I have been very luck with my expensive ships. When I’ve flown carriers or dreads, I’ve done so safely and without incident.
I use solid practices to move them around. When I light cynos, I do it off of only stations with plenty of clearance in docking range. I give plenty of distance between my 5 km sphere and all elements of the station, and have never bumped when I lit a cyno myself. Before I hit the cyno, I do a quick dscan to make sure no one is inbound, so I know I won’t wind up in some random part of the system.
On very rare occasions, I’ll light a cyno in a system that has no station. When I do, I watch the traffic for a while before I jump, and if it looks to get a fair bit of through traffic, I’ll use the self destruct cyno (setting your ship to self-destruct and lighting the cyno only during the last 10-15 seconds of the cycle, so the cyno is on grid for the barest amount of time), then immediately warp off to a safe and cloak up.
And, generally, that works really well. So well, in fact, that I’ve never lost a carrier. I’ve never lost a dread either, but I don’t fly them frequently enough for that to be a habit, as much as a lucky string of events.
So, I’d say I’m a very safe capital pilot. Or, at least, I was. My run ended yesterday. All tolled, the butcher’s bill was about 4.5 billion isk.
And it all happened because of module positioning.
I was moving some ships a fairly short distance – 6 cynos – away from Tamo in my carrier. Because of layout of space, my route included one cyno I’d have to make in a system with no stations. I typically select only routes with stations I can dock in, but in this case, I didn’t want to have to add another three cynos (and another full day) to my travels, and decided I’d just be careful.
The first few jumps went off without a hitch. My alt plopped cynos on stations, and I’d dock, refresh my isotopes, and log for the next fifty minutes while my jump fatigue cleared. Everything was going very well, and I moved my alt to Athounon, a dead-end, out-of-the-way system that was very quiet.
For the next forty or so minutes, I left my alt in system and noticed little to no activity. One pilot entered for a short time to run a medium plex, then left. It was completely empty… just as I wanted it to be. So I logged back in, invited myself to fleet, undocked, and Ctrl+space’d to stop my ship as I positioned my cyno. Figuring it didn’t matter where I lit it because of the beacon, I went to a safe near the sun. Hopefully, a pilot in a hurry would notice the distance and positoning and warp right to the sun instead of the cyno, if worse came to worst. I lit the cyno and jumped into system.
No, this isn’t where things went wrong. In act, the jump itself was perfect. I aligned off with my carrier and warped away to a safe near a planet. If you’ve never piloted a carrier before, they accelerate incredibly slowly, and in fact when they warp off, they’re rarely pointing in the right direction; that’s how long they take to align. You can be sitting there, watching the velocity creep upwards for up to thirty seconds. And when you’re carrying around about five billion in goods, that’s a lifetime.
But, eventually, the ship entered warp and was off grid, all with local still remaining empty. About a minute later, I landed. Still local remained empty. I was feeling pretty good about my first free-space jump in a long while. All I had left to do was cloak up while my capacitor recharged and my jump fatigue expired. So, I hit F4 to activate my cloak.
Only, my cloak wasn’t in the F4 slot. It was F5. F4 was my Cynosural Field Generator. And yes, I happened to have enough liquid ozone in cargo.
The moment my finger hit the button, I realized I was pushing the wrong one. I even stopped short on depressing the key entirely, but it was too late. Up went the cyno. I was locked in place, exposed, for the next ten minutes, and there was nothing I could do.
“I just lost my carrier,” I told my wife, who was sitting beside me, even though no one was in system at the time. At that moment, I knew I wouldn’t be lucky enough for no one to notice until the full ten minutes expired. Even with local being completely clear, I just knew it was all over.
I always wondered how I would react to a really big loss. You hear about Asakai, and just yesterday a Ragnarok pilot posted on reddit how he was smiling even though he just lost his titan. Would I do the same, or would it grate on me? I could predict all I wanted, but I didn’t really know until that moment.
And, even though a couple of curses sped from my lips, the frustration and anger really lasted only a few moments, soon replaced with, “I can’t believe it!” and a wry smile of disbelief. That smile lasted through the first pilot entering local and warping to a faction warfare complex in a Catalyst at around 3 minutes of my cyno. At 5 minutes, a second pilot entered local, though no ship showed up on my dscan. At 7 minutes, a third came in.
How long does it take for a fleet to form and attack me? I didn’t know. My drone bay was filled with plenty of small, medium, ewar drones to kill or break the lock of one or two tacklers, so the real risk was in someone nearby being ready to flash-form to kill my carrier. And with Psychotic Tendencies and Snuffed Out nearby, odds of that were actually quite high.
And then, with 100 seconds remaining on my cyno, a Loki decloaked and immediately lit a cyno. I started locking him immediately, but a carrier locks slowly, and I knew it’d be too late. The ships came pouring in.
Snuffed Out brought the red carpet. Sixteen black ops battleships came streaming out of that beacon and began chipping away at me. The cyno dropped shortly after and I started looking for scrams and points to primary, but by that point, it was too late. Nor did they bring smaller ships I could at least take some pleasure at killing.
The result was that killmail above. Ten ships in cargo (there were two Rapiers and two Confessors) made this a brutal loss, my worst in Eve. I could throw out some, “Already replaced”, which most of the ships are, but the cost of them is going to take quite some time to recoup. It hurts.
But, that’s Eve. Without the pain, the pleasure isn’t as enjoyable (insert obvious joke here…). We live, we learn, and we go on!
In Eve, there are hundreds of decisions we make each and every day that we take for granted. Good PvP habits and paranoid travel habits are just some of them, but because they’re so common, they’re easy to overlook.
Before I fly in any ship, I make sure my modules are positioned correctly. I tend to place offensive modules in my high rack, with those I activate first to the left and subsequent ones to the right. Tank modules, which I activate once and leave on for my entire time in system, go on the mid rack, and passive modules and specialty modules go on the low.
In this last category also go probe launchers and occasional modules like triage, siege, and cyno generators. Essentially, all the stuff I don’t want to accidentally press.
But I got lazy. I was moving those ships through five carrier jumps, and did so over a few days. During my off time, the module slots shifted (this happens from time to time, I don’t know why) and, instead of inventorying my carrier each time I sat in it again, I assumed the slots were the same. I didn’t check to make sure my slots were correct before undocking to jump to my next cyno.
It just so happened to be the system without a station, where I’d need to cloak up. And instead of hitting my cloak, I hit the cyno, which wasn’t where I normally keep it. I forgot to double check my slot layout and paid a very steep price for it.
It may not be my Asakai, but it’s likely as close as I’m going to get without owning a super. I made an assumption I normally don’t make, at the worst possible time. As a result, I became content for someone else.
It’s a lesson I aim to never have to repeat, and it’s one that genuinely hurts, even as I was smiling through the whole thing. I knew, from the moment that cyno lit, that I and all my ships in cargo were dead.
And the really awful part was that when that Snuff fleet landed, my cyno cycle was a minute and a half away from ending. But then, if I had gotten out, perhaps the lesson wouldn’t have been as memorable.
And that, perhaps, is the bigger lesson. It’s often easy, when talking about the game, interacting with people, and discussing topics, that Eve is ultimately about players trying to kill you. They’re out there, all the time, trying to find ways of obliterating your ship (or your ship of ships, as it happens). That neutral in local really is trying to kill you too. So is the hauler going back and forth.
And apparently the response time is 8.5 minutes. If you can’t correct your mistake in that length of time, you better brace for a rough time.
P.S. Well done to Snuff and allies for forming quickly, bringing a doctrine that gave me nothing to shoot at, and professionally taking care of business. It was masterfully done.
Incidentally, is anyone selling a carrier?