Thursday, December 29, 2011

For Texas and Miss Lily

"Judge shot him.  Dead.  Dead, dead.  Then he fined him for some other crimes.  And then later we hanged him."
     - The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
There is a scene in the western "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean" in which an albino desperado/gunslinger named Bad Bob (played by Stacy Keach) rides into town, terrorizes the townfolk, and then calls Judge Bean out for a gunfight. When the Judge doesn't show himself, Bob resorts to all manner of insult and smack talk. When direct insults don't draw the judge out, Bob begins to insult Lily Langtree, whom Roy Bean is known to idolize as the best and most beautiful woman in the world.  Finally, Bad Bob shoots a poster bearing Miss Lily's image through the heart.

Thus provoked, Judge Bean, who has used this time to hide himself in a church steeple with a high powered rifle, shoots Bad Bob in the back from long distance. Kills him on the spot.

The judge's men, while not long on virtue themselves, are a bit off-put by this as shooting a man in the back, even so vile a villain as Bad Bob, violates the code of the West. 
Fermel Parlee:  You call that sportin'? It weren't a real standup fight.
Judge Bean:      Standup? I laid down to steady my aim.
Fermel Parlee:  Well, I mean he never had a chance.
Judge Bean:      Not at all.  Never did, never would have.  I didn't ask him to come here.  I don't abide giving killers a chance.  He wants a chance, let him go someplace else.
Which sums up my philosophy of PvP very nicely.  In fact, this is one of the few aspects of the game in which my point of view and Mitten's overlap almost entirely. War in New Eden is not about e-Honor. It's not about "good fights". It's about ruining the play experience for the other side; a deliberate peeling away of any enjoyment the enemy gets when they mess with you. It is a war of attrition on fun. A good fight, to me, is when I kill the enemy in as efficient and merciless fashion as possible with minimal danger to me and mine.

It is a pragmatic and, I will be the first to admit, soulless view of PvP.

Of course, my point of view is anathema for many small gang PvPers for whom PvP is an end in and of itself; the very reason for playing the game in the first place. Such players are very passionate about what they do and can be a bit defensive when it comes to their play style. Small gang PvPers tend toward an almost knee-jerk dislike for "fleet" PvP.  They are quick to sneer at it and state that it isn't "real" PvP; that outfits like Eve University do new players a disservice by teaching them fleet tactics as opposed to the more nuanced skills needed to be an effective solo or small gang pilot.  

In truth, they are the gunslingers, the samurai of Eve Online.

For these players it's all about the kill list and the good fight. They rail against the fleet doctrine because it is closely associated with the blob. Skilled though they may be, most small gangs are not a match for an ably led fifty ship fleet of more modestly skilled pilots. Winning by application of overwhelming force does nothing to burnish one's PvP reputation and those who win in that manner are not deserving of respect. Dueling with blobs of t1 battlecruisers does not generally fall under the small gang PvPer's definition of a good fight.

Carebears, on the other hand, are not constrained by such delicate considerations.

A carebear is, generally speaking, not terribly interested his or her PvP reputation. They are a pragmatic lot. If the small gang pirates and griefers don't enjoy blob fights, the bears are well advised to blob with a will. As I mentioned in Creatures of Light and Darkness, nullsec bears became very adept at hemming small fleets of interlopers into kill zones and then exterminating them. Executing the same tactics in lowsec, of course, assumes fleet PvP numbers, know-how and coordination that most highsec carebear corporations and alliances lack. Further, assets in lowsec have, by and large, either been impossible to secure, or not worth the investment an organization would need to make in order to project a sphere of influence into lowsec space.

With the advent of Player Owned Customs Offices (POCO), this has changed. POCOs offer a structure that can be claimed by an organization and generate a number of revenue streams. Of course a prerequisite for optimizing revenue from such a structure is that they be reasonably accessible to those allowed to use them, and that they be defended if attacked. Thus, carebear organizations have been provided a rationale for projecting power into lowsec.

Of course, as most faction warfare players will know, lowsec space is difficult to lock down. Not only are there no in-game mechanics to facilitate this, lowsec mechanics tend twork to impede such efforts. Thus, a lighter touch is needed; the development of a sphere of influence as opposed to outright territorial control. The goal of a sphere if influence is an area of nullsec in which hostile traffic can be minimized enough to allow a profitable degree of allied industrial activity by friends and allies. This is, at present, beyond the ability of most high sec alliances. Therefore, if they wish to extend their operations to lowsec and have the wherewithal to protect their investments, they are going to have to form coalitions.

To date, lowsec coalitions have been a very different breed of cat from their nullsec cousins. Nullsec coalitions tend to be highly public, with well known list of member alliances, defined borders, common diplomatic standings and a clearly defined administrative structure. Lowsec coalitions, on the other hand, tend to be smaller, much more secretive and more informal. Most are PvP/Industrial hybrids and have no interest in calling undue attention to themselves and tend to locate themselves off the beaten path. 

However, there are indications that a new type of lowsec coalition is waiting to step out into the spotlight. It bears a much closer resemblance to a nullsec coalition and that's not surprising; a key constituent of these emerging entities are former nullsec bears. Unlike many highsec bears, nullsec bears tend to be well grounded in how to fight in fleet, how to coordinate defense of their space and how to spoil a roaming gang's evening out. Some are passable Fleet Commanders as well.

Whether and how quickly these bear coalitions catch on and whether they survive for long is an open question. There will be a trial and error period, them we'll see. While I don't expect them to stand off a concerted attack by Pandemic Legion, Legion of Death or their nullsec ilk, the bears should be able to hold their own against the usual assortment of lowsec pirates and griefers. However, the winners or losers in this fight will not be measured in ships or ISK lost. It will be measured in fun denied.

For Texas, and Miss Lily.


  1. I am curious what group or groups you had in mind while writing this post. I used to play primarily as a highsec missionrunner. After a short hiatus from the game, I've come back - with goal to operate solely from lowsec. Where would to point me to for a 'strong' lowsec corp of the type you write about? Able to make ISK in lowsec, and the willingness to fight for that ability, without an emphasis on piracy.

  2. Coincidentally enough, my alliance is transitioning to this model of low sec racketeering. The Nalvula Tenement Benevolent Association, as it were.

  3. @starke we have 5% POCOS available if you want, or 1% for negotiated blue standings, which also allows for unmolested level 5 missioning and defence fleet assistance.


    Yeah, those nullsec bears sure know how to put up a decent fight and field good fits....oh wait....
    Brick Squad was bashing a Customs Office as well.
    Your definition of "lowsec coalitions" forming is, well, wrong. They are already there. Check any lowsec system with a level 5 mission agent: corps already make there ISK and will chase off interlopers.

    I'm guessing you also don't have much firsthand knowledge of how pirate corps work. Take the Essence, Verge Vendor and Placid regions for example. The big pirate alliance of the area is Shadow Cartel. Plus there are a number of smaller pirate corps Tuskers, Back to yarr (lol) etc... Also, Gallente Militia lives in the area and the Caldari Militia is a stones throw away. We regularly fight eachother, but if a larger threat/target is presented. These disparate groups band together to fight.
    Case in point:
    All the alliances on that mail are red to eachother.

  5. @Naoru -

    Of course pirates are perfectly capable of getting together a blob to counter a carebear blob. That is not, however, the type of fighting the Tuskers, et al enjoy.

    In fact, it's to the advantage of the new bear coalitions to get pies to fight in counter-blobs. The bears are generally having more fun than the pies and a blob fight reduces the pies' skill advantage, assuming the bears are well led. The more the pies fight in blobs, the more the bears are choking off small gang PvP. The more the bears choke off small gang PvP, the less fun the pies are having.

    As I said above, it's a war of attrition on fun.

    Whether the pies win a given fight doesn't matter as long as the bears bring on the blob time after time and learn the gentle are of bait and blue-ball. And don't worry about the bear fits. They'll get better. They don't have to be great fits. Just good enough and easy to replace.

    While pies they may band together for short periods they tend not to have the patience and diplomacy to do so over the long haul.

    As to lowsec bear coalitions already being in lowsec, I mention there are some smaller ones in place. However that's just the smell of rain on the wind. The real storm has yet to hit.

  6. @Starke - Drop me a note on my email account (aka the Hyperspace Com Uplink) and I'll point you toward some potentials.

  7. Interesting blog.
    Being a clawed bear myself, i find the ruminations on this topic, right up my alley. Erhm, so to speak...
    I do like to point out, that the samurai-comparison lacks only the merrit of realism. In actuality, a Samurai had an unbreakable bond to a master, to whom they would (or should) dedicate their fate. Ronin's were the samurai's that had either lost their masters, or didnt have the courage or "bushido", to end their life, when a faillure were apparent. And therefore drifted around the countryside, still adorning themselves in the feathers of the samurai, though their shame still lingered. Therefore i find the comparison of small-gang/solo pirates (pvp), not quite adequate. I do salute the gist of the general point, though.
    For what its worth, my experience, in regard to the conduct of pirates, lets me to categorize them, in general, as players who mostly only abide their own needs or goals. Some do nurture strong bonds of loyalty, within their own congregation and abides their leaders wills, though they would probably leave any corp, who sought to restrict their freedom of will and action.
    Whilst my own mindset is somewhat restricted, i for one find solace in the fact, that the same tactics pirates usually apply in their trade, can succesfully be mirrored against them, with significantly less moral anguish. So in essence, it comes down to our will, or lack hereof, to thrive, in what ever way we find most congenial with our personality. Yarrs and Narrs. Blob or be blobbed. A single player might find it blob-like, when 5 pirates lands on their covetor, in a belt in low. There are no right way to play, only your way. As long as we accept the response to our actions.
    Good stuff, mr. Fiddle.

  8. @Wotan Rexus -

    My comparison of the small gang PvPer to the Samurai is not to parallel them in the social/cultural sense so much as with depth of skills and combat format.

    By the end of the Tokogawa shogunate, large set battles were something of the distant past. Samurai combat during the Tokogawa era persisted largely as duels and street fights between small urban bands.

    One may argue that a ronin was not a samurai in the eyes of his culture, having lost the ties to the feudal house from which he derived that social status. However, from the perspective of their combat skills and roles, they were effectively the same for the purposes of this post.

    As drawing the distinction between the two (as you've so ably done here) would have added bricks to my already large wall of text without adding support to my central point, I chose the course of brevity.

  9. Duely noted.
    There still is the issue of using a honor-bound, historical warrior-type to describe anything, remotely pirate. Albeit being a metaphore, it remains my oppinion, that if we deign to observe and analyze the concept of "good" vs. "evil", we should at least use terms and visualizations, that describes the arguments, to best effect.

    Labelling pirates(by default) as player´s with "depth of skills and combat format", might be construed as naive, in some circles. Granted. Some players, of the pirate persuasion, has genuine skill and talent. But it is not specific to the pirates. It can errupt in any socio-demographic connection, without prejudice. The fact that some pirates seem to think, that carebears lack PvP-skills, as often as not, lead to the demise of the pirates.

    There are Merc-corps, that proudly live by honorable codes, that forbids "shooting players in the back", for instance. They "hate" pirates, with just as much vigor, as the average carebears do.
    I think its safe to say, that a generalization is a moot thing, in a grey context.
    I, on the other hand, remain firmly convinced, that my way is the right one, as Im sure you feel about your way, as well.

  10. On average, a pirate character is likely to have a deeper PvP skill set, and more practice using that skill set than the PvE player. You are correct in that this often causes pirates to underestimate their prey. However, in these cases the pirate are playing the odds correctly as their estimation is correct far more often than not. Even if an occasional target proves tougher than expected, that's an acceptable part of the job description for a pirate.

    NHDS, NRDS and NBSI are organizational protocols for identifying legitimate targets. Once the enemy has been identified, your goals in the larger conflict come into play.

    If your goal is good fights and e-honor for your pilots (or a requirement of role play, which is decidedly not my bailiwick) then requiring that your pilots give the enemy an even break in any encounter is legitimate.

    If, on the other hand, one's goal is deterring pirate attacks on organization members and their resources, the "fair play" doctrine merely gives the pirates the good fights they were looking for in the first place. One may clear out some of the marginal pirate corporations, but sooner or later one of the big boys is going to show up and the play fair doctrine restrictions will make for a very unhappy membership.

    At that point, Mord's Maxim comes into play.

  11. ...and EVE will eventually see fewer players, should that be true.
    Single-shard universes tend to cater to many player-types. And as in life, there are cowards, who seek tears from the meek and inexperienced. Its a fact. And one I can live with.
    Personally I find that pirates are good for PvP-sparring.
    I concede that pirates are more likely to get PvP-training, and hence, the marginally better PvP-skills. But carebears are VERY cautious, and usually prepare and plan against them, wereas Pirates often just grab their closest gank-boat. So that might even the scales a bit.
    Also it is more common for carebears, to use relations to help them. Being either mercs or allies. Pirates also have those options, but I seldom see them doing it a lot.
    I have, however begun to see that happen ad-hoc, as a response to the carebear-blob´s usually roaming around. A natural development, I guess.

  12. @Wotan - Mord's Maxim holds that if your guys aren't having fun they will soon be someone else's guys. Players who aren't having fun tend to exit their existing organization and move to another that provides them a more entertaining in-game experience long before they exit the game altogether.

  13. As a solo pirate one thing I'd say in response to your article is that, though you may be completely correct in everything your saying about the changing of Lowsec to be more of a "Sphere of influence" type setting. No amount of bears with claws in any space will ever really remove any true pirate from that same space.

    I say this because the beauty of those groups of pirates who fly in small gangs and solo roam is that they can always avoid large blobs and pick off smaller targets at will. Think along the lines of a hunting pride of lions. Yes a massive herd of Wildebeast could stomp the lions to the ground were they to stand and take on the whole herd. Instead though they stalk the smaller prey and seperate them from the herd. A common tactic in solo eve pirating is similar in where you use superior speed to draw faster opposing fleet members out of range of their fellow blobers and pick them off.

    So yes we may see these blocs of ex-NC (I'm assuming thats the group you're really reffering to) carebears using their Null experience to implement spheres of influence and possibly make life harder for local pirates and instigate blob vs. blob fights. I believe though that the heart and soul of their solo pvp attitude will allow them to still exsist and most probably even thrive with an influx of new targets. Especially seeing as pirate groups (at least the ones I've been in/worked with/know of) don't really have "in space assets" to speak of to be seiged or affected by an incoming contender for space. Thereby they can mostly just fly under ther radar, maybe run a few camps and go about their pirating day. I've done it on several occasions where angry patrons vow to remove myself and my kind from whatever home system we lived in. In response we just set instawarps off our station and yarr on until they get tired of fighting an opponent that won't fight on thier terms. So the war of attrition on fun will certainly be waged but I don't think the bears will be shoe-ins by any means. Just some food for thought on the idea.

    Also the samurai metaphor works just fine. Just sayin.

    TL;DR I agree but pirates will live on.