Tuesday, January 11, 2011

If it Ain't Broke...

This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much all of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
--Douglas Adams

I now interrupt my regularly scheduled programming to bring you some comments on discussions at other blogs. I'm already a little late to the party, and adding this to the end of my queue of scheduled posts means it won't get posted for a couple of weeks.  What discussion am I talking about you ask?  Well, start here, then read this, and finally end up here.  Once you're done with those, join me back here for my own thoughts on the topic.

Before I start this mad ramble of mine, I'm going to start with an analogy.  I'll go ahead and warn you ahead of time that it's long and purely based on my opinions, both of the EVE-verse and the Real World that I'm using in the analogy.  Feel free to ignore me, but I'll be referring back some of the points I make during the analogy throughout the post...

High Security Space
Highsec is the major metropolitan areas of the world.  It has every good/service you could possibly imagine readily available.  Wal-Mart is only just down the street.  Prices are typically fixed on a normalized supply and demand axis.  If you want to buy something that has been mass produced, you should come here.

People ride around in whatever cars they can afford or is appropriate for what they're doing.  You're as likely to see soccer moms hauling kids in SUVs and Mini-Vans as you are to see expensive luxury cars out for a drive.  No one feels too worried about losing it while it's parked outside the mall.

Crime, however, has not been stamped out.  People still kill people from time to time.  The Police aren't on every street corner ready to stop it, but they do respond pretty quickly to 911 calls and, generally speaking, the person won't get away with it.

Low Security Space
Lowsec is the Ghetto.  It has many of the same goods and services that are available in the more well off parts of the city, but it also has things you can't get there.  Prices swing all over the place as some things are in short supply, while others are just in short demand.  If you want to buy drugs, you should come here.

Cars are different here.  No one parks a Ferrari in a bad neighborhood because they'll come back to missing rims, or someone keying the sides just out of spite.  Even the drug dealers and the gang bangers drive pimped out low end vehicles.  The entire idea of what is and isn't an expensive ride is different.

Crime is pretty much expected here.  While police still exist, and murder is still illegal, in the time it takes any law enforcement to arrive the criminals have already left and any witnesses aren't talking.  If you get mugged, the likely advice is going to be that you shouldn't have been drawing so much attention to yourself.  Crimes are generally committed in small numbers, because large groups draw too much attention from the Police and make getting away after committing a crime much harder.

Null Security Space
Nullsec is a war zone.  It has whatever goods/services that your side of the war has managed to get there via the supply lines it has available.  Prices are generally at cost if you're selling to your own side, or extremely inflated by the people who are trying to turn a profit off the war effort.  If you want to fight a war you should come here.

Cars are war machines.  Tanks, HMMWVs, you name it.  If you're driving something not able to defend itself, then you had best be traveling with an escort or you're just asking for trouble.  There are no malls to park beside, so your vehicles are left inside bases belonging to your own or a friendly faction.

Crime doesn't exist here.  Well, at least in the sense that the things most people would consider a crime no longer are.  Killing a person is now seen as justified, and those that die are likely to be looked upon as though they knew what they were getting themselves into.  While it may be extremely dangerous on the battlefield, behind your own lines you're typically safe to go about your day to day lives without interruption.

Wormhole Space
Wormholes are the North Pole.  Supplies are whatever you brought with you.  Services are whatever you can build once you get there.  No one stumbles onto the North Pole, it's only populated by people who deliberately wanted to be there.  If you want to be a famous explorer striking out on your own you should come here.

Cars are specially built vehicles for the job at hand.  No one would dream of taking a Honda Civic out for a Sunday drive here.

Crime is an alien concept.  No one would even notice a person going missing, let alone be able to sort out who it should get reported to.  You're just expected to defend yourself from the polar bears.

End Analogy

OK, now that that's done, let's get on to the blog posts that started this...

So first up, we have Shadai over at Sleepless in Space discussing the Downward Spiral of Lowsec.  I don't normally read SiS, because it's about Wormholes...and I don't typically care about Wormholes.  Now, Shadai does state right off the bat that they don't actually live in lowsec and have never lived there.  The vast majority of what they're talking about is their perception of lowsec with a truncated Terry Goodkind quote thrown in to back them up.  For those curious, the full quote is "The mice think they are right, but my cat eats them anyways.  This is the point, reality is nothing, perception is everything."  It's very appropriate given the circumstances.

What's wrong with lowsec?  Nothing.  Except it has bad PR.  Everyone thinks it sucks, and continues to tell everyone they meet that it sucks, and then you end up with people that have never been there telling you how much it sucks.

Could lowsec be better?  Absolutely.  So could chocolate cake, but that doesn't mean it's bad to start with.  When I had only played EVE Online for a month, lowsec already sounded exciting enough that I wanted to try it.  I don't regret coming here for a minute.  So before you go around talking about ways to make it better, maybe you should keep in mind that it already attracts people just the way it is.

Don't believe me?  I'm going to totally steal some numbers from Tsubutai to make a point.

"I had a look at the population density of the different system types in Eve this morning. According to the 2010 Q2 QEN, 53% of the population lives in highsec, 8% in lowsec, 32% in nullsec, and 7% in W-space. For comparative purposes, there are 7881 systems in the game, of which 1207 (15%) are highsec, 699 (9%) are lowsec, 3476 (44%) are nullsec, and 2499 (32%) are W-space.

Thus, the population density (i.e. percentage of the game's total population inhabiting a given sec-class of system divided by the total number of systems within that sec-class) is as follows:
Highsec: 3.46
Lowsec: 0.90
Nullsec: 0.73
W-Space: 0.22

It therefore follows that if lowsec is a horribly underused wasteland, nullsec and W-space are atrocious f'n disasters..."

I don't think I could put it any better myself.  So I won't try.  Lowsec isn't broken, so any discussion that starts with talk of fixing it isn't something I can agree with.  Now, I will entertain thoughts of making it better, so allow us to approach it with that in mind.  The same way we can discuss making EVE as a whole better.

Next up Jager Da over at Guns Ablaze rebuts various points from the original post.  I agree on a lot of the points made there.  Namely that any Sovereignty in lowsec is a "blob-supporting mechanic and If it came to low sec as it’s implemented in null, I’m not sure how much longer I’d play the game."  One of the things I semi-agree with is the concept that there shouldn't be items unique to lowsec because it doesn't make sense from a storyline perspective.  If you go back to my analogy from above, you can see that there are things available in the Ghetto that are not available in a Warzone.  I certainly didn't see an awful lot of drugs the last time I was in a war, but I've seen plenty of them in the ghettos of America.

He proposes an interesting option for bounty mechanics working somewhat like contracts that he admits he came up with on the spot and may have some flaws.  While it's probably the best concept I've seen so far for a way bounties could be made legit, it's got some problems if you try to make it fully automated.  I could however conceive of a system that simply facilitated a more human element to bounties.  If "bounty hunters" were able to place regional adverts for their services, and players who had felt wronged could then contact them through that system in order to arrange something, I could see it working.

Discussion of bribing docking managers worries me a bit.  I'm not a fan in the slightest of "station games" or "gate camps."  They annoy me, and anything that might make them easier just doesn't sit well with me at all.  If anything, I'd like to see gates and stations become a bit safer, but I'll get to that later.

There's also some discussion of the idea of turning Pirates against each other.  As is obvious from anyone who's ever been a Pirate, we already are fighting each other.  Now, I can understand that the perception from the outside is that we're all a unified front, I'm sure that to anyone passing through the Ghetto that the gang colors are meaningless and all the gang members are on the same side.

Bubbles in lowsec?  I'd quit.  All this would do is make camps even easier and, as I already said, I wouldn't be interested in them becoming the standard.  CONCORD in lowsec?  Doesn't make any sense.  As Jager Da states "The reason there is no CONCORD in Low Sec now is because they don’t have enough man-power."  I agree with that statement, but I'd like to offer some alternatives towards the end of this post.

Finally I think that Logan over at Eve Opportunist raises a good point.  After reading the entire thing, I think I'd sum what he's saying as "Lowsec is safe as long as you know what you're doing."  He's right of course, and it's a point that I'm trying to put forth in general on this blog.  I've got some upcoming plans to do a post solely concerning making money in lowsec, but it's about a month off while I get some research done on my end.  Hopefully it can give any carebears out there some ideas on how they could make a fast buck in lowsec with minimal risk.

OK, so I promised my own ideas somewhere on this post, so now you're going to get them.  How do you make a ghetto better?  You make it safer.  You build parks and strip malls and convince the public that it's now safer to go there.  Of course, you didn't actually get rid of the gang bangers and drug dealers.  You didn't actually make it safer, you just created the perception that it's safer and hoped that reality would follow.

How do you apply this to EVE?  Instead of all this talk of increasing reward, maybe we can look at lowering the risk in the risk/reward ratio.  This is about the point that all of the Pirates reading this have thrown their hands up in disgust, but bear with me.  Keep in mind that ideas are all these things are, and nothing but playtesting and implementation could sort out exactly what would happen with them in a sandbox.

Make it safe to travel.
It's not so much dangerous to drive through the ghetto, it's dangerous to stop there.  I understand that CONCORD doesn't have the resources to patrol lowsec, but what about the Faction Navies.  Why not allow them to sit outside stations and on gates and provide assistance to anyone attacked there?  They could provide RR assistance to any innocents attacked while turning a blind eye to gangbangers (read outlaws) attacking each other.  The idea would be that people put themselves at risk by actually doing the things that make isk, mining, ratting, missions, but are generally safe while getting to and from those activities.  This creates the illusion of safety, rather than the reality.  Hopefully it gets carebears to be bolder in venturing into it knowing they won't die on the first lowsec system they enter.  It also allows traders an opportunity to come into lowsec to sell their wares at better profits than they'd get in high, while giving outlaws a market that they can actually buy from.  I'd pay a premium to not have to haul everything in from highsec on an alt.

Make it dangerous to be in groups.
I don't want to see numerical superiority being the key to lowsec PvP.  It's already the way to win a fight in Nullsec, which makes sense in a war, but not in a gang fight.  In the current system, gate guns are easier to tank the more people you have and the larger your ships.  Why not add tracking and signature resolution as attributes to gate guns, allowing smaller ships to be able to tank them just as well, if not better, than large ships.  Changing the way guns cycle on targets, instead to simply fire at every person who aggresses in front of them would mean that larger gangs no longer have an advantage, and it just becomes more likely that you'll be losing some ships in the process.

Make GCC meaningful.
I finally think this is something that both Pirates and Carebears can agree on, the GCC timer sucks.  For the Pirates it's long and boring, and for the Carebears it's completely pointless.  What if it provided added excitement and more PvP for the Pirate while providing the Carebear who just got destroyed the possibility of the Pirate actually paying for it?  Here's an idea I'd like explored.  What if pilots with GCC couldn't dock and became a warpable object to everyone in local?  What if it went a step farther and made them visible on the world map as "Pilots in system with GCC."  For the Pirates you'd get more PvP.  People coming out of the woodwork to attack you would certainly mean your 15 minutes weren't spent in boredom.  The Anti-Pi's or Bounty Hunters, or whatever they wanted to call themselves would have a real chance at catching the guy in space.  Players with GCCs would basically end up running the entire time, warping from safe spot to safe spot until they finally shook their pursuers.  I think this would be a more realistic simulation of trying to escape after committing a crime in the real world.

That's all I've got at the moment.  Please keep in mind that my ideas are formed on the basis of creating the perception of safety while still allowing Pirates to attack people in order to profit from PvP.  All of the above could be rolled out with the storyline explanation of the various factions attempting to increase security in their own space.  Carebears in highsec could finally have their curiosity piqued with the new promise of a "Newer, Safer Lowsec!!!" and Pirates could find ratters and miners to ransom.  The only important aspect to make sure they come back is that when they get ransomed for 10misk to be let go, they already made 100misk in the hour they were there.




  1. I like your points on 'Make it more dangerous to be in groups" and "Make GCC more meaningful"... i rather like the idea of making the gate sentries a little more intelligent. The GCC I'm not sure if having them warp-to-able the whole time would fly, but it's something that certainly needs more consideration... it terms of making it more significant or impacting.

    I think though, the missing ingredient here is the opposing force for piracy... the bounty-hunters are largely absent due to the inadequacies of the current system.

    I do agree that low-sec is not at all broken per se. Though I do think the balancing is something of significance that needs to be addressed.

  2. Excellent post sir, I appreciate your comments and well thought out arguments.

    A lot of this was stuff that I mentioned in the original article but you expounded some ideas in ways that I had not originally considered or thought about.

    This was my favorite point:

    "What's wrong with lowsec? Nothing. Except it has bad PR. Everyone thinks it sucks, and continues to tell everyone they meet that it sucks, and then you end up with people that have never been there telling you how much it sucks."

    Thank you for understanding what I was getting at.

  3. Great post. First, I'm really glad you admitted to this being your opinion rather than a supposedly fact-based argument. Second, I love the term 'PR' over 'perception' for describing the opinions people have about Low Sec.

    As for your ideas on the changes to some of the mechanics, I think you may be on to something. I may expand on these ideas a bit on my blog in the near future.

  4. Speaking as carebear with reaction POSes: I like the direction of the ideas. It would probably piss of all the wannabe-PvPers (those after riskless killmails), but would make engaging in lo-sec more enjoyable.

  5. Fox- I'm on the fence with the idea of Bounty-Hunters. For me, it brings to mind Boba Fett, IG-88, Bossk, Dengar, etc. These weren't the good guys. I have a hard time viewing Bounty-Hunters as an entity that would hunt Pirates in EVE instead of being one of the Pirates in EVE.

    Shadai- Thanks for, intentionally or not, making a post that was controversial enough to start this dialog.

    Jager- Nothing I've ever said could be considered anything other than my opinion, and I try to stay as far away from facts as possible. I look forward to reading your future thoughts on the topic.

    Druur- Although I've only been doing this for a few months, I've been referred to as an "Old-School Pirate" already because of my views on the way it should be conducted. I'm not a big fan of PvP that doesn't involve risk. It's one of the things that keeps me so far from gate-camps and station games. I view them as ways to pad killboards and nothing more. If I don't feel I'm in some danger when I'm out there, it's just not fun for me. I wish more people felt that way, and some of my suggested changes really are just aiming to make lowsec more mechanically conducive to that behavior.

  6. First off thank you for your comment on my post at Victoria Aut Mors. It lead me through your rabbit hole here and that was a great ride. Spectacular thoughts on low sec and how to improve it. My opinion has definitely been changed.

  7. Best read about High/low/null sec and the problems around those areas of space.

    Nice Job!

  8. As a carebear who would love nothing more than to be able to make ISK out of bounty hunting and vengeance (don't have the heart to be a true pirate) I think the GCC is one of the most creative and potentially valuable solutions. Throw in a hull-size-based bounty (significantly less than the value of the ship to prevent abuse) and I'd be happy to give pirates non-stop PvP. :) It's ratting for people who like thinking prey.