Monday, July 30, 2012
Faction Warfare - Station Lockouts
For those not entirely familiar with faction warfare, when a faction controls a system, the opposing factions cannot dock at stations in that system. (This only applies to faction warfare militia members. Players not involved with faction warfare can dock wherever they want.) Station lockouts do not lock you out entirely from the items you have stored in a station. Contracts can still be setup remotely for alts or hauling corporations to move assets to other locations. Being locked out of a staging system is an expensive and time-consuming annoyance though.
Station lockout adds a new level of strategy and tactics to faction warfare. Where a faction's alliances and corporations decide to stage from will have a bearing on where their enemies attack. It has a bearing on how they defend their territory. The threat of losing a staging system is a great psychological tool for the enemy.
Pre-Inferno, the only reason to fight the enemy faction was for the bragging rights. For the most part, that remains the case today. The exceptions are loyalty store riches and systems that are strategically important to one side or the other. Staging systems are of great importance to holding the front line in continual conflict, it's an approximation of the supply line.
As the Battle for Kourmonen is demonstrating, station lockouts provide an important strategic goal for one side of the conflict, while providing a sense of urgency and desperation for the other side. Station lockouts add an immediate emotional context to the conflict. Whereas emotion was in evidence pre-station lockout, that emotion was generally a result of the after trash talking. With station lockouts, the emotion permeates the conflict, beginning to end.
There have been some suggestions to changing system lockout mechanics. I'm not sure they are necessary, and add their own level of complexity and exploitation. Personally, I think the mechanic is working fine as is. But let's cover one of the more popular suggestions.
The first is to tie station lockouts to system control. An opposing faction is not locked out of the stations in a system, unless the controlling faction has a high level of system control in a stable system, something on the order of level 3 or higher control. Some people feel such a mechanic would encourage factions to set-up staging systems behind enemy lines, create more conflict away from the front lines. Is that what we want? Staging systems popping up randomly, and without effort, behind the front lines?
If such a proposal were considered, would station lockout be immediate, once system control reaches the desired level? Once it's determined that a system is being used to stage out of, the controlling faction only has to bring the system to a stable level and then spend some small amount of loyalty points to block access to the stations. And if this lockout is on a timer, then the system itself would need additional programming and debugging. The question then becomes, are the perceived benefits (if any) worth the development cost?
Station lockouts are the one area of faction warfare that does not need any immediate attention, maybe any attention at all, from CCP. The mechanic is doing exactly what it was meant to do, creating added conflict over certain systems, encouraging PvP over sovereignty. Kamela and Kourmonen are perfect examples of the station lockout mechanic in effect, getting the exact desired result that was intended by the CCP developers.