Mabrick mumbled over some anti-piratical sentiments recently, refusing to participate in shooting non-combat ships, asking 'Where's the sport in that?' I regularly look for and destroy innocent industrialists, out to collect planet goo or scrape chunks of rock out of asteroids, and quite enjoy it. After reading his musings, I felt a need to evaluate my own actions. And as Mabrick takes care to add a disclaimer to make it clear he doesn't condemn capsuleers who would gleefully attack industrial ships, I shall state that this won't be a rebuttal but a justification. Why do I do it? And does this make me just some dastardly pirate scum?
There is some skill to the hunt itself, whether or not the prey is dangerous. Of course, the level of skill varies, from simply following a ship's warp trail out of a tower to a customs office, to chasing them around the system, catching a ship on a wormhole connecting systems, right up to locating and resolving a ship's position in a site using a single scan with probes. Some kills are straightforward, some are more intricate. And, as I've elaborated on before, merely getting to the point of engaging the ship is not enough. You need to get the kill to ensure that you would get it, and not be out-run, out-manoeuvred, or countered.
So attacking industrialists isn't always shooting fish in a barrel. Even so, they almost never shoot back, which surely takes the sport out of the combat. I won't argue against that, any more than I will argue that my occasional popping of a combat frigate in low-sec using a strategic cruiser is in any way a good fight. But if it's not a good fight, or honourable, why do I do it? Or, at least, how do I reconcile my actions with my conscience?
EVE Online is a PvP game, you can say, and if you undock you are giving tacit consent to be involved in the PvP game. So goes the common argument. Tacit consent is a tricky concept, however, and there are good grounds to deny such arguments. Indeed, I'm not going to rely on that, as I don't think anyone has tacitly agreed that I can blow up their ship if I get the opportunity. Instead, I am going to look at what it means to be in certain areas of space.
That New Eden (and beyond, through wormholes in to w-space) has various security levels of space is hardly news, and the new crimewatch system means that the security offered in high-sec, low-sec, and null-sec is much clearer and better understood, even if occasionally overlooked. It is generally known that drifting out of high-sec to low-sec is dangerous, and null-sec and w-space more dangerous still. But just what is it that makes these regions of space 'dangerous'?
The rats are bigger and more dangerous outside of high-sec, that much is true. I've even seen w-space rats in a gas-harvesting site blow the living crap out of a strategic cruiser, so an industrial ship doesn't stand much chance against them. But mining-site rats can be easily countered. Those in sites show up once, and those in belts aren't that dangerous really. Once the threat is dealt with, the richer and rarer resources available more than make up for a minor increase in danger from rats. So is that the risk and reward? Nope.
As far as I'm aware, rats don't seem to give a damn about capsuleers collecting planet goo. Pilots can harvest as much planetary resources as they like without direct threat, and the goo available in the more dangerous regions of space also offer richer veins to be exploited than in their high-sec equivalents. There doesn't seem to be any risk/reward ratio at work here. At least, not until you take in to account the likes of me, stalking the gooers to their customs offices, or when they haul their valuable cargo to market.
The threat of dangerous regions of space doesn't come from rats, but from other capsuleers. Specifically, dangerous space is dangerous because of the combination of reduced security and the freedom it gives other capsuleers. Without the likes of me, mining, gassing, gooing all offer greater rewards in dangerous space without any significant increase in risk. Add me in to the equation and the industrialist has to balance the risk of being brutally slaughtered with the potential rewards of improved resource harvesting. I am what makes dangerous space dangerous.
If we allow industrial ships to pass freely, by some code of honour, then they get all the advantages of living in dangerous space without any of the risks. I'm not even going to consider the possible logistic uses industrial ships could be purposed for if it were tacitly agreed they were non-combatants and not valid targets. My argument is simple: there is greater reward available in regions of space that are only made dangerous by the threat of pirates, who can only be other capsuleers.
There are even obvious balances that come in to effect. There are other resources that can be sacrificed for added security, resources such as time, cargo space, and escorts. You can add time to your operation, by choosing a more circuitous route, either to hide your true destination or to drop off more but smaller hauls. You can sacrifice cargo capacity for the ability to enter warp more quickly or with less change of being disrupted. Or you can employ escort ships, adding combined time and effort to the operation. Any of the available options reduces your operating efficiency, so that it approaches what you could achieve in optimised ships in more secure space. And even though doing so decreases the risk, it may make you question why you are dealing with such hassle in the first place.
Yes, I am a dastardly pirate, arbitrarily picking on unsuspecting adventurers going about their business in the great wild yonder. But that's kind of the point. Without me dangerous space wouldn't be dangerous, it would just be more space. No, my actions are not honourable, and often they are not even challenging to achieve or pose any kind of threat to myself. But that's because I'm the wandering monster of space, and I'm okay with that.