Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blog Banter #59 - Terrain

This month's version comes from commenter Zappity who asks:

Probably been done before... What about local force projection (as opposed to the longer distance force projection that is often talked about)? I think of 'terrain' in EVE to be how systems are mapped together by gates. Strong tactics which exploit terrain have historically been extremely important in deciding battle outcomes. How does this apply in EVE in the presence of cynos?

Related to this, you have the option to explore the topic of wormhole systems with effects (Black Holes, Cataclymismic variablestar, etc) and if similar environmental effects on certain grids/deadspace or system wide should be explored for known space?

Ooh, that's me! I suppose I'd better write something. I'd forgotten all about this question and can't remember if I had a point in mind when I asked it.

So, local terrain in EVE. Well, it doesn't exist, does it? Except for FW plexes I suppose. (And maybe bubbles but I don't like them so I'm going to ignore them.) The warp mechanics and ship exclusions of FW plexes do create some interesting scenarios.

I remember one particular Astero who killed my poor Comet. We were in a poorly organised gang (of course) and he was in a medium plex. When he saw us coming he took the simple expedient of warping to the novice. Then he burned away from the beacon before we could catch him, stringing us out nicely because we couldn't warp to each other, and killed us methodically.

He knew how the terrain worked. He knew that the Sentinel and Stabber couldn't fit into the plex. He knew we would have to slowboat out. He knew he had an off grid booster to increase his reps. Bastard. But let's not get distracted.

It's usually a cyno and away you go. I honestly don't understand why teleportation was introduced as a game mechanic. It seems that the chief purpose is to avoid gates, the natural defensive choke points in the terrain.

But rather than go off on a rant about power projection, let me paint a picture of a few ways in which terrain could be introduced to the game.

Zappity, as usual, is trouble looking for a place to happen. I hop into Asakai, noting the Stabber on scan at a belt. I think I'll pass - my Vexor won't catch him. But then I notice that there are Hemorphite rocks in the belt! Don't they increase Gallente hull agility when on grid? Aha!

Having dispatched the feeble Stabber (of course - what could have gone wrong?) I hop into Prism. Last night this system had a Wolf Rayet effect. I notice it has faded now but it was great while it lasted! My Enyo tore apart a Thorax and Moa who were foolish enough to come into my plex. They're probably still wondering how it happened. Noobs. Never mind, there will be something interesting again soon. The effect generator that the local pirates installed won't sit idle for long.

I get a shock when I jump back into Asakai. Someone has dropped a mass bubble on the gate! I always find these fun but usually die to the lurking recon. Max speed is inversely proportional to distance from the bubble core, with enormously increased speed at the centre (which always makes me want to burn out of the thing) but virtually zero at the periphery. Think of a playful event horizon.

Of course, I could just warp straight out but that will take ages since my warp speed will be freighter-like if I depart from within the bubble. Maybe I should just go back to Prism and hope some bugger hasn't dropped a singularity on the out gate...

You get the point. Local terrain in EVE is mostly dull, or non-existent due to teleportation. I think this is a shame. There could be so many interesting local environmental effects that you could chain together to form true local terrains. Warp speed modification to split a fleet up over here, mess with a kite-scrubber's agility over there. Combine that with the OGB-reversal effect we happen to be experiencing today and things could really get interesting!

Learning to lose the Stratios

I logged in again a few days later and was again disappointed by a lack of activity in our connections. Maybe I'm not trying hard enough and need to dive further down the chains. But it is difficult when there are so many juicy k-space exits.

I found another Stratios doing a lowsec anomaly and bookmarked a nearby wreck. When I warped back in I dropped cloak just before landing, mistakenly thinking that he would still be in the same place. Unfortunately, he was 15km away and by the time I started burning over he warped away. That was very annoying but entirely my fault. I should have either had a MWD or held cloak. Still, you live and learn.

Next, I found a belt-ratting Apocalypse with one of those funny skins. I crept up on him, decloaked and started to destroy him. And then his mates landed in a Gila and two Orthruseses. I got the Prophecy to about half armour but, alas, I died. I should have been watching local and d-scan. And I shouldn’t have been falling for obvious bait. Oh well, I gave them a gf and hopped to Amarr for a refit.

The new Stratios didn’t last long. I was loitering innocently in a neighbouring wormhole whose occupant had just awoken. One of my corpies was scanning the system out and the occupant must have noticed the probes. Before long a Blackbird appeared about 30 km from the POS force field.

Now I know this is probably the most obvious bait there could be but what can I say? Before long I was creeping up on him under cloak. I expected that a) he would jam me, and b) the POS would attack me. But I wanted to have a go anyway, thinking that my aggressive drones might be able to kill him despite my having no lock. So I decloaked and started killing him. Sure enough, the ECM landed almost immediately.

I am embarrassed to say that I was badly flustered by this fight. First, I couldn’t figure out why my drones weren’t buzzing around him like flies and killing him. Then I finally figured out that they actually were but, being heavy drones, this was difficult to see because they were already in range of the target and were moving slowly. Second, I wasn’t able to see the Blackbird’s stats because of the ECM. I am not at all used to this. I was looking at my modules when he exploded and was then hugely confused about what I was trying to target! Then I noticed that it was his pod and finally figured out that his ship must have popped.

This would have been the right time for me to calmly warp away, perhaps dropping a taunting comment in local. Instead, I had totally lost the plot and on instinct tried to open his wreck. Not being close enough, my Stratios then had to turn around and lumber over in the opposite direction. By the time I realised that I was still taking quite a lot of damage from the tower it was too late. Honestly, I deserved to die after that pathetic performance.

Blackbird: http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=23766203
My poor Stratios: http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=23766204

Video: http://youtu.be/crLVe5QMb3o

Lessons? 1) I should have aligned out as soon as I decloaked and relied on my drones rather than my guns. 2) I should have warped off as soon as he exploded. 3) Knowing that ECM was highly likely I should have been much less focused on locking him and more focused on the broader situation. 4) I probably just shouldn't have tried in the first place. But we all know that #4 won’t stick :)

Anyway, onwards and upwards! An alliance mate, Skir Skor, very kindly donated me a Stratios BPC. I strongly suspect that this is so he can keep laughing at my mistakes. I shall name the ship “Skir’s Folly” and have promised to explode it in some hilariously noobish manner. After those losses I doubt I could accomplish much different anyway!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Spiders in their own webs

I finally moved into my new corp’s wormhole. The static C2 is great since there is always a nice K-space exit nearby. Unfortunately, I haven’t found anyone in J-space to shoot at yet. Maybe there was a mass exodus from wormhole space after Hyperion as the threads all say.

Some of my corpies are interested in running sites. I looked at my skills and they are woeful for PvE, probably as a result of concentrating on solo PvP up until now. So I bought the Gallente Battleship skillbook and started training it up alongside some sentry drone and remote transfer skills. At least the Dominix is quite cheap - I like that in a PvE ship that will absolutely certainly be killed some time soon.

I put all of the bits onto the Dominix and set off for the chain entry system. I’ve never sat in a battleship before. I don’t like them. They are slow to align, slow to warp and just generally slooooooow! After a few uncomfortably exposed (but scouted) jumps I made it to the home system and dropped the ship off in the tower. A few seconds later I had swapped into my stealthy Stratios and was heading for the nearest lowsec exit.

Things were pretty quiet around here, too. But I persevered and found an Eagle loitering with intent on a gate. He scarpered when I blipped on the overview and soon disappeared from scan. When he reappeared and suggested a planet for 1v1 I was instantly suspicious.

I was suspicious of a gang warping in. I was suspicious of a kiting fit (to which he must have hastily switched in station). I was suspicious of a hot drop. But I also wanted a fight! So I warped in and saw that he was over 100km away from the warp in. My suspicions about a kiting fit were renewed and I hastily reactivated my cloak.

I warped out to a celestial behind my victim and dropped a bookmark just as I entered warp. It was a good one - on returning I landed about 10km from my opponent. I had deactivated cloak on the way in and quickly scrammed and webbed him.

I expected that his damage would drop off once I got into a close orbit but was surprised to see a good amount still coming in. Not a kiting fit! Treachery! How dare he try to trick me like that! But the Stratios showed its might and before I was too far into armour his shields evaporated and I was targeting his pod. Sigh. The cruiser’s lock time is so slow.

Eagle: http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=23708044

Video, Stratios vs Eagle: http://youtu.be/nnQtggilGYs

Another wormhole took my into Northern Associates null space. Despite my being there solely for the sightseeing in my heavily armed cruiser a nasty local decided to set up a gate camp with his Sabre. He got all excited when Innocent Scout’s Cheetah hopped through into his rapidly inflating bubble but didn’t quite manage to destroy it before she escaped. Zappity followed immediately after and he was onto her like a flash!

Maybe he was expecting an exploration Stratios. Maybe he was just trying his luck. Either way, he melted very quickly to my great satisfaction. Sitting in the middle of his own bubble, he could hardly warp his pod away, either! Happy times! Especially since the pod was worth more than the ship.

Sabre: http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=23765463
Pod: http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=23765464

Video, Stratios vs Sabre: http://youtu.be/gjQLdBX-MU0

I came across him again on the way home. He left me alone this time.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Scrambled Moa

My next highsec adventure happened after spending a long time warping from target to target, most of whom heeded my sage advice and fled as soon as I landed. An exception was found in a particular Moa, probably because she was too busy being killed by the NPCs. I locked her out of idle curiosity and saw that she was in half hull and dropping fast. Probably preparing to warp out, I thought. And then I had another thought. This thought was about my warp scrambler.

Before I knew it, I had scrammed her. I can’t remember if I even shot her (probably) but she certainly popped:

Moa: http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=23661561

I looked her character sheet up and then I felt very bad. Ultra-noob. I felt even worse when I looked at the fit. No wonder she was in structure - no tank at all! I sent 15m which more than covered the loss as well as a reasonable PvE Moa fit with an explanation of the principles she should be trying to achieve with the mid slots and rigs. I also gave her a stern Lecture since the only thing that saved her pod was CONCORD jamming me. I received a brief reply thanking me. Under the circumstances I can understand her lack of verbosity.

The age of the character made me take a more careful look at the system I was haunting. I had made the mistake of thinking that ‘starter system’ and ‘rookie system’ were synonymous. They are not, and although Arnon is not a starter system (which I knew) it IS a rookie system (https://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/Rookie_Systems) because of the Sisters of EVE epic arc (which I did not know).

So if you want some mission runner baiting fun go and do it somewhere else.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Zappity the Mostly Fearless!

“Hello, I am Zappity the Mostly Fearless. I am here to inspect your wrecks for juicy loot and to destroy any who dare oppose me! No ship can stand against the mighty Incursus!”

As you can see I am making a nuisance of myself in highsec. I have been accepted into my new wormhole corp but have only just learned about the fun that can be had with mission runners so I decide to postpone the move for a day or two.

Local is VERY quiet here in highsec, despite there being well over a hundred people in system. It is spooky. So once in a while I drop a comment like this to liven things up a bit. I also warn my potential victims about their impending pod-loss-doom if they do not read The Lecture (https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&m=3757908#post3757908). I figure it is a public service.

I am instantly blocked by two or three locals who also feel the need to tell everyone of their action, despite subsequent local communications clearly proving them to be liars. Some others strike up a conversation, asking about lowsec. And a verdict is given on this very thread: “12 PAGES OF FORUM DRIVEL”. A reasonably accurate assessment but he didn’t need to shout it.

[Incursus, Incursus dual rep v3]

Small Armor Repairer II
Small Armor Repairer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Damage Control II

1MN Afterburner II
Small Capacitor Booster II, Navy Cap Booster 150
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I

Light Ion Blaster II, Void S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S

Small Anti-Explosive Pump I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I

Acolyte II x1

This has a bit more DPS in exchange for slightly lower reps than the earlier version which couldn't break through the Gnosis’ shield regen in my last encounter. Now all I need is a victim to test it on. After an hour or so of scanning down ships in sites and warping into them I discovered a few things:

1. Not being able to destroy people's wrecks is intensely annoying. I only want to destroy a few of them, just to get their attention but CONCORD keeps threatening to explode me.
2. You need to find a target with the right balance: not so young that they are terrified of another ship on grid and not so old that they know an Incursus can kill their much bigger ship.
3. Warping in as a flashy yellow will mostly result in the mission runner warping away so you only want to go suspect when you think the target might be willing to have a crack at you.
4. Leave 5 cubic metres of space free in your hold so you can loot something from a wreck. This is obvious but it is annoying when you are overflowing with cap charges and haven't thought it through.

I eventually find a willing participant. I warp into the site to see a year-old Gnosis pilot mopping up after shooting the last of the little red crosses. I casually wander over to a nearby wreck. Hmm, he hasn't warped away yet - that's a good sign.

I move to the next wreck, trying to make it look as though I am searching for tasty loot. I choose a wreck which I judge takes me in his direction without being overtly threatening. I am a mere 15km away from him when he yellow-boxes me. Then I receive a duel request! Aha!

I cannot accept quickly enough and immediately dive into a tight afterburner orbit. He was ready for me, however, and immediately slaps on a web and starts biting into my armour with his drones. His main weapons get a solid hit too.

Hobgoblin I and Hammerhead I. Good. I start working on the Hammerheads first. I am worried that the web - oh, actually plural which isn't good news - will slow me down enough for medium drones to hit solidly despite my mid-grade Halo set. It takes a few minutes of micro-management while I chomp through his drones before I am finally able to switch to his ship.

The increased DPS on this fit is helpful but I am still in a normal T1 frigate trying to chew through a battlecruiser! His shield disappears pretty quickly even though I am using cold guns and before long I chipping away at his armour. He immediately, and I think very rudely, starts repairing.

Six minutes later… Ugh, this is going on forever! I notice that he has linked the system name in local and I guess that he is trying to summon help in another channel and dropped it into local by accident. I overheat my guns in an effort to hasten the procedure, carefully watching to make sure they don't fry.

Hull! Finally! And yet he is still repping away, trying to cheat me of my victory. I guess he doesn't quite see it that way, though. When he eventually explodes I am ready for the pod but unfortunately he warps away.

35k damage from the magnificent Incursus! https://zkillboard.com/kill/40938754/

Video: http://youtu.be/KApaT-kBGAs

Props to Marieeth Cardogno who wanted a rematch in a frigate. I would have been happy to oblige but was already running out of time and had nothing suitable to hand. I certainly wasn’t going to take that abomination of an Incursus fit up against another frigate. I think I will move a small selection of proper frigate fits across for this eventuality.

What could he have done differently? Not engaging a frigate at 15km when fitted with medium beams would be a good start. There was no way he could track me in orbit, even with the double webs. He probably would have done alright with pulse lasers. Also, a couple of times he managed to get a decent hit on me. He could have increased the chance of this by trying to slingshot me into zero transversal ‘catch up’ mode. Hard to do but actually possible since I was double webbed and he wasn’t.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I always liked the Firetail

I quite like the Firetail. I’m sure I ALWAYS liked it. Who wouldn’t like the speed, selectable damage type and all those mid slots? Only a fool!

I have been getting a bit uppity lately and chasing entirely unsuitable targets. Today’s Unsuitable Target #1 was a Thorax. When I landed in a Medium and saw him at 30 km I thought he would be rail fit and already pressing F1 to pop me. Instead, he warped out before I could get into scram range. I followed him to the gate. He loitered indecisively. A good sign.

I locked him, aligned back to a plex and aggressed before warping to shed gate guns. By the time I got back to the gate he had jumped through. Disappointing. But I followed him through when my timer expired and quickly scanned him down at a cluster of gates. I guessed which one was most likely and gave chase. I guessed right!

I shadowed him for five jumps, hoping to see him at a plex until I finally caught up to him on a gate. He loitered again. This time I gave him a bit of time to aggress me. He targeted me and launched his drones but did not aggress so I eventually did the gate gun warp again. He jumped. By the time I could hop through I had pretty much given up.


But there he was, 30 km off the gate. He instantly locked me when I decloaked. I locked back and approached at an angle with afterburner. He aggressed! I moved into orbit before he could blap me and immediately set to work on his drones. I orbited at 5 km to keep my speed up and webbed the little buggers before swatting them with my guns. I kept getting mixed up with my webs, accidentally turning off the one on the Thorax.

After I had worked through a few of them he de-aggressed and starting moving back toward the gate. Uh oh. I blasted through his shield with EMP and switched to Fusion for the armor. Things were going quickly now, although the gate was getting closer. Hull! Half hull! And then he jumped out. I had forgotten to keep him webbed to delay re-approach!


I again waited for the infernal weapons timer, hoping against hope that he would be foolish enough to hang around. When I hopped through I immediately saw his pod on dscan, located with an Incursus. He typed in local, "Zappity, this ****** stole your kill!"

"Noooo!!!", I yelled. I was not happy. But then I got a chuckle when he typed, "Kill him for me, will you?"

So I did and then sent him the mail. Incursus: http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=23477449

Here is the Thorax kill even though it is screwed up: http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=23477438

I was annoyed to lose the mail but interested to see the fit. He was rail fit after all! He missed his best opportunities, probably through lack of confidence.

Video of the first bit: http://youtu.be/Ysmpg5jY-ik

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Doing justice to the Stabbed Vexor of Shame

I quite like the Vexor. I fly it like the Stratios without a cloak and a bit less DPS. And a lot less ISK. I was wandering about looking for someone to kill.

[Vexor, Vexor brawl v1]

Damage Control II
Drone Damage Amplifier II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
1600mm Reinforced Steel Plates II
Drone Damage Amplifier II

10MN Afterburner II
Stasis Webifier II
Warp Scrambler II
Stasis Webifier II

Heavy Electron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge M
Heavy Electron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge M
Heavy Electron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge M
Heavy Electron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge M

Medium Trimark Armor Pump I
Medium Trimark Armor Pump I
Medium Anti-Explosive Pump I

Gecko x1
Valkyrie II x2
Acolyte II x1

612 DPS, 36k EHP

Three Caracals were loitering in the system, behaving oddly. They were sitting at perches off gates then splitting up and warping off to celestials before regrouping at the next gate. I woke up Innocent Scout, probed them down, and warped Zappity (who was sitting at the gate nearby) onto them.

Admittedly, not a great survival strategy! But it didn't matter since they scarpered instead of fighting. I thought I had caught one - very close - but I was left sitting in his exhaust, disappointed.

Next up I found a Caracal and a Vexor sitting in a Medium plex. Suspiciously similar names directed me to the killboard where I saw things which still give me nightmares. Especially the stabs on both cruisers. But I know a cure for stabs!

I docked, switched a web for the spare anti-farmer scram that I carry, and warped in. I expected both ships to be at the edge of the plex sphere, ready to flee at a moment's notice. But they were sitting right on the beacon!

Now, whenever I fit a stab (e.g. a travel fit) the last thing I want is to get into combat. Of any sort. Stabs gimp your fit too badly to be useful so I strongly suspected that the killboards had led me astray and that I was confronted with two combat-ready cruisers.

Oh well. What can you do? Keep calm and carry on, that's what. So I slapped everything on the Vexor (who was closer) and started laying into him. He melted in a most satisfactory manner! Unfortunately I couldn't kill the Caracal because he ran away too fast.

Vexor: http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=23470925

Video: http://youtu.be/wod8iJJAc-U

And then he told me off. Apparently:
1. I must have a pathetic life and he feels sorry for me.
2. PvPers are just wasting their time because it is only internet pixels.
3. He can make that loss back in five minutes of plexing anyway. (I translated this to “I didn’t want that Vexor anyway. Sniff.”)
4. And anyway, why do I bother? It is just for a scrap of ego boost.

In return for this valuable feedback I told him that he was wasting a slot with the omni for medium drones. He didn't respond. To be honest I haven’t really mastered smack talk. I then asked him what his primary game activity was if not PvP. I didn't get a response to that either. Instead, I was told that I had padded my killboard enough and should go away. I think he was sulking.

Unfortunately, my next move did not really cover me with glory. No, really, you'll see. The next cruiser I found was an Ishtar. I figured that I would probably die since my guns were shooting into his resists (and because Ishtar) but decided to have a go anyway. I scanned him down and sent the Vexor into warp.

I noticed that he was next to a customs office (or something) as I landed but I was more interested in tackling my target than watching the scenery. I landed the scram and webs while my intended victim just sat there, entirely unperturbed. He locked me back and started killing me.

And so did the sentry guns. Yes, the "customs office" was actually a station. Oh my goodness, I was so embarrassed. Thankfully, a gaggle of his corpies instantly undocked and started laying into me too. So I can clearly chalk this one down to being mercilessly blobbed rather than noobishly aggressing on a station.

Loss: http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=23471230

Monday, September 1, 2014

Revised view of the Firetail

Firetail! I caught I Hurricane at a large plex. First I killed his drones, then I repaired myself, and then he escaped because I wasn’t watching my cap carefully enough. It was a very frustrating loss, mostly because it was entirely my fault.

Video: http://youtu.be/OvvLo0d9sZo

I consoled myself by killing a dual-MASB Breacher (http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=23456187). Next, Ciba Lexlulu spotted a Thrasher and an Algos in a plex together so we warped in together and murdered the Thrasher while the Algos ran. I think he was multiboxing, panicked and lost his pod for good measure:

Thrasher: http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=23456185
Pod: http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=23456186

He convoed me afterward and promised to get his revenge. Another entry for the nemesis list!

But I’m getting distracted. Firetail! I next stumbled across a Comet but since his idea of a good fight was actually plus another Comet and a Daredevil I decided not to play. Next, I came across a Procurer in a belt. Naturally, I thought it was bait. And naturally, I bit. His drones immediately sprang into action but I saw they were T1. Hmm, maybe this isn't bait after all. I quickly chewed through them using my webs to slow them down enough to land solid hits.

Then a Merlin appeared. The pilot had previously been sitting in a Venture at the same belt and I guessed that this was a multiboxer. I stuffed up my range control and lost point on the Procurer. Still, the Merlin died quickly enough and I reapplied the scram as soon as possible.

Merlin: http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=23458023

A flight of Hornets was dispatched just as fast as the earlier bunch and I settled down to a nice quiet meal of armour and hull. It took my little 150mm guns a while to cheese through. Just as I was getting close to a yummy pod dessert (yes, I am optimistic) another Merlin appeared! He had reshipped and come back for seconds.

I reasoned that he was probably blaster fit like the last one, and that I was considerably faster due to the lack of web on the Procurer. So I slapped one web on the Merlin and increased my orbit on the still-webbed Procurer. The Merlin followed me around, left ineffectually in my wake, while I finished off the miner.

Procurer: http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=23458024

And then I caught the Merlin and killed that, too.

Merlin #2: http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=23458025

Hehe, good stuff. I traded the loot back to my noobish victim, sent a few appropriate fits through, and dropped a little isk to encourage him to keep exploding. I gave him The Lecture (of course) and advised him to try some quieter systems if he really wanted to mine in lowsec.

Video: http://youtu.be/DSUAyk4XBR4

So, revised thoughts on the Firetail? I really like its speed. I really like double webs for multiple target control. I really like the selectable damage type. I just need to find some more worthy adversaries to test it against. And I should probably play with a dual prop fit some time.