Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Experience of Flying a Kestrel

I’ve already written about the importance of afterburners in any deadspace site, particularly FW sites.  And I’ve shared my thoughts about the shift in enemy ship compositions towards the T1 variety.

Obviously, I’ve been spending a lot of time fighting faction warfare pilots with my corp mates.

Now, at first glance, it may seem strange that a Razor Alliance pilot – let alone a significant amount of them – would spend a lot of time roaming through faction warfare low-sec space.  First of all, we’re deployed to Venal on a punitive campaign against Triumvirate. and Black Legion.  And null-sec alliances aren’t really known for their individual and small-gang skills; they tend to rely more upon fleet doctrine discipline and coordinated actions across a whole fleet, or sometimes several fleets.  And then there’s the security status requirement (all Razor pilots must remain above -2.0 sec status so the entire fleet can travel through any area space to support alliance operations).

Don’t get me wrong… running large fleets is very difficult, and requires a tremendous amount of skill and organization.  But the growth and personal development is limited primarily to those playing a planning or command role.

As to the Venal campaign, the majority of operations occur in the EU time zone.  What US TZ ops we have tend to occur early in the evening for me, when I’m spending time with the wife and kids; my Eve time tends to start around 02:30 until around 05:00, which is pretty typical for players with families.  For a long time, I resented this fact, but in the past few weeks, I’ve grown to enjoy it.  Repercussus has a good number of pilots who log in pretty much as I do, and we all have a lot of fun.  Just this week, we had a corp “get to know you” roam, our usual Friday night roam, another fleet through low-sec, and very small gang roaming pretty much every night (2-5 pilots, usually).  We did have an alliance op a couple nights ago that I just couldn’t attend, but between alliance operations and the corp activities – which all Razor pilots are free to join, by the way – I have a good mix of content that keeps things fresh.

And it’s exactly that which I find so intriguing about hunting in faction warfare space.  Razor has been involved in an endless series of deployments that put large fleet fights at the forefront – as you’d expect of null-sec – but that becomes boring after a while.  When you’re deployed near five or six hostile alliances, the fights tend to be either large scale or ganks, and it’s easy to rest on your laurels thinking you’re “l33t PvP” because you have a great killboard, though all your kills have more than twenty people on them.  You have to get back to your roots if you actually care about improving your PvP.

And faction warfare presents a good number of pilots who use a lot of the typical null-sec strategies – kiting, brawling, neuting, maintaining tackle until reinforcements arrive – without the annoyance of bubbles and bombing runs.  Sure, everything’s moving a little slower because of the AB fits, and the fits are cheaper, but it’s a great way to throw yourself into a lot of situations.  And that’s how you learn.  I bought fourteen Kestrels with fits, carried them over in an Iteron, and stocked myself for a good while for about 150 million.  That’s a lot of experience and education.

And as to the security status… let me say how delighted I was when CCP introduced tags 4 sec.

I’m usually pretty good at putting myself in unfamiliar situations and anticipating how I’ll feel and what I’ll face.  But one thing that surprised me about flying around in these T1 boats is exactly how free people are in engaging me.

Again, I’m used to flying Jaguars as my cheapest ship, and a lot of people run from assault frigates on principle.  Imagine my surprise when my target not only stays in his FW plex until I land, but actually engages me.  Well, it’s only slightly less than his surprise when my Kestrel kites his Enyo into the ground.

It’s a brave new world for me.  A lot of pilots still tend to believe T2 always beats T1.  But you should never use an axe if a scalpel will do.  Even more make the assumption that a pilot flying a T1 frigate or cruiser is less skilled than a T2 pilot.  Very few actually pull killboard data or check corp history to see how old an opponent is.  I feel like I’m hiding in plain sight.

I always checked killboards and employment history, but even I succumbed to that thinking.  Surely people who spent their time farming LP couldn’t know anything about PvP.  And yes, a lot of FW pilots do grind LP, fitting warp core stabilizers and cloaking up or running at the first sight of trouble.  But I’ve found another group wiling to engage in 1v1 fights who understand mechanics and know more about solo PvP than the vast majority of those I’ve come across.  Why can’t you farm LP for isk in an area of space that attracts exactly the PvP you’re looking for?

And when they see a T1 ship coming into them, it’s not as threatening as an interceptor or assault frigate.  Ultimately, you need to actually get into fights to learn from them.  It’s very boring reviewing a frapsed session of flying around chasing pilots that run away from your pimped out T2 ship.  Flying these T1 ships lets you tussle with a lot of folks quickly.  And in the past week, I’ve learned a lot more about PvP than in any week since – or in six months of being an F1 fleet member (or worse, an “assign drone” fleet member!).

And that’s what keeps me playing this game… the differentiated experiences it provides and the continual learning needed to keep up with it.

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