Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Eve Online: being beaten is a steep learning curve

What I called "the inevitable" here happened today: I lost my drake battlecruiser. Here's how.

Earlier this evening, while I was doing some light ratting, one of our scouts reported an incoming fleet from Darkside. alliance, about 30 pilots strong. Now for a casual roaming gang, that's a bit too big.. They briefly touched on our gate, one pilot even jumped in, but the rest went on their merry way, apparently to C3N where IT has recently had their hands full. Our FC decided we should pursue, after all if these 30 men get into C3N, IT will be on hand to squash them! So the ten of us pursued.

At the C3N gate, we actually overtook one of the Darkside. guys, and before the FC's command to leave him alone and jump into C3N got through to me, I had already fired a missile at him. At that moment my fleet jumped, and a Darkside. fleet landed on the gate.. Suddenly I was surrounded by lots of ill tempered Russian neutrals! Because I had just fired a missile at a neutral, the gate wouldn't let me jump (aggro rules you must learn, young padawan) and I had to warp away as quick as I could - to any point but here, really - to survive. I was fast enough, and got out! My alliance mates however were not so lucky. At the other side of the gate, the enemy made short work of them.. IT alliance hadn't been aware soon enough of the skirmish that was about to begin, and IT's reinforcements were too late to prevent defeat. So, most of our first wave of responders made their way to our home system automatically, waking up in a fresh clone and an insurance note in their inbox after being podded in C3N! I briefly jumped back to the gate to assist a fleet mate, but warped out again when he told me he was lost anyway. Again I survived, just because I was fast enough.

A little while later, I traveled home, alone and unharmed, when the enemy overtook me and jumped into our home system. I waited for instructions from my FC, and finally made my way back in, warping straight to the battlefield, which was centered around one of our carriers - which should of course have been docked up a long time ago, given that the enemy was already in system.. From this point on, things went downhill fast. The Darkside. fleet had better logistiscs, repping their own pilots faster as we could, and we were unable to hold the field, much less defeat them. Slowly we continued to bleed ships (including my Drake), until after a while an IT alliance fleet came in to assist. Upon their arrival, Darkside. disengaged, left our home system and we were left to contemplate what had just happened.

For the first time, it seems we were a specific target for a well known pvp outfit. Helping IT alliance out does make you known here and there, apparently :) Personally, I think the whole initial manoeuver was a trap; we were lured out into the pursuit, and the enemy made sure the first responders were out of system and neutralized before entering our home system. At the same time, the lonely Darkside. pilot who went in our home system remained there, scouting out a juicy target - the Carrier - for his buddies to land on when they arrived. A sound strategy, executed with a balanced fleet - enough logistics - and good discipline. Did we learn a lesson tonight? You bet we have :-)

By the way - at least of the pilots involved in the Darkside. fleet appears in this Alliance Tournament movie: Darkside. vs RAZOR, so we were indeed confronted with some very experienced pvp pilots here..

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Eve Online: my son hates goons

Earlier this week we got word that IT alliance requested our assistance, for an operation this sunday afternoon. As we gathered today, we heard rumors about a battle being fought somewhere else; we were probably going to be bridged in to help IT.

When he noticed what was happening, my son, currently nine years of age, got very excited: he's been eager to see some large scale fleet battle. He has developed a bit of a habit: whenever we play Eve Online together, he gets us a bottle of coke and two glasses, and then sits next to me to watch. And even though he doesn't speak English, he grabs one of my earbuds to listen in on TeamSpeak :)

Our fleet was supposed to leave around 18.00; I logged in some ten minutes before that. There was a small delay, and then another one, and in the end we left around 18.30. It was a glorious sight, as around 40 of my fellow pilots warped through Querious space together! Or, against the backdrop of a barren planet, where we briefly held:
Eve Online: sunday CTA

Soon, we entered the target system, and joined the IT forces already there at a nearby Player Owned Station (POS). As more and more ships warped in, it got a bit crowded. And when the supercarriers arrived - including a Minmatar Hel and a buch of Gallente Nyxes, it got really impressive! My son however wasn't around to watch that anymore, as by now the operation had been going on for over an hour and there wasn't really happening much.. he had gotten bored and went away. I promised however to call him when the enemy would arrive.

Nothing continued to happen for a long time, however, while my son periodically, and with growing irritation, inquired as to if the enemy (GoonFleet alliance) had arrived yet. They never showed up; either too busy elsewhere or unwilling to face an IT fleet this size and strenght. We were also not bridged out to another battle as we originally thought, and so, after more than three hours, we were dismissed. Lady Scarlett spoke some kind words of appreciation, the fleet disbanded, and a bunch of us made our way home.. I was asked to FC that leg of our trip, but given what was happening at home - more on that below - and that I have no experience, I declined.. would have been a nice opportunity to try it out!

By now, my son was in tears, sobbing to his mother about the stupid Goonfleet enemy that didn't show up, the stupid hour he lost watching our fleet do conga lines in a pos, the stupid maker of Eve Online, why he'd even bothered to grab coke and glasses, my stupid computer which he was going to destroy with a large axe he wanted to buy first thing tomorrow morning.. He was sad and angry. He had been looking forward todoing a large fleet battle together with his dad, and nothing had happened! I really had to spend some time to explain what we did: we secured an important asset for IT alliance, and we'll get a nice reward. Some battles are not won by shooting, but simply by showing up and guarding your assets! He accepted the explanation, but still spoke harsh words of condemnation for the Goons that didn't show up.

So there you have it, Goons. You ruined my son's sunday evening, and probably his opinion of the entire game, simply by not showing up for a fight tonight. He really has it in for you now.. you have made a fierce enemy out of him. Just wait until he's old enough to go to nullsec ;-)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Eve Online: solo versus social and the joys of pvp

(It has become a bit of a long post, but I wanted to get some thoughts out on highsec, nullsec (0.0) and how I experience the transition from the former to the latter. For those unfamiliar with Eve Online system security statuses: here's a primer!)

Until recently, I was a typical highsec carebear – with one exception: I didn’t mine unless I really had to. All the fuss about nullsec alliance warfare was interesting but didn’t mean anything to me, really. PVP was just a nuisance, something those antisocial highsec griefers do to defenseless pve oriented carebears such as myself. And I considered Eve Online to be a social game, as it is an open sandbox universe with virtually limitless options, in terms of careers, development and things to do and achieve. Staying in nullsec for an extended period of time has altered some of these long held convictions, and reinforced others.

Expect the unexpected
Flying in nullsec adds a whole new level of depth to New Eden. In highsec, there’s pretty much nothing unexpected that will happen to you, if you stay in the right places and do the right things.. For instance running level 4 missions in Everyshore pretty much guarantees a modest but steady income of ISK without much surprises. In nullsec however, even in places considered relatively safe, there is always an awareness that anything might happen, at any time, in any place. A roaming gang of reds may attempt a surprise attack on your system; a lonely but very dangerous enemy stealth bomber suddenly appears out of nowhere and attacks; the large alliance you rent space from may urgently request your presence on a nearby battlefield, in five minutes thankyouverymuch. You need to be ever alert, ready to move, defend or attack. And making ISK isn’t a goal in itself, necessarily, but a tool to fund the ships and goods necessary for defense.

PVP, not so bad after all
This means my attitude towards PVP has changed as well. I still maintain that PVP between seasoned PVP characters and highsec carebears is too much of an uneven fight, but in nullsec it’s a very different game: it’s about protecting your assets. I have, to my own surprise, come to enjoy the clashes with roaming gangs and solo pvp pilots! These engagements can be entertaining and exciting, sometimes leading to extended fighting and long term feuds. So far I have been lucky only to have scored kills; I haven’t suffered a loss yet. I’m sure that moment will come – it’s inevitable – but for now my Querious stats are fine. And with the steady and much larger amount of ISK now flowing into my wallet, losing a ship isn’t that much of a problem anymore either.
One of the more fascinating things about fleet engagements and nullsec pvp in general, is the wealth of options and strategies that are available to the pilots. So many different ship types and ships, each with their own specific strengths and weaknesses, with innumerable ways to fit and use them! The level of detail and expertise that can be achieved continues to amaze me, and far outstrips anything highsec mission runners are used to.

Solo versus social
On the ‘social’ side, I must say nullsec beats highsec too. In highsec, most pilots work solo, incidentally joining forces for a mining op or a few rounds of lvl4’s. CCP is aware of this, and has been trying - for years - to get the highsec pilots to work together. With Incursion, CCP is even resorting to full blown Sansha invasions, in order to achieve this goal.
In nullsec, cooperation is the norm, rather than the exception. Some activities (ratting, easy complexes) can be done solo, but even mining often requires the presence of combat ships in order to ward off ‘belt rats’, the non player driven (NPC) enemies that spawn in asteroid belts from time to time. And higher level complexes are usually done in teams as well: much more effective and the rewards get spread over a larger number of pilots. Finally, given the constant threat of external violence, nullsec pilots are generaly forced to work together much more, in terms of exchanging intelligence, countering threats or achieving offensive goals.

Take fleets, for instance. In recent months, I have experieced two types of fleets. On the one hand, there’s the semi organized gathering of solo pilots who happen to share a chat channel. This is the type of fleets that highseccers are wont to create – chaotic, made up of whatever flies and whatever each individual likes. On the other hand, there’s the organized group of pilots, each with their own specific fleet role and orders, flying the specific ship types to match those roles, lead by an FC who knows his business (if you’re lucky of course). The first type of fleet is going to be massacred if they face a better trained enemy – no doubt about it. The second one however stands a chance against any adversary: in Eve Online, outnumbered but better organized and fc’d fleets have slaughtered numerical superior forces time and time again. As for our own alliance: we were definitely of the first, likely-to-get-massacred type not too long ago. We are currently of the second type, and we’re getting better at what we do with each engagement, and with passing week. And I'm enjoying each minute of it!

Eve Online: Conga!

Eve Online: Conga!
Last night we were called for a defensive operation in a nearby solar system. We were waiting for the enemy, but - they didn't show up. Finally, bored, our pilots lined up for a conga line in space.. when the first man started to 'approach' the last man, the circle was closed, and we rotated in space for several minutes like this :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Eve Online: enemies defeated

One evening last week, upon returning from a meeting, I heard chatter erupting from my laptop earphone - a sure sign something was going on on TeamSpeak. Usually my alliance or corp mates leisurely talk about happenings in New Eden, but now there was a lot of excitement and urgency in the voices emanating from TS.

Instead of going to bed, I quickly logged in and switched my Drake Battlecruiser to the requested PVP alliance fit. Our fleet appeared to have gathered at an entry gate to our solar system so I swiftly headed over and positioned myself for a fight.

And a fight is what we got! The first enemy ship to jump in was a Broadsword; a heavy interdictor capable of warp scrambling other ships, preventing them to warp away. We tried to put as much damage on him as possible, but his tank held and soon he trapped several of our ships - amongst them one of our carriers, and my Drake. Our FC ordered a retreat to the station as other enemies arrived on the field. Unable to warp out I burned away from the Broadsword as fast as I could; I started taking damage from other incoming enemy ships and my shield started falling, slowly but steadily. With my shields 50% down, I got out of the Broadswords' warp scrambling range and without hesitation I warped to safety. The carrier got out as well, but a few other ships were lost.

At that moment, with our fleet in disarray and having lost several ships, I wasn't quite sure how to proceed. Our FC, however, did! He rallied the troops, explained the new strategy, quickly had several pilots switch into ships needed to execute the strategy - and as soon as we could we all warped back to the gate.

This time, the roles were reversed. As the correct primary and secondary targets were called and destroyed, the enemy swiftly lost most of their fleet: their destroyed wrecks (and bodies..) littered the area around the gate. I got two of the kill mails, meaning I delivered the final blow that destroyed the ship; the Broadsword and a Hurricane battlecruiser are formally my kills.

With the last enemy either destroyed or chased out of our space, we stood down battlecomms - and celebrated a nice victory. A few weeks ago this enemy might have picked us apart, but no more.

Yet, in Eve Online's New Eden, a battle is only rarely just that - a single battle. Defeat often leads to rancor, hatred and a thirst for vengeance, and so most of the gang we destroyed last week, returned yesterday evening for another brawl. We knew they were coming, and when their first pilot entered our system, he was attacked from all sides. Missiles, lasers and drones hammered his Myrmidon battlecruiser and he jumped out again as fast as he could - unfortunately we were too late to stop him from exiting. After some deliberation and intelligence work, the fleet followed him on the way out; a few jumps from our home system, our fleet overtook the enemy and once again all of their ships were destroyed - again with minimal losses on our side. Unfortunately I missed that fight: I missed the FC's command to pursue, and by the time I got near the battlefield, it was already over. Next time..