Thursday, November 20, 2008

That way be administrivia

I've been going through a bit of a dry spell this past week or so. Not that I've been shut out completely--I still manage to get in on a nice kill here or there. It's just that space has seemed strangely empty whenever I undock and go a'roaming.

Recently factors including intellectual copyright issues and some megacorporate corruption scandals have resulted in major differences in the ways standard spaceship hulls operate in space. Many cruiser-sized ships have grossly reduced maximum speeds, and warp scramblers can now be set to impact the microwarpdrive spectrum as well as the more usual warp drive frequencies. The manufacturers of stasis webifiers, on the other hand, have been forced to make changes in their products that result in less effective webbers.

In studying reports of what this all means, I picked up on widespread optimism that assault frigates would now be viable combat ships. I'd sort of by-passed assault frigate command in my studies, but it only took a few days of focused attention before I was certified to operate Gallente assault ships, and I took delivery of a couple of Ishkur-class beauties, commonly accepted as top-of-the-line when it comes to assault ships. I pimped them out, hit the air lock, and...well, not much, to tell the truth. It's that dry spell. I've found the odd fight, winning some and losing some, but haven't had much of a chance to really put one of my Ishkurs to a proper test. Time will tell.

I'll tell you what I have had plenty of--paperwork. Being at the helm of a pirate corporation has brought on all kinds of duties and responsibilities I didn't sufficiently consider before embarking on that course. It seems, believe it or not, that your typical scurvy pirate likes nothing better than for someone to hold his hand and tell him what to do. What subspace frequency should I have open? Where shall I wait? What ship shall I fly? Do you like my picture of a pirate? Can I shoot that ship? Managing all the "official" communications between twenty-odd motly corsairs just takes time. And while I take that time, they get to go roaming and shooting and yarring, racking up kill records I can only glare at in envy.

Oh, don't get me wrong--the Tuskers are turning out to be a fine pack of killers, and I'm proud to be counted among them. In fact, our reputation is now drawing pirates from across 20 regions to our headquarters, applying for membership. I am firm in the vision I hold for this corporation, and so I find myself, sitting at my desk, reading answers to essay questions, poring over old CONCORD kill reports, running background checks, trying to make sense out of ledgers, and scouring the infowebs for morsels of rumor that will inform my decision to admit or reject. What I'm looking for are long-term mates; I don't want us to draw close to one another, as soldiers do when they fight side by side, only to lose mates to the law, to bankruptcy, or to competing interests.

While a new recruit pops an assault frigate, I write to the administrator of our corporate killboard. While another member hunts down a battlecruiser, I answer EVE-mail from a young pirate wanting advice. While a Tusker runs to the aid of a mate being chased by an interceptor and a cruiser, I explain to an applicant why I need access to all his most personal financial details. While another Tusker hauls down another cruiser from the markets, I explain the rules for communicating ship fitouts for fellow Tuskers to peruse. It gets a bloke to thinking about delegation, and whom to tap. Hmm...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

First fight in a Myrmidon

Recently I felt myself skilled enough, and skilled in enough systems, to make it worth my while to purchase, fit, and fight in a Myrmidon, a Gallente battlecruiser class of some repute. And just as money burns a hole in my pocket, once fit that Myrmidon didn't take long to break my resolve to risk her only in gangs....But first, I need to tell you about Furb Killer.

I first ran into Furb Killer back in early May. I tackled him in an Ishkur in Ouelletta, and killed his ship with my Thorax. I somehow conveyed the impression that I got lucky, and he asked for a rematch, a 1-vs.-1, which I accepted; again, I beat his Ishkur with my Thorax, by an even wider margin this time--though I let off before completely destroying his assault frigate, leaving it with deep structural damage. We had a nice conversation about the (lack of any) role of assault ships in PvP combat. He seemed keen enough, and I invited him to join the Ministry of Destruction.

Months went by, and didn't see Furb Killer around much. Then, earlier this week, he appeared again in Ouelletta. Tusker Novantco attacked his Coercer in a Taranis, and went down hard; Furb Killer's Coercer was custom-designed to take out fast frigates. Novantco lost his capsule as well, and Furb Killer commented on that--"Normally I don't do it but this was just too easy." He repeated that again later..."This was just too easy."

Well, Tusker Who8MyLunch and I decided to avenge our mate. When I made a pass at his Coercer in my Thorax, Furb Killer docked up and came out again in a Thorax of his own. I left Ouelletta local, and sat on the gate in Loes while Who8MyLunch baited him in his Rupture. Eventually Who8MyLunch and Furb Killer ended up at the same asteroid belt, and I jumped into Ouelletta and rushed to join the fray. I barely had enough time to target Furb Killer and get off a few rounds before he went down. He didn't take it well (as evidenced by his comments on our corporate kill report). In response to my "gf," he responded, "you that desperate." And in response to Who8MyLunch's "gf," he responded, "dang if you think that is a gf you really got low." Then, digging deep into the past, Furb Killer threw this zinger: "If you ever wonder again if i want to join your corp, the answer is no." I guess that finally ended my suspense after six months!

Since then, Furb Killer has continued to sit himself at an asteroid belt in Ouelletta in his Coercer, but now when I show up in my Thorax he rushes to a space station and emerges in a Myrmidon. The only ship in my arsenal that has a chance against Furb Killer in his Myrmidon is my own Myrmidon, which brings me to today's story.

Yesterday Furb Killer's tempted another Tusker pilot to attack his Coercer, and managed to kill a Rifter flown by Wesley. After passing through Ouelletta not long after and seeing Furb Killer jump into his Myrmidon, I saw Who8MyLunch log into corp comms, and gave him an update on the situation. We agreed to go for Furb Killer once again. As Who8MyLunch sped towards Ouelletta in his Minmatar Stabber-class cruiser, I undocked for the first time in my Myrmidon, primed and loaded. Our plan was for Who8MyLunch to jump into Ouelletta, jump Furb Killer's Coercer, then wait at the asteroid belt for our target to appear on 360 in his Myrmidon, at which point I would warp to the Ouelletta gate in mine. As soon as Who8MyLunch got a lock on Furb Killer, I was to jump into the system and join them with all speed.

Who8MyLunch did jump into Ouelletta, and Furb Killer was waiting in his Coercer. As Who8MyLunch sped towards the asteroid belt, Furb Killer headed towards a space station. And then...we waited. Who8MyLunch shifted from belt to belt. Ships in local spiked at around 9, then dropped to 3 or 4. Finally, Furb Killer's Myrmidon showed up on local and I warped to the Ouelletta gate. Furb Killer played coy; he went to a different belt than where Who8MyLunch was waiting. Who8MyLunch warped to a third belt. Local remained low. My tension grew as I sat on the Ouelletta gate, hoping no roaming gang would come by to complicate things. Finally, impatient, Who8MyLunch warped to Furb Killer directly, Furb Killer didn't flee, and the fight was on.

I jumped into Ouelletta immediately and warped directly to Who8MyLunch, who was going down fast. His plan was to warp away as soon as I managed to disrupt Furb Killer's warp drive, but he waited too long and lost his ship, then as his command and control systems got stuck in a loop he lost his capsule as well. I landed right on top of Furb Killer, locked him, deployed my drones, and engaged my weapons systems. It was to be a Myrmidon-on-Myrmidon fight, and I was game.

Things were going well for me at first. I fielded a mixed bag of high-tech drones, two heavies, two mediums, and a light, while Furb Killer threw five high-tech mediums back at me. Then--what--wait--Furb Killer slipped out of range while I wasn't paying attention! Belatedly, I activated my microwarpdrive, but it was too late; our quarry escaped. I recalled my drones and warped to a safe spot in space to assess the situation. This time, in response to my "gf," Furb Killer responded with a "gf" of his own. There was only one other pilot in the system, and he'd been there all along; he was probably resting at a space station. It occurred to me that Furb Killer had probably not had the time to comb the wreckage of Who8MyLunch's Stabber for surviving modules, so I warped back to the asteroid belt to salvage what I could. I scooped up Who8MyLunch's corpse, then saw that quite a few valuable modules had survived the destruction of his ship. Then, as I prepared to eject some capacitor booster charges from my cargo to make room for the more valuable pieces of wreckage, Furb Killer appeared just a few thousand meters away, ready to finish the job.

Grimly, I locked my target, sallied my drones, and opened fire with my battery of heavy blasters. As my target moved away, this time I engaged my microwarpdrive and kept after him; I was gratified to see I had a slight speed advantage, and continued to close range--slowly--while doing some damage in my blasters' falloff range. I noticed one of my drones was down, and realized he was trying to gimp my DPS by shooting at my drones; as I inspected my drones to see if any needed to be recalled, a second fell. Dang! I'd already lost one medium and one heavy drone! No matter, I was on it now, and as a third drone began to take damage, I recalled it to my drone bay, breaking the lock Furb Killer had on it, then sent it right back again into the fight.

Whoah! I was almost out of energy! I activated my capacitor booster, and was gratified to see my dials register a fresh infusion of juice before any of my modules shut down. At this point, I was feeling pretty good about the fight; I was hurting my target more than he was hurting me, I was keeping him well in range, and I could see light at the end of the tunnel. I decided to push my blasters a bit beyond spec, planning to let them overheat a bit in exchange for even more DPS. That was when a Vagabond appeared, less than 20 kilometers away. Dang, dang, dang! My heart sank, and I began to consider the possibility that this would not, after all, end up well for me.

There were now two pilots in local, and my overview flagged them as threats due to their affiliations. Probably they were members of some competing pirate corporation. I quickly glanced at their public records; the Vagabond pilot was a member of the Ministry of Destruction, while the other pilot--ship yet unknown--was part of some other pirate outfit. I made the decision to try to get out of I could. But first, more overview information clawed its way to the forefront of my brain, and I realized my guns were well and truly overheated and in danger of shutting down; quickly I issued the order to stop overheating them. The Vagabond...I recalled my drones, suffering from my unfamiliarity with those heavy drones--they seemed to take forever getting back home. I launched a flight of medium ECM drones, vowing to simply abandon my heavy drones next time rather than waiting for them to return. The ECM drones I sent after the Vagabond, which still did not have me locked.

I delayed trying to warp out for a while more. I was almost doing structural damage to my Myrmidon target, and the Vagabond didn't have a lock on me. Some of my modules shut off as I ran out of cap--my cap booster wasn't automatically reactivating itself when it reloaded; I reactivated it manually, and then reactivated my modules, glad my target hadn't escaped' he was at point-blank range by this time. My DPS was slower now, without any drones on target, and slowly the damage my foe was inflicting on me began to catch up to what I'd dealt him. I had him well into structure, but he finished off my armor and began to damage my own structure. I overheated my armor repair systems, then stopped before my mind wandered and I caused irreparable harm.

What was I doing? I was risking the most expensive ship in my stable against superior odds! Some voice in the back of my head told me I wasn't thinking rationally, and with the momentum now in my enemy's court (we were both at 50% structure) I decided once and for all to try to get out. I issued the command to warp to a safe spot in space, fully expecting to be informed that my warp drives were being disrupted--but that message never appeared. Slowly, ponderously, my ship aligned toward my destination, and my impulse speed built up to throw me into warp. At the last minute I recalled my ECM drones, but I waited until too late (my drones are not my ship; better to lose them than recall them prematurely) and left them behind, along with a severely damaged Myrmidon and a Vagabond that never did get a lock on me.

My first fight in a Myrmidon ended inconclusively; I lost my wingman, Who8MyLunch, and I lost a medium drone, a heavy drone, and a full flight of ECM drones; I burned through some expensive ammo and capacitor charges; and I failed to get a kill. On the other hand, my ship emerged in one piece after engaging a battlecruiser and a Vagabond. To me, it felt like a good fight. "Gf," I broadcast, but didn't receive one back from Furb Killer.

Was it a good fight? Let me review my criteria. On one side of the equation, I'd fought against two respected combat ships, and I felt like the decisions I made during the fight mattered. I was in real danger, and felt I could easily have lost my ship. I learned a lot about fighting in my Myrmidon. So 4 points on that side of the equation. On the other side, in my inexperience I made some foolish mistakes (losing combat drones when I didn't have to, failing to engage my MWD, not keeping a close eye on cap, not keeping a close eye on local), and my foe did not seem to share my appreciation for the encounter--2 points against. So yeah, it scores as a good fight.

Later, the Vagabond pilot claimed he wanted to help me kill Furb Killer. That would have been nice to know earlier--if it was true; since he never announced his intentions (and I'm not sure I would have believed him even if he was sincere), I feel I made the right decisions in jamming him and running away.

It cost me over 1.8 million ISK to repair my damaged vessel and overheated modules. Adding up my losses and weighing them against experience gained, my conclusion is I got good value for my money.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

So you think you can fly

As CEO of the Tuskers, one of my responsibilities is to keep an eye out for promising recruits. Occasionally I come across pilots such as the one who claimed:
I've been playing EvE on and off since 04' and settled down in 06'...

I currently have around 18 million S.P.
Spread out mostly in Tanking and Damage dealing (like my background says, I'm a soldier pure and simple)

I have Leadership V and warfare Link Spec IV
Been Running My LvL 4's in my Command Ship (Sleipnir)
Will train more leadership skills if asked to

I'm currently training Electronic Warfare skills while not wanting to be a dedicated EW pilot.

I'm also trained in Covert Ops and Espionage Behind Enemy line. In PVE terms that means that I did Exploration Deep in hostile low sec and 0.0: Covert Op IV ; Cloaking IV ; Cyno Field Theory (in progress- can be trained on demand)
PS: I'm not a spy: I will not execute an order to join a corp with intent on deception, that kind of behavior happens on the battle field.

I have a few Logistics Skills: Freighter Pilot (never used)
; Anchoring skills; and will train combat utility skills: Shield/armor transfer Modules (while not being a dedicated Combat Utility Pilot)

I'm a Highly skilled Mission Runner
(Running LvL 4's for Minmatar Republic for a while now)
My main weapons are Turrets and Autocannons. I only fly Minmatar ships and excel at both Shield and Armor tanking (depending on the ship).
Impressive! Training since '04, now has 18 million sp mostly in tanking and DPS, can fly covert ops, command ships, and freighters, also has good skills in leadership and anchoring. Here's another pilot, this one with 15,700,000 skillpoints:
What I offer:
Experienced 0.0 pilot in the following areas
PVP, Hulk Mining, POS warfare,Big fleet Small fleet Ops., and other areas
I can fly small hac,intercept,snipe bs,EW frig,T2 fit on most mods,and also a hulk for any mining(not a miner)but we all have to make the coin.
What I seek:
Bounty Rats ,0.0 with sov,(no npc space,or Drone Regions))small gang pvp,will do Big fleet as well ,I believe in Defense and offense.
That's right, a 15.7 million sp pilot who flies interceptors, EW frigates, HACs, and battleships--all with mostly T2 modules! And on top of that, he flies a Hulk! Or check out this guy:
I want to join a big alliance that has daily battles and need for good pvp pilots on a daily basis to take on the odd's and come up good.
I will Kill Anything and anyone. all i am looking for is some direction.
Can Fly full Tech II gallente BS V
Frig V in caldari and gallente
I have a fettish with faction/officer fit navy megas and Neut Domi's atm.
6 mill in guunery
4.5 mill in drones
This guy actually has more skillpoints than I do in gunnery and drones (though at 18m sp, less overall), and flies full T2 battleships at a skill level of 5, has Frigate 5 in two races, and flies HACs. That's actually pretty focused.

One more example:
  • 19m char with majority of it in missiles and gunnery
  • Own and fly up to HAC and BS working up to Command (will have it in about 3 week)
  • Also able to fly up to Minmitar Freighter (Just need to buy the book)
  • 16m char with near max probing skills and decent mining skills
  • Own and fly Logistics, Cov ops and BS
  • Able to fly up to Hulk and Recon
This team's "support" pilot boasts of flying 5 classes of ships that I don't even fly yet, with more skillspoints than he!

As a point of reference, I myself have been flying for just over one year and have about 18.5 million skillpoints. From the day I mustered out of the Caldari military, I've focused my training on PvP. Though I learned to fly a Crow well, the entire rest of my training has prepared me to fly combat ships designed by the Gallente consortiums: the Incursus, the Taranis, the Thorax, and as of this week, the Myrmidon, a battlecruiser of some repute. How is it, Friend, that I'm not flying fully T2 battleships and HACs and command ships, like some of those pilots above?

When I say I can command these ships, I mean I command them. My blasters are the appropriate size for the ship I'm flying, spewing out about as much destruction as it is possible for a blaster to spew. Mine are high-tech blasters with the most advanced ammunition, and I've studied hard to lock faster and maximize range, tracking, rate of fire, and damage potential. Beyond that, I know my ship systems well enough to push my blasters beyond spec, causing them to overheat, and at times to malfunction, but in the vast majority of situations merely giving me yet another slight edge over a worthy foe. My drones are high-tech whether they be small, medium, or large. Not content with off-the-shelf drone AI routines, I've learned to modify the drone hardware and reprogram them for speed, range, accuracy, damage, and defensive capability.

When I'm hunting for targets, I'm not cowed by an unfamiliar pilot in a good combat vessel with more experience than I have. The experience I do have tells me that the typical pilot has squandered his time as a pilot, or perhaps merely not focused on combat skills as I have. In a large proportion of my fights, I honestly expect my T2 Hammerhead drones to outperform his T2 Hammerhead drones, my T2 microwarpdrive to push me faster than his microwarpdrive pushes him, and my T2 blasters to deal more damage than his T2 blasters. Heck, I'm never surprised when my opponent can't even field T2 drones, guns, or modules at all. I don't really blame people for not focusing as I have; I recognize the need for miners, haulers, manufacturers, inventors, explorers, or what have you. But when it comes to a fight, the dedicated combat pilot has an edge.

Yet when I say I can command ships, I do not at all mean I have pushed them to the limits of which they are capable. I am aware of advances I could make in nearly all my systems. I am learned in armor tanking, with a merely adequate understanding of shields--and yet I know there are situations in which it would be better for my Myrmidon to rely on shields rather than armor. I have mastered blasters to the neglect of projectile weapons or even railguns--and yet I value the flexibility I would have could I fit my ships for longer range or with less cap-hungry weapons systems. Finally, in many cases I've made the decision that "superior" is good enough, and I have not pursued my studies beyond level 4 to the level 5 of training.

My own conclusion is that those pilots above focused more on spaceship command than on spaceship efficiency. They've concentrated on being specced to fly a ship, whereas I've concentrated on being able to excel in a ship. And I'm not going to say they did it wrong; no doubt they in their HACs or recon ships or command ships or battleships would defeat me in my Thorax. Not surprisingly, an adequate pilot in a superior ship can beat a superior pilot in a lesser ship. But I really want to engage some of them and test my Myrmidon or Taranis, and I really believe I'd have a chance against at least one pilot's battleship with my Thorax.

In the end, I'd probably take any of these pilots if they would demonstrate that they have the Tusker approach to PvP (if they could show me the solo kills, including taking out pilots in superior ships). It's not like I haven't provided my share of comedy killmails.

Just know that when you see me in a battleship or HAC, you'll have a fight on your hands.