The Secret of SteelNiden
Filled with dreams of the outlaw life, the “1%” of New Eden, I align my Brutix toward a planet in a lowsec system close to Rens – blasters at the ready, my heart pounding in my chest.
I am fulfilling the vision of what EVE is to me along with the desperate few I have found to share this miserable life with. Chatter amongst our small motley crew comes in short, scribbled bursts – we don’t have the luxury of comms – someone has a target in one of the belts. The Brutix, which is my pride and joy, represents half of what I own, we are all dirt poor, inexperienced and hungry for a kill, some loot and a bad rep.
I land to the rumbling sound of artillery from a gang member’s Typhoon, the only battleship in our rag-tag band. I have no idea what the target ship is even capable of, “Megathron” is just another name in a very long list of names I don’t really comprehend the meaning of. I light my microwarpdrive, and barreling towards the target start firing the blasters, one after the other.
I can no longer see what’s around me, my body is shaking, my brain refuses to read any of the information on the overview. All I know for sure at this moment is that I am running on hope more than skill and risking it all for a dream.
Looking back at that moment, a decade ago, brings back mixed feelings. It was a different time then. We didn’t have guides for every little thing and every mistake I made I paid for myself, dearly. No one was there with a free ship, some good advice and a pat on the back when I fucked up. Half of the time I had no idea what just happened after a fight and it would be days or even weeks before I could afford another ship like the Brutix.
“It’s a cliche, to be sure, but it was a hard life.”
It’s a cliche, to be sure, but it was a hard life. Lowsec was more often than not a barren, unforgiving wasteland, inhabited by the desperate and the foolish, using what little money and resources they had to kill each other. Reaching out for help in a place filled with thieves and gankers was like playing russian roulette with three bullets in the chamber and trust was hard to come by. There was only one reason anyone would put up with these hardships for any length of time, and that was a genuine love for lowsec and the lifestyle it represented.
Even I lost hope several times, not wanting to go anywhere else, but having such a rough time of it I quit EVE, many times, sometimes for a year or two. But I always came back, looking for the same thing. Even today, thousands of kills and hundreds of losses later, the same love keeps me bound to EVE, bound to lowsec. Because I remember what it was like sitting in that Brutix, so many years ago.
So what is this thing, this idea that has enthralled me so? Well, we can start by looking at what it isn’t.
I was talking the other day with Dirk McGirk (TNT, The New Eden Update, The Open Comms Show and frequent guest on Podside), and a couple of weeks ago with Asher Elias (GSF, The Asher Hour) about narrative. They both noted the lack of it in lowsec, stating that this was one of their reasons for not being attracted to low security space, instead preferring nullsec with it’s names on the map and lines in the sand – and they are right.
“The only things that remember that you won this fight or lost that one are the killboards, your allies and your enemies.”
Aside from what little artificial narrative can be derived from Factional Warfare, there is none. Not in the traditional sense at least. The only things that remember that you won this fight or lost that one are the killboards, your allies and your enemies. It’s not ending up in any fancy book about the history of EVE, or being talked about on podcasts by people who spend 5 % of their time fighting and 95 % of it talking about fighting while spinning the derived meta so much that it gives you vertigo.
Ask a lowsec resident what is best in EVE, and they might say this:
“To crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.” – Conan, Conan The Barbarian 1982
Although the above quote is served with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, but the principle is true. A true passion for lowsec is born from the need of endless conflict and the glory it entails. It is not only found in lowsec, but is most common there. To those that call it home and a way of life, there is no glory in hiding under the protective eye of CONCORD or as vassals to some nullsec empire, bending the knee, walking in line and namelessly toiling in silence so it will save you when you fuck up or so that you can associate yourself with various headlines in the EVE media. It is the pure need to test oneself against others and come out alive. We do not come for your lands, your flag or your wealth, we come to kill you.
The beating heart of lowsec is a battlefield with little meaning and no end save for the battle itself. Because what is narrative? For some people, the narrative is what drives conflict and conquest, they cannot have one without the other. Meanwhile, swathes of the population of EVE are crippled, starving for content, because their way to it is via narrative. That should in no shape, way or form be looked down upon and is probably a more lofty goal, but what if we simply take that and cast it aside?
“The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan. You must learn its discipline. For no one – no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts… This you can trust.” – Conan’s father, Conan The Barbarian 1982
Right before getting his head chopped off, Thulsa Doom asks Conan what he would have been if he had not given him meaning, strength and purpose in the thirst for revenge. If he had not given him narrative. The question becomes how you interpret the riddle of steel. Who was right, Thulsa or Conan’s father? In the end it is simply a matter of choice, either you need a reason to go out and crush your enemies and drive them before you, or you don’t – you just do it because you love to do it, because it’s in your blood. Lowsec embodies the latter.
The only thing that is always true, that will never waver, can’t be spun and never changes is the fight itself, and that is the narrative of lowsec.