Operation. Original Poster. A surgical or military operation. In video game parlance OP has come to define something that is over-powered. The holy grail, the thing that once possessed will grant the user unlimited power over the competition. The "win" button. In Eve OP represents spaceships and the fits that make them work. Since the dawn of Eve Online there has been an unbroken and ever-changing, evolving, and constantly updated sense of what OP might be. The search is never-ending.
The other day someone asked me to evaluate a killmail for them. They had lost their Firetail to a Comet and wanted to know why. I get this question a lot and the answers are not always what the questioner wants to hear. This player lost that specific fight because he fitted a mwd to his Firetail without a web. Once the Comet managed to get him scrammed he was going to die. No matter what he did. I once lost a fight in a far-away land and was forced to fit up a traveling Merlin for the long flight back home. This Merlin had one Neutron Blaster, no mids, no rigs, and a single Interial Stabilizer in the lows. And I think it only had a few hundred rounds of NullS. Along the way back I spotted another ship in a belt. I took the fight and won. Winning that fight doesn't mean that single blaster, mostly un-fitted Merlins are OP.
Will such-and-such ship defeat such-and-such ship? Can my Atron take down this Megathron in the belt? It is the age-old question that typically younger players will ask. As if Eve is a black and white world with hard and fast rules of engagement. It isn't. Certainly there are odds at play, but essentially any ship can defeat any other ship - given the right circumstances. The odds of any engagement in Eve essentially boil down to several important circumstances that are usually unknown at the time of engagement:
1. Is the other pilot any good? An Atron can solo a Megathron if the mega pilot doesn't have any guns fitted. Or if he is using T1 heavy drones and forgot to put any light drones in his drone bay. Or if he happens to be AFK at the moment. Or if he... the list of potential issues here is almost limitless. Sure, normally speaking, the odds of this engagement going in favor of the Atron are very low. But they are not zero. If that mega is in an FW corp and sitting at a large it might not even be fitted at all. Believe me, it happens.
2. Does the target have help? So you tackle the mega in your Atron and 15 of his buddies come in and ruin your day. Suddenly your odds rapidly reduced to zero in the span of a few seconds. This could have been unexpected, or it could have been because you suck at reading your d-scan, or at gathering intel, or you refuse to be on comms and missed your buddies yelling at you, or you forgot to load the intel chat channel. I have no idea. Point being, you are dead.
3. Where did the engagement start? If that mega happens to be rail fitted and you land 40k from him and start burning straight at him with your mwd on - you are going to have a very bad day. But if you happened to land at zero in that same situation with an AB, you are going to be golden.
These are only a few of the hundreds of variables at play in any given engagement. I'm sorry it isn't easier, but this is the insanity that makes Eve one of the best PvP-centric games in the world. And the source of the dedication it takes to be truly good at it. This is not a game to be taken lightly, those that do so end up exploded.
There is a saying in the Stay Frosty Code that says, "I am a lifelong learner. I seek the respect of other space-farers through mastery of the martial skills. Knowing that the fight may be over before it has begun, I seek to engage others only on my terms."
I love that specific turn of phrase. Knowing the fight may be over before it has begun. The concept here is to turn any given engagement into a situation in which the odds go up in your favor. This is where situational awareness, preparation, knowledge, experience, and OP come into play. There are those that believe that only fights that start in your favor should be taken. And while others, like myself, believe that knowing you will win takes all of the fun out of it - they do actually have a point. A point I personally disagree with, but I can at least appreciate where they are coming from.
I choose not to play the OP game. I could easily sit on a gate with a smart-bombing BS and rack up the kills, or haunt plex gates in a cloaky Loki, or run Recon Traps, or do any number of other things that generally speaking put the odds squarely in my favor. All the time. And while I may do those things from time-to-time, it is usually only for very specific reasons. I believe to do so all the time hurts not only my own reputation (which impacts my ability to get good fights) but also that of my fellow corp-mates (which hurts their ability to get good fights). I would much rather solo a Megathron in my Atron, than catch one with a Rapier and blap it to death from Loki web range with three Lokis.
However, and this is the point of this post, that doesn't mean we don't all chase that OP grail. I am constantly updating and evaluating fits, techniques, ships, mods, and all of their combinations - looking for perfection. It is an impossible goal, but one that is worth the search.
The perfect OP spaceship doesn't exist. In any given situation any given spaceship is just moments away from wreckage.
And that is the cornerstone upon which all of Eve's success has been built.