Sunday, September 29, 2013

What Kills a Culture?

Corporations and alliances rise and fall.  We take note when we see Dotlan list them as the “top movers” for membership changes, but the simple truth is that the death of culture precedes the death of an alliance, sometimes by years.

Space, reimbursement programs, and security do not keep alliance members logging in and retain membership.  Just look at Solar Fleet or –A–, which have both lost all their space multiple times.  They survive as entities because of their culture.

What do I mean by culture?  I mean content.  Eve is a game, and an alliance is only as good as its ability to deliver meaningful content to its membership.  The larger an alliance or corporation is, the more diverse its membership, and the more diverse offerings it must provide.

How do you create culture?  Part of it rests in how members treat each other, how leadership views the members, how the members view the leadership, and what members can look forward to on a daily basis when logging in.  Culture is much easier to destroy than to build, unfortunately.

But what sorts of things are responsible?

1) Abuse.  Members have choices about what they do with their free time.  Eve is only one of multiple games out there.  Even within Eve, many players have multiple characters in different corps.  If you’re abusing your membership, they will go somewhere else, either by leaving your corp or by simply not logging in and participating.  Generally, the ills of an alliance are not the fault of membership.  If members aren’t participating, it’s because leadership isn’t creating content that’s engaging.  Ranting about how terrible members are isn’t going to help the problem.  In fact, it’s going to make it worse by demonstrating how clueless leadership is.  Alliance forum trolls and angry corp channels will only push more people away.  Eve is a game; it’s not our real lives.  The same motivational principles used in the military don’t work when you’re talking about space pixels and immortal capsuleers.

2) Monolithic Content Generation.  I almost called this “boredom”, but this description is more specific.  If you are null-sec alliance, people expect that sov warfare will be the most critical activity members should engage in.  That’s called being true to type.  But it can’t be the only content you provide.  If you want to keep members engaged, you need to have a variety of activities.  If you want only PvPers, you still need to provide roaming gangs, wormhole infiltrations, high-sec ganking, pirate roams, etc.  Fleet-doctrine operations are not sufficient.  You need multiplicity, not hegemony.

3) Time Zone Abuse.  If all your deployments are made with one time zone in mind, expect the other time zones to get the message that they don’t matter.  Your members have lots of choices.  All time zones draw at least 25,000 users every day; that’s a lot of content to be had.  You need to have activity in all time zones.  An Aussie likely doesn’t care how much activity your US TZ has, and vice versa.  You need to keep those time zones in mind, but they don’t.  They’re interested in whether they’re getting the most for their PLEX/subscription cost.

4) Lack of activity.  This could be a symptom of any of the others, but keep in mind that your alliance is only as good as the activity over the past couple months.  Most members chance corps every 6-9 months, and they aren’t going to wait for, say, winter, for something to happen.

5) Schizophrenia.  Constantly changing the purpose, rules, or fleet doctrines of an alliance will only succeed in annoying your members and eroding confidence in leadership.  They will give you the benefit of the doubt only so long as you don’t abuse it.  A constant string of change will annoy them.  New doctrines require time to train, and while they’re training for your doctrine, they can’t train for what they want to do.  Changing the rules makes it difficult to form strategies about how they’re going to play.  Changing the purpose will make members fleet quickly.  Culture is built on consistency.

6) Poor Leadership.  As I said, issue with participation is the fault of leadership.  One Eve player is much like another (even bitter vets).  No alliance has any more “better” PvPers than another.  But, alliances do have better/worse FC training programs, member engagement programs, continuing education programs, varieties of content, and frequency of leadership availability.  Pilots are only as good as the structure in which they operate. 

Don’t believe me?  Look at Pandemic Legion, who a lot of folks consider to be the best in the game.  Have you ever seen them engage in a fair fight, outmaneuver and out-fly their pilots, and emerge victorious?  No, they do drive-bys, hot drops, and employ overwhelming force.  Their members are no better than any other pilot of similar skill and length of game tenure.  What they do have is an amazing leadership-guided network of contacts, spies, and resources that help them be at the worse place for one set of pilots one moment, then half-way across the galaxy to be at the worst place for another set of pilots the next.  This is engaging content for their members, and keeps them motivated.

The Romans weren’t inherently better or worse than anyone else.  Structure and leadership set the Romans apart by breeding discipline, confidence, and investment in the Roman way of life.

So, How Do You Fix It?

Poll your members, listen to what their concerns are.  Recognize that the fault inherently lies with you – either in your individual actions or in not providing them the content they want.  Treat them with respect.  Don’t harrangue them; set clear expectations with a warning system, then kick them once they exhaust the warnings (and be sure to reset the level of “warning” they’re on after so much time).  Let the system punish for you.  Don’t lose your temper, ever.  Be dispassionate in punishment.  When you set up a structure that others buy into, you gain the justification for holding them accountable.  That way, you can focus on praising exemplars of your ideal alliance member, not punishing those that go awry.  Ultimately, the goal is to give them the content they want insofar as your core purpose can be maintained.  Without them, after all, you don’t have a leadership role, only a private corporation.

Friday, September 27, 2013

How to Fly a Curse

The Curse is a force multiplier, capable of taking on many ships simultaneously and coming out ahead, due to its multiple ewar bonuses.

But, it’s a highly advanced ship to fly, make no mistake.  Rather than a typical “get at optimal, apply damage” ship, the Curse pilot has to watch several things at once, have multiple targets locked, and apply different ewar modules based on each ship’s threat level.  Flying it successfully means understanding a great many mechanics, and recalling the various strengths and weakness of multiple enemies on the fly.

Suffice to say, you should have very good navigation, drone, ewar, armor, and fitting skills trained in order to fly a Curse effectively.  But pilot skill also plays a much larger part in success/failure than with most other ships.

Have I whetted your appetite yet?  Let’s begin.

Look at the Ship

A quick look at the Curse reveals deceptively powerful ewar bonuses.

Amarr Cruiser Skill Bonus: 7.5% bonus to tracking disruptor effectiveness per level and 10% bonus to drone hitpoints and damage per level.
Recon Ships Skill Bonus: 40% bonus to energy neutralizer and energy vampire range and 20% bonus to energy neutralizer and energy vampire range transfer amount.

At first, you may look at these bonuses and be underwhelmed.  After all, the Curse doesn’t benefit from a jamming bonus like the Rook, or a Web bonus like the Rapier.  But these bonuses are frequently underused and highly effective.

Of the most obvious benefits is the drone bonus, which will provide the bulk of your DPS. With a 150m3 drone bay, you can easily fit two flights of mediums, a small flight, and an ECM flight, or go straight for heavies and lights.  In either case, you can do some serious damage with these drones.

The tracking disruptor bonus is a game-changer, though.  With it, a single tracking disruptor can reduce enemy optimal+falloff or tracking by 60% - this can effectively eliminate a turret ship’s ability to do damage entirely.  What does this mean?  A Vagabond would no longer be able to kite.  A Talos or Brutix can’t track.  A DPS ship is effectively removed from the fight.  And you can multiply that by the number of disruptors you have.

Finally, while the transfer amount bonus for neutralizers and vampires doesn’t seem that impressive – operating at 200% of normal when fully skilled – the range bonus is incredibly dangerous.  With the Recon skill trained to IV (typical for most pilots), you can apply your neuts at 260% of range, more than one and a half times further than usual.  That allows you to get another cycle before your enemy is within range.

What does this mean?  Multiple interceptors can be capped out by the time they reach scram range.  Any active-tanked ship will be crippled.  Perhaps most importantly, our target will lose his prop module deep in your point range.

Suffice to say, you can destroy an uneducated enemy.  Forget EFT ehp calculations… your enemy has only as many hp as he sees on the fitting screen when docked.

Fitting Your Curse

Assuming a solo or small-gang use, here’s a fairly typical fit that provides maximum value.

[Curse, Solo Curse]
Damage Control II
1600mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
Drone Damage Amplifier II
Drone Damage Amplifier II 

Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Small Capacitor Booster II, Navy Cap Booster 400
Balmer Series Tracking Disruptor I, Optimal Range Disruption Script
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
Balmer Series Tracking Disruptor I, Optimal Range Disruption Script
Warp Disruptor II

Medium Unstable Power Fluctuator I
Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Conflagration S
Medium Unstable Power Fluctuator I
Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Conflagration S
Medium Unstable Power Fluctuator I
Medium Trimark Armor Pump I
Medium Ancillary Current Router I

Hammerhead II x5
Valkyrie II x5
Warrior II x5
Hornet EC-300 x5 

Let’s speak about the most obvious characteristic of this fit: you have two tank modules – a 1600mm plate and a DCII.  That’s it.  A highly-skilled pilot gets perhaps 25k ehp.  That means getting caught flat-footed will very quickly be deadly.  Avoid gate camps at all costs; a cloaked scout is highly recommended.  Your plate makes you very slow to burn back to the gate, and you don’t have the tank to survive the trip.

But for that lost ehp and speed, you gain a monster.  You can pump out 404 dps up close, and 338 out to your drone control range.  Given that your targets will tend to have low resists by the time you finish them off, that dps is multiplied significantly.  An example: if your target has 50% shield resists with hardeners on, your 404 dps will effectively double once your neuts shut them off.  Keep that in mind.

The mids are where much of the action is.  First, of course, you’ll have a web and a disruptor.  Why not a scram?  Quite simply, you’ll want to overload that WDII to extend your point range to prevent your target from escaping once those neuts and tracking disruptors land.  A scram won’t help very much, since your neuts will prevent your target from using an MWD anyways.  A Web is there more for tackling and for preventing extremely fast frigates from escaping too far before being capped out.

But the TDs, as I mentioned, will each take one dps ship out of the fight.  Fly with range scripts loaded.  If you’re in a 1v1 situation, applying both will ensure your enemy’s maximum falloff range is 16% of his original range.  That’s devastating.  Once your enemy gets in close (if he does), you’ll want to switch to tracking speed scripts.  At 16% of tracking speed, even small guns will have a hard time hitting you.

Running your neuts will eat a lot of your cap, so use the cap booster for a quick injection of energy.  Do not forget about your cap booster; it makes all the difference, as you’ll likely be capped out after two cycles of all three neuts.  Fit the largest cap charge you can; the reload round-time is only 10 seconds, and reloading a single large charge is more efficient on a cap per second basis than reloading multiple smaller ones.

And finally, your bread-and-butter… the neuts.  Running three medium neuts will entirely cap out T1 cruisers and below in a single cycle, and nearly any battlecruiser in two cycles.  Be sure to stagger the activation of your neuts.  You want to ensure your target doesn’t have enough cap to ever activate their prop module or shield booster/armor repper.  If you hit them all at once, you’ll have a 12-second period when your target is recharging cap, a large enough period to let him activate something to keep him alive.

I’ve included two small pulse lasers primarily for taking out enemy drones.  Any weapon system works fine, but I use lasers to help add dps to the EM hole of neuted T1 ships.  With everything you need to think about when flying a Curse, damage type isn’t something you want to worry about.

The rigs can be changed, but you’ll need an ACR even with AWU V (incidentally, AWU doesn’t provide much value, since this fit has only two small guns; the powergrid savings is negligible).  Feel free to fit whatever else helps your fight.

If you fly with an Engineering 603 implant, you can upgrade to a T2 1600 plate, which adds some ehp, at the expense of more speed.

For drones, there are really two ways to go… a flight of heavies and one of lights, or mediums (with extras), lights, and jammers.  I opt for the second because it gives you another option: a chance to escape if you get blobbed, as happens often during roams.  Heavies are slow and prone to being shot, even by TD’d ships.  Plus, if you have a target dead-to-rights, the extra dps isn’t necessary to really finish him off; your medium drones will do fine enough.

Your align time is very slow, so I recommend aligning out immediately upon engaging your target.  You need to realign very carefully and deliberately to avoid succumbing to the speed/align weakness.

You’ll note a lot of meta-4 modules in lieu of T2 modules: tracking disruptors, neuts, MWD, web.  The meta-4 and T2 versions of each of these are identical in bonuses and performance, but the meta-4 options provide better overheating options.  I tend to overheat a single neut (on the edge of my fitting), my MWD, and my point, but you can also overheat TDs in special cases.  It’s best to squeeze out the maximum value from those modules, and meta-4 gives you the edge on a T2-flying opponent.

Target Selection

With a heavily tracking disruptor-focused ship, you should naturally avoid any heavily-tanked targets that shoot missiles.  Tengus you find in areas of space with rats who do omni damage are often omni-tanked, and some of those will be cap-sipping fits that use rigs to fill resistance holes.  If you’re in Guristas space, though, feel free to engage, but bring Amarr drones to do EM damage.  Generally speaking, pilots who fight Guristas have an unfilled EM hole that leaves them with 13k ehp against EM damage.  Drakes and Cyclones have an EM hold that is often filled with active hardeners.  Feel free to take them on, but keep at range in case you need to escape quickly or they have help arrive.

Nearly any turret-based ship is fair game.  Their guns can’t track when you’re applying your ewar correctly, and they’re easy kills.  Medium and large guns will be particularly ineffective.  Ships with small guns may still track, but they won’t last long enough to be a serious threat.

Drone boats are tricky.  If you are facing a drone boat, keep your range and apply your web to enemy drones as you kill them one-by-one.  If possible, get your enemy to commit his drones first.  You can then web them and use your small drones to kill them.  If you attack first, you’ll need to watch for enemy drones.  You’ll need to recall your own drones before launching a light flight to counter his drones.  Once they’re down, your can set to work on your target.  Watch for ECM drones, which your target may loose as a last resort.

Flying the Ship

Really, the question about who you should attack rests not with “who”, but “how many”.  You can easily attack 3-4 targets and win with this ship.  If your target gang includes one kiter and two tacklers, you should put your TDs on the kiter, and put all your neuts on the more dangerous tackler.  Remember to stagger your neuts.  Do not, under any circumstances, split them; you’ll only render them ineffective.  With a Curse, if you succeed in neuting your target, he’ll crack like an egg; fail and you’ll die quickly.  For an example of what I mean, check out my write-up on an engagement in which I screwed up.

Be sure to keep your range from battleships, which may carry smart bombs, and dictate your engagement range against other ships.  Facing a brawler?  Don’t let him get right on you, since he may be able to apply his DPS even when tracking disrupted.  Versus a kiter, try to close range.  As you do, swap your scripts from range to tracking speed.

A word about those scripts… expect to take a little damage when you swap your scripts, usually one volley’s worth.  Against a single opponent, you won’t face much trouble.  Against multiple ones, though, that damage will add up.

When flying as part of a small gang, you’ll want to completely change your strategy.  Rather than engaging directly, hang on the periphery of the fight.  Your tracking disruptors have a 62km optimal range – use it.  If something comes in close to you, neut it, web it, and kill it with your own drones.  Those TDs will help your fleet members take down the enemy in safety and comfort, and your other ewar will keep you safe.  Make sure you don’t drift too far or close as the fight progresses.  Just because a single enemy is slinking towards you doesn’t mean you need to pull additonal range.  If you can kill it, or if it’s your current fleet’s primary, you shouldn’t be afraid to engage your drones and neuts.

If you do find a solo target, enjoy the experience.  Most of your fights will likely happen against larger gangs.  That’s what makes flying a Curse so dangerous; it’s a known killer, so people bring superior numbers.  When that happens, you either have to have multiple equations running in your mind at once, or you die.


The Curse is a force-multiplier, and can defeat multiple ships.  But that doesn’t mean it can easily defeat multiple ships.  More than perhaps any other ship, pilot skill and focus contributes the most to success.  I strongly recommend waiting to fly it until either A) you’re comfortable in a fight against multiple opponents, or B) you have isk to burn and a true desire to improve your skills.  As of this writing, Curses are selling for 110 mil, which isn’t bad, but it’s still a 150-mil loss if you do something stupid.

Flying an Arbitrator doesn’t really compare as far as practice for a Curse… the Arbitrator is much softer and weaker, to the point that the tactics described don’t work.  The Arbitrator is exclusively a fleet ship with defensive neuts; the Curse is a solo and outnumbered ship with offensive neuts.  I would caution you from thinking your Arbitrator skills will directly translate to Curse skills.

Give it a try.  You may start to learn why the Curse is my second-favorite recon ship, behind the Rapier.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Faction Warfare Represents All That’s Wrong with Eve

Yes, I know that title is harsh, but it really is true.  Go ahead and try to kill a FW pilot.  I’ll wait.

Now you understand how I felt for three hours yesterday, during which I roamed through three regions looking for a fight.  I successfully engaged and scrambled three targets, only to have them either play station games or warp away (yeah, at least two warp core stabilizers there).

On the bright side, I observed very fine flying from one pilot, who successfully kited me – though he didn’t engage – until his FW timer ticked to “Captured”, at which point he warped off.

But I couldn’t find a fight from a FW pilot to save my soul.  They would rather mindlessly circle a button for ten or fifteen minutes to collect their LP than engage in, you know, warfare.  In FW, PvE pays better than PvP.

Eve has the same problem.  Much of both null-sec and low-sec are unpopulated, but high-sec is filled to the brim with PvErs.  Safer activities are more profitable than dangerous ones.  In Eve as a whole, null-sec or low-sec activities don’t generate enough isk to justify the additional risk of entering space that could involve you in *gasp* an engagement.  The only people that go into these areas of space are those who are looking for those engagements.

We need to balance that cost/value relationship.  It was something I was hoping I’d hear about in the Rubicon expansion teaser, but that announcement was filled with garbage, to be honest.  I knew it would never happen, but I was reading with bated breath about the 50% decrease in high sec, 25% increase in low-sec, and 75% increase in null sec of mining yields and mission rewards.

And the solution for Faction Warfare?  Drop the LP reward for capturing sites by 75%, and quintuple the rewards for killing a FW pilot.  Instant PvP-infusion.

But I doubt that’ll ever happen.  CCP seems perfectly content to keep the bulk of their players in high-sec.  I think this is a huge mistake.  Chaos drives industry, encourage PLEX sales, and makes Eve life more difficult for more players.

Difficult?  Is that a good thing?  Yes, it is.

It’s well-known that there are certain thresholds that mark the end of an Eve account’s lifespan.  Owning a supercarrier is one of them.  They all appear to be really good goals that will provide more excitement to an Eve session, but they’re actually a death blow.  The more CCP can extend the period of time needed to reach those thresholds, the longer an account will remain subscribed.  And, setbacks will only make the achievement of all the intermittent goals all the better.

And who knows?  You may get derailed by PvP, which is a self-propagating goal in-and-of-itself that has the side-effect of generating content for someone else, too.

What we achieve too cheaply, we esteem too lightly.

Friday, September 20, 2013

It’s Time to Let Carriers Jump Gates

I understand that, when they were created, carriers and dreadnaughts were meant to be special ships, the pinnacle of a pilot’s career.  Given what force projection was in the past, it made sense that you’d only bring them out for special occasions.

But that time was long ago.

Now, if you go to any region, you’ll find a carrier ratting.  Several, likely.  At any given moment, I’m sure there are thousands of carriers being used.  Isn’t it time carriers should be allowed to travel through gates?  We have a perfect model in black ops battleships, which gain the ability to jump, without any tradeoffs.  Why not do the same with carriers?

But, unlike blops battleships, I propose we add a penalty.  Any time a carrier jumps through a gate, its capacitor resets to 30% (unless it was below that).  Yes, the same capacitor level as happens following a jump, when fully skilled.

What does this mean?

1) If a carrier pilot is only traveling a few jumps, they would likely use gates to conserve isotopes.  This would create great opportunities for PvP.  Carriers are very slow and, even if they cloak off the gate, they won’t be able to align and warp off (after decloaking) before they can be pointed.  With a 30% capacitor, they will be susceptible immediately upon jumping the gate.  Gate camps would fetch fat prizes.

2) The galaxy would be truly unified.  There are some areas of the galaxy which are connected by stargates, yet are dozens of light years apart.  SF-XJS in Tenal and HB-5L3 in Cobalt Edge is one example.  Why should an alliance be limited in its expansion because of such a huge gulf, which prevents sharing of capital ship resources between regions?  It’s the reason Razor voluntarily gave up on Cobalt Edge, and why Insidious Empire will never extend beyond CE into Tenal.  Those limitations seem silly to me.

3) The loss of capital ships would generate content for PvPers and increase the demand (through replenishment) for the production of additional capitals.  Out of necessity, this would boost activity in null and low-sec (since capitals can't enter high-sec, except for industrial caps).

I see no reason to prevent carriers, in particular, to be allowed through gates.  It’s use as a ubiquitous ratting ship – despite the risks and cheaper alternatives – makes it an ideal target for roaming gangs, which makes all sorts of content, both for the exploders and producers of ships.  The mechanic preventing them from using gates is archaic, and more appropriate for the still-expensive supercarriers and titans, but let’s eliminate this silly limitation for carriers.  If freighters and orcas can jump gates, why not carriers?

Some may argue that this will only increase force projection, but there are very few areas that would be affected by this change.  The risk of jumping gates with a carrier and the annoyance of long align and warp times will make pilots use gates only when necessary.  What can be gained - an increase in capital kills and an increase in cap production margins through increased demand - outweighs what would be lost.

That sounds like a win to me.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

War and Peace

Life in sovereign null-sec consists of alternating periods of peace and war.  If you’re reading this site, I assume your interest isn’t as much in the fertile fields of ratting space, but rather in the vacuous, crystallized air vapor-dotted swaths of battlefields.  You most likely live for the wars.

But hold that thought for a moment.

Null-sec alliances cycle between deployments and down-time.  During a deployment, they’ll stage out of some distant system, where all PvP characters are expected to base themselves for the duration of the campaign.  Alliance contracts, logistics, and jump freighter services are all moved to that staging system.  All PvP fleets stage out of that system.  The deployment may be as insignificant as a search for “gudfights”, or as important as an all-out bloc sov war lasting for months (albeit unlikely; one of those hasn’t happened in years).

People tend to think the “exciting” times are the deployments themselves.  They see the large fleets and fleet battles as the height of PvP in Eve.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Lessons: I'm Cursed

Some days, you just don’t want to play this game anymore.  Not because you come across something that infuriates you, but because you fly like an idiot.  That happened to me yesterday.

I went roaming through Catch in a Curse with a friend in a Talos when we jumped into a small gate camp (Harpy, Sabre, Talwar, Vagabond).  Here was my setup:

[Curse, Solo Curse]
Damage Control II
1600mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
Drone Damage Amplifier II
Drone Damage Amplifier II 

Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Small Capacitor Booster II, Navy Cap Booster 400
Balmer Series Tracking Disruptor I, Optimal Range Disruption Script
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
Balmer Series Tracking Disruptor I, Optimal Range Disruption Script
Warp Disruptor II

Medium Unstable Power Fluctuator I
Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Multifrequency S
Medium Unstable Power Fluctuator I
Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Multifrequency S
Medium Unstable Power Fluctuator I

Medium Trimark Armor Pump I
Medium Ancillary Current Router I

Hammerhead II x10
Warrior II x5
Hornet EC-300 x5

We decided to engage.  Since the Sabre had dropped two bubbles, we knew his DPS wasn’t very high.  I figured the Harpy would be close range-fit, which would suit my Curse perfectly.  So we primaried the Sabre, I neuted both the Harpy and Sabre, and put my disruptors on the Vagabond while I pulled range.

So far, so good.  My drones took a while to reach the Sabre, who was already eating into the friendly Talos.  By this point, I was about 50 km off all enemy ships.  The Sabre went down, but very shortly afterwards my Talos friend died and was podded.

At this point, my friend advised me to get out.  I was out of the bubble and aligned to the sun.  I figured he knew better than I did how the ships he was fighting were fit, so I recalled my drones and hit warp.

And nothing happened.  Yes, it was the warp bug, in which my MWD was still active when I tried to warp, and the system didn’t register my warp when it should have.  So the Harpy was now screaming towards me.

This is when I lost my sense.  The warp bug threw me, and I made mistakes.  I forgot all about my cap booster.  Seeing my cap dangerously low, I let up on the neuts against the Harpy and put one on both the Harpy and Talwar.   Huge mistake.  Without a prop module or hardeners and my web on him, the Harpy would have fallen quickly.

But I didn’t cap him out.  I also forgot that my drones were in my bay, which cost me a volley or two.

And, worst of all, I started panicking and switched the tracking disruptors from the Vaga to the Harpy.  I have no idea why I did this, other than that the Vaga was 65 km away, and I figured that any sane person fit their Vaga with 220s or 425s.

But he was fit with 720s.

So, not only did I ignore my cap booster and fail to neut out the Harpy, but I had pulled my TDs from a long-range Vaga that could easily apply damage at 65 km.

When I died, the Harpy was at about 35-40% shields.  If I’d have neuted him with all three neuts, he would have died quickly.  At 40% of his non-proped speed, he would have gone down much faster to my Hammerheads.  As it was, he was traveling at 40% of MWD speed and he had his hardeners… not slow enough or weak enough.

If I’d have kept the Vaga out of the fight with two TDs and killed the Harpy, the Talwar would have been no problem.  I could have actually taken on all three and won, if I’d kept my head.

But I didn’t.  One surprise – the warp bug (which, incidentally, is working as intended per CCP) – broke my concentration, and I made a series of mistakes that got me killed.  I even blamed the ship in Corp chat at first.  After I thought about it, I realized that I was to blame, not the hardware.

And that’s infuriating.  I screwed up, and it cost me at least two more kills.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How to Fly a Cynabal

There is perhaps no greater symbol of solo PvP than the Cynabal, a giant space slug put out by the Angel Cartel that excels at taking down prey far larger than itself.  It’s a very expensive ship to put on the line – properly fit it can cost nearly as much as a Black Ops Battleship.

This guide will attempt to provide you with a starting point for flying these legends.  As you shouldn’t think about flying this ship unless you have excellent speed, fitting, and shield tanking skills, the numbers I indicate assume such.

Step One: Look at the Ship

This space slug has some significant bonuses that tell you how you should fly it.

Special Ability: 25% bonus to Medium Projectile Turret rate of fire.
Minmatar Cruiser Skill Bonus: 10% bonus to medium projectile damage per level.
Gallente Cruiser Skill Bonus: 10% bonus to medium projectile falloff per level.

From this information alone, you can tell that the Cynabal is a damage dealer at range.  With 4 turrets, but the damage capability of 7.5, it also sips ammunition.  With Minmatar Cruiser V and Gallente Cruiser V, your optimal + falloff is 34 km with 425mm guns.

The slot layout is 5 / 5 / 5 with three rig slots and 50m3 of drone space.  Coupled with good speed is a low mass, meaning that microwarpdrives and afterburners will have more of an effect on speed than an average cruiser.  The capacitor is smaller than needed.

Fitting Your Cynabal

This combination of good damage at range and good speed means the Cynabal is meant as a kiter.

[Cynabal, 425mm Guns]
Damage Control II
Tracking Enhancer I
Gyrostabilizer II
Gyrostabilizer II
Gyrostabilizer II

10MN Afterburner II
Republic Fleet Warp Disruptor
Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II

Medium Unstable Power Fluctuator I
425mm AutoCannon II, Barrage M
425mm AutoCannon II, Barrage M
425mm AutoCannon II, Barrage M
425mm AutoCannon II, Barrage M

Medium Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I

First, the low slots.  A single tracking enhancer will let you fight within the 26-33 km range with 425s, which puts you outside of heavy neutralizer range.  If you’re neutralized, your prop mods will turn off and you’ll be a sitting duck.  The three gyros maximize the gank-factor, and a DCII rounds out your fit.  You should only fly without a DCII on a sub-cap in very specialized situations (ie. bombers).

Some people prefer a Nanofiber Internal Structure II instead of one of the gyros to gain a little speed.  This is perfectly acceptable, but keep in mind it’ll take longer to take down a target, which will make it harder to hit hostile staging systems, where enemy reinforcements are very close.

Moving to the mids, we have 2 LSEIIs.  This fit is passive-tanked.  If range-control is your defense, it means you’ll likely be running a prop module constantly.  This makes the possibility of an active tank much less favorable.  Your defense lies in speed, staying out of your enemy’s engagement range, and a buffer tank.

To that end, you’ll note both a meta-4 MWD and a T2 afterburner. Feel free to upgrade the AB to a faction or officer fit as your budget allows, but ALWAYS DUAL-PROP.  In a Cynabal, you’re unlikely to be fighting only a single enemy.  Many times, you’ll have probes dropped on you, and find yourself tackled.  Using an overheated afterburner can get you speed similar to a battlecruiser under MWD, and it can mean the difference between survival and a wreck.  Don’t bother upgrading the MWD… meta 4 overheats better than a T2 version does, and faction MWDs only affect capacitor.  You shouldn’t be engaged for long enough to cap out anyways.  This is a hit-and-run ship.

This leaves one space for a point.  Never fly with a warp scrambler.  Let me repeat that.  Never fly with a warp scrambler.  To understand why, let me ask you this question: why are you flying a fast ship with bonuses to projectile range within 9 km of any enemy?  This is a kiting ship.  In a kiting ship, being in close equals death.  You should never be close enough to use that scram.  I recommend a faction point for its standard 30 km range.  With loki boosts or overheated, you’re even farther out.  Your guns get about 35 km before the end of falloff – use every bit of it.  If you can stay out of enemy point range and heavy neut range, you can take on many ships far larger than you, and that’s just fun.

Moving to the high slots, I see no reason to fly with anything but 425s (I may update this after the patch, when artillery is getting some love).  The range fits perfectly into your beyond-point engagement goal, and they do serious damage.  Fly with Barrage M in your guns, and switch to Hail M in case you want to move in close to finish off an opponent or implement a riskier, but faster gank.  Optimal + falloff for Hail M is about 20 km… still very effective, particularly against armor-fit ships that tend to fit scrams.

For the fifth high slot, I fit a neut (meta-4 instead of T2, because of overheating and fitting reasons).  If you stay outside of engagement range of larger ships, all you need to worry about is an interceptor, Dramiel, or Daredevil.  In those cases when something small gets in close, neut him out as you pull range with your AB.  When his AB goes off, you’ll pull range quickly, and your drones and 425s can destroy him.  If he moves away fast enough to avoid your guns, at least he’ll pull out of scram range and you can escape.  None of that is possible without a neut.

You need to plug that EM gap with one rig.  Since tank isn’t this ship’s strong point, you can fit shield tank, or you can swap one of them for a speed rig.  I wouldn’t recommend changing both; if an engagement turns south and something gets in close, you want to be able to survive some punishment until you can pull range again.

For drones, you can fly with a flight of Hobgoblins and a flight of EC-300s, or you can just go all-gank with Hammerheads.   I tend to fly with Hammerheads for added DPS.  They make short work of a neuted tackler.

Fit this way, your Cynabal can gain and maintain range, allowing you to melt anything short- or medium-range fit.  Its native align time is 3.5 seconds.  Even under MWD, it aligns in 5.4 seconds.  If the fight turns south, you can GTFO quickly.

Target Selection

Flying a Cynabal is about target selection.  Like the Dramiel, a Cynabal excels at taking out targets larger than itself.  Be careful when fighting missile ships drone boats, or against ewar ships.  Curses and Pilgrims (which can neut you out from a significant distance), Arazus and Lacheses (which can scram you from 20-26 km), and Rapiers and Huginns (which are usually dual-web fitted and can reach 40 km or more).  If you land right on top of them, get in close – don’t run, as you won’t make it far enough to escape.

When engaging gangs, be sure to kill the tacklers first.  Typically, gangs include specialized ships.  If you kill all the tacklers, you can warp off freely if you get into trouble.  But don’t let this assumption guide your flying… continue keeping range on them just as if they all had points.

Get in the habit of hitting your dscan often.  You can do some serious damage, but you can’t kill tanked targets faster than help can arrive from the next system over.  Particularly after the Retribution and Odyssey expansions, T1 ships can do significant damage as well.  A lot of them can do even more.

Don’t fly a Cynabal in a small gang vs. small gang situation until you’re very comfortable with it (read: having 100+ successful engagements solo vs gangs).  The more ships on the field, the more likely that you’ll end up in scram range of something, and chances are that your Cynabal is more valuable than most of your fleet-mates’ ships. 

Flying the Ship

When beginning an engagement, always warp at range.  Landing a 0 on an enemy doesn’t fit into your engagement style.  There’s a possibility you may not be in point range when you land, but that’s better than losing your ship.

A word about orbiting.  It’s very dangerous to simply orbit at a range in a kiting ship.  You don’t have a web – and you’re not in web range anyways, right?), so your opponent could be traveling at 1,400 m/s.  At this speed, he can slingshot at you – waiting until you’re at a point in your orbit traveling away from his intended direction, then overload his MWD and burn in the opposite direction to pull enough range to escape.

It’s much better to fly manually, but doing so without getting to close is tricky.  I wish there was a way to orbit perpendicular to the elliptic (essentially traveling above and below) to keep range, but that doesn’t work.  Practice manual flying on a jetcan in high-sec – or on the Singularity server – first.  Keep a close eye on your opponent’s transversal velocity and base velocity.  You’re looking for sudden changes that might indicate he’s trying to pull away or draw you close.

Most battleships will have smartbombs, so use your own drones to kill his drones first.  Pay attention to what he drops, and the size of his drone bay.  If someone pops drones on you, kill them first.  For anything with blasters, this may be their only damage at 26-30 km.

Your MWD is for closing range on an enemy.  Once you get a feel for how he’s fit, turn off your MWD and switch to your afterburner.  Don’t leave it on, especially against battleships.  The sig radius bloom an MWD causes can make it much easier for his guns to hit you.  Not to mention, it eats your cap significantly.


The Cynabal is a unique ship, as it’s intended to fight larger prey.  It doesn’t have a cheaper gateway ship you can use to practice an identical type of flying, though a Vagabond and Stabber Fleet Issue can emulate various aspects of it.  Since the Retribution expansion, many more ships have drones, which makes flying a Cynabal more complicated.  You have to be very comfortable with the strengths – and limitations – of flying this ship.

The Cynabal is a ship that can benefit from dual-boxing either a scout or a Loki booster.  Boosts to point range can allow you to fight right out to the edge of your falloff, making the fight as risk-free as PvP is in Eve.  You need strong nerves and a good dscan, but this ship is the height of solo PvP.  Treat it like it… you need to prove your ability to fly this ship, or you’ll end up with an expensive loss.  But if you fly it well, you’ll be a terror that even a small gang can’t take down.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lessons: I Thought 425mms Could Track…

While the CFC pounds Delve with relatively no resistance, I thought I’d go roaming through the nearby low-sec of Aridia in one of my Hurricanes.

This Hurricane was meant for small gang roaming, so it was shield DPS fit with 425mm guns.  As I was going through low-sec, I didn’t really worry too much about small ships – anything that would tackle me on a gate wouldn’t survive the gate guns for very long, and I could escape.

And that’s exactly what happened.  I passed a few bombers, and really didn’t find any targets.  I did see a Corax I tried to attack, but he made it back through the gate and escaped.  So after about an hour, I headed back.

And ran right into a Ghostly Fleet gate camp, of course.  Unfortunately for them, all of their tackle engaged me when I overloaded and activated my MWD to burn back to the gate.  Their DPS was a bit behind, so even with the scrams, I got through the gate at 75% shields.  I immediately warped to a perch point and reached it before the first enemy ships decloaked.  With my luck not really panning out and it getting late, I decided to dock up there and call it a night.

As tends to happen with these things, I ran into more trouble the next day as I was heading home, this time two Pandemic Legion Hawks.  I foolishly warped directly to a gate and got dragged into a bubble, where they were waiting.

I’m used to flying Rapiers when roaming, but I left my Rapier in S-E.  So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I thought to myself, “No problem, I’ve got this.  I put my neut on the closest Hawk, launched my drones, and started firing.

Once my neut capped him out, my guns got two solid hits, taking him into armor immediately.  I thought things were working very well.  The all-powerful neut had saved me yet again.  But then, the third shot – and every one after – missed.  He was tightly orbiting at an effective radius of 758 m.

I thought my 425s could track a capped-out Hawk.

Unsurprisingly, he was fit with ASBs, and his shields started coming back fairly qucikly.  His buddy was also in a tight orbit.  At this point, I knew I was dead.  These two Hawks along had killed me.  I was embarassed.  For about a minute and a half, they chipped away at me and there was nothing I could do.

A Vagabond decided to join in on the killmail, but he made the mistake of getting close.  I had him down to 50% shields when I popped.  I honestly don’t know why he came in so close; he likely had the same guns fitted, but he had a bonus to falloff that meant he would out-DPS me significantly at range.  And the Hawks saw to it I wasn’t going anywhere.  Had he come in immediately, I’d have likely had the time to kill him.

But he didn’t.  And I died – for all intents and purposes – to two Hawks.  All because I thought my guns could track.  My effective DPS was around 100, and that was until they decided that my drones had stopped tickling and needed to be killed.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Pets, Coalitions, and Agency

I apologize for the lateness of this article; it slipped through the cracks.

This is how madness starts, this is how it progresses, and this is its end state.

Gevlon donated billions of isk to a bad investment: Test Alliance.  Why he thought an alliance leadership that fell so deeply into debt that they needed to crawl, hat in hand, to their members for donations was a good investment is beyond me.  Alliances are supposed to lift the tide for everyone, not dip into folks’ wallets.  What’s worse, he came up with an elaborate explanation to why other should do the same.  It amounted to, “I’m throwing my isk away, and you should too… because of these brilliant proof… er… absurd claims.

Then, he based an argument – essentially – every member alliance of the CFC is devoid of individual agency, and they simply parrot whatever The Mittani says.  Ask anyone in the CFC, and you’ll get a dozen examples of how this is not the case.  I think it’s safe to say he has blinders on when it comes to the CFC… we’re obviously evil, and everything in the universe supports this argument.

Only, we’re not.  We piss people off because we snuff them out.  We have a long list of enemies because of it.  But in the end, it’s business.  The folks who realize that dust themselves off, grow stronger, and either become our allies or become better enemies.

Those who don’t donate billions of isk to a losing proposition that collapsed in spectacular fashion.  Not to demean Test members (some of them are excellent pilots), but the alliance couldn’t manage a monkey poop fling in the zoo in its current form.

But the last article is amazing in the absurdity of its claims.  “The Big Lie”, I believe it’s called.  He clearly has no idea what he’s referring to.  My favorite bit is this: “They both built up something (capital fleet and Sov infrastructure) which they couldn't hope to defend, but they assumed that their masters will protect it for them.”

Razor defended a timer, which we lost only when BL dropped supers.  We were actually winning the engagement until that point (look at the battle report; we killed 64 bil… the way Eve fights go, that means it was actually pretty close).  We didn’t ask for Goon help, because we wanted to do it ourselves.  That’s one difference between a pet and an ally… allies try to handle things on their own when they can.  And later that week, saved the next system BL tried to hit.  Losing one fight is a long way from saying we can’t defend our assets.

But let’s talk about the valuable question in Gevlon’s article… the definition of pet.  He claims it’s being weaker than an ally.  This simply isn’t enough, though.  I’m not as strong as my neighbor, but I’m not his pet.  Pet implies dependence.  Given that Razor existed as a powerful entity on its own long before Goons were around, I’d say this isn’t quite apt.  Pets take no action without first getting approval from their masters.  I can give you two examples of when this didn’t happen (Great Wildlands deployment, IRC War). 

Allies are responsible for their own policies.  Pets must conform to the wishes of their masters.  I’ve never even heard of a “You don’t talk back to The Mittani!” comment being made by anyone in the CFC.  Razor doesn’t pay any isk to Goons.  The CFC is a coalition only so long as its component allies want to be a coalition.

It’s tempting to think Goons manipulate everything in the game, but – sorry – it’s just not true.  It’s tempting to believe the hate narrative about The Mittani if you’ve been a CFC victim.  But keep in mind that's exactly what it is... a narrative intended to cast one group as the "good guys" and the other as "the evil empire".

Only, the "evil empire" is actually pretty good to its citizens.  But wait, we can't have that getting out...

EDIT: Having forgotten to hit the "Publish" button actually has some benefits.  One development that concerns me in CFC politics is this renter program.  Apparently, all renters for the whole CFC will go into one pool, with the profits being distributed by Goonswarm to the various alliances based on alliance participation in CFC initiatives.  This strikes me as creating a dependency, which I'm very disappointed to see.  Surely there has to be a way to handle this type of issue in a way that doesn't make each alliance dependent on Goonswarm for its new #1 profit source?  I'll be watching how this goes down very carefully.  I don't like the CFC alliances having income-dependence on the coalition, and I'm a little concerned about that aspect.

Ship Fitting 101: The Dangers of EFT

The Eve Fitting Tool (EFT) is a great way to identify whether a fitting you want to use will actually work, and tweak that fitting to your purposes.  That said, you need to keep in mind certain limitations of the summary window to the right of your fitting.  For example, EFT consistently over-estimates the amount of damage you can take.

Look at any kill mail, and plug that fitting into EFT.  For the sake of argument, let’s use the “All Level V” skill option.  The kill mail probably reflects about 1/3 the damage EFT says you should take.  That’s because EFT lists “effective hp”, which modifies your damage by your ship’s shield and armor resistances.  The only damage that matters is the kind that shows up in your Eve client in little red numbers in the center of your screen.  It doesn’t matter if you have 53,000 ehp… if you’re taking 500 damage, that’s 500 damage off your shields or armor.

Also, keep in mind that EFT's summary about your tank makes no reference to repair modules… you need to calculate the total effect of an active tank yourself.  And that 500 shield every 5 seconds will do you much more good if you’re facing a single opponent than it will if you’re facing many.

But another area EFT fails at is DPS.  The DPS numbers you see are within optimal range.  Tell me… how many opponents are going to fight a Gallente ship point-blank and let you get your full DPS on them?  If you fly a Minmatar ship, you’re probably fighting in falloff range (if you’re doing it right), which cuts your DPS down to between ¾ and ½.

It’s tempting to think that a Hurricane gets 717 dps with drones, and think you can go toe-to-toe with anything out there.  But about 100 dps of that is drone damage, which is delayed and subject to being destroyed, and the rest is subject to falloff penalties.  Your real DPS may be around 400-450.

And we haven’t even gotten to tracking yet.  If your guns can’t track a target, you won’t apply any damage whatsoever.  If your missiles can’t track, the damage they apply will be seriously reduced.

But that’s a subject for another post.  Just don’t go thinking that EFT’s stats are gospel truth.  If you do, you’ll be in for a harsh reality.