Monday, January 13, 2014

Is There a Secret Method to FCing?

Here is my AAR from last night's outing with me as FC:

I logged on last night just after8pm my time and created a fleet. Got a few Aideron members in it so that there was four of us and adverted the fleet in militia channel. Unfortunately we were competeing with two other fleets flogging teh channel for join ups and the few that tried us saw Mumble and were put off.   
At one point the other small fleet fighting in and around Heyd tried to join us but saw we had Mumble as our comms and left. Since we weren't getting any momentum and lost a couple ships to destroyers in Heyd and a Hookbill in Ladister, I stood our fleet down and moved over to teamspeak to join the Heyd fleet being run by Raktak Takrak. With our numbers we were about 10-11 frigs.  
We moved back into Heyd and I entered a plex whereupon the locals, Pyre Falcon Defense Combine, sent in a bait Venture. We took the bait and a fight brewed but their Merlins backed by a Griffin, spanked our logistics-less fleet pretty bad.   
At this point Rattak stood down as FC and more than half the fleet dispersed. It was 9:30 my time I was having a bad night with  but I asked myself, "What Would Marcel Do?" and I decided to take the reins of another seemingly doomed fleet and try again.  
We stayed on teamspeak, set up a new advert, and flogged for pilots. We headed over the Ladister where Salan Steel of OLD MAN GANG in a Hookbill caught us on a plex gate and I engaged when half the fleet was in the plex and the rest of us were out. Almost had that Hookbill but he killed the two of us and escaped. Drat! So close. One more reship... 

The fleet had grown to about 8-10 of us with a couple Navitas (thanks Huard and Serenalen!!) and we moved into Heyd for one more Novice. As my scout warped into the plex the Pyre Falcon Defense Combine attacked at the same time and we engaged them in the plex, this time driving them off as we killed a Tormentor and Punisher. The four hostiles reshipped to three Merlins and a Condor and 8 minutes later barreled into us again. We lost an Atron and Navistas but killed all four hostiles and held the plex. Thank you logi! 
At this point it was around 10:30 my time so I turned the fleet over the Huard (who, from the killboard, looks like he had a fun run in with the PFDC again!) and logged.  
Good: Fun fight at the end, kept my cool and didn't panic.
Bad: Still kicking myself over engaging that OMG Hookbill instead of sliding in and trying to lure him into more of us.
Ugly: How, as an FC, does one call targets and watch for enemy reinforcements AND keep an eye on our fleet's status, AND keep the logi protected? I feel like I'm being torn into two trying to direct the attack and still keep and eye on the whole situation. Any advice?

As an FC, I'm feeling more comfortable all the time with the decision making process of guiding a fleet. had an excellent article about the process. So I'm at the point where observing-deciding-acting without freezing is coming more naturally without the adrenaline nerves hitting so hard.

But my problem now is trying to get all the information I need in a fight to make accurate decisions. After all, I'm trying to:
- call targets
- pilot my own ship
- watch for hostile reinforcements / second waves
- watch how my fleet is doing
- watch what the enemy is trying to do
- watch what my fleet is doing

It all gets very overwhelming and I feel I end up dropping the ball. Last night I was fortunately that the fleet was able to win against the Merlins but what if it was a closer fight or the enemy bought an Ewar or Logi of their own? I need to know more, see more, to make better decisions.

One idea I had was to make use of my watch list to put the logi and main DPS ships in it to watch their tanking levels rather than switching my overview to show friendly ships instead of just hostiles. Another idea is to have two tabs, one for evaluating the enemy fleet and one for the friendly fleet.

But I must be reinventing the wheel here. How do experienced FCs do it?


  1. I don't know how the experienced FC's do it, but I'm convinced that information overload is one of the key issues that EVE has to tackle if it's going to get over the hump or whatever it is. The near-parody spreadsheet screenshots of the EVE client - windows all over everywhere - are probably too close to reality for comfort; if you want to be effective, you've got to ignore everything except the numbers, crowding out the "out-the-window" view, concentrating on the numeric readouts like the Apollo flight controllers were doing in Houston during the moon shots ... or like the old text-based Star Trek starship combat games.

    And when you've got to pilot your ship at the same time, especially manually like what you often have to do in light-ship combat (and the supercap pilots don't have to worry about), it's way too easy for someone to short-circuit your OODA loop...

  2. A few suggestions:
    * You should not / cannot worry about your logi. Pilots flying logi should pilot themselves, or in large fleets may need a separate logi anchor / FC.
    * Choose ships that are FC friendly, ie require less piloting intensive skill or are well suited for putting you where you want to be - on the edge of the fight or right in the middle, depending on the comp. Specific ships depends on what you're flying, but in frig gangs, a light missile ship is particularly good as you don't have to exert high effort to apply dps. Caracals and cerbs make good similar ships in higher class fleets. Don't pick high value primary ships. For example, daredevil or dictor is bad, instant primary.
    * Use a 2nd tab including friendlies to tab over to very quickly if need be, but tbh I almost never do this in an actual fight, more for checking if everyone on a gate or something.
    * Your fleet should help you monitor things like hostile reinforcements, scans, etc. The main thing ALL pilots should look for is local spiking, of course. If you think something is bait, tell a pilot or two (or the fleet) to keep an eye on 360.

    Lastly - try to build a sense of how your fleet should operate (are you short range or long, how much dps can you tank, etc), and more importantly, what a given enemy you encounter is likely to want to do. This requires rapidly putting yourself in the other guys shoes. Rapid reaction is great, but really only works well if you have a hypothesis on what they're trying to do to begin with. Refine your hypothesis as more info comes in, but from first contact you should already be thinking 'I think that's a scout' or 'ratter/plexer, get 'em'. This requires fast, concise, accurate intel from your scout - in a small gang setting scouts should be FCs in training (and vice versa, if you want to learn to FC, scout), so they can give high value intel and anticipate orders.

    Knowing your fleet is good, knowing the enemy fleet is better, but being able to predict what what the enemy are likely to do is best. This is missing from the TheMitanni article, and, to use the ooda fighter pilot analogy, is the difference between being a fighter pilot and the commander back in the aircraft carrier. The pilots have to react, fast. But the FC needs to be predicting, so he can coordinate the whole fleet and be a step ahead of the enemy, instead of just reacting.

  3. The OODA Loop is great and all, but the primary piece of advice I can give is something I was taught in FC school years and years ago. It is a rather simple piece of advice that has helped me FC large fleets and small gangs since.

    It is this, always be ahead of your fleet. Your pilots are living the here and now, you are living the next. Where do you want to be next? Prepare your guys for what is next, before it happens.

    I'm always telling my guys what I want them to do before we do it. We are jumping this gate, hold cloak, align to the sun, the logi will be primary. To my guys, I live in the future. This attitude instills confidence, relays orders, and prepares them for what is coming. And yes, of course the OODA Loops, and changing conditions get confusing, intel is pouring in, things change, ships die, but I've already prepared the fleet for that. We are already ready.

    And no it doesn't always work, nothing does. But being ahead is better than being behind.

  4. There's a wonderful moment in Dune where early on they stop for the night Paul asks his father why he doesn't give his men instructions on what to do. Duke Leto replies they know how to set up camp and if I tell them once they will always need to be told from now on.

    Your pilots can figure a lot out for themselves. Especially low sec pilots as opposed to us nullsec F1 monkeys. Just position position position. If you're too busy to call primaries tell them free fire or free fire by range but the key is position. You always want to be positioned optimally for your weapons and detrimentally for your opponents' weapons and so that you can leave if you have to (aligned, orbiting a gate 500 etc).

    If you position your guys right that's most of it.

    Also don't be afraid to spend your fleet's ships to learn to fc. Especially cheap frigs. Most people would pay a dozen frigs to gain a kick ass FC.

  5. You're taking too much onto your own shoulders as an FC. Sure, you should be ready to do, and often do, a lot of things... but you don't have to do everything.


    After all, I'm trying to:
    - call targets
    - pilot my own ship
    - watch for hostile reinforcements / second waves
    - watch how my fleet is doing
    - watch what the enemy is trying to do
    - watch what my fleet is doing

    Call targets -- You usually do this as the FC. This is generally your job. Sometimes in large fleets, or if you have a competent second and need to be able to focus on logistics while dual boxing and FCing at the same time, but mostly yeah you will be calling targets. Part of the job.

    Pilot your own ship -- Yes.

    Watch for reinforcements -- This is generally the job of scouts. You shouldn't need to devote a lot of attention to this, especially during a fight. The occasional click of the d-scan should cover it for you unless you have eyes somewhere showing on another monitor, in which case just glance at it sometimes. You should ideally have one or more other people in the fleet assigned to this.

    Watch how your fleet is doing -- This, and making the corresponding decisions for the group, is the most fundamental part of FCing.

    Watch what the enemy fleet is doing -- Same deal. Act and react.

    Watch WHAT your fleet is doing -- You give the orders, they follow and respond. If they can't do that, maybe you shouldn't let them in your fleet with you. Aside from seeing how the fight is going and what the positioning looks like, you really don't need to worry overmuch about how exactly it's being done. You shout for things to happen, and they should happen in a fairly organized fashion. Worrying that they don't know how to do what you ask should not be a big concern; they should already know that.


    The biggest fleet I ever FC'd I basically organized movement and anchors, flew my DPS ship, flew my logi ship, maintained warfare links, and followed my designated target caller's orders and broadcasted reps until it was time to change our tack and warp out. Everything went pretty smoothly other than getting dicked by game mechanics (back before the crimewatch revamp). All the scouting and target calling was done by other people.