As a disclaimer, I am an outsider looking in. I've never participated in Faction Warfare. I've never wanted to. The concept of being locked into a war dec to support the NPC empires has little appeal to me.
I look into the world of Faction Warfare with mild interest. To me, Faction Warfare is the other part of low sec where we roam, looking for fights. Others live in Faction War space. I assume that they like living there because they stay there. That area of the game has particular mechanics wrapped around beacons that spawn jump gates that allow restricted access to rooms in space with warp limitations. The reasons for these rooms and these beacons are about control of a territory. Faction Warfare is a war between the NPC Empires that the players can enter into.
Players that enter into Faction Warfare automatically assume a war declaration against the players that enter Faction Warfare for the opposing faction and that faction's best friend. This opens them for legal aggression in all parts of empire space. Then the players fought for their chosen side. They had missions specific to only faction warfare members that had huge loyalty point rewards in exchange for major standings loss to the opposing empires. However, they had chosen their sides and accepted this decision.
In non-faction warfare Low Sec there once existed Static DED Complexes. These were places that people went to fight that were not gates and not stations. In Faction Warfare the exact same mechanism exists around their complex spawning. The beacons give them territory control and allows them to take systems. They are also a place to fight off of gates and stations, in open space, with warp restrictions. After all, one side is trying to control territory and it is only natural for the other to take it. But, for the longest time, the desire to own and control territory, to be a part of Faction Warfare, was the only thing encouraging people to hold these beacons. Pride. Duty. Roleplay. Fighting. They'd sit on their beacons and fight off the opposing faction.
Really the give and take of space was rather dead. It happened. Somewhat. Mostly the groups lived and clashed with each other. Until Retribution came and CCP changed how Faction Warfare paid its participants.
Retribution brought with it a restructuring of Faction Warfare. The Loyalty Point stores received bonuses. Living in Faction Warfare space brought changes and bonuses. Territory brought gains and bonuses to those that lived in them. Beacons now gave loyalty points and Tier Control dropped prices through the floor. CCP had decided that they wanted more people to be incentivized into Faction Warfare and they opened the floodgates, backed in dumpsters full of carrots and dumped them out all over Faction Warfare Space while screaming, "Come and get it!"
And come they did.
Faction Warfare turned into a place to make ISK for fighting. The general concept was amazing. Go, risk, defend, claim, fight, win money and exotic dancers. The execution however turned into go, fly around beacons, gain control until we are at Tier 5, cash out, make ISK. And that led to a resurgence of interest in Faction Warfare and a change in its general state and structure.
Instead of coming to fight, defend, role play, and participate in a piece of the story for the sake of the story and glory of the spaceships, Faction Warfare became a place to make money. A place to make good money. The balance of risk vs reward skewed towards reward as players did very little to accumulate large numbers of loyalty points.
Vov wrote a bit about Team Liquid's participation in Faction Warfare and the ISK involved in it for my technical details. http://technicallyeve.blogspot.com/2013/10/then-faction-war-got-buffed.html
And farming was born. Farming in Video Games is when players do something over and over again for a gain. They are not playing the game as a whole. They are focusing on a particular aspect of the game that is highly lucrative in terms of game currency, experience, or game items. This can be extended to doing things like attacking a particular group because they are easy and numerous to kill to an almost predictable level. In Faction Warfare that farming activity came in the area of orbiting buttons to gain loyalty points. A lot of loyalty points. The activity was simple and easy for most farming activities area such. They are not done to challenge and excite but to maximize gain.
And such the great gulf of division was created. Faction Warfare gained two sides. The side that fought in faction warfare space. This, interestingly enough, is composed of faction warfare participants and non-faction warfare participants. Both sides shoot spaceships. The Faction Warfare side tends to focus on shooting their opposing faction and sometimes neutrals. The neutrals tend to focus on shooting everyone. They are often pirates.
The second side are known as farmers. They are there for the gain. They have maximized their efficiency at gaining loyalty points. They use frigates and a handful of caution. Their ships are worth almost nothing and paid for the first time they successfully complete a beacon to orbit. Originally, they simply put on a prop module and speed tanked the NPCs in the area (did I forget to mention somewhere there is NPC involvement, kinda?) until they conquered this. CCP, when they tweaked, decided they were tired of gunless orbiting and forced the NPC to be killed. That changed little.
And so did the farmers descend upon Faction Warfare and corrupt its very essence.
The people who come to faction warfare to make money are not interested in fighting. They are interested in making money. They are not there to fight. They are not there out of loyalty to any empire or care for territory control. They change sides the moment the money is better on the other. The true professionals have alts in each militia and log on whomever will bring the most potential ISK in depending on all the factors. They have the technical science down to an art and there are a lot of them. They affect territory control as they focus on their growing loyalty point gains and wait for the tier achievements to come across.
The combatants hate them. They use warp core stabilizers and cloaking devices. They have no intent to fight. They minimize their loss and maximize their profit. They can be found everywhere. The moment a threat shows up they will leave, abandoning their work if they must. There are more beacons after all. Reshipping is a cost and an inconvenience when they can go elsewhere.
For the combatants they are a plague. A plague that brings with it the symptoms of frothing rage, anger, and Feature and Ideas posts to change cloaks and warpcore stabilizers that can challenge the AFK cloaking threads.
These two sides shall never meet. The faction warfare farmers are there to make ISK. That is their motivation. They are not there for fights. They are not there because they love their factions. They are not there to participate in a greater meaning. They are there to collect the carrots that CCP flooded the Faction Warfare zone with. They are also fully within their rights to do so. Nothing is going to make them fight until CCP changes the mechanics to make it so. When that happens they will leave. At the moment it is the most profitable activity in low sec. It requires almost no skill points to achieve and very little investment.
The ground is littered with carrots. There is no surprise when they come to eat them.
But the hunters come to hunt them. And how they rage. They run away when chased. They set their ships up to escape when pointed. They hide. They avoid. They do not give fights. Why are they in a war if they are not going to fight? Why should they have to change their fits to catch stabbed opponents? they ask.
And no one said that they have to. Who said war was all about battle? Who said everyone that participates in the war does so in a black and white fashion? Selfishness is evident in every war there has ever been. Faction Warfare farmers are playing the game as well. They are playing it in a way that the other side does not like. But that does not mean they are wrong. Not liking something has never made it wrong. Not until the rules change at least. Yes, one has to change their fits to catch them. The same goes for any part of the game. I watch haulers and battleships warp away from me all of the time. I have one point and they have a full low set of stabilizers. Those people don't want to fight me. I can only force them into a fight when they make mistakes or I can technically overcome them. Chasing Faction Warfare farmers is no different.
Faction Warfare was what before Retribution came and turned it into a source of income? Better? Worse? Different? I'll go with Different. Right now, it is full of people. It is full of people that are hard to catch. Yet, for every person that I see raging against faction warfare farmers, I flip through their killboards and see stacks and stacks of them killed. Obviously, they do die. Maybe not in the numbers that one would like but really, when does that ever happen? The farmers are not there to be entertainment for the hunters. They may become so, but at no point when they ship up and head to their money making adventures do I believe they go, "Today, I shall make a PvP focused player happy." No. They make the hunters work to get their kills and the hunters make the farmers work (a tad bit more at least) to make their ISK.
Bad or good? Healthy or not? Faction Warfare is more active and more populated then it ever was. Is that bad or good? CCP seems to like a lot of the activity. The hunters seem to have greater activity. Faction Warfare is where people are told to go to get their feet wet in PvP and to make money. Was it like that before?
Risk free! Riskless! Oh how I hear those cries. But is it true? Is it really ZERO risk? Honestly words and thoughts should go here. It is hard to step away from the emotional soapbox that has been stepped upon. But the faction warfare farmers step into low sec, under a war dec, to make their money. It is not zero risk. It has never been zero risk. Every single dead faction warfare farmer on a killboard speaks of that.
And before the farmers and other than the farmers is not the other complaint links? The linked, implanted, frigates that wait to fight and don't fight the good fight? Is not there rage against them? That they go and they fight but they fight in a 'bad' way that they assure themselves a win. Or at least, mostly assure themselves of a win. Team Liquid was running around doing their 'to catch a predator' campaign. They take a day old player in a Merlin, take his Merlin give it to a more experienced player, go to the PLEX and wait. When someone warps in to kill that lone Merlin in the PLEX they got an ugly surprise as they were decloaked and podded.
That is how they deal with some of the more elite PvP that happens in Faction Warfare space. But did that Elite PvP exist before the farmers? Before the changes that brought Faction Warfare into the light and made the entire aspect of the game a beacon of activity? The ships in space. The kills in system. The membership of the various militias... were they like this before?
So... what is change? CCP looks at Eve from a different perspective then the player. While the war may not change Faction Warfare is now a relevant part of the game.
Sometimes I tread into territory that I know nothing about with the knowledge that I will say the wrong thing and have the wrong opinion. Rarely, do I look at being the Devil's Advocate but there are times when everyone finds themselves at that point. So, today, as the snow falls and my client uploads and I read twitter I decided to drop the thoughts I've been having on twitter and in game chat into a more coherent group of words.
P.S.I asked the Famous Wex Manchester to make sure my technical stuff was correct. So, blame him!