It's not you, it's me

27th April 2010 – 7.36 pm

The unfortunate case of the twice-podded pilot raises the issue of our corporation's current engagement policy in w-space. Our initial stance was defensive, in that we'd hide in our tower's shields until the threat went away. From that, we moved to throwing inexpensive ships at the attackers until they ran out of ammunition, which proved awkward against cap-stable laser boats. The natural progression was to engage aggressors. But from there we have taken a more aggressive step ourselves, by hunting and shooting anyone not allied—or 'blue'—to us, the 'Not Blue, Shoot It' (NBSI) policy.

The NBSI policy is in contrast to 'Not Red, Don't Shoot' (NRDS), where pilots only attack others who have low standings—are 'red'— with the corporation, which are generally enemies or known aggressors. Parity Bit has a good deconstruction of the arguments against NRDS in w-space, showing that NRDS is quite workable without compromising your own safety. Essentially, don't attack anyone first, but still assume they are hostile until proven otherwise. If anyone shoots you unprovoked, set their corporation to red and move on. NRDS doesn't mean you have to be trusting, but you promote peaceful coexistence by example.

I agree that any argument that NRDS is unworkable in w-space is self-fulfilling. I consider NRDS to be somewhat impractical in w-space, though. The dynamic nature of w-space and the connecting wormholes makes it unlikely for any one system to be seen more than once over a matter of weeks or months, and the likelihood of seeing the same pilots again is remote. It can happen, with the occasional system cropping up a couple of times in my notes, the poor Buzzard pilot stumbling in to us twice, and a bigger and badder corporation poking us a couple of times, but the instances are uncommon to the point of rarity. Setting a corporation to red in w-space may have no measurable effect.

Even if NRDS can be considered impractical, there certainly needs to be some justification for adopting an NBSI stance, particularly when it allows attacking industrial and other clearly non-combat ships. One rational justification is that in w-space the distinction between combat and non-combat ships is not a reliable indicator of threat. Partly this is because the ship may not be alone, but mostly it is not the ship that is the threat but the pilot.

You can never be sure what the mining barge is actually doing, who is monitoring the hauler, or what the intentions are of the scanning ship. Nor can you be sure whether the hauler, miner, or scanner is performing his primary task or passing time until an opportunity arises to get in to his main and very pointy ship. I have attacked a Hulk that retreats to hide in his tower's shields, and also found a Hulk whose pilot launches an Ishkur to hunt me down. Our corporation regularly returns to empire space to buy fuel and supplies, but if other ships are noticed on the route we call out reinforcements to keep our hauler safe. A scanning pilot may be looking for an exit, or looking for targets, and our own pilots are not the only ones looking for an exit or looking for targets. Sometimes the two actions intersect and scanning for an exit becomes scanning for targets.

Seeing an apparently unarmed ship does not mean there is no threat, as there could be capsuleers watching out for them or close by to provide support, or even a small fleet waiting to be called in on the right signal. Of course, it could be there is actually no threat and that by attacking a threat is artificially generated, but that is the risk that an NBSI policy takes. Occasionally, it is even a desired result, where poking someone with a pointy stick ends up provoking a response in your favour. Indeed, this is where my personal justification for preferring NBSI can be introduced.

I have previously entertained justifications of blowing up any viable target such as 'because I can' and 'I like explosions'. Whilst both statements are true they are not fully representative of my motivations, which I have been trying to analyse for a while. It has been difficult to determine my reasons when there are easy and obviously false justifications like 'the game allows it' or 'others would do the same to me'. The game allows me to self-destruct my ship, or fly through gate-camps, and that would get me some pretty hefty explosions, yet I don't do that. Nor do I try to scam other players or corporations, or get involved in 'smack-talk', even though others may do so to me. There has to be an additional factor that motivates me to hunt other pilots. And there it is.

It is the thrill of the hunt that appeals to me. And in w-space the hunt is as much the challenge as the engagement that follows. There are no stargates for easy travel, no safe harbours outside of your own towers, no information of how many capsuleers are in the current system besides what you can gather yourself. You have no easy way of knowing what is on the other side of the wormhole, and sometimes not even on the other side of the system. You are limited to information you can gather yourself and your own skills to ensure your survival. You need to be vigilant and aware of possible threats, and know methods to evade them. Over time, my experience has let me understand w-space better, to the point where I am not only comfortable travelling through it freely but where I can actually be a threat.

I know how to use the directional scanner to identify potential threats, and have adapated that knowledge to help find targets as quickly and covertly as possible. I can navigate through w-space quickly and confidently, finding wormholes and sites as well as passing through occupied systems unharried, which lets me stalk targets effectively. And I have good people with me who can do the same, so that when we form a fleet we can pool information and knowledge to greater effect. Being able to note the presence of other capsuleers, locate them, trace their activity, and drop deadly ships on top of them is exciting. And it can be just as exciting to find yourself being hunted and using the same experience in trying to escape.

Of course, it is possible to locate the target and let them get away with the knowledge that you were in a good position to shoot, but it isn't the same. Although there is satisfaction to be gained from finding and observing the target, there is more to be considered. I need to have the right ship and the right fitting to snare and hold the target for long enough to destroy it. I need to understand that the information I gathered is correct and sufficient for me to complete the kill without being chased away or ambushed myself. And if it goes wrong I want to see how I cope with the situation, and hopefully learn from my mistakes. The hunt ends with the kill, the satisfaction comes from the explosion.

But it's not personal. I don't choose you to shoot, I simply find a target. NRDS is closer to making the combat personal, as the standing relationship implies previous hostility and instils negative emotions before the fight even begins. NBSI only means it is open season on ships.

  1. 2 Responses to “It's not you, it's me”

  2. I simply will not exist in an NBSI stance. I live in a region I currently consider my home, the minute that gate flashes and we don't know it, i consider it,as if I woudl consider you stepping in my house without asking. You will not leave un-harassed at best, if not just plain eliminated.

    Don't want to be harrassed? Don't jump through. I will not force you into a place you ahve no desire to be but I will eliminate someone if they come in without asking.

    TC and good hunting :)

    By manasi on Apr 29, 2010

  3. That's a decent justification out in null-sec, where sovereignty can be claimed, but is a little awkward to implement in w-space. Each wormhole connection shifts daily, leading to a different system, such that there is no way of knowing what system you are jumping in to.

    Whilst it is legitimate to want to protect your system, and we certainly do, it is impractical to expect capsuleers not to enter without an invitation when they can't first know to ask.

    It would be possible to note the presence of other ships and open a communication channel, probably the local channel, to warn them about their intrusion, but the important element of surprise would be lost.

    I agree with you, but without any way of knowing what system you are jumping in to the justification is a little weak in w-space.

    By pjharvey on Apr 30, 2010

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