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There Is No Lowsec. And this is as personal as it will ever get.

It seems that everyone is out to “fix” Eve. Rather odd since we all play it and presumably enjoy it. The last CSM started with the proposal that low sec space was broken and the chairwoman ran on a platform of fixing it. It ended with nulsec dwellers eyes bugging out at the CSM gleefully supporting a proposal to “fix” nulsec by removing jump bridges with the specific stated intention of making it more miserable and time consuming to get anything done there. Ironically, the primary aim of fixing nulsec seemed to be to break up alliances and create random small gank squads–exactly the thing lowsec excels at and which is part of what makes it “broken.”

Players are upset because high sec players don’t drift into lowsec before heading to nulsec. “We need to get more people into lowsec.” They are upset because nulsec is supposed to be “more dangerous” than lowsec and it isn’t. “We need more random violence in nulsec.” It all amounts to the same thing: We need to “fix” things because the players aren’t playing the way the design documents say they should play. They’re not adhering to “The Vision.”

All these attempts to “fix” the game are doomed to failure and frustration because they’re based on outdated notions about the game.

Here is the problem. There is no lowsec. There is no highsec. There is no nulsec. There are two kinds of space in Eve: Secure and Insecure. Secure Space consists of highsec empire and sovereign nulsec. You know where you stand and you can go out and play your game because if someone interferes with you, there will be consequences from a third party. It doesn’t have safety necessarily, what it has is predictability. The other is Insecure Space, consisting of lowsec and npc nulsec. In Insecure Space, there’s no control, and you are at the whim of other players and random happenstance. While there is far less actual ship destruction than sovereign nulsec, it seems more violent because it is inherently unpredictable.

The first misperception to be disposed of regards security status. Security status has virtually nothing to do with how space divides up in the modern game. It’s really a concept that’s become irrelevent, nothing more than how strong the rats are. As I indicated earlier, neither is the amount of pvp combat really a differentiator. There’s far more PVP in nulsec, one single system had over 2000 kills last weekend, yet it’s paradoxically also safer. What differentiates Secure and Insecure space is predictability. The ability of a pilot to log in and be able to get done what they expect to get done without someone forcing them to do something else. That applies to both violent and non-violent activities. Predictability is associated with someone who wants to go out and mine without being blown up, but sovereign nulsec fleet actions are also predictable. I’ve lost far more ships in nulsec wars than I ever did to lowsec pirates, but it certainly doesn’t leave one with the same feeling.

Let’s look at nulsec. To start, it’s really two almost completely different places: NPC Nulsec and Sovereign Nulsec. NPC nulsec really has far more in common with lowsec. You can’t conquer stations or establish sovereignty. It’s the bastion of pirates and gankers. It’s nobody’s territory and few, other than wandering gangs, actually “live there.” The only real difference between lowsec and npc nulsec is the rats are better and you can use bubbles. But you can’t hold sov. You can’t put up a cynojammer or a beacon or take over a station and kick everyone else out. You can’t log in and have a good idea of what you’re going to do. It’s not predictable. It’s exactly like lowsec. It’s also largely abandoned and if you go there someone’s going to gank you for pretty much no reason. It shares the same unpredictable and violent gamestyle as is usually associated with lowsec.

The remainder of nulsec, what I’ll call “Sovereign Nulsec,” the part run by players in large alliances, is actually in the secure category. A year ago when I joined Goonswarm, the biggest surprise to me was just how safe nulsec is. After spending two months as a pirate with Hellcats in lowsec earlier that year, I had lived with watching local and checking the D scanner and I figured life in Delve would be more of the same only more so.

It’s not like that at all. In sovereign nulsec, as long as you are blue, you are perfectly safe. And if you’re not, you have the same life expectancy as a flashy red in empire. One simply substitutes the protection of the local alliance for the protection of Concord. If anything, nulsec is safer–if you stick something super valuable in a cheap indie, you have  far greater chance of surviving the trip in nulsec than you would in high sec.

I know it pecks at the livers of some folks that large parts of nulsec are this safe, but it’s the outcome of a series of very complex systems produced by the game designers and tens of thousands of players efforts over a period of years. Players were given the tools to build a civilization and they did what humanity has done for the last 10,000 years–they built a civilization. To expect human beings to do otherwise is ludicrous. We instinctively create order out of chaos. Nobody wants to live in Somalia. Get over it.

And while CCP may now regret it, it’s possibly their greatest accomplishment. Other games have tried for years and years to make “player justice” as it used to be called in UO work. And Eve is the only game where it’s ever functioned at all. There are, without doubts, problems with the nulsec game, but Sovereign nulsec being Secure Space is not a problem and it doesn’t need to be fixed.

So why do we have this idea that there’s a continuum based on security status? Well because that’s how the game was designed. I haven’t been a consistent player, but my first adventures in Eve date from the Castor era when there was no such thing as sovereignity and when a battleship was not only the most powerful thing in the galaxy, but also rare. The game back then really did orient entirely around security status. But that’s not the game we play today. It hasn’t been Eve for literally years. You can’t return to the past. It’s insanity to do so given the incredible things that are happening in sovereign nulsec.

There are certainly things that can be done to improve the gameplay in both nulsec and lowsec, but they need to be based on the game as it is now, not the game as it exists in some dusty design document or in the fantasies of someone who thinks they can make players play the “right” way. Security status is irrelevant. Deal with it.

7 Comments

  1. Dante Edmundo February 22, 2011 6:00 pm

    >> Nobody wants to live in Somalia. Get over it.

    Great line. 🙂

  2. SirHarryPierce February 23, 2011 2:21 pm

    Nice read, thx.

  3. Druur Monakh February 24, 2011 1:40 am

    Excellent read – I think I will have to digest it a bit. But the equivalency between lo-sec and NPC-0.0 is interesting; not being a 0.0 dweller, I never made the connection.

  4. Goa'Tnigoe March 3, 2011 3:46 am

    I adore how pirates bemoan the fact that nobody wants to go to low-sec when they make living there a practical impossibility. They make living there a practical impossibility so people stay away. Then low-sec is broken because nobody goes there. Hello?

  5. Max March 3, 2011 1:36 pm

    Wow. Just wow. I never looked at the complete picture this way — although I did have the idea that Sov 0.0 was *safer* than high sec — but your post seems to make oodles of sense.

    (Maybe not being one of the “low sec is teh borken” folks helps. Yes, I live there. No, I don’t think it’s broken as such.)

  6. req March 3, 2011 8:48 pm

    lots of people want to live in somalia. that’s what venal and curse are for

    lowsec is a completely different ballgame from nulsec. nanogang style pvp is nearly impossible in lowsec because fighting on gates in buffer tanked ships is suicide. bubbles allow large gangs to force the issue against each other where in lowsec the best you could hope for is to tackle a straggler as the rest of the gang runs away.

    in nulsec bombers and bombs are an option, titans can doomsday, mechanics allow for stupidly lopsided supercap ganks, jump bridges allow for thoroughly dismaying logistics, money is incredibly easy to make, stations can disallow docking.

    in lowsec, everything revolves around heavy spider tank gangs. there is virtually no soloing because every pirate corp worth caring about camps gates with remote sensor boosted hics. small ships are virtually nonexistant in lowsec pvp, the smallest thing you will usually see is a hac, recons are barely ever used. everyone is poor in lowsec unless they are doing things incredibly right (read: avoiding losses at all cost). logistics are extremely difficult since outlaws can’t visit jita and jfs attract a LOT of attention. station games in highsec are stupid, where station games in lowsec are downright depressing – one heavy tanked ship playing bait games on an undock with multiple carriers in station on standby to rep them.

    you grossly underestimate the differences between lowsec and nulsec, not to mention the differences between regions of lowsec and regions of nulsec. black rise is an entirely different ballgame compared to aridia or tash-murkon lowsec, and placid is different too. curse is an absolutely terrible region to live in because it is basically an entire region of amamake with supercaps. venal is awful also because everyone there has 500 people waiting on a titan to gank your shit.

    if it weren’t for the fact that you say you were in hellcats i would honestly think you’d never even visited lowsec, but that almost doesn’t count anyway

  7. Tsubutai March 8, 2011 6:25 am

    Good post, although I take issue with the assertion that ‘no one wants to live in Somalia’ – lowsec is actually fairly busy.

    The other thing that galls me about the calls to ‘fix’ lowsec is this: by CCP’s own metrics, lowsec comprises 8.6% of the game’s total systems, plays host to 8% of the playerbase, and accounts for 29% of all kills. That means it is more densely populated than either 0.0 (44.6% of all systems, 32% of total population) or W-space (31.6% of all systems, 7% of total population) and waaaaaay more violent than either. Now granted, these figures don’t break out NPC 0.0 from sov nullsec; I can readily believe that NPC 0.0 would rival or eclipse lowsec in terms of both population density and kills per capita. However, as far as I can tell, they flatly contradict any claim that lowsec is broken or under-used. There’s a difference between gameplay that is not to someone’s personal taste and gameplay that is broken.

    @ req: I’ve lived and pvp’d in lowsec for over a year, first solo and then in a fairly well-established pirate corp. Here’s a brief list of things I have never done:

    * Flown or been in a gang with an RSB’d HIC
    * Been on a gate-camping op
    * Flown in a heavy spider-tanked gang
    * Played station games with carriers

    Here’s a brief list of things I have done:
    * Racked up around 200 solo kills in various frigates, the overwhelming majority of which were against other frigate pilots who were pvp fit and looking to fight
    * Flown recons in nano gangs
    * Done corp and personal logistics with no particular difficulty
    * Made enough ISK to keep me in the ships I want to fly
    * Willingly engaged in high risk situations and taken a whole bunch of losses (111 and counting…)

    While lowsec is very heterogeneous, your experiences and assertions are completely inconsistent with mine.

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