Today I awoke to find that some of my friends were discussing the merits and demerits of the following Reddit post:
Whilst I have a general dislike for Reddit I decided to give it a read over coffee in order to see what the big deal was and, to his credit, I saw a person articulating his points in a manner that certainly surpasses the average level of effort, contemplation, grammar and punctuation seen in the average Reddit post. And whilst there were certainly some arguments which were agreeable, there were also some which were disagreeable.
The alarming factor, and the one that prompted me to respond to it here (as I am certainly not going to make a Reddit account just for this) was that @CCP_Swift seemed to be listening intently. Whilst a Dev listening to a player is certainly a good thing, some of the changes proposed could potentially damage or outright destroy the PVP ecosystem which exists in FW lowsec forever, and thus I considered in prudent to comment on some of these matters.
For starters I would like to provide prospective readers with some information on my EVE background so that they know the proverbial “where I’m coming from”, and why I have a vested interest in commenting on some of the changes which Arde has proposed.
I am a RP-PVPer who started playing EVE on the 28th of February in 2020. I found myself with extra time on my hands due to Lockdown, and a friend offered to recruit me directly into Ushra’Khan in order to participate in the Floseswin war. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this conflict, you can get a brief summary here. Despite starting my PVP participation on my second day in the game, I made a name for myself there over the course of three months of constant fighting and ended up receiving a medal for not only contributing to system control (the factor which caused the Amarrian ground forces to lose the ground war and thus kept the local Matari population out of slavery), but also delaying the eventual fall of the system long enough for the alliance to extract it’s things from Asset Safety after the destruction of the local Minmil Fortizar and evacuate said assets to friendly territory. During this time I also participated in that nullsec war and saw how cancerous TIDI fights were during the battle of FWST-8.
After the end of the Floseswin war I was presented with the next existential threat to the Minmatar Republic, namely the Triglavian Invasions (which you can read about here). I reacted to that by no-lifing EDI public fleets (the capsuleers that helped EDENCOM) and eventually became one of the more influential FCs because DarkeZero thought I had a good head on my shoulders and a spot happened to open up after Verum Peto unjustly yeeted Debes Sparre out of the room for suggesting such things as Doctrines, SRP and basic discipline. Within the capacity of EDI SRFC I am mainly credited for being terribly confused as to how a 4 month old player qualified as a Senior Fleet Commander alongside people who had been playing for 15 years, fanatically pushing Mantel’s suggestion to start using Longbow Nagas (the most effective doctrine since two of them could wipe out a Trig fleet in less than 90 seconds without ever being hit), replacing the existing Hurricane+Scythe doctrine with Ferox+Osprey to provide a continuous skill training plan towards said Longbow Naga, and FCing for (conservatively) 10 to 11 hours a day because the highsec players pissed off all of the experienced fleet commanders that had hitherto offered their services. If it was a system which the Trig-aligned players deployed to, there is a high chance EDI counter-deployed to it, and an average to high chance that I was FCing said fleet from the early EUTZ until an American FC came around to take over. This was also the conflict where I started playing my current character, because she was neutral at the time and it allowed me to yeet Triangles in all highsec systems without getting dropped on by the NPC navies.
After the Triglavian Invasions came to an end I returned to Lowsec, FC’d the Minmil Standing Fleet for about half a year, then got annoyed with being talked to like a callcenter employee and dedicated myself to a combination of solo PVP and educating new players about FW, both by occasionally providing them with private tutoring, but more frequently by gathering every useful Guide and Fit, cramming them into a Discord server and creating my own Guides and Fits to fill in the gaps. Eventually I moved my neutral character into Calmil because I did not feel welcome at home, and have also made a name for myself there by educating new players, holding onto staging systems and hauling stuff in for others.
In short, I am an active FW player (perhaps too active) who not only cares deeply about FW and the people who play it, but also cares enough about the lore to fight over what Arde would call “backwater systems” like Floseswin and was even willing to (may Bob forgive me for saying it) PvE in order to keep the systems belonging to the NPC factions I cared about out of Pochven.
Having clarified which portion of the playerbase I represent, and why I have a vested interest in FW Lowsec, I will now go over the contents of Arde’s post.
It is a dead-end system at the end of a small pipe. That pipe connects to a strategically insignificant back-door loop, the only purpose of which is connecting highsec Osmoden to the Pure Blind entrance at RQH, although that entrance also connects to another, busier pipe. More than half of the systems in Athounon’s jump range are nullsec, which I don’t believe the factions care about. The system has 10 belts, none ice, one gate, and no stations.
So firstly, as a History student from the Netherlands, I ought to point out that polities fight over irrelevant places all the time for a variety of reasons. We see this in antiquity, as represented by the Athenians sending an invasion force to Sicily solely because they were somewhat friendly with Sparta. We see this during the early modern period, as represented by my own country starting to rapidly expand both privateering and colonization under the rationale of “There’s a finite amount of stuff in the world, and the more of it belongs to us, the less belongs to Habsburg Spain, and the less power the Habsburgs have, the safer our people are”. We’ve seen it in the Modern period, where a hypothetical Englishman might have to go fight the Germans in France because a Serbian shot an Austrian during a parade. We’ve also seen it in more recent history, with the world’s superpowers fighting proxy wars in places like Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan to secure their geopolitical interests. The one thing all of these conflicts have in common is that literally no one is going to undertake such an endeavor unless they deem it worth their time, effort and lives, and the fact is that all of the people who made the decisions to undertake them considered them the best options at the time, often for reasons which seem entirely alien to contemporary living and breathing people. So if it seems pointless and confusing to you, then CCP has effectively nailed what war is supposed to feel like.
With that in mind, let us remember that the Gallente Federation is an imperialist superpower which has an imperative to spread it’s values of individual liberty and democracy and expand it’s influence and presence as much as it can to prevent itself from being outcompeted by it’s direct competitor, the Amarr Empire. The Federation views the Caldari State as a break-away secessionist member state which rejects everything it stands for, which makes the Caldari a major threat to the ideological framework the Federation is built upon. On the other side of the fence, the Caldari State is a collectivist, isolationist ethnic group which at first stealthily transferred assets from its existing governments to native Megacorporations because the Federation’s obsession with free trade allowed them to use the framework of the Corporation as a loophole to manage their affairs without having the Gallenteans thread on them, and then proceeded to fight a war for independence that lasted over a hundred years when the Feds tried to call them out and bring them back into line. We do not know what the Caldari State found in Athounon. What we do know is that the Chief Executive Panel, which is the council comprised of the CEOs of the eight biggest Megacorporations in the Caldari State, deemed it worth it to declare it the main priority of the State Protectorate. We also know that the Navy NPC who sent us the orders has about as much obligation to be transparent about why this is the case as any other high ranking officer in Human history: Absolutely none, because opsec. And on the other hand, the fact that the Caldari State considers that constellation vital to it’s national interests at the moment is sufficient grounds for the Gallente Federation to try to sabotage their efforts.
If the purpose of the frontline system is to make FW feel like a World War I-style grind (a noble goal, that would be fun as hell) opening up a new offensive in Greenland is hardly going to do that. FW players are now put in a bind whether they want to take a system that is actually strategically important or whether they want to RP. That’s not a good look.
Firstly, this has already happened before in Floseswin, a system that was similarly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Secondly, yes, WW1 in space was fun as hell, and we fought frigate-only battles that lasted for over an hour, where the Inquisitors had to loot the wrecks of other logi frigs mid-fight to keep fueling themselves with Navy Capbooster 400s. To this day that conflict over a backwater still stands as the best FW experience I have had, with the largest amount of FW player participation I have witnessed, with plex fights that saw the system pop go over 100 and citadel fights that saw the system pop go over 400. For those who do not understand what that represents, this is about as big as a fight can get without Time Dilation kicking in, and without people having to lower their graphics to cope, and that makes it beautiful. All of this only happened because a roleplayer (who, in fairness, is kind of a big deal) told an Amarrian NPC that a bunch of Capsuleers had signed an illegal treaty consigning certain systems to certain factions (which was done to kill off FW mission running), followed by said Amarrian NPC telling Amarr-Mil to go die over there to repent for their sins, followed by the Min-Mil players piling in because they weren’t going to accept a whole planet of Minnies being enslaved, followed by every single pirate and their mother piling into the conflict because there was a fight to be had. It therefore follows that arguing that thinly veiled RP reasons are not enough pretext to have a wholesome WW1 experience in the plexes is wrong, based on historical precedent of said motivations having achieved this better than anything else CCP has attempted so far. If the Athounon war ends up being even half as good as the Floseswin War, CCP has already earned their pay many times over.
When Brisc Rubal said that current FW plexes feel “contrived” (DoW 236, 43:30) he was dead right. It takes some mental contortions to understand how linking to a beacon in a room that only allows certain ships for a certain amount of time somehow makes your group’s flags appear on stargates many AU away. This system, while it has many benefits for PVP, makes the lore go through some gymnastics to explain how it works, limits the room for a player’s imagination to take over, and weakens, if not breaks outright, game immersion. The way that FW tiers, control, and sovereignty work now also are very abstract—you don’t see your faction’s police on gates, for example, and the changes to services you can use are very limited by the amount of citadels. You might see the badge of your faction, but there is very little you actually see in the world that makes anything feel different. In this sense, current faction warfare mechanics are almost a metaphor for conquest , not an actually believable process whose steps you can witness.
It does not take mental contortions to understand whatsoever if you have basic knowledge of the lore. Acceleration Gates were the primary mode of FTL travel used by the Minmatar prior to first contact with the Amarr. Whilst Acceleration Gates have mostly been rendered obsolete by Stargates and Warp Drives in the current year, they are still used to gain access to spatial anomalies known as Deadspace Pockets which would otherwise be inaccessible. Those anomalies, on account of being hard to access normally, are evidently good places to put listening posts. There are two reasons why one would want to limit access. The first one, which will immediately be relatable to wormholers, is a limited form of hole control. The second being that the entire reason why the major powers opted for FW instead of full scale war was to limit baseliner casualties, and once one views the situation through that lens, restricting the tonnage an acceleration gate will accept makes perfect sense. On a purely out-of-character level, it is also responsible for creating a Frigate meta that is both more accessible to new players than all other forms of PVP, and far more diverse than what one sees out in nullsec. I do not merely expect a player to know how to undock and press F1, or form a capchain and monitor rep broadcasts. I fully expect them to learn how to fit a brawler, a scramkiter, a kiter, a tackler, a dualprop and a longbow. Not only that, I also expect them to learn which fitting archetype is applicable to which hulls, in what situations they ought to be used during solo pvp, and how they can be combined with other elements in order to facilitate smallgangs, nanogangs or fleets. The final product of FW is a player who not only habitually solos Kikimoras in mass-produced frigates, but also has the theoretical knowledge and practical experience to participate in formations of any size, understand what the purpose of each fit in the formation is, and fulfill any role the FC asks them to perform competently. This only occurs because the deadspace pockets where combat happens are the way they are: Size restricted versions of ESS grids that differ by allowing all propmods instead of solely Afterburners. Any changes to the nature of the plexes jeopardizes this ecosystem, and I would rather see them improving said ecosystem, potentially by reducing the movement speed of drones controlled by Worms.
What I do agree with, is that it does not feel like system control has much of an effect beyond “I can dock here”. That effect is itself mitigated by the poor decision to allow people to dock in Citadels situated within the warzone irrespective of system control. At the same time CCP can only do so much without locking those systems off from players who are neutral or in the opposing militia. Personally I would like to see a little more vibrancy in the form of NPC navy ships camping the stargates and NPC mining ships exploiting the resources in systems they control.
This relative ambivalence of system control is further compounded by FW’s biggest problem, the fact that warzone control is mostly the result of people who break the End User License Agreement by using bots to push systems one way or another 24/7 in order to create artificial scarcity of one faction’s LP or another, which not only has the effect of turning the war into a glorified cryptocurrency flip, but also means that only the most densely inhabited areas remain controlled by one of the competing factions throughout these seasonal bot flips. These bots suck at fighting, always attempt to warp off, and are thus antithetical to FW’s purpose of providing solo and smallgang content at the subcap level.
CCP has mentioned a great goal in FW—one I’ve wanted for close to a decade now—to include playstyles other than PVP, so that your faction really feels alive. It has always been remarkable to me how much living in a nullbloc feels like living in a real civilization—you pass people mining, ratting, hauling, defending space, hurrying off somewhere, hiding from hunters, and you really feel like you’re part of an organic civilization. And you are. But it is equally remarkable that, with all the lore behind it, FW has felt so completely flat in comparison. It would be fantastic if FW also felt like a civilization, with people mining, salvaging, building, etc., and if you got help from your faction. This would make the game at once more intuitive and immersive. Likewise, it would be amazing if the conquest system tied to sec status, from 0.1 at most contested to 0.4 at most controlled.
I agree that FW could include people in more ways than merely PVP, but at it’s fundamental level, FW represents the major powers conducting a low intensity proxy war via Capsuleers who function as private military contractors, so as to limit their own casualties as much as possible. This is a fairly cost-effective solution for a bunch of major powers who hate each other enough to want to rip each other’s hair out, but don’t want to escalate to full scale war. What makes the Athounon conflict so interesting to many of us is that both the Federation and the State have basically told their privateers “■■■■ CONCORD(the equivalent of the UN), ■■■■ EDENCOM(the equivalent of NATO but aimed at the trigs), take and hold this at all cost”. The fact that the Federal Navy and the Caldari Navy are also amassing squadrons in their border systems like something out of The Sum Of All Fears whilst the Athounon conflict is ongoing, to many of us, represents an escalation of the conflict which will hopefully function as the lore backdrop for CCP’s planned FW rework. That said, I would rather see the changes CCP announced so far implemented and tested before we start to clamor for yet more changes, as I am not particularly fond of the idea that changes should come at the expense of the existing PVP ecosystem.
Essentially, players have built real civilizations and fought real wars in nullsec. The best CCP can do in worldbuilding a new FW system is to replicate that.
Having fought in Nullsec wars, I’d personally prefer to skinny dip into a swimming pool filled with double-edged razor blades before I see TIDI fights imported to FW lowsec. I in fact avoided playing this game for almost as long as you have played it, solely because I thought Nullsec was all it had to offer. This is because the RP-PVP side of the game which FW offers was never advertised by CCP. I installed the game because I learned about FW by pure chance, via word of mouth. In fact, a fair number of the people in FW are either Veterans from Null who have either permanently moved over to lowsec, or daytrip to FW in order to have fun with their blingy frigs and pods without having to concern themselves with max form CTAs or bubble camps, or new players who fled from Null and have in some cases literally said “It’s just old people who mine and complain about how the game used to be, I don’t want to end up like that, please teach me how to blow ■■■■ up.” I by no stretch of the imagination believe that all old players are nullbears who want to see the game reverted to 2004, but as it stands FW-Lowsec offers a viable alternative gameplay style to Null, which requires zero krabbing to participate in it. You get to PVP when you want, flying the ship you want to fly, in a game mode that pays for itself with the LP alone. This is before we factor in that you also get to sell off all the loot from the players you blow up because you don’t have to share solo PVP loot with anyone. Add low effort PI on the side and you’ve got a steady revenue stream that is not dependent on kissing the Godfather’s ring, and will be more than sufficient to fund the Fun Per Hour.
CCP’s goals with FW are noble. But if fights are destined to happen in counterintuitive and unrealistic systems like Athounon, people will just ignore it because they don’t want to lose. Indeed, strategically speaking, Gallente should absolutely ignore the call to assault Athounon, and that’s really unfortunate.
This campaign does not represent the be-all-end-all of CCP’s FW rework, and pretending that it does is pre-emptive hysteria. I have every confidence that once the FW rework is introduced, it will result in cohesive frontlines. I have heard many people suggest that this will make it harder for solo PVP to exist, but I will counter by saying that a system saturated with enemies is preferable to an empty one, because a target rich environment is good if you are patient enough to wait for a sheep to stray from the herd, but more importantly, it represents a place that FW bots can not ghost cap. And bots are hated sufficiently that I am willing to sacrifice a little bit of 1v1 fun, so long as this results in proper nanogang comps that depend on manual piloting and ewar synergy rather than the boring ass Nullsec doctrines the author would like to see. As for the statement regarding the Gallente Militia, it is true that the overwhelming majority of them do not care as much about the lore or RP as they should, and that they are very reticent to move away from their staging systems, but as it stands, I can not get any fights near Ostingele or Heydilies anyway, because the action in Heyd happens outside of my timezone, and we’ve already sent all the Galmil-aligned Pirates in the Osti area running to Nullsec. Consequently whether I get no content in Osti or no content in Athounon really makes no difference to me, but at least in Athounon’s Constellation, I occasionally see enemy players whom I remember from my stint in Deven (Hi Ralli) fly past, and that is good. Please don’t pass up the opportunity for good fights because a Redditor told you to.
Luckily, CCP have someone in Swift who used to plan campaigns. Ask him what system he’d use as a beachhead. Or ask Arsia. Or (gasp ) poll the leading FW FCs and average their answers. Or just look at where the action is on Dotlan and zkill and send an NPC message telling everyone else to go there.
And in CCP Delegate Zero we have someone who has managed to cause the biggest FW conflict in recent history with nothing but a few lines of text from the right DM NPC, so unless you have a concrete plan for causing a war that is guaranteed to eclipse Floseswin, I would strongly suggest that you, and everyone else, let him do his thing so the magic can unfold.
TL;DR Athounon is a bad system to assault, with little strategic significance. FW frontlines should replicate how a real FC would plan a campaign, taking beachheads in systems with key gates and jump ranges. This is not a good test of how to get players to respond to a target because it doesn’t align with any practical significance.
Your mistake was presuming that the Athounon Campaign is inexorably linked to the new FW changes, rather than a stand-alone RP-driven conflict being presented as an appetizer for the actual die-hards. Just have some patience, wait for the FW Rework patch to drop, and then sample it, instead of pre-emptively dissing something mechanically unrelated.
(P.S. I’m an unsubbed vet looking for a reason to return—I thought about resubbing to go to Athounon and shoot some nerds, but when I saw where it was on Dotlan I said nah ■■■■ that and made this post instead. Just saying, I’m probably not the only one.)
I can see where you were going with that angle, but I would posit that from my perspective, this means that I have to share the available prey with less other hunters, so this is not a net loss scenario for everyone involved.
In conclusions, I agree that new mechanics to shake things up are a good thing, but having people going around saying “Make it more like Nullsec” whilst the Devs are listening is dangerous and irresponsible, as people who want to play Nullsec are in fact, in Nullsec, and people who want to live the Lowsec life are, factually, in Lowsec. You can’t turn one into the other without damaging what is already there.