Flying alone requires a great deal more effort than moving in a fleet. Rather than individuals taking on specific tasks, and delegating responsibility across members of a group, a single player is required to manage all aspects of PvP on their own. The solo pilot is his own scout, tackler, damage and EWAR support. The solo pilot calls all the strategies, manages his vessel and keeps an eye on the scanner often against unfavorable odds. Certainly, a lone pilot will have the advantage of initiative against a larger force, as all orders are given at the speed of thought; however weight of numbers tends to overwhelm that advantage.
So how do lone individuals go about their way, managing victory against the odds time and again? Here are a few pointers on how I attempt to tip the field to my favor:
Keep a positive mindset
EVE is a game. It’s played to have fun, and to enjoy oneself. If enjoying yourself isn’t a theme while logging into the game, you should take a serious look at your current situation and consider making some radical changes.
That aside, while a realist, I tend to hold the positive elements of a situation over the negative ones, and try to promote them when possible. For instance, I refrain from smack talk, will enter fights for the sake of having a good time (rather than keeping the ship), and examine my losses as learning experiences, rather than failures. As with most things in life, it’s best to focus on the good aspects while keeping the bad at an arm’s length.
Additionally, it's important to assess just what is meant by winning. Is winning destroying your foe, and acquiring a shiny killmail? (yes..) Is winning keeping your ship whole? I submit that winning is enjoying yourself, regardless whether you explode first, the target escapes, etc. Keep in mind that the most important entity in EVE is yourself, and by no means do you need be held accountable by another's perception of victory and defeat.
Focus on your goals
Undocking from the station, there should be a number of things running through your mind from the get go. There should be goals for the trip, which could range from amassing spoils to engaging a particular vessel in combat. With one’s goals in mind, accompanying strategies should also be present: how are you going to complete your goal of killing a Hulk? Is your current fit optimal for completing the task? Do you have proper intelligence of the area, and know where and how to catch an elusive exhumer?
Attempt the (im)possible
Flying alone requires a great deal of snap decisions and judgments, chief amongst which is whether a given engagement is feasible or not. How does one know whether a situation is doable? While intel plays a key role, experience is the most reliable and useful tool. Unfortunately for the uninitiated, experience can’t be traded for or taught. It takes going out into the world and trying, and learning the hard way what works and doesn’t work. This does mean taking losses; however by keeping one’s wits about you and an eye for detail, how things work will be accumulated at a fantastic rate. It’ll soon become second nature what’s possible, improbable and downright daunting!
Fly what you can afford to lose
Flying alone magnifies danger, and it’s all too easy to become the target of situations which are all but impossible to avoid destruction. Ships are going to be lost, and depending on experience and aggressiveness, frequently. So fly what you can afford in the first place! If you can’t easily replace a ship, research others that can perform well without support and accomplish the tasks required. T1 hulls in this regard can outperform their T2 counterparts if played to their strengths, and are much more affordable, both in price and insurance payouts.
And now for the more tactical stuff:
Play to your strengths
Though it sounds simple enough, in the fast paced action of EVE PvP, it’s easy to forget the basics. Basics are keeping to your strengths, which to any resourceful capsuleer are many. If piloting a ship with good range or with a powerful drone bay, use range to your advantage. When piloting a ship with an active tank, try to prolong combat and give your repair modules a chance to work. When flying against multiple foes, move in an unpredictable fashion, and don’t allow foes to use their advantages: this could mean moving through systems to force a falcon from its sniper BM, or fighting around stations and gates to require aggressors to fight under sentry fire. Make sure to use ship bonuses, and to consider a different ship if you find you aren’t!
Know the terrain
Understanding the layout of both systems and regions is critically important to success in PvP. Within a system understanding ranges between gates, where belts are in a system, which celestials belts are adjacent to, if stations are present and which are popular make for simplified tactical analysis and scouting. Knowing a region gives insights to where pilots will travel, likely ratting systems, missioning systems, dead ends and the best routes from one system to another. It also means escape routes can be crafted without using the ingame map system, which is clunky and time consuming. Do yourself a favor and google Ombey maps, and print out copies of the regions you frequent. Take notes on the print outs, and try to memorize important facts.
Split your enemy’s gang
There are many ways to do this. The most basic would to be using a speed boost to maneuver away from foes, and string them out as they try to catch up. Once sufficient distance is created, kill off stragglers. Another method is to warp to celestials at varying ranges, usually around 50-100km. Gangs will often warp in at different ranges to cover all possibilities, which present another opportunity to kill off stragglers.
Don’t make it harder than it is
Given the difficulties with flying alone, make sure every effort is spent to make situations ideal where possible. Make sure the cargohold has enough ammunition for a few fights and that the drone bay is indeed full. Plot routes, and have backup plans to escape or divert course if things go south. If you frequent roam paths, set up containers in space or stations with supplies to keep things running smoothly. Safespots and scanning bookmarks are great tools for simplifying finding targets or escaping. Perhaps above all, try to have backup available, as despite everything, some times a target isn’t possible to take alone.
As a parting note, I can’t stress how important it is to have fun. Don’t allow yourself to get angry, and if it happens, examine why. Eliminate the causes of anger, or find ways to at least mitigate their effect. All too often pilots will find themselves in situations where they’re just not enjoying themselves, and don’t particularly understand why they got there, or how to get out. Know that you’re the master of your own destiny, and are free to change your situation at will. You’re more powerful than you may think, so get out there and crush some skulls!