Monday, December 23, 2013

Lessons: At Least My Ship Was the Most Expensive?

“I was bored, and wanted to roam.”

It’s a compound sentence, with a very simple meaning, and when noteworthy it either leads to tremendous success or dismal failure.

This is a lesson about failure.

I took out a small fleet from our staging system in Doril on Friday night.  Having checked dotlan and seen some action in Immensea, we headed up there.  My prior experiences with the constellations in the northwest of the map were not very positive.  In each case, I was met with a massive blob that killed me, albeit after I was able to get some kills.

Now, that usually doesn’t bother me; if I’m traveling into their space, it’s only fair they muster everything they have to repel me.  Killing someone with 14 people on the killmail is hardly a demonstration of skill, but it does clear your space of the threat, and sometimes that’s the only objective.

On this occasion, I happened to be flying a Vagabond, with a Sabre, two interceptors, a Moa, and a Rapier in my fleet.  As we were entering GXK-7F, our interceptor scout reported two Taloses and a Stabber Fleet Issue on the GXK-7F gate.  After debating for a moment, I put the decision on whether we engaged to the rest of the fleet.  Everyone was up for it, so we warped.  The scout had to jump back through, so we didn’t have eyes on them for a few seconds.

I told the Rapier to put a web on each Talos, and put everyone on alert to watch broadcasts for which one we would primary.  The SFI, I figured, was likely to do minimal damage at first, but those Taloses would have to be taken out quickly.

When we landed, they had already warped off, despite our Rapier warping cloaked.  Suffice to say, I was very disappointed.  Two Taloses and a SFI versus two Intys, a Sabre, Moa, Rapier, and Vaga would have been an interesting fight.  We’d be light on DPS, they’d have been light on tackle and ewar.

We moved further into the constellation, expecting a fleet to form up to fight us as we did.  Our intys tried to find some ratters to catch, but the residents were on the ball and immediately safed up when we entered local.

Part way through, our Rapier had to go.  My first mistake was in not turning back once we lost those webs.

As we were heading back, we saw a fairly large interceptor gang in GXK-7F on the GXK-7F gate – our exit of that constellation.  Included within them was a Sabre, a Tengu, and a Vagabond.  I realized we would struggle to take down even those three ships with our combined DPS, so I warped us to a safe and decided to wait it out, but told everyone to align.  My hope was that part of the fleet would warp off, giving us a chance at a more balanced fight.  After all, a ship in system but not on grid does no DPS.

Seeing that their numbers were only increasing, I decided to take the first chance we had, before even a split fleet would be far too much for us.  When their interceptors warped off, I seized the opportunity and fleet warped us to the gate for an immediate jump.  Unsurprisingly, the Sabre and Vagabond followed us, but the Tengu held off at first.

We MWD-aligned for the out-gate, and I called the Sabre primary, but he quickly burned out of range.  The Vagabond maintained the initial point on me until the interceptors warped back to the gate, jumped, closed range, and gained tackle.

Let’s take a moment.  The Rubicon mechanics, of course, changed interceptor warp speeds.  I don’t think anyone can blame me up to this point; a fleet that was slowly growing split, and I took advantage of the opportunity to try to escape.  But with the new warp changes, those interceptors were able to get back into the fight within less than a minute after warping off.  Our fleet warped as slow as the Moa, so by the time we were aligning out of the Sabre’s bubble on the other side, the interceptors were already landing on gate.

My big mistake – and the lesson for this fight – rested in my target calling (irony of ironies).  Sure, going after the Sabre was a smart move, and switching to the Vagabond after that made sense, but as soon as those interceptors hit the field, I should have switched to them immediately.  After my jump, I spawned favorably, in line with my warp out, so they were between 0 and 26 km away.  I had my own energy neutralizer, a Sabre, and two interceptors on my side, so we could have bitten into the interceptors more than we did.  Sure, we probably couldn’t clear them all, but surely killing 3-4 was a possibility.  As it turned out, we only managed to take one out because of my ham-fisted target calling.  If I’d switched us earlier, we might have even cleared tackle on one or more of us.

But the real story about this fight was one of expectation.  I expected us to have the time to clear the Sabre off the field and burn away before that interceptor contingent returned.  Without the Sabre, we could have chased off the Vagabond with our combined DPS.  Quite simply, I had hope that we could fight our way to freedom.

Perhaps it would have been better to have no hope at all.  Had I warped into the entire fleet, I wouldn’t have wasted precious time shooting the Sabre or Vaga, instead going immediately after the interceptors to help balance the isk scale and enjoy the fight. 

If warping the interceptors off was a deliberate tactic, it was a brilliant one on the part of the enemy fleet.  It dangled a chance in front of me, only to snatch it away.  Perhaps I’m giving them too much credit, but if it was deliberate, it was a brilliant understanding of psychology in Eve, which I’ve discussed before.

Worth noting, though, we were able to escape with our Sabre and nearly all our pods, despite the fleet camping us in long after our aggression timers ended (the only pod we lost was from one pilot who spawns on the other side of the gate and couldn’t break free of the bubble before his ship popped).  Even after the welp, we extracted what we could by chasing off the enemy Sabre and keeping our poise when it came time to warp off.  We kept the “moment after welp” in mind by clearing the bubbles, not as much to free our ship as to free our pods.

So, to sum up, positives and negatives throughout.  Short of logging off in system (which I see as a cowardly way to do it), we were always going to die.  Had I shifted my expectation more quickly, though, we might have been able to take more with us.

If you were with the enemy fleet, please post below whether warping off your interceptors was a deliberate tactic to bait us into making a run for it, or if you were simply splitting those intys up to try to find us.  I really want to know!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Lessons: My Little Pony Fleet

I give Eve players a lot of credit when it comes to being willing to fight.  Now, I’ve mentioned before how faction warfare seems to be populated primarily with risk-adverse button-orbiters, and we certainly come across our fair share during our Friday night roams through FW low-sec.  But we do find the occasional FW gang ready to defend their space, and we also come across plenty of other pilots willing to fight us, both on gates and in FW plexes.  Sufficient numbers, as it turns out, to make a routine thing of our Friday night roams.

Our Friday night roam was delayed until Saturday because of some ::serious business:: of a non-logistic nature, but on Saturday, my wife decided that she wanted to play, so she controlled the keyboard and I instructed her, answered her questions, etc.  So, Talvorian didn’t actually fly.

Things went very well.  A couple times, I actually had to run up to take care of one of our daughters, or go to the bathroom, or get another drink, and she only managed to get lost once.  All in all, not bad.  She even got to choose the ship-naming convention of the night.

I’ve Created a Monster

I’ve mentioned before how I taught my wife to play Eve, and I pointed out all the virtues of doing so.  I’m happy to be able to give an example in real-time.

My wife and I have an arrangement.  I get to stay up late and play Eve, but I need to take care of them if they wake up in the middle of the night.  In return, she’ll wake up with them whenever they finally wake up in the morning, which is usually around 6:30, allowing me to sleep in.

Yesterday morning, I awoke to find one daughter screaming because my wife wouldn’t let her take all the ornaments off the Christmas tree, and my wife getting ready to put the baby down for her nap.  The first thing she said was to invoke that Eve knowledge:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lessons: Roaming With Your Wife

I’ve FC’d a bit before, but the birth of my children made it impossible for me to commit wholly to a fight.  More frequently than not, I have to dock up while roaming because one child or the other is up far later than she should be.  Having no convenient gypsies to sell them to, I have no choice but to be a good dad and sooth them.

But, I am experienced enough with FCing to know that it takes an incredible amount of attention and focus to keep everything running smoothly.  Understanding what the hostiles are doing, what your scouts are telling you, and how soon your fleet is going to land, mixed with trying to remember exactly what bonuses a Celestis gets so you can primary your targets in the right order… it’s a lot of work. 

And, of course, you want to get on the kills yourself.  Typically, the FC flies an easy-to-fly ship (F1 only, please) that can endure for a while, but it’s still another set of procedures to keep in mind.  You need to lock and broadcast every target, while also stating the target aloud on comms.  Then you need to choose the secondary, then promote as the primary goes down, while still locking and broadcasting.  There are a lot of steps to forget, particularly as the circumstances of the battle evolve.

Apparently, roaming with your wife when she’s still learning Eve is identical in its complexity.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lessons: Deception and ASBs

After you’ve been playing Eve for a while, you start to understand the fits pilots tend to use for each ship type.  If you do exactly what everyone else is doing, chances are the ships you can kill won’t engage you, while the ships that can kill you will engage.  The trick to defeating a skilled pilot is to surprise him by deceptive fitting.

Generally, pilots tend to judge the success of their fight against you by how quickly your shields or armor start to go down.  Even if they know intellectually that they aren’t doing much damage to you, they will get excited and commit to the fight more if they see your hp bar drop quickly.

If you can convince them they’re doing better than they really are, you’ll be able to lure them into a compromising situation.  Bait ships do this by appearing to be all on their own, and very often try to burn back to a gate in a feigned panic.  The ancillary shield booster does a similar thing in a different way.

When you fit your ship to accommodate an ASB, you tend to ignore the amount of shield hit points in favor of the strength of your resistances.  If done correctly, you can absorb the same amount of damage, but do so in a way that active shield repairers give you more bang for their buck.  On a Rapier or Vagabond, for instance, an x-large ASB can repair fully 50% of your shields with each cycle.

The psychological effect of this boost is devastating.  Let me give you an example from our Friday night low-sec roam.

Our fleet had warped to and entered a FW plex to fight some frigates.  I ended up on the outside by myself with a hostile Wolf and Vexor.  I was flying an ASB-fit Rapier fit exactly as I mentioned above.  Now, I only had one web on this fitting, as well as two guns (one of my high slots had a probe launcher) and five Warrior IIs.  I had lost my typical 3/2 Hammerhead/Hobgoblin setup on another fight where we had to warp off, and found the drones on the field of another battle.

As I locked them, I noticed that the Wolf had some shield damage already, so I started with the assault frigate while I called for back-up on comms.  With a single web and no scram, I could really only apply drone damage to the Wolf.  If I had been in my usual Rapier fit (dual-web, 3 guns, 3/2 drones), I could have taken out the Wolf quickly, then gotten away from the Vexor.  But as it was, I was not fit for DPS, and quickly realized that I’d be in danger in a minute or two down the road.

Now, I knew reinforcements would arrive eventually, but I had to keep them both interested until it did.  That’s where the ASB served me well.  When the Wolf and Vexor got the first damage on me, my shield started to go down faster than they expected – I had very little shield hp, but my resists were all about 75%.  At this point, the Wolf committed fully to the engagement, moving in closer to slip under my guns.

He and the Vexor made the decision – after those first couple shots – to commit fully to the engagement based on how quickly my shield started to go down.  Imagine their surprise and sinking spirit when my ASB restored 50% of my shields with a single stroke.

Had I simply been buffer-fit, I doubt the Wolf would have engaged fully, and my fleet would have lost a kill.  The Wolf had to quickly make a judgment based on the visual cue of how my shields were dropping.  In a split second, he didn’t have time to think about potential dps for his ship, check the damage ticker coming in, or ask his fleet mate how had he was hitting me.  He simply saw that my shield was dropping, and concluded that they must be winning.

And it ended up being the wrong decision.  A deceptive fit resulted in a kill.  Granted, the Vexor escaped, but that sometimes happens when you only have one point fitted.

Always consider not only how your opponent is likely to be fit, but also how your opponent expects you to be fit.  Try to fit the same ship in different ways so a quick check of your losses on eve-kill doesn’t reveal your one-and-only fit.  Few players will play the “I know that he knows that I know that he knows” game very far, and you can gain a significant advantage by luring people into fights they think they can win easily.

We all head into fights with certain preconceptions.  If you can understand your opponent’s, you can turn them into weaknesses ripe for exploit.

And that’s how you win at Eve.  Not necessarily by out-skilling your opponent, but by out-thinking him.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

All This Has Happened Before

If you haven’t had the chance yet, read The Mittani’s Goonswarm update.  He spends a lot of time building narrative and discussing Omegafleet, which you can honestly skip if you’re not actively involved in the RUS war.

But in the middle, he touches on much of the history behind why he and the leaders of the CFC are so eager to smash the faces of N3.  Essentially, Goonswarm has been fighting the same enemies time and again.  The corp tickers change, but the characters themselves remain the same.

This gets me thinking about the nature of null-sec iterative cycle.  Goonswarm and allies fight BOB, Goonswarm wins.  BOB turns into someone else who’s still butt-hurt about Goonswarm fighting them, and the cycle repeats.  Roughly the same enemies, roughly the same sides, just different regions.  The only reason the fleet doctrines change is because of mechanics. 

Blogging and Propaganda

Having read a number of blogs and news sites, you’ve probably noticed that there are clear differences among the tones and writing styles of various bloggers, and they run the gamut on a number of spectrums: witty-dry, serious-funny, sophisticated-juvenile, realistic-biased.

When I started writing this blog, I honestly didn’t expect to cultivate a particular style.  The way I write here is the way I write all my fiction.  Granted, each genre and type of writing has its own conventions, and I tend to stick to those when appropriate, but tone, voice, and pace are pretty consistent.

But there are a few intentional choices I made.  One of those was my desire to include within each of my posts something that a reader could take away to make his or her Eve experience richer.  That might mean a lesson that they could emulate, a mistake I made that they can avoid, or a way of thinking about the game contrary to the way they normally do.

But the most important intentional decision is about propaganda.

Real Life is Tricky

Just a quick note; I apologize for not posting recently, but real life has taken over quite a bit this week.  It’s looking like it’s letting up a little, and I’m working on four posts I’ll be posting in rapid succession, so stay tuned for the next day or so and set aside some reading time (bathroom, fleet, or otherwise).  I’ll have two theory posts, one Lesson, and one insight on a good method of deception.

So, stay tuned, starting in about 4 hours or so.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Should You Teach Your Wife to Play Eve?

Eve is a game we all spend large amounts of time playing.  Quite often, our significant others (henceforth shortened to “wives” for ease) simply don’t understand how important internet pixels really are.  We strive, often in vain, to help explain that yes, we really did need to stay up until 3 a.m. to participate in that fleet fight, and that no, we aren’t wearing the headset just to ignore them.

At some point, we all ask ourselves, “What if I taught my wife to play Eve?”  Visions of our lives becoming easier through domestic simpatico pass through our minds.  This was exactly the question I asked myself about a year ago.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Lessons: “Missed It By That Much”

For those of you who read my “Lessons” posts to learn something new (and all of you really should), this post will be a little more esoteric, but I’ll still cover both a general axiom and some specific examples from last night’s fleet.

When fighting small gangs or solo pilots, being able to predict your opponent’s decisions is very important.  But another way psychology comes into play in Eve is in having the resolution of spirit to stick with a stratagems so long as it’s appropriate to do so, even if it doesn’t seem to bear fruit. That’s called patience.  You want to have better resolve than the other guy, and force him to become impatient first.

In Razor, we have an FC named Qicia who routinely gets us high-value kills.  He’ll wait until the optimal moment to call in the fleet.  He’s very patient, and he knows intuitively when the perfect time to act is.  He may see dreads land and enter siege.  He may be running a bait character and choose the right moment to light that cyno.  Some people complain that his fleets can be long, but he’s very good at what he does.  He demonstrates an essential, yet rare, characteristic.

And that trait is patience, which leads to good timing.  Yes, I’ll connect the two of them.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mobile Depots, Carriers, and You

Just a quick one.  Check this out.  Just read the first paragraph.  An impressive bit of strategy is imbedded in a throw-away line near the end.

“Entertainingly, the Thanny dropped a mobile depot, refit warp core stabs, and warped away from the Nyx's tackle!”

That's brilliant.
It’s official.  If you’re not carrying a mobile depot around in your carrier to serve as your own refitting service, independent of a buddy carrier, you’re officially doing it wrong.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Lessons: The Road Not Taken

A few months ago, I purchased a new character with the intention of placing her in a corp that specialized in small gang roaming.  I was targeting small US TZ corporations who roamed through PvP-rich environments.  I wasn’t ready to go full pirate (read: -10.0 sec status, ever to set foot in high-sec again) and didn’t quite have the skills trained up to go wormhole (scanning and T3s), so I was looking closely at the corporations that fought in Curse and Syndicate.

As an added treat, they would have to be fine with two of my characters still remaining in Razor.  And because of that affiliation, I didn’t want to join another CFC alliance, and our enemies were pretty much out, too.  While some might unknowingly accept an alt of a CFC player, if they did, they wouldn’t be as sharp and on-the-ball as I wanted.

Believe it or not, it’s an incredibly tough task.  The US time zone is smaller than EU, but there are still a lot of opportunities out there.  I was impressed with Rote Kapelle, but having characters in other alliances was a deal-breaker.

Monday, December 2, 2013

This Is Why I'm Training JDC V

Just a quick one for now...

In Razor, JDC V is a required skill for flying a dreadnaught.  A week ago, I started the long slog to finish it… on January 2nd.  A 36-day train.  Why am I spending so much time to train it?

Trading a suicide dread (which would be reimbursed to kill a PL titan and a couple supercarriers?  Yeah, I’d be fine with that.

Case closed.  Sign me up.