A perpetual topic of conversation on various forums and a favorite gripe for many is that low-sec is broken. I thought I'd do the obligatory weigh-in on the subject. Now, I'm not going to give any crazy ideas on how to fix it, just share what I've seen.
I've come to be of the opinion that the reason low-sec has the problems it does comes in large part because of perception. Since new players are so strongly warned by others to avoid low-sec, they do. This avoidance creates a mystique that further serves to reinforce the belief that every low-sec system is full of blood thirsty pirates just waiting to blow up your ship. However, earlier today I had an experience that changed my opinion on the matter.
I had logged in and found myself in the Orvanne constellation where the night before we had finished up an incursion. Orvanne is a high-sec pocket in the Solitude region. The two routes out are about 30 jumps including 10 through null-sec or 40 jumps through mostly low-sec. I myself have no qualms traveling through low-sec and had come in through the latter route without incident. But I was looking for a wormhole to save me some time on the trip back out of the pocket back to my home wormhole. Not finding anything useful, I decided to fit up a PvP hurricane to take through the null-sec route and look for some action along the way. Sadly, I came across a few bubbles, but no ships watching them and very few in local. I docked to log for a bit in Reblier, a .4 system transitioning from 0.0 to high-sec, my last chance to find a fight. Logging back in a bit later and undocking, I saw two retrievers and a cormorant on scan. One retriever bugged off as soon as he saw me, but I quickly found the other two ships after hopping a few belts. I docked up and fit an extra point to grab both of them, half expecting them to have fled the scene. I warped back on top of them and... *pop* *pop*. It wasn't much of a fight, more like an execution. But I'll take what I can get, I guess.
The retriever pilot quickly filled up local with laments of how I was "out to ruin his day," how he had "given up hope of finding decent people in Eve," and that he hoped to "never meet me again." But the interesting thing is that he also said he would "never leave high sec again." Especially since he was playing on a year-old char. Did he miss the memo? Low-sec is dangerous, buddy. There are nasty pirates out to get you. Haven't you heard? I'm usually the one who gets attacked, but this time, I was the big bad wolf. Waiting out the GCC, I gave them a few tips on how to stay safe in low-sec and after I docked, I told them I'd give them a 3-minute cease fire to take a hauler out and collect the ore from the can with an admonition to be more careful next time. I gave them another warning at 2 minutes, 1 minute, and again when I undocked. Yet the cormorant-turned-iteron pilot was still in the belt! I locked him up and thought about ransoming his ship, but decided instead to give him a few mil to cover his loss and let him go, hoping he had learned his lesson this time. I didn't want them to have a completely bitter taste on what appeared to be their introduction to low-sec life. But if they don't come back to low-sec any time soon, so be it. If they're not expecting to get hunted and shot at any moment, they don't belong there.
Contrast this to my own introduction to low-sec, which basically involved me getting a few hundred mil isk worth of ships blown up over the course of a week running outside of high-sec. The money was well spent in lessons learned on how to watch d-scan for probes and ships, to check local constantly, how to avoid gate camps or extract myself from them, and when to run and when to fight. (Hint: if you're alone, the correct answer is nearly always to run.) I admit that most people aren't nearly as reckless as me, but I had nobody to teach me how to survive, so I had put myself out there to learn on my own.
Honestly, the retriever and cormorant kills weren't what I was looking for. They were too easy. And I felt a little bad about driving them away. The two players I shot obviously have different goals in Eve than I do. They don't want the rush of PvP to prove their supremacy over another player. They just want to build stuff. I eventually ended up heading back into 0.0 until I found a drake pilot who was more like minded. My lack of gunnery skills were quite evident during the fight, and even though I lost with the drake at 60% structure, it was a much more satisfying experience than my first.
So back to how the perception of low-sec is the real reason it's broken. When something is broken, it doesn't work as desired. But do we really desire low-sec to be full of inexperienced players who won't put up a decent fight, or at least a decent chase? Full of players who are, in a sense, playing a different game than those of us looking for PvP? I don't think so. High-sec was designed for those playing the spaceship version of Sim City. When they get bored of missions or mining veldspar, some will come to learn and love the low-sec experience. Some of them never will though. And that's fine.
If all the gripers were granted their wish, low-sec would be somehow more active and populated with all different types of players. But in a high-sec without Concord, nobody would be satisfied. Those who don't want to play the low-sec version of Eve would just get frustrated from being chased all over the place, and those who do the chasing and shooting would soon find a distinct lack of satisfaction. Low-sec is sparsely populated because it is dangerous. Like it should be. And high-sec is more populated simply because there are more people to whom appeal the more casual aspects of the game.
Is low-sec broken? Maybe not. I'm starting to think that the biggest problem with low-sec is that we believe there to be one.