Low sec now belongs to factional warfare.
The transition hasn't been a gentle one either. The influx of fw pilots to low sec is causing a lot of complaints about risk aversion from quite a few pirates. The removal of 2/10 plexes has caused many regions to become silent graveyards, leaving only memories of the great times it once hosted. All the focus has moved to the regions that factions war over so diligently, and with the rewards they give out to those willing to claim territory, it's no wonder capsuleers flock to have a share of the wealth. This wealth comes at minimal risk, ruining the age old saying of high risk for high rewards.
Everywhere you roam you see less than a month old pilots with only enough skills to fly a frigate with stabs and maybe a cloak. The one rat inside the plex isn't a problem, tech 1 guns will do just fine. With the only requirement to earn loyalty points being to stand in one place and wait, they have plenty of tools to avoid any threat that they might encounter. They have all the time in the world to d-scan, a fixed warp in location so they can open range far enough to reduce any chance of being caught and stabs for when they do manage to get caught. This is enough for even the most unskilled pilot to become a pro at avoiding any fights. If any of these pilots actually manages to fail a getaway, the ships they lose are but a fraction of the lp they make while farming these plexes, and the person who managed to kill said ship, is left with a very unsatisfying killmail. I don't blame them, why risk fighting hoards of rats in missions, or risk getting ganked in a mining ship or go through all the trouble of finding sites to explore. If making money is your goal, then there is no equal, and the skill requirements are so low that a one day old pilot can start making big bucks.
The pirates, desperately chasing these plex farmers around, foaming at the mouth for any kill they might find, has become but an irritation. I have come across quite a few of these plex farmers that started mocking me after their casual escapes. Two such pilots even went as far as to say they would NEVER get caught. Challenge accepted! I ordered a Nemesis from Jita, fitted it with blasters and dual scrams and headed over to their last location. Before going further I'd just like to mention that I realize this was a high risk for almost zero rewards, as the Nemesis costs about 50mil fully fitted and the kills I was hoping to get might be worth maybe one or two million at most, depending if they had a cloak or not. I also realized that I screwed up when planning my fit and brought the wrong shield tank module, at the time I decided to go with an afterburner and leave the tank completely. This was a mistake as you will soon see.
I headed over to their last location where Buck Assblaster (charming name) was still busy doing...nothing to reap his rewards. To my dismay I couldn't use the warp gate without uncloaking, but luckily mr. Assblaster was either asleep or just didn't care when he saw the Nemesis on dscan. Either way I slowly made my way towards him and gave him some love after decloaking. One down one to go. The second pilot, Gorakhal the Relentless, wasn't too far away. As soon as I entered system he proclaimed "Don't even bother, you'll never get me!" (or something along those lines) in local. Again I decloaked at the warp gate, but again he didn't care. I started closing the gap between us while cloaked. I was getting anxious, this kill now meant something to me. 15km, does he know I'm here? I did decloak at the warp in...10km, screw it, uncloak and let loose the fury! The problem here was that I was 10km off, and while I successfully had him pointed, my blasters weren't in range to do their magic. The initial surprise was gone when I actually started doing damage, and now he started shooting back. I was webbed but not scrambled, I could still get out! The Nemesis was much slower than your average frigate and it was taking forever to reach warp speed. Meanwhile both our tanks were wearing thin fairly fast, I might still be able to pull this off! But alas, the Merlin claimed a quite expensive kill. I was grinding my teeth, bracing myself for the slaughter that was to follow in local. Luckily this pilot didn't gloat, and admitted to having had quite a shock when I decloaked. If not for the mistakes made on my side, the Nemesis would have easily removed the Merlin from space, and if I fitted a tank, it would've gone better even with the mistakes. I didn't buy another Nemesis though. As I said, the rewards for such a risk just didn't add up. (and I was too lazy to go back to Jita)
Not all the fw pilots run away at the sight of danger though. Jadenar125 was one of the few who actually fought back. Once I landed on him and started pointing, fully expecting him to warp away due to the 3 stabs he had equipped, I almost fell out of my chair when he did the the same. He was in an Incursus, I hated fighting these as you never know how well you're doing until the fight is over. This was again the case as I started breaking his armor just so he could almost fully repair it back up. I did manage to nick his structure now and then, bringing him closer and closer to his demise as my Merlin's shields started to wear thin. We circled each other up close, spewing death on each other until finally, his repairer gave way and the Incursus exploded. This was a good fight, even if he was a much younger pilot than I, he did quite well. It turned out he was sporting a Ancillary Armor Repair module and after his ship exploded, the AAR survived, something I've been hoping to loot for a while now. We exchanged good fights in local and had a brief discussion after that. This pilot really impressed me in more ways than one, and on the off chance that you're actually reading this: I salute you Jadenar125!
On the other side of the spectrum you have bait, followed by a blob, followed by a frantic mashing of the warp button to get your pod to safety. You can't help but feel cheated when this happens but before you jump on the hate train, just think back to the times you were in a fleet and waited at a stargate with a scout on the other side looking for a potential target to point. When in a fleet the goals usually shift from having a good fight to get everyone on the killmail.
I have to catch myself sometimes when I'm the receiver of the above mentioned tactic. Just this morning I found a Merlin sitting more or less 100km off a station and being in Merlin myself, thought this to be a valid target. He was heading straight for me, but not wanting to fight next to a station, I warped to the sun. A quick check revealed that he had buddies in the system, I expected backup. Once at the sun I noticed a Condor has appeared on dscan, I assumed that was the backup, but checking the short scan I saw the Merlin has almost arrived. I might have enough time, I thought. Our Merlin's gave a dashing display of frigate combat, but after some time in the fight I was looking better of than he was. His shields was just about to give when the Condor arrived, landing right on top of me. I made a quick decision, I pointed the Condor leaving my blasters on the Merlin, hoping to take him down. I knew once the Condor got range on me I'd be a watching him kite me to death 20km away. This plan failed miserably when the Merlin quickly got out of range leaving me at low shields to deal with the Condor. Before I could apply some damage to the Condor I saw a third combatant land on the grid. In a Tornado! Needless to say it took two volleys for the fight to end right then and there and the frantic mashing of the warp button began, managing to save my clone to die another day.
Good fights were exchanged but I didn't mean it, I was angry. How could they spoil such a action packed fight by bringing a Tornado along? That wasn't very sportsman like! I did manage, as I said, to catch myself before losing my cool. I realized that I've been part of such unfair engagements in the past, and that I expected them to bring backup in the first place. I left the system to reship, pondering about the events that just transpired. This, at least, was a fight worth remembering. I could have gone down with a Merlin kill for myself if I kept shooting it I'm sure, and might have reacted differently had I been keeping an eye on dscan. This was the kind of fight that a better pilot would have escaped from while managing to get a kill himself. I decided that this was a much better encounter than managing to kill a plex farmer now and then. I could actually learn from it.
Am I against faction warfare taking a big part of the low sec action? No, I just feel that it can be better implemented. Go read the jaw dropping accounts on Gamerchick's blogs, faction warfare can be pretty epic. Making a few tweaks could stop unskilled plex farmers to bring home large sums of cash with almost zero risk or skill. By simply increasing the number of rats or even respawning them a few times could force plexers to bring at least a semi-capable ship along, maybe even making them sacrifice those warp stabs for a little more tank. You won't see t1 frigates doing medium plexes when the rats are too much for a t1 frig to handle either. This will be a problem when faction warfare works as it should though, as the attacking faction might have the rats and an opposing faction to deal with. Then again, no one said it should be easy to claim a plex.
I'm just putting my thoughts into words and those words on this blog, maybe I got it all wrong. All I know is that I'd be hanging up my missioning or mining hat and jumping on the Plex Farming Express to riches if I was in it for the money. Then again, sitting in one spot doing nothing for fifteen minutes isn't what I'd call engaging. At least when mining you get to activate some modules. To each his own I guess. In the mean time I'll keep annoying plexers, hoping to find that one diamond in the rough, there must be more Jadenar125's out there somewhere, and I sure as hell am gonna try and find 'em. Faction Warfare certainly has brought more people to low sec, for good or for bad, and while the plex farmers might be irritating, finding fights might have become a little easier.