Friday, 30 December 2016

PI update



I'm currently on holiday, logging in only to keep the PI ticking over, and use the occassional wormhole to sell product in Jita. By the time I'm back from holiday, I should have the money I need to try setting up my own wormhole, something I'll post more on in due course.

As PI is my primary income stream, I have a strong incentive to think critically about my PI setup, and how it could be improved.

All my PI skills are at IV, and I'm running each of my planets with 3 advanced factories and 6 basic factories. This is the standard setup for single world P2 production. From what I can see on the forums, even with perfect skills this does not change much - the extra CPU and PG simply lets you add more extractor heads to take better advantage of poorer planets.

This approach is very easy to manage, but there are problems. On small, rich worlds (which use very little PG for links), my skills already allow me to harvest more P0 than I can use, and I actually place my extractor heads inefficiently to prevent myself from running out of storage. But on large worlds the extra link costs reduce the extractor heads to below what I need to keep up with my factories. Getting my skills to V would fix this, but it's a long train for a marginal benefit.

I'm also forced to harvest resources that can be converted to P2 on a single planet, and those may not be the best resources that planet has to offer.

So, I'm wondering about a P1 & factory planet approach. The idea is that I harvest a single resource on each planet and convert it to P1 before shipping it to a factory planet for conversion to P2-3.

This is MASSIVELY more efficient because the Extractor Control Units are very PG intensive (PG is the limiting factor for resource extraction planets), and you need one for each resource type you want to harvest. By dropping from two resources per planet to one, I can harvest more total P0, even before I take into account the missing P2 factories. Four such planets can then feed into a P2-3 factory planet, which would do no extracting at all.

The question, though, is whether the added efficiency of the P1 planets is enough to outweigh the loss of production of the fifth planet (which extracts nothing). This is something that ultimately I will need to try. When I do, I'll report back with the results.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Bringing the rain


In business, a rainmaker is a person who brings in new business and wins new accounts almost by magic, since it is often not readily apparent how this new business activity is caused.

There are some pilots in the Tuskers who seem to generate content for the corp as if by magic. Me? I'm not that guy. I fly solo, and that's pretty much how I like it. But every now and then I get the chance to pay it back a little.

We're connected to a C2 with a high sec static, and we've been hauling through it all day. We've tangled with the residents, but with several other wormholes connecting to this system, I figure there's more content to be had.

I sit my Manticore behind the high sec hole. I'm about 10 km directly across from the sun, and the idea is that when a hauler comes in from high sec, I drop cloak, align to the sun, and start my attack run. If all goes well, the hauler dies in a volley or two.

If all does not go well, however, I'm pre-aligned to the sun for a warp out. And if I can't warp out for any reason, I can jump through the wormhole because my direction of travel will take me right through it.

It's not a hauler that jumps in on me, however, it's a Hurricane Fleet Issue. I can't take him out fast enough to stop him jumping back to high security space, so I remain cloaked and wait to see what he's up to. As it turns out, he wants to drop probes and then cloak up.

I wait patiently for him to scan down the system. Satisfied, he de-cloaks and warps to an anomaly. I follow him, sensing an opportunity.

Sure enough, he's decided to run the site, so I work the intel channels and a makeshift fleet forms up in Chaos. Moving as fast as I can under my cloak, I maneuver such that the HFI is directly between my ship and the wormhole leading to Chaos. He's mwd fit, so he's zipping around at about 600m/s. Judging it as best I can, I call for tackle.

"Warp to Taurean at 20. Taurean at 20."

Our Sabre jumps into the C2 and immediately enters warp. Because the HFI is moving around so much, it's not a direct hit, but he's still caught in the bubble. The rest of the gang jumps in.

The HFI starts to mwd out of the bubble so I de-cloak and overheat my warp disruptor. Unless he or the Sleepers take me out, he's not going anywhere. All I need to do is hold long enough for the heavy tackle to arrive.

And arrive they do. I'm still not taking any aggro, so I stay on grid to keep my torpedoes and my target painter running. He doesn't last long. And there must be something about w-space that makes it hard for people to get their pod away, because we get that too.

Afterthoughts

This kill was not about a cunning plan, or a hard fight, or an amazing killmail. It was just long hours of roaming, decent coms discipline and good teamwork making a fairly simple plan come together smoothly.

But as I say, it's nice to occassionally provide some content for the pilots that work so hard to find kills for the rest of us.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Lions and Tigers and Interdictors, oh my!


Interdictor pilots are a little different from the rest of us. They fly ships made of wet tissue paper, and yet hold down the largest ships you can find in New Eden, tackling entire fleets all at once.

Here's what EveUni says about them:

Interdictor pilots will have poor Kill/Death ratios. You will be called primary in every engagement with the enemy. You will be the number one threat to any enemy fleet.

Pretty much. Which is why it takes a certain kind of someone to fly an Interdictor. They belong to the 'tackle something and see what happens' school of flying.

This weekend we had a perfect example. Someone had tackled a Gnosis just off a gate in null sec. They were struggling with breaking the tank, and they were pretty sure there was some kind of response fleet coming, so the call went out for some dps.

Already in my Manticore, I went to help. A few of us arrived at around the same time, and we all opened fire. As we ground him down, the Gnosis lit a cyno.

The world went crazy, and several things happened at once. In no particular order, the Gnosis exploded, FOUR carriers landed on us, and our Interdictor threw up a bubble.

Sitting at 50km, and able to immediately cloak up, I was reasonably safe. However, for the Gila stuck in the bubble with four carriers, things looked very, very grim.

After some fancy flying, and a great deal of heat damage to his prop mod, our Gila managed to extract himself from the bubble and warp out. As we flew back to Chaos, we were all having a laugh while the Gila pilot berated the Interdictor pilot on coms. Why had he thrown up a bubble? We couldn't take on four carriers with our little gang!

"Yes", our Interdictor calmly replied, "But if there had only been one carrier we would have killed it, and I would have been a hero."

And THAT is the attitude that makes you an Interdictor pilot. He saw a cyno and had no idea what was coming, but he was absolutely certain that he wanted to tackle it.

Perfect.


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Baiting the trap


Saturday had been a disappointment. We had no high sec connection, and our C5 chain was a dead end. Our null sec exit was either completely dead, or far too hot for us to handle - who undocks two carriers and a host of support ships to chase a single cruiser around? And then camps the hole so we can't roll it? They must have been even more bored than we were.

So when Sunday brought us a high sec connection through a C2, there was a rush to move loot out and ships in.

I was shifting some PI product when I saw a Proteus on the high sec hole. I don't think he had jumped in; I think I accidentally de-cloaked him when I landed on grid. He was no threat to me on the way out, but some Tuskers were already heading back, so I reported the Proteus on our intel channels.

Tuskers being Tuskers, this immediately sparked a conversation about finding and ganking him. Looking at the wormhole's killboard, we could see that this guy specialized in blapping noobs who came through the high sec entrance. And with a cloaky fit, we needed to convince him to come to us.

So a tackle DST was prepared. These ships are amazing bait because they can absorb so much punishment when fit for tank and tackle, but still look like they are hauling a treasure trove of ships or loot. The DST jumped in from high sec, and started drifting towards the next wormhole in the chain, as if someone had hit 'align' instead of 'warp' and then wandered off for a sandwich.

At first there was no response. In fact, I passed out DST as I made my way back from the markets to Chaos. After 5 min or so, I felt that the trap had failed - at this point nobody could be so foolish as to think the DST was not bait. Right?

I was assured that this was not the case; this guy ganked noobs for sport; he expected his victims to do stupid things. And, as if on queue, the Proteus jumped in.

There was a problem, though. Rather than coming alone, the Proteus had brought a friend in a Hyperion. Either he suspected a trap or, more likely, he wanted help breaking the DST's tank.

As I had passed the Tuskers waiting in the next system, I knew that we had an ONI, a Slepnir, and a Stratios for DPS. More than enough to deal with the Proteus, but was it enough to take on the Hyperion as well? Grabbing my Manticore, I went to join the fight.

The Occator had pointed the Proteus about 40km off the hole. As soon as we jumped in, the Hyperion started burning for high sec. We threw a point on him and started taking down the Proteus, who went down agonizingly slowly. But he did go down, in the end, and thanks to a Sabre bubble we got his pod as well.

Turning our attention to the Hyperion, we knew it would be a close thing. My torpedoes, not terribly effective against the Proteus, were paying dividends now. Sadly, it was not enough - his friend had bought him the time he needed to reach the high sec wormhole and jump to safety.

Then, bizarrely, a completely unrelated Blackbird lands in the Sabre bubble. We race to land point, but we are so far out of position from chasing Hyperion that we don't quite catch it. Ce la vie.

Afterthoughts

I can't believe that worked. But I'm glad it did.

Obviously, I wish we had managed to catch one or both of the battleships that were blundering around, but it's important to recognize that we set a trap to catch a cloaky Proteus, and that's exactly what we achieved.

One of the things I like about the Manticore for w-space work, though, is the extra midslot. While the damage that I was applying to the Proteus was anemic, I was able to hit him with a target painter that almost certainly boosted the damage of the Slepnir, and possibly the ONI as well. And while I do need to improve my TP skills (so many skills to train...), it's not something that my Purifier could have done without dropping the Warp Disruptor.


Monday, 19 December 2016

Yoiul Cerebral Accelerators - BRCA redux?


There are several posts that I want to write, but this one is the most time sensitive, so I'm getting it out first.

You may remember that I looked at Blood Raider Cerebral Accelerators in an earlier post to determine whether or not purchasing them off the market (instead of a skill injector) was worthwhile. And it absolutely was, for almost all characters.

It is therefore tempting to assume that the same is true of the Yoiul Cerebral Accelerators, but the supply of YCA is much lower than the supply of BRCA (at least at the moment - more may be coming). This means that, as of this morning, the cost of buying a YCA in Jita is 6.24% of the cost of a skill injector. Not as good as the BRCA, but still below the break point for many players.

However, with a little patience you buy skill injectors for significantly less than the market price (thanks, in no small part, to the recent supply of BRCA), as long as you are not trying to buy in bulk. Using that figure, the cost of a YCA is 8% of the cost of a skill injector. While still technically a 'win' for many players, the cost savings may not be so high as to justify the hassle of trying to log in at the right times each day, especially over the holidays. Clearly, characters with high levels of skill points benefit the most, but they are also the least likely to feel the need to rush training anyway.

Your mileage may vary, but at these prices I'm not stocking up.

A word of warning. The description of the YCA is different from how I remember the BCA being described. There is an implication that any given character can only benefit from a YCA once. I won't know for certain until I try and take my second YCA in two days time. You may want to hold off buying in bulk until the limitations are a little clearer.

And yes, I am feeling smug about training Biology V now.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Wand'rin' Star

Do I know where hell is?
Hell is in hello.
Heaven is goodbye for ever, it's time for me to go.
I was born under a wandrin' star.
A wandrin', wandrin' star.

- Lee Marvin

I've always been a wanderer in Eve. If I spend too long in any one place, I start to get itchy feet. I hate going over the same ground endlessly, which is probably why I've never made the transition to null sec. Before life forced me to quit Eve, I had been planning a long road trip around New Eden, looking for who knows what.

I don't travel for the sake of travel, though. Some players have made it their goal to visit every system in New Eden. You might think that would appeal to me, but it doesn't. I prefer to take my time, to quietly explore each system slowly, rather blaze though while ticking boxes. If I never make it to some systems, that doesn't bother me.

It's not terribly surprising, then, that I've taken to wormhole life like a fish to water. The lack of local means that you get to see the real system instead of the system that knows it is being visited. You can watch the battleships running anomalies, and the Nocti salvaging wrecks. You can see the explorers running sites. And sometimes you even get to blow them up.

It's reached the point that I avoid leaving w-space. If I'm not making a supply run, or rushing to bring dps to a Tusker fleet, I don't seem to visit k-space anymore.

Visit. Huh. I suppose that's true. K-space is just a place I visit now. It's w-space that feels like home.

I am so grateful to the Tuskers for this opportunity. I'd been interested in w-space the last time I was playing, but the logistics seemed so daunting that I doubt I would have made the transition on my own. Now, I wonder about long solo roams and whether I should consider starting a hole of my own.

As I've mentioned in a previous post, w-space forces to you to play reactively, dealing with what you are given rather than executing elaborate plans. To miss-quote Forrest Gump, "Wormhole life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." What I fly, and what I do, depends on what connections are available that day, and I am slowly learning each unique wormhole environment.

C1-C2 wormholes, for example, are perfect for making a little bit of cash by running exploration sites (in an Astero), or earning a few kills by camping them (in an Astero). This is because the exploration sites are often undefended, so you don't need to bring a combat ship to clear them. That makes them easy to run, and it makes the people running them easy to kill. My Astero now carries a mobile depot with an array of different modules so that I can fit for scanning, exploration, and combat without returning to Chaos, as the situation requires.

At the other end of the spectrum, C5-C6 wormholes are run by groups in high end ships. Hunting in these wormholes probably means a stealth bomber looking to pick off an industrial ship making a supply run. I've not yet managed a kill of this kind, as I've been too focused on trying to make some ISK. Perhaps this weekend will give me an opportunity.

I've also learned that wormhole chains don't necessarily end just because you've hit k-space. A quick scan of the k-space system often reveals another wormhole, and so the chain continues.

All told, though, wormhole space slows everything down. A null sec roam might generate a dozen kills or more in an evening, while fleet actions in w-space are far less common. Each fight takes more preparation, and even moving from one system to another can take 15 minutes or more as you scan down the next wormhole.

But it's all part of what makes the play-style so unique. It's not for everyone, and perhaps at some point I will become bored and want to move back to the faster pace of k-space, but right now this suits me perfectly.



Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Bearing around


My play time for the rest of the month is going to be a little more limited. In part it's because I'm away for a couple of weeks over the holidays, but even before then I've got loads of Christmas functions to attend. A pleasant distraction, to be sure, but still one that prevents me from logging in as often as I would like.

I purchased the last modules I needed for my Secret Santa, and the fully fitted [redacted] is now sitting in my hanger. I need to wrap it, and put it in the corp Christmas Hanger with the other presents. But the hard part is over.

When the opportunity arises, I've been trying to run exploration sites. While PI is my regular income stream, exploration has become my 'need cash now' activity. Having finally paid for the Secret Santa gift, I want to put together some seed money for a project in the new year.

If things work out, I should be able to sustain myself and my pvp at the faction cruiser level, which seems to be where the Tusker are flying right now. While it's crazy how fast your definition of 'expensive' adjusts, you still need to be able to find the ISK before you can fly the ship.

It is not my intention to be coy about this project; I'm simply following my own rule about posting what I've done rather than what I intend to do. I doubt any readers of this blog will be surprised by what I'm aiming at, but there are enough things that could stop the project from getting off the ground that I don't feel ready to post specifics.

Monday, 12 December 2016

The Epochs of Eve


I started playing Eve in 2011, when the game was already seven years old. So when the 'bittervets' talk, in game and through blogs and forums, about 'the way things were' there is a sense of being left out. Of having missed part of the story. In many ways, I will always be a newcomer to Eve, standing on the shoulders of those who came before me.

I will never know what is was like to play Eve when stations could be destroyed, when you could put other players in your cargo hold, all ships were T1, battleships were the largest ship you could fly, or Band of Brothers ruled null sec with an iron grip.

Of course, time does not stand still, and new players today will have missed many of the experiences that I take for granted. They will never know what was like to play before tiericide, T3 destroyers, or microjump drives, or while off grid boosting was still possible.

And soon, they won't ever have needed to bash a POS.

Player owned stations are on the way out. CCP has said so explicitly, and that's probably a good thing, overall. But it will mark the end of another epoch in Eve.

Having taken player owned stations for granted for all of my Eve career, I did not want to miss their passing. Accordingly, I spent Saturday solo bashing a POS.

It was a long, boring process, but I'm really glad I did it. That experience binds me to all those other players who, over the many long years, have had to clear out POSes from their patch of space.

I also have a project in mind - which I will probably post more on in the future - that will have me put up a POS, at least for a while. That's another experience I want to have before its gone forever.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Tuskers v P-A-T-R-I-O-T-S


They came looking for us.

Two battleships - a Machariel and an Armageddon - as well as a couple of lighter vessels (including two Blackbirds) were camping the k-space side of our null sec static. This was a major hazard to navigation, and a response was required.

Going in to the fight, we knew it would be pretty bloody. When battleships support each other, many of their weaknesses disappear, and there is no better class of sub-capital for fighting on a fixed point, such as a wormhole or a gate. On top of that, well, Blackbirds.

Forming up, the initial plan was to throw up a bubble and then fight on the wormhole. This way, our heavily tanked cruisers could try to jump back through the hole and save themselves if they got into trouble. That worked for about the first 15 seconds.

The battleships started burning away from the hole, and out of the bubble. Using their excellent range, they forced us to follow them to keep the pressure up, while they screened the more vulnerable support ships.

With their battleships absorbing massive amounts of damage, and with their Blackbirds constantly trying to jam us, their Gila was wreaking havoc on the heavy tackle went sent in to keep the Machariel locked down.

The Machariel was called as primary, and thanks to the ECM I suspect most of us had to rely on our drones to finally take him own. A real strength of the Gila, there. With their screen of battleships broken, we were able to get through to one of the Blackbirds. When their Gila and Hurricane tried to patch the hole, they went down too.

With the brawl quickly turning into a route, the Armageddon and remaining Blackbird warped away. You can read the battle summary here, and while we came out ahead in ships lost and ISK destroyed, it was a hard fight with the enemy out classing us in terms of ships and support, and having the luxury of choosing when and where they fought.

This fight was a great example of why I need to get into a battleship at some point. Being able to sit our own battleship on the hole to provide supporting fire would have been a huge help.

The PATRIOTS decided they were not finished, though, and brought in two carriers to camp our wormhole.

Calling for reinforcements, we sallied forth a second time. Bubbling their Archon, we started working on grinding through his tank as we all tried not to die to fighters.

This second fight was about 180km off the hole, so by staying aligned to the hole I could warp out if I started taking damage, and then warp back to the fleet. I had just done this for the second time when our Scimitar pilot flagged up that I had come out of warp too far away for effective reps. Have I mentioned how awesome our Scimitar pilots are? So on the ball.

Accordingly, I turned and burned towards the Scimitar. At the same time, the Archon, who realised that he was going down if nothing changed, lit a cyno. Three super-capitals landed on grid, along with a number of support ships.

The FC immediately ordered us out, and I started spamming 'warp' as soon as I heard the order. But I was temporarily unaligned, and with my mwd in mid cycle my alignment time was poor. I was also very easy to lock. As everyone else was leaving grid, their Stiletto landed a warp disruptor on me.

I immediately overheated my mwd and tried burning back towards the hole (which is where I had been trying to warp to), but with three super-carriers on grid and no other targets for them, I was never going to make it.

I didn't.

Afterthoughts

The PATRIOTS puzzle me. First, they brought battleships to a cruiser fight. When that didn't work, they brought carriers to a cruiser fight. And when that didn't work, they brought super-carriers to a cruiser fight.

I just don't see the fun in that. And I kinda assume that fun was the point. After all, this was not a rescue mission. We hadn't trapped a Roqual at a belt, or a ratting carrier. In those circumstances, bringing the cavalry makes sense. You are making a point of protecting your own.

But these guys came looking for a fight. And then escalated to the point that there was no fight any more. Other than catching me before I could warp off, the fight simply evaporated once the super-carriers landed.

On a more personal note, though, I think I'm getting better at flying this Gila. As much as I hate any loss, I do recognize that if the cyno had gone up 10 seconds later, I'd have been near the Scimitar, mwd off, and realigned. I would have warped away with everyone else. Sometimes the timing just doesn't work out.

That does not mean there is no room for improvement, though. Clearly, I chose my warp-in poorly. While you sometimes can't help this, I was warping around on grid, so if I had been a little less hasty in getting back to the fight, I could have looked at the vector lines of my fleet mates. If I had done that, I could have chosen my warp in to take into consideration the movement of the fleet while I was in warp. Essentially, I could have warped to the leading edge of the fleet instead of what turned out to be the trailing edge, forcing me to play catchup.

But I felt a lot more confident about holding range in both fights, and I had a better sense of when I was in danger and when I was not. While I will undoubtedly mess up many, many more times, some of the basic elements of fleet work are coming more smoothly than they were.

Now that I've said that, of course, I won't be surprised when I screw up something incredibly basic in my next engagement. Because that's how I seem to roll.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Approach recklessly


Our null sec static led directly to a system with a Citadel going into vulnerability, so we decided to try and provoke a fight by bashing it.

Because of the force multiplying powers of the Citadel, the doctrine for the evening was heavy shield dps backed up a Scimitar, so I chose to fly a Gila. The locals quickly formed up, and the two fleets began engaging.

The locals played things well, and played them cautiously. It must have been clear to them that we were not set up to bash the Citadel efficiently, so all they needed to do was keep us busy enough that we either gave up or the vulnerability timer closed. Between their caution, and their Scimitar, we were not able to force a decisive engagement.

So the call came down to 'approach recklessly'. Not the clearest of commands, to be sure, but we understood the general intention; get close enough to lock them down.

Fleet fights are a funny thing. You are often asked to do things that will probably get you killed. This makes you want to hang back a little; after all, while the first guy to break cloak/get close/whatever will probably die, the third or forth guy to do that have a much higher chance of surviving. But if enough people hang back, the whole things starts to unravel and you have a much higher chance of everybody going home in a pod.

What is true of fleets in Eve is equally true in the real world military, which is why the penalties for disobeying orders are so draconian. The commander has to know that when he orders an advance, everyone starts moving immediately.

And, of course, insufficient enthusiasm in obeying the FC's commands has its own risks.

So I immediately turned and burned directly towards the enemy. Actually, that's not quite true; I burned it at a slight angle to make sure I had at least some transversal. Closing into about 20km - knife fighting range for a Tusker fleet - I began hammering the ships called as primary.

As fleet maneuvers went, this one was very successful; we destroyed roughly a dozen assorted cruisers and battlecrusiers. This kind of brawling comes at a cost, however, and in this case the cost was two Gilas (including mine) and a Phantasm.

Mine was not a quick loss. Our Scimitar kept me up as long as he could, meaning I absorbed 57k worth of damage, or nearly twice my EHP. Hungry for the 'almost there' kill, it kept the enemy on the field long enough for them to all be locked down. But destroying them took more time than I had.

Reshipping, we went back to bash the Citadel, but the locals were no longer interested. Instead, a larger predator arrived: Lazerhawks.

They outnumbered us heavily, at least initially, and had four Scimitars to our one. Calling for reinforcements, we managed to get a second Scimitar on the field, and some more dps. Unfortunately,  the fight started in earnest before we could link up with all of those reinforcements.

This second fight really underscored some of the weaknesses of the Gila fit I'm in. While a fantastic ship, the Gila only has about a 40km range on it's RLML, whereas my ONI or Oracle comfortably projects dps out to 60km, which is where I tend to like fighting while in fleet. True, the drones can get out to about 60km, but you have significant travel time issues, and that's only half your dps any way.

The other issue is the RLML. Because of the number of enemy Scimitars, there was a lot of target switching going on. This really hurts when you have a 45 second reload time, plus travel time on both of your weapon systems.

Lazerhawks managed to drive us off the grid in our first exchange through sheer weight of numbers. Although it cost them dearly, by throwing a sufficient number of Sabres at us they managed to take out a Naga, and then my Gila when I was called primary. Again, our Scimitars did amazing work, letting me tank 67k worth of damage, but with four enemy Scimitars on the field we couldn't break their dps or heavy tackle fast enough to save me.

Reshipping took me a while because I had to wait until there was a clear run to our wormhole. Out of cash, I couldn't buy another Gila from corp contracts, so I jumped into my Osprey Navy Issue. By the time I caught back up with the fleet, it was over. Our FC managed to draw them into Chaos, and then into a connecting C5, which separated them long enough for us to kill two of their Scimitars. Without their massive logi advantage, my corp mates rolled them up.

Afterthoughts

This was my first time flying the Gila in combat, and I really liked it (I have a fondness for tanky ships). I think I need to fly more cautiously, though, and avoid being lured in too close by the relatively short range on the RLML. I may look at dropping some of the 'solo' fittings to see if I can come up with more of a dedicated fleet fit.

Although the Tuskers have a selection of ships (including the Gila) available on corp contracts at a reduced price, there is no true ship replacement program. Losing two Gilas in an evening was expensive, so I've dropped below 10 mil ISK. Fortunately, I now have revenue streams in place (such as PI) to help me bounce back, but it does mean flying cautiously for the next few days, until I can afford another Gila, and have a bit more of a cash buffer.

Monday, 5 December 2016

On the road


I've just spent several days traveling for work, including part of the weekend. That's meant that I've not been as active as I would have been otherwise. In fact, my killboard is completely bare.

I did get online yesterday, but it was one of those days where nothing seemed to go quite right. I was one step behind an industrial collecting PI products, the Relic sites I camped went unvisited, and when I finally set myself up to tackle a Rattlesnake, it turns out the wormhole had closed sometime after I entered the system, so backup could not reach me.

After extracting myself from that sticky situation, I logged off for the day. I'm slowly learning to take the hint on those days where Eve decides not to cooperate. I've still got one more module to buy for the Secret Santa, so I'd like to avoid foolish losses.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Secret Santa


For the second year in a row, the Tuskers are running a Secret Santa. 

The way it works is very simple. You tell the organizer if you want to sign up, and after the sign-up deadline the organizer secretly assigns a name to each participant. Once you are assigned a name, your job is to buy and fit a ship for that player (so something they can actually fly), and give that ship to the organizer.

Then, on the agreed day, everyone gets together and the organizer hands out the ships. Because this is all done through the organizer, you don't know who bought you your ship (unless they tell you, of course). You then all sit around laughing at the crazy fits for a while. And because we're pirates, we'll spend most of January trying to get kills in these ships.

I don't normally like Secret Santas, but this sounded awesome. My initial thought was to bling out a Gnosis, because that's just funny. What do you get a pilot that can fly everything? Why, a ship that everyone can fly, of course!

However, when I started going through my pilot's killboards, it was very clear that he had a favorite ship, so I ended up purchasing that instead. After working out a fit, it was going to cost (much) more than I actually had, so I've been bringing in modules as fast as my PI and exploration will allow. I just have a couple of hundred mil worth of mods left, which should be doable by our 21st December deadline.

And if I'm really pushed for time I could sell my Pilgrim, but I want to avoid that if I can.

What I didn't consider is that I can't actually fly the ship I bought, so I can't fit it either. Fortunately, the organizer of our little Secret Santa can, so they have agreed to fit it before handing it out.

A word of caution, though. While the idea is to treat someone the ship that they would probably never buy for themselves, last year we had a few 800 mil frigates that simply never got used because nobody wants that lossmail. So a certain amount of moderation is required. Hopefully I get the balance right - I went with x4 the cost of my pilot's regular fit. I figured that I'd still fly an 80 mil T1 frigate (even if I'd never actually spend that much on one for myself), so scaling that up to larger ships seemed reasonable.

Is anyone else doing something similar?

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The talent stack


Eve is such a deep game that applying 'real world' concepts to our game-play is usually interesting, and often worthwhile. So when I read Scott Adam's blog post on the 'talent stack', I immediately thought of Eve pvp.

Scott Adams is best known for his 'Dilbert' cartoons, but he is also a trained hypnotist and has some fascinating insights into human interactions. He was predicting Donald Trump's election victory long before it happened, for example, simply by ignoring the polls and looking at Donald Trump's persuasion skills. 

This post looks at Trump (and Kanye) as examples of 'talent stacks'. Adams makes the point that neither of these men are the best at anything - not a 'Tiger Woods' - but their combination of strong skills nevertheless makes them very successful.

This had me wondering about the 'talents' that go into successful pvp in Eve. Off the top of my head (and stealing shamelessly from Adams) I came up with this list:

Risk tolerance: Some people fly 7 billion ISK Moas. My risk tolerance is not that high. In fact, I'd say that my risk tolerance is fairly low, as pvpers go. I tend to fly cheap ships, and I fly fairly conservatively. But I suspect that still puts me in the top 5% of risk takers in New Eden. This factor, more than any other, stops people from getting into pvp.

Risk management: Pvp requires taking risks. Successful pvp requires doing everything you can to make sure that risk pays off. That might mean pulling a fight off a gate, or fitting a defensive web. Eve pvp is not for the kind of player that likes to hit 'autopilot' and go afk. It's a lot of work.

Game knowledge: For me, this is a really mixed bag. Some things I understand really well, such as the mechanics of the various weapons. But in other ways my knowledge is lacking. In part this is because of all the stuff that has been added/changed since I last played, and in part because my game experience has been fairly narrow, focusing on frigates in low sec. However, because I actively examine my fights and experiences for learning points, my knowledge base is increasing all the time.

Decisiveness: The OODA loop is such a huge topic it could have it's own post. Absolutely critical. But also something that develops with practice.

Patience: This applies to some forms of pvp more than others. But in most cases you can't assume that you will find a winnable fight just because you want one. A lot of time goes into searching for those fights.

Strategy: It's one thing to have all the knowledge, but it's another thing to apply that in practice. I do fine in small fights, but I'm new enough to fleet pvp that I still get a bit overwhelmed. Fortunately, the Tuskers have a really strong stable of FCs, which helps a great deal.

Game relations: Do you have friends, and how fast can they get here? You don't need to be the Mitanni to pvp successfully, but getting into a good corporation allows you to take on targets that you could never consider on your own.

I'm probably missing some key points, but it seems to me that this is a useful exercise for considering what kind of pvp you want to do. 

Patient, but poor game relations due to limited play time? Perhaps roaming wormhole chains in a stealth bomber is for you.

Poor game knowledge due to newness, but great game relations due to joining a large corp? Perhaps you'll like fleet fights, where you can just follow the crowd while you pick up the game.

Making a list of valuable skills can also highlight areas where we need some work, and remind us of some of the things we do well, but probably take for granted.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Super-capitals and other life lessons


Last night a ping went out, telling us that we had a carrier tackled, and that we needed dps. I logged in, grabbed my Oracle, and started burning for the fight.

Our response time was good, and I landed on grid with the Thanatos and opened fire. Capitals do not go down quickly when confronted with sub-capitals, and this one was fighting hard. He had support ships warping in, and that made him dangerous.

One thing that always impresses me about Tusker fleets is how fast we melt support ships. I think it's probably because of our solo background; our pilots tend to fit for wide engagement envelopes, so we don't have the difficulty hitting the smaller ships the way some fleet doctrines might.

It also doesn't hurt that our AT pilots have mastered the art of matching transversals, making tracking much less of an issue than you would otherwise think.

Taking out the support ships is critical to maintaining keeping our dps ships in the fight. My Oracle was primaried by the carrier at one point, but between my engagement range and the lack of support ships, the carrier had no way of keeping me on grid. As soon as I started taking damage, I warped out, and then back to a fleet-mate. While my dps took a hit, the carrier otherwise did not achieve much. Had they been able to stick an interceptor on me, things would have been very different.

This pattern was repeated throughout the battle, with various Tuskers warping in and out as needed to nullify the effects of the carrier's dps. Despite the efforts of the locals, we reduced the Thanatos to wreckage after a short, furious fight.

There were still other ships on the field, though, so we began cleanup operations. A Slepnir had just been called as primary when a Hel class super-carrier dropped in on us.

The Tuskers are in a bit of a transition right now. We have some pilots with a huge amount of null sec experience, who have flown with the big sov holding corps, and for whom a super-capital is nothing new. But there are a lot of us - including me - where the majority of our experience is as low sec pirates, and we are still transitioning into our new role as wormhole pilots that destroy capital ships on a regular basis. I'm fairly certain that this was actually the first time I'd ever been on grid with a super-capital before. I had no idea what to expect.

So when the FC told everyone except the Sabres to get of the field, some of us were a little slow to respond. That Slepnir was melting, I was pre-aligned, and I'd not even started to take damage yet. A few more seconds wouldn't hurt, right?

Ding.

That was the sound of my pod activating as I got one-shot by a super-capital.

Oh.

I'm one of three Tusker pilots who now know better than to stay on the field with a super-carrier.

While we can't take on a super ourselves, as a corporation we have good relationships with a number of groups that can. We attempted to keep the Hel on the field long enough for our friends to arrive, but ultimately we ran out of Sabres before our support could get there. Probably warned by intel, the Hel jumped out, deescalating the fight.

While I reshipped into a Malediction, the FC pulled the fight back one jump towards our wormhole to improve our reinforcement time. I tackled a Mirmadon who did not last long, and then turned my attention to a Bhaalgorn that had landed on the field.

Now, when you see a Bhaalgorn, you know there will be neuts. A T2 Heavy Neutralizer has a 20km optimal range with a 10km falloff. A Malediction has 30km point range, going out to 36km with overheat. The rest of the fleet was reforming to try and hit the Bhaalgorn beyond neut range, and eventually we would get a Sabre on him. Until then, though, I wanted to keep him on the field.

Overheating my point, I tackled the battleship, and worked on keeping my orbit around 33 km. I didn't dare get close enough to land a scram, so if he had an mjd he could still escape. There was only so much I could do, though.

Despite the range, however, he was able to reach out and neut me hard. He caught me mid cycle, so I immediately turned and burned away from him, using the rest of my mwd cycle to pull range out to about 40km. Nevertheless, he was still neuting me, even at that range, so I could not reactivate my mwd. My engine dead, his support jumped my helpless interceptor. Boom.

Reshipping again, I jumped into my Purifier. Not ideal, I know, but I was running out of ships. There is a resupply run in my future, I think.

I got back to find the Bhaalgorn still on the field, tackled by some of our heavier ships. I guess my interceptor bought us the time we needed to lock him down.

I then started to play my own personal game of cat-and-mouse. The Bhaalgorn couldn't reach me, but his support ships could. So I kept warping around the field (corp-mates, wrecks, ad-hoc bookmarks, etc) and making judicious use of my cloak to stay on the field and apply as much dps as I could in my Purifier.

By using my long engagement range, and watching the vector arrows of my opponent's ships, I had a pretty good idea at any given time who was coming for me. Then I'd cloak (if I could) or warp to the other side of the grid. This was made even more interesting by the bubble in the center of the battlefield, which meant direct warps were not possible.

So. Much. Fun.

Faced with an assortment of fast and evasive ships, the Bhaalgorn's support was ultimately ineffective, and we in the end, we got him.

And I got some answers. Corpus X-type Heavy Energy Nosferatu (which are effectively neuts on a Bhaalgorn) have a 32 km optimal and 16 km falloff. They're relatively cheap, too, so I shall have to remember them the next time I see a Bhaalgorn.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Null sec v Low sec


My last post ended with a throw-away comment about there not being as many solo fights in null sec as I would like. Despite being an off-hand remark, it lingered in the back of my mind, and I decided to look at that more closely.

I pulled up the Tusker killboards, and looked, in broad terms, at our activity as a corp. What jumped out at me was that the overwhelming majority of our solo kills came from our members still in low sec. And the overwhelming majority of our 'shiny' kills were gang actions in null sec.

It's not just me, then. Two completely different metas.

This probably means that I should not bother trying to fit and fly solo ships for null sec, and focus instead on having fleet ready ships. I would then need to look to w-space or low sec for solo hunting.

Food for thought.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Messing about with the Confessor


I've never got on with destroyers. These are ships designed to prey on smaller ships, and to me that is the opposite of a fun fight.

Don't get me wrong - I am glad they are in the game, and see the important role they have to play. It's simply that the excitement for me is in fighting on-class or above-class ships, rather than focusing your efforts on destroying smaller, weaker ships.

But T3 destroyers are a thing now, and they did not even exist the last time I was playing. The different modes are interesting, and I can see how a great deal of player skill goes into deciding which mode you should be in at any given time.

Having decided to give them a try, I deliberately waited until after the expansion; there was no point in learning 'pre-nerf' T3s for such a short period. I  therefore cannot comment with any authority on the changes, but one of my corp-mates expressed the view that T3s are now what they always should have been: decent ships that could excel at one thing at a time (speed, dps, or tank), and switch flexibly between those things.

And that sounds about right to me.

I put together a brawling, 10mn, active tank fit with double nos in the highs. In keeping with my desire to take on above-class ships, the plan was to get in close and orbit with the 10mn afterburner helping me evade damage while I wore them down. The nosferati would keep my tank running, and fight any neuts I encountered.

I've been trying to find a suitable test for nearly a week now, and I finally committed to a fight last night.

The fight

I saw the bait Gnosis on the gate, and there were a couple more Gnosi on D-scan. For such an uncommon ship, this was unlikely to be a coincidence. On top of that, it had been one of those days that were slightly 'off', where nothing goes smoothly, and loads of little things go wrong.

So the correct play was to keep flying, and probably to log off for the evening. But I you can't spend all your time being risk averse, and I wanted some actual combat experience with my fit. So I resigned myself exploding and warped to an obvious celestial (if the stars aligned and everything went right, I did not want him de-agressing and jumping out).

He followed me, of course, and I quickly dropped into my orbit and started applying dps. I set my orbit to 1km, but the 10mn agility penalty pushes me out to about 3.5 km. That's one of the reasons I have range rigs fitted, so that I can still use multi-frequency crystals for max damage, regardless of which mode I am in.

It turned out that he had an active armor tank, and I was well on my way to breaking it when his friends showed up. They came in one at a time, so he might have been multiboxing.

I decided that it was time to leave, but when my speed dropped to essentially nil, I realized that the bait Gnosis was packing multiple webs, and I wasn't going anywhere. I turned my focus on taking him with me, but the first two reinforcements seemed to have a rack full of neuts. They were not able to shut down my dps completely, but it was enough to slow me down and save their comrade.

Finally, a fourth Gnosis jumped in with actual dps, and with my active tank shut down by the neuts, I did not last long.

Afterthoughts

I have mixed feelings about this one. Having committed to the fight, I do not believe I could have altered the final outcome, but I could have improved my performance slightly. In particular, I am not happy with how long it took me to shift from speed mode to sharpshooter once I landed tackle. That was lost dps, simply through being new to mode shifting in combat.

I was pleased with how much dps I put out against a ship obviously set up to tank heavily. I was pleased with how little damage I took from his drones. In general, the fit did exactly what I wanted it to do, and while I think it probably wants a deadspace repper rather than a SAAR, I feel confident that I could have taken any one of those Gnosi.

But that's the issue, isn't it? The big weakness of any brawling fit is that you are committed to the fight once you begin. And how many solo fights are really out there in null sec? Given the number of days I spent looking for one, the answer seems to be 'not as many as I would like'.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Not according to plan


The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, / Gang aft a-gley

-Robert Burns

One of the biggest differences between w-space and k-space is the difficulty of executing any kind of extended plan. While other players in Eve are often trying to interfere with the plans of an honest pirate like myself, in w-space the very environment can defeat your intentions, or at least complicate things. You simply cannot know too far in advance where you are likely to be, or what you will find there.

My goal was to hit high sec on Friday to buy some mods and rigs for a Confessor fit that I've been playing with (expect a post on that at some point), as well as some crystals for a meta Oracle fit that I want to use until Large Energy Turrets V gets trained. I would then fly said Oracle and Confessor over the weekend, getting fights and generally testing the fits.

Sadly, w-space did not cooperate, and we had no decent high sec connection on Friday evening. So instead of doing shopping, I was forced to break out my Purifier and help take out a Nidhoggur and some support ships. Not the plan, but I certainly can't complain!

I did manage to get to high sec on Saturday, although I used a neutral alt to haul assets to the wormhole, as the Tuskers are currently under war-dec by Complaints Department. I then went roaming in my Confessor, but did not encounter anything that particularly wanted to fight. I ended up doing some pve tests to better get an idea of the maneuverability of my 10mn fit in the various modes.

Being out and about, though, I had noticed the locals probing down our wormhole. So I spotted their little battlecruiser gang when they decided to scout us, and a few of us were able to form up and take them on when they tried to roll our wormhole.

This was actually a pretty interesting fight for a couple of reasons. First, we were massively outgunned - only a couple of us were online - but a Tusker in an interceptor was able to chase away the three battlecruisers simply by charging at them headlong. Convinced we were trying to lock them down before jumping in a much larger gang, the battlecruisers fled, sans one Falcon, leaving us alone with their battleship.

Then the battleship tried to hide by jumping through the wormhole and cloaking up. This might have worked, convincing us that he had warped away, but I was cloaked up and waiting for him in my Purifier. Knowing that he had cloaked, I had our interceptor orbit the hole at high speed, and we were able to de-cloak the battleship in short order and finish him.

So my Purifier was getting a workout, but my Confessor and Oracle had seen no action. Continuing to form up for gangs, though, I did manage to give the Oracle a bit of a test when we took down a Tempest.

Sunday then saw a succession of 'low content' wormholes. I roamed in the Confessor, and went out in gangs with the Oracle, but ultimately came up with nothing for either ship. At least one of the groups we were trying to fight refused to commit because of our AT win, and said as much in local. A reputation is a bit of a mixed blessing, there.

Finally, on Sunday evening, we went for a corp roam in a Confessor fleet to tangle with Brave Newbies. Unfortunately, we seriously underestimated their strength on the first Sunday after alpha clones were released, and came away with a bloody nose. Weight of numbers and aggressive FC'ing on the part of Brave Newbies proved to much to overcome in destroyers.

You have to love an enemy that fights so damn enthusiastically.

So I came out of the weekend without really testing my solo Confessor fit, and not getting much of a test for my Oracle, despite spending hours in each hull.

Perhaps next weekend I should plan a little less.



Friday, 18 November 2016

Eve is a journey


There are so many skills in Eve, and each one is a potential adventure, unlocking new ships and abilities, or taking old abilities to a whole new level.

It's easy to get wrapped up in those potential adventures. To be constantly looking to the horizon at all the things you want to do, but can't (yet). I know I'm guilty of that.

The danger is that you forget what you can do; you focus on the destination of tomorrow, rather than the journey of today. Or as Bruce Lee said; "It is like a finger pointing a way to the moon. Don't concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all that heavenly glory."

The picture at the top of this post is one that I have used many times over the years. For me, it sums up what it is I love about this game: the beautiful, vast emptiness in which we all plot our own course, and see where it leads us.

While I suspect that everyone reading this blog is probably an Eve subscriber, if by chance you are not, take advantage of the new alpha clones and log in. Focus on what you can do. Plot your own course across the beautiful, vast emptiness of New Eden.

And see where it leads you.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

My first cloaky kills


This last Sunday I logged on to find that one of my corp mates, while looking for a decent high sec exit, had scanned down a number of systems, creating corp bookmarks for each cosmic anomaly.

One of these systems was a C3 with a high sec static. C1-3 wormholes with high sec statics are great places to hunt because they get a lot of traffic (relatively speaking), and as the relic/data sites have no sleeper rats, many of these visitors are not fit for combat.

So, undocking my Astero, I settled in for a morning of semi-afk pvp.

I created pounces off each of the data (there were no relic sites in the system) sites, and settled into a safe spot where I could see them all on D-scan while sitting under my cloak. I then went about my day, stopping by to check my D-scan every so often. I was unlikely to catch every possible target this way, but it was certainly low effort.

My first visitors were an Imicus and a Heron. I don't know if it was one player dual boxing, or if it was actually two players. Warping into the site, I saw the Heron at a data can, while the Imicus lingered about 15 km off. I bookmarked the can, and bounced off a celestial to warp in on top of him.

I dropped cloak as my warp finished; I wanted to be able to target as soon as I hit grid. I landed a scram, but the Heron slipped away - presumably he was packing warp stabs.

I then turned and burned towards the Imicus, who had been slow to react. I landed tackle, and set my drones on him. He went down fast, but I missed the pod as my afterburner carried me too far away, and I was slow to kill my momentum.

After the fight, I used my mobile depot to trade my web for a second scram. I didn't want to lose another target to warp stabs.

Later, I missed a Heron who's idea of probing was to sit uncloaked, but with prop mod running, at a celestial. I had to work hard to get a warp in point ahead of him (I couldn't catch him without dropping my cloak, and I doubted that he was that distracted), but as he closed to within about 20km he clearly found whatever it was he was looking for, and warped off.

There was also an Anathema who decided that data sites were beneath him, and so left the system without giving me an opening.

Finally, I managed to catch an Astero; this time I did not bother with the afterburner, and I was able to snag the pod as well.

All in all, it was a decent way to get some kills while being semi afk. I doubt this will become my regular hunting style, but as the bookmarks were already in place, it seemed a shame not to use them!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Things they don't tell you about PI


As I mentioned in an earlier post, pvp is only likely to be self sustaining if you exclusively fly ships with a negligible hull cost - T1 frigates and the like. As generalist ships, these are not terribly well suited to the more specialist requirements of null sec and w-space. So I need some kind of pve income.

Like most people, I've tried mining in the past, and exploration. These are not bad ways to make ISK, once you have decent skills, but they are full time careers in and of themselves. Moreover, your income in directly proportional to the amount of time you devote to the activity. This is great when you need to dig yourself out of a hole - you can just spend more time on the activity - but not as great when it comes to providing a passive income.

Someone then suggested that I might try Planetary Interaction. Looking into it, I found that (as with many aspects of Eve) the learning curve is pretty high. However, the skill set and the buy-in costs were low, the income was largely passive, and I had the advantage of access to w-space planets. So after buying some skill books and a half dozen command centers, I was ready to start.

This is not a PI guide. There are fantastic guides out there, including some good videos put out by CCP, and I have no interest in duplicating that information here.

However, here a few tips from an admitted noob, that I did not see in any of the guides.

As a non-industrialist (that is, you intend to sell products for profit, rather than use them yourself), you will be looking at a 'balanced' planet - harvesting two kinds of P(0) resources and improving them up to P(2) or possibly P(3) - your limiting factor will be power grid. This is because each extractor control unit uses a massive amount of power, and you will need at least two of these because each extractor can only harvest one kind of resource at a time.

Further, you will need multiple extractor heads (more power grid) to feed the factories that you are setting up. So don't make the mistake that I made when I used 'storage' facilities for storage. Instead, go with spaceports - they cost masses of CPU, but no power grid; you have plenty of excess CPU, so you might as well use it.

The ratio of extractor heads to factories is also very different for wormhole PI than high sec PI. CCP's video had them setting up three extractor heads for each P(1) factory. Assuming a modest 1-2 day cycle time, you only need one extractor head per factory in a C2 wormhole. My first efforts massively over produced raw P(0) while failing to produce enough P(1).

Getting it wrong and starting over again a few times has cost me about 20 million ISK. But over the past few days, I've made that money back, and although I suspect that I'm not done tweaking (some of my colonies are under-performing, and I need to look into that), I'm on track to make 2-300 million ISK a month in passive income, or 75 million per colony. Not great, but a welcome boost.

However, my skills are very poor (about level III across the board), and these are multiplicative bonuses. So, if I push these skills up to level IV, I get another colony and all my colonies get better. If I decided to max things out (which will not be a priority; they are x4 skills) I could probably make 600+ million ISK per month.

It won't make me rich, but it certainly takes some of the sting out of each loss.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Hero tackle


The fight

This is what I'm flying around null sec solo these days.

[Kestrel, Kestrel - RL]
Damage Control II
Ballistic Control System II

5MN Y-T8 Compact Microwarpdrive
Warp Scrambler II
Fleeting Compact Stasis Webifier
Medium Shield Extender II

Rocket Launcher II, Mjolnir Rage Rocket
Rocket Launcher II, Mjolnir Rage Rocket
Rocket Launcher II, Mjolnir Rage Rocket
Rocket Launcher II, Mjolnir Rage Rocket

Small Bay Loading Accelerator I
Small Processor Overclocking Unit I
Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I

It's based on Suitonia's very excellent null sec fit, but I swaped out one damage rig for an EM rig and a CPU rig. This allows me to upgrade some of the mods, giving me an extra 1k ehp (and closing the EM resist hole), at the cost of about 13 dps.

I had been roaming, but without success. I'd tackled an interceptor, but he counter scram/webbed, and was able to disengage in structure. I'd jumped a seemingly afk Merlin sitting on a gate, but he got back to his keyboard in time to jump out. He later tried to engage me a second time on that gate, but obvious bait is obvious. Unsurprisingly, there were three Cynabals waiting on the other side.

Disappointed by the lack of a good fight, I had just returned to Chaos when our internal coms reported a Orthus in our hole, kiting around some of our ship. I immediately warped into the fight.

Now, I had no idea of the direction, or the distance, but I knew that warping to zero on someone being kited was not going to be very helpful. Instead, I warped in at 40km, and fortune favoured me. I landed within 10 km of the Orthus, with him headed straight past me. Overheat everything and... gotcha!

The Orthus knew that he was in trouble, and that he had to clear my tackle fast. This was the first time that I had been on the receiving end of overheated Rapid Light Missile Launchers, and let me tell you, it's not that much fun. My shields were melting, and I was not going to last long.

And I didn't. But right before I went, Ymenoa, a potential recruit who has moved into Chaos to see if he is a good fit for the corp, managed to land point in his Ares. He held on long enough that our own Orthus reached the fight, and put the interloper down.

Afterthoughts

I dislike losing ships, but if I'm going to lose one, hero tackle is a pretty glorious way to go. Hurrah!

That said, I think there was some room for improvement here. After landing tackle, I forgot to turn my prop mod off. Years of low sec fighting, where you just leave the afterburner running, mean that I've not developed the reflex of turning off my mwd in brawling range. I don't think it made a difference here - the Kestrel already has a massive signature, and RLMLs are designed to dps frigates, so he was probably going to do maximum damage either way - but it easily could have, against cruiser sized weapons.

The trade-off I made in the fitting room - extra ehp in exchange for a slight dps reduction - was clearly golden here. That extra 1k ehp kept me on the field long enough for backup tackle to arrive, and thus secure the kill. I still need to test the fit in solo combat, though.

I was given the two faction shield extenders as compensation for my lost ship. After selling them, and cashing in on the PI income that is starting to trickle in, I have a little bit of breathing room again.

Perspective is an interesting thing. One of my corp mates was worried that his ISK levels have dipped below 3 billion, and that he might need to do something about that. Meanwhile, I have just over 100k ISK for the first time in a week, and I feel like the king of New Eden.

Friday, 11 November 2016

The economies of war


My recent financial woes have sharply focused my mind on the role that ISK plays in pvp. Way back when, I used to publish regular accounts, tracking the money I gained and lost from pvp, looking to turn a profit.

And profit I did. I was not wealthy, but I did not need any outside income source; my pvp was a self-sustaining, and that was a point of pride for me.

But it's also very limiting.

Let's say I'm flying a T1 frigate that costs 10 million ISK. Most of that is actually the cost of the modules, as the hull value is essentially nil, especially after insurance.

Now let's assume that I fight other T1 frigates, and every time I win, 50% of my opponent's modules drop (on average). If I win 2 out of every 3 fights, I break even.

Suppose instead that I'm flying a T2 cruiser that costs 100 million ISK. The cost of the modules does not actually change too much (a Damage Control/Heat Sink/Warp Scrambler/etc is the same cost regardless of the ship size - only the prop mod, weapons, and buffer tank need upgrading), so most of that cost is actually the hull, which is not covered in any meaningful way by insurance because it's T2.

So assuming that I'm fighting other T2 crusers, which again drop 50% of their modules (on average), I need to win something like 9 out of every 10 fights to break even.

That's a pretty tall order.

What this rough calculation tells me is that if I want to fly more expensive ships, or, put another way, do more than simply repeat what I did last time I was playing, then I need to actually generate an income that can supplement my pvp.

It's something that I'm working on. The gift of a ship from a corp mate has allowed me to do some ratting, and combined with a small sum of ISK from a friend, it has given me a little seed money. I'm going to try and turn that into an actual income, so expect to see some pve related posts in the future.

It seems I'm off to get a 'proper' job.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Flying interceptors


This past weekend was spent (mostly) flying interceptors. I've flown them a great deal in the past, when they were good solo ships. These days, not so much.

This is probably a good thing. T2 ships should be focused on their roles, and dps simply isn't the role of an interceptor. Holding things down for other people to dps is.

I won't pretend I'm more than a decent interceptor pilot - getting that initial tackle in the best possible time requires a bit more aggression. How much do you overheat your prop mod? How narrow do you make your approach angle? Being slightly more cautious, I tend to be ever so slightly slower to land tackle. Overheating your prop mod to land point means having less overheat available to outrun any drones once tackle has been established, and a narrower approach risks getting blapped on the way in.

So while I'm a little slower to land point, I'm also pretty good at actually staying on the field once I'm there. We lost a few interceptors over the weekend, but I wasn't one of them. I was also never forced to break tackle on a target, although there were some close calls. Partly luck, no doubt, but also a slightly more conservative approach to flying.

Being an interceptor pilot has become more difficult, I think, than it once was. This is mostly because of microjump drives. Back in the 'good old days', you could simply hit them with a warp disruptor and chill out at 23+ km (assuming a fleet interceptor). That left you with a free mid slot for a web, which helped you kill drones.

Now, you need a disruptor and a scram. The disruptor is necessary for initial tackle, and because getting too close to anything sub-battleship is still too dangerous, while the scram is required to shut down a potential mjd. This means giving up the defensive web, and flying well inside neut and web range in a tight orbit that drops your speed.

At least you can now ignore bubbles, which makes you a little more likely to be able to warp out when things get too hot. Assuming multiple interceptors with good communication and active tanks, you can take turns bouncing off the field to rep up, before warping back in on the other inti's location.

Of course, this has also turned interceptors into the default null sec 'taxi'. Fast, agile, and immune to bubbles, the interceptor will probably get you where you want to go, especially if you fit for travel.

On a less serious note, interceptor pilots also miss some nice killmails because you are busy holding down the secondary (or tertiary) target while the dps deals with the primary.

It's a tough life.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Well that didn't take long


Following up on my post yesterday, I went out and injected about 50 million ISK worth of skillbooks. It's probably money well spent, and as I grind away at these skills over the next however many weeks, I will become a much more flexible pilot.

I also bought a Pilgrim, but it didn't get far.

I only have a single account, so I can't scout for myself. I did, however, check Dotlan activity levels, and on the way in to the market, the system was clear. By the time I was heading back, though, there was a insta-lock camp.

And they were good. They even got my pod.

I should probably be more bothered by this, but after the level of damage I helped inflict over the weekend, I can't really blame other people for wanting my comparatively modest killmail. Sometimes the hunter, sometimes the hunted and all that.

So, I'm now sitting at just over 20 mil ISK. I have a few frigates lying around, but nothing too useful for grinding cash. I think I have a fair amount of pve in my near future, as I get myself back on my feet. Again.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Random observations from a crazy busy weekend

The knowing guest / who goes to the feast,
In silent attention sits;
With his ears he hears, / with his eyes he watches,
Thus wary are wise men all.


-Hávamál

Each region in Eve - high sec, low sec, null sec and w-space - has it's own rules. Even within these main regions, those rules are subject to variation, such as the difference between FW low sec and non-FW low sec, or 'regular' w-space and pulsar w-space. These different rules affect the local pvp 'meta', as pilots collectively adapt to those rules. The classic example is the predominance of afterburners in low sec, as compared to the predominance of microwarp drives in null sec.

Wormhole space in particular is very different from the other regions. It is one thing to read about these differences. It is another thing to understand these differences. So, like the 'knowing guest' in Hávamál, I 'in silent attention sit', trying to understand my new environment over the course of a very busy weekend.

W-space and holding territory

Out of game programs are suddenly a big part of playing Eve. Wormhole mapping tools that help your corporation plot the ever shifting chains of w-space are not optional. I'm getting to grips with actually using Siggy to move around, and uploading my scans so that others can use that information.

Equally, the Tuskers now hold territory, and have invested in that territory by way of structures and other assets. So we now have a need to defend territory in a way that we never used to when we based out of an npc station in Hevrice. This means having out of game tools to notify pilots when we need to form up and defend Chaos, our wormhole.

Such a ping went out on Saturday, and anyone who was available rushed to our computers to form up and hit a roaming fleet. Without local to tell the other FC how many pilots we had managed to on-line, we were able to bait them into what looked like an easy fight while half of us were docked up, undocking the rest of the fleet only once they had engaged. The enemy FC did not over commit, though, and was able to disengage with only minor losses.

Riplomacy fought well, fought smart, and were cheerful on coms afterwards. I suspect we'll get along with them just fine.

The point was made, though. Unlike null sec corporations, we cannot rely on structures to denote ownership; we occupy and hold our space through pure force. As soon as we stop projecting that force, we become a target for the other w-space pvp corps. Until then, our message is clear: if your wormhole forms a connection to Tusker space close it. Otherwise, we'll be visiting.

Where and how to hunt

I had imagined that much of my hunting would occur in w-space, but a short exposure to this style of pvp has disabused me of that notion, at least for now. W-space hunting requires time. You find a promising system, and you scan out everything and set up bookmarks and pounces all over the system.

During this period, your scan probes advertise your presence, and you won't catch anyone who is paying the slightest attention. So after the scanning, you settle down to wait. And wait. And wait.

Eventually, if you are lucky, someone new comes into the system and advertises their presence with scan probes. Assuming that they are not also hunting, or simply passing through, they will eventually warp to some place to start mining, running the site, etc. But because you have already bookmarked that site, you can warp in on them without warning.

It's a lot like being a trapdoor spider, really. I've added Cloaky Bastard's blog to my sidebar, and he engages almost exclusively in this kind of pvp. He multiboxes, though, and can hit targets that I could never handle solo. So by comparison, my engagement profile would be even more narrow.

The truth is, I don't often have that kind of time. Perhaps on weekends, but otherwise I only have a couple of hours here and there in the evening. With my weak scanning skills, I can spend much of that time just prepping a system, let alone the hours of waiting for a target.

So, like most of the Tuskers, I'll probably be hunting out of the null sec static. This static is amazing. Over the weekend I was involved over 3 billion ISK worth of null sec kills, simply because we could hit an area hard, from behind their scouts and intel posts, and then roll the hole as soon as the fights dried up. That gave us a brand new hunting ground; rinse and repeat.

What to train and fly

I think I need to expand the range of ships I can fly. My 'problem' is that I like to be able to do things well. So I have near perfect skills on all Amarr/Caldari frigates, and their weapon systems, but not a whole lot of anything larger.

For flying solo, this is fine, and it's how I've preferred to fly. But it has two shortcomings.

First, frigates do not seem to be as viable in null sec as in low sec. I think this is because there is less for them to do. A well fitted frigate can kill any npc in low sec, but the larger null sec rats simply have too much active tank. So ratters have to fly bigger ships. Which pushes the people chasing the ratters to fly bigger ships. In addition, sov wars push pilots to train and fly larger, fleet capable ships. So outside of interceptors (used for scouting and general travel), I did not see a large number of frigate viable targets while out and about.

Second, I can't fly any of the larger Tusker fleet doctrines. Sure, I can still contribute in an interceptor, but you only need so many of those. Getting another line battleship is better, most of the time.

This in mind, I think I need to go out and train up the skills to at least sit in all the T1 battleships, with meta weapons. These skills don't need to be perfect (a concept I will no doubt have trouble with), but they will make me much more flexible than I have been in the past. So while I was looking forward to a month of training EM/Kinetic/Thermal/Explosive Armor Compensation V, I think my next trip to high sec will involve buying a load of skill books.

I also need to take a financial risk, and actually buy some decent cruiser hulls for solo hunting. I'll probably start with a Pilgrim, as I actually have near perfect skills for that - it's just the TD's that I need to train up. It can also match damage types to npcs, potentially allowing me to recoup some of my costs via ratting in the empty systems.

I'll have more focused posts over the coming week, but I wanted to get my initial thoughts down while they are still fresh.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Some correspondence


Perhaps it's my imagination, but there seem to be a lot of returning players right now. I see their posts on the Eve forums, private forums, and Reddit. I talk to them in space.

This is clearly awesome for the game, but these returning players seem to share the same sense of disconnection that I found when I returned. New Eden has changed a lot over the last few years.

This is a slightly modified Evemail that I received from one such player, reproduced with their permission.

Hi Taurean,

I was hoping that you won't mind me eve-mailing you. I've taken great inspiration from your blog before, but failed to turn it into a reality. 

The way you play, mostly nothing too expensive, no fear, fun frig size. But I find myself struggling to put myself into those positions.

I could park myself in a low sec belt... wait for something. But all the time my mind saying, I wonder if the one who's just popped into local has 3 mates on the other side of the gate. So I bug back to the station.

I have plenty of isk, it's more a switch in my mind I think. I need to say screw it, even if I lose some ships. 

Are low sec belt a good place to start this? Or FW? I don't want to really become pirate/-10 and hte hassle that goes with that. Maybe that means I shuold try FW....

You must do lots of reading/research. As straight away you know what the likely fit is of most things you come across, and situationally what area is the right kind of system in the universe.

I am mostly Gallente with Minmatar, and my skills are very good on paper. I've been flying around in Comets recently. But maybe that's the issue, I need to switch into insurable ships where teh loss is less. I have plenty of kills, but mostly in gang, always reliant on a FC to guide me.

I remember reading your tusker criteria to get in, class above kill etc. I think that'd be a good goal for me, help motivate me. But first I've got to get my first solo kill full stop, hopefully that will get min the groove.

Thanks for reading my mail. If you have any useful advice on this it would be great to hear back.

My response:

Hello!

I think faction warfare is probably a good fit for you. Alternatively, you could look into Red v Blue, but I'm familiar with that only by reputation.

The advantage of faction warfare is that neither you nor your opponent need to worry about security status losses when you engage each other. The (com)plex system is also good at matching up similar ships - if you are in a novice plex, you know that you won't have to face anything that is not a T1 or faction frigate. You also have the opportunity to control the initial range of the engagement, and to see the enemy before he lands. This helps avoid extremely one-sided engagements.

Plus, the loyalty points you gain while plexing will help pay for your losses. All in all, I'd recommend it to anyone looking to learn solo pvp, with the caveat that you want to avoid fighting in the most heavily populated systems if you are flying solo, as plexes don't prevent you from being outnumbered!

The disadvantage of faction warfare is the need for a neutral hauling alt. This does not need a separate account - I have a second character on my single account with less than 100k skill points to haul ships for me so that I don't have to worry about them being blown up in transit (at least, no more worried than anyone else). 

Edit: After the 15th I'll probably start a new alpha clone account for even better market & hauling skills.

While I do conduct lots of research, I find I don't really 'learn it' until I've actually gone out and done it a few times. There is just so much difference between 'knowing' something when posting on a forum or a blog, and 'knowing' it during that critical 2 second window when it really matters!

The good news for you is that Gallente T1 ships are quite strong. In fact, the Tristan is probably the best T1 frigate in the game by a fairly wide margin. Part of this is because it can be fit three different ways, so whereas you know what a Tormentor is likely to do as soon as you see it on Dscan, the Tristan is more of a wild card.

Atrons are also good - they are so fast that although I've fought them several times, I've only managed to kill one recently, as they have the speed and range control to disengage when things are going wrong. Like most fast ships, though, they are fairly unforgiving of mistakes.

Edit: For non-Gallente players, the Kestrel and the Tormentor are very strong. Minmatar pilots probably want to look to the Breacher.

Of course, the important thing is that you enjoy what you fly. I'm probably too picky about my ships, but the difference between flying something that I like - such as my Tormentor - and something I don't is massive. I perform better, and I'm more eager to go out and find fights. Sometimes this means not flying the 'best' ships, but this is meant to be fun, after all.

Oh, and one comment in particular stood out - that mental block we all have about losing ships. I don't know if you've read my old blog posts, but when I started Eve, I had 'the Punisher Plan'. The idea was that I would buy, and deliberately lose, 20 Punishers. I recorded every fight, thought about what went wrong, and then tried to do better. I lost my fear of getting blown up, and by the time I was done I had met the qualifying kill requirements for the Tuskers.

While I would no longer recommend the Punisher (and frankly, even back then it was a poor choice), I found the process incredibly helpful, and would strongly suggest it to anyone new to solo pvp.

I hope this helps. Do let me know how you get on. Do you mind if I post a modified version of this convo at some point? I suspect there are other players in a similar situation, who might find this useful.


If you know any new or returning players who are struggling to get into solo pvp, feel free to point them to this post, or this blog generally. Ideally, they will learn from my mistakes, so they can make fewer of their own.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

A question of drones


Every ship has an engagement profile, but try as we might, we are inevitably forced to fight something outside that profile from time to time.

Often, when the ship is a cheap one, we take that loss on the chin and keep going. When we are talking about more expensive ships, though, it is worth seeing what we can do to try and mitigate, or escape, some of those unwanted engagements.

Today, I want to look at a very specific problem - that of a kiting ship holding us in place while either whittling us down, or waiting for friends. This has to be one of my least favorite ways to die in Eve; unable to fight back, and waiting for the inevitable.

Now, some ships, such as mwd frigates, can address this by trying to slingshot the kiter (unless they have an extended point range). And mjd battleships can simply jump out of the kiting ship's point range (unless they have a scram). And some ships, typically destroyers or frigates with long ranged weapons, can actually fight back against the kiting ship, driving it away (unless they have ewar).

For everyone else, though, it's probably going to come down using drones. Drones are great, because they are independent of your ship - much like having a group of low skilled, rather dim (but well meaning!) friends show up to help.

Drones can be fast, even when your ship has been made slow. Drones can target, even when your ship is being hit by ewar. Drones can attack, even when your ship has no cap.

Let's look at three different max skilled (but otherwise unbonused) drones.

Warrior II :
Max velocity - 6300 m/s
Orbital velocity - 900 m/s
Orbital radius - 700 m
Optimal + falloff - 4625 m
Tracking - 3.24
Dps - 16
Total hp - 480

Acolyte II :
Max velocity - 5775 m/s
Orbital velocity - 996 m/s
Orbital radius - 800 m
Optimal + falloff - 5000 m
Tracking - 2.988
Dps - 17
Total hp - 600

Hornet EC-300 :
Max velocity - 4000 m/s
Orbital velocity - 350 m/s
Orbital radius - 500 m
Optimal + falloff - 10000 m
Dps - n/a
Total hp - 250

Let's assume that we are being kited by a dedicated fleet tackler. Pulling a Malediction profile from EveUni, I can see that we would expect such a ship to have a cold max speed of 5,189 m/s, and a heated max speed of 7,400 m/s. Such a ship will be orbiting us at maximum speed, because it is not concerned with doing damage of it's own, and wants to mess with our tracking as badly as possible.

How does this play out? Well, first of all we can disregard the heated max speed. No unbonused drone will catch it moving that fast, but that is not a speed he can sustain for very long (about a minute, with max skills). Eventually, he will have to drop down to his cold max.

At this point, we can see that the Hornets still can't catch the interceptor, so we can disregard them. Launching ewar drones against a fast kiting frigate is simply a waste of time. An mwd Executioner with only a single speed mod does better than 4 km/s cold.

However, both the Acolytes and the Warriors can catch the interceptor. What happens then?

Well, my understanding of the drone AI (and I am happy to be corrected on this point) is that once the drone is sufficiently close to it's target, it will turn off it's mwd and attempt to settle into an orbit corresponding the listed 'orbital radius'. At this time, it's maximum speed is it's 'orbital velocity'.

While this works just fine against slow targets, or even fast targets that have been scrammed and webbed, what it means here is that the drone will almost immediately fall behind the interceptor. At that point, the drone will reactivate it's mwd and try to catch the interceptor, starting the cycle all over again. Each time the drone catches the target, it will get one attack (there is a 4 second cycle time on drone attacks), which may or may not hit the kiting ship.

Which one of these two drones is the better choice, then?

On the face of it, the Warrior looks pretty good. It's faster, and has better tracking. On the other hand, it needs to get closer to the Malediction before switching into attack mode (orbital radius 700 m), and has a slower orbital velocity, so it will fall behind faster. To make matters worse, it has a lower effective range, so it's more likely to miss with it's attack as it rapidly falls behind. Because this is a tail chase, the extra tracking is meaningless - the transversal between the Malediction and the drone will be close to nil.

The Acolyte, on the other hand, is still fast enough to catch a fleet interceptor giving three low slots and a rig slot to speed mods (if only barely). It also reaches attack range earlier (orbital radius 800 m), and has a higher orbital velocity, causing it to fall behind more slowly (although not slowly enough for a second attack). Falling behind more slowly, though, when combined with it's higher effective range, means that the attack is far more likely to actually hit the Malediction, which is what we need if we are going to drive it away. The slightly higher volley damage is a further bonus.

There are two other important points in favour of the Acolyte, though. First, it is significantly tougher than the Warrior. While the shield tanked Malediction from EveUni is fast, it is not packing any real weapons. Many Maledictions (and other interceptors) will fit weapons and a web specifically for destroying the drones that they know will come their way. In these cases the Acolyte has a real advantage over the Warrior.

Second, most interceptors will be shield tanked because they want to avoid the speed penalties associated with armor tanks. Even this Malediciton - which has a bonus to armor resists - has been shield tanked by EveUni for fleet ops! And the Acolyte fires straight into the EM resist hole that no interceptor can afford to patch effectively. So it's applied dps will be much higher than the poor Warrior, who deals explosive damage.

So if you want to carry a flight of drones that can drive off an interceptor, saving your shiny ship from the gang that is a jump or two out, you probably want Acolytes if you have max drone skills. If you don't have max skills then you probably want the Warriors, as they will still be fast enough to catch an interceptor even if your drone skills are weak, whereas the Acolytes may well end up being too slow.