Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gallente Militia Hold Entire Warzone For the Second Time

Last night the final Caldari occupied system in the Caldari-Gallente low sec warzone fell to GalMil forces, leading to the second time the warzone has been controlled entirely by the Gallente.
From DotLAN maps.
For the record, the warzone once in the past was completely dominated by the Caldari.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Still Learning

With the Gallente Militia working together to take the entire warzone, I logged in last night to run my weekly fleet and found only nearby Heydieles and Ladistier systems the last holdouts. I organized the fleet starting with Algos destroyers supported by Navitas logistic frigates, and we headed out. There were many engagements but I'm going to cover the big fights.

#1 - UHurt fleet in Assault Frigates

We were in Heydieles and checking things out in Old Man Star when a scout reported fighting by other GalMil pilots in the large complex in Heydieless against Assault Frigates, apparently part of a UHURT fleet run by famous streamer SirSqueebles. I turned the fleet around and we warped to the plex only to find a metric crap-tonne of hostiles. In the ensuing fracas our fleet was overwhelmed and while we took down two Enyos, we lost 11 Algoses and a number of Navitas and Atrons.

Lesson Learned: Get a proper scout report before jumping into a fight.

#2 - Eve University Fleet in Cruisers

We reshipped into Algos and Exequorors and tried to engage that assault frigate once more but they had moved on. We had several near engagements with various other entities but then an Eve Uni fleet was spotted with a decent number of cruisers and logistic support of their own, so we upshipped to Vexors really quick and moved to engage them. With our allies in system piling on we completely smashed the fleet, killing 14 cruisers of the enemy while only losing an interceptor of our own (to the villianous Kelon Darklight none the less!). It was a perfect execution of our Rogue Squadron doctrine and the power of a practiced fleet execution. Props to Eve Uni for taking the fight in a system full of blood thirsty GalMil pilots.

#3 - Soul Takers in Battleships, Battlecruisers, and Cruisers

So things quieted down after Eve Uni was sent packing and we were back on the Old Man Star gate in Heydieles considering our next move. We were going to check out a Ghost site in Old Man Star so we jumped through .... only to have a Soul Taker gang land forty klicks away. Soul Takers, for the unawares, are the local serious pirate group that live in Old Man Star and though they have low numbers compared to other groups they compensate with blingy ships and excellent tactics.

This time was no exception as their fleet included Tech II cruiser logistics, about 4 or 5 battleships, 3 battlecruisers, and a number of other ships. After getting my bearing and letting our allies know there was a fight  happening, we engaged and focused our firepower on their first Guardian in an effort to remove their logistics. Then the smartbombs started and our drones, our main DPS, started to whither and die.

Sadly, I froze like a deer in headlights.

I've had lots of practice in small gangs and small fleets, but battleships with smartbombs? I didn't know what to do and the current action of banging on the Guardian was not working. Fortunately, Marcel was in fleet and overseeing the adventure and realized something needed to be done. He took over and gave the order to recall drones and start bumping the battleships away from the logi. Relieved that someone knew what to do I watched as the plan worked and we were able to send our remaining drones on the Guardian with the battleships out of the way and finally worked out a victory. We lost 2 Vexors, 2 Algoses, and 5 frigates (and an obscene number of pods) but we killed 2 battleships, 1 battlecruiser, and 2 Tech II Guardians and held the field.

Lesson learned: bump smartbombing battleships out of the way of the targets we want our drones to kill.

#4 - Templis CALSF in Cruisers

We went back to Fliet and repaired damage and reshipped as needed. There were reports of a rare Caldari militia fleet in system so we went back in and played cat and mouse with them for a bit. Finally we were at the Abune gate waiting for our scouts to find them when they landed about 80 kilometers from us, a Caracal fleet with logistics support from Scythes and some Moas.

Now we've engaged similar fleets before with our Rogue squadron cruiser doctrine and came away clean so I got a little overconfident and had the fleet charge at the enemy to get some tackle. I watched the kilometers flip by and I aimed at a juicy Moa, got the scram and ... "Kirith, you are out of range of our reps!"

Ah shit.

In my bloodlust, I forgot that our logistics could be outrun and put myself into a sticky situation that ended with my Ishtar exploding. I had Marcel take over the fleet while I ran back to Fliet and reshipped to a Vexor. I made it back with the fight still in progress. We lost 8 cruisers (7 Vexors and my Ishtar), 3 Algos, and 4 frigates and in return we killed 16 cruisers including a Cerberus. Good fight and props to Templis for bringing it.

Lesson Learned: Don't outrun your own logistics. Curb the bloodlust.

* * * * * *

After that we tried to get into a fight with a Black Legion fleet with Augoror Navy Issues and logsitics, but they were hesitant to engage our larger fleet and lost an Onerios while trying to evade us.

Despite getting in on a lot of kills for one night, it was not my best outing as a Fleet Commander. I'm getting better, but still need work in some areas.

Post Script:

Later that evening Heydieles fell to the GalMil forces. For the Federation!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Scouting

Scouting used to be one of my favourite activities in fleets prior to my goal to become a competent Fleet Commander and I thought I was decent enough at it after learning from many fleets in null and low sec over the years. But since moving to the FC role I've come to appreciate the differences between a good scout, a bad scout, and an excellent scout.

This post is intended to be a guide of what I want in a scout when I'm leading a fleet.

Movement

While the fleet is roaming or moving to a specific destination, scouts are often asked to fly ahead of the fleet to find targets to fight or hostiles to avoid. This is often referred as being the "plus one" as in being one jump ahead of the fleet. As a general rule of thumb, try stay ahead of the fleet enough so that they have warning time to evade a heavier force while at the same time trying to avoid getting so far out ahead of the fleet that there is room for something to get in between you and the fleet, i.e. being +2 or 3 jumps out. Preferably, my scout should be on the out gate and see the main fleet jumping in via local chat before he jumps into the next system; that keeps a chain of eyes on the systems between scout and fleet while giving the fleet a whole gate to gate warp range to react appropriately.

When in a system I don't need constant updates on where you are warping to if you are looking to scan a plex or a gate. But if you are going to check out a system not on the current route please let me know.

Jump In

When first entering a system, I like a concise report from the scout focusing on the closest things first and working outwards.
1) What's on grid?
2) Who's in Local chat? War targets, pirates, suspects, neutrals, friendlies broken down.
3) What's of interest on long scan?
And  if you can get a scan from where you are to some plexes or gates in the system, warp to a point where you can scan them and report from there.

And for faction warfare systems:
4) Number of open plexes, and if in scan range, what's in them.

Remember, you can hold cloak while doing all three of those things so if you jump into a hostile or neutral fleet, hold cloak and get those scans and numbers. The goal is to give the FC a complete picture as possible, as if they were there with you, so that they can make a decision about how to proceed properly. Incomplete information can lead to bad situations.

Handy Hint: Don't be afraid to drag characters from local chat into fleet chat (I keep them side by side for this reason) so that the FC can see who it is in that ship you just found, especially corp and alliance. Very useful for "neutrals".
Handy Hint: If there is a hostile on grid with you, check local for his corp/alliance mates. Sometimes neutrals are neutrals, sometimes they are backup for the bait.

The Hunt

When trying to find a target ship or fleet in a system, you need to give lots of information so the FC can keep up on the situation. A running commentary is not out of place; "Warping to XYZ gate," "see three Ishtars on scan towards sun," "trying the ABC gate now," "I got a war target in a Moa on the ABC gate at zero, nothing on scan, and he's burning towards me."; these are examples of a good scout report. The FC knows that there is three Ishtars in space somewhere and that the Moa might be bait, but that the Ishtars are not nearby.

When you get on grid with the enemy, remember that your role is Scout first, tackle second. Try to stay alive so you can continue to be the eyes for the fleet. Don't go in and get a tackle and then scream on comms for help, it will arrive too late most of the time. Coordinate with the FC and they can be ready or even send in a backup to help you out. Most foes won't bolt at the sign of one extra in local if they are geared to fight, but a second point to allow you to run is often all that's needed to allow the fleet to get there.

Report ranges and directions. If you have a potential fight at a plex, let the FC know how many AU it is from the gate to the system where the fleet is. If a target is on grid with you, number of kilometers and direction towards a celestial can make for a possible bounce and drop on the target for tackle.

Once engaged in a fight, remember your goal is to stay alive. If the target gets away because you need to burn off, that's OK. There will be more fights, but you might be the last good scout.

Also, sometimes the FC will ask you to do something that puts you at risk, like jumping into a gate camp or trailing closely behind an enemy fleet. Although your goal is to stay alive, the reason we use scouts is because its less costly to lose a scout than it is to whelp the fleet. If you die while scouting, make sure you let the FC know and go reship.

Handy Hint: Watch out for squirrel chasing. A small gang of 5-7 frigates might like to chase every war target and pirate ship they see, but a larger heavier fleet is looking for a bigger fight. Try to focus and make sure you and the FC agree before chasing after every possible target.

Communication

Sometimes a fleet will require multiple scouts, especially when searching multiple systems for a target ship/fleet. When this happens you need to continue giving clear and concise reports but also including the system name and your name, i.e. report in third person. For example,
"Kirith jumping into Deven, three in local, two war targets and one pie, names linked in fleet chat. Nothing on scan, two plexes, a small and a novice, out of scan range."

Later on, if you find a target, you need to reiterate who and where you are. As a bad example:
"I have a moa jumping through, following!"

Even though the scout might have said "warping to Suj gate in Nagamenmen" a few seconds ago, the context might have been lost by the time the FC got the recent message. Instead:

"Kirith, in Nagamenmem, on the Sujarento gate with war target Moa who is jumping through to Suj. Following..."

Now the FC knows the context and location and can respond appropriately, whether its calling you back or sending reinforcements.

Handy Hint: If you need to get the attention of the FC and quiet everyone else, say "BREAK BREAK!" followed by your intel.

Tools of the Trade

There are a number of ships that can be used for scouting with their strengths and weaknesses.

Tech 1 Attack Frigates - Fast and cheap, these are common scouts in low sec as they are hard to catch at gates and cheap to replace and easy for new pilots to get into. Very fragile.

Tech 1 Disruption Frigates - The Maulus or Griffin especially use their e-war capabilities as their tank and tackle unsuspecting enemies for the fleet. Advanced tactics, don't try this at home ;)

Tech 2 Interceptors - Fast with better bonuses to tank, damage, and tackling, as well as that handy immune to bubbles thing for travelling in low sec. Still fragile and expensive.

Tech 2 Covert Ops / Stealth Bombers - Fast, agile, and can warp cloaked! Very handy for spying on the enemy fleet without them knowing you are there, so can get good warp ins for surprise tackle. On the downside they are super fragile once uncloaked and don't have bonuses for pointing things. Also, expensive in comparison to Tech 1 frigates as well.

Tech 2 Recon Cruiser - Warped while cloaked like the Covert Ops frigates but far more dangerous and tanky. Plus, the Gallente recons have bonuses to warp disruptor and scrambler ranges for the extra surprise tackles! However, super expensive compared to frigates and their durability becomes moot if you get stomped on by a fleet of enemy ships (even a handful of good Tech 1 frigates can ruin you).

Bait Scout - Dual role ships in which the scout is also the bait! Accomplished by heavily tanked cruisers or bigger, they scout just like normal but instead of tackling the enemy directly they let the enemy tackle them. Then throw a point and web on the most expensive things you can reach and call in the cavalry. Slower than other scouts and no defense for when you get in over your head. And more expensive than frigates.

Anything - Basically any ship can act as a scout as long as its expendable and the pilot knows how to report good intel.

* * * * *

Leave comments for your hints and tricks for scouts.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Unnecessary Limitations

I'm back from the wilds of Eastern Ontario and while I was getting high on nature (or the smoke fumes from the campfire) I was struck by an epiphany that I just had to share. I'm going to describe what I think is the state of the game in terms of one mechanic, then point out why this is a problematic state of affairs vis a vis new players versus veteran players, and finally I will propose a solution to this identified problem that will probably be very unpopular to the general playerbase.

Ready? Let's go!

* * * * *

Question: What is required to effectively own and pilot a ship?

Answer: There are three things you need.

First, you must have the skill points to be allowed to not only sit in the ship itself and not only to fit the appropriate modules but also the core skills that affect a ship's properties for fitting, tanking, offensiveness, and movement.

Second, you need enough ISK to afford the ship and its modules and its charges as well as enough ISK to cover its loss. I don't subscribe to the school of thought that you should have enough ISK to replace every loss but you should be comfortable enough losing a ship to not be crippled by it. I made that mistake once.

Finally, to be effective in a ship you need experience in flying it (or a ship very similar) and using its modules which usually involves some losses and missteps (more for some than others) until you become proficient.

Whether you are a one day old newbie or a 7 year veteran, these three things are a constant prerequisite for being effective in every ship in the game (1). On the surface this seems reasonable as it limits progression evenly for players to advance in a logical manner: newer players can become effective in small cheap ships that require few skill points while older players require ever increasing amounts of skill points and ISK to get into larger and more powerful ships.

Actually its not quite that clear cut and to explain why let's look at the skill list required by a new player to sit in and undock in my favourite frigate, the Incursus with my usual blaster and dual rep setup.

Gallente Frigate I
Small Hybrid Turret V
Motion Prediction III
Small Blaster Specialization I
Afterburner III
High Speed Maneuvering III
Propulsion Jamming II
Capacitor Systems Operation III
Repair Systems III
Mechanics III
Hull Upgrades I
Jury Rigging III
Armor Rigging I
Drones III
Light Drone Operation V
Drones V
Gallente Drone Specialization I

This is the bare minimum and does not include all the helper skills to improve fitting, cap use, hit points, ranges, tracking speeds, damage, etc. Now let's look at the bare minimum requirements for a player to get into a Thorax cruiser with similar fitting philosophy.

Gallente Frigate I
Small Hybrid Turret V
Motion Prediction III
Small Blaster Specialization I
Afterburner III
High Speed Maneuvering III
Propulsion Jamming II
Capacitor Systems Operation III
Repair Systems III
Mechanics III
Hull Upgrades I
Jury Rigging III
Armor Rigging I
Drones III
Light Drone Operation V
Drones V
Gallente Drone Specialization I
+
Gallente Frigate III
Gallente Destroyer III
Gallente Cruiser I
High Speed Maneuvering IV
Gunnery III
Medium Hybrid Turret V
Motion Prediction IV
Medium Blaster Specialization I
Medium Drone Operation V
Mechanics IV
Repair Systems IV

The number of additional skills for the bigger ship, guns, and drones is relatively smaller. Yes, they have more points and higher training times, but there is no additional hidden support skills to include either. Now let's look at a Megathron Battleship with same blaster concept:

Gallente Frigate I
Small Hybrid Turret V
Motion Prediction III
Small Blaster Specialization I
Afterburner III
High Speed Maneuvering III
Propulsion Jamming II
Capacitor Systems Operation III
Repair Systems III
Mechanics III
Hull Upgrades I
Jury Rigging III
Armor Rigging I
Drones III
Light Drone Operation V
Drones V
Gallente Drone Specialization I
Gallente Frigate III
Gallente Destroyer III
Gallente Cruiser I
High Speed Maneuvering IV
Gunnery III
Medium Hybrid Turret V
Motion Prediction IV
Medium Blaster Specialization I
Medium Drone Operation V
Mechanics IV
Repair Systems IV
+
Gallente Battlecruiser III
Gallente Battleship I
Heavy Drone Operation V
Gunnery V
Large Hybrid Turret V
Motion Prediction V
Large Blaster Specialization I
Mechanics V

Again, the skills have higher time investment to achieve but again the list of additional supporting skills is zero and the list of skills to get into a battleship is low compared to the original list of skills and hidden supporting skills to get into the Incursus.

Here's the rub: Although the training times to train the higher ranked skills are much higher, there are a vast number of supporting skills that a newer player has to train to be equally effective in their frigate that a veteran player already has trained for their battleship (or Tech II frigate, or super capital, or faction cruiser, ad nauseum).

In fact, I went through and added all the support skills I could reasonably identify that a players should train to make themselves move effective in that Incursus and added them to the plan to only level IV and it took the original base plan of ~23 days to 97 days. That means no support skills to level V.

But once that player has done that training, its done forever for any other ship they want to fly. That extra 74 days of support skills does not have to be trained for the Thorax or Megathron once its been trained for the new pilot. It takes longer for a new player to get all those support skills to level IV than it takes the Thorax pilot to sit in a Megathron with Tech II Neutron Blaster Cannons. Going from an Incursus to sitting in a Thorax takes less than half that time.

Support skills are a penalty to new players for being new. And this contributes directly to the horrible retention rate of new players in EVE online.

How many of you remember the Learning Skills? The same arguments for getting rid of them really apply to a lot of these skills that do very little but improve stats on modules and ships once trained and apply to most of the ships in the game. For example, Mechanics that adds 5% extra hull point per level, or Weapon Upgrades that reduces CPU needs of weapons by 5% per level, or Drone Interfacing that gives 10% damage or mining yield per level. Once a player has trained them, they apply to so many ships and situations that it becomes manadatory to have them trained to at least level IV. In other words, we penalize new players for not having these near universal skills trained out of the gate, and we penalize them in an environment where their competition includes multi-year veterans who trained these skills years ago.

No wonder people don't stick around!

Here is a hypothetical situation to highlight this tragedy. Let's say a new faction of ships was added tomorrow with its own frigates and cruisers and battleships, call them The Jovians. They have their own skill books for the ships like Jove Frigate and Jove Cruiser, etc. For me to cross train and become effective in a Jove frigate it would take mere days since I have all the support skills and weapon skills trained up being a multi-year veteran. A new player getting starting out in the Jove frigate line would require at least 100 days to even have a hope of coming close to my base statistics while flying the ship, and that ignores the advantages I have in ISK reserves and experience. And there is no way to reduce that time limit.

Over three months to even hope to be almost competitive for a Tech I frigate.

Forget about the learning cliff, we are literally stabbing newbies with a knife several times and tossing their bleeding and wounded bodies into a shark tank. With a plastic spoon for defense. The real miracle of EVE online is that its managed to survive ten years! Actually we know why EVE has managed to survive all this time, its because of the heroic efforts of many players and organizations to protect and nuture new players through this painful and unnecessary phase of learning the game, getting the ISK, and training the support skills to be effective. And its time to make their job easier by removing one of those limitations.

I encourage CCP to look into getting rid of the support skill grind. Level the playing field for new players by putting those bonuses they provide right into the ships and modules from the start and just remove the skills. Alternatively, start all players with a few million skill points and all the support skills trained to IV or V (preferably the latter). There are a zillion ways veterans have advantages in terms of ISK for faction mods, implants, boosters as well as the sheer experience advantage, so penalizing new players with lower stats adds insult to injury.

Come on CCP, do the right thing. Its better for everyone.

UPDATE:  Ripard Teg brought this up before in the winter.

1- Barring rookie ships which are free and come with skill-less modules.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Summer Vacation - Going Silent For Two Weeks

I'm off on some serious vacation for the next two weeks so the blog will be silent until August 18th or thereabouts.

Fly Safe! o7

Project Vulcan - Crius Aftermath

So I've completed my initial analysis of how the new industry changes in Crius will impact my Archon building enterprise and come to the conclusion that everything for now will be fine.

The blueprint changes caused my mineral requirements for a single ship to grow:

Old Requirements:
Tritanium51,869,850
Pyerite12,696,300
Mexallon4,716,339
Isogen740,691
Nocxium209,801
Megacyte16,177
Zydrine37,674

New Requirements:
Tritanium55,781,078
Pyerite13,667,030
Mexallon5,067,414
Isogen797,995
Nocxium226,258
Megacyte17,578
Zydrine40,593
The actual requirements on the component BPOs went down slightly, but the Archon blueprint required a few extra components. Fortunately, mineral prices have been falling so the impact has only been around 15 million ISK. The factory costs in my quiet low sec system have had an impact, adding an additional 13 million ISK for the component and ship factory costs. So overall my costs have grown 28 million ISK per unit. 

On the other hand, ship prices in my region have been steadily climbing with the last Archon I sold going for 1,395,000,000 ISK which I was quite pleased with, and gave me my highest profit margin yet since it was built with the old costs. 

So right now I plan to continue operation as normal and keep my eye on the mineral prices, factory costs, and Archon prices.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Crius Industry - Setting Up Jobs So Nice

So this morning I got my new load of minerals to the station and set out to install my component jobs.

It was so easy to set up the jobs in a fraction of the time and clicks it used to take me. I was so pleased. You can tell they spent a lot of time thinking about the industry interface and its a stark contrast to the fucked up piece of shit that the Team interface is. (Excuse my french... as a GUI developer it pisses me off)

For my station in low sec it looks to cost about 5-6 million ISK for the factory rental costs for the components, and another 8 million ISK for the Archon factory rental cost. Nothing too disturbing. So far my margins are looking just fine which also please me and means I can continue my operation.

Although I'm losing a large number of cyno ships lately. Sigh.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Questionable Origin

Over at the Stabbed Up blog the author, Stabs, makes a serious accusation:

Well that looks familiar...
A few days ago I posted a summary of a battle I was in on Reddit.
Yesterday a rewritten version appeared uncredited on TMC.

A snarky comment, that I appear to have written my first TMC article, was censored.
Ho hum.
Since TheMitanni.com purports to be a serious video game news site, I felt it was worth looking into this article of questionable origin to see if Stabs had a case or if he was suffering from delusions of grandeur.

I went to the reddit post and the article in question and copied the text to Notepad++ to compare them side by side. A read-through of both at once revealed some startling similarities. While I realize that two reports of the same battle will describe the same events in the same order, I was struck by the similar beats of the texts and the order of subjects in the sentences.

Take a look, Stab's post on the left and the article on the right:
Click for full size.
I highlighted the paragraphs that describe the same events. Notice that in the majority of them the events are described in different words but the same way. It has the appearance that someone took the reddit post and fleshed it out with a few changes, more words, and a few extra sections on the countering of fleet doctrines.

It could be coincidence because after all the events in a battle are fixed and there are only so many ways to describe such a sequence of events. But my gut reaction as a long time writer of this blog, writer for EON Magazine, and writer/editor for the old EVE Tribune website is that this is at best a case of the TMC article writer being heavily inspired by the reddit post by Stabs, and at worst an unattributed steal of the framework for the article.

My recommendation to the editors at TMC is that they review this case themselves and implement policy's to discourage heavy borrowing of other people's work without attribution or permission. EDIT: If they have not done so already, which they probably have to be fair.


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