On December 4th, the ISK-making fountain known as Factional Warfare will come to a end. Retribution will band-aid many of Inferno’s follies by creating a more balanced income spread across tiers. The general consensus is that this will “fix” a lot of the current issues plaguing Factional Warfare. Whether Retribution actually results in a net fix of the system as a whole or just trades one set of issues for another is still up for debate. However, one undeniable fact stands out: FW income is getting the nerf bat straight in the face.
For the purpose of this article I intend to focus discussion on forecasting the impact of Retribution’s change on FW income. While it’s tempting to simply go plugging raw data into a spreadsheet, without meaningful context to quantify any of the numbers and failing to treat FW as a complex system, the results are meaningless. For this reason Inferno was a failure. In a pre-Inferno interview, CCP Soundwave describes FW as a closed-loop system, when in reality it never was actually closed-loop and the changes they made reflect this attitude.
CATEGORIZING LP STORE ITEMS
I don’t care to do an in-depth analysis of the actual math behind the Retribution changes. It has already been discussed in great detail by others. Gevlon has a good breakdown on the changes here if you aren’t familiar with the changes or want to brush up. However, I do feel the need to point out some of the different item types for the sake of clarifying future discussion, inside and outside of this article.
ISK-Cost Items — These are items where the ISK cost is the dominant secondary item price component after LP. Due to high relative demand these items form the backbone of LP cashouts. Obvious items that would fall under this classification are implants and datacores since their ISK cost is always 1000 times the LP cost. Less obvious items are consumables such as ammo and cap boosters. Despite having an item requirement, the additional item cost for consumables is negligible.
Tag Items — Items that fall under this category are the faction variants of modules, which have an ISK cost and additional item requirement in the form of faction tags that are generally sourced from NPC wrecks in faction missions. Unlike ISK-cost items, the tag requirement is a significant portion of the non-LP cost.
Ships — Ships fall under an interesting category because the mineral cost to build them falls short of the fixed 1000:1 ISK to LP ratio of ISK-cost items, and the additional item cost can either be a pirate tag or a nexus chip that comes from another LP store. Nexus chips may seem similar to tags as an additional requirement but because nexus chips are supplied via another LP store their supply is much more predictable.
Further adding to item categories are faction-specific and non-faction-specific items. Faction-specific items are items that are unique to a specific faction’s LP stores, including their non-FW LP stores. Likewise, non-faction-specific items are those items that are contained in all FW LP stores, such as implants.
Forecasting where actual income levels will fall is difficult to pinpoint; however, reasonable predictions can be made based off some concrete bounds and game mechanic realities. For the sake of this discussion, we will assume fairly optimal conditions such as negligible bleed rate.
- The hard price floor on ISK-cost items is their ISK component. i.e.: The price of a +5 implant that costs 65k LP and 65M ISK will never drop below 65M ISK.
- The price ceiling for implants pre-Inferno was largely the net result of supply coming from all factions at current day tier 3 prices. Post-Inferno all it takes to drive down the entire implant basket is a single dominant faction, so this ceiling is likely to be below pre-Inferno values.
- The price ceiling for a losing side’s faction-specific items are dictated by hisec mission runners, while the ceiling for their non-faction-specific items are dictated by dominant factions in FW.
- Plex farming is going to take a much bigger income hit than missions will. In addition to the LP payout changes, they will be more difficult to farm reducing the optimal LP/hr you can make, and a shift from plexing to missions which are remaining unchanged will further reduce LP/ISK.
- Because FW missions have a low barrier of entry, carry little risk, and are very profitable they are likely to continue be the driving factor regarding item prices as long as their ISK/hr ratio stays favorable compared to other areas of the game.
- ISK-cost items no longer getting their non-LP price component scaled meaning that it is realistically possible for a winning faction to overfarm its own profitability at Tier 5 such that it will have very limited profitability if dropped down to Tier 4.
Going off some of the above points, lets take a look at how FW mission and plex income scales per hour based on item price, while running missions at a conservative 150k LP/hr pre-multiplier and cashing out on +5 implants which have a 65k LP cost and 65M ISK cost.
FW Mission Income - 150k LP/hr pre-multiplier
Plexing Income - 50k LP/hr pre-multiplier
As you can see, Retribution income for ISK-cost items will be significantly less than Inferno income levels. Where item prices will actually end up is impossible to know for sure, but we can at least attempt to quantify some of the upper bounds.
If 95M was the old ceiling for +5 implants pre-Inferno under Tier 3 pricing, it can be inferred that once the market recovers from Inferno, the rough ceiling for Tier 4 will be 90M and for Tier 5 85M. This is just the ceiling and of course actual values for item price can driven lower depending on whether or not the number of FW mission runners actually increases post-Retribution.
Plexing income will have almost no profitability for a losing side and the above numbers rely on a 50k LP/hr assumption, and with the upcoming plex changes this number could very well end up being even lower.
Ships are next in line to ISK-cost items when it comes to hassle-free cashout items, but demand is somewhat low for the limited selection each faction offers. Also, while I’m sure there are some ridiculously lucrative gems among tag items the tag market is too small and sensitive to additional inputs to support widescale farming like ISK-cost items. Due to the aforementioned aspects of ships and tag items I’m hesitant to make any real predictions or statements regarding their change in profitability after Retribution.
I find it amusing how the Inferno and Retribution expansions will result in a Factional Warfare system with net profitability that is either at pre-Inferno levels or possibly even below. Retribution will introduce a system where a dominating side will slowly cannibalize its own profitability as mission farmers chase high tiers or possibly fall into apathy if it can’t maintain Tier 5 while the losing side struggles to take over systems for a fraction of the payout a winning side will make taking it back.
In the past, FW used to be ridiculously lucrative for anyone on either side who knew about missions. A large reason behind this was the fact that, like level 5 missions, it’s profitability was somewhat hidden. (Yes, prior to Inferno L5 missions were ridiculously lucrative in cheap ships.) However, now that the secret is out, I expect FW missions will be increasingly popular as an easy way to make lots of ISK for little effort, the net result being that over time a winning side will be less profitable at Tier 5 than it was before Inferno.
CONCLUSIONS AND FINAL THOUGHTS
- Functionally, Retribution’s flipped LP rewards are very different than the current Inferno mechanics. The Inferno mechanics meant that LP value was defined by the highest Tier you were able to cash them out at, and the value they provided in regards to buying power was measured in potential. With Retribution, a losing faction will always have less incentive to run plexes than a winning faction due to instant actualization of Tier rewards.
- I’m curious to see the long-term ramifications of a flooded market for the winning factions and just how hard the farming bonanza actually ramps up in the weeks leading up to Retribution.
- FW missions need adjustment on a multitude of levels; however, that is a discussion unto itself.
- Shared plex income really needs to be implemented so if you’re in a small gang trying to use plexes to bait fights you can actually get some meaningful reward.
- Factional Warfare post-Retribution will still be the remnants of a broken system and is likely to keep suffering from feature implementation without any meaningful vision or framework. The thought of Dust integration makes me shudder.
- CCP and the CSM once again fail to understand why players fight and what things actually drive conflict and warzone control will still largely remain a silly PVE based metagame. Conceptually they had some interesting ideas, but the overall implementation is still really bad. Inferno to Retribution was really one step backward and two steps forward, but that is another story, to be told another time.