In my last article, I talked about how fear can paralyze your decision-making process, and suggested a procedural approach to coping with unfamiliar and fearful situations. But fear serves critical purposes, such as encouraging innovation and intelligent flying.
It’s important to distinguish between at least two different kinds of fear, panic and paranoia. Panic is sudden fear that interrupts your decision-making process, such as what I discussed in the last post. But paranoia is a type of fear born of the knowledge of all the things that conspire to obliterate you in Eve.
In the real world, paranoia is the belief that everyone is out to get you. I suppose paranoia doesn’t really exist in Eve, since everyone IS out to get you. But the common element – suspicion of everything – still holds true, so I’ll use the term fairly.
Paranoia is responsible for the constant doctrine changes so common among the major null-sec blocs. No PvP group wants to be left flat-footed by its opponent pulling out a previously unknown doctrine. That continuous innovation is born from the fear that the enemy will develop something new first.
In chess, there’s a concept known as tempo. Put most simply, the player who forces the opponent to react to his moves has the tempo. The other player is forced to make defensive moves to save his pieces, while the player having tempo can position his own pieces freely. (As a complete side note, white always begins with the tempo, and black’s job is to steal it by making a counterattack move instead of a retreat. The best chess players recognize the difference between these two, and can set up traps to ensnare the opponent. This is partly the reason why pulling one’s queen out too soon is a terrible idea, and often costs you the game.)
Eve contains it’s own interpretation of tempo. The pilot who forces a confrontation begins with the tempo. The side that forms and positions itself first for a timer fight as the tempo. A home defense fleet reacting to a roaming fleet has the tempo if it can respond quickly (and if its members have a variety ships to pull from to form a hard counter fleet).
But players who have that paranoia, that fear, will have thought about what opponents would engage them, and have had time to innovate a new fit to overcome it. The first armor hurricanes did that. The first people to fit target disruptors on their assault frigates did it too. Innovating an unusual fit gives you an advantage that a player who simply didn’t feel any fear wouldn’t have had the foresight to develop. Those innovations allow you to turn an opponent’s anticipated strength against them. Or, to use the chess term, to steal the tempo in the fight.
Fear can also keep you on the straight and narrow. No matter how hard we try, every one of us gets lazy over time, and forgets to apply some of the lessons we’ve learned during our Eve time. Maybe we warp directly to a null gate with neutrals in system, maybe we forget to check d-scan, or drift too close to a battleship we’re tackling and die to smartbombs.
Without a healthy dose of fear, nothing will remind you of those lessons until it’s already too late and you’re sitting in a pod, or in your clone station. Quite simply, from the moment you learn a new lesson, it starts to fade, until you either decide it wasn’t as important as you thought or your mind is occupied with something else.
Let me give you a simple illustration. Do you want to kill juicy ratting ships in null-sec? All you need to do is fly a cloaky ship – a Proteus would work – and park yourself in the main ratting system of any null-sec alliance. Keep that character logged in as often as you can for a couple days; it shouldn’t take long. The first time you see a ratting ship warp to a belt, do nothing. The second time, do nothing. They’re testing whether you’re actually at your computer or afk. After six or seven attempts, they’ll all come out of the wood-work, and you’ll have your pick.
It always works. Why? Psychology. As time progresses, their fear of your cloaky ship in their system will fade as you become “just another afk camper”. You’ll be come scenery in local, and after a while, their fear will fade entirely. When you strike, I doubt you’ll find a warp core stabilizer, an EC-300 drone, or even a single module outside of a typical ratting fit on your kill.
But, what will happen immediately after you strike? All those formerly reckless ratters will suddenly become PvP travel specialists, using scouts, dscan, and cloaks and relocating to other systems.
Nothing refreshes your instincts like a near-miss. It sharpens you and reminds you that yes, everyone who isn’t your ally wants to see you dead. Some of your allies are awoxers and want you dead, too. When you can’t trust anyone, you fly sharply, suspiciously, and efficiently. When you see that FW pilot staying in his plex, you won’t assume he’s afk, but will begin to wonder whether he has a surprise waiting for you. When you find a target sitting vulnerably in null-sec, you’ll wonder if perhaps he’s cyno bait.
And chances are, when you have that fear and your spidey sense starts to tingle, it’s right. Quite simply, paranoid flying is accurate flying. And if you’re not sure, check the killboard of your opponent to see if he’s actually a newbie making a mistake, or just a veteran pretending to be a newbie (does anyone fly a Domi who isn’t bait???).
In your desire to prevent fear from paralyzing you, don’t be so over-zealous that you prevent it from guiding, improving, and motivating you, either. No emotion can cause more damage to us than fear, but like all emotions, it’s better to harness them than to eliminate them entirely.
And, keep in mind, if you don’t feel that fear, you aren’t getting as much satisfaction out of this game as you should.