Monday, April 27, 2009

the scarlet strobe

It's been asked of me many times in the past my thoughts about outlaw status in relation to solo PvP. The short answer is I'd avoid it. For the full answer, well, grab a cup of java and start reading.

DISCLAIMER: Yeah, I'm going to talk about stuff other than solo PvP on occasion. Suck it up: we all know you PvP with friends from time to time, loner!

Let me start off by listing the basic effects of dipping below -5.0 security status:
  • Unable to travel through any highsec systems without NPC police aggression
  • Other pilots can engage you without sentry fire or Global Criminal Countdown repercussions
So, fleshing out these effects, a pilot is effectively cut off from highsec space with the exception of dodging about in high agility or warp core stabbed ships. Pilots are able to engage you on gates or stations without worrying about sentry fire. The lack of sentry fire allows for many tactics to be used against the outlaw, ranging from frigate swarms to untanked EWAR or logistics support cruisers. Additionally, outlaws are a liability in gangs, as they can be singled out without repercussions while the rest of a gang must incur aggression to defend their comrade.

Many players shrug off the detriments of outlaw status, and argue that there are perks to the condition. For instance, you will get more fights from pilots that don't have to worry about sentry fire. Anyone who has a few roams under their belt searching for targets would appreciate this facet to outlaw status. Another boon that's less often tossed about is that it adds challenge to the game: being handicapped forces pilots on their toes, and acts as a way to measure competence. An outlaw doesn't need sentries to get the job done: they rely on tactics and skill rather than the crutch of sentries.

I'll drop a tactic I employ that uses outlaw status to my benefit: I've mentioned in the past that my corpmate Raxip Elamp is an outlaw. While roaming, he often acts as a scout in his Rifter, and will probe ahead a system while I hang back waiting for the results of his scanning. It's a common occurrence that he will jump into another frigate or cruiser that is more than willing to oblige him in solo combat; usually a lopsided affair against my ally. Once they've aggressed Rax, I jump through in my tanky battlecruiser and bop the unsuspecting vigilante with a heavy load of weapons fire.

Considering solo PvP, there are many reasons against going outlaw. First of which is logistics.

Solo PvP isn't exactly a money making activity. Put simply, you're rolling the dice every time you engage that your target doesn't have additional support, that you can best the target before support arrives, or that your fit is indeed up for the task at hand. While player skill vastly improves one's odds of survival, the fact of the matter is the paydays generally won't match the failures. This is especially true if you're an aggressive PvPer, who doesn't cut corners or take breaks. Constant action is going to see regular victories as well as defeats. The ship and modules replacements have to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is going to be highsec.

So unless you have an alt or a friend to move replacement equipment to you, the pirating stint isn't going to be long lived. Additionally, while spoils of war definitely make for shiny coin at the end of the day, comparing to losses and other expenses, it probably means additional revenue is necessary to keep the PvP trend going. Some of the easiest and best isk are found in, you guessed it, highsec space. To go outlaw means you must have good logistic support outside of your main character, and you must have means to isk beyond what can be found in highsec space.

While not an outlaw, I tend to skirt that definition, with my sec status running anywhere from -4.0 to -4.9. Through skill, I am for the for the most part able to make back what I lose in loot, and perhaps a little more on top. To really support myself, I have an extra account that dabbles in trade, industry and invention, all within highsec. I would not be able to do what I do without that alt account.

The second problem with outlaw status and solo PvP is lack of those sentries backing your ass up.

Once again, I know there are many professional pirates out there that say this isn’t a problem, but my experience depicts a different picture of how things work. Running around alone, truly alone, means you're often going to be butting up against gangs of folk that would want nothing more than to erase your vessel and amend a new killmail to their boards. It's often the only thing that promotes any notion of hesitation from this event occurring is sentry fire, and the fact that even if the enemy gang is modestly sized (say 6-10 vessels, frigates to battlecruisers), a well fit (and flown) cruiser or battlecruiser will kill something in return for that aggression. Without that support, something as mean as a gang of T1 fit frigates will sweep aside any plan or strategy for defense and pound your ship into dust.

The other fact of the matter is that with outlaw status, there is a great deal more running involved, where non-outlaws instead move about with a wary stroll. Take for instance my previous combat report: if I was an outlaw in that instance, I would have been running my ass to the gate for real and doing my damnest to get away. It's possible that I could have split them up eventually, perhaps draw them to a celestial where I could take them apart piecemeal, but the fact remains that retreat was necessary before anything was said or done. From the same report, taking on a competently fit and flown Dominix without sentries in a battlecruiser? I don't care what kind of range advantage I had; I would have had to eventually give the field to the battleship, for lack of cap or armor.

Sentries allow for aggressive action. They take the bite out of lopsided engagements, and provide a means of turning the tide on multiple aggressors. If the odds are too great, sentries are going to give smaller vessels enough pause for the solo PvPer to at least start burning back towards a gate, or away from the enemy gang. With sentry turrets, a player can roam through lowsec worrying less about camps and more about potential targets (perhaps even the camps themselves).

The way I see it, a pilot that devotes himself to solo PvP can't go down the outlaw path without making concessions and sacrifices along the way. An outlaw can only casually roam with a ship that boasts high agility or evasive qualities, like frigate or force recon. To fly with anything else requires good intelligence of the area, which often limits the pilot to an engagement theatre of only a few systems from home. Outlaws must also be more selective of their targets, and can't accommodate much more beyond the original quota.

I like flying my battlecruisers, my plated cruisers, and speedboost lacking fits. While it's not often I take them to the field, I like that a frigate is going to have to take a serious gamble tackling my battleship off a gate or station, and that a lone interceptor isn't going to keep me tied down until support can arrive. Outlaw status is a play style choice in EVE that does not suit my method of PvP, and is why I don't go down that path. I would submit that any player serious about solo PvP, beyond ganking pilots engaging in PvE activities that they stick to non-outlaw status.

Truly aggressive and active solo PvP is going to pit the pilot against a multitude of other pilots, at the same time. While it's a romantic thought to imagine one ship besting so many, sentries act as a helping hand; an unnamed gangmate per se. I have a hard time imagining my method and vision of solo combat working without the threat of these automated turrets offering their menacing support.


  1. Despite my Outlaw status (-9.5 and proud of it, baby), I actually agree with you, for the most part. At least, I agree at the level of Battlecruisers and higher. With the frigate and cruiser sized ships I fly, solo piracy and PvP is very viable with outlaw status, mostly because I'm agile enough to pull it off. I do realize that eventually I'll have to build that status back up, but until then, damn it feels good to be an outlaw. Also, great to see you posting again.

  2. I agree with above, it feels good to be red.

    And you are correct, you do have to be at the top of your game, as everything is against you.

    But that is why we love characters like Jack Sparrow, carefree and daring.. everyone wants his hide yet he gets out on top while having fun.
    So do you want to be him?
    Or that grumpy british commodore? (sp?)

  3. Ah, leave it to my corpmate to point out a flaw in this post. Completely spaced on the eventual sec status redemption.

    @ cruiser sized ships: true, most can pull it off. Problem is, only T1 cruisers that I've really flown and consider worth a damn fit 1600mm plates on them. Try dodging a fast tackler with one of those one. To each their own fittings, however.