For some time now many nullsec activities have been under extreme pressure. One single menace has driven spikes into camping, shooting structures, and even just traveling around. The relentless crushing force has driven not just adaptation, but in many cases abandoning entire play styles.
That fiend is gate rats.
How Did We Get Here?
One of the early casualties in the many changes that make up the (ongoing) era of scarcity was the asteroid belts. However, as is common, when the rocks were removed from the belts, so too were the NPCs that spawn in those belts. Further, with no rocks (and in some cases no belts at all) there was no where for those belt rats to go.
To combat this, CCP patched the belt rats to spawn, and then fly around system so that they could be killed. Not a problem on paper. However, as is so often the case, the rule of unintended consequences quickly took over. Those rats that used to spawn across many asteroid belts were swarming on the much smaller number of gates in the systems.
The result of this is, in some cases, very large numbers of high-power rats swarming gates. Often these spawns when added to the natural gate spawns could begin to rival the firepower of high-end anomaly spawns with up to a dozen battleships on a gate with associated cruisers and fast frigate support. And if that wasn’t enough, on rare occasions you could also see NPC capitals and Officers on those same gate spawns.
For anyone who has ever tried to deal with an officer or capital NPC, most of them can apply damage perfectly out to extreme long range (more than 200 and 300km). This is intended to prevent long range sniping ships from killing them with impunity. That means that only extremely large gate camps could clear out the gate rats to then setup shop.
These massive gate spawns also make travel in ships larger than frigates and fast align cruisers problematic. Many of the frigate spawns can lock very fast and have points, scrams, and webs. Once grabbed, the rest of the amassed firepower will quickly wipe out someone traveling around or moving assets.
A New Hope
CCP announced this week that on the Singularity test server, a new type of belt will spawn in every null system. These “desolate asteroid fields”, one per null system, are where the former belt rats will now swarm together.
“Players should encounter NPCs on gates far less frequently.
There should be no more instances of ‘hell spawned’ gates where an asteroid belt NPC spawn could share the same gate rat spawn”~CCP Kestrel
At least on paper, this change looks to be a good one. However, contrary voices in the community are voicing their frustration that this is another bandage fix to a self-imposed wound. Instead of layering on another fix to fix the fix, just roll back to having asteroid belts. This further allows the rolling back of the additional ABC anomaly sites that were created as a bandage fix for not having those ores in nulsec anymore.
Who Can We Thank?
As you might have expected this change did not appear fully grown from Zeus’ head. The prior CSM in general and Brisc Rubal in particular, spent a great deal of time lobbying for this fix.
“Gate rats are an example of the kinds of unintended consequences the game faces when changes are made without thinking through the implications. Had asteroid belts not been removed, there wouldn’t have been the need to spawn rats randomly in systems and adding them to gates would not have been the convenient solution that ended up causing more issues than it solved. I’m pleased CCP listened to me, the rest of the CSM, and the many, many players who have complained about these rats, and I’m looking forward to killing a lot more people on gate camps in the future.”Brisc Rubal, CSM17
What I hope this Means
First, it shows CCP can take advice from players eventually. I hope this trend continues. CCP players are a resource you need to listen to and cultivate. Please listen to us.
Second, the change might show CCP the value of planning. Stop punching yourself. You can save your bandage fixes for less foreseeable problems. Self inflicted wounds are not good.
Third, this could produce content. I like the idea of having a dynamic (and potentially op) ratting anom in the center of each system. I want to see if those can be farmed reliably and perhaps even hunt the folks clearing them.
Last (and most importantly) the gate camps are free! Content on gates is a huge part of everything outside of Hisec. Closing gates to content was a bad take. So thank goodness it is back.