Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Another thought-provoking loss

It's pretty easy to avoid fights in low sec.  In fact, it's pretty rare that I end up in a fight that I don't want (I often lose anyway, but still...).  The only real exception is whenever I happen to land on the acceleration gate to a plex at the same time as someone else.  That is what happened this time.  Here is the loss:

I saw an Atron within a plex that I wanted to destroy, and apparently the Breacher had the exact same idea that I did at the exact same time.  I had never fought a Breacher before, and I only had a vague notion of a 'kitey' light-missile frigate, similar to a condor.  That turned out to be completely wrong, and he was a straight-up rocket brawler (from post-fight killboard searching, most Breachers seem to be rocket brawlers.  Live and learn).

About 3 seconds into the fight, I realized my first mistake: Breachers get a bonus to explosive damage, and I neglected to fit an anti-explosive rig on my Incursus.  This wasn't a case of simple negligence, I had actually thought about this and I consciously made the decision to go with a trimark instead of an anti-explosive pump.  I believe now that this is a bad idea.  Although increasing explosive resistance is useless in most of my fights, neglecting the rig means that I would now have to completely avoid fights against breachers, rifters, kestrel pilots who are smart enough to carry nova rockets, firetails, thrashers, and talwars.  I would also have to pray that Tristan pilots throw hobgoblins at me instead of warriors.  It just doesn't make much sense to limit what I can engage; it's already hard enough to find a good fight as it is.

Make no mistake about it, I got flat-out wrecked in this fight, and once it had started there was probably nothing I could have done in order to actually win.  With that said, a major blunder in my piloting was that I didn't try to maximize my velocity in order to mitigate the incoming dps.  My opponent was more-or-less stationary, and I simply kept him within my optimal range.  This was a terrible move, but it's one I made because orbiting would have been an even worse move, and in the heat of the moment I couldn't come up with a viable alternative

What I should have done was to manually move directly away from him.  Even though I was webbed, moving at 40% of my maximum velocity would have reduced incoming DPS by ~15-20% if he were using nova rage rockets (which I believe he was).  How do I know this?  I recently discovered the dps chart feature in EFT, which is an AMAZINGLY useful tool.  As an example, I'll show why orbiting the breacher would have been a bad idea.  Below is a chart showing dps vs. range, with both the attacking and targetted ship stationary.  Just for fun, I included my Incursus fit, plus an similar Comet fit (which is a tracking-bonused hull).  Below this is the same chart, shown with the attacking ship orbiting the target at its webbed velocity.  You can easily see that the tracking penalty negates any benefit to incoming dps that I would have gained.  The Comet fares better than the Incursus, but it's still clear that orbiting is a bad idea.

I have learned a ton from this tool.  You can see what range & velocity you need to get under a cruiser's guns, you can see how your ammo selection affects dps in specific circumstances, and perhaps most importantly, you can see why mashing the "orbit at 500" button is never, EVER a good idea.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Evolution of a fit: the TD Merlin

This loss mail here has probably influenced my current play-style more than any other:

Fortunately, he was killed by someone else shortly after killing me, so I am able to see how he was fit:

I saw the rifter in a plex on d-scan, and just dove right in not really knowing what to expect, but figuring that I would just try to out-brawl him.  What happened was that I was given a lesson on "scram kiting", which utilizes a AB/scram/web combination to dictate range at the edge of warp scrambler range.  Being in a blaster fit merlin, I was unable to project any DPS on him, even with null ammo loaded.  His ship was also faster than mine, so even with a web & AB of my own, I was unable to close the distance to him, even with my AB overheated.  A an attempt at 'yo-yo' maneuver to get within blaster range failed, and there was little I could do aside from watching myself die slowly.

After this loss, I did a couple things: 1. I immediately queued up afterburner IV to pick up a speed bonus, and 2. stopped flying blaster merlins and incursuses in solo PVP.  This loss caused me to reflect on the importance of range dictation, and quickly made me realize that there are simply too many ships out there that can effectively kite a blaster merlin or incursus.  Today, I primarily fly Gallente frigates fit with rails, and rail Merlins, many of which take advantage of scram-kiting in order to dictate range.

My fits & piloting technique are both still evolving.  I posted a rail Incursus fit in the last post, which I have used to some effect.  The only issue I have seen is that the fit feels fairly "cookie-cutter", in that someone facing a rail incursus is probably expecting something very similar to that fit, with only minor variation. The Merlin on the other hand has a lot of versatility added by the fourth mid slot, and lately I have been flying a version with a tracking disruptor.  That brings me to this loss here:

I was sitting in a plex, and saw the incursus coming in.  Knowing that this is precisely the type of fight that I wanted, I sat tight, and orbited the beacon at ~15km.  I would likely either be facing a dual-rep blaster-fit incursus, which my merlin would be able to scram-kite fairly easily, or a rail incursus, over which I would have an advantage because of my slightly better speed and my tracking disruptor.

It turns out, he was rail-fit, and I still lost.  He had approximately 30% structure remaining when I popped.  There are several lessons to take form this:

1. My opponent had far more skill points than me.  If this fight had taken place 1 month later, when my skill training plan was complete (see previous post), then I almost certainly would have won.
2. I was able to dictate range in this fight, but I didn't choose the correct range.  I tried to keep him slightly within my optimal range, because my biggest fear was that he might slingshot his way outside of scram range and get away.  If I had kept him slightly further away from me, I probably could have won because of the way falloff mechanics work (but it would have still been very close).
3. The biggest lesson here: my fit was simply not very good.

This is the fit I was using:

[Merlin, TD rail merlin]
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Damage Control II

J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
Balmer Series Tracking Disruptor I, Optimal Range Disruption Script
1MN Afterburner II

125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S

Small Hybrid Collision Accelerator I
Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I
[empty rig slot]

With the skills I had at the time, this has 116 dps and 3042 EHP.  Notice the lack of tank on this fit.  Let's look at an alternative, after replacing the 2nd MFS with armor plating:

[Merlin, TD rail merlin copy 2]
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
200mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
Damage Control II

Faint Epsilon Warp Scrambler I
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
Balmer Series Tracking Disruptor I, Optimal Range Disruption Script
1MN Afterburner II

125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S

Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I
Small Tracking Diagnostic Subroutines I
[empty rig slot]

This fit has 98 dps (a 16% decrease) , but 4145 EHP (a 36% increase!).  In a simple, "back of the envelope" analysis, this fit would clearly have been superior for my engagement against the incursus.  Although my dps is reduced, the extra EHP more than makes up for it, and I fully expect that I would have won the fight handily.  The only thing I lose is a small amount of speed, but I believe that this is a small price to pay, and shouldn't limit my engagement profile too much. I am going to be flying this fit for a few weeks, and I'll post an update on the results later.

There are a couple variations on this fit, which I think are probably superior:

1. Replacing the tracking rig with a hybrid collision accelerator.  Unfortunately, I don't have enough levels in Advanced Weapon Upgrades to fit this yet.
2. I believe an active rep version (with an AAR) may be superior, provided that I survive long enough to use all of the nanite paste charges.  The added advantage is that there is no speed loss associated with the active tank.  The only problem I have with this is that my capacitor skills are simply not very good yet, and my cap life is a bit too short for my liking.  I'll revisit this after training Capacitor Management IV, and Capacitor Systems Operation IV.

Goals & The Power of Specialization

As of this post, I have 4.8 million skill points, which automatically puts me at a disadvantage in the majority of my solo engagements.  Eve can be daunting at times, because of the sheer number of skills and the amount of training time required in order fly ships to the best of their capability.  Many of my corpmates in Eve University are able to fly a wide range of ship classes for many different races, but I find it difficult to imagine that many are able to fly them to their full capability.  Honestly, this is probably fine for fleets & gangs; a meta-fit cruiser is probably better for dps roles than a T2-fit frigate.  However, for solo PVP, I'm pretty certain that flying higher ship classes would simply lead to more expensive loss mails for me.

Although there are a lot of different ships I'd like to be able to fly, I've come to the realization that I'd be much better off if I focused my skill training.  After all, skills needed to fly a Prophecy are useless if I am sitting in a Frigate (which I am, 95% of the time).  Last week I made the decision to put aside most of my training plan, and focus exclusively on flying Gallente frigates and training the associated support skills.  This decision makes sense for a number of reasons:

1. I already have T2 small hybrid guns trained
2. My drone support skills are decent; I have Drones V, Scout Drone Operation V, and Drone Interfacing IV all trained.
3. Hull upgrades V is trained, meaning I can fit a T2 armor tank

All of these are well-aligned with flying Gallente frigates well.  Furthermore, the Incursus, Tristan, Atron, and Maulus are all very viable options for solo & small gang PVP.  As much as I love the Merlin, the remaining Caldari frigates would require me to cross-train a lot of missile support skills, and that is going to have to wait.

This is an Incursus fit that I have been flying recently:

[Incursus, Rail incursus v2]
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste
Pseudoelectron Containment Field I
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
200mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I

1MN Afterburner II
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I

125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S

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

Hobgoblin II x1

With my current skills, this gives me 4379 EHP, 115 DPS, and overheated speed of 1176 m/s in EFT. An all V's character will have 4479 EHP, 144 DPS, and a speed of 1356 m/s with this fit.  Clearly, I have a LOT of room for improvement here.  With proper training, I can improve my DPS by 25% and my speed by 15%.  My gunnery skills in particular need a lot of attention.  This my short-term training plan:

Gallente Frigate V
Navigation V
Acceleration Control IV
Evasive Maneuvering IV
Rapid Firing IV
Sharpshooter IV
Surgical Strike IV
Motion Prediction IV
Trajectory Analysis IV
Small Railgun Specialization III
Small Railgun Specialization IV
Cybernetics IV
Gunnery V
Combat Drone Operation IV

This will take about 4 weeks to train, but will leave this fit with 129 DPS and overheated speed of 1261 m/s.  I added Cybernetics IV (which is long overdue), primarily to unlock Zor's Custom Navigation Hyper Link, which gives me another nice speed boost.  My implant set will then be: 

[Slot 1] Genolution Core Augmentation CA-1
[Slot 2] Memory Augmentation - Basic
[Slot 3] Neural Boost - Basic
[Slot 4] Genolution Core Augmentation CA-2
[Slot 6] Eifyr & Co. 'Rogue' Navigation NN-603 (+3% Speed)
[Slot 7] Eifyr & Co. 'Rogue' Evasive Maneuvering EM-703 (+3% Agility)
[Slot 8] Zor's Custom Navigation Hyper Link (+5% AB/MWD Speed Boost)
[Slot 9] Inherent Implants 'Lancer' Gunnery RF-903 (+3% Firing Rate)
[Slot 10] Inherent Implants 'Noble' Hull Upgrades HG-1003 (+3% Armor)

Which then pushes this same fit up to: 133 DPS, 4512 EHP, 1344 m/s speed (over-heated), which will leave me only 8% below an "all V's" character in terms of DPS.  This is only the beginning; I still have a lot of skills support skills which need attention, but I am completely convinced that this is the best path to improving as a player.  One of the most successful PVP pilots in the Eve-Uni LSC also flies Gallente Frigates the majority of the time, and has skills like Small Railgun Specialization V, Drone Interfacing V, and Gallente Drone Specialization V trained.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Stupid Losses

I have now been playing Eve Online for three months, and I have lost many, many ships.  More than a few of them were lost because of a combination of my inexperience, ineptitude as a pilot, and enthusiasm to throw myself into virtually any engagement.

To phrase it differently, some of my losses have been flat-out stupid.  In my first post, I'd like to document some of the more memorable ones.

Let's start with my very first loss mail:

I had just joined Red Federation, and I saw an Augoror Navy Issue outside our station.  Pretty much all that went through my mind at that time was: Flashy.  Shoot it.  I didn't know what an Augoror Navy Issue was and I didn't care.  I didn't know about aggression timer and docking mechanics either.  Didn't care.

If you have any experience in Eve at all, you can probably guess how quickly I died.  You might not think there was much to be learned from this (aside from "don't be an idiot"), but on the contrary, I probably learned more from this loss than any other I have experienced.  I immediately learned, and understood the aggression timer & docking mechanics.  I quickly learned that I needed to learn what each ship type was and what its capabilities are (which I am still working on).  Most importantly, I learned that if I am going to engage someone, I need to have a good idea of how I am going to win before the fight happens.

Next up:

Engaged a Manticore on a gate, and was annihilated by the gate guns.  Every aspiring pirate had this happen to them once, right? RIGHT?  Yeah, I'm an idiot, but I'll definitely never do that again.


This is a case where I scouted the pilot on eve-kill, and knew I'd be facing a HAM Caracal.  I figured I'd throw my dual-rep Incursus at him, just to see what would happen.  I figured that if I could keep my speed up, load void into my blasters, and overheat that I could rep through the damage and eventually score the kill.  Didn't work.  While I had virtually no chance of actually winning this, I did make a few mistakes: the biggest of which relying on the "orbit at 500" button.  The more I think about this, the more I think that using this button is almost never the right thing to do.  I'm going to dedicate a whole separate post to this later.

I could go on forever, but I'm going to end this post with this one:

I had been out looking for a fight for a while, and I finally saw an Incursus on d-scan at a station in Hevrice.  I warped to the station at 100km, and slow-boated around, just to let him know that I wanted a fight.  He eventually warped to a novice plex, and I warped at a range of 50km.  The logic here was that I thought he might be blaster fit (I was rail fit), and didn't want to get caught on the acceleration gate at zero if he was.  My whole plan for winning was to kite him within scram/web range.

I have already made a mistake here.  I could have easily looked at his ship to see whether he was rail fit or blaster fit.  If he was rail fit, I would know that I was probably up against a fit very similar to my own, against a pilot with far more experience and skill points.  The only right choice here would be to avoid the fight, and move on.

I warped into the gate at range, and saw my opponent sitting on the gate at zero.  I loaded spike in my guns, and moved within range.  I launched my drone, and starting firing a few volleys.  I wanted him to burn towards me, and start the fight off the gate, which would help avoid any of his corp-mates from warping in and blobbing me.  My plan was then to switch to faction ammo, and scram kite him at my optimal range.

This didn't happen.  Instead, he killed my drone, and took the gate into the plex.  Now that I'm down a drone, I should have just given up, gone back to high sec, bought a new drone, and found a new fight, right?  That would have been a good idea.  Instead, I followed him into the plex, we fired away at each other at our optimal range, and predictably I lost the fight.  I was still fixated on the idea that he might be fit with dual reps, and that I would have been able to kite him and have a good chance of winning.  Obviously, the only correct decision here was not to take the fight, and I had ample opportunity to gather enough information to come to that conclusion.  Once I lost my drone, it should have been even more obvious.

Most of my blog is going to be dedicated to my losses, for two reasons: 1. I lose ships VERY often, and 2. I find that losing a ship inspires more thought and analysis about my approach to PvP than anything else.  A good loss can have me thinking for DAYS about what I could have done differently.