I've made no secret of the fact that, on the whole, I tend to be unusually altruistic towards other players. It says so in big letters right at the top of the page, so hopefully it won't come as a huge surprise to any of you. Still, I admit that I wasn't completely sure whether to write this post or not; I have a reputation to keep after all! With that in mind, before reading this post go ahead and ask yourself whether your opinion of me would be significantly downgraded following the realisation that I probably wouldn't murder you in real life if we were to meet, and if the answer is yes simply substitute the contents of this post with the word 'yarr' and variety of stabbing noises, and we'll continue as we were.
|Being a pirate is fun, but comes with certain expectations.|
Still here? Excellent.
What I want to talk about today is how we treat new players on their first trip into lowsec (or nullsec). Hevrice, the Tuskers' home system, is only four jumps from the Gallente starter system of Clellinon. As a result of this it's a very popular spot for a newbie's first encounter with lowsec, be that an intentional trip into the great unknown or simply an accidental one. It's fairly common sight to see an Atron or Catalyst ratting or mining away in one of the belts, oblivious to the crowd of -10 pilots in local with them.
For most pirates, these are welcome targets - it's not as if they're hard to find, and most of them make no more attempt to leave when you turn up in their belt than they would upon encountering another ship in hisec. Traditionally, there are two acceptable actions here for the discerning pirate:
- Kill them
- Kill them, and if then if they don't get too upset offer them some friendly advice
Since moving to Hevrice a few months ago (and being faced with a vast increase in opportunities to teach such important lessons), this is something that I've been thinking about quite a lot. The truth is, I don't really get any satisfaction from killing players who didn't even understand that I was a threat until I pulled the trigger, or who had no idea how they could have avoided me had they wanted to. To me, it's not much different from shooting a red plus except that this red plus represents an actual person who gets to experience a material loss. On the other hand, it's probably not doing much for them - losing your first ship will usually be quite an intense experience, and intense experiences are generally a terrible time to be trying to learn anything new; if you've ever been in a serious accident and then tried to recall the details later, you probably know what I'm talking about. This is particularly true when that experience happens in a situation where you're already well outside of your comfort zone and have no idea what's going on. Despite your excellent practical demonstration and friendly advice, the chances are that the only lesson the majority of your students will walk away with is 'going to lowsec is dangerous, I probably shouldn't do it'.
If you live in lowsec (and the same is true of null too), you'll know that it's actually not that dangerous if you take some basic precautions; watch local, watch d-scan, fly cheap, and so on. Particularly if they can hook up with a decent corp, there's no reason that a new player can't get started on a lowsec or nullsec lifestyle quite early on, and part of the reason that so few of them do is this shared experience of 'I went to lowsec and got ganked by pirates' that gets spread around the hisec community. In fact, I think it's the same reason that so many people are so reluctant to move out of hisec later on, and is at least partly responsible for the risk-averse attitude among the hisec population that so many PVPers lament.
With that in mind, I've been trying to adjust how I react when I encounter really new players. The response might vary based on how new they are, what they're doing, and just how savvy or innocent they appear to be. In general though, my actions fall into one of two categories:
Option 1: give them a memorable experience. I know they're probably going to be too overwhelmed to really learn anything, but I also know that if they keep playing Eve for any length of time this encounter will probably be something they'll remember until long after they quit. I want to make it an exciting one, and one that will get them more hooked on the game without putting them off exploring lowsec or taking risks in general. A great example of this is a ransom, ideally with a light sprinkling of pirate roleplay. I don't ask for isk, because I want to make sure it's something that they're able to comply with and don't really want to set them back financially when the money is worth so little to me. My favourite option is demanding that they jettison their cargo - something which is usually equally worthless, but they fact that they bothered to scoop up that rat loot or mine that ore in the first place means they place enough value on it for it to seem like a legitimate request. Cargo ransoms are also a very pirate-like thing to do, and I think that adds something to the experience. Similarly if it's a new player who appears to be looking for PVP, I'll usually ship down to a t1 frigate and try to give them the closest fight that I can to turn the experience of getting ganked into one of having an exciting fight against a much more experienced player. If I feel like it's going to be completely one-sided, I might even make a few intentional mistakes or stop cycling my repper to make the outcome a little more close.
I know that these are essentially fake experiences, and some people might criticise that I'm actually giving new players the wrong experience of what lowsec is like - teaching them that it's not as dangerous or that they're more competitive than is really the case. That's true in a way, I have no defence. However, it's also true that it won't remain that way for long - if you can convince someone that a life of lowsec exploration or PVP is worth pursuing then it doesn't take long before they really can be competitive, and that time will come much faster if they pursue it from the start rather than spending their first year in hisec. The aim of this exercise is to have them come away with a desire to do more, or at the very least to have a bit of fun without actively discouraging them.
Option 2: give them the tools before the challenge. This one is generally reserved for the newest of the new - the guys who don't even realise they're in any real danger. As I said before, you generally don't learn very much immediately following an intense experience. Instead, I give them the learning up-front; I'll find them, warp to them, and if they continue to be oblivious to my presence I'll toss them a private convo. In it, I'll explain that they're in a risky situation and under normal circumstances they'd have just lost their ship. I'll then explain to them in brief terms how I found them, and what they could have done to prevent it from happening. The standard crash course is to explain local chat, the directional scanner (just on the basic 360 degrees max-range setting), and make it clear that if they're not looking to fight they shouldn't hang around when someone lands in their belt. When we're finished chatting I'll let them go, making it clear that if I encounter them again they should treat me no differently to any other dangerous pirate. Since they still have their ship and they now know that they're likely to be hunted they can start putting that information into practice straight away, which makes it much more likely to stick. The great thing about this approach is that most of them actually continue with their exploration of lowsec and I do see them around again, occasionally hearing from them about how the advice has been put to use - funnily enough though, I rarely catch them again!
In contrast, the people I've ganked (or that others have ganked) either seem to leave lowsec for good, or simply return a short while later to get ganked again, no more aware of the dangers than they were the previous time. While this is great for our killboards, I'm not convinced it's great for the game. Then again, maybe I'm just weird!