Apparently I live in one of the most violent cities in the UK. I was a bit surprised by this news as where I live, three miles out in suburbia, is quiet and lovely but in the town centre it can be a bit of a war zone at times and this is evident by the sheer number of police vans and patrolling coppers you see over a weekend or when a football match is scheduled. As you drive into town you see the vans parked at key intersections, the bus and train stations have lots of burly looking uniformed coppers eye-balling everyone as they pass and every now and again there will be a burst of shouts, some police sirens and heap of fighting bodies being dragged off towards the open maw of a black mariah. As soon as you enter the ring of police influence at the strategic edge of the town you are left in no doubt that the normally quiet, sedate shopping centre has changed and is now a darker, more dangerous place to visit.
I mention this as recently I was flying into a war torn system in ED and docked at the station most contested by the feuding factions. Do you know what I saw to indicate I was currently at ground zero for all the bloodshed, brutality and horror a civil war inevitably brings to the population? Nothing. Nada. Not even tumble-weed. On my short journey betwixt star and station I was interdicted a grand total of no times by either side or by police or by vulture-like opportunistic pirates. Once at the station I was in no way inconvenienced by either checkpoint or blockade. Equally I was not contacted by the controlling (or contesting) faction of the station demanding I “behave or else!” and I found it ridiculously easy to get through the non-existent extra checks and entirely missing police ‘stop and search’ zones just outside the entrance. And then when docked absolutely no one tried to recruit me or pay me for any intel I might have gathered on my way in. Sure, the bulletin board did have a few rather familiar calls for arms to be brought in or food to be supplied, but other than those standard, run-of-the-mill jobs it is was pretty much business as usual in the station. In fact so normal were things in there that it was only when I accidentally tabbed to the ‘Factions’ part of the UI did I see the mention of Civil War! anywhere and lo and behold when I checked nearby contacts I could see there were conflict zones were nearby.
Now I don’t know about you but I have a sneaky feeling that if a Friday night of beery excess is enough to so noticeably change my home town from a shopper’s delight to a large scale cage fight, then if a frigging civil war broke out nearby I think I’d see some clues here and there, say the endless streams of army trucks going one way and the ambulances coming back the other, for example. Then there would be the police and army lock-downs and checkpoints, propaganda materials popping up all around the village, the frequent black-outs as power lines fail, the endless 24-hour news stream detailing the horrific excesses of one side or the other, and last but not least I’m, damn sure I’d hear my neighbours talking about the big bloody war taking place right on their bloody doorstep! One thing I doubt I’d see much of were Lancaster and Yorkshire to once more start lobbing more than insults at each other is a lot of traffic on the M62. I’m pretty sure Eddie Stobbart would tell its drivers to give whole area a very wide berth and in the end only the very brave/foolish/criminal would try to run supplies into the area and they would have to act far more like smugglers to avoid not only any criminal gangs that had sprung up but also one or both sides of the conflict – I rather doubt they would drive up to the Trafford Centre, unload and carry on as if nothing was happening.
My point (and I do have a point) is that in ED systems descend into war-like states quite a lot but unless you deliberately choose to drop out into conflict zone or checkpoint (who the frig voluntarily drops out into checkpoint?) you can get into the station and out again without ever realising the system is currently in a state of active war. It’s like some Monty Python sketch where everyone is simply refusing to notice the war because “it’s just Mr Show Off showing off and we ignore show offs here”.
No, what I want to see if the system in conflict, not just a few designated fighting areas dotted about I can avoid without a second thought. I want to see the stations change in mood, tone, look and feel. I want to hear NPC chatter about the conflict and I want to see the local versions of GalNet squawking about it. I want to feel like the universe is alive and not, as it does now, like a photograph of a game a Risk that’s been all set up but where the players are all off for lunch.