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.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

the ideal gang

This question has been asked many times in my past, and admittedly was affected much by the meta at the time, as well as who was asking the question and who was answering! However, I feel passing it by my readership would provide interesting insight into the dynamic of small gang PvP in EVE at the present. So, here's my query:

Given the option for any ship combinations, what would be your ideal gang composition when roaming through lowsec for fights? How would it change for a two man, five man and ten man gangs respectively? Please explain your selection: from a standpoint of cost, synergy, objectives, strategy and fun, why are your choices ideal?

And while I'm not trying to limit my readership per se, no capital ships in your selection. Anything beyond that is fair game.

(For those nullsec only folks, I'll be posting a followup inquiry for that as well, so sit tight with your master plans)

read this

From Venom, in response to my post about solo PvP:

"Hey Sard, I've been meaning to comment on this but just never got around to it, better 6 weeks later than not at all, no?

I appreciate this post, as I try to manage and learn to be a solo pirate as much as I learn to be in a group. I like both, I'm good a following directions but there is something appealing about being solo.

The part you mention about keeping a positive outlook and assessing where the fun comes from, well that was just plain good stuff.

I have a group of friends in hi-sec who are in a corp with an alt of mine. We tried hi-sec wardecing and invited some great players at PVP that we knew from what we started.

Why is it I hate hi-sec pvp vs low sec piracy? I thought it was the mechanics or the difference stations play, no that's not it.

The key was, pirates (well my pirates, bastards and hellcats) have a positive outlook on killing and being killed, we seek fun and if that means a ship is lost, oh well. Yet with my buddies in hi-sec, they were wrapped up in worries about KB stats and lost ships, often yelling or insulting others in fleet for things they in fact were the issue and not everyone else.

So when I'm asked why I like low-sec and piracy better, I say it's all about the positive mental attitude I have to losing a ship and the easy going folks who I run with.

Fun is the key, stress is at work, don't bring it to EVE."

How's about not spying and responding to your comment in three weeks myself? =3

While you can have easy going fun PvP anywhere, it's difficult to find respectable partners in crime without the accompanying baggage that takes the fun out of it: I'm talking about epeen waving over KB porn, smack talk, and the other immature garbage that goes along with that kind of attitude. Playing with like minded folk that respect your method about the game is huge. Finding friends open to the reality that so much drama occurs over a video game is just as big.

You win a cookie girl. Next time I'm in game, your insight will earn you a treat from my goodies hanger.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

lasers go pew pew pew

All the while my drones chew on you.

It's a long established fact that the Myrmidon, lacking a turret bonus, is often fitted with exotic weaponry compared to normal hybrid arms favored by the Gallente Federation. Commonly this takes the form of capacitor warfare modules, remote repair equipment, autocannons for a capacitor independent bite, or even smart bombs to fend off enemy drones. Much less common and far more entertaining is using medium energy turrets to blast through the opposition.

Lasers are normally eschewed on unbonused vessels due to the dramatic capacitor and fitting requirements they impose. That virtually all Amarrian gun boats have a 10% per level reduction in laser capacitor use highlights just how much of a cap hog they are (This bonus brings them roughly in line with hybrid turrets in cap usage). Pair this high cost to available energy with the typical active tank on a Myrmidon and the jury is out on the matter. Mostly.

What many individuals disregard are the traits which make energy turrets so viable in today's battlefield: range, damage and flexibility. Boasting the best optimal of any close range weapon system, pulse lasers with short range crystals are able to deal full damage where other weapons are in heavy falloff, which inflict markedly reduced damage for it. The T2 range ammo for pulse lasers, Scorch, allows engagement ranges unheard of compared to autocannons or blasters.

This range paired with good damage makes lasers remarkable, but the third major selling point is the ability for lasers to quickly adapt to chaotic battlefield conditions. There is no wait to change between crystal types, nor do they wear out quickly. This means a laser fit ship is able to hastily change from short to long range crystals as a situation develops, and does not have to worry over ammunition reloads as other turret or missile systems do. All these traits lend to consistent, deadly fire dealing maximum damage where other weapons would fall short. Pretty cool trade off for ships that can accommodate the extra fitting and capacitor requirements.

Having trained Gallente Cruiser to three, I decided to give the Myrmidon a try. Being the inspired, mischevious person that I am, lasers were the obvious choice for the ship. With Raxip unavailable, I set off along my typical roam path through Molden Heath in search for fights.

Jumping from Oddelulf into Istodard, I happened upon a small gate camp consisting of a Cerberus and Sacrilege. A quick scan of the locals confirmed that they were indeed alone, giving me a snowballs chance in hell of taking the pair by myself. I broke from the gate cloak, and started MWDing back to the stargate, hoping they'd interpret my action as cowardice. Neither of the HACs were outlaws, so I'd need for them to fire on me and incur sentry fire for victory to be possible.

Fortunately for me, both ships obliged, racing to place tackle on my battlecruiser and followed soon by missile ordinance. My larger hull shrugged off the heavy explosions, dual MARs fighting back damage as offensive systems responded to the aggression. A mixed flight of heavy, medium and light drones launched from the drone bay, moving to consume the Cerberus in fire. A disruptor, followed soon by a webifier and scrambler completed my tackle on the Caldari HAC, denying it the ability to MWD away from the battle while the more capable Sacrilege slugged it out with me. Focused Medium Pulse Lasers lit the void between our two ships with white brilliance, each strike adding a noticable drop in the Cerberus's shield reserves.

Even with sentry turrets on my side, the situation I had gotten myself into was dire, lending a note of desperation to my actions. This was evidenced by virtually every module on my ship running overheated to stave off destruction as I tried to put down the Cerberus. It was exhibiting much more of a defense than I anticipated, likely due to the thermal damage type my drones were inflicting. Even with the potent passive tank, the Cerberus just wasn't intended for close range brawling, its tank failing about the same time mine was kissing structure. Its shields gone, the HAC folded in seconds.

With the Cerberus destroyed, I shifted my attention to the Sacrilege. Lasers stabbed out at the HAC, followed soon by my swarm of drones. This time my drones were striking directly into the weakest resistance of their prey, and coupled with sentry and laser fire, the Sacrilege was dropping faster than the Cerberus was. The Sacrilege attempted to stave off defeat by targeting my drones; my close proximity to the HAC and my drone flight meant I could recall and relaunch them with ease. Striking through the last of its structure, an Ogre II touched off munition stores, the explosion ripping through the ship until breaching reactor containment. The sapphire inferno that followed was remarkable compared to the opposing pilot's ability with the vessel.

The field mine, I finished armor repairs and began scooping loot from the nearby wrecks. The fight wasn't over however. The nearby stargate flared to life, depositing another ship into the system.

A Dominix decloaked two dozen kilometers away from me, lumbering towards my smaller Myrmidon with speed afforded by a 100mn MWD. A flight of Ogre IIs launched from the battleship as Aura calmly informed me that my warp drive had been disrupted.

My mind raced, setting priorities while instincts took over and started locking up the enemy drone flight. Still adjacent to the Sacrilege wreck, I scooped as many 800 charges as possible to replace those I previously ran through and then I set into motion. Pulsing my MWD, my battlecruiser easily outpaced the battleship, maintaining enough distance to be out of range of blasters while in range of my warp disruptor. Watching my capacitor, I confirmed the Dominix lacked any heavy energy neutralizers. This fight was doable: the adrenaline high of a second underdog engagement in as many minutes refused any thinking otherwise.

My plan was simple: stay the hell away from blasters; kill his drones. Once his drones were dead, I could use my superior range to bleed him to death. The slow speed of the enemy Ogres meant one popped before the flight came into firing range; my webifier allowed me to track them once in close range, and for my own heavy drones to easily keep up. My dual reps were more than enough to keep up with incoming damage, and with each drone I swatted aside the damage fell lower and lower. After sending half a dozen heavy drones to their doom, the Dominix recalled the rest, realizing that he’d be unable to break my tank. Further, chasing me while running his MWD meant he was over 30km off the gate, facing a target he couldn't shake while taking sentry gun fire. The enemy pilot wisely turned around and started back to the stargate.

Victory in sight, I pursued, chasing the larger ship at range with Scorch ammo loaded, my drones finally turned lose against the enemy battleship. After nearly a minute of this though, the Dominix's tank showed no sign of breaking, and he had managed to make it back into range of the stargate. I needed to do something drastic to keep him from fleeing. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to close distance and slug it with the larger ship at point blank range.

Closing in had the desired effect, and the larger ship once again launched drones and renewed his assault on my ship. My Myrmidon took a few volleys of blaster fire before closing into a tight orbit: even with a webifier on me, the large bore weapons couldn't track my vessel. However, at close range the Dominix was better able to guard his drone flight, recalling and launching drones which were taking fire. This also meant replacement drones didn't have to speed back into range of my ship. My armor repairers were fighting a losing battle against this sustained fire.

The Dominix has over double the drone capacity than the Myrmidon: it can carry a total of three heavy drone flights if the pilot deemed necessary. However, having lost so many drones chasing me, and with sentry guns switching from his ship to his drones, the tide of Ogres faltered, until running out utterly. The Dominix was left with only medium and smaller drones, which my repair modules were capable of matching. With the larger drones destroyed, I set to work once again on the Dominix.

Lacking proper drones to break my tank, and unable to track my orbiting vessel with his turrets, the opposing pilot eventually recalled his drones and stilled all hostile EWAR active against my ship. Banking on the prolonged combat having run through the battleship's 800 charge reserves, I threw myself against his ship with everything I had. My lasers burned with increased intensity as I set them to overheat, however my arsenal was too slow in blasting through the battleship's armor tank. The enemy pilot jumped through the gate with roughly 10% remaining, leaving a “GF” in local as he left.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

don’t blink

Been a while since my last post, eh? I could place blame on a host of issues, ranging from scholastic pursuits to a poor internet connection, but what it really boils down to is that I haven’t had the urge to write of late. It stems in part from lack of game time, but that can only account for so much. I’m definitely no Roc Wieler when it comes to regularity of entries; I never intended to be. Hopefully this offering will serve to stir my muse from her slumber, and drive me towards future creativity for my readers to enjoy.

So! Let’s talk violence!

In the weeks since my last post, RANSM has doubled its member count with the addition of a Raxip Elamp. While sanctioned within the corporation as my official redshirt tackler pilot, the fierce combat I’ve exposed him to has only honed his abilities as a pilot, and trained him into an awesome force while piloting a Rifter hull. That he carries a positive K/D ratio on the KB in spite of my maniacal orders is a testament to his maturation as a capsuleer.

Rax and I have been doing some major damage around Molden Heath the weekends I have been able to log in to play, proof of which can be found at my KB. Perhaps our best fight of yet resulted from a roam into the Heimatar region, as we came to see what Kane Rizzel’s neck of the woods was like. MEAN Corp was happy to throw down a welcoming gauntlet for us to blast through.

After passing through Gusandall and its hoards of macro haulers, Raxip in his Rifter took one pocket of celestials to scan, while I in a Cyclone took another. Beyond the macro trash on scan, several viable targets were nearby: a Rupture, Arbitrator, Ishkur and Myrmidon. The ships were scattered, and as I began to relay orders to Raxip attempting to catch one of the ships, the Rupture interrupted my speech as it landed at the celestial I chose for scanning, twenty kilometers off. It wasted no time upon arrival, closing distance with a MWD to place tackle and streams of EMP rounds into the shields of my battlecruiser.

Seasoned in my trade, I exchanged tackle with the cruiser, calling out to Raxip to join me at my location. The five autocannons of my Cyclone spoke out against the Rupture’s four, followed immediately by volleys of heavy assault missiles and a drone flight. The cruiser’s shields winked away in the opening few trades of ordinance, with the armor plate of the Rupture fairing little better. Landing at the scene, Raxip had little time to apply his own share of firepower before the Rupture was removed from the field. The Rupture was not alone in space however, as both the Ishkur and Myrmidon spotted earlier arrived mere moments after their ally’s demise.

Facing two potent drone carriers, I cautioned Raxip to be extremely careful in his dealings, and called the Ishkur primary. Drones from both enemy vessels converged on Raxip’s Rifter, but my prodigal companion shrugged off the onslaught and managed to keep the Ishkur pinned in place with his tackle kit. Webbed, scrambled, and unable to close into the safety of a tight orbit around my battlecruiser, the Gallente assault ship caved in under the combined projectile might of our gang, lending a brief but brilliant flair of illumination to the black of space. Unfazed, the Myrmidon pressed on alone, attempting to close distance with my Cyclone and add its compliment of blasters to the fight.

Unfortunately for the Myrmidon, its inability to deal with the Rifter meant it would be unable to close distance with me: the Rifter’s webifier and scrambler meant the Myrmidon was approaching nowhere fast. Unable to match the range of my mixed projectile and missile arsenal, and unable to shake off the frigate hounding him with drones or blasters, the Myrmidon succumbed after a short lived attempt to tank our damage. Lacking GCCs as the MEAN Corp pilots were all outlaws, we scooped loot and left the scene before a possible vengeance gang formed in nearby Gusandall.

(ED: Myrmidon ended up being a LASER fit, which I thought only myself and Kil2 ever flew. Pilot lacked T2 laser skills though, so a failure on his part.)

In the past, I would have eschewed a partner in a frigate for something larger: ideally another battlecruiser for reasons explained previously. However, having flown with Raxip the past few months, I’d now say the synergy between an agile frigate and a powerful supporting cruiser or battlecruiser can’t be denied. The frigate is able to acquire hasty tackles, and uses its speed to avoid damage while its larger associate brings the pain. Additionally, the frigate is able to ward off other frigates from riding under the guns of his larger companion, which is a breath of relief to ships I fly that can’t even manage a webifier in their fittings, such as my favored Cyclone. And despite all the monstrous reversals that have been in place for months present since QR, many pilots still underestimate frigates, either ignoring them, or believing them to be an easy gank. Raxip has proven time and again that he’s much more likely to speed tank your ordinance while setting you up for my larger vessel to knock you down.