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I focus almost exclusively on PvP, whether solo, small gang, or large bloc warfare. In the past, I've been a miner, mission runner, and faction warfare jockey. I'm particularly interested in helping high-sec players get into 0.0 combat.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Post Patch: Check Your Charges

This is a quick one.  But did you notice that after the last patch, when you logged in, all of the charges were removed from modules on your ships?  It was a minor annoyance any time I reshipped, particularly when I quickly tried to jump into my Tornado, with three tracking computers and eight guns.  Having to do it again and again as the FC changed doctrines on the fly was a headache.

At first, I didn’t think much about it.  Sure it was annoying, but there had to be a reason, right?

Under the old ASB mechanics, you could fit 13 Navy cap charges into your ASB.  When CCP changed the modules to fit only 9 charges, anyone who already had 13 charges loaded pre-patch was allowed to keep the ships as-was.  And, CCP allowed those ships to be flown in tournaments, so you’d occassionally see a ship holding an ASB tank for about half again as long as it should.  Alas, this quirk of mechanic tweaking is no more.

Why didn’t they do this before?  I suspect finding time for one of their programmmers to enact a mass unload just wasn’t important enough to them, given the few numbers of ships that still had “over-filled” ASBs.  The major sov blocs, who I’d wager go through the most ships, didn’t have a workhorse ASB-fit doctrine at the time, and those who did fly ASBs would tend to burn through those cap charges quickly.

But now, CCP has a pretty clear reason for making this “clean-up” script a priority, and testing it well in advance of the need.

The mechanics are already in place to prevent pilots from undocking with two interdiction probe launchers fit, but I imagine there were more than a few Sabre pilots who planned to keep at least one Sabre on hand until the need arose to drop ten bubbles in rapid succession.

Alas, the good folks at CCP seem to caught wind of that one.


Anyone want to buy an extra Sabre?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lessons: On the Importance of Fraps

Fraps is a program that allows you to record video game footage in real time, and is responsible for much of the Eve game play footage you see on YouTube.  It’s also an invaluable tool for replaying battles to see what you did write and, more importantly, what you did wrong.

That is, of course, provided you turn it on.

Last night, I had Fraps up and ready to record when myself and a couple corp mates headed to Immensea to find some targets.  I was in an ASB Vagabond, and we had a Talwar, Moa, and Sabre with us.  A true kitchen sink fleet.

We dodged two fleets sparing over a POS in Catch, then found relatively little activity – but several neutrals – on the way.  When we arrived in the upper left constellation in Immensea owned by Nulli Secunda, and saw a couple Tengus on dscan in 94FR-S, but they were safed up.  Based on activity, we knew the staging system for the region was next door in R-ZUOL, so I jumped in to take a look around.  I figured I had the best chance of surviving if something was on the other side.

Which, of course, there was.  Quite a large gang, relatively speaking.  I immediately called on comms for everyone to get off that gate and stay away as I burned back to the gate.  Much to my disappointment, only a few of the ships aggressed me.

Jumping through again, I started to pull range, aligning towards the sun as a Raptor and Flycatcher decloaked and began to burn back to the gate.  I was able to neut out the Raptor and take him down (though, disappointingly, even my 220 guns couldn’t track when he was neuted) with my drones.  He went down just as the Flycatcher got his scram on me.

I started into the Flycatcher down as the rest of the gang jumped through – minus those who still had aggro on the other side.  Closest was an ASB-fit Vagabond that scrammed me a split-second after the Flycatcher popped.  Or so I believed.  I’d have to check Fraps afterwards to see if I had been free or not. 

As I had already burned a couple of my ASB charges, I was out of luck.  The rest of the gang descended.  I took the Vagabond down to half shield, only to watch his ASB rep him up – exactly as mine had done.  Once I saw that, I tried to switch to a Rupture – whatever you can kill, right? – but only had time to get him to about ¼ shields before I popped.  Here's the battle summary (the Moa went down a few minutes later when it tried to get out; he had the Rupture into deep structure when he popped).  I’d have a long trip home in a pod.

While I made that trip, though, I checked Fraps.  Only, I didn’t.  I had forgotten to turn it on for the battle.

Did I really see the scram icon disappear when I killed the Flycatcher, or was it a trick of the eye?  I’ll never know now, but at the time, it didn’t occur to me to warp out.  Was that because I was fixated on the battle, or was it because my mind registered that it wouldn’t work?

Because I hadn’t recorded the fight, I’ll never know which error I made, or if I’d even made one during the fight.  I’d had a lot of fun and scored two kills against a gatecamp gang, but the nagging thought still tugs at my mind.  “Could I have gotten out after the second tackler went down?”

If so, it means I mentally committed to the fight and refused to adapt as the situation developed.  That meant my laspe turned a coup into an isk-negative fight.

But if that Vaga had me scrammed before the Flycatcher popped or I wasn’t free long enough to realistically move my fingers from my F-keys to the Alt+W to warp, then I did the best I could.  That’s a much more soothing thought.

But the uncertainty irritates me more than knowing I made a mistake ever could.  We, as humans, tend to fixate on the more positive of two possibilities, even when our brains tell us not to.  It’s impossible to resist.  The experience won’t code in my brain as, “This is what you did, this is what happened”, but rather “This is what you did, this may have been what happened,” which isn’t nearly as strong of a memory.

But I did learn a lesson I’ll remember vividly: hit the damn Fraps key before a fight!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lessons: “This is Probably Bait”

One of our newer FCs took out about a half dozen assault frigates last night.  We considered going into Catch and Providence, but opted for the shorter route of simply hanging around Doril and catch whoever we happened to find.  We made a quick pass towards VOL-MI, but in CL-85V, our forward scout reported a small Art of War gang manning a bubble on the other side of the gate.

After a quick debate, we decided to engage, but as our scout jumped back in and acted like he wanted to fight (ie. not running away), the gang warped off.

Quite disappointing after we were geared up for a fight.

But just as we warped off, a Fraternity. Drake landed in the bubble on-grid.  He was of an entirely different alliance, so we felt the chances of a trap were minimal.  We quickly made our way back to the gate, only to see him warp off to the sun as we landed.

With only one of his alliance in system and no prior experience with his group, we thought it was fairly likely that he had simply panic-warped.  So again, into warp we went, heading to the sun at 0.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Two Month Anniversary – What I’ve Learned

Target Caller is about two months old.  I started it to share some of my experiences with PvP, some ideas I had, and to generally discuss the state of PvP in Eve.  I hoped that, through my posts, I’d receive some comments that helped me improve my own flying and how I think about the game.

And that’s exactly what I got.  I haven’t gotten everything right, and some of my suggestions had unintended consequences I hadn’t considered.  Through your comments, I’ve already learned more about mechanics.  Case in point: the discussion in the comments of this post regarding turret tracking.  Keep it up, guys.

There’s nothing quite like throwing your ideas out for public consideration to improve how you play this game.  It’s easy to think you’re great at this game until you show your ideas to someone else.  Sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re wrong, but learn something new every time.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Lessons: Know Your Engagement Range

Yesterday, one of our FCs took out a fleet of 27 in early USTZ, consisting mainly of Muninns with some tacklers, bubblers, and 2 Scimitars as support.  With so many sov alliances deployed to Curse, we figured we’d be able to find a fight of a similar-sized fleet.

Once we were out, intel reported a Cynabal/Vagabond gang of about 30 a couple jumps away.  We were torn between keeping our distance of it and surging on in.  We knew we’d be in trouble if they stayed mobile on us, but we’d tear them up if we could surprise them or catch them in a stop bubble.  It’d be a good test of our skills at roughly equal numbers (and a little outnumbered), so we decided to chase after them.

And this situation was the perfect example of the importance of aggression.

Our +1 scout jumped through the target gate and reported the enemy gang sitting at decloak range (about 10-15 km from the gate, spread out).  We fleet-warped to the out-gate and held until our scout – who had to burn back through and jump to survive after his gate cloak ended – could enter system again and re-confirm the fleet’s location.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Elo Knight and Class

So, as has been covered elsewhere, BL lost more than 500billion isk worth of supercarriers yesterday evening.

I’m not going to cover what happened, as I wasn’t there.  But we were monitoring it on Razor comms as we made our way over to sneak onto whatever killmails we could.  In the end, we ended up trading five dreads for two and a carrier.  If we hadn’t committed dreads, we would have had to suffice with getting only one dread.  But, hey, what’s the point of having them if we don’t use them?  We make plenty of isk to replace them, but one never likes losing ships.

But, at the bottom of the link above, go ahead and listen to some of the attached soundcloud.  The person speaking is Elo Knight, the chief FC of BL.

Now listen to the tracks on the soundboard here.  That’s Makalu Zayra (former -A-, now PL).  Makalu is the guy who used his titan as bait to take out that BL fleet.  Let the comparisons marinate.

In Razor, we have a pilot named Xenermorph who sounds the same way as Elo Knight.  Flying for an FC like him, who keeps his cool, is what I imagine fighting for a Scipio Africanus or a Julius Caesar was like.  A cool, calm FC can extract the maximum value from a fleet by keeping his members calm and following orders.  Focus on the task, not the situation.

Consider me impressed by Elo Knight.  He acted with class and poise.

BL was beaten, but so long as he continues to FC like this, they’ll never be defeated.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lessons: Decloak Before You Approach

I was looking at a long day of very small play sessions, so I decided to wander through Cobalt Edge to look for miners in my Rapier.  I brought along two bubbles just in case, but beyond that, it was just little old me.  My plan was to hang around for a few hours in the afternoon, until the fish started to get used to my presence, then hit them in the evening.

I didn’t see much between Tenal and deep Cobalt Edge, though I did try to catch a couple miners and ratters on the way to 5HN-D6.  I have to give kudos to the residents for safing up quickly.  The one exception is a five-man mining gang that all warped as a unit, had sequential ship names, and remained absolutely silent for about ten minutes without reacting.  Likely a bot.

As I made my way though Cobalt Edge, one helpful neutral insulted my ship choice in local.  Pro tip guys…don’t ever talk in local.  If he remained silent, I’d have never known he was in space, or have confirmation that my presence and ship type had been reported in intel.  As it was, I knew to expect reinforcements to come streaming in any time I engaged a target, so bait ships wouldn’t work against me now.  If he’d have kept his mouth shut, I might have been looser with my target selection.

But eventually, I made my way to P-H5IY, where I found about a dozen mining barges and a few ratting ships – a Tengu, a Dominix, and an Abaddon.  I warped to the largest asteroid anom as two retrievers warped off, leaving one Mackinaw behind.  Thinking perhaps he was afk, I slow-boated into point range before decloaking.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Null-Sec 101: Finding and Catching Targets (Solo-PvP Edition)

Null-sec 101 is a series of articles meant to teach new players about null-sec, with a focus on PvP and daily life.

In low-sec, it’s not uncommon to enter a system and see fifteen or twenty people in local, usually from a mix of corporations and alliances.  If you’re in a faction warfare system, you have the advantage of seeing FW sites in your overview, which you can use to narrow down your list of potential targets and their likely locations.  Once you have that info, you can decide whether you want to engage.  Most likely, FW pilots will see you hit the acceleration gate and warp off before you can reach them.  Sometimes, you get lucky.

In a non-FW system, you’ll likely need to probe down your targets, warp to them, and hope they aren’t checking their dscan for probes.  If you land on them, you can proceed to engage.

But finding targets in sov null-sec is less forgiving.  Most systems are empty, and when you do find targets, you stick out like a sore thumb in local: you are likely the only one who doesn’t have positive standing towards them.  In most alliances, your presence and ship type will be reported in their intel channels, too, and pilots in neighboring systems will be looking for you to appear.  They’ll dock up or POS up when you enter, and only return to their ratting or mining after you leave.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fixing Null-Sec: Summation

My series on suggestions to fix null-sec is complete.  I want to give a big thank-you to everyone who posted constructive criticism both here and on reddit.  The suggestions were criticized for not being sufficient/appropriate taken as a whole (which is fair), but individual ones here and there gained some traction and – most importantly – they spurred some debate and discussion.  Each suggestion is merely a starting point.

However, one thing is clear; the public definitely recognizes the urgency of the problems with null-sec.  An increase in smaller alliances is a good thing, as is the variety of content that null-sec can provide.

While the player base and CCP seem keen on waiting for the sandbox to take care of itself, the simple fact is that mechanics changes resulted in the situation becoming what it is, and mechanics changes are needed to help incentivize this differentiated experience once again.  Is it possible to roll back the negative consequences of mechanics changes over the past five years?  I don’t know, but it’s worth a try.

Why?  For CCP, null-sec is their marketing story.  Asakai wouldn’t have happened without null-sec, and the fall of Fountain and other massive battles draw players to the game.  However, though large fleet fights draw people to try the game, solo and small fleet PvP will keep that demographic of player in the game for the long term.  Large fleet fights don’t happen every day, and Eve needs a vibrant form of PvP to keep those action junkies logging in every day.  For only when players log in daily do they become addicted… or burn out, if the content isn’t there.

I want more addicted players.  PvE isn’t going to do it, since there are dozens of games that do it better (how may players have complained about how boring PvE is?) and players will flock to it after a few months.

I want a balanced game in which every current Eve player can find a compelling reason to log in, but I’m biased in favor of the play style that lets players log in and find a fight within five or ten minutes, not the kind that involves an hour of preparation.  Many players can’t afford to spend an hour of their two-hour play time sitting around waiting.  We already have to spend too much time fitting ships, traveling, gathering components, etc.  Players like me want action, and we want it now.

So, once again, thank you for tolerating my novice theory-crafting.  Back to normal posts from now on in!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fixing Null-Sec Pt. 3: Countering the Blob

In addition to problems of population (drawing people to null, part 1) and sov mechanics (allowing small alliances to thrive, part 2), null-sec also faces the perennial problem of the blob.  Solo roamers are swarmed by a whole home defense fleet.  Small gangs are swarmed by large fleets.  Large fleets are dropped by capitals.  Capitals are dropped on by fleets of PL or BL supercaps.

Blobbing is blamed for many of null-sec’s ills.  For the purposes of this article, I’m going to incorporate some existing ideas to counter the blob, since the reason for blobbing lies not in mechanics, but human nature, which nothing will change.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

Two co-conspirators are captured and held in separate rooms.  The authorities go into the first man’s cell and explain that they already have enough evidence to convict.  Both he and his friend will receive 3 years in prison.  Each is being given the chance to give up his friend.  If the first man betrays his friend and the friend remains silent, he will receive 1 year in prison and the friend will receive 10 years.  If both betray each other, they’ll each receive 10 years in prison.  The first man is told that his friend is being given the same choice.  If you were the first man, what would you do?

Given that you can only control your decision, the intelligent move is to betray your friend.  If he is dishonorable, he will betray you regardless of what you do.  If he is honorable, he will keep silent, and you’ll receive only 1 year in prison.  But, he’s making the same decision, and is just as likely to come to the same conclusion, so chances are you both will be getting 10 years in prison.

The prisoner’s dilemma is a classic example of a situation in which pursuit of personal gain can backfire on you.  It reveals the selfishness of human nature.  In Eve, this means the desire to win, above all things.  Bringing a comparable fleet to fight an enemy means you face more risk, but will learn more from the fight and have a reason to be proud should you win. But if you can blob them – even at the expense of pride, achievement, and education – and eliminate the risk of losing a ship… that’s a compelling argument for many people.

Of course, doing so regularly means your pilots won’t learn anything, have no reason to believe themselves competent PvPers (or worse yet, think they are when, in reality, they aren’t) and accomplish nothing but the inevitable conclusion of a gank.  Add to that the contempt of your enemies (no longer just opponents).

Yet while the desire to keep a green killboard is paramount for a lot of people, some alliances choose to fight their enemies on equal terms?  Why do they do this?  Because they recognize the importance of the Eve-equivalent of the prisoner’s loyalty: self-improvement.  When you form up a similarly sized gang and avoid bringing jammers, you aren’t looking for an easy victory, you’re looking to fly effectively and overcome a worthy opponent.

But that’s the harder route.  And humans rarely take the hard route.

So, are there any mechanics we can tweak to incentivize players to meet gangs with equal numbers instead of blobbing?

Bombing

Bombing already afford the opportunity for small groups of pilots to obliterate large numbers of enemy ships.  If you search YouTube for Rooks and Kings bombing entire battleship fleets, you can see how the top tier of bombers can wreak havoc.

Since the mechanic already exists and bombs are meant to offer overwhelming force, I propose a simple change: increase the overall damage potential, but also increase the effect to which signature radius affects that damage.  By this pair of changes, a flight of bombs (7) could effectively destroy battleships, without overpowering the effect of a single bomb on a frigate.

Having your fleet of structure-grinding battleships decimated by a single squad of bombs is quite the deterrent to underestimating your smaller enemy.

Deployable Defenses

The Rubicon expansion will include deployable depots, which are essentially ship maintenance arrays that can be placed anywhere in space.  Extending this option, I propose deployable defenses.

Imagine that you’re in a 30-man home defense fleet when your forward scout reports 70 in local.  You align out to pull range as they jump into your system.  You take a few pot shots, but can’t really dent their fleet, so you warp out to a deep safe.  The enemy drops probes and scans you down.

But you prepared that safe before the fight.  When they arrive, they’re greeted by a dozen mobile smartbombs and an anchored bubble, which decimates their fleet as they frantically try to escape.  Your fleet swoops in to mop up the survivors.

Not only would these “surprises” add a new dimension to game play and make probers check twice before warping a fleet, but with certain limitations (perhaps a limit of 12 such objects on grid at once), could add a new dimension to help close the numbers gap between alliances.

Yes, I’m violating my “no new development” rule… or am I?  Until we see the specifics of the Rubicon depots, I’m going to put this suggestion in the “grey area” category.  It’s possible a fusion between POS mechanics (shoot-on-site) and the depots can easily accommodate such anchorable objects.

Imagine a cloak dissipator, which nullifies cloaks within 100 km.  Stealth bomber structure-grinding fleets would suddenly be exposed.

Imagine a distortion field, which would nullify any off-grid boosters for ships within the field.  I can just imagine the shock on the face of a boosted pilot who lands on a target, only to discover his off-grid boosters no longer work.

There are lots of options that would give an advantage to the alliances that prepared the battlefield ahead of time, regardless of size.  And rewarding intelligence over brute numbers is always a wise move.

Extra Credit: Hard Counters

Yes, this is a cheat, since I’m not talking about mechanic changes.  When all else fails, there’s always the hard counter to an enemy fleet, the fleet composition built specifically to destroy the enemy’s fleet.  Using this strategy typically – unless you’re very lucky – requires your pilots to have many pre-fit ships in their hangars, ready to address any situation.

It’s a very skill-intensive strategy to employ, since pilots typically need to have all four races, all four weapon systems, and a range of ship sizes available.   But it also requires pilots to understand how to fly a variety of roles.  Usually, this strategy is viable only for smaller groups of pilots, like tournament teams, mercenary corps/alliances, and NPC null alliances.

Ironically, as pilots gain the ability to fly any ship that may be called for, they have also likely gained the aptitude to fly each individual ship in a wider variety of situations, eliminating the need to fly hard counter fleets.

But, when flown correctly, a hard counter can crush an enemy fleet of a much larger size.  This option tends to work better for defensive efforts – when an enemy fleet has to travel significant distance to reship once they discover you’re flying a hard counter – than for offensive ones (excepting situations when you’re bridging to your target system.

Conclusion

Ultimately, blobbing is a natural result of the human desire to avoid pain.  Nothing is going to change this, but mechanics changes can affect the degree to which smaller groups can defend against larger blobs.  The way to accomplish this is to turn the safety and overconfidence that a blob provides on its head, making that very overconfidence a weakness to exploit.

Increasing bomb damage on larger ships and introducing deployable defenses allows the smaller fleet to spring traps against larger fleets, giving the “little guy” more of a chance to survive.  And when smaller groups are capable of holding off larger groups, we move closer to the “space fiefdoms” that will allow a wider variety of players to participate in null.

And that, my friends, is the single, necessary element to revitalize null-sec.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fixing Null-Sec Pt. 2: Sovereignty and Force Projection

As expected, I drew a lot of angry visitors with part 1 of this guide.  Whether I propose nerfs to high-sec or buffs to null-sec, the result was the same: making high-sec relatively less valuable, and that’s a big no-no suggestion in Eve.  But if you want to draw players into null, it has to be done (and yes, I recognize that some players simply won’t lave high-sec).

But getting the players to null is worthless without having a compelling environment for them.  The suggestions in Part 1 won’t work unless you address the problems with sovereignty and stagnation currently infesting null-sec.

Yes, this is the “we’ve got to fix the big blue doughnut” portion of this topic’s festivities.

And keep in mind the proviso in the intro to this guide, that the suggestions I’m proposing must involve little to no CCP development work on new features, but rather tweak existing calculations, modifiers, and equations.

The goal?  To see a null-sec filled with small gangs, lots of small alliances holding space, and an environment in which any null entity need only travel a dozen jumps to fight fights.

Right now, null-sec has two significant problems related to sovereignty, sov mechanics that result in power concentrations and the ease of force projection.  By power concentrations, I mean both the inexorable trend of coalition-izing and the mechanics themselves that require large, well-organized fleets to seize and hold territory.  Changing both will in turn limit force projection.

The CFC is the current hegemon in null-sec.  With its organization, willingness to drop dead weight and add new blood, and policy shift to convert much of its space to rental space, I see nothing to suggest it can be stopped, or even slowed down.  In Fountain, the CFC fought against nearly every null entity of note.  It was victorious because of coordination – a collection of coalitions cannot fight as well as a single large coalition can.  If the CFC falls, it’ll be because of an internal rot that isn’t presently in evidence.

This is very bad for Eve.  Null-sec thrives on conflict.  Regardless of whether the CFC conquers all of null or not, the other null entities have already begun concentrating into coalitions of their own.  Eve is becoming a game of space empires, and within the borders of those empires, no fighting occurs.  I’d much rather have a game of space fiefdoms with hundreds of alliances fighting on all of their borders.  Such a universe would offer more opportunities for conflict than a couple coalitions do.  And make no mistake – Eve is a game of conflict.

But how can we create space fiefdoms again?

Escalating Sovereignty Costs


As much as people condemn it, CCP needs to implement some sort of escalating sov cost algorithm.  The sov cost value can be replaced by an algorithm based on the number of systems owned.  Anyone with children can tell you managing two children is three times as difficult as managing one.  The same can be said for nearly any object in the real world; its this tendency that leads to every large empire in history crumbling from its own weight.  Right now, costs and effort are infinitely scalable, and this unending scalability breaks the normal pattern.  There is no “weight” to cause the crumbling.

The costs of managing six systems shouldn’t be as high, on average, as the costs of managing a hundred.  Now, I propose a noticeable, but not ruinous, increase in costs, with a net decrease when alliances own only a couple systems.  An escalating sov cost system fits in with insurance costs, clone costs, and faction warfare costs, so it has clear precedents within Eve.

This sort of system won’t force a hard cap, but – as will all things in Eve – alliances will need to make decisions about how they spend their income… additional systems, or discounted ship contracts, or ship replacement, but not all of them.  Eve is a game of choices, after all.

But an increase in sov costs means the larger alliances, those more likely to deploy to distant regions, will have less isk available to fund these deployments, forcing them to be choosy about where and why they deploy.  It might make more sense to observe a possible enemy for longer to determine if he will actually post a threat, rather than squash him when he’s still small.  This would generate larger wars, and allow more entities to develop to a point when they could competently defend themselves.

The trick is to make it difficult to travel across the galaxy, but keep local cap use affordable.  Increases in jump fuel costs would harm everyone, distant and local cap use alike.  And escalating fuel costs by light-years jumped won’t work since large null alliances have access to dozens of cyno alts to let them make many small jumps, rather than a few large jumps.  It’s also this prevalence of cyno alts in large alliances that makes a reduction in jump range simply annoying, not effective, and more harmful to smaller alliances.

Now it’s very likely that larger alliances may divide into two or more allied alliances to keep sov costs down.  This is certainly a possibility, but doing so requires a level of logistical deftness that few entities possess.

Let’s say Alliance A breaks into A and B.  If their neighbor failcascades, they would need to set up Alliance C to own that new space.  When previously managing one alliance, are they going to be eager to manage three now?  And when the next neighbor attacks Alliance C, are they going to conquer them as well, and set up Alliance D?  Very quickly, the logistics of running multiple alliances will crumble.  And with reputation being what it is, the collapse of even one of those alliances will suggest weakness to its neighbors.  Initially, this splitting solution may be popular, but I doubt we’d see more than three or four instances of it a few months down the road.

Adjustments to Sov Mechanics


Right now, sov is taken by destroying one large, high-hp objection at a time.  The optimal way of doing this is to bring a fleet of supercarriers or dreads and blapping it quickly.  But how many alliances can field a fleet of supercarriers?  Current sov mechanics favor blobbing by wealthy alliances, and effectively crowd out smaller alliances.

This makes no sense, to be quite frank.  Warfare in the modern world involves multiple strategic objections that need to be struck to control an area.  Why not implement a system similar to faction warfare, but without the annoying PvE component?  Instead of SBUs and TCUs, doesn’t it make sense for an alliance to need to establish control at multiple areas within a solar system?

I propose replacing TCUs with much less-expensive and lower-hp anchorable structures that must be placed at every planet.  For simplicity, let’s call them planetary control units.  These units would have much less hp, so a fleet of 10 battleships could chew through one in about ten minutes.  Each would afford a reinforce cycle: this mechanic is essential for any international game so the defenders could muster.  And attackers would only need to take out half the planetary PCUs to make a system vulnerable.

However, with six to twelve PCUs in reinforce, system owners would face more complicated tasks to defend a system than “form up on TCU, blap anything nearby”.  If a fleet of 10 battleships could take one out in 10 minutes, attackers could take on larger alliances more easily.  With a fleet of 50 battleships, they could destroy a PCU in two minutes, with 100, in one minute.  Defenders would need to split their forces among several PCUs to engage attackers before they succeeded in destroying the PCU.

Ah, but what about when small alliances are attacked by larger alliances?  They have two options.  If the enemy divides to hit multiple PCUs, a smaller alliance – using bubbles to delay reinforcements) could maintain local superiority at a single planet, drive off or destroy the enemy, and move to the next (this is Napoleon’s famous “central position”).  If the enemy attacks each in sequence, there’s always bombing, the grand equalizer.  Owning the systems, defenders can easily set up bombing bookmarks perfectly in line with celestials (to eliminate the possibility of being caught).  Fourteen pilots can eliminate an entire attacking fleet (more on this in part III) easily.  And to sweeten the deal, let’s make PCUs immune to bomb damage.

The “half must be covered” mechanic already exists for TCUs, and can be easily mapped to planets instead of gates.  Changes to ehp can be done easily; not much programming required.  Admittedly, making PCUs immune to bomb damage requires some coding.  But the advantages – smaller fleets can put sov structures into reinforce much quicker and more points must be attacked at once, making agility more important than numbers – give smaller alliances a better chance.

We can also eliminate iHubs and make each upgrade a separate, attackable object that has to be placed around a planet, to provide more items to attack.  These upgrades wouldn’t include a reinforce timer, but nor would they be destroyed, only incapacitated.  In this way, alliances wouldn’t have to pay for replacement upgrades, but they would have to repair them before being able to use those upgrades in a system again.  Again, these objects would be smaller and have lower amounts of HP – less than a small tower, more than a POS module.  If you want to use your space, you would have to be present to defend your space.  As an added benefit, no longer would alliances need freighters to bring an iHub into a system.  That’s just annoying, and favors larger alliances.

An important element would be cost… sov components should not be very expensive; the costs should come from upkeep and maintenance costs, not initial outlay.  Small alliances don’t have the funds up front to pay the exorbitant costs associated with taking sov.  Large alliances that get in over their heads would choke on the spoils of war.

By decentralizing the attack points, we give smaller alliances the opportunity to concentrate their forces to attack larger alliances that spread themselves out to quickly burn a system.  This sort of mechanic would also help curb force projection; if systems can easily be put in danger, alliances would be encouraged to stay closer to home.  Taking systems would be messier and increase overall sov costs, meaning that it would be done by large entities only for good reasons with clear benefits.

Conclusion

To bring us back to a universe of may smaller alliances – and the many more alliance borders that see the majority of fights, we need to keep alliances close to home.  If we can accomplish this, we give alliances less of an incentive to remain snugly next to friendly neighbors; a big blue doughnut looks a lot less appealing if your PvP alliance is forbidden from shooting at all your neighbors and you can’t regularly deploy to a distant region for PvP content.

Creating a sov system that allows much smaller entities to successfully take a system would further encourage alliances to live in their space if for no reason other than to remain on hand to defend it.  Right now, there are only a handful of entities that can seriously threaten a regional invasion, and only a couple that can hope to hold it once taken.  That needs to change to ensure a vibrant null-sec.

Every sov-holding alliance should see real benefits to holding sov, real threats to losing it, and face decision-making in how they spend their income.

And for every alliance we can bring into null-sec, that’s another source both of roaming gangs and targets.  It’s another group of people who can now play in the null sandbox.  And it’s entertaining in a way that the past several wars haven’t been: anything can happen.

One thing is certain.  Current sov mechanics don’t allow smaller alliances to gain a foothold, let alone survive, unless they’re allied with the larger blocs.  Creating a system in which alliances can only handle so many systems and must defend their systems from guerilla raids would help keep alliances preoccupied with their own space, which would create the breathing room for smaller alliances to grow and prosper.  And this benefits anyone who is truly interested in a PvP-filled null-sec.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fixing Null-Sec Pt. 1: Sweetening the Pot

Many people decry the filth and horse poop being suggested in the Eve-O forums as a pubbie wasteland, but they ignore the larger issue: a landslide of Eve characters and many Eve players choose to live, die, and regenerate solely within high-sec.  This is a problem for Eve as a whole.  A society that doesn’t encourage its children to leave the cradle finds itself incapable of going about any serious business.

As a premise, I assume CCP wants Eve to be a game that rewards the intelligent, aware, and careful risk-taker, while allowing human nature to punish the stupid, the lazy, and the ignorant.  Miners often complain that gankers are overpowered, when – if they had spent any time in null-sec, they would have learned the aligning tactics that would keep them safe if a half-dozen Catalysts warp into their belt.  Wardecced corps complain about denial of service as a result, but fitting their ships with basic PvP in mind would allow them to make a choice other than to dock up and hide.

The issue isn’t so much that they complain about the inconvenience, but rather that their minds don’t immediately recognize the easy methods of mitigating these inconveniences.  Quite simply, they never learned them.  And why not?  Because they were comfortable enough in high-sec to never have needed to travel into low or null, where necessity would teach them these tricks.

That, my friends, is the problem.  High-sec is too comfortable; it’s too easy to make a comfortable living running level 4 missions in high-sec.  That results in two- and three-year-old characters who don’t understand how to handle themselves in PvP – in a PvP game.

I’m not saying players shouldn’t be allowed to do industry, mining, missions, or trading.  I’m saying you shouldn’t be able to make enough isk in high-sec to pay for PLEX each month while still holding down a full-time RL job.  It shouldn’t be that profitable.  Otherwise, we get the status quo: many players learning nothing, gaining the highest rewards without risk.

People will only accept risk if the reward is sufficient to justify it.  Right now, it simply isn’t.  While CCP is eliminating “tiers” with their ships, they cannot apply this same principle to play styles.  Tiericide for ships ensures that everyone can play any play style they choose.  Tiericide for play styles themselves keeps people in high-sec.

Why should CCP care about this?  The more risky play styles result in increased losses, and increased losses result in more PLEX sales.  Null-sec is stagnant, especially in the recent months in which TEST lost half its membership, a strong, worthwhile fight is hard to come by, and small gangs are dying.  Remember: large fleet losses are paid by alliance reimbursement, which has no interaction with PLEX.  Only small-gang and solo PvP, travel, and losses result in hits to individual wallets.

CCP should be very concerned at the loss of small-gang warfare.  A lot of these players solely PvP, and very rarely rat.  They sustain themselves off of other accounts, loot, and bounties (though they’re pitiful).  These are exactly the type of customers CCP wants.

But how would I go about improving the risk/reward ratio in Eve?  Here are a few modifiers I’d change.  Keep in mind the rules I stated in my intro... I'm suggesting equation and modifier changes requires little-to-no CCP development time (other than testing).

Missions


Mission locations should be changed so level 4 missions and agents only occur in deep low-sec (at least 2-3 jumps from high-sec).  Level 3 missions should be located in shallow low-sec, with agent locations in high-sec and those low-sec systems (same as mission). Technical change: adjust location of some agents, ownership of some stations, and modifier on mission spawn systems (from, say, 0.6-0.5 to 0.3-0.2).

Requiring the highest mission runners to enter low-sec will bring life back to this region, while still offering the protection of gate guns and sec status decreases.  This should give pirate corps a shot in the arm.  I predict we’d see a drop in level-4 mission running for a couple weeks, until mission players realize they need this riskier mission income.

A side effect of this change would be a vast decrease in pimped-out mission ships.  High-sec players would have to learn to fly what they can afford to lose and understand the importance of the value vs. cost relationship in a way high-sec mission runners don’t currently.  This will reduce the value of null-sec mission loot, particularly modules like the Pithum A-Type Medium Shield Booster and Pithum A-Type Adaptive Invulnerability Field (800 mil and 1.6 bil respectively at present).  Keep this in mind for later.

The argument against this one will be, “Why are you forcing people who just want to run missions to PvP?”  I’m not; I’m forcing people who want to get rich to accept some risk.  You say you have no goal but to mission?  I present you with level 1 and level 2 missions.  All the dopamine rush of completing a task, none of the risk.  I’ve never known a rich person in real life who didn’t take risks; why should a multiplayer sandbox game be any different?

Mining


+5% and +10% ores should be removed entirely, base ore yields should be reduced 20%, and replaced with standardized ores: standard value in high-sec, 125% of standard value in low, and 200% of standard value in null.  Refined mineral sizes should also be decreased significantly, allowing easier transport.  Mining barges should be much slower to align than they are now.  Technical change: all of these are modifiers that can be tweaked: incidence rates, yields per ore, etc.

Mining in null yields targets for small gangs.  By reducing the yields, miners will either be flushed into low or null, or accept and absorb the reduced yields.  I recognize that many miners will simply plug on as they always have; that’s fine.  But this change would give an advantage to those willing to venture deeper into unfriendly territory, secure in the knowledge that the reduced size of refined minerals means they can ship their goods in a cloaky transport that much more easily.  This will create targets, both if miners and mineral transports… and when a mineral transport is caught, as rarely happens for a smart pilot, the killers will actually be able to scoop some of the cargo as loot.  Likewise, the slower align time will make mining barges who don’t know how to stay aligned into scrap, providing content for everyone.

The argument against this change is that it’ll raise prices across the board.  I doubt this very much, since it’ll also allow null-sec and low-sec to generate quite a bit of ore, some of which will be shipped to high-sec.  The rest would be used for the next adjustment.

Industry


Retribution included changes to boost the number of station industry slots in null-sec, and this is a good change, but we also need a reduction in job length for null-sec station and POS industry, too, perhaps 25%.  It’s easily justifiable, too… Ishukone isn’t going to make it’s fastest, most efficient factory slots available for the public while they plug along with rotting assembly lines, but a null-sec alliance servicing its own alliance members should give access to the best lines.

I would also introduce POS modules that can modify various functions; an Industrial Optimizer that would reduce job times by a further 25%, for instance.  That specialization would come with a cost, though: for every one you onlined, you’d be crowding out something else in your POS.  As an added kicker, these POS modules wouldn’t be anchorable in high-sec (they can’t be limited to null, since this would put them only in reach of sov-holding alliances, who are often reluctant to give POS management rights to line members).

Incursions


I know the least about incursions, but I can tell you that high-sec incursions should exist for no purpose but to teach pilots the basics of incursion fighting.  Incursions are a good way to learn countering of neutralizers, webs, scrams, and other ewar in a way other high-sec PvE simply cannot provide.  But remaining in the safety of high-sec shouldn’t be a viable option.

I would argue for a good mix between low-sec, sov null-sec, and NPC null-sec for incursions, with a heavy preference for NPC null.  Right now, NPC null is a good model for the type of null-sec I hope to see, and a good first step might be to shift some (but not all) of the sov null-sec incursions to NPC null as a way of building more traffic and getting people accustomed to null-sec warfare, and only after several months move them back to sov null-sec.  PvE-ers have to crawl before they can walk.

Summary

The purpose of these changes is to incentivize, but not mandate, travel into low- and null-sec.  CCP should allow for each play style to exist in each area of space, but not equally in all areas of space.  Isk-making and Ship-breaking should be heavily favored in null-sec’s favor, with low-sec as a happy medium between risk and reward.

One thing is certain: Eve exists and prospers based on its conflict, not it’s PvE.  There are dozens of games that offer more engaging PvE, and Eve cannot successfully compete on that alone.  All PvE should exist as a gateway to Eve’s basic premise: that you can do anything you want, without forgetting it’s basic business model premise: that players must be incentivized into a domino-effect of engagement, starting with one activity and being drawn in, through connections and progression, to other activities, the mix of which can only be found in Eve.

That’s how Eve will survive.

Fixing Null-Sec

Most folks who regularly traverse null-sec agree on a single, inescapable point: null-sec is broken, and is in bad need of attention from CCP.  A lot of suggestions out there recommend significant changes to sov mechanics or new features that would require considerable developer time, but those options really aren’t necessary.

What null-sec needs are small tweaks; changes that will allow Eve to move towards a more desirable state of null-sec.  In the next few posts, I’m going to discuss small changes I recommend, all of which consist of small adjustments to established mechanics, drop rates, and values within the Eve code.  Many of them are economic in nature.

But most importantly, I’m going to tie each to a serious null-sec problem and explain why this result is more desirable.

What is the end state of null-sec I hope for?  I imagine a null-sec populated by a significant number of smaller alliances, each holding enough space to be profitable, but not so much space that any entity needs to travel more than 10-15 jumps to find an enemy to shoot.  I want a null-sec that has much more small gang PvP, and significantly less bloc warfare.  I don’t want CCP to dictate how we play, but I do want the mechanics to be stacked in favor of this form of playstyle.  Essentially, I want Space Fiefdoms™, not Space Empires™.

And in the next few articles, I’ll describe why, and how we get there.

Part 1: Sweetening the Pot
Part 2: Sovereignty and Force Projection
Part 3: Countering the Blob

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What is the Purpose of the Warp Changes?

Long story short: changes too warp speeds will make virtually every ship, except for frigates. warp much slower.  It’ll take much longer to move battlecruisers and above from point A to point B.  Good luck getting anything anywhere.

Some secondary considerations… ratting carriers will take much longer to arrive at their destinations.  If a carrier warps to a site as a neutral enters system, that neutral will have plenty of time to identify the site and warp to it.  Keep in mind, the last 2-3 seconds of a warp – under current mechanics – see a ship travel very little.  Extend that to 6-7 seconds and you have a scan duration.  Add 20 seconds to align, and you have a dead ratting carrier.

Expect roaming gangs to either a) turn into cruiser-and-below exclusively or b) take much longer to reach a deep destination, so response fleets will have a much easier time intercepting their targets.  Small gang roaming will be even harder now, with blobbing response fleets.  I’d sell any battlecruisers you have now, before their price plummets.

But why slow everything down?  What does CCP hope to gain?

In considering this problem, the most obvious reason is to curb force projection.  But force projection is mostly done with jump bridges, and especially titans.  How would slowing traditional warp speeds affect this?

Okay, so force projection for attackers is out.  What about for smaller alliances?  Again, you’re more likely to rely on traditional gates if you only own a few systems.  This will definitely be a nerf to them.  They’ll have a harder time re-shipping in fleet fights, particularly for alliances that are rich enough for BC or BS ship reimbursement programs.  Is CCP trying to squash the little guy?

Consider the main problem of null-sec; too much space, too few people.  Is the goal to keep folks a home?  If so, reducing warp speeds will only create large gaps of space where no one travels.  Roaming gangs will tend to stick closer to home or deploy to an entirely different region (look at Curse at the moment; everyone’s there hamming it up).  Surely that isn’t what CCP would like to see.

Is the goal to make null-sec battles more like faction warfare, with smaller ships?  I can’t see this as being the case, since CCP sells more PLEX when expensive ships go boom.  Plus, you can only kill frigates and cruisers for so long before you lose interest.  People want Black Ops, faction battleship, and command ship kills.  If the whole game was like faction warfare, you’d see a lot of unsubs.  And let’s not forget, with cheaper ships being used, you don’t need as many ratting alts.  Even more accounts would unsub.

Do we have a problem with battle balance I’m unaware of?  Are too many battleships and carriers warping off to safety, reducing the risk they face?  Recent null-sec warfare suggests otherwise.

So what is the goal?

My friends, there can be but one solution.  After ten years and countless light-years, it has finally happened.

Our space ships are exhausted.  They need a breather.  Like horses.

Or CCP thinks slow ships are better targets.

Maybe.  But I’d go with horses.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Character & Cowardice

The way you conduct yourself in each situation builds a narrative about you.  This is called character, and equally applies to organizations, too.  In many cases, an individual character is much easier to redeem than that of a whole group.  Character, when publicly known, generates reputation.  But you control your character; you don’t control your reputation.  A deservedly bad reputation is a reflection of poor character.

A null-sec alliance should hold character in high regard.  Entities that respect their enemy, offer equal fights, honor diplomatic agreements – both in letter and in spirit – and have pilots who honor 1v1s, don’t scam, and abide by their word will face adversaries, not enemies.  Hatred, spite, and deceit do not contribute to a positive reputation.  Another player can respect your alliance even if they are opposing it, but only if you have good character.

I’m starting to think Insidious Empire has poor character.

Is that because I was killed afk-ratting up my sec status in Tenal while I put my daughter to bed?  No; I was afk, they killed me; that’s how the game is played.

Is it because Insidious Empire now controls Cobalt Edge, space Razor had previously controlled?  No.  We didn’t offer even one fleet to defend it.  Our plan was to use it for renters, but with the CFC rental program up and running, that plan went to the wayside well before any of us knew who EMP was.

No, the reasons I have no respect for Insidious Empire lie with how they operate, not what they do.

The first thing that made me question their character was Phreeze’s news postings on TheMittani.com about Razor’s activity.  Not only is it inappropriate for the leader of an alliance actively engaged in grinding structures from Razor to post updates about Razor, but he took the opportunity to spin the facts multiple times.

For example, I’d be okay if he said, “Insidious Empire conquered Cobalt Edge”.  Technically that’s true, but his boys faced no resistence.  But stating, “Insidious Empire conquered Cobalt Edge from Razor Alliance” without immediately following up with, “When contacted, Razor confirmed that it had no interest in Cobalt Edge and wished Insidious Empire well,” misrepresents the action entirely.  It implies that plucky pilots from EMP overcame noble defenders and deserve a triumph through the streets of Rome.  Even had another reporter written the story, it would be more forgivable.  As it is, he did a shady thing, for no real purpose; EMP has no hope of taking Tenal; Razor has no interest in taking Cobalt Edge.

But the other issue I have with EMP comes from the line members.  Beyond a general arrogance and fifteen-year-old demeanor in local (perhaps I’m just sensitive to this, since Razor has a no-local-talk policy that really makes sense), I’ve seen no evidence that EMP has any interest in engaging at equal numbers – or even when they slightly outnumber their enemy.

Where is this coming from?  Last night, I and six other goats were hunting a small EMP gang that decided to camp A1RR.  They had a Falcon, Vexor, Thorax, a couple tacklers, and a couple more DPS ships.  Yes, remember that: a Falcon.

We had a Vagabond (me), prober (my alt), Rapier, Harbinger Navy Issue, a Vulture, and a Sabre, and another DPS ship.  We were light on tackle other than our Rapier, but we did have a Vulture and a Sabre.

I believe we were dead even on numbers (if you include my prober, which was in a scary Buzzard), but that Falcon would completely eliminate one or two people from the field.  Had we been in EMP’s gang, we would have burned off from the gate, or warped to a nearby planet, set up, and engaged.

Their reaction?  They fled for the hills.  We tried to chase them – becoming strung out in the process – and they still fled.  That got me thinking about previous engagements with EMP.

I don’t believe any EMP pilot has ever agreed to a 1v1 with me.  I don’t believe any EMP fleet has ever engaged at equal numbers, regardless of composition (and, let’s be honest, the fleet we had yesterday was a kitchen sink response fleet; hardly very organized).

One might argue, “Yes, but they didn’t know what you had in nearby systems”.

If by “didn’t know” what was in the nearby systems, you mean they didn’t take the time to check local as they fled across the breadth of Tenal, then yes, you’re right. ::sarcasm::  They also have static campers throughout our major systems.  They did know what we had.

“But, do you expect them to engage when they aren’t assured of victory?”  Yes; we did.  It’s called a game.  If you only engage when the outcome is certain, what’s the point of playing?

We’re not talking about sov warfare here; nothing was at stake except a couple hundred million isk each – a paltry sum – but as they say, “blood will tell”.  When roaming pilots are risk-adverse, it says something about the character of the alliance.

They came come up with all the agit-prop they want; no one in Razor is going to fear them unless they demonstrate the warrior’s way, and ganking ratters isn’t it.  By all means, continue ganking ratters, just be honest about what you’re doing; padding your killboard, not improving your skill.

Not hating, just saying…

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lessons: A Tremendous, Close Fight

The pinnacle of PvP is that close fight that comes down to the slimmest of margins.  I had one of those just a few moments ago, and I know I lost because I made very clear mistakes, but even those mistakes were the matter of a few seconds.

I was bringing an AAR/Rep Myrm back to Tenal from Jita through M-O.  I figured the chances of running into something dangerous were good, but the point of flying a ship like that is to get a fight.

Jumping into M-0, I ran into a Deimos on the other side of the gate.  I aligned out since local had a few neutrals in addition to him, but he caught up to me.  After a few seconds, I engaged, launched my drones, and applied my two webs and scram.

Here was my first mistake… I hadn’t grouped my drones beforehand, so I wasted a couple seconds (perhaps even an entire volley) scrolling down to find the drones I wanted to launch.  Inexcusable.

We were neck-and-neck for a while.  His AAR depleted first, and his armor started to go down, then mine depleted.  I was watching my cap and hit my booster, but not until my normal repper shut off, again costing me precious seconds.

Surprisingly, the thing I did very well during the fight was manage my armor reppers – I typically fly shield ships.  I started to pull range, getting away from his guns, but still in range of mine (I had autocannons), but for some reason I decided to get closer to get my ACs to my optimal damage.  I temporarily forgot that he was suffering for the range more with his heavy neutron blasters than I was.  I should have kept at about 7500 meters… that alone might have won me the fight.

He started attacking my drones, but I didn’t notice until it was too late… my heavies were dying quickly, and I managed only to save a couple.  With only Hammerheads left, I didn’t have enough DPS to beat his tank, though I didn’t know it at the time.  I hoped I might be able to slip in as his AAR reloaded again.

But I didn’t have the time.  I let up on my reppers when he stopped shooting for a moment.  I thought he was trying to disengage, whereas he made the mistake I had and forgot to activate his cap booster soon enough to auto-repeat his modules.

Letting up on my reppers, closing range, not grouping my drones… three mistakes that caused me to miss out on a Deimos kill, lose my Myrm, and turn this story into a hard lesson.

It was a very close fight, and I give catalysT criez credit… He beat me fair and square, though he made some mistakes too (cap booster usage, range).  At one point, he was down to 25% armor when I was at about 40%, so the fight could have gone either way.  My Myrm took a total of 56,446 damage, a tremendous amount for any fight, and we were engaged for three reload cycles of my AAR, so at least 5 minutes or so.

It was the most fun I had losing in a long time.

 
EDIT: I just found out, from another guy in local who was engaging him, that catalysT criez did have Loki boosts.  I actually feel much better; if I was going up against a guy with boosts and nearly pulled it out, I was doing something right.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Lessons: Being the Primary

A lot of folks who mention fleet fights in Eve talk about the importance of adhering to the primary called by the target caller.  Particularly for large fleets, focusing your fire on a single target is crucial for taking it down before the target can catch reps (also known as being able to alpha a target).  Doing so ensures a good number of kills for nearly the whole fleet.

If you’re a DPS ship in a fleet fight, it’s really just luck-of-the-draw whether you’re alpha’d by the enemy or not.  If you have a name at the beginning of the alphabet, you’re probably in more trouble than others.  Your only option is to broadcast for shield or armor reps the moment the enemy begins locking you and pray you can catch them in time.

But what if you know you’re going to be a primary before the fight begins?  If you’re flying a logistics cruiser, tackler, interdictor, or command ship, you’re also likely to be primary.  Must you simply surrender to your inevitable death?

Absolutely not.  But survival often means giving up on some kills or delaying your preferred fleet contribution.  You really have three options: kamikaze, serve as bait, or evade.

The “kamikaze response is most often chosen by interdictors, who realize they’ll likely die the moment they bubble an enemy fleet.  The only exception for dictors is when they bubble the enemy on a gate, immediately jumping through, then burning back to the other side and returning to the fight.  However, kamikaze logi isn’t unheard of, either.

The other two options, though, require a little more skill and wisdom.  Most pilots have expectations about how certain ships are fitted.  A Vagabond, for instance, is often fitted with 425s and barrage ammo to operate on the edge of faction point range in a kiting capacity.  Intentionally warping to an enemy at 100 and allowing tacklers to close distance on you is typically suicidal… unless you’re armor tanked with multiple faction webs and scrams (and no prop module) and a friendly fleet nearby.  Being bait can turn the enemy’s typical reaction to seeing your ship on its head, luring them to their destruction (similarly, a Scimi can –sometimes- fulfill this role, depending on the gang size).

The other option is evasion.  I don’t mean the “align and warp out of the fight permanently” escape option, though.  Let me give you an example.

In RvB, I was flying a Jaguar in a fleet of T1 cruisers and frigates.  I knew I was going to be primaried because I was a T2 ship, a less common sight in RvB fights.  So when my fleet warped to 0 on the gate to engage the Blue gang, I didn’t engage.  Rather, I waited unaggressed on the gate until a few ships targeted me; as the first damage came in, I jumped.

What did this accomplish?  First, they wasted the time it took for them – Cruisers and frigates – to lock and engage an assault frigate Jaguar, only to see him jump through.  That gave my gang enough time to destroy the first enemy ship and move onto the second.  It was an early advantage that removed a tackler from the equation.

Secondly, it forced the enemy FC to switch to another primary.  When I reburned to the gate and jumped back int othe fight, no one was expecting my return, so I was able to safely warp to a scout point, and then back in at range.  I was able to pick my targets on the outskirts of the fight and apply my TD to targets of interest.  It wasn’t until I had helped kill a dozen ships that someone noticed I was back on the field and engaged me.  By that point, we had won the engagement, despite being outnumbered.

I’d call that a successful example of recognizing an enemy’s tactics, evading them, and returning to do some damage in the fight.

Yes, I missed out on a few kills when I jumped through, but while I gave up one or two – and only one round of my guns on each – the tactic paid sixfold dividends.  I recognized the limitations of my situation and flew the best way I could.

Not a bad night’s work.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

RvB is Awesome


A while back, I bought a character that had perfect fitting, gunnery support, armor, and shield skills with the intention of training her to be an excellent Minmatar character for either NPC-null or pirate small gang fighting.  While I’m training her up, I realize I’ll need to build a PvP record of her own – and not try to trade on Talvorian’s record – so I started looking for ways to boost my PvP experience.

I started thinking about faction warfare, but my brief experience of it a few months ago taught me it was actually a PvE enterprise hidden in PvP trappings.  I wasn’t looking to chase button-orbiters around four or five low-sec regions.

And then I remembered RvB.

A forever war in which your enemies are all two jumps away and eager to engage in fun, meaningless PvP?  What’s not to love?  The only real downside is the dearth of T2 ships.  I was flying a Jaguar and was considered “shiney”, which is quite a difference from null-sec roams, in which I wouldn’t dream of flying a T1 frigate or cruiser, particularly solo.  But T1’s back in a big way, and RvB is turning out to be an excellent way of learning all about these rebalanced ships.

So far, I’ve joined one fleet, killed about 450 mil worth of ships in exchange for my 35 mil Jaguar, and am having a splendid time.  It’s everything I wished faction warfare would be… constant PvP for the sake of PvP.

But it also provides another benefit that I recommend for nearly any player… even though the ships you’re fighting and losing are cheap, they are kills and losses.  The more engagements you’re involved with, the calmer you’ll be during a fight, and in that sense, RvB is perfect practice for other forms of PvP.  I highly recommend that it be the first stop for nearly any player.  You can learn not only PvP basics, but also to control that flutter in your heart when you engage another player.  And it’s better to learn to do that with a 10 mil ship rather than a 400 mil ship down the line.

I’m actually a little embarrassed that I’m only now giving it a shot.  It’s delightful mayhem.  As a veteran null PvPer, I heartily approve.

Oh, dear… I just realized I’ll now show up as yet another “high-sec character” on CCP’s stats… what have I done?