As is my usual daily routine, I was browsing the latest news and blog posts about EVE Online on the ultra-handy (and highly recommended ) Total Eve! index site, when I saw an item on Lauresh's new blog about "Highsec Living". As one who lives mostly in high security space, I was intrigued, so I read it.
In summary, Lauresh doesn't like high-sec. I hear this kind of sentiment often from pilots who are used to living in null-sec, low-sec or wormhole space. High-sec is boring, they say. You can't make any ISK, they say. There aren't any good fights in high-sec, they say.
These kinds of comments always make me roll my eyes a bit. The truth is, some people just don't get high-sec, or why about seventy percent of capsuleers (including a lot of alts of characters based in other kinds of space) choose to spend most, if not all, of their time there.
Personally, I keep trying different kinds of space, but find myself moving back to high-sec. I played in a wormhole for a while, did some gas mining and exploration in low-sec, and even dabbled in a bit of null-sec life on an alt. They were all fun in their own ways, but I keep returning to Empire space. I admit I feel the most comfortable there.
Life in the Big Easy
First, high-sec requires less of a social commitment than other types of space. With my crazy Real Life schedule (I'm away from home about 75 percent of the time), I can't make myself persistently available for unpredictable calls to arms, which are all too common in corps that operate in more volatile spaces. I have enjoyed participating in these kinds of fleet ops, when I could, but it's hard to do them consistently when you have planes to catch and clients to serve.
In high-sec, I don't have to worry about letting my corpmates down. My only time-bound obligation is whenever we get a wardec and I have to rush to disassemble a POS or two, but that's easily managed. We do weekend mining fleets from time to time, which are lazy and more about chatting than production, or we'll get some folks together to do a little small gang wormhole diving, every once in while. In high-sec, I never fret about getting any sudden alerts that require immediate action, and that suits me just fine.
In this regard, high-sec life is like living on a Caribbean island. Things just move a bit slower there, and the locals generally like it that way. No worries, mon!
Decent Risk, Fair Reward
In high-sec, I mission a little, mine a little, haul a little, explore a little, and build a lot. There are a lot of ways to earn ISK in Empire space, and they can all be done solo, which is very convenient. Admittedly, the returns are not as vast as what is possible in null-sec or w-space, but that just means I have to be more disciplined. High-sec has forced me to become a better industrialist, and pay attention to my thinner margins.
Every space has its own kinds of challenges. In high-sec, I have to keep an eye on Local for possible gankers, and I need to monitor my industrial supply chain very closely. I play with the margins in trade hubs, and do all right there. I could make more ISK per hour in other types of space, surely, but the risk-reward ratio feels about right for me in Empire. I find the returns on my nominal levels of investment are adequate for my efforts.
More NPC interaction, please
Still, I yearn for more in high-sec. I find I have to vary my ship selection and fits, just to spice up my engagement with the missioning system, which I mastered years ago. Level 4s are a nice way to make decent ISK, but good God almighty, they are so predictable. The new burner missions are a welcome relief, and I do run them from time to time, just to make things interesting.
The most fun I've had in PvE lately has been while hunting Circadian Seekers, which use improved artificial intelligence routines and are far more variable in their responses - you never quite know what they are going to do. They warp away, warp back, re-engage, follow you to stations and camp you there. And while wrestling with Seekers, one has to keep an watchful eye on the overview for any Drifter Battleships, lest they drop on top of you and blat you to smithereens. More people should know how much fun the Seeker/Drifter AI can be - why CCP Games hasn't publicized this more prominently mystifies me.
In my opinion, they can't port this new non-player character (NPC) AI system to regular mission rats fast enough. It would make mission running much more fun.
How I interact with NPCs should make a difference in high-sec. For example, if I clear out all the anomalies in a system, I should be able to mine there for a while without rats showing up. Or, if I kill all the pirate frigates in an asteroid belt, they might come back in a couple of cruisers. How NPCs react to what I do should make a high-sec system more interesting and engaging - they are far too easily defeated now. If I undock my mining barge from a station and see a dozen pirate anomalies on scan, it should give me pause, and make me think I should dock up and re-ship into something that can clean out the anoms first.
The recent increase in the likelihood of an escalation from high-sec anomalies was a good move by CCP. That change made clearing high-sec anoms much more entertaining. I'd like to see more of this, and more opportunities for high-sec ratters to discover threads they can follow.
CCP Ytterbium has suggested a couple of new ways that players could interact with NPCs. First, during his Fanfest presentation, he suggested that small cargo runs could be arranged with the Interbus courier service. I'm all for this, as long as the shipments are restricted to small loads (less than 1K cubic meters, perhaps?), and if these courier ships could be intercepted and destroyed by players. That would protect the value of player haulers, and also create new content for pirates.
In addition, in responding to questions in the forum about the proposed new structures, he proposes the opportunity for players to arrange for NPCs to help protect a player-owned structure. I love this idea. Why shouldn't players be allowed to contract with local factions for protective services, especially if structure defenses are no longer going to be automatic? It would provide for a way to deter solo or small gang attackers until you could get online and blast away with your structure defenses. Make the contracting for these kinds of NPC defense services on a logarithmic sliding scale - not much for just a few frigates, to a huge amount for substantive forces - and it adds a whole new dimension to managing costs and risk for structures. More often than not, more player choices mean more variety and better gameplay.
In Sugar Kyle's recent post, she explores the idea of contracting with NPC services for courier run protection. Turamarth Elrandir supports this idea in his blog, and I do, too. It would be a fun option for solo freighter pilots. Why shouldn't we have the opportunity to "rent" NPCs to fly with us? The high-sec ganking community might hate this idea, but it would certainly make their engagements a hell of a lot more interesting, for both their ganking squads and for their targets, and that sounds like content enhancement to me. (Besides, I think there would still be a lot of solo haulers who would forgo NPC protection to save costs, thus leaving plenty of easier ganking targets available.)
There's so much unexplored territory in NPC interaction that CCP Games could experiment with, adding a lot of new depth and variety to high-sec - and in other types of space as well.
Eliminating Empire as a High-Sec Requirement
I recently wrote a speculative piece for Crossing Zebras that explores the possibility of reducing the sizes of each Empire's space, and turning over the setting of security status (in non-Empire systems) to players. I think this will happen eventually, though I can't yet be certain about the timeframe. It would be a wonderful thing for high-sec dwellers, as it would reduce Jita's influence as the one primary trade hub for all of New Eden, and promote the development of local trade in each Empire.
Some people have misconstrued my article to mean that I want to force players out of high security space. Actually, I suggest that fragmenting the four Empires opens up new options for high-sec players. For example, by changing factional warfare into a four-way conflict, and by expanding the battlezone between the Empires, getting into this form of semi-controlled PvP becomes more attractive to more players. This would result in more demand for manufactured goods, which opens up more opportunities for industrialists in high-sec, even for simple Tech I production.
Allowing players to collectively determine the security status of systems - through the use of structure administration hubs - would provide for the development of isolated high-sec freeports and mission hubs, patrolled by CONCORD (or perhaps pirate factions), in low-sec or even null-sec systems. This would be an exciting option for entrepreneurial high-sec traders, who may be looking for a better risk-reward ratio, outside of Empire space. Being a system in Empire space does not always need to be a prerequisite to developing a high-sec status system - that decision can be left to players.
The Relative Value of High-Sec Investment
There is no reason that high security space can't be as exciting and as interesting as any other type of space in New Eden. Enhancing the level and variety of engagement with NPCs, providing more player control over how they define and use high-sec status, improving the quality of PvE options, and expanding the scope of factional warfare would all make high-sec a more interesting and fun place to play EVE Online.
For CCP Games, the value of these kinds of developments would be higher player retention amongst their largest player base: the high-sec dwellers. For CCP, this is where the real money lives. For those players like me who don't have the time for more than casual social interaction, such a redefinition of high-sec would be a boon, and we'd be much more likely to stick around longer. Encouraging people to join a corporation and engage more socially is not a bad thing, but it should not be the only thing that CCP does to retain more players. Making all types of space - especially high-sec - more interesting and more fun is the key to more subscribers, and more content for everyone.
Fly safe! o7