To the extent people care about rating, I thought about giving people a win vs. the players they have more cps than for rating purposes. This would certainly make the top players go for second most cps if they couldn't win, but probably would not result in collusion. I'm not sure this is better though.
FFA is just a unique format. It is really hard to do something about it, but the games are often very fun.
I think we are on the same page, that the main problem is that when a player is far behind the leader, they need incentive to try to finish 3rd rather than 4th, etc. But I disagree that the "games are often very fun" as I find they are often very annoying. As soon as one player decides to fight for resources vs control points, or decides to throw in the towel and just try to destroy units and control factories, the game is ruined (which sadly is the vast majority of my FFA games).
My point is that, in my opinion, FFA is unacceptable unless each player has a strong incentive to try their hardest to finish as high as they possibly can in terms of victory points. I do like the idea of places affecting rating, although this won't act as incentive to everyone. But definitely, you should gain rating points in FFA for finishing second (although less than first place), and you should lose more for finishing fourth as opposed to third.
Certainly finishing first in FFA is fun and exciting, but one aspect of the fun in FFA is merely trying to survive and do enough to finish in the winners group. One fun thing about tournaments is that you don't have to be the best to win a prize, you just need to do well enough to get into the prize pool. For instance, poker becomes so much fun once you are "in the money." FFA tournaments work the same way, except that each game leading up to the money admits only 25% or 33% (every other game type moves 50% forward), so while the overall structure includes paying more than one person, each individual game along the road requires so much luck.
Right now, I pray that the two opponents closest to me play like they are supposed to, or else we are both going to lose - which becomes even worse if I am in second place trying to capture first, but because they are in fourth place and consider themselves done, they rush my factories because they only fun left for them is trying to capture factories, build a massive army, and get some kills before they lose on VP. I have no reason to avoid playing a free FFA tourney for my amusement and possible prize, but there is no reason for me to spend points on it at the moment, since more of an FFA outcome depends on your opponents playing to win than it does on skill.
Perhaps we should be looking at deterring/preventing collusion while still advancing 2nd place. Perhaps specific FFA maps could be designed in a manner where collusion doesn't help very much.
Maybe we should look at creating better FFA maps in general. For starters, there should never be a resource between two players at the start for them to fight over... resources should all be by base or in middle. If players have tendencies to grab resources, put all the resources in the middle so everyone goes to the same place, with some control points split between players and in middle. That really big four person FFA map, which looks like it should be called Grasslands (although another map already has that name), would be great if instead of only 3 CP, you had two more - one in each corner which currently has a resource in place of a control point. In general, FFA maps need more control points to fight over, and less resources to fight over.
Maybe a new FFA tournament format should be constructed, so that you are eliminated from the tournament when you place 3rd or 4th place once, or 2nd place twice. Therefore, its not really in my advantage to collude with somebody for 2nd place, and even if I did, I could only do this once.
To me, I have played other FFA games with control points where two people advanced and never had problems encounter collusion. Again, four player maps only, how would the collusion work? You could priority target when possible, but troops often shoot at anything they can. If two players are split, and they double team one opponent, the other guy being ignored is going to end up with the most VP and one of them won't make it, so the collusion failed because only one of them made it.
If two players start next to each other and collude, their goal is to not fight over what is between them, and possibly share it. For starters, there should not be a factory between them, and if there is it is a flaw in the map design. Second, if there is a clear "sharing" of a control point and someone posts a replay of the complaint, the players in question should be punished. While collusion is difficult to prove, there is a mountain of evidence available for everybody to see in the replay.
Again, maybe we can't have two people advance. I'm sure the admins don't want to be collusion police. But I think we need to be as creative as possible to come up with a solution to make FFA games go down to the wire, even when one player has a comfortable lead. There needs to be a meaningful difference, if not between 3rd and 4th, then at least between 2nd and 3rd.