(It has become a bit of a long post, but I wanted to get some thoughts out on highsec, nullsec (0.0) and how I experience the transition from the former to the latter. For those unfamiliar with Eve Online system security statuses: here's a primer!)
Until recently, I was a typical highsec carebear – with one exception: I didn’t mine unless I really had to. All the fuss about nullsec alliance warfare was interesting but didn’t mean anything to me, really. PVP was just a nuisance, something those antisocial highsec griefers do to defenseless pve oriented carebears such as myself. And I considered Eve Online to be a social game, as it is an open sandbox universe with virtually limitless options, in terms of careers, development and things to do and achieve. Staying in nullsec for an extended period of time has altered some of these long held convictions, and reinforced others.
Expect the unexpected
Flying in nullsec adds a whole new level of depth to New Eden. In highsec, there’s pretty much nothing unexpected that will happen to you, if you stay in the right places and do the right things.. For instance running level 4 missions in Everyshore pretty much guarantees a modest but steady income of ISK without much surprises. In nullsec however, even in places considered relatively safe, there is always an awareness that anything might happen, at any time, in any place. A roaming gang of reds may attempt a surprise attack on your system; a lonely but very dangerous enemy stealth bomber suddenly appears out of nowhere and attacks; the large alliance you rent space from may urgently request your presence on a nearby battlefield, in five minutes thankyouverymuch. You need to be ever alert, ready to move, defend or attack. And making ISK isn’t a goal in itself, necessarily, but a tool to fund the ships and goods necessary for defense.
PVP, not so bad after all
This means my attitude towards PVP has changed as well. I still maintain that PVP between seasoned PVP characters and highsec carebears is too much of an uneven fight, but in nullsec it’s a very different game: it’s about protecting your assets. I have, to my own surprise, come to enjoy the clashes with roaming gangs and solo pvp pilots! These engagements can be entertaining and exciting, sometimes leading to extended fighting and long term feuds. So far I have been lucky only to have scored kills; I haven’t suffered a loss yet. I’m sure that moment will come – it’s inevitable – but for now my Querious stats are fine. And with the steady and much larger amount of ISK now flowing into my wallet, losing a ship isn’t that much of a problem anymore either.
One of the more fascinating things about fleet engagements and nullsec pvp in general, is the wealth of options and strategies that are available to the pilots. So many different ship types and ships, each with their own specific strengths and weaknesses, with innumerable ways to fit and use them! The level of detail and expertise that can be achieved continues to amaze me, and far outstrips anything highsec mission runners are used to.
Solo versus social
On the ‘social’ side, I must say nullsec beats highsec too. In highsec, most pilots work solo, incidentally joining forces for a mining op or a few rounds of lvl4’s. CCP is aware of this, and has been trying - for years - to get the highsec pilots to work together. With Incursion, CCP is even resorting to full blown Sansha invasions, in order to achieve this goal.
In nullsec, cooperation is the norm, rather than the exception. Some activities (ratting, easy complexes) can be done solo, but even mining often requires the presence of combat ships in order to ward off ‘belt rats’, the non player driven (NPC) enemies that spawn in asteroid belts from time to time. And higher level complexes are usually done in teams as well: much more effective and the rewards get spread over a larger number of pilots. Finally, given the constant threat of external violence, nullsec pilots are generaly forced to work together much more, in terms of exchanging intelligence, countering threats or achieving offensive goals.
Take fleets, for instance. In recent months, I have experieced two types of fleets. On the one hand, there’s the semi organized gathering of solo pilots who happen to share a chat channel. This is the type of fleets that highseccers are wont to create – chaotic, made up of whatever flies and whatever each individual likes. On the other hand, there’s the organized group of pilots, each with their own specific fleet role and orders, flying the specific ship types to match those roles, lead by an FC who knows his business (if you’re lucky of course). The first type of fleet is going to be massacred if they face a better trained enemy – no doubt about it. The second one however stands a chance against any adversary: in Eve Online, outnumbered but better organized and fc’d fleets have slaughtered numerical superior forces time and time again. As for our own alliance: we were definitely of the first, likely-to-get-massacred type not too long ago. We are currently of the second type, and we’re getting better at what we do with each engagement, and with passing week. And I'm enjoying each minute of it!