Saturday, February 14, 2015

Lessons: Assumptions

To some extent, we all have to make assumptions.  Those assumptions might be as simple as, “The passersby aren’t going to shoot me,” or “Drivers will follow the rules of the road.”  Or, they might be as uncertain as, “I’m going to stand up to this hulking bully, and he’ll back down.”

Now, those are obvious examples.  But in most cases, useful assumptions look exactly like bad ones.  They always look reasonable when we make them, and we can always justify them with some semblance of logic.

The devil of it is… we need to assume certain things.  In fact, we absolutely cannot exist without assuming.  The very fact that we can separate one group of atoms from another and call one “chair” and the other “floor” is an assumption.

In Eve, we estimate the way enemy ships are fitted based on our experience and the likelihood of us being correct.  If you find a Kestrel in a faction warfare site, you’re going to assume he’s light missile fit and will attempt to kite you.  And you’re probably right.

Except for when you’re not, he’s rocket fit, and moves in close to scram you.  I hope you weren’t flying an arty ship…

Assumptions can kill you in Eve.  The very nature of the game is that you can never be 100% certain of victory.  Sure, you can fly with links and expensive implants – and that certainly helps – but you still aren’t guaranteed.  Flying against the grain, either by tactic or fitting meta, is insanely stupid in the novice and insanely intelligent in the knowledgeable veteran.

I’ve made the claim on and off that I felt the Confessor could take out any single frigate in the game easily, and very likely at least two frigates by itself.  I felt that Propulsion mode gave enough of a speed advantage that it could dictate range, and Defensive mode managed the tank.

One of my corpmates, Aetius Saissore, was curious how long his Hawk could last against my Confessor, so we decided to try it out.  I went into it expecting my Confessor to tear him apart, but I wanted to test the ship in the least favorable reasonable scenario I might find myself in.  Aetius used one of his usual fits with an omni tank he might use when roaming, instead of fitting a heavy EM tank to fight laser boats.  I knew nothing else about his fit when the fight began.

The Confessor fit I used was the following:

Pseudoelectron Containment Field I
Heat Sink II
200mm Reinforced Steel Plates II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Co-Processor II

Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
Faint Warp Disruptor I

Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Conflagration S
Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Conflagration S
Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Conflagration S
Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Conflagration S
Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Conflagration S
Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Conflagration S
Expanded Probe Launcher I, Sisters Combat Scanner Probe

Small Trimark Armor Pump I
Small Trimark Armor Pump I
Small Energy Collision Accelerator I

We decided to start the fight at zero.  Normally, if I was a rocket or light missile ship, I’d keep out of scram/web range and kit him with Scorch.  But I wanted to test the ship against unfavorable circumstances.  I did assume, though, that I’d be facing a web/scram when we decided to go at zero.  But I didn’t want to counter-fit based on knowledge I wouldn’t have during a normal fight.

I started in Sharpshooter mode to gain a target lock first, and I applied my web and scram as I swapped to Defensive mode.  When I saw the web and scram from Aetius’ ship hit me, I wasn’t particularly surprised.  Then his rockets started hitting me.  At first, I felt pretty confident, as I dropped his shields to 30% with my first two rounds.

When his ASB quickly boosted his shield back up, I realized what I was facing.  I checked his speed and saw him at afterburner speed, so I could guess at his fit… AB-scram-web-dual medium ASB in the mids, and rockets in the highs, with probably some fitting modules in the low slots to fit both of those mASBs.

I wasn’t too worried at first, since I was putting out 423 dps.  I tend to fly shield ships a lot, so when the shields in my armor-fit Confessor dropped quickly, I was a bit alarmed.  But my armor buffer was doing well.

But, despite all that, every time I did some damage to his shields, Aetius repped them up again.  A quick burst of overheating on my lasers brought him to 50% armor, but there it held (I had to stop before I burned out).  He was tanking me.

I couldn’t believe my eyes… my tracking was fine, the range was within optimal, and Aetius’ incoming dps wasn’t much.  But I couldn’t break him within web-scram range.

We stopped the fight in structure (sorry, mates, no kill mails today!), with me feeling a good bit more humble from the experience.

Then Aetius announced he had taken drugs and have a full set of mid-grade Crystal implants (including the Omega) and had taken a standard blue pill.  Combined, they doubled his rep strength, giving him 322 shield per cycle.

Sparring is about finding your limits and seeing how far you can push your ship.  And through that fight, I learned that a Confessor isn’t as powerful as I thought.  Links, implants, and boosters can massively affect the abilities of your opponent in ways you can’t immediately see.

Sure, all we proved is that an armor buffer-tanked Confessor can’t take an implanted, drugged dual-ASB Hawk engaging within scram/web range and fitting an AB... that’s a very specific set of circumstances.  But all of that was done with a single pilot without links.  And that’s an important thing to learn.

Every ship has its limits, and it’s easy to assume you know who will win a fight based on ship stats alone.  But that assumption, more often than not, is wrong.  In that fight, with those circumstances, Aetius beat my Confessor with a Hawk – a fight I assumed I’d win easily; I even told him ahead of time, “I’m curious to see how much I win by,” – and that fact alone reminded me that assumptions, while necessary, are a slippery slope that can easily lead to very embarrassing losses.

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