For a few weeks now I have been reading, studying and researching Low Sec. I've never really lived there as I feel that living in a WH is a bit more hardcore, but I have no fear of the place and its never stopped me from doing whatever it was I needed done at the time. As such, I've spent a lot of time trying to put to words my thoughts and feelings about Low Sec. I've read many blogs, forum posts and thoughtful, well written discussion; and as such I've decided to put to words my findings.
And before you completely discount my opinions as “Well you don't even live there, how could you know?” It could be that I'm exactly what the Improve Low Sec initiative needs. An unbiased, intelligent, researched look into exactly whats going wrong, and perhaps insight as how to reverse this self destructive pattern.
As a disclaimer, its a wall of text. Please refrain from saying something stupid in response until you read the entire article (not that you, my regular, intelligent reader would ever do such a thing). As always, I welcome constructive comments to help facilitate the discussion, even if you don't agree with what I'm saying.
I will attempt to explain Low Sec. I will explain how it got into its current state, and how current events and calls for fixes are simply not going to work. I will also reveal the true reason for Low Sec's demise, and who is responsible for fixing it. Read on, and think carefully about it. I think the answer may surprise you.
First of all, what is low sec? I'm going to define it first in order to have a more complete understanding of how low sec got into its current situation. Low sec is the strange middle ground between two major places in Eve, Hi Sec and Null sec. Like Hi Sec, Low sec it has gate guns and security status, but no CONCORD like null sec. With the exception of a security status change, you can do whatever you like in Low Sec just like Null sec but you can't have sovereignty. Basically, if Hi Sec and Null Sec were to get it on and have a child, the result would be Low Sec... and awkward child who is slow, ugly and backward.
If High Sec is the highest security, and Null Sec is no security; Low sec would be that spot in the middle that is more dangerous then High Sec but not nearly as frightening as Null Sec. In reality, this isn't exactly how this plays out, but that is the original intention. CCP seems to intend High Sec to solo operators, Low sec to groups and corporations, and Null sec to big Alliances.
The general opinion is that Low Sec is broken and CCP won't do anything to fix it because walking in stations is what the people really want.
So how did Low Sec get this way? Actually its a combination of a lot of things. First, the pirates. Now its easy and chic to blame them for the current state, but if they were not around, Low Sec would be a completely different place. Think about it. A pirate in High Sec loses a ship in a suicide gank or becomes a can flipper. That is not any way to live. A pirate in Null Sec is called Null Sec Alliance. And they don't even have to be flashy, they can go back into High Sec and get to do the same stuff. That leaves Low Sec. The only place they can be an asshole and get flashy red in the process.
Think about the current state of Low Sec. Now imagine if with a wave of your hand you can make all the pirates disappear, and no one can go back to that life ever again. Low Sec suddenly becomes a different place, doesn't it? Miners flood in to get ore. Missioners run missions and make even more isk then in High Sec. Exploration is more rampant. Industrialists flood the area to make more goods and services. Low sec suddenly becomes a very profitable place to live.
Perception is the next reason why Low Sec got to its current state. The current perception that Low Sec is full of pirates and people shouldn't go there is so pervasive that nothing short of a full scale revamp is going to be able to change it. Perception is everything. Someone who lives in Low Sec can talk ad nausem about how overblown the perception is, but until the general perception changes, people are not going to go there. You can make enough money in High Sec to live comfortably. Want more? Move to Null Sec. Null sec offers more isk at less risk then Low Sec, as you are protected by the Null Sec alliances. Want more? Move to a wormhole. When compared to Low Sec, Null Sec's rep is downright tame. And until that perception changes, Low Sec will continue to be terrible. But why is Null Sec's rep so much better? Its because of the direct actions of the players, just like Low Sec.
Interestingly enough, the Pirates are directly the cause for this perception, although it is not entirely their fault. Random roams by people who jaunt into Low Sec looking for a kill or gank are just as responsible. Every new person that ventures into Low Sec for the first time and dies just reinforces the perception. I'm sure at one time Low Sec had lots of people in it. But more and more people flocked there to be pirates or to go on random roams and the death toll started mounting. The people who prey on others started getting really good and the people dying started warning others. The result? A downward spiral that ends in Low Sec being in the terrible state it is today.
So what is wrong with Low Sec? Post after forum post after post from all walks of the Eve community lament on how terrible and broken it is. People suggest fix after fix after fix after.... well you get the idea. They complain that because the fixes aren't implemented, Low Sec continues to exist in its sucky, sorry ass state. I see a different truth. Low Sec is in its current state because of the players. And its up to those same players to fix it. But what about the post after posts of fixes? Surely there is a bandaid in all of that noise. CCP just need to implement it and Low Sec will be fixed.
One of my favorite fix myths is the myth of unique items. This one runs rampant through Idea Scale and on the forums in various posts that mention it. This is what will save Low Sec. Right?
Okay, I'll play. Name your item. Hell, name ten items. Then tell me why I shouldn't be able to make/produce/find any one of those in Null Sec. Any story line response. Anything. If the only thing you come up with is “cause we need it to get players to low sec” that is the wrong answer. Eve is a sandbox. NOTHING should be restricted as such. If I want to get a special kind of gas, I should be able to find it in a wormhole. An asteroid that I can't find in high sec? I better be able to find it in Null Sec, which is supposed to be even less safe then Low Sec. An item that drops off a rat NPC better have a chance to drop in Null sec where I take on giant complexes of those guys. What, because it's Null sec they suddenly don't use that item anymore?
CCP is actually trying this fix though. With the implementation of the Sansha invasions, CCP for the first time is actually restricting a serious blueprint to Low Sec only action. And if you have been following my blog, I've already explained how that is going to fail.
What about CCP's previous attempt at getting players to get into Low Sec?
You must be referring to the broken system that is Faction Warfare. Please tell me you are kidding. Faction Warfare, the answer to PVP! If running PVE type complexes is what you call PVP, sure. If hanging out at a button til someone shows up then running away is your idea a good fight, go right ahead. If getting blobbed is your idea of fun, have at it. Cause FW has been broken since day 1, and CCP hasn't cared about it since implementation. Wait a minute, that sounds familiar, where have I heard that story before?
The blobs, the running, the tears, the shipping up or down, the endless dancing around and no one fighting.... hell lets throw on “unable to join a faction warfare corp or fleet” for months or until you “prove” yourself because each side is paranoid about spies... Yeah, Faction Warfare is a real winner.
Another one of my favorites is the Pirates getting sovereignty mechanics or somehow making Low Sec more “pirate” or “criminal” centric. I usually always guess that the guys suggesting this idea are pirates. Because no one but a pirate would think this is a good idea. Hey I know, what Low Sec needs is more powerful Pirates! They can own their system and shoot anyone inside it for free! They should get benefits for being flashy red, like no GCC so gate guns can't target them. Yeah! Endless gate camp ganks with interceptors! Wooohooo! Hey, we should be able to “pay off” or “bribe” docking masters so when that guy tries to leave station he can't just warp off or re-dock which just denies us the kill. Oooo oooo I know! A pirate only cloak that removes my name from local! F-yeah!
I thought the idea of this “Make Low Sec Matter” bullshit is to figure out ways to get more people into Low Sec, not give the guys responsible for making it a proverbial wasteland more power. Ideas like these are kinda the opposite way to go, dontchathink?
Alright, so we need a way to deal with the pirates. I know! A better bounty system! The current bounty system is pretty terrible. If you put a bounty on a pirates head the only thing you are doing is giving the pirate a tip for raping you. “Thank you sir, for using lube this time when you gangbanged me 17 to 1. Here, have a tip for your efforts.”
That is how the pirates see it. Setting a bounty on a pirate is just giving them free money.
A better bounty hunting system is an idea that could actually work to swing Low Sec back into balance. Unfortunately, there is no way to implement such a system so that it cannot be abused. Currently the system is intended to work as such. First, the pirate ganks someone. The gankee gets mad enough to level a bounty on their head for some old fashioned “frontier justice”. A bounty hunter comes along, engages the dastardly fellow, blows up his ship and pod and claims the reward.
Sadly, it doesn't work that way.
Have you ever tried to capture a pod in low sec? If the pilot is paying any attention at all, its nigh impossible to catch one. Why? Low Sec doesn't allow bubbles. And the only way you get the bounty in the current system is killing the pod.
What really happens is the pirate waits til the bounty is huge or they really need money. They get in a implant-less jump clone and shuttle and log onto their power of 2 alt. The power of two alt gets a crappy rookie ship and gun (unless its been trained for better, crappy rookie ship and gun will work just fine). Both ships warp off someplace private. Power of 2 alt jettisons something crappy, Pirate with bounty steals from can, turns flashy to alt (obviously skip this step if pirate is already flashy). Power of 2 alt kills main's ship and pod. Alt gets bounty, alt transfers bounty to main. Main updates clone. Main goes and buys more ships. If they don't have an alt, any pirate buddy can do the same thing, usually the bounty is split between the two.
There has been much discussion over what the best way to revamp this system is. Unfortunately, in each “fix” there is a very clear cut way that a pirate can abuse the system and still collect the bounty on himself. This is because there is nothing that prevents the pirate's alt from becoming said bounty hunter.
Lana Torrin's idea is solid but there is nothing that prevents the pirate from having a bounty hunting alt to collect the bounty on himself and all his buddies (for a split of the profits of course). When I think of bounty hunters I think of Boba Fett, tough, single predators who take their prey by themselves. No one person is going to be able to take out the guy with the bounty AND his gang. Because of this, the pirate bounty alt is going to have plenty of business and all the time in the world to get the contract and job done.
Tehg Rhind writes a good thread about a potential solution. Scroll up and read his first two posts for his take on why Low Sec is terrible. In the one I linked he talks about his idea for a bounty system. He suggests a system in which the pirates are unable to collect their own bounty. However he doesn't have a solution for the Pirate simply creating an alt to be a bounty hunter. He can hunt himself and all his friends, they can all make it easy and profits can be split. He can create the most successful, corrupt bounty hunter in the entire galaxy. Not exactly what I envision for Boba Fett.
So what's the answer? There isn't one. At first I thought letting the players put out contracts on actual people would be the answer but there is no way to stop pirate alts from abusing that one either. Simply put, there is no system that can be contrived that cannot be taken advantage of in some way by a clever, resourceful player. The only thing that can be accomplished is making increasingly harder for pirates to get the free money, but in the end the downward spiral will prevail.
The myth of increasing rewards comes up a lot. People seem to think that by increasing the rewards in Low Sec (like all high quality level 4 missions, higher bounties, better ore, etc etc etc) is the best way to get people to move to Low Sec. This thinking is also misguided.
Playing devil's advocate, I will tell you that it MAY get more people into Low Sec. However, it will just serve to kick start the downward spiral. More people go to low sec for the increased rewards, more pirates flock to take out the targets, pirates get more and more effective, soon it becomes even more risky then it ever did before, and everyone leaves again. Low Sec goes back to the sucky, sorry ass state it was in before. Pirates leave, carebears flock, repeat the cycle until you get sick and throw up.
Besides, its not like Low Sec is less profitable. Its profit margin is right where one would expect it to be. Slightly more then High Sec, slightly less then Null Sec. Increasing it means you have to increase the rewards in Null sec too. Again, why would doing sites in systems that are supposedly Null Sec be worth less then something with “greater” security?
Low Sec is intended for groups right? Well lets increase rewards for missions when there is more then one person doing said mission. You better be increasing it across the board for all missions in all sectors of space then. Otherwise it just makes no sense that when your on that side of the tracks you get more for a mission then on the other side. That's like applying for a job with a friend. If you go to the safe side of town for that job you both get X amount of pay each. However, if you go to the slightly shadier side of town with your buddy to do the same job, you and your buddy suddenly get X+Y amount of pay each. That's fine, but if you are using that logic you and your buddy better be getting X+Y+Z when you do that same job in the part of town that has no security at all.
Wait, I thought people make more money in High Sec. How is it that Low Sec supposedly makes more money? Its because in High Sec people can run missions unmolested. Nothing stops the grind. In Low Sec, if you have to cloak up because 5 pirates jump in and try to gank you or you have leave because they won't, it really effects your isk per hour. Its simply the ability to run more missions without interruptions even if they are lower paying which adds up to more isk in the end.
Alright, criminal industry in the answer! We need to make crime a feature here. Lets move drugs out here to low sec. Can only make 'em in low sec. Lets make super drugs that can only be taken in low sec.
Why, why why?
You are telling me the most illegal of substances can't be made in lawless space? That idea doesn't even make sense. And super drugs that can only be taken in low sec? That's like running a crack house and telling people who buy your product that they can only smoke that shit in the house.
Besides, in order to start this criminal enterprise you need industrialists. What, you think pirates are gonna make that stuff? Please. And here we go down the spiral again. More industrialists. More pirates. More death. Less industrialists. Low Sec back to status quo.
CCP has to be careful with what they decide to do with Low Sec. If you make it too profitable, like dropping high end moons in Low Sec or increasing missions and NPC bounties to more then what you get in Null, you're just opening the door for Null Sec to come in and take it. As it is, Null Sec alliances are going to be the only ones getting that Sansha's blueprint for a while. You think it's gonna stop there?
Its time to shift the focus back where it belongs. All of us as players are directly responsible in one way or another for the terrible state Low Sec finds itself in. There is no magic code fix that CCP can implement that will suddenly make Low Sec better. It is the players who have put Low Sec into its current state, and its therefore up to the players to figure out a way to fix it.
Now, as I said before, there is not a magic code to “fix” Low Sec, but lets be perfectly honest when I say CCP didn't exactly help with Faction Warfare. And I do think that there are some things CCP should do in order to help facilitate a player fix. However, they are minor implements and not sweeping “you can only do/get/say this shit here” fixes.
Ideally, the only way to fix it is to remove the problem. Remember the thought exercise at the beginning where I asked you to imagine Low Sec with no pirates? Get the Pirates to turn on themselves. This is a bit of a problem as currently there is no reason to. After all, pirates are not looking for a good fight. They are looking for a straight gank, don't let any of them tell you otherwise. It only makes sense as a military objective is considered a success if your goal is completed with a minimum amount of collateral damage and loss of life. So its not like I can blame them.
So how do you get the problem to turn on itself. Short answer? You don't. CCP needs to implement something that forces them to fight each other rather then picking on carebears and miners who really can't defend themselves. Rico Minali has a decent solution however even his goes a bit far. He actually hits on it but quickly moves away from the point with the standard “make it more profitable/stuff you can only use in low sec” talk that will only attract Null Sec Alliances to set up Low Sec outposts. He also misses the point that by making a big “expansion” to improve the criminal/pirate way of life just reinforces the perception that Low Sec is dangerous.
Look at the four sectors of space and measure their success. High Sec is successful for a player who wants to do whatever it is he does unmolested by non-consensual PVP. Null Sec is successful for players who want to carve out their own place in the world of Eve. Its their space, they fight, live and die for control of it. Carebears and miners can run ops in the middle of alliance territory in relative safety, or at least more safely then in Low Sec. Wormhole space is successful because, like Null Sec, you can carve out your own space and make it your own. You can also take out others trying to do the exact same thing. And for the most part you can run your ops unmolested by others. Low Sec doesn't have any of these unique flavors other then “if you want to be a pirate and be flashy” this is where you go. And as such, Low Sec is in its current state.
What needs to happen is Low Sec needs some kind of identifier that is not detrimental to the other sectors. It needs some way for pirates to identify some section of space as “theirs” without making them more powerful then they already are. They need to be forced to turn on each other in turf wars that will leave them too busy to bother the less defensive people. Even this I feel isn't enough, as you need motivated players to take it upon themselves. You need other changes, like allowing things like bubbles in Low Sec and Sec Status hits for only killing pods. Just targeting and shooting at a ship should not be a sec status hit. This would allow for people to be more offensive without worrying about getting back into high sec. In this way, corps that move into low sec to take the riches that are already there get tools and weapons to protect themselves from the very wolves trying to kill them.
I have a dream. I have a dream of a Low Sec that is like Null Sec where players and corporations can own systems. That would allow a sense of ownership, much like Null Sec and Wormhole Space. I have a dream of CONCORD having roving patrols and posts in Low Sec, who can and will CONCORD people who break the “law” in that system. I have a dream where CONCORD's roving patrols actively seek to destroy pirates who are flashy red in system. Those that decide to become an outlaw should be randomly ganked by CONCORD so that there is a definitive drawback to negative sec status. I have a dream where gate guns and stations are safe havens for the persecuted, unlike Null Sec where there is no where safe. Perhaps like POS guns, gate and station guns should be small, medium and large to stop or discourage Gate/Station Camps that choke the influx of people into Low Sec. I have a dream of industrialists and indy ships that can pass through Low Sec, unmolested by gate camps. These people are the backbones of the economy, and allowing them safe passage in and through Low Sec would harken a new age of business peace and prosperity as well as bring more people to the sector.
And I also know that none of this will come to pass.
The pirate take of freedom is nothing but an illusion that continues to choke the life from Low Sec to this very day. They want freedom but no consequences for their actions. They want targets to shoot yet they offer nothing in return.
Even though their share of the blame is larger then perhaps others, its not the pirates who are the lone people responsible for this mess. Everyone who gets killed and passes along the perception. Everyone who goes on an “innocent” roam that ganks several people. Everyone who hears the perception and follows it. We are all responsible.
We didn't land on Low Sec. Low Sec landed on us.
I say to ask not what Low Sec and CCP can do for you. Ask what you can do for Low Sec. More specifically, what are YOU doing to improve Low Sec? If you are the pirate that says “Well I'm shooting the people coming in and ransoming them for all they are worth” you're not exactly improving the situation are you?
Welcome to the spiral. Next stop, ground floor.