Tuesday 27 November 2012

Welcome to Lowsec

Being a PVPer in Eve (especially a well known PVPer) comes with certain implicit expectations. In particular, there seems to be an assumption that you're some kind of ruthless cold-blooded badass, and by admitting that 'honestly I'm actually quite a friendly guy and you know what why can't we all just get along' you might risk losing your credibility as a ferocious internet spaceship warrior.

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:
  1. Kill them
  2. Kill them, and if then if they don't get too upset offer them some friendly advice
I've always preferred the second option (no surprise there, really). I even occasionally threw them some isk for a replacement ship - after all, it's probably worth a lot more to them that it is to me. The justification for all this is fairly acceptable: You're teaching them a valuable lesson about Eve, and if they do get all cut up over the evil PVPer destroying their ship then they're probably not the kind of person you want playing Eve anyway so better to cull them now before they become just another entitled carebear.

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!


  1. I don't think you are weird ( at least, no more than myself ) and I have often struggled with this as well. I've written rather extensively about the issue when I first started down the pirate life about the two sides of our play-style. And it is still something that I struggle with from time to time.

    I have developed my own "rules" when it comes to these things and I am always wiling to answer a convo or start one if I think it is warranted. I've been giving advice for a long time, mostly because someone did the same to me when I started Eve.

    On the other hand, since I spent two years of my playing time in Null my own kb needs a lot of love. And I am firmly in the "kill all things" camp at the moment. That doesn't mean I still don't try to be helpful, but usually only after the target is exploded. I suspect I'll mellow at some point again.

  2. I find it disappointing that in Lowsec there's essentially only one response to finding a random player: kill them. To my mind it's a problem. Why is there no reason for a random player to come along and defend a miner from rats? Or to join a local pick-up fleet and camp a gate for 15mins?

    I think CCP could draw heavy inspiration from the cooperative system Guild Wars 2 has. You couldn't move that system into Eve without significant changes, but I think CCP need to build an environment that encourages more nuanced diplomatic positions than NBSI/NRDS, and the GW2 approach is a solid alternative.

    One change I would suggest is to make people have reason to be friendlier to each other in lowsec. One problem with the current environment is that most players are in tiny corps with tiny blue lists (tiny = most of the people they see have no standings entry). What if every corp had to declare loyalty to one of the four main factions, and while in lowsec their pilots were considered part of the relevant militia? Bam, suddenly your average newbie will be entering lowsec systems where most of the population is allied with them.

    Of course "militiamates with" doesn't stop you killing each other, and all the idea currently does is disincentivise lowsec killing, not encourage lowsec cooperation. But I think it's a good framework to add cooperative systems around (imagine dynamic missions: clear a belt for miners, then a mining mission for the belt appears, then guard the convoy, then ...)

    1. blueball lowsec? not sure if serious? and why the need to find a friendlier lowsec? I prefer a lowsec swimming in blood thanks.

    2. Hmmm

      chequers go join Faction Warfare. It is much more like what you are wanting.

      Me I shoot anything and everything in lowsec. But more than willing to have a chat about it as well.

    3. This is indeed what FW for. On a relevant note, there is a problem with fake-alliances you've suggested. Most residents will just ignore it, while new people may find it even more unworthy to be fly-by'd in losec by local. Sounds kinda counterproductive to the idea of getting the most new people into lowsec...

  3. It's interesting to read what you do with the new guys in low sec. Just yesterday I blew up a new player's Stabber and nabbed the pod too. He messaged me, saying that it was his last ship. We chit chatted for a little while, I gave him a few million for his ship and gave him some pointers. We agreed to meet up soon for a test fight, just to structure, so he could learn some more about PvP. Granted, I struck it lucky that my target was relatively calm after the fight, but helping someone along with their Eve experience is quite rewarding. Doesn't hurt to make a few friends along the way, too!

  4. Most people who play this game are not interested in playing this game with the other guy, they are using the other guy for entertainment. They are gathering tears, going for the emotional satisfaction of ruining another persons game. If the newbie quits Eve over it, so be it. Only the strong are fit for Eve.

    This goes along with my thoughts that Eve is a roleplaying game where all of the players roleplaying the same asshole.

    Out in null, I'm teaching newbies how to avoid the veterans out to ruin their day. We encourage teamwork over solo play. We're helping those same veterans pvpers lose their battlecruisers and HACs to newbies in T1 Frigates. Yes, we use EWAR. I consider it my official protest to the strong picking on the weak, to the veteran preying on the newbie.

    I bully the bullies and their tears fuel my Falcon.

    But by doing what you are doing, you're encouraging a new player to grow. I think you have the right idea. Thank you for your service.

  5. > Then again, maybe I'm just weird!

    Yeah, you are. You weirdo. :-P

    But keep on encouraging people to fly in lowsec: good for low sec, good for the game.

  6. If you want to encourage noobs to keep playing, *not* podding them is a good place to start. Kill the ship, if you just can't resist, but let the pod go.

    For non-combat noobs - eg. miners - just scram/web them and let them go, if they respond in local. If they don't respond - ie. AFK or bots - go ahead and kill them. The AFK/bot is the exception to the no-podding rule - if the pod doesn't warp off, go back to station, get your lamest ship (Velator, Iteron I, Procurer, etc.), then go back and pod them.

    For combat noobs, in well over their heads, scram/web them, and neut their cap to zilch. Then, send them home, after making them jettison their ammo.

  7. Kill Them THEN give them advice. Lessons get learned much quicker that way.

    It happened to all of us at one point. It's a "right of passage" in EVE... Get Ganked by an evil Pirate and pledge to never pirate your self, then a few months later become a pirate.

    1. "Get Ganked by an evil Pirate and pledge to never pirate your self, then a few months later become a pirate." - even become a LOLZ-anti-pirate-pirate.

  8. "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"

    I hear ya. Huge part of why I've decided to give up on piracy and griefing because fun as I may have once found it, there's very little satisfaction in it.

    Not much value in victory if the outcome was never in question to start with.

    Sometimes there's more value (to me) in defeat even last Wolf I lost was in Period Basis jumping solo into a Stiletto/Tengu/WebLoki/Tornado/Harpy. Got webbed no hope of making the gate, managed to take the Stiletto+Pod down with me. Defeated? Yes, but it still feels immensely more satisfying the shredding a catalyst with mixed guns and a civilian booster in some lowsec belt.

  9. I have to salute you. Also, I have to damn you, as I now feel guilty for all those noobkills that I carried out myself without stopping to think about helping my victims :(

    Remembering my first death in lowsec, I literally asked the guy for tips and got a "don't come into lowsec". It took my a few more months of hi-sec before I had the fortune to be approached by a low-sec CEO. Only for that good fortune I never would have gone back to lowsec.

    Your approach can be nothing but good for the game.

  10. PvP Noob here

    I've yet to fly with or against you but between reddit and in game chat channels you have been very helpful to me in my first two months in EVE. So have just about every other PvPer I've met.

    I'v said it before and I'll say it again. The nicest people in EVE are the ones trying to kill me.

    To me there is a clear perception and attitude difference between those who enjoy PvP and those who stay in hisec. If you are afraid of losing pixles your perception of lowsec is a den of theives crossed with an armed camp. The reality is quite different. I did the entire Molden Heath lowsec loop last night to set up safes and many of the systems I was completely alone in. When I wasn't alone it was easy to avoid confrontations when I didn't want them.

    I agree there needs to be a better way of introducing new players to lowsec. You could almost make a minigame of hide and seek using Dscan. My preferred approach would be a "surviving lowsec" tutorial. It would be easy to set up deadspace in hisec. Mission one would be find something using Dscan. Mission two, would be use Dscan to bounce between a couple celestials while waiting out a timer without getting tagged.

    In the few kills I've managed so far I only had one person who convo'd me to complain as documented in one of my reddit posts. I spent 10 min with him giving advice though as you note, he was not in the best condidtion to hear me having just lost his first ship. I did speak to him the next day as well and compensated his loss and had a more civilized discussion. I continued to see him regularly in the systems around Hek, but not lowsec.

    I would posit most PvPers already do option 2 based on my own experience but I don't recommend making lowsec safer. My wife and I disaggree sometimes about how much risk to allow the kids to take. Her position is she doesn't want them hurt. Mine is, minor injuries teach them not to do whatever they were doing again. Getting popped in lowsec is a harsh lesson and can color someones perception if its their first experience. But word does get around that most of us like to help each other and will hopefully draw them back.

  11. As a beginner who has never been to lowsec or even null after playing for 3 months, this really is gives me the feeling that I should try it. You are totally right when you say that highsec gives a wrong impression. Good article and see you in lowsec :)

  12. My first try on activelly going to lowsec to fight was spent with my brother and brother in law who both play with me. Lo and behold, we landed in Hevrice (absolutelly oblivious about what we were going into).

    We started warping the belts looking for a fight and a Retribution almost ganked us all... but we survived and safed up.

    We started chatting with one guy called "Aznwithbeard" and he kindly explained where were were. We told him we were looking for some PvP as we were just starting weekend warriors and fleeted him up so he could warp to our safespot for a 3v1 duel. The fight was a Punisher and 2 Rifters against this guy's Rifter... and he still owned the 3 of us. Amazing fight and a lot of fun. He even gave us some advice about our fits and how to fight.

    I didnt know the Tuskers at the time, but ever since I have the utmost respect for them. This small short lived roam was what got me into PvP, and I never looked back. Thank you Anzwithbeard!

    And I advice all the new capsuleers to visit Hevrice at least once.. Just dont expect to come back home on the same ship ;)

  13. Johnny Twelvebore30 November 2012 at 10:54

    A few of us were talking about this last week mate, there seems to be a spate of noob catalysts in Hev and I'm feeling guilty about blowing them up. Many even have to be told to warp the pod out instead of sitting there like a lemon..

    We thought maybe we could knock up a quick one page website along the lines of "your ship exploded because.." with a bit of advice and direct that to these guys coming in.

    I don't think we should be too soft on them though, drops and salvage form much of my income and I can keep myself in cheap ships from this source alone. Many of the tuskers are super space rich but I am not so I'm more of a purist when it comes to the pirating and most of my ships carry a salvager if there's space.

  14. :) First of all, I think it's good that so many people are even thinking about and/or pondering this sort of thing in Eve. I've not the time for a well-considered response at this time, but for Tuskers in particular, I do have one other bit of advice that might help.

    The vast majority of your newblets are going to be in CAS--the Center for Advanced Studies. I can't comment on the other starter corps in Eve, but in CAS itself there is a wide variety of support available for people wanting to pursue all kinds of things in Eve--including PvP. Tell them to peek in their corp chat, so they can hook up with people that are willing to mentor them on an ongoing basis as well. :) (After all, Azual, where do you think the CAS folks in Syndicate are forever getting new members in their ranks from?) ;) If you find a new player you think could benefit from it, feel free to give them my name in particular, CAS or not, as a resource.

    Fly Fun!

    All my best,


  15. Thank you, Azual. I've been trying to find a way to phrase my thoughts on the matter for as long as I've been a pirate, and you've just done it perfectly.

  16. I agree, if there's not a challenge there's little fun to be had. So far I've been a little disappointed to find that there is very little incentive for balanced fights to be had within the game, leading to unbalanced odds on one side or the other.

    The sandbox nature of the game leads to the vast majority of gameplay being in the direction of social behavior, groups of people setting goals that create gameplay for others in the sandbox, whether through war or trade, this is the genius behind eve (no, it is not a particularly compelling combat simulator, although it has its moments)

    In short, by engaging in overtly anti social behavior, people are actively *destroying* gameplay, including their own. A direct example is scaring newbies out of lowsec early on, and those players don't stick around to form up the small gangs that you go out looking for on the weekends.

    Mr. Altruist makes a very important point, and serious gamers should pay attention. There are no guarantees that your favorite games will still be financially viable in 5 or 10 or 15 years. But those that last do so based entirely on a strong community. Do your part.

  17. Whenever I run into anyone in low-sec who's less than a month old or otherwise obviously a new player, I'll scan them down, open a convo and tell them to warp away or they'll soon be destroyed (pretty explicit), then warp to them in a belt or wherever they are. I usually give them a few seconds to react. If they don't heed my warning or the yellow skull ship that appears on their overview (I can't bring myself to go full pirate), I'll lock them down and start shooting. If they respond in the convo, I'll give them an opportunity for a small ransom. I'm surprised how many people don't respond eve once to a convo they accepted the invite to, even after a minute or two. So most of them go pop. I always let the pod get out. The fear of going -5 is strong in this one - but not so much that I'd willingly let a ship out my clutches.

    The few opportunities I do have to interact with new players have always been positive. Helpfully teaching them a few things, answering questions, and maybe giving them a bit of isk to replace a lost ship go a long way toward building good will.

  18. I like the cargo-ransom idea.

    Not so crazy about the blow them up and give them isk or the pretend the fight is close ideas.

    I think I'd either shoot them without tackling them until they either blow up or warp off or I'd drop them below half structure and then hold them there for a half minute or so, type 'shit, out of ammo' in local and warp off.

  19. I was an ex-Eve player who recently decided to try it again. I've followed the game extensively even when I wasn't playing because I'm fascinated by the systems of gameplay. I know a lot of people who played Eve at some point and its reputation is that it's a good game played by psychopaths even though I know that's not true. But I find that attitude comes from early play experiences, the advertising and the stories surrounding it.

    My first experience with low-sec pretty much turned me off of it for a long time because I couldn't afford the losses and didn't see the point. Eve has a barrier to entry and at the time the tutorials didn't really cover it. It's much better now, but I think I reached it at a low point. But it was months before I went back. And then I did so in a paranoid manner. Eve is a place where there can be 99 nice people, but all it takes to ruin your day is one bully who decides making you rage quit is more fun than helping you even if there is no challenge. I've lost several expensive ships while not really understanding the rules of engagement. There's little in-game help for it.

    That said the principles you put forth here I think are good. If someone gets bullied on the playground every day, they're going to avoid the playground since they don't know why they're being bullied. Eve requires a lot of mental shifts coming from other games. Most games with accruement are designed that you can’t really fall backwards. Also they're designed that competition is fair whenever it can be. I find that people will leave when they feel they can’t possibly win.

    I would also agree strongly with you about the timing of lessons. It's hard to blow someone up and then give them tips. Mostly it just comes off as patronizing. It's beating someone at a game they didn't know they were playing, weren't prepared for, and then telling them what they did wrong. It's a rare individual who won't be defensive at that point.

    If Eve wants to grow and maintain a larger, sustainable population it needs to be better about communicating what's going on. It also needs to shed its reputation as a place where there are more bullies than not. It needs to drop advertising trying to appeal to people’s sense of revenge and victimization.

    Not everything is the fault of the players. Even in high sec there's griefing and while I think it should be possible to blow up a ship at the cost of your own, I was annoyed at people who would scan me down, run my missions with me there taking all the loot and then ransoming the mission item back to me for 10-100x the mission payout. And for the most part that would be fine, except for the huge penalty in reputation you take.

    Ultimately what you've described is what happens. People start playing, venture into low-sec and then get killed. Don't re-venture for a while since they didn't really understand what went wrong. They play hi-sec for a while. Get accused of being a carebear, getting taunted by the same kinds of people who blew them up in the first place, which just further reinforces the identity of "I'm not like those lo-sec people". Then left with nothing but missions eventually, they run out of interesting things to do and leave for World of Warcraft or something else having never met the nice people who live in lo-sec and null-sec who they might have had a good time with. I stuck it out much longer than most (~42M SP) who go through this. But ultimately the community can be welcoming and bring people in who will then compete. Or they can decide to compete with people who don't know what's going on and then wonder where everyone went.


The Altruist is the Eve Online blog of Azual Skoll, PVP instructor and small gang PVPer.

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