Thursday, October 15, 2015

Pyrrhic Victory

What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Before reading this post, I’d like you to consider something for me.  Why do you PvP?  What do you measure as success?  In two months, what does improvement look like for you?  What satisfaction do you derive from it?

What is your goal with your PvP?  Do you simply want to “kill all the things”, no matter the means?  Do you remember certain fights more fondly than others?  Are you in it for statistics only – kill/death ratios, efficiency, total kill amounts, total value killed, etc? 

What do you want?

I can’t answer that for you, but when you look at yourself honestly, you’ll come to it yourself.  Lying to yourself won’t help… in fact, it’ll cause cognitive dissonance that might cause you to waste large amounts of time on in-game experiences you don’t find valuable.  There really isn’t a wrong answer.

I can provide my answer, though.  About 50% of me wants to have an enjoyable experience, while the other 50% wants to improve my Eve PvP skills and decision-making.  I’m not a pure “elite skills” person who will charge headlong into every situation regardless of risk; dying to obviously unfavorable fights isn’t enjoyable to me.  My desire to improve myself is tempered by the form of the tempering.

I recognize that about myself… I hamstring my PvP education by letting emotions and “touchy feelies” get in the way.  I’ll never be the best PvP pilot out there, no matter how hard I try.  But I do cultivate the desire to improve.

As a consequence to that, I’m always on the look for the noble fight, the balanced engagement where each side stands a chance of victory, a victory achieved by the aggregate of all of the decisions each party makes.  I search for the battles that result either in a victory worthy of a triumph or a glorious death worthy of a saga.

Those kinds of fights don’t happen every day.  Too often, we face either blobs or executions, depending on which side of the blob you’re on.  So much content consists of one side bludgeoning the other.  Large fleet fights are decided prior to their actual fighting.  Most fighting null-sec consists either of objective-based fleet fights that are entirely predictable or ratter and miner ganking where the aggressors get lucky and face no real resistance.

I look for the kinds of fights that rest within a narrow spectrum on the power continuum, where attacker and defender capability are well matched.  It’s a sort of “goldilocks zone” for PvP.  Too far in one direction and the defender has no chance, too far and the attacker is making a stupid decision.

These kinds of fights are rare in Eve these days.  More often than not, pilots are running links, waiting to hot-drop, or part of a blob just waiting to drop on you.  There certainly shouldn’t be any honor in Eve; not knowing what can happen is part of the fun, and any set of artificial rules imposed on player interactions would take away that mystique.  But at the same time, I don’t derive much enjoyment from killing an Atron with my Rapier.  And yet, I’m still playing for the experience, so I will take that fight.  It’s not very satisfying, but neither is water and I drink plenty of that.

In most cases, I don’t understand why someone PvPs regularly with a boosting alt, though.  For me, links are cheating, providing a hidden advantage that serves as a “get out of jail free” card.  If you’re in a Harpy fighting another Harpy, your opponent has no chance if you have links.  It’s a different story if you’re facing a whole gang, though.  Countering an attempt to blob you with a boosting alt is only balancing the scales and pushing the engagement closer to a fair fight.  As with everything, it’s relative.

But habitually flying with a boosting alt can have real effects on your PvP ability.  It can become a crutch that gives you a poor sense the relative strength of your fits, flying, and habits in relation to your opponents.  And that can have a very negative effect on your PvP.

Let me put this in another light.  Let’s say you own two characters.  Your first is a PvP main with excellent trained skills that provide optimal bonuses (defined in this case as lacking only the relevant weapon specialization to V).  You’re comfortable flying with this character, and you spend most of your time using this character.  You’ve gotten in thousands of fights with them, and know their capabilities well.

You then buy a novice character on the bazaar that doesn’t have those core and support skills trained as well, yet you pull over some of your fits from your main to use with this new character.  When you take that character out for some solo PvP, you’re utterly decimated.  Your speed is just too low to maintain range appropriately.  Your damage projection is off by just enough to reduce your dps significantly.  Your capacitor skills aren’t maxed and you cap out well before you expected to.

In other words, you had an inaccurate assessment of your power relative to your enemy.  For the purposes of flying that character, you “learned wrong”.

This is the same effect boosting links can have on your piloting.  You’ll grow accustomed to getting 160 ehp per repair cycle instead of 146.  You’ll learn to time your manual piloting adjustments to your boosted speed and not your native speed, making you misjudge your angles and fly too close when not boosted.  You’ll grow used to having a wide margin of error when staying within boosted scram range, and let targets escape when you aren’t boosted.

Flying with boosts may start out as a way to counter blobs, but in so doing, you’ll establish habits and patterns of flying that rely upon them.  When that happens, links change from being an equalizer to a crutch.  It becomes a requirement that weakens our individual skill.  You won’t learn how to maintain a narrow window of engagement ranges.  You won’t develop a keen sense of when it’s time to bail.  You’ll overestimate your ship’s capabilities and lose them embarrassingly.

If your goal is to improve your flying, using links will achieve the opposite.  If your goal is experience close fights, using links will make them more rare.

If your goal is to win by any means and regardless of the value of that win, links will achieve that goal.  But will those victories mean anything when you know they came from an unbalanced advantage?  This is where knowing yourself comes in.  For me, the challenge defines the value.  What I achieve too cheaply, I esteem too lightly.

What do you value?


  1. Nice post. I have found myself rethinking my targets recently, and taking more risks. Too much research and caution ends up with fights up confident of winning. More risk has led to some fun fights and surprising wins.

  2. I value the demoralizing defeat of another FC.
    Don't get me wrong, I like the occasional bit of solo PvP, or going out hunting with just my girlfriend.
    But fleet combat is where it's really at for me. Knowing your fleet, your doctrine, the strengths and weaknesses of every ship you have, and every ship you face. Going into a fight with not just your ISK and your Killboard stats on the line, but rather the ISK and stats of multiple people that depend on you, rely on you and expect you to live up to this trust.

    In solo PvP i still get the shakes after every fight. I always need to lean back for a moment, take a deep breath and calm myself. But that is nothing compared to the feeling I get after FCing a fleetfight. Win or lose, when I say "dock yourselfes up, fleet's over, thanks for coming" my hands start shaking and i will RUN for the bathroom. And I won't get rid of that adrenaline high for at least an hour.

    This high, for me, comes from the trust of an entire fleet. The responsibility and knowledge that every decision made affects sometimes a dozen, sometimes a hundred and sometimes more people. And in the end my definition of success and progress is the fact that these monkeys still fly with me. I call a fleet, and they come. Therefore my goal is simple: Keep earning my fleet's trust, while utterly destroying the enemy fleet's trust in their FC.

    That, my friends, is the smell of victory. Monkeys flinging Poo in Space. Because I tell them to.

  3. You want to find the memorable balanced fights. Good.

    If you find that most people are flying with links, then the way to get these memorable balanced fights is to fly with links as well. Or is a memorable balanced fight where you both had links somehow not as "worthy" as the memorable balanced fight where neither of you had links?

  4. So your recent 40 man mach fleet shooting 10 men dropbear pos defenders is also skill improvement?
    You also forgot to mention that one can be using links to withstand few against blob.

    This post do contain some sense, but please don't be that single-minded.

    P.m. from -nano

  5. Well, I see two questions here. Addressing OGB first, since it's the simplest. OGB is P2W, or rather, pay to max your stats. I don't see any need to dress it up. CCP continues to support it because it keeps the lights on. They could add risk by having links or processors decrease sensor strength or increase signature.

    The more interesting question is what constitutes meaningful conflict. I cannot get inside the head of the FW guy who works really hard to evade faction police in high sec and camp gates, and uses alts to keep an eye on potential targets. The losses or wins would be meaningless to me. I've never gotten the shakes. A lost ship is just ammunition. It all equates to spent time to me, so a win is essentially just as much a tax as a loss. Killboards exist for no reason other than free intel, if you even care.

    No, what I care about is making enemies, or at least competitors. Ships are just a tool, a means to an end. I find it incredibly disappointing that I can make tens of billions of isk without making a single opponent, even a transient one. There are no tangible interests or cartels operating on the market in most sectors. Wherever there is real scarcity, CCP gets involved to ameliorate it. Everytime I re-enter the game, I just remember why I left in the last time. The enemy is always faceless, he doesn't care about the competition, and he has to volunteer to have any semblance of an interest. To me, that's just half-hearted and not worth the effort of making a plan, or seeking resources to put it in motion.

    Your fleets are disposable, the space you claim has even less value to you than the fleet you just formed. Why would I want to show up? It's nothing more than a fun tax.

    I'm hopeful that structures can change this, but I'm not optimistic.