On Crossing Zebras episode 28 Xander Phoena had Marc Scaurus and Rixx Javix, two people I have a lot of respect for (except Marc, he's a dink ), on to talk about low sec and for the large part they acquitted themselves quite well. However, there were a couple things I took issue with.
First, there was a little bit of historical revisionism by Rixx when he complained that the old faction warfare plexes from last year were superior to the current model because (and I'm paraphrasing here because I don't have the exact quote) "they had rats you had to fight and you couldn't just sit in there and spam deep scan".
Let's remind ourselves of last year, shall we? Faction warfare was infested with noob alt characters that trained enough to fit an afterburner because on a Tech 1 frigate that's all you needed to speed tank the rats in the plexes. Plus, since the buttons to orbit were 50-60 km away from the warp in beacon they didn't even have to spam deep scan to watch out for trouble, they just waited until you were in the plex and approaching then they warped off.
At least now in the current plexes they have to kill the 1-2 rats that spawn or the timer does not count down, and if they miss hitting deep scan, they are usually in point range when you land, both big improvements. The number of farmers has dropped substantially and while I sympathize with Rixx's frustration about the proliferation of warp core stabs we must remember that the farming PvE'rs will always try to adapt to field before they just up and leave altogether.
But this little confusion is indicative of a lot what these two low sec denizens had to say about faction warfare.
Marc expressed the thought that faction warfare people must get frustrated by the pirates that don't get locked out of stations in faction warfare systems like the opposing militia does. Never, absolutely never, have I heard that sentiment in faction warfare circles. We welcome the targets! We fight pirates as willingly as we engage the Caldari (perhaps even more so as pirates tend to fly flashier ships).
The opinion was also expressed that faction warfare happens in low sec but its not part of low sec, that it does not incorporate the core values of low sec because it has these mechanics with plexes and farmers and system control, etc.
This pissed me off a little.
I was a pirate in low sec years before the original Empyrean Age faction warfare was introduced and I can assure you it was a wasteland. Pirate groups dominated the entry points, anti-pirates would try valiantly to push them back but both groups were few in number and fighting a losing battle as it was near impossible to make enough ISK in either occupation to afford replacement ships. Beyond the occasional newb ratter/mission runner/miner the kills were few and far between and usually consisted of pirates fighting each other. There was nothing of value for groups to really fight over, excepting the occasional moon. Low sec was effectively dead.
The first iteration of faction warfare breathed life into the husk that was low sec, but it was a temproary reprieve as it languished with broken mechanics and bad design decisions until Crucible/Inferno/Retribution turned things around. Faction warfare is now the major engine that drives low sec and makes organizations like Stay Frosty even possible. It brings pilots into low sec, it brings fleets into low sec, it gives both militias and pirates somewhere and something to fight, and fight over. The increased rewards in low sec (better rats, tags for sec, better exploration) have helped increase population density but only faction warfare has given enough cover for those activities to have a chance. In the old days, any neutral in a system was detected and hunted to extinction by very efficient apex-predator pirates.
I've been on both sides of the fence. I joined faction warfare over a year ago and before that spent a year or so being just a low sec pirate. You want a glimpse of what low sec's core values are without faction warfare? Visit the few areas far from the militias and you can see it: pirate wasteland. That's not a core value worth integrating into.
Marc and Rixx seems to hold on to this romantic notion that low sec is all about the fights and proving yourself as a pilot. I can support that but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that Faction Warfare is not the engine and framework that allows that notion to exist.