Saturday, May 31, 2014

Why Kronos Might Be the Best Low Sec Expansion Yet

Though Kronos is the first “expansion” in the new 10-release a year cycle, and thus has some of its previous main features (e.g., industry) pushed back to Crius, I'm of the opinion that it will be the best expansion ever for the health and ecosystem of low sec. The other close contender would be Retribution, are largely because of its revamp to the crime watch system and a very little big change in the sentry/station gun mechanics (whereby they only shoot you when you engage a target on grid thus essentially removing the low sec PVP downtime from 15 minutes, to seconds).

Almost every play style in low sec is getting a much needed boost, in addition to the fact that Kronos is bringing many changes that will gameplay in general (such as graphics improvements, audio customization, and new UI improvements). Let's run through the positive changes (the patch notes can be found here):

Love for Low Sec Exploration and PVE
New Rats:
First of all, there will be new Mordus rat spawns in belts anywhere in low sec (and low sec only) which drop blueprints for the three new pirate ships. This is significant because farming clone soldier tags is currently an activity which nets less than (but close to) the average isk made running level 4 missions. The added possibility of Mordus rats means that now ratting in low sec belts is (finally) likely to be more profitable than doing level 4 missions in high sec (at least in .1 and .2 sec space where the profitable clone soldiers appear).
Second, for the first time ever, the BPC of a pirate battleship will drop in low sec, not null. This change, in and of itself, is a huge shift from the current status quo of null sec always being a notch better than low for most activities. I already cover 50-100 belts in low sec when search for clone tags in a session, and the ability to now also find Mordus rats dropping much more valuable items is a massive boost to visiting belts in low sec space.

New Exploration Sites:
In answer to my questions about the new exploration sites on the forums, CCP Reddawn said the following:

Just to get things straight:
1) The BPCs for the new pirate ships (Garmur etc) drop from Mordus rats in low security belts.

2) Contested Guristas Covert Research Facility sites will (only?) drop data that can either be sold on the market or traded at the Mordus station. But otherwise these sites drop no loot? And these sites too will spawn in low sec?

3) Once enough data has been delivered to the Mordus station, Besieged Covert Research Facility sites will start to appear anywhere in low sec and they will drop the new ship skin BPCs, "low-grade" implants, and warp speed modules?

Is all of that correct or am I missing something?

I also have a question about the "Besieged Covert Research Facility" sites. Once they have been "unlocked," are they permanently unlocked such that they spawn all over low sec from there on out? Or is it more of a system where 1 is unlocked as a spawn for every X amount of data delivered to Mordus

CCP Reddawn:
“1) Yes that's right.
2) Yes these Contested sites only drop the data you need to unlock the Besieged sites and they will be present in low sec.
3) Yes. The Besieged sites will be over all of low sec and drop what's mentioned in the dev blog.
In regards to your question, they will be permanently unlocked in one big batch.”
Later, he noted that the Contested sites will be in both low and high sec. Once Besieged sites are unlocked, that means a permanent new type of site in (only) low sec (appearing as an anomaly, not signature). They drop the (new) “low-grade” pirate implants, awesome as hell ship skins, and the new warp speed modules. They can also be done solo, or so testing on Sisi has confirmed, but will take some pretty well fit ships (unless someone figures out how to farm them in stealth bombers, which hopefully won't happen).

Also, don't forget about the removal of lootspew! I might actually do relic/data sites again as a result (the lower isk rate is not an issue—my hand not hurt after clicking for cans is the issue).

I don't think low sec has ever received this much legitimately new (as opposed to re-done) PVE content in a single expansion, at least since I've been playing. Of course, the PVE content will matter for people who explore and rat in low sec. It will draw in more players, which the PVPers always love. However, the low sec traders will also see added business. It is a win-win for everyone, particularly because all of this content is spread over the entirely of low sec.

Massive Improvements to Low Sec Transportation and Logistics
More wormhole connections:
When I lived in low sec as an explorer, I used the rare low->high or the rare low->low(boarding high) wormholes for virtually all of my travel to high sec. Low->low wormholes will now be more common. This helps logistics to and from high sec for players living in deep low, since sometimes other low-sec systems will have a much easier passage to high sec. Furthermore, there will be more low->null wormholes, which opens up the possibility of more spelunking into null, either to explore or to PVP.

Improved Blockade Runners
The main improvement here is the cargohold increase. The nerf to Jump Freighters hurts low sec corps a bit, but the buff to blockade runners is a massive boost for the solo player or very small groups in low sec. This is a rare expansion where solo logistics is actually getting quite a buff, while group logistics is getting a bit harder—part of which us solo folk at least appreciate. DST might also be worth using, but I'm not convinced yet.

New Ores and the Prospect Mining Frigate
Even though low sec industry isn't getting a buff until Crius, mining will be more profitable in low with the added ore spawns, and the Prospect makes it far safer. Serious miners won't be affected much, but a decent group of players—for some reason—likes to venture into low (and null) in mining ships, and at least CCP is giving them a way to do so a bit more safely.

Faction War Tweaks
It is hard to tell how much of an impact the small FW plex changes will actually have, but FW farmers will likely have a harder time farming in ships fit solely with warp core stabs. The changes don't make much sense to me—the real problem with farmers is there warp core stabs, not cloaks—and it also removes the ability to kill farmers using cloaked 2 or 3x scram ships. The changes also push more PVE into FW, which is not a step in the right direction. However, at least CCP is trying to change the farming-meta in ways that will ideally benefit PVPers in FW.

New PVP Toys
Of course, the new PVP ships and the rebalanced pirate ships are largely great changes for low sec PVPers. New modules like the medium micro jump drive for battlecruisers are a bit odd and do not at all seem like they will help battlecruiser PVP, but they add at least a slightly new dimension.

Low Sec Improvements for New Players
Lastly, it is becoming easier to be a new player living in low sec and doing activities like exploration. Some of the reasons were already mentioned: mining is safer with the Prospect, the Mordus rats in belts will have the potential to be killed by a newbie in a cruiser/battlecruiser or maybe even a stealth bomber, and logistics is getting a lot easier. However, the drone changes are actually a huge boost to the viability to new explorers. Why? Well, T1 drones, partly with the revamp to the drone interfacing skill, are going to be doing more base damage. This means a new player in, say, a Tristan or an Algos or a Vexor using T1 drones will be able to much more effectively do 1/10 – 4/10 combat sites which are everywhere in low sec. Furthermore, the MWD speeds of heavy and medium drones are going up substantially, meaning that using them in PVE is more viable. This is a small but significant boost for new players.

Less Stealth Bombers?
Finally, here's a change in the patch notes that no one is talking about so far as I've read:
The Clone Soldier Trainer, Recruiter, Transporter and Negotiator NPCs found in low security asteroid belts have received significant upgrades to their engagement range.”
This seems to suggest that stealth bombers will be less effective against clone soldiers. I haven't been on the test server to test it yet though Currently, you would be crazy to farm clone soldiers in anything besides a stealth bomber: uncloak at 20k or further, fire about 10 rounds of torps, loot, cloak, repeat. It is an incredibly safe activity and unfortunately adds virtually nothing to the low sec ecosystem. I really hope this change—and the abilities of the Mordus rats—makes farming clone soldiers in bombers less viable. Fingers crossed.

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