one taken reduces the number of VPs the enemy has, and is the only way to push a system out of "vulnerable".
Is it any good, though? Well, it's doing what it was intended to do, by helping pilots who wouldn't normally PVP to get involved in casual fighting. FW is also a way for corporations that normally focus on empire warfare to sign up and put themselves into a state of constant war, with more than enough targets to shoot and action almost on demand, but, to the lone, inexperienced, pilot, joining FW can be a daunting experience.
The militia chat channel you receive upon joining is a confusing mess of pilots signing up to random fleets and the handful that are trying to organize the masses. This leads to there being at least one massive militia fleet rolling around the area during EVE prime time, which, despite being a disorganized mess, is not something you want to run into. As much as it's helpful for pilots looking for instant action, however, militia chat is too chaotic to be of much use for the overall organization of the militia. The real organization comes from the individual player corporations, some of which have joined together to form informal alliances and chat channels in order to better fight the enemy factions. I would strongly recommend that any pilot wishing to sign up to FW should join one of the corps already involved in the fighting, instead of one of the four militia corps. Now, let's talk about capital ships for a moment. Even before its release, there was talk of FW combat being overwhelmed by the presence of these behemoths, which already have dominance in most 0.0, and some low-sec, warfare. This turned out not to be the case, for two reasons: Firstly, they are too big to enter all but the largest of FW complexes, making capitals almost entirely useless for a fleet trying to capture them. And secondly, most of the newer militia pilots coming from high sec have, most likely, never even seen a dreadnought, or carrier, before and all of them want to get in on an opportunity to take one down. Anyone seen flying around in a capital ship is very quickly identified in the opposing militia channel, which always leads to a whirlwind of pilots converging on their location in some kind of mad, anti-cap ship crusade. For the first few weeks the FW systems became a capital ship graveyard, and now they are a rarity.
Generally, the bigger ships, such as battleships and capitals, aren't flexible enough to be of use all the time in FW, and this has led to one of the greatest achievements of factional warfare, the resurgence of smaller ship classes. Due to their ability to enter the smallest size of factional warfare complexes, tech one frigates and, in particular, destroyers have gone from a being a generally redundant ship class to a must have for any fleet looking to capture complexes. Out in the FW regions, you are now more likely to run into small fleets of frigates and cruisers than fleets of battleships.
As for the flaws, one of them surfaced less than a week after it was released, thanks to the efforts of (now former) Amarr militia pilot, and CSM representative, Ankhesentapemkah, who hit the top rank for her militia in about six days. Even though they don't lead to any rewards at the moment they clearly need scaling to prevent people from grinding through them so rapidly. Also, there are no tangible rewards from taking part in factional warfare. It's like any other war, in that it's mostly about what you can loot from the wrecks of the enemy ships. Without rewards there is no real incentive to make a serious attempt at capturing systems for the cause.
Which brings me back to Tama…
Most of the pilots involved in FW don't care about capturing territory; they just find the quickest route to where they action is, and fight. This is why Tama, at the time of writing this, has had one hundred and three ship kills in the last twenty four hours, according to the in-game map, overshadowing almost every other system in the region by a massive margin. Territorial fighting with no consequences has just led to most of those involved bunching up in a few systems and shooting each other for kill stats.
Now, problems aside, where can factional warfare go from here? Despite being the bare skeleton of a system there is a solid base here for future expansion, such as bringing the pirate factions into the fight. There's also the possibility of allowing player alliances to finally sign up, which was a major issue for a lot of players, as well as opening up benefits for the militia ranks.
Factional warfare: not entirely all there, but for now, at least, players seem happy enough just beating the hell out of each other, night after night.