Life in Eve: Faction Warfare Tools

Following a conversation with a fellow Eve player after one of my readings last week, I realized I've dug up a fair amount of information about how Faction Warfare works, and that it might be useful for any players looking to check it out. Here we go:

Basic Guides


  • You'll want to keep an eye on what's happening in the warzone, and who controls what systems. The easiest way to do that is via dotlan, which keeps API-updated maps on the Amarr vs. Minmatar warzone, as well as the Caldari vs. Gallente.

  • One thing the dotlan maps don't show particularly well, though, are the systems where the Faction Warfare corporations have offices (and, thus, where you can trade in Loyalty Points and pick up missions). Luckily, there are static maps for that, one for Minmatar-Amarr, and one for Caldari-Gallente.

Knowing Who to Shoot At
As with any other PvP activity, one of the most important things you need to do is make sure your Overview isn't completely useless. I found very little on this initially, and simply muddled around with the PvP overviews I was already using, with a few changes in the priority of displayed information. Although fairly basic, this image (which I was shown quite a bit later) is a decent starting point for new pilots adjusting their overview settings -- every little bit helps.

... and that's about it. There are a few guides from sites like Eve University that I haven't mentioned, but they're easy enough to dig up, and honestly don't add much in my opinion. If you want to check them out, I'm sure you can find them.

Good hunting!



This is sort of a general gaming post, though it'll end up talking about EvE very specifically at the end, which is only fair since EvE is where this whole line of thought began.

A few days ago I was doing an interview with Anton Strout for the Once and Future Podcast and (because the 'cast is equal parts about writing and the rabid nerdity of the guests) Anton asked me when I first got my start with gaming.

For the sake of my own dignity, I won't get into hard numbers, but my answer involved the novelization of the movie E.T., and me begging my mom to buy me the pink DnD boxed set from the Sears catalog. It was a while back, is what I'm saying.

On the long march between then and now, I ran a lot of bad games, for which I will make few apologies, because at the time I don't think any of us realized they were bad games. Me and my high school gaming buddies (who dodged typical mid-eighties nerd hazing by also being most of the starting offensive line for the varsity football team) might have gotten the rules wrong as we stomped through Castle Ravenloft, but that didn't stop it from being a good time. Monsters were vanquished, horrors were driven from their places of power, and the village graveyard acquired more than a few fresh headstones in the process, each marble slab engraved with the name of a beloved player character (levels 3-5) who'd failed a save against poison, fear, or (most often) death.

Thing is, getting a rule wrong was never (directly) what made the game bad. After all, when you're talking about a game (any game) the only real qualifier for "bad" is "not fun." Misruling could lead to that, sure, but most of the time, a lack of fun came from two places:

  • Something social, outside the game itself.

  • The absence of uncertainty.

I'm not going to talk about the Social thing right now -- that's well-traveled ground. I do want to talk about that second thing.

Ask any gamer about the best moments they've had in their gaming, and you will usually hear a story about some nail-biting conflict.

My crazy barbarian decides to try to trip the dragon he and his allies are fighting, despite horrible odds -- and it worked.

My buddy's knight takes on an evil paladin wielding a sword that can kill him with a single unlucky hit, and the fight comes down to a mutually fatal roll of the dice.

Our team has to hold the western flank against the the advancing Imperial forces on Hoth to give the transports time to escape, then get away themselves... by stealing Vadar's shuttle.

Good times.

You know what no one's likely to mention?

"This one time, I walked into a room full of 50 goblins with crossbows, but my Armor Class was so good they couldn't hit me and I just used Great Cleave and killed all of them in like... two turns."

"I walked into this hook-and-chain trap that was supposed to do a bunch of damage to a group of people, but it was just me, so the damage for a whole group hit just me and basically turned me into a pile of giblets, instantly."

"We tried to talk the King into letting us do something, but we couldn't convince him, because the GM had something different planned." 1

I think you can see the core difference between those examples, but I point it out anyway.


In my opinion, certainty is the death of fun in most any game, and it may be one of the things that separate "games" from "sport" (where certainty of victory comes via skill and ability and lots of hard work, and is justifiably celebrated).

If you're on the winning side of things, certainty is boring. The classic example of that is the old "Monty Haul" campaign, where the GM is basically there to make sure you find all the treasure he put in the dungeon, and never have to feel the sting of defeat. Fun as a powertrip, maybe, for awhile, but ultimately coma-inducing.

If you're on the losing side of things, certainty is -- at best -- frustrating. When there's no chance at all of success, even the 'live to fight another day' kind, then you might as well check out of the whole thing now and save the time you'd otherwise waste on caring about the outcome.

Over many (many) years of gaming, I've managed to figure out (one situation at a time) when something I was doing was killing fun by making the results (good or bad) a foregone conclusion. (Sometimes this was a question of mechanics; sometimes it was a question of "the inviolate plot.") It also helped me identify what was going wrong when I wasn't having fun as a player, both at a table or online.

Slamming my head against the same raid boss over and over, when it's clear we don't have the right group or the proper gear to succeed? Not fun.

Fighting that same raid boss when we're this close to pulling off a win, and every attempt might go for us or the bad guys? Exhilarating.

Farming that boss once we have all the best gear, know the fight backwards and forwards, and all the surprises are gone? Boring.

Wandering around the newbie starter zone with my max-level character, picking flowers to level my Herbalism? Boring.

Sneaking through a zone 10 or 20 levels too high for me, running for my life in an effort to get a specific location or find a special macguffin? Fun!

Getting insta-killed out of nowhere when you unknowingly walk your new character into a high-level PvP zone? Frustrating.

I think we get the point. It's something to keep in mind when you're running or playing a game in which you have any kind of input (usually tabletop, but not always). Are you bored? Add challenge to what you're doing by changing the choices you make. Are you hopelessly frustrated by never-ending failures? Change things up, or take a break, right?

So let's talk about EvE
First, EvE PvE content -- from missions to mining to exploration -- is pretty terrible.

Now, maybe (probably) it doesn't seem terrible when you first start playing the game, because you don't know enough to realize how very (very) certain the outcome of any PvE mission content in the game really is; you don't know how much DPS you need to be able to tank to survive a mission, and even if you do, you may not know how (or simply be unable) to fit your ship in a way that will achieve that threshold. Your lack of knowledge provides the uncertainty that is not otherwise present. 2

Once you know much at all about the game, though, you start to see the reality of the situation. The groups are always exactly the same size. They always do pretty much exactly the same amount of damage. They always aggress the first person they see, they never switch their aggression to another person (unless the first one leaves). Once you have the situation worked out -- once you know how to approach it, it's about as challenging as your fiftieth game of Minesweeper.3 The 'best' PvE in the game (Sleepers and Incursions) injects a bare amount of uncertainty with randomly switching aggro, which is still pretty hopeless. Almost any other MMO you care to name (even those that predate EvE) have long since worked on more advanced combat AIs.

"But the PvP in EvE is so much better than everyone else: completely emergent, completely unpredictable, completely uncertain!"


Yes, a big part of the draw in EvE is the PvP (whether it's PvP with bullets, tactics, or the infamous metagaming). Even if you don't personally seek out PvP, it's still a factor in your play, because once you undock, someone else can shoot you. They might choose not too because of the potential consequences, but they always have that option. Always. There isn't a one hundred percent safe, PvP-free zone anywhere in space. (Hell, for that matter, you're not entirely safe from PvP even if you never undock and just work the market all day -- Market PvP is a very real thing in EvE, but I digress.)

For as long as there has been PvP in EvE, there have been people bitching about the PvP. A lot of that kvetching and moaning (on both sides of every subject) has do with mechanics like ECM or the ever-present accusations that this or that tactic or practice is "dishonorable", "ruins the game", or removes any chance of a "good fight."

Dishonorable. What a word! Simultaneously loaded with drama and completely meaningless in any debate involving more than one person. :P

You can kind of sort out what most of the people using the term intend when they say it, though.

"Your actions have removed all questions of skill, choice, and your opponent's actions from the equation, ensuring your victory."

Put another way.

"You have removed all uncertainty."

Put another way.

"You've taken everything that makes a game fun out of this situation."

Now, that's a comment that's likely going to earn you a lock of mockery in EvE (which is why no one says it that way). The leader of one of the biggest groups the game is famously quoted as saying "We're not trying to ruin the game, we're trying to ruin your game." Tell those guys that they're taking away the elements of the game that make it fun for other people, and they'd probably exchange high-fives and another round of Jagerbombs.

But let's ignore the walking embodiment of the John Gabriel's Greater Internet Dickwad Theory for a moment, and just look at the basics here.

EvE is a game.

A game's primary purpose is to provide fun.

Fun in a game (unlike fun in sport) arises from a sense of uncertainty.

Removing uncertainty removes fun.

What's the kind of stuff that removes that uncertainty?

  1. Overwhelming force.

Actually? I can stop there. There are lots of ways in which "overwhelming force" is expressed in the game (attacking a group of 5 with a group of 20 (if only: 1 vs 100 is just as common), shipping up, a impenetrable wall of ECM, logistics support for a 'casual roam', et cetera, et cetera), and pretty much all of it takes place in the game with the specific goal of ensuring victory.

Is that a bad thing? No, not if the goal is winning, which is a goal I completely understand. EvE is a costly game in terms of time and resources -- when you lose, you really lose stuff, so people often forget (or forego) "what would be fun" in favor of whatever the best way is to mitigate risk.

I'm not going to say that this is bad for the game. In a lot of ways, it's what makes EvE what it is, and I like what it is.


If you find yourself frustrated by the game, may I suggest taking a step back and looking at your current style of play.

Is it possible that the reason that you're not having much fun is simply because you've methodically removed the elements that make a game fun?

Uncertainty is fun.

Uncertainty comes from risk.

As an experiment:

  • Distance yourself in some way from groups that treat ship losses an inherently bad thing.

  • Release your death grip on "Killboard Efficiency."

  • If fights are always boring, maybe bring fewer people. Or leave the ECM or the off-grid boosting alts (or both) at home.

  • Take a fight when the outcome isn't clear.

It's hard to do.

It's hard to do even when it's just you -- it's even harder when you're making decisions for a whole group of people.

Going back to my tabletop roots, it's damned hard as the GM to take the plunge and start rolling all the dice out in the open and letting things go on without that safety net of secretly fudging a potentially fatal roll. I mean, OMG: what if your dice get hot and you kill the dude one of your guys has been playing for two years?

Similarly, what if your decision costs your fleetmate his 2 billion isk strategic cruiser?

Most people don't know what would happen, because they don't have the guts to risk it.

But what a story they'd have if they did.

1 - This is, incidentally, why I prefer to roll dice to determine the outcome of social conflicts, rather than let "pure role-playing" determine the outcome. No matter how mature or unbiased we claim to be, that sort of 'system' is one highly susceptible to out-of-game social maneuvering of various kinds, the least harmful of which is the simple fact that if you know the GM well enough, you know exactly what argument will convince them to let you win. It's the same reason I don't like playing Apples to Apples with my best friends anymore -- there's absolutely no challenge to it; we know each other too well. Roll the dice, and enjoy the fact that the outcome may not be what you expected.

2 - This is what I call the Chutes and Ladders syndrome: Chutes and Ladders is a terrible, boring game... unless you're too young too realize it's terrible, at which point you probably think it's the Best Game Ever.

3 - Mining is even worse. Barring the possibility of being jumped by a random player (which isn't part of the mining system itself), there is no variation at all: ask any serious miner how much he can mine in an hour, and he will be able to give you an answer down to the second decimal point for every type of ore available. I don't know what 'injecting uncertainty' into the baseline mining experience looks like, but it's what needs to happen to make it suck less.


Life in EvE: Shirt Off My Back #eveonline

"You bought a shirt?" CB's voice on comms is muddled, as if he can't decide between a mocking tone and something that conveys more disgust.

"Two shirts," I correct him as I check the map of the local constellation. "Let's head for Floseswin via Gallente space -- there's usually some Amarr hitting complexes back there."

"On it." His ship, a mirror to my own Thrasher-class destroyer, comes about and aligns to the next gate. "So what are you going to do with two hundred-million isk shirts?"

"They didn't cost that much, with the discount the TLF had at the time," I reply. "More like 25 million."

CB fills our channel with a string of profanity that last most of the way through the 63 AU warp across the system. "Who the fuck pays 25 million isk for a shirt?"

"Well..." I drawl. "Someone who intends to sell them for... more than that."

He pauses. "How much more?"

"The thing is, these things are really rare outside the Militia. Hell, they're rare inside the militia."

"That's not exactly hard to understand."

"Right. Anyway, hardly anyone picks them out and then puts them back out on the public market, so I figure they won't move very fast, but if someone's looking for some fancy outfit that no one else will have --"

"-- for those incredibly common times when we're out of our ships and socializing?"

"I don't know -- people with too much money spend it on stupid shit just to say they have it. Jump gate on contact and swing over to Isbrabata."

"Copy that." His ship warps off, and I continue through the Aset system. "So how much did you put them on the market for?"

"That was tricky," I say. "No one had ever sold them on the market before, so I kind of had to guess how much some rich idiot would be willing to pay."

"Fascinating," CB deadpans. "How much did you list them for?"

"I tried to check the Jita market, but with the Caldari shooting me on site whenever I swing into their system, it was kind of hard to do --"

"How much," he growls, "did you list them for?"

"Two hundred fifty million," I answer. "A piece."

He makes sputtering sounds into his comms. "You think anyone --"

"Break break," I cut in. "Got an Ishtar on scan." I hit the directional scan again, but the ship is gone. "Crap, he's going the other way. Jump back to Avenod."

"I'm two jumps out."

"That's fine, it's just to get in front of him. I have to get turned around first." I land on my destination gate, cancel the gate jump, spin the ship around and warp back the other direction.

"Which one's the Ishtar?"

"Ishkur," I correct him.

"You said Ishtar."

"Did I?" I frowned. "Well, I meant Ishkur. It's that Incursus variant with all the drones. Tough little assault frigate. He might be willing to take us on, or I can get him engaged and tackled before you get there. Something."

"Can we take him?"

"Probably, though he'll likely blow up whichever of us snags him first." Our destroyers were fit for short, brutal engagements ending in explosions -- either ours or someone else's -- the Ishkur was tough enough to drag the fight out and get through one of our ships. Probably not both, though.

Probably. I grin. As always, it was the uncertainty of a fight that made the whole thing worth it.

"Jumping into Avenod." There's a flash on my overview, gone almost as soon as I see it. "He was right here. I think he just opened a major complex in here. Ballsy. Warping up there."

"Landing on my gate. Want me to jump in?"

My ship enters warp. "Yeah. I'll land and --" I frown as I drop out of warp at short range, eyeing our target ship's silhouette. "That's weird, it looks like Vexoooooh... oh. Shit." I laugh into the mic as the Ishtar heavy assault cruiser -- the Ishkur's bigger, badder brother -- disgorges a flight of drones in my direction; one of the probably half-dozen or so flights he can field before the ship runs low. "Cancel that. Don't warp. Target's not an Ishkur. It's an Ishtar."

"I told you that's what you said."

I laugh again, shaking my head and readying my warp commands to get my escape pod out as my fragile destroyer melts in the face of the far heavier ship's firepower. As the explosion rocks me free of the wreckage, I switch to the star system's public comms for a moment.

Ty > Good fight! Thought you were a little ol' Ishkur... Whoops!
Maren > Ahh... yeah, I just thought you were just being really aggressive.

"I'm laughing my ass off at you right now," CB says as I warp out and set course to pick up a new ship. "I thought you should know."

"I am too," I grin. "Ahh well. Good start to the night's roam. What shall I blow up now?"

"Whatever you like, I guess," CB replied. "You can pay for it with those shirts, if they ever sell."

"Oh," I replied. "See, that's the punchline."

Silence. Then: "They already sold?"

"Yup. Not right away, but pretty fast." I shrug. "I priced them too low, I guess. Still, half a billion off a couple shirts isn't bad."

"Who --" CB cuts himself off. "Okay, hurry up and get back here. I really need to shoot somebody."

So yeah:

  • I was so used to seeing frigates and other small ships that my brain convinced me an Ishtar was an Ishkur. Whoops. Still, it was pretty funny.

  • People will pay stupid amounts of money for rare things.

  • You can actually put those special clothing items on, wear them awhile and then, if you get bored with the look, remove them and they drop right back into your items hangar in whatever station you're in. Which means you can then sell them. So... if you recently spent 250 million on a black and red uniform shirt that smelled a little... used? Sorry about that.


Life in Eve: Two Months in the War #eveonline

Ty's currently at 2 months and 2 days with the small corp he and CB formed solely to take into Faction Warfare and, if memory serves, that means it's been exactly 2 months since we joined up. I'm inclined to take a look back and see how things have gone.

PvP Experience and Enjoyment
This is, ostensibly, what I wanted to get into the whole thing for, so how's that been going?

June was definitely a learning month; all told, I was on two kills for the month and lost seven ships (six of which had something to do with Faction Warfare (the seventh was just me running around nullsec in a Talos until I blew the thing up).

With that said, I learned a lot from those losses, and June also marked my first small gang roam with a FW group (netting a fine battlecruiser kill), and my first solo kill, ever. Pretty hard to complain about that.

Killboard efficiency is vastly overrated, in my opinion, but it's hard not to be pretty happy with both July and August. I turned around the numbers from June and have managed to maintain a 3:1 kill ratio and a stupidly lopsided ISK destroyed to ISK lost ratio (thanks to flying frigates and other cheap ships), in addition to getting a couple more solo kills and FCing a fleet for hilarious results. Again, I don't really care about the numbers, but it's nice to look at the big picture as well as review fights and review my many mistakes. :) (In all seriousness: I don't lose less ISK if I destroy someone else's ship, so who cares what my "ISK efficiency" is? Meaningless number.)

The Faction Warfare screens are accessed in-game by drilling down into the "Business" menu, and that's no accident -- a lot of folks are there solely to make ISK, and though it's a secondary concern for me (I make more than enough from Planetary Interaction Colonies), you're going to make a fair amount of money even if you don't pay it much attention and just "try everything", as I like to do. In the last two months I've netted (not grossed) several billion isk from Faction Warfare as a result of truly, TRULY desultory money making effort on my part (easily less than ten percent of the time I've spent on FW, total), including cashing out my loyalty points at the "wrong" tier almost every time.1 On a minute-to-minute basis, there is simply nothing else I've done in the game that makes as much ISK in such short, discrete, instant-on chunks of time.

People will argue about whether the small gang and solo pvp is a bonus feature of Faction Warfare money making activities, or if it's the other way around, but it hardly matters -- if you want both, and plan for both, you're going to be pretty happy with the results.

This is slower going, due to the necessary and justified paranoia that runs through Faction Warfare, but I've gotten fairly familiar with a couple groups, and can jump on (or ignore) their nightly shenanigans with zero drama. That 'social curve' is steeper than what a typical MMO player might expect (unless you're joining up with friends), but the rewards are worth it for me.

You know, the fact of the matter is, I didn't blog about EvE all last week because I was too busy playing EvE. I suppose that says a lot right there, and mercuryapp.com (which I use to take down the notes that eventually become blog posts) reflects my satisfaction with the last sixty days.

After a year or more in Wormholes (which, while fun, almost always require extensive scanning preceding any kind of organized activity, and ongoing scanning throughout said activity), the fact that I can log in, hop in a ship, undock, do something, fight someone, and make twenty to sixty million isk -- all within 15 to 30 minutes -- is a huge draw for me, especially right now.

In my opinion, Faction Warfare may be the best "mixed-discipline" activity in the game for a new player coming into EvE Online for the first time, though RvB and EvE Uni have a better infrastructure built in for training new pilots the ins and outs of the game. I'd highly recommend it for that new player, or any more experienced player looking for something different to try out.

1 - Can you make more money doing other things in EvE? Sure. Can you do it in ten-minute chunks of time, solo, in a tech 1 frigate or a cheap bomber? No.


Life in Eve: Something Else #eveonline

I drop onto the couch and stare at the massive screen mounted on the wall of my quarters.

Too much information, and none of it useful. Where's the off switch?

Hell, where's the remote?


"Yes, pilot?"

"Channel broadcast please. Echo to Milcomms. TLF. BSB. Message follows:"

Ty > Anyone up to any shenanigans? I'll take anything but another infrastructure Hub bash.

I lean back and closed my eyes to block out the massive but blessedly mute screen. On the one hand, I was tired, but it was more the sort of tired you got from doing the same thing over and over, which described the last 24 hours pretty well. Four (or was it five) infrastructure hubs had died, replaced with our own, and while the Oracle battlecruiser I'd brought to the last few had made the process a bit less annoying than the dozens of bomber runs from yesterday, it was still a mental drain. I was more restless than worn out, but wanted to do something -- anything -- else.

"Transmaritanus requesting private channel connection, pilot."

"Let him in." I smirk. This should be good; Trans was a pretty good poster child for 'something else.'

"Yo." Trans's voice was, as usual, distant and tinny, his words rushed. "I've got a fleet I can maybe get you in, but you need to shut up about it. It does not exist. If you talk about it out in public, I will burn your fields and villages, okay?"

"Who is this? How did you get this number?" I replied. "I don't know what a 'fleet' is, and I certainly don't know anything about one forming up." I cut comms and crossed my fingers.

Working my way up out of the 'entry level' chafe in the TLF war effort was an ongoing chore -- one I'd been engaged in for almost a month. Tedious, albeit fairly simple: be active on comms, don't be a moron, don't be a dick, answer what questions you can, no matter how repetitively they're asked by the constant influx of new pilots (nevermind that I'd actually taken the time to go and find the answers myself), and just try to use your head.

Being able to mute pilots who are either too stupid to learn or too bitter and nasty to add anything to the conversation had helped immensely.

Eventually, one of the few well-respected veterans who still had the intestinal fortitude to spend time in general Milchat had decided I might be worth spending a little more effort on, and gave me access to a private channel he used for pulling 'potentials' into fleets that, while not 'open', per se, weren't entirely closed to all strangers. I'd gone from being one of the unwashed hippies camping in a cheap tent out on the lawn to being a semi-respectable stranger standing in the entryway, trying not to track mud on the tile.

Through Trans's channel I'd organized or been invited on a few very small operations, but this fleet sounded like a bigger deal.

Assuming he could get me in.

Several minutes passed, and I was about to write the whole thing off as a false positive, when Aura chimed.

"Fleet invitation incoming, pilot. Would you like --"

"Accept!" I cut in. "Accept." A new channel ID opened on the giant screen, with fleet information. Tech2 frigates and destroyers... twenty pilots in fleet...

Heading to... null-sec?

"Ty, are you familiar with the Curse region?"

I wonder if living there for six months counts. "More than a little. What do you need me to bring?"

"Got anything fast?"

I can't help but smirk.

Lessons learned:

Sometimes it can be fun to go back to old stomping grounds. A great night. Killed fifteen or sixteen ships and took on some really impressive groups (one with a pair of Basilisks for logistic support) with a pilot of assault frigates and destroyers. Only lost two ships the whole night.

Best of all: invited to a couple new comms channels to ensure I'd be in the loop for future activities. Awesome.


Life in Eve: A Quick Thought on the Mate War #eveonline

My Internet is out, so I'm writing this on my phone and don't have the time, patience, or keyboard to write out a long explanation of "the Mate War" going on in Eve right now. This post explains it sufficiently and briefly.

The tl;Dr version is that one guy, already on the defensive for screwing up, chose to change the subject during his dressing down by claiming that being called 'mate' was a comment on his sexuality, and declared war on a well-liked Alliance in game. This has backfired on him a bit.

Don't get me wrong: parts of the situation are very funny.

Here's what I don't think is funny.

He's (of course) being roundly mocked for misinterpreting 'mate' and declaring war over it.

But no one questions the idea that he's doing it because someone implied he was gay. People snicker and say 'no one called you gay, dude.' No one's saying 'so what if they did?'

How is it that being called gay is worth wardeccing over in the the first place? What kind of sorry, 1980s high school locker room are we in, that none of us even question that?


Life in Eve: How it Goes #eveonline

"Any pilots available to help us knock down a couple infrastructure hubs? We've got a few ready to fall, and a good defensive fleet, but we need more damage on the structures."

I hesitated, but the guys putting this call out sounded as though they knew what they were doing, and wouldn't randomly give enemy pilots access to voice comms.

"This is Ty, I'm in a bomber and I'm available."

"Perfect, I'll send you an invite to fleet."

"Sounds good. Where am I headed?"

"First target is Haras."