Of Mice and Pirates

My favorite image from my Lowsec days (Courtesy the great EVE Outtakes)

My favorite image from my Lowsec days, when the Hurricane ruled (Courtesy the great EVE Outtakes)

I have a confession to make.

When I was in Lowsec, I was never actually a True Pirate.

In fact, I didn’t even live in Lowsec.

Oh, the shame.

OK, now I feel better.

I had a fun discussion about the state of Lowsec on Twitter a couple of days ago, where I bemoaned that all the “real pirates” appear to have disappeared since I spent my days there, replaced by ridiculous hotdrops and button-orbiting stabbed frigates.

But before I write that post, I have to write this one so it’s clear where I’m coming from. For me, Lowsec (and granted, to some extent NPC nullsec) is the home of the “goodfight”. One where stabs are for industrialists, people use gates instead of cynos (except when moving capitals or jump freighters to null or wormholes). Where an adrenaline-rush battle is first, and all else is second. Not the industrial homeland of highsec, the surprise ganks and paranoia of w-space, or the endless structure grind of sov nullsec.

So with the disclaimer that these are my definitions and mine alone, here is the way that I define my Lowsec stereotypes (and yes, that means that they are generalizations and some corps may meet multiple tests – work with me here). YMMV.

The Good

True Pirates: I’ve always admired those with the fortitude, alts and time to live the True Pirate life. These are people who are between -5 and -10 security status, and live in lowsec. While this also is true of some other stereotypes, True Pirates see solo and small gang itself as a badge of honor. They tend to live in more isolated systems. You will rarely see more than 10 in a group, and most often less than 5. They sometimes pause on a gate for a brief camp but rarely stay there. They are in it to fly ships and get fights, damn the cost. More often than not they’re dirt poor and spend most of their non-combat time in a hauler alt. They will generally fly nothing larger than a battlecruiser if given a choice. UPDATE: I’ve been intrigued by the comments both here and on Twitter around this one. On the one hand, some have highlighted soloists who truly make their living off the destruction of other ships – those who don’t necessarily do it just for the fights. Others pointed out that some of these edge into “The Bad” as they attempt to lay claim to their own personal system that no one else should play in. A topic I forgot to bring up is ransom – which is an entirely legit method of “winning” and making ISK for this group. I don’t often ransom myself but I applaud the practice so long as you honor your ransoms.

Faction Warriors: The people who play Faction War the way it was intended first, and the way CCP built it second. Many of these folks were in FW before it became a source of money. The root of their psyche is similar to that of the True Pirate, but due to their extensive time in the crowded warzone, they are more likely to ride in larger groups and likely to fly in larger ships, at some level out of necessity more than preference. But they are still fighters.

Interlopers: These are generally people who would be True Pirates except for one primary fact: they keep their security status above -2 (or above 0 in the case of Anti-Pirates, who are a subset of the Interlopers). Often they actually live somewhere else. Yes, this is what we were in Noble Sentiments. We spent all our time in Lowsec, but lived one jump out. Interlopers set up regular roams as their primary activity, running loops of 10-40 systems looking for a kill, a gate camp to tip over, a full FW plex, or someone to take their bait. Camps are brief and purposeful, since they expect to be targets of the locals if they sit still. When compared to True Pirates and Faction Warriors, Interlopers generally fly larger ships (cruisers and battlecruisers, sometimes with logi or ewar) in order to sustain survivability over many-jump roams with no easy base to return to. But in terms of numbers they tend to number more in a group than True Pirates, but fewer than Faction Warriors. When the roam is over comes the pain – regaining their sec status for the next roam.

[UPDATE] The Barbarians: So when I originally wrote the post, I thought, “What about Shadow Cartel?” – Shadow and Heretic Army were the lords of Lowsec during most of my early time there – others like 7-2 have grown to this critical mass more recently. I was thinking about it as shorthand for bigger groups with more fleet discipline, but who are not nullsecers playing at Lowsec. I decided to duck and hope that they would categorize themselves in one of the other categories, but they called me out. So … fine. These are the big dogs of Lowsec – pirate bands, the barbarians who, if capsuleers were really to overthrow the NPC empires, would be the first wolves at the door. On their good days, they sit somewhere between True Pirates and Interlopers – negative sec, Lowsec natives, but that fly in midsized groups and larger or blingier ships. On bad days, they can border on the BitterBlob (see below), but still generally prefer a “goodfight” to a blob.

Intrepid Industrialists: While they are carebears in the most literal sense, I do not consider industrialists in what is demonstrably the most dangerous real estate in the game to be bears. They are the hardiest of souls, flying at peril of exploding all the time. While I try to catch them at times, I always respect someone with the gall to try for Lowsec’s gems, whether they be hauling, doing exploration or even mining. Most of those activities require quick reflexes and advance planning.

The Nooblob: There are a handful of entities that take the blob idea to the extreme, acting largely like Interlopers (although some live in Lowsec) but with groups so large nothing in their way stands a chance if taken head on. The kicker is, they are so loud and noticeable, and so famed for this, that everyone knows what they are getting. So some other Lowsec denizens will pick a fight in which they are greatly outnumbered in order for shot at thinning the herd. When you see EVE University, Brave Newbies or RvB in Local, you know that you’re likely looking at the scout of a giant blob of small ships, and you can pick the fight or not, but unlike The BitterBlob below, this is a fun fight where everyone knows the odds when it starts.

The Bad

Full-Time Gatecampers: Example: The United. This is one of two that I brand ELITE PVP in the most sardonic tone I can manage. In short, a large pile of ships sits on a gate doing something I can only categorize as stupidly simple and boring, like hanging out reading a book in a smartbombing battleship for hours on end. While history may record these as the true pirates (because pirates of old made their living off the booty of the vanquished), in a game I find this approach lame. Yes, it serves a purpose. Yes, it’s all in bounds. No, it shouldn’t be banned. But I can tell you that my absolute favorite people to hotdrop are The United, because it uses their own tactics against them. The fact that they never bring a good fight, just gank newbies and carebears and dock up when a real fleet shows up means that I don’t respect them and there are few things that give me a smile like the bully getting bullied.

The Ugly

The BitterBlob: Examples: Blackwater, Soul Takers. More ELITE PVP. These guys hang out all night in hugely overpowered ships for the space, blowing their time and money on jump fuel while they hang out on comms and wait for their (out of corp, unlike the Nooblob or the Barbarians) bait ship to call a tackle. They haven’t even got the will to jump through gates and risk their ships on roaming, instead hanging out in their home system and doing the equivalent of carp fishing with dynamite. They do things like drop 4 supercaps and 6 carriers on a solo Legion. Or drop seven black ops battleships and a carrier on a lone Vexor. The overkill is so bad that you wonder why they even bother. Because of these guys, if I could swing the nerfbat on only one thing in EVE, do you know what I would pick? Lowsec cynos. No contest. If I could find a way to allow them to move capitals between stations while making it very risky to jump into a combat situation (say, if you had a 10-minute cooldown timer before you could jump again if you jumped into Lowsec without docking?) I would do it in a heartbeat. Leave your cynos in nullsec, take a risk, and do something more challenging than the EVE equivalent of stepping on a Box Elder bug (for those of you who don’t get this reference, these bugs are very slow and almost impossible not to catch). It would be fun to “bully the bully” on this one too, but frankly it’s too much work to be worth it if you live in a wormhole (distances to target vary widely day by day).

The Mice: The negative opposite pole of the Faction Warrior, the Mouse is the player version of a rat – something that inhabits a plex. At least a rat shoots back. These are frigate pilots with multiple warp core stabilizers and a cloak. Yes, it is a legitimate way to play by CCP’s rules, but like mice they have bred to hideous numbers and become a pestilence upon the game. Worse, they are leveraging a mechanic meant to encourage PVP, but instead subverted to farm ISK while reducing PVP and adding frustration at a level that makes people decide that PVP might not be worth the hassle. When you have Faction Warriors, True Pirates and multiple other groups that are often opposed to each other find common ground in their disdain for this specific tactic, it too is primed for the nerfbat. What once was a clever and unusual Intrepid Industrialist tactic is so widespread and common now that it has become an overpowered plague. Number two on my list of things for the nerfbat would be warp core stabilizers – specifically I think they need a maximum limit of two per ship, which seems more straightforward than some sort of stacking penalty. Why are stabs immune to this design that applies to so many other things? Their time has come.

What do you think?

So there you have it. I’m sure you disagree and I’ve said something infuriating. Or listed someone you object to as the image example. Especially since I no longer live in Lowsec, I just come to visit … the worst kind of Interlopers, a bunch of filthy wormholers.

Or maybe you agree? 🙂

I’ll cover the meat of my Twitter complaint – namely that the bulk of Lowsec is now all BitterBlobs and Mice – in another post.

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39 Responses to Of Mice and Pirates

  1. Drackarn says:

    Agree 100%. You ID’d the lot spot on.

  2. Well said sir, well said.

  3. Karak Bol says:

    As a CEO leading a Newbie Industry/PVP/all-Lowsec Corp, I fully agree

  4. Mostly on the money. I do think you missed two groups though, there are still people out there who are “True Pirates” in the sense that they fly solo and actually make a living of ransoms and loot.

    And I don’t think I see label that covers groups like my own [7-2] or say TURN LEFT or Shadow Cartel we’re not Interlopers, we’re also not really True Pirates (we often roll a bit heavy for that moniker) we might have a cyno but don’t 90% of the time, we’re not Faction Warriors because fuck having 2000 unwanted blues, we don’t camp and we’re not bitter though we are often collections of older high SP pilots and a good many of us are intrepid industrialists ‘on the side’.

    I demand you fabricate us a label 😛

    • Rhavas says:

      You caught me. As I edited my post I thought “Where would I put Shadow Cartel and 7-2?” and my next thought was, “It’s midnight. They’ll either see themselves as Interlopers or Pirates and I won’t have to make another one up.” Fail on my part. 🙂 I’ll maybe post an edit later today.

      • W0wbagger says:

        We (SHDWC) generally see ourselves as lowsec pvpers.
        We aren’t against ransoming etc and would always honour anything offered but would certainly prefer a killmail in most instances (although will ransom pods a lot more). For this reason I wouldnt identify us as pirates although as we are red and live in lowsec that is go to phrase to describe us.
        As Kaeda says, we don’t camp and are generally after good fights as opposed to mindless blobbing – we put a high emphasis on maintaining the lowsec eco system and so try not to become too large. I will always try to use titans to cyno nearby as opposed to on top of opponents as long as we are confident they will fight.
        Bear in mind with the larger groups such as ours, it’s difficult to pin down one playstyle to apply to the whole group – certain members (particularly the BYDI ones) tend to be more into solo (no alts no links) play but we also have our fair share that only undock in 20+ man fleets.
        IMO the tuskers and the bastards are the only major examples of true piracy remaining and I would argue this is a symptom of FW mechanics as opposed to “pirate” blobs

        • Rhavas says:

          Yeah, this is why I tried to take the easy way out and not categorize you guys at all! 🙂 I made a run at it by thinking of the empires of High and Null – and the likes of Shadow as the Barbarians at the Gate (think the Mongols – a force in their own right but still “the scary Lowseccers”).

  5. rixxjavix says:

    Well said. I might add a few,but they’d be mostly sub-categories.

    For example, The Flag Planter. A single individual or small team that has adopted a system they believe to be their own private pvp farm, usually including bait ships and link alts, these multi-boxers rarely leave and farm unfortunate souls all day.

    That’s another one that annoys me to no end.

    • Rhavas says:

      That’s an interesting one. I’d make that a subset of True Pirate (as I think I would Kaeda’s dedicated soloist above). I do find it interesting that there are subsets of True Pirate, however, and can see where that might be annoying.

  6. Foo says:

    I have a post for you scheduled in 2 days time. Today being in favour of highsec poco cartels, tomorrow, rubicon notes; the following day in favour of warp core stabilsers – written and scheduled.

  7. Do you think the new cyno jammers might help with the BitterBlobs?

    • Rhavas says:

      Interesting that you mention it. When I got smoked in my solo Vexor I actually said in Local “Super excited for the new cyno jammer!” The response? “Me too, doesn’t affect Black Ops.” So I think it will definitely help with the stupid sort of supercarrier drops that Pandemic Legion tends to favor, but I suspect that what it will mean is an increase in T3/Recon Blops instead. I’m actually somewhat OK with that because it limits just how much overkill can be brought. But don’t be fooled that they won’t do BlOps, it will just become the primary rather than secondary method.

    • Rhavas says:

      So Fozzie posted his update on the details. The jammer will be useless for Interloper purposes. It will be awesome for the Gatecampers, and has a bit of a twist for counterdroppers (generally The Barbarians). Check out my “Flotsam And Jetsam” post from 11/15.

  8. Kuan Yida says:

    Faction Warrior here…

  9. SkeletonDenial says:

    I would have to say, that a true pirate really is not about kills and not necessarily about good fights , but about ransoming ships and pods for a price. Kills come with failure to pay.

  10. cluny says:

    This is just a terminology problem. Drop the word pirate from your article and its a description of how different groups use losec space. You’re not talking about pirates; you’re talking about hunting styles and willingness to engage.

    If you were going for the most pure, real life definition of pirate, it could only apply to gankers and ransomers and then only barely (pirates don’t blow things up and hope for good loot, nor do they hunt targets who can provide gudfights). Looking at your list of organizations, the groups that most closely fit that definition are not primarily losec groups. The United, despite your lack of respect, is the only one from losec that fits the definition. (btw that whole piece of this article is bizarre for anyone who calls himself a pirate. a pirate is nothing more than a seaborne robber. where did honor and all its variations enter the equation?). The most pirate-like are really hisec ganking wings of nullsec groups: Bat Country, FA, etc.

    I think maybe too many eve “pirates” have this weird bad guy with a heart of gold, fists of steel, Robin Hood, noble thief thing going on. It’s like 40 years of anti-hero movies crammed into a single identity (oh how i hate Pirates of the Caribbean). Reading through this article, apparently what’s should happen in losec is small gang warfare between medieval style ransomed nobility, with some occasionally tasty industrials, and the odd FW fleet, provided they aren’t trying to make ISK from PvE sources.

    • Rhavas says:

      Thanks for a good, rational counterpoint comment – let me take your points one at a time.

      First, let me dispense with a couple of notions. I was not in any way trying to match the dictionary definition of maritime pirates of Earth in the Carribbean sense. This is my personal (thus the YMMV disclaimers) view and opinion of what I consider an EVE Pirate (and you’ll notice that despite using that in the past to describe myself as shorthand for Pirate = Non-FW Lowsec PVPer, that I come out here and say that I don’t meet my own definition). I even said in the post that The United were the closest to the pirates of the maritime variety. That also means that this isn’t a “terminology problem” – it’s my own personal terminology. I’m not suggesting that this be officially adopted by anyone, it’s just stereotypes that work for me.

      That said, you are spot on that what I’m really talking about here is play styles and willingness to engage that I (again personal opinion) like and don’t like. My personal opinion of Lowsec is indeed that it should be (and has been in the past) a haven for medium- (<20), small-gang (<10) and solo subcap fights. The Robin Hood thing is not important to me, although I can see where I might have given you that impression. I don't respect The United's playstyle, but I think it's valid. It doesn't need nerfing, it's just lazy.

      What I really object to, and the post I'm working up to, is that three playstyles have come to dominate Lowsec every time I'm there now … and only one (the Faction Warrior) is one that I personally find to be any fun at all (you can guess what the other two are). This post is to set up that one, so that I can use these terms and have them predefined.

  11. Great post. I suppose I fall in the intrepid industrialist category although I think of it more as “tomb raider” or “treasure hunter” – avoiding the cannibal tribes and primitive locals whilst pulling treasure out from under their noses.

  12. Alskari says:

    Good list, obviously not a finalized set of pigeon holes for everyone, but a good general terminology. Although I have to comment that you appear to take some of these actions a bit personally. You don’t seem to take boredom or apathy into account for some of these behaviors. Dropping a carrier around like an idiot can generate some interesting fights if your space has been relatively dull.

    • Rhavas says:

      Nah, not personally. It just gets really old. There is a big difference between Shadow Cartel’s occasional drop for fun and PL’s one-trick pony constant Lowsec hotdrops.

      • Alskari says:

        Re-reading I see your barbarian definition, but my point is that people who roam with a few carriers on call are way different from a PL dunk. You seem to equate cynos to a lack of risk, which is really not the case.

        • Rhavas says:

          I agree with you – sure, cynos don’t lack all risk (although with a noobship cyno it’s pretty close) but there needs to be a way to keep basic travel doable and yet discourage the lopsided crap of the BitterBlob in Lowsec. In null? Fire away. Sadly, as you’ll see in my next post, the new cyno jammer ain’t it. I don’t have a problem with escalation cynos so much, but there needs to be a control mechanism (ex: wormholes use mass as the control).

  13. get smart says:

    • WCS should only work within 150k of a StarGate or Station. This is where they make sense, you have an important ship to move, or cargo to get out, I get it. I may have moved ships with WCS on ‘em myself from time to time. This is a feature that saves that benefit without transferring it across all of known space. There is some kind of transponder thingie that activates the feature when in range, but disables it when it isn’t.

  14. khorne25 says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

    Pretty good categorisation, it can never be perfect obviously but this is definately put a smile on my face.

  15. 1. That picture is beautiful mind if I steal it?
    2. I am immensely proud to find my exact playstyle from the last 4 years is exemplified in this list as being a “True Pirate.” Though I have strayed from the path from time to time and will assuredly continue to do so in the future, its quite the badge to wear.

  16. This is a well written piece and really captures the flavor of lowsec these days. I like it so much that I won’t even shit on you too much for implying that “true pirates” are a lowsec thing in today’s EVE or that piracy has anything to do with sec-status. Lowsec is still a good place for gudfites, but highsec is where it is at for piracy (meaning the practice of violencing the space-boats of people who would rather that you didn’t for fun and profit).

    Again, love the post, keep it up.

    • Rhavas says:

      Thanks! And of course you are correct, but this is a post about Lowsec. 🙂 The ganker set in highsec can conceivably make a good living popping freighters and idiots.

  17. Anonymous says:

    TRUE PIRATES, STAY FROSTY!

  18. Great article, I’ve been living in lowsec for 8 months now and I recognize quite a few of the types.

    Speaking as a member of BNI, I wouldn’t consider us interlopers because unlike RvB or the UNI, we are head-quartered in lowsec. We rat, mine, manufacture and do pretty much everything there. Our only contact with highsec is the steady stream of alts in Jump freighters that carry in supplies. A large number of our members have low sec status too.

    I do find the idea of “blobbing” as a tactic rather hilarious: If you have many comrades in arms, why would you tell them they can’t come along? It’s not your fault that everyone else you run into simply can’t or won’t muster the number of bodies you can. Being able to field overwhelming numbers is simply a display of another highly valuable skill in EVE, namely the one of motivating people to fight at your side.

    • Rhavas says:

      Yeah, you busted me on that one (not living in lowsec). I’ll tweak the verbiage to match.
      I actually love the Nooblob approach because anyone who’s been in Lowsec knows exactly what they’re getting. When I see BNI, I think, “can this ship deal with massed Talwars?” I came from E-UNI myself, where we called it “Crowd Tanking”, a euphemism I love.

  19. Depends how you define Piracy I suppose, as a very proud ex-Tusker and equally proud current Bastard I obviously err towards ransoms and keeping my word but who is to say the gate campers or the ransom breakers aren’t more “authentic”.

    It is all semantics really, as long as you are having fun then that is the main thing…

    • Rhavas says:

      No disagreement These are stereotypes, at some level to help me talk in shorthand about playstyles I encounter when I’m writing posts here. I would call the Tuskers True Pirates (or at least they were when I spent most of my time in Low), as well as RIFTA. The Bastards always sounded that way too, but I rarely saw them to have a good feel.

  20. Pingback: Infuriating Stereotypes | Eve OnlineEve Online

  21. Jayne says:

    As a personal point, I’m the CEO of a solo corp that is currently trying to find our way in lowsec. We come from the NPSI community, so we’re pretty much deadset against blues and joining a large alliance, but it seems that anything we do is drawing the ire of large groups. Wowbagger, CEO of Shadow Cartel, in this very comment thread declares that they are trying to “maintain the lowsec eco system” while they’ve had a cloaky cyno HIC logged into our staging system 23 hours a day for the last three weeks. How does that help to encourage fights or preserve the ecosystem, when I know if it escalates at all, it will be third partied by SHDWC or PL?
    While I’m at it, I laugh at their very concept of goodfights. During RvB Ganked 100 in Hysera, and countless other lowsec events such as the Gaijin’s carrier series, these “Barbarians” as you call them, teamed up in T3 fleets with Guardian support, blinged to the teeth to take on everyone else in their T1 ships who actually showed up for goodfights. Simply put, 90km 800dps 550k ehp Proteus are not ships you take out when you’re looking for a goodfight, especially when the only people capable of challenging your fleet, are in your fleet. What a joke.
    We downed one of those guardians against all odds, it was officer fit, and the pod was slaved.

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