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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, July 14, 2016

FC Lessons: Cool as Ice

My post discussing my desire to become a better FC has generated a lot of response, and for that, I thank you. One of my readers, the much-celebrated Jonathan Atruin, commented that one of the most critical tasks of an FC is to be heard with a calm voice at all stages of an engagement, regardless of the result.

The thinking behind this goes something like this. First, being an FC requires that your fleet members feel comfortable enough that you have a good understanding of the situation that they're willing to suspend their usual self-preservation instinct. In so doing, they do what will maximize the chances of the fleet succeeding, even if it means their own individual death. sometimes, a few more seconds of a ship remaining on grid can mean one extra volley, and one extra volley can mean a critical target explodes instead of catching reps. And if that's a critical enough target, the whole enemy fleet could unravel.

For pilots to commit that fully to a fleet, they a) need to believe that their FC has a bigger understanding of what's happening than they do, and b) have faith that this understanding will result in a better chance of success than pilots doing their own thing. When things happen in an engagement and they don't hear the FC's voice, or when the FC sounds emotional and agitated, it erodes that trust that the FC is in control.

That's hard instinct for an FC to develop - understanding when communication is needed, even if nothing is happening. It starts with the FC understanding the likely reaction and motivations of his fleet, and responding to the unspoken desires.

Let me give you an example.

Yesterday, I went on my first Vince Draken fleet. Man... he is cool as ice. The communication began early and often, and his voice never wavered from the same controlled, measured tone the entire fleet. As the fleet was forming, he detailed the fits for the various ships. They deviated somewhat from the usual fits, so he explained the differences, pointing out the specific modules that we did NOT need. Nor did he stop here; he repeated the same instruction a few times for those new pilots joining. He detailed the scripts and ammo that should be loaded as we flew. He identified the anchor and clarified whether he wanted us to orbit or approach, and at what range. He explained the actions we should all take if we were yellow-boxed, including which hardeners we should overheat while we waited for our armor reps to hit. 

He did this for each class of ship - logi, dictors, FAXes, carriers... In the background, he sorted logi and FAX anchors, scouts, cynos, effectively coordinating four different wings of the same fleet, all with different marching orders and roles.

And he did this for an NC. fleet, filled with pilots who are veterans at this game and understand how to fly their ships. This wasn't a newbie fleet where the FC had to explain the basics. Yet, he wanted to be certain that everyone knew their roles. And that was all before we even undocked.

The fleet wasn't clogged with discussion back and forth between himself and those who had different roles. He didn't discuss cyno positions, who would serve as target caller, or who backup FCs were; that was all handle in command channels, leaving the main fleet to observe only the finished product, the clear instruction necessary for their jobs.

Division of labor, organization of a multi-role fleet, coordination of cynos, and role assignment... it all happened smoothly and transparently. I wouldn't be surprised if he never stopped talking on command channel, in between his conversation with the fleet members.

I took a lot of lessons out of that performance.
  • Right from the beginning, he set a tone of calm control over the situation, setting expectations for everyone.
  • He repeated orders a couple times clearly, ensuring that no one missed a vital piece of info.
  • He arranged backup FCs and specialists (scouts, cynos, capitals) ahead of time, preventing a headshot from disintegrating the fleet.
  • He kept his chatter to a minimum, so that when you heard his voice, you paid attention.
  • More a result of experience than the others, he anticipated the questions of his fleet members and preempted them. Things like the kinds of ammo, the scripts, and the way we should anchor were all addressed before they were voiced.
And those are all skills we can all emulate. After all, they depend on preparation and self-control, not luck, knowledge of doctrine rock-paper-scissors, or individual piloting skill. Every player here can adopt them, if given some practice and dedication (okay, a metric ton of each...).

And that's a very comforting thought.

2 comments:

  1. We are a very small group, our FC is someone I have flow with on and off for my whole 5+ years ingame. I'd trust Sov with my kids... my RL kids.

    Sov is a lot like the above. Calm, cool, collected... mostly. One of my favorite things to hear on comms is Sov's calm voice saying, "Hey, this might not be a good idea, but..." OMG comms goes wild!!
    "What do you want me in?"
    "HOOBOY!!!!"
    "FLEET ME! FLEET ME!"
    "Where do you want us boss?"
    "I'm loggin' in."
    You can HEAR the grins!!

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  2. "Right from the beginning, he set a tone of calm control over the situation, setting expectations for everyone."

    This is step one - people want to know what they're getting into ahead of time, because fights at this scale can often take a long time to spool up. Define your targets ahead of time.

    "He repeated orders a couple times clearly, ensuring that no one missed a vital piece of info."

    Voice comms inevitably suck, ISPs break down, connections screw up, EVE crashes, etc. There are a thousand and one reasons someone misses the first instruction, so it's best to repeat it a hundred times, and include it in the MOTD so that you have something to point to.



    "He arranged backup FCs and specialists (scouts, cynos, capitals) ahead of time, preventing a headshot from disintegrating the fleet."

    Always good - again pre-planning this stuff, and knowing your go to guys personally helps fantastically with this as you become familiar with what they're capable of. Especially with a backup or two in place.


    "He kept his chatter to a minimum, so that when you heard his voice, you paid attention."

    This is fantastic during combat situations - everyone is different, however. Sometimes it's nice to keep a little low-level chatter when you know that there's no combat or fight happening or going to happen. As long as when the FC says loudly "check, check, clear comms" everyone knows to shut up, it tends to be fine. A little chatter can keep you engaged during the long wait times prior to a big fight.

    "More a result of experience than the others, he anticipated the questions of his fleet members and preempted them. Things like the kinds of ammo, the scripts, and the way we should anchor were all addressed before they were voiced."

    Again, prior planning is fantastic. Make lists, know what you need, know what order you need it in.
    Hell, do the same with targets - generate a rough priority list going in so you can go down the list eliminating possible targets in order they appear.

    It doesn't have to be completely specific, just something generic like rough classes of ship based on how they're used, and how quickly they can be murdered by a fleet.

    A pre-planned fleet usually runs better than the ad-hoc kitchen sink - only the best FCs can turn a kitchen sink into a flawless killing machine, and that only works when they know their pilots and ships capabilities extremely well.

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