Friday, April 30, 2010


Warning! Incoming got-absolutely-nothing-to-do-with-EVE content! If you're one those people who have problems believing there are games other than EVE out there, might as well stop reading now. On the other hand, if you're into various Sci-Fi universes, love blowing the crap out of stuff, and/or recognize the title of this blog post and know where it comes from, please keep on reading.

On April 21st, the Mektek development team made an announcement that brought tears of joy to the fans of the BattleTech universe, of which I am proud to be a part of. The first announcement was made in July 2009 when it was announced that the Mektek team had successfully negotiated with Microsoft for rights to distribute Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries, along with Mektek's awesome MekPak mod, for free. Nada. Null C-bills. Zero ISKies. This news was released at the same time as a trailer called simply "Mechwarrrior", which is called Mechwarrior 5 by us fans, showing some urban 'mech warfare, complete with buildings crashing down under weapons fire and an Atlas assault 'mech turning a Warhammer into plasma. Sweet eye candy. Although we haven't heard anything about this iteration of the BattleTech story, happening during the Succession Wars way before anyone knew anything about Kerensky's Clans, the Mektek guys have delivered. Today, on April 30th 2010, Mektek has announced that the waiting is now over, and Mektek MekPak 3.1 has now become Mechwarrior4 Free. And the BT fans go wild !!!

So in essence, what does Mech4Free have that Mech4Mercs doesn't have? Clicking the "Mech lab" button answers that question real quick: 'mechs. Tons of 'em. In fact, almost all of the 'mechs of the Battletech universe from the 3025 era up to 3067, a few years after the annihilation of Clan Smoke Jaguar by Task Force Serpent, and just before the dissolution of the newly-formed Star League, are included in the mod, as well as battle suits (read Clan elemental) and even infantry. Take a look:
  • 105 different mechs ranging from 20 to 100 tons.
  • 9 Battle Armor
  • 6 Infantry
  • 32 Beam Weapons
  • 43 Ballistic Weapons
  • 44 Missile Weapons
  • 7 Electronic Components
  • 3 different types of armor
But the mod doesn't stop there. The multiplayer feature is a vast improvement over the original, and does away completely with Microsoft's Gaming Zone in favor of Mektek's own MekMatch system. And here you have access to more game types, and many, many more maps than the original ever had. From foggy jungles to steaming lava planets, from tight 1v1 Solaris arenas to gigantic battlefields, everything is there.

So what more can I say? If you love the BattleTech universe as much as I do, you must go now to MekTek's website and download what every other Mechwarrior is probably downloading (btw, the announcement came as I was writing this blog) and start firing up those ER PPCs, Ultra AC20's and Gauss rifles!

Trample all that stands in your way


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

EVE on a different gear, redux

After making the decision to go back to my real-life buddies' alliance - I mentioned 5 in my last post but it's more like 7 or 8 - I was thinking things would be very quiet the way they always were at AMC, but I was surprised to find a bit more action than there used to be on the various channels, and as Letrange had told me the combat wing is kind of on the small side, but willing to go out and find stuff to kill at a moment's notice. The wing is made up of players ranging from industrialists finally coming around to training PvP skills, both in-game and practical, to veterans even more skilled than I am. And I'm really comfortable with the knowledge that if push comes to shove, the other industrialists of AMC can flip a switch and turn from carebear to kodiak in an instant. Carebear tears these guys do not shed. I would even go so far as openly inviting a third bunch of clowns to come setup a POS in our Grotto wormhole system, just so we can practice our eviction tactics!

So as I mentioned in my last post, the Welcome Back party was tons of fun, with 2 battleship kills and a Phobos for good measure. But in case you didn't know, the Bhaalgorn is a force to be reckoned with; when that ship showed up at the gate the fight was on our little Jihad gang started popping real quick. But go down fighting we did, and 81% efficiency is something to be proud of. And to all the people dissing the Claw interceptor, go back to the previous blog post, click the battle summary link, and check who did top damage on the Dominix... yeah baby! I didn't do much after that because I had to get downtown for the Montreal pilots' meet, but when I got back I went on a shopping spree and made use of the newly fitted Orca to haul an entire fleet of disposable ships, as well as a few interceptors and assault frigs for good measure. My bigger ships will be added to my hangar when they get delivered from that POS in Providence, though I do have one of my VagaCanes, because I do want to take a slightly more serious gang out than a Jihad in the near future.

Sunday started out really relaxed, with a blog update, the fitting of Rifters and Stabbers and Thoraxes (oh my!), and a clone jump to get out of my implants because I planned more mayhem; yes, the WB party op was done with +4s in my head... silly me :) At least I rarely get podded so all is good, I didn't have to replace them. The first op was run by my buddy Havegun and had a smaller fleet composition than the previous day's and after finding the Heimatar/Metropolis Low-sec to be very quiet we decided to head towards Caldari space. It didn't take long to find trouble because a few systems were full of people, probably on Faction Warfare ops, and even some carriers were out and about. We went through that real quickly in search of easier targets, and were soon joined on a gate by a pirate Dramiel. When the fastest ship in fleet is a Stabber, you will not catch that thing. But he did his job perfectly as he lead us away from the gate and two HAM-fit Drakes landed on us and killed our T1 stuff in no time flat. Lesson learned: do no engage a Dramiel unless flying one yourself!

Havegun had to leave the game for Real Life stuff so we took a break (it was also supper time in Montreal), but I then took control of the small fleet and had another pilot join us, Montrealer Uozag who is also new to The PvP. I decided to take a different route than Havegun to go on a Tour de Molden Heath. This didn't pan out too well though because there were even less people out in space, and all the -10s were staying docked and not falling for my noob ratter tactic; maybe having Clown Punchers as one of my previous employers is not helping in that regard! Anyway, after getting to the far end of Molden Heath I get everyone's approval to go to Great Wildlands, where at least we can shoot at anything and anybody. And we didn't have to go far to find a target. As one of my guys has to drop fleet and heads home he scouts 2 pirates camping the Teonusude gate in Bosena, but has he is saying this on comms a neutral Myrmidon appears in our midst, clearly on autopilot! The slight distraction of the scout report was enough to make us fumble the bumping attempt and the Myrm was able to jump to safety, for now. Seeing that there is traffic I thought maybe it would be a good idea to camp here a bit... and that was a good idea because the Myrm jumped right back in! We made short work of him but one of his buddies arrived in a neuting active-tank Dominix. There was no way our small gang was going to break his tank, and he started popping one cruiser after another, so GTFO was called, which allowed 2 cruisers to survive. But the Myrm.... dammit man, just look at that fit !!! If you do not see the fail in this fit you need to give me all your stuff and uninstall the client.

I spent the rest of the evening just tooling around, checked out the changes in LCSC's corp hangar since the time I left last fall (had to pick my jaw off the floor there!), and as Let mentioned I helped him get rid of some Amarr Navy NPC from that ever-so-nasty mission. All in all a most excellent day. I had missed flying Stabbers, but I did miss the punch of either the Cane or the Vaga. But no worries, it is looking like the very small AMC combat wing is getting back into the swing of things, and unlike what we did at the start of Apocrypha, when we were getting into wormholes and moving stuff all over New Eden, we will keep training from our base in Empire, and try to get a few more members each time we go out, and maybe even recruit a bit. Yes even carebear alliances can be a lot of fun when you put the effort at the right place.

Fly safe? Never!


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Always on the move

"You know things are bad when a player leaves a 0.0 alliance to join essentially a carebear alliance and gets better PvP right away!"

- Letrange

This may sound a bit weird but it's pretty much what happened to me. No offense to any Chaos Theory members who may be reading this, but from my point of view things just didn't work out in Providence. Sure the weeks prior to the official start of the "Ciao CVA" campaign things were looking good, with camps and roams to keep the PvP senses honed. And then AAA gave the green light and all Hell broke loose for the so-called Holders. There was much action as sovereignty modules had to be first put into reinforced mode and then blown up, space had to be patrolled, and assets had to be moved in. Sovereignty got switched in systems left and right, the last CVA station went down to a fully Minmatar fleet, and all was beautiful in the universe. For all of one day.

Before leaving for work the next morning I decide to fit a few ships, but Lo and Behold, the fitting service is dead. Awesome. If I would've been on the enemy side I would've done just the same to piss off the enemy. But here's the bad thing about the Chaos Theory systems: they are very spread out. Fitting a single ship became a pain in the ass. Furthermore, it seemed that the drive to take some sovereignty had quieted down a tad because not only were the stations not being fixed, but finding someone to fly with in eastern prime time was getting harder and harder. The last nail in the coffin for me was last Thursday, when a new PvP corp was to be added to the alliance to jump-start activity, and with this corp is supposed to be an old veteran from the Beta days, with supercap access, oodles of accounts, and a nasty foul mouth. That I can deal with, but as I have said before, the next joker to start barking orders would have that bark right back at him, and it came pretty close to that after I had lost a Hurricane, at least in an honorable way. When the unmentioned newcomer started saying things about people not flying what they're supposed to and losing BCs flying solo, I told him straight: you're not happy about my BC loss, you tell it to my face. I was looking for trouble on purpose, found a bit too much, died. Big. Fucking. Deal. I didn't push further as it would be in-constructive but then spent a couple hours hearing about his plans. At the same time a 10-man red BS+support fleet had decided to start shooting at another station, and me and some other guys decided to form up a defense fleet. There were 55 in alliance... we got 5 people in the fleet even after spamming the alliance channel, at 10PM Eastern. Hear this? it's the sound of the last nail hitting the coffin. Goodbye Chaos Theory, thanks for the kills, and good luck evading the fail-cascade.

I spent the next evening gathering my better ships together at my real-life friend's POS, sold the rest, and started looking at my options. I did think about joining the reds but being branded as a turn-coat doesn't sit well with me. I thought of knocking at Noir's door but I know these guys probably have BOZO-style discipline and I'm looking for something more casual... shout-out to Alexeyev Karrde who flew with us prior to Hell Week, and to Mynxee who has my vote in the upcoming elections! So I turned Skype on and called AMC CEO Letrange and asked how things were, and gave news about my own activities, or lack thereof. AMC is a tad short on combat pilots but is working on that, so I informed him that he can have a couple more. Let doesn't want more corporations so I will be leaving my 2-man corp along with my buddy Si Gong and we'll both become part of Let's own ChaosStorm Corporation. Dock 94 will remain alive for our alts.

The decision made, I get to AMC's PvP op HQ and got in a training fleet ran by fellow Montrealer Havegun Willtravel, and started roaming the Heimatar Low-sec corner. We had 7 Jihad cruisers plus my Claw, and a few jumps later, this happens. I couldn't have asked for a better Welcome Back party than this!

Just prior to this, I had phoned my buddy Si Gong to inform him of the upcoming changes because he's been without internet access lately. At the same time he asked me to complete the training for his Orca, which I then proceeded to pick up. It was quite an operation because it was 2 jumps into Genesis Low-sec, and I have very little experience dual-boxing. but the Orca is now safe in Rens, and I did Si a favor by fully fitting it, small payment for me using it to move some assets to AMC HQ. The Orca is an awesome ship. At some point I will have to break down and have Cozmik train for it. But as I was discussing with Havegun here's an idea for CCP: how about a combat version of the Orca, a combat deployment vehicle usable in Hi-sec? It sure would be fun to not have to train the mining skills I'll never use :)

So there you go. A new start once again but this time I'm pretty sure it's for good. there's nothing like having corp and alliance mates you know in real life. One is good, but five is better.

Don't wait for stuff to happen... FLY!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

You've been fragged by a GRRL!!!

Welcome to the seventeenth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to Check out other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!
What could CCP Games do to attract and maintain a higher percentage of women to the game. Will Incarna do the trick? Can anything else be done in the mean time? Can we the players do our part to share the game we love with our counterparts, with our sisters or daughters, with the Ladies in our lives? What could be added to the game to make it more attractive to them? Should anything be changed? Is the game at fault, or its player base to blame?

[internet joke]

There are no girls on the internet!

[/internet joke]

If you haven't heard this joke before, you've either been hiding in a cave or are so new to the internet that your computer still has that "new car" smell. No, don't believe the rumors. There are a few rare ladies that not only surf the weeb and send e-mails, but who actively play video games, online games and MMOs. A very little percentage play what I would call "boy games", with fast action movement, exploding stuff, and blood & guts. The girls that do so tend to be extremely good too; they take a lot of pride in telling some young testosterone-filled player "how does it feel to lose to a girl?".

The advent of MMOs brought something that appealed right away to most girls: socialization. Add pretty graphics and less hardcore elements and suddenly a bit more ladies play. But don't pile all women into the same stack because there will always the hardcore grrlz who not only thrive in a high competition environment but get recognition as A Player. I've seen it happen in Quake III's golden hour where some girls started competing with guys as equals. Cybersports are awesome for that!

But as it applies to EVE Online, it's a bit different. It can't be described as a Cybersport (unless we talk about the Alliance Tourney) but it is definitely hardcore. Too hardcore? Well, the lack of instant gratification sure doesn't help; one has to see the Big Picture in order to keep interest in EVE. One also has to get involved with other like-minded players to achieve certain goals, and this goes to everything that can be done in EVE from industrialism to piracy to sovereignty warfare. If someone wants to get into EVE for the social aspect but just do his/her own little thing... things are going to get boring pretty quick and that player will quit. Let's take my girlfriend for example (the real life Cassy Winds for those who know my trade alt character). She would openly admit it, she is a WoW player. I know, blasphemy. But in reality this game is perfect for her because she just wants to do her little thing, with just a bit of socialization on the side especially after picking up some sweet loot. But she watches me play EVE and though she knows almost nothing of the game in general, she knows about the unsharded universe, the sandbox, the butterfly effect, all that jazz. She would be terrified to do her thing, say missions, with the knowledge that some ninja joker could come in and mess with her and her stuff.

Will Incarna attract more girls to EVE? It all depends what you can and cannot do in your incarnated out-of-pod avatar. If there are some missions or "quests" you can do while in stations then maybe some girls may be interested to give EVE a try. There has to be that element for Incarna to work anyway because people will just stay in their ships if all you can do when out and about is to go to a make-believe bar to shoot the shit with the stations guests.

All in all, Girls either in EVE or in any other game will always be the minority, and no amount of content will suddenly transform WoW/DDO/Rappelz girl gamers into sci-fi loving capsuleers. But I will go so far as admitting that making better forms of PvE, with or without Incarna, would at least make the girls who try the game out think about maybe sticking around longer. As for the hardcore grrlz? Don't worry about 'em... or worry about 'em when they have a point up your ass and are turning your ship into a slab of swiss cheese!

Fly gallantly


PS: I take this opportunity to salute all the gamer girls I've played with, fragged and gotten fragged by: Jenesaispas & Zola (Red Planet), Honi, Trinity, DeathAngel & Dovey (Quake III), Arancia, Jel, Mynxee, Shae, Missemopants, DJ Sam (EVE)... I'm sure I'm forgetting some!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bye Bye CVA & Coz's Garage

Well it has finally happened, CVA has been shown the door in Providence, and the once NRDS region is now turning into one of the best places for skirmish warfare The PvP. Of course, we still have to deal with CVA bed buddies Paxton Federation (hi Kirith!) who seem to enjoy out-blobbing enemies 5-to-1, camping stations, and shutting down station services... all the things I absolutely love about EVE. Yeah, right! The downside is that my alliance seems to be more active in late Central to Pacific times, as well as Australian; gotta give a shout-out to Van Diemen's Demise corporation as they've been doing an awesome job fighting outnumbered at the weirdest times right around down time. So that means that in my play time, say from 2300 to 0200 evetime, things are rather quiet and space can be a dangerous place. I'd love to play later but getting up at 5-5h30 AM to get ready for work sucks the bags. I could get up later but I'm slow to start up :)

So with things being a bit quiet on my side - a change in parental duties means no EVE every other weekend again - let's go with the current blogging flavor of the month, "What do I have in my hangar?". Here goes:

Ships in Null-sec at the moment

  • Tempest (Shambler IV): complete with 1400mm guns and Tremor ammo, I could call this the Clear Skies fit!
  • Hurricane (Instagib): my main ride these days, she does everything from gate camps to cap ship support, even Sansha extermination. She's using a ganky nano fit called VagaCane by Cerui Tarshiel; flies like a Vaga, only 100 million ISK cheaper :)
  • Vagabond (Packard Goose): 100 million ISK more than the previous ship but it's The Original. And Let was right, this thing has "r3dfiv3" written all over it >:)
  • Broadsword (Fugu II): when the enemy absolutely needs to stick around and die. It is sporting the official BOZO fit which makes the tank.... tanky; in a Class 3 pulsar system with Claymore gang-boosting we're talking over 230 thousand EHP. Ya.
  • Stiletto (Facehugger): it's the fleet tackler described in my last post. Thanx for the comments BTW :))
  • Claw (GV27): this is my "fly dangerous" ship, as described in my bookmarking guide.
  • Taranis (Rapist): in a moment of complete fail, I had the thing shipped down to 0.0 but didn't bring any modules for it. Bravo. Its twin brother is all fit and sitting in Low-sec. It's the 250+ DPS rape fit.
  • Rupture (Sheik Yerbouti): Allah is great. I have 5 of these ready to sacrifice themselves in Allah's holy name. I also had 2 Thoraxes for the same purpose but last Tuesday was an all-around bad day.
  • Rifter (Headcrab): same purpose as above, only tacklier and cheaper.

Ships still in Empire

  • Sleipnir (The Slip): my current money-maker. Tanks and hits like a battleship but handles like a BC. Gotta love that!
  • Hurricane (Swiss Cheese Maker): dual-repping omnitank fit, she's built to do Class 1 sleeper sites. Haven't tried it since I got BC 5 so it should rock even more :)
  • Jaguar (Meow): when a wanna-be ninja piwat wants to fuck with me, I fuck with him right back! Sorry, the fit is classified >:) I should bring one to 0.0...
  • Nemesis (Highly Visible): typical bomber but useless as I don't have the bomb skill. I should fix that! I use the Gallente bomber because the Hound looks like shit.
  • Cheetah (Anal Probe): another one I should bring to 0.0 ASAP.
  • Dramiel (WFO): built with one thing in mind: OMFGWEEEEEEEE!!!11  It doesn't even have guns in order to reduce drag... LOLZ

And that's about it. My ship roster is pretty simple and I like it that way. Two I would really like to add to my little collection would be a Cynabal and eventually a Machariel. I'm reserving this for my Minmatar/Gallente Battleship V celebration, so I should have the time to amass the ridiculous amount of ISK necessary to buy one.

Have a nice weekend and fly dangerous for me plz :)


Edit: ship names added.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Scouting, aka dancing on fire with back-up

In my last semi-tutorial kind of guide I talked about the making of bookmarks and evasive maneuvering while flying through hostile space in an attempt to fly a slight bit safer into unknown territory as well as well-known space ways. I had written this guide with solo flight in mind with an interceptor fit to kill other scouting frigates and inties, and even certain cruisers. If you want to know, that fit has also been able to put a serious dent on some battlecruisers and battleships but I admit that those had to be seriously fail-fit; a flight of Warrior II drones would spell trouble but some people's fits are mind-boggling.

But this guide will not be about avoiding trouble if you happen to find it, but quite the opposite, to find and pin-point trouble to hopefully smash it to bits. Once again, I will write this based on the way I would do it so feel free to dissect my techniques and please leave comments both if you think what I write is correct or if it's full of fail. Enjoy!

The clone

Must I really repeat myself? Yes, I must. People fly carelessly all the time. So make sure your clone is updated, and make sure you don't have any expensive implants in your head, unless you're uber rich and don't care. Don't come crying if you get podded cuz I would just laugh at you!

The ship

This is where things get interesting. Unlike solo flight where you have to be in something comfortable and survivability or death affects only yourself, fleet scouting demands that various ship types be used and that their pilots be ready to do everything the fleet commander asks. In fact, the FC and the scouts should be the only ones to say anything on comms, but more on that later. The ships used most of the time for scouting are the following, in no particular order: Covert Ops with combat probes, Stealth Bombers, Interceptors, E-war frigates, cheap/fast T1 frigates, and Force Recons, except for Falcons due to their nature (unless you are Unzer or Loofaro, who are true Falcon artists). One has to be a very experienced pilot in order to field Recons because they are hard to fly correctly and very expensive to lose. Bombers can now be used as scout since the change that allowed them to warp cloaked and hit at shorter ranges, but they are known for being paper-thin and slow, which is a bad combination. So by far the two most popular choices are the Covert Ops as forward scouts and the interceptors as secondary scouts. Both have advantages and disadvantages, but let's look at how they are used.

You do not see me

Out of the two most used ship classes for scouting, the Covert Ops is the clear winner. Being very agile and its hability to warp cloaked at 13.5 au/s, it is also the ship of choice to fit expanded probe launchers, which allow the use of deep space and combat probes, thus making it the perfect choice to find ships in cosmic anomalies, deadspace complexes, hidden belts, or hiding in safe spots. Since the changes to the scanning mechanics in Apocrypha one can now get warp-ins on ships within seconds. It is the perfect ship to use for prolonged observation of an enemy fleet; an interceptor can also do it but not for more than a few minutes, and it risks getting caught by a fast enemy cloaker. A Cov Ops on the other hand can litterally stay within spitting distance of a fleet for hours on end if flown right. And this creates the main use of the ship in combat, its hability to become the warp-in point for the fleet, the maneuver AMC had dubbed "Poetry in tackling" where the Cov Ops can position itself perfectly for the fleet to land on an enemy at zero where not only are ships in web/scram range but interdictors can bubble an entire enemy fleet in one pass, but usually this is done to kill a single target or a very small gang. All the Cov Ops pilot has to do is fly around the intended target while in cloak, and position himself lined up with the direction the fleet will arrive from, and put his ship at the 50km point on the opposite side of the target. When he is in position, all the Cov Ops pilot has to say is "Warp to XYZ at 50km", where XYZ is the pilot himself, as there is no "me" in a fleet. Hilarity should follow :))

Speed... I am speed!

For those like me who want a more hands-on approach to scouting, with hair-raising flying stunts around enemies and gates and the hability to lock up a single ship for a fleet to dine on, the interceptor is where it's at. For those with very deep pockets, the changes to Faction ships in Dominion have turned the Dramiel into the best interceptor in all but name. While it still has the base 6 au/s warp speed of frigates, a few Hyperspatial rigs will take this close to 10, and its normal space speed is simply unmatched. But let's face it, a 150mil ISK tackler is kind of ridiculous! If you can throw that money around go for it, but normal interceptors are cheaper and easier to replace. All the interceptors do the job, but my suggestion is to have the ship fit the fleet it is in. For example, in a small gang or below-cruiser-size gang, it's better to use the more combat oriented ships like the Taranis because every little bit of damage counts, but in general the faster tackle oriented interceptors like the Stiletto are a better choice; my own fit allows for a 19.4 au/s warp speed, and the shield buffer and tracking disruptor makes it able to tackle something potentially dangerous and survive long enough for the gang to arrive. Here's the fit:

          [Stiletto, Fleet tackler]
          Nanofiber Internal Structure II
          Overdrive Injector System II
          Micro Auxiliary Power Core I

          1MN MicroWarpdrive II
          Warp Disruptor II
          Balmer Series Tracking Disruptor I
          Medium Shield Extender II

          150mm Light AutoCannon II, Barrage S
          150mm Light AutoCannon II, Barrage S
          Salvager II

          Small Hyperspatial Velocity Optimizer I
          Small Hyperspatial Velocity Optimizer I

X goes here, Y goes there

The scouts have a few advantages that go with the job: in a perfect world with ultra-tight comm discipline they are the only ones apart from the FC who should have a voice on comms, and because of the nature of the job they have more freedom of movement than the average fleet grunt. Before a fleet is to set off, scouts must be dispatched along the path of a destination in the case of a roam (maybe 2 jumps before the fleet departs, and then 1 jump ahead as the fleet advances), or in the surrounding systems in the case of a static operation like a gate camp, POS take-down, etc. The job is simple yet crucial: to warn the FC of ship traffic, and more specifically the ship types and numbers. One of the worst things a scout can tell an FC is "there are lots of reds here!". Sure seeing Local full of reds can be stressful at first, but "lots!" doesn't give any information about numbers or if any ships are about, and if so, what they are. I have heard before a scout freak out like this and the way he was talking we thought he had jumped into a 100-man camp... turned out it was 10 reds and they weren't even in space!

Something that can help a scout a bit is doing bookmark runs the way I described them a while ago (linky), especially in unfamilliar space. Of course one has to know beforehand that he will be scout for a fleet but at the very least it should be done in the stellar vincinity of the corp/alliance HQ. A fleet op will not be the best opportunity to make a full survey of the constellations the fleet will travel through but the scout has to be ready to make safe spots on the fly because it's a sure bet that the fleet will attract attention at some point, especially in hostile space.

Giving intel and GTFO tactics

So let's say you're the forward scout of a medium-sized roaming gang. In theory, the FC should have at least a couple guys checking possible trouble coming from the back and the sides of the fleet, but when the fleet is on the move your job is to stay one jump ahead, sometimes refered to as "getting +1", calling whatever you see. Of course there is a method to this, and here's how I do it. After getting +1 and the system has loaded, you have to make sure the fleet can safely go through the gate you just went through (warp bubbles, ships on gates, rats, etc.) and check the status of Local. When it's clear the fleet can proceed but if there are people, you have to give a quick list on comms like "SCOUT SCOUT! 10 in Local, 4 reds, 2 neutrals", followed by which corp/alliance the people belong to. Remember, noob alts in Reaper/Ibis/Velator/Impairor are usually scouts so don't take 'em lightly. Something you can do really quickly is hold CTRL and select say the reds from Local and drag them into fleet chat. Since Dominion it's much easier to link stuff in chat because there's no more option menu, it goes straight to "Show info". As you warp to the next system towards destination, refered to as "outbound", you scan repeatedly with the directionnal scanner to see what is out in space, not only towards the outbound gate but also out and about. When you do see ships you have to figure out if they are POSed up, in a belt, in an anomaly, etc. This is when having a probing Cov Ops can come in handy because he can scan down a ship in deadspace in a very short time. Believe me, finding a lone Marauder BS when you're in a Jihad roaming gang is quite funny!

But eventually something will happen, much the same way as it did when I was explaining bookmarking. You'll jump straight into the waiting arms of a camping fleet with bubble up, tackle, ECM, the whole nine yards. But this time you may not want to evade them; you may want your fleet to destroy them utterly. First thing to do as with anything in EVE PvP, Don't Panic™. If you're in something fast you should survive this ordeal. Here's how I do it, in this very order, and about as fast as you're reading it:

  • Jump and !! HOLD CLOAK !!
  • Notice the enemy about me
  • Hit the scanner exactly once
  • Give number of Local, and click-drag a couple random reds into fleet chat
  • Decloak, reapproach gate at max speed (careful not to bounce off), JUMP!
  • Get safe quick because 1 or 2 tacklers will try to follow

Suddenly your scanner window becomes the most precious thing on your UI, especially to your FC, and the intel it gives has to be transmitted. The way a lot of people do it isn't the best way. Yelling "THEY'RE HERE!" is totally useless.Yelling out the entire fleet list on comms at the top of your lungs does give an idea of what's out there, but if there's more than 10 ships it's also useless because the FC is thinking about 20 things at once (learned this lesson the hard way, but it was worth learning; once again thanx BOZO). The best thing to say would be something like "SCOUT SCOUT! Enemy on the VOL gate in ARG... List coming up". Take your time... ok, do it quickly but without rushing it, sort your scanner by ship type and write down the list of ships in fleet chat in the following fashion:

Apocalypse x2, Ares, Blackbird x2, Claw, Crow x2, Hurricane x4, Jaguar, Kitsune, Rapier, Sabre

As you can see, this is 16 ships neatly written in a single line. You can even use abbreviations for known ships such as Apoc, BB, Cane, Ruppy, etc. The more complete the ship list the better for the FC. Of course you may be missing some cloakers like stealth bombers and recons, but nothing is perfect so just do your best. Once the FC has this list it is much easier for him to decide what he wants to do about it, either set up on the contested gate in Mexican Stand-off fashion and get ready to call primaries, or back-track and find better fish to fry if your fleet is outnumbered 6-to-1.

Once the fighting starts the scout has to revert to his ship's original role, tackle for interceptors, damage for bombers, etc. I suggest Cov Ops just stay cloaked on the edge of the grid, or scout neighboring systems for possible entrapment.

And that's pretty much it. Basically when you scout you have to become your FC's eyes, and the information you need to give him is as clear as possible. With good comm discipline the FC should be able to hear you right away, but if comms are rather loose you have to be certain the FC will hear you so making sure your voice is loud and clear on comms is mandatory, and beginning your intel broadcasts with "SCOUT SCOUT!" should shut people up in a hurry. If not, the FC can then apply disciplinary measures as he sees fit; I have seen people get kicked out of fleets before, and I have also heard of fratricidal gankings.

I hope this little guide was helpful in any way, and if you feel something is missing or if there's something you would do differently please let me know by leaving a comment.

Don't run from enemies; run AT enemies!


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

First experience with Sovereignty Warfare...

...and hopefully the last. Because my new alliance wants a few systems to operate out of in Null-sec, and because we do have a decent capital ship roster and also have a nice set of blues, I have participated in my first ever ops to take sovereignty in EVE Online. I understand that this is necessary for the alliance's goals, but the ressources in time, ISK, and equipment to do sov warfare are nothing short of absolutely ridiculous. I don't know if it was as bad in the POS spamming days before Dominion but if some players see this as the "End Game" content I simply see it as more reason to never put a single ISK penny into a capital ship, unless I've maxed out all the skills from T2 battleships on down; hell I'll even train industrials before I even consider a carrier or a dreadnought! Oh, seeing a couple titans and supercarriers for the first time on TQ was all fine and dandy, and it seriously helped speed up the sov module reinforcement process, but to think that some people have spent more time at this over the last few days than I have spent at my regular day job... sorry guys this shit is just fucking WRONG !!!

One look at the Dock 94 killboard would tell you right away where the action is happening so I won't pussyfoot around it: we are in Providence. NRDS? Please... I'm an ex BOZO! I adhere more to the "if it moves shoot it" philosophy. I also laughed my head off every time I came across some Amarr god worshipper who copy/pasted his NRDSness in Local in a vain attempt to evade The PvP; I usually don't think much of religious fanatics in real life so imagine my view on religious fanatics who worship gods from a gaming universe! But to come back on the original subject of this post, I completely understand why the sov bashing has to be done, but if it turns into something that has to be done over and over again, or if it gets so expensive I have to leave my own tiny 2-man corp to join a bigger, richer one just to keep a handle on a tiny bit of sovereignty, then fuck that, I'll go find my prefered form of The PvP somewhere else. On the opposite side, if this is just something that's a complete pain in the ass to do right now but once done we can almost forget about it for a good while and get on with more easy-going activities from a bit of ISK-making carebearism to roaming PvP, and we can know that the home systems are in relative safety, then cool, I can live with that.

My only experience even remotely linked to sov warfare were the POS bashes against clowns who thought pitching a tent in AMC's backyard would be a good idea; the first time everyone was nervous like teen girls on prom night, but nowadays the trespassers would be welcome to try with nothing short of glee. But that is only against a single tower. But having to deal with Infrastructure Hubs, TCUs and stations spread over a few systems, not even a full constellation... damn! I guess I'm not hardcore/crazy enough. Maybe it would be more interesting with hot drops and counter hot drops, but at some point it would turn into a gigantic space brawl where survival is nothing but a lottery. In an old-school space shooter where a determined squadron of small ships could cripple, if not kill, a capital ship, that would actually be a whole lotta fun. But in EVE when you get into the hundreds of ships, with 5 to 10 times that amount in drones, fighters and fighter-bombers, you also get lag ranging from a barely manageable 20 frames per second to 1 frame per 5 minutes to the Black Screen of Uselessness. Yeah, great fun.

I've said before that I would not participate in blob warfare and as is stands right now I'm coming uncomfortably close to this. Here's to hoping all goes to plan and doesn't have to last longer than it already has to so I can go back to my favorite activity, which is flying dangerously with the intent of killing anything that shows up in my overview, red or neutral.

To all Amarr RPers, let me quote Mr Trent Reznor:

"Your god is dead, and no one cares. If there is a Hell, I'll see you there."

Fly deadly


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bookmarking and evasive actions, aka dancing on fire

One of the most precious commodities in EVE Online, especially when either living in or having to travel through Low-sec, Null-sec, and even W-space, is intelligence, more commonly refered to as intel. Whatever the type of flying one does in the game, knowing where friends and foes are, where they're going and what they're doing can be vital in either getting to a destination safely, or to find them and utterly destroy them. But how do you go about flying in regions you don't know anything about, or where you know there are enemies but have no idea who is where and doing what? Enter one of the most interesting activities in EVE: scouting.

As promised a couple posts ago, I will do my best to explain how I go about travelling in relative safety in Null-sec space, especially in enemy infested regions where everybody and their cats and dogs would like nothing better than to pin your name on their killboard. Their job is to make sure you get as little intel on them as possible, while your job is too collect as much intel as possible and do your best to live to tell about it.

The clone

Before you even think about plying the more dangerous space lanes, make sure of two things: 1- make sure your clone is updated because there is always a chance that you'll get caught at some point, and 2- make sure you are not in a clone full of expensive implants, for the exact same reason. It's enough that you're about to fly into a potential giant fireball, but it would be stupid to bring a ton of TNT with you.

The ship

This is where opinions may start to differ, but I'll go with what I'm comfortable with. The three rules I follow when I choose a ship to fly into danger: fast, maneuverable, and cheap. Of course cheapness is a variable factor but the main rule is that you can not only afford to lose the ship but you can also turn around and buy 4 more without even blinking. Some people may also want to fly something cloaky like a Covert Ops or a Stealth Bomber, but for myself I usually choose a ship that a lot of people love to hate, the Claw interceptor:

          [Claw, GV27]
        Overdrive Injector System II
        Overdrive Injector System II
        Inertia Stabilizers II
        Damage Control II

        1MN MicroWarpdrive II
        Warp Scrambler II

        200mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
        200mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
        200mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
        'Arbalest' Rocket Launcher I, Caldari Navy Foxfire Rocket

        Small Projectile Burst Aerator I
        Small Projectile Collision Accelerator I

It's one of the fastest ships in the game and it has enough punch, even though the goal here is not to get kills, but to whizz all over the place. Other good choices if you want to fly cheaper are the Vigil, Slasher, Atron, Executioner and Condor. Yes, I am biased towards Minmatar ships because, well, in rust I trust :) But before you undock, make sure you have access to the maps of the regions you'll be travelling through. This is most important if you have never travelled in the said regions, but even when you have a good idea of the jump lines I strongly recommend that you use the maps at all times. Being old school, I have printed copies of Ombey's 2D maps, but if you use a second screen you can open either Ombey's, use Dotlan maps, use Battleclinic's EVEmap, whatever rocks your boat. I don't recommend using the in-game map or alt-tabbing betwen the game and the maps I mentionned because when you'll be out in enemy territory you'll need all your attention on piloting.

From the frying pan into the fire

After you have decided on a region to explore - I'll go by Null-sec examples - the first thing I do is set the entry point system as destination. Usually those entrances go from Low-sec into Null-sec, but there are some cases like PF-346 in Syndicate or HED-GP in Catch where the entrance is from a totally safe Hi-sec system into deadly Null-sec. Try to avoid those if at all possible as they are camped the majority of the time; there are usually other ways into those regions. Unless there are massive gangs about, flying through Low-sec should not be much of a problem because you cannot get bubbled, and ships usually camping Low-sec gates will take forever to lock a frigate. Of course there is such a thing as remote sensor boosting but it is rarity more than the norm.

But before you make that final jump into Null-sec, take the time to get acquainted with your surroundings, and by that I mean looking at the maps to know how the surrounding systems are laid out. I even recommend that the bookmarking party start here. First, make some safespots that are not in line with gates or celestials, but without getting overboard. Just tell yourself that no safespot is absolutely safe but in a fast ship you can always make them on the fly. The way I do it is I warp towards a random planet (usually the farthest one) at 70 or 100km and make a bookmark in mid-warp, then warp to it after getting to the planet. I then edit the bookmark into something readable like "Khabi midwarp safe 1". I know, this is usually far from safe. So I then warp towards another planet, do another bookmark in mid-warp which becomes "safe 2", then warp between the two bookmarks to create "safe 3". There is no such thing as too many bookmarks in a system so make as many as you want.

Now that you can sit in the system in relative safety, it's time to check what the entrance gate looks like from your side, but the principle will be the same around every gate you will encounter during the trip through the unknown. What I do is warp to the gate at 100km, and as soon as I come out of warp I point my ship in a random direction but towards empty space, not a planet, gate or station. I then turn on the MWD and let my ship's speed do its magic. At around the 200km point away from the gate I make a bookmark which I would name "Khabi ongrid tactical 7Q gate". I then make a slight course correction with my ship and keep on burning away. When I'm sure that the gate is now off-grid I stop my ship, make the bookmark, and call it "Khabi offgrid tactical 7Q gate". When flying in Null-sec it's good practice to warp to gate tacticals like this instead of straight gate-to-gate so as to evade being caught my Mobile Warp Disruptor bubbles.

So from now on, when you would enter the Khabi system before jumping into 7Q-8Z2, you would first warp to one of your safe spots, then maybe to a second one if hostiles are on your tail, and then to the off-grid tactical off the 7Q gate to find out if there's a welcoming commitee, or scouts that would warn people on the other side of an incoming hostile. All is clear, you warp to the gate, jump, and congratulations you are now in space you've never been to before and bad things could happen any second. When the other side does not have a welcoming commitee, get busy making bookmarks like you just did, except maybe a bit faster because situations can change quick in Null-sec. Also, get tacticals off of every gate as quick as possible. This is most important in hub systems like VOL-MI in Curse. If you're lucky you'll be able to go a certain number of systems without hindrance, but at some point the great demon Murphy will rear its ugly head: you jump in, the system loads, and there's 20+ reds on your overview and an interdictor bubble as gone up. Now the real fun starts!

It's getting hot down here

The worst thing to do now is panic. Of course things have to be done quick because everybody will pull out their drones to try and decloak you, but let's freeze time a bit and look at what can be done. For evasion purposes, one of my overview tabs has planets on it, so if my overview is not yet displaying this I make sure it does. I then zoom out the view of my ship so I can see the entire bubble and the placement of the enemy fleet. I need to look for the closest edge of the bubble; hopefully it leads away from the enemy, if not I start invoking various gods. Deep breath... double click to start moving and thus decloak, turn on the MWD, select a planet on the overview, and spam the warp button for all it's worth. If someone has a single point on you, don't panic, your speed should get you out of range fairly quickly. If you are scrambled and your MWD has shut off, the base speed should be enough to carry you out at somepoint but usually this is a bad sign. If you get webbed you may be about to meet your maker but the main thing is this: never give up! Of course having a hostile gang in local like this will disrupt your current bookmark session slightly but if you want to get out alive you have to keep doing it. Maybe not all gates and 4 safes if you're in a hub system, but at least 1 or 2 gates to throw off the chase and resume in quieter space. A big gang will usually not go crazy about killing a single interceptor or frigate, but who knows, they may be bored and/or vindicative.

But let's say you've escaped unscathed from your encounter, at some point you have to go back to base. If there's a way to go around an enemy fleet then by all means use it, but keep moving and bookmarking. I wouldn't suggest going straight back the way you came because this time the bubble will be on the gate the second the enemy sees you in Local, let alone on scan. I can tell you this from experience, if you go for it, you will die. At this point the only option to bring the ship through is to risk taking a longer route or logging off. But once your bookmark trail is laid out it will be much easier to fly in relative safety. But remember: RELATIVE safety! In EVE danger can lurk anywhere.

In the next installment I will look deeper into the actual scouting job of flying in front of a fleet in both the offensive and defensive way.

Fly hard but smart