Many downtimes ago now back in July 2010, a good friend of mine, Mr Snypes, the Intergalactic Man of Leisure, penned the following words on low sec with the title 'The Burnt Lands'.
Low sec in EVE reminds me of an inner city ghetto. Kids with ski masks ganging up on someone and threatening to stick em if he doesn't give up his chain and the $5 in his wallet. Pimped out "economy" class space ships flying around because nice rides get left on a stack of bricks with nothing left but the stale air freshener you were supposed to change 5 months ago. Seedy people hanging outside the stations wearing aviators, smoking a cigarette, eyeing people up until they see someone weak enough they can take his pocket change to get themselves a cup of coffee. You all get the idea.
Then, there's the rest of EVE. They know low sec exists. They certainly have opinions on it and about the people that choose to call it their home. They spot the low sec gates on their overview while surfing the calm relaxing currents of high sec in their luxury billion ISK Sunday best. Or pass nearby on patrol scanning down the latest sites in 0.0 turf. They even give advice to newer players about low sec based on their assumptions of what it's like. This can be both hilarious and really annoying to players who actually live or know life in low sec. It's like me thinking I'm privileged, intelligent, and amazing enough to make wild statements based on the assumption that high sec is full of nothing but a bunch of bumbling retards who couldn't find their way out of the noob zone because it's too big ... It's not necessarily true but if I spammed it in the rookie channel using ALL CAPS some people might believe me.
Nearly four years on and with July rearing up on the horizon I thought I'd see how the ghetto has changed, if at all. And I think it most certainly has changed. The scenery is somewhat different now and there are more options for the low sec citizen due to what we might label as modernisation attempts, but at the same time low sec does, to me at least, seem to hold true to that old ghetto wasteland image. What has changed is that the kids in ski masks have grown up and instead of muggings for loose change and gold chains the prizes and thrills they seek are much more rewarding and high-risk.
The tools of the trade have also changed. Pimped out economy class ships have been replaced by cutting edge state-of-the-art death machines pushed to their technological limits by highly-skilled pilots with fancy hardwires and an expensive pill addiction. In 2010 all a pilot needed was his pack of smokes and three autocannons strapped to a rusty old afterburner Rifter, now, the entire meta has changed and a fleet booster alt chained to blinged out high-performance space craft seems to be the norm.
The culture has changed. The gangs patrolling the mean streets can now call on vast numbers at the drop of a hat, hotdrop is a buzzword of regular low sec life, supercarrier support and all other deadly weapons of intent and methods of destruction are just a chat channel and a fleet invite away for some. In 2010 the main players would call on their network of Rifter buddies at their time of need, when muscle was required it was measured in the number of autocannons you could bring to a fight and not capitals.
Some of the landscape has also changed, some of it for the better and some not so. The parks and basketball courts that were the 2/10 complexes have been cleared out completely and no longer do dark figures lurk at night and nor do gangs play the courts at all hours. Systems where the 2/10's once boasted of vibrant communities and hives of activity now sit quiet with the gangs long gone, kicked out of town by the authorities.
Faction warfare is different. That turf war on the doorstep that all low sec sees playing out in front of them is now, to some, ignorantly perhaps what low sec actually is seen to be. Low sec is faction warfare and faction warfare is low sec. The kids in ski masks have seen the ghetto infested by a menace known as the farmer, where cloaks and stabs and risk aversion have become cuss words of the frigate fighting youth. The endless chase has provided content though, you can't deny that. The farmers are ignored by some, have become the casual prey to others and to a large band of low sec residents they are the expected staple feed that they demand to have served on a platter. That's wrong. The farmers don't want to fight, and the entitlement of some is a little nauseating to watch play out. You can't deny though that all this makes for a fantastic melting pot for low sec life.
Away from the faction warfare zones and the 'normal' low sec has also changed I feel. Far flung low sec can seem to be the idyllic countryside retreat for some, away from the bustle of the plexes it can be more relaxing and slower paced, looking down over rolling hills of greenery to the burning skies in the distance it can seem so far away and a different game completely. To some extent it is, but don't let that assumption of quiet fool you as some heavy hitters are known to lurk in the woods.
The residents in these places have changed over time and in the same tone of respect they have stayed exactly the same. Without contradicting myself too much you tend to see long-standing communities that always base from these far off retreats, that are well known in their homelands. If you add to this the mix of new faces, perhaps some of the ski mask kids who grew out of their BMX's and now own hover bikes that eventually roll up and pitch their tents, it's a good mix. Some will stay in these areas longer than others, some will morph into the older community and some will return to their old grounds in a dumpster. That's the way it is in the country.
Low sec is now better connected. Superhighways have been built around the slums and nowhere now feels too far away. A new way to travel large distances via the connecting wormhole is the new option for the intrepid hunter. Packs of roaming gangs in their masks can now seemingly jump on a train and go visit their great aunt in Aridia, have tea and cake, ransack the locals and be back home in time for dinner with ISK and loot in their pockets.
All of the above, overall, is good change I would like to think.
The options now available for low sec make for a vibrant and mixed way of life. No longer do people shout that low sec is dead. There is still that ghetto culture, of old times and former glories and still trash can fires light up the early evening skyline. The kids can still get by with their economy rides but know that they will no doubt eventually upgrade to the more sophisticated rides once they've sharpened their teeth and bloodied their knuckles. Crime is good. Alarms ring at all times of the day, in the distance by the high sec gate a CONCORD siren is faintly heard. Learning in the mean streets and fighting pits is accepted. Loot drops and the ISK flows. The gangs are somehow different now but there's always a chance for the new kids on the block. The seedy people hanging outside the stations wearing aviators, smoking cigarettes and eyeing people up are still doing exactly that .... only .... The Burnt Lands have evolved and there's plenty of spare change for coffee.