True Love

It took me five seconds to fall in love with Eve the first time I saw it.

It took me five seconds to fall in love all over again yesterday.

I won't soon forget dragging my ships into the hanger one by one to see how they've changed and giggling like a school boy when I kept hearing the subtle 'thrum' noise when they slowly changed into the next ship. I may never forget the sheer unadulterated joy I felt when my Myrmidon slid out into... into what exactly? Words fail to describe the beauty of the new nebula surrounding my home Station in Hevrice.  I quickly docked the large Myrm and undocked in a small fast Daredevil so I could swim in it, watch the engine trails swirl and... well, gosh darn it, my ship and I danced in space.

We danced.

I just kept undocking all my ships one by one, just so I could see how incredible they now look in space. And I have over 50 ships. I wasn't in a hurry.

A moment of panic when my bookmarks seemingly lost their folders. That had happened once before during one of the previous expansions and with over 4k bms it can take a long time to re-organize them. It all snapped back into place once I opened the People & Places window. Nice.

I love the new font. I love all the little touches. I love just how amazingly beautiful space is now. And here I thought it was pretty gosh darn beautiful before.

A few of us spent some time shooting a Customs Office. And then I had to leave New Eden for the night.

I'm sure there are issues, problems, concerns and whatnots to deal with. I'm sure the forums will be full of the usual usual, the haters, the whiners, those without joy in their hearts. Goodness knows those of us that love Eve complain because we simply want it to be the best it can be. Like caring parents we want it to grow up to be something, anything, we can be proud of. 

I warped away and left my drones at the Customs Office. When I warped back later and they were not visible in space, I feared they had been lost. Then I remembered. Reconnect to lost drones. More joy.

I've used the word 'love' a bit in this post. There are those that will probably consider that a negative. Those are the immature that do not fully appreciate the meaning of the word yet. The young. For those of us a bit more 'mature' >cough< who have been around the block a few times, the feeling is appropriate because of what Eve has come to mean to us. I mean, c'mon, I write a stupid blog about it. I do artwork to it. And I play an internet spaceship game! I should know better.

I should grow up. Seriously.

But that's love for you. Thick and thin. Good times and bad. Sticking it out. Refusing to allow the worst to over shadow the best.

What happened this past Summer. Don't EVER do that again. Don't confuse love for Eve as love for CCP. Don't take advantage of us again. Love forgives, but love isn't stupid either. They say love is blind, but those of us that know better, know that true love sees everything.

All is forgiven by that moment yesterday when my ships kept undocking into a Hubble photograph. The fire was rekindled.

I could just undock and fly around the universe and be perfectly happy.

But happiness is only one emotion. And I have others that require more immediate and thunderous attention as well. So I will enjoy watching things explode against the backdrop of glorious space. Ka-Blooie.

It ain't all sappy love songs baby. Some of it can get a bit rough. But you like it rough, dontcha?

Oh baby. You are such a bitch.

State of Commissions: Update

Some housecleaning items:

Between today and the end of the year I will not be taking on any additional commissions. That doesn't mean you can't continue to email me your requests, you can, it simply means I won't be working on anything "new" until the first of the year. I have enough on my table at the moment and some of these poor people have been waiting a long time. So my focus between now and then will be to clean off the work table.

This is good news for all of you that are currently waiting. Once again, thank you for your patience. I hope the final results will have been worth the wait.

Blog Pack
There will be another update in the next few weeks. So keep your eyes open for that.

For those that have written and asked me to share the process for getting selected to the Eve Blog Pack, it is extremely simple. Make sure I am aware of your blog and add it to the "Eve Sites" Blogroll in the right sidebar. That blogroll is my own personal reading list and the source of my opinions about the blogs that get added to the EBP. Please remember, there are well over 500+ blogs currently active about Eve! Selecting the blogs in the EBP is a purely subjective process and is based on my own personal opinion regarding quality, longevity, subject matter, interest to the Eve community at large, and the sheer amount of bribery involved! ( That is a joke, I don't accept bribes.)  

Seriously, if you want to be considered, send me a link to your blog. And then write awesome stuff about Eve.

Eve of Crucible

Back from four days away and the patch notes are already on-line for tomorrow's release of the newest expansion.  

Like the rest of Eve I suppose I am simply waiting. Waiting to see what it really means, what it really looks like, what the short-term and long-term meanings will be. A lot of changes, in fact I can't remember a longer list of patch notes. Maybe Dominion? My mind doesn't remember the details and human nature dictates that the moment is more important than the past anyway.

So today is a good re-entry day for me as well. Time to get caught up and move Ana into the nearest trade hub. I'm not sure when the new ships will be available and how expensive they will be when they are, but either way I want her to be ready to scoop them up. Right now I'm planning on buying at least two of each. Rixx can fly all four, so why not?

And while many people believe the new ships may only be good for killing SC in Null Space, I think that is a tad short-sighted. Certainly 40 or 50 of the new tier 3 BCs will play havoc with SC fleets, and I'm sure many null Alliances will take advantage of that, I think the longer-term use will be in small gang battles. The sheer amount of DPS that one ship brings to the mix is staggering. And while survivability might be an issue, that is one issue that can be dealt with easily with small gang strategy and tactics. Either way, I'm anxious to give them a try.

Other than that, for us low-sec dwellers at least, the remainder of Crucible is mostly a cosmetic change. The only real issue remaining will be Player Owned Custom Offices and I'll have to wait and see what, if any, impact that has on low-sec. Some have predicted it might be the "golden calf" that brings more people into our systems. I'm not convinced yet.

But new ships, new nebula, new UI enhancements, new 'fixes', new ship skins, all add up to a ton of much needed and welcomed changes. And probably the most anticipated expansion that I can remember.

But my own personal play-style, my in-game moment to moment, won't be impacted that much by Crucible. New Eden looks to be a much better place tomorrow, but still full of ships that need to be exploded.

Turkey Shoot Wallpaper

Eve Turkey Shoot Wallpaper

Happy Thanksgiving. The wallpaper above is available in various sizes by clicking on the image. I thought it was funny, your opinion may vary.

So I'll be away from Eve for the next five days or so and won't be posting, emailing or otherwise around in a significant way. This is a time for hanging out with family, eating way to much food and generally forgetting about the rest of it for a few days. Mostly I'll be traveling to visit my own family.

It is also tradition to take a moment to give thanks for those things we are thankful for. Last year at this time my list was significantly different than it will be this year. Last year at this time I was still in Null space, down in Providence as part of the Co2 Alliance, believe it or not. Wow, a lot has changed in the last year needless to say. So where will I be this time next year?  I guess we'll all just have to wait and see.

Until then, here are just a few of the things I am thankful for this year:

> The Eve Community. You guys keep me going. Thru your blogs, the tweetfleet, the forums and everywhere else, the Eve community is strong, awesome and full of good people. So thank you all for everything you do.

> CCP. Last year I said I was thankful to you for creating Eve in the first place. And while that still applies, I think this year I am more thankful to you for not killing it. Crucible looks to be an incredible, much-needed expansion back to the way things should be. It was a rough Summer, but you've gone a long way towards rectifying those issues. So thanks.

> Eve Friends. Say what you want about virtual friends, but they are pretty damn awesome. And during the last three years I've made a lot of them, both in-game and thru commission work. Thanks to all of you that remain a part of Eve. And to those of you that no longer play, you haven't been forgotten.

> Tuskers.  I know I haven't been in-game much the last two weeks, but you guys are great and I'm looking forward to flying with you all more in the coming months. Thanks for taking me aboard and giving this old guy a new home.

To everyone else, my readers, commenters, visitors, haters, those that say "hi" in local, those that sneak me intel, those that kill me or are killed by me, those that I once flew with and those that I fly against, thank you as well. Without you there wouldn't be an Eve and I wouldn't have a reason to log in.

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving with your friends and family. And for those of you that don't celebrate Thanksgiving, enjoy the next few days without me around. You are microscopically safer in space for the next few days.

Unintended Lapse of Forward Momentum

I have to admit several things today. Get them off my chest. Confess my sins. Clear the air. Wave the magic blog wand of self-indulgent introspective wanderings, so I can get back to the business of writing about, making fun of, and generally enjoying this thing we call Eve.

Funny that the next expansion is called Crucible.

Killing your own Alliance and dumping your own Corporation takes a lot out of a fella. Who'd a thought?

So I've been taking a break from Eve lately. You probably didn't even notice. I hide it well. During the last two weeks I've been in-game a total of about 90 minutes. I haven't kilt anyone in two weeks. This has been on purpose. A mini-vacation if you will. Time to take a deep breath and just chill for a bit.

All the usual. I know better then most that you can't keep the burning pace up for long, without losing the flame. Everything piled up towards the end of Summer, the Alliance, the Corp, the blog, the commissions, the Blog Pack and everything else. No big deal, but even I need a break from time to time.

But this post isn't about the break. It is about the return. And while you haven't noticed it, some have. Those waiting on commissions and my friends in The Tuskers. The new expansion hits soon, which I am very excited about. ( duh! who isn't? ) and the end of the year approaches.

So time to jump back in, undock in some shiny new ships and try to figure out why the sky has changed so much.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Take a moment and check out this bit of Eve Fiction over on Lovely Little Vagabond. I make a surprise guest appearance!

Gang Tactics: Part Four - Track & Kill

Gang Tactics is a new on-going series in which we explore the fine art of death dealing in small gang warfare.  This series is not intended as a technical exploration, but as a guide to the fundamental basics involved in small gang warfare in New Eden. And hopefully, one that is enjoyable and educational.

Part One: The Basics
Part Two: DPS
Part Three: Travel

This series is intended to encourage pilots to fly in small gangs, to remove the mystery from combat in Eve and help the new, experienced and veteran pilots better understand the fundamentals involved in organizing, traveling and fighting in a small gang. As such, I have strived to remove all of the usual technospeak from the series. For example, instead of calling certain ships "Force Multipliers" I called them "Tippers". Because they tip the scale of most fights. In my experience, this makes it much easier to learn and understand the concepts involved. If you are looking for more detailed, technospeak articles, the internet is full of them. This series is not one of those.

So we've covered the basics of forming your small gang, getting the proper mix of DPS and getting out of your system to find targets. We even covered a simple ratting ship take-down and the tactics you need to successfully kill your target. As I mentioned in the last post however, you will rarely encounter a solo ratter at a belt. Typically your potential targets are going to be a tad harder to find. So this post is going to be focused on finding those targets and successfully putting them in their pods.

Potential targets tend to be in the following areas: Docked, in a POS, on station, at a Celestial, in warp, in an Anomaly or in a Mission, or at a Gate. So let's take these one at a time and see how we can not only find them, but more importantly, what ships we might need to add to the mix in order to do so successfully. For each of these examples we'll assume a single target in a "clean" system, just to avoid exponential complications.

Docked: So this person is in local but is docked up in station. You could just move along to the next system, but let's pretend you are real killers and want to destroy him. There are actually some tactics that you can try to tease the docker out into space. If you are following the previous discussed tactics in previous chapters you only have one person in local. Assuming your scout doesn't have GCC ( if you are in low-sec and your scout does have GCC, simply have him leave local and send someone in who doesn't. If you happen to be in Null, well then, it doesn't matter. )  If there are multiple stations in local, have your scout dock and undock to find the station our ship spinner is in. Once you find him, stay docked for a couple of minutes. Open the Guests tab and watch, you'd be surprised how often the ship spinner will undock once he sees someone else in station with him. Spend those minutes looking at his info and use what you learn to help determine if this guy is worth the effort. If he happens to be a killer pilot you can sometimes use his own ego against him, remember he has no idea what you are flying or that you have other ships waiting in the next system. Don't waste a lot of time here, he could just as easily be AFK.
The last ditch effort is leave system, wait a few minutes, then have your mates jump in and see if he is on D-Scan. Sometimes they'll undock once system local is clear and you can catch him in-between your gang.

In a POS: This one is more tricky. Usually I don't bother with POS babies much, since the POS could be defended with nasty stuffs like guns, or ECM, or something. Especially in Low-Sec, POSes are typically carebear safe houses, so the odds of tricking them out are almost nill. Your D-Scan will tell you the status of the POS, what defenses it might have, etc. If you decide to make a try, send your tasty bait ship ( which depends on what ship they have, send the ship that the enemy would consider an easy target.) If the POS has guns and you don't have a ship that can take punishment, then don't bother. The idea isn't to fight on the POS, the idea is to draw the enemy out and have him follow you somewhere safe. Remember, unlike an enemy in a station, his d-scanner still works. Show him a tasty kill and see if he takes the bait.

On a Station: Now the enemy is in space. But they are on station. This one simple situation deserves an entire post all its own, but I'll try to summarize the tactics involved here. Some things to keep in mind if you are in Low-Sec. Station guns hit out to 150. Station guns hurt, especially small ships. If the enemy is positive or neutral standing, then attacking him on station will result in you getting GCC and the station will shoot you. If the enemy is negative standing, then you can shoot at will. In Null these rules do not apply and anyone is fair game on station. 

First example: he is in a Drake on the undock and he is negative standing. Your scout should stay off the station, since he will be mostly useless in this fight, but can stand by the catch the Drake if he decides to warp off. Have one ship jump in and warp to station at Drake range, which is usually about 70-80, so warp in at about 50. When you land align out to a celestial, something close and easy to see. ( When align-baiting never pick a celestial in a cluster, since it will be hard for the target to see exactly where you went. Always try to pick one that sits alone in the sky.) Start shooting the target. He will either dock, shoot back or warp off. If he docks he was gonna do that no matter what you did. If he warps off watch where he goes and send your scout there to catch him. If he starts shooting you don't panic yet, there are still two options in this scenario. He is sitting still shooting you or he is coming towards you and shooting you. Stay aligned! If he is sitting still, have your mates jump in and warp to station at zero and engage. They need to kill him fast if he stops aggro, which he probably will once local jumps. You can warp off and return to help. If he is chasing you, so much the better. Wait until he gets a bit further from the station and then have your mates jump in and warp to station at the enemies range. Don't forget to get points, especially Webs if you have them, since he can still warp away. Webs will cut his speed down and keep him from returning to station.

Second example: he is in a Drake but he has positive standings. Since you do not have Logistics in your small gang this scenario is much like the first one, except you do not want to fight at the station. You still warp in the same as above, align out to an easy celestial (You can have your Scout do this) and then warp off. The idea is to get him to follow the easy kill, point him, and then have everyone jump in to kill him.

There are an infinite variety of scenarios involved in fighting on station, but what I've just given you is the fundamental ingredients involved in all of those scenarios. If you understand the basics involved, you can address any and all scenarios you will face using those basic principals. No matter how many ships are involved.

Celestials: We already covered this in the last post and the tactics are the same with a ship in a belt, planet, custom office, etc. 

In Warp: If you enemy is already in Warp, or warped away from you, finding him involves watching where he went and using your d-scan tactics to find him. If he warped to any of the above locations, then simply use those tactics to engage him. If he warped to a Gate you should also. As the Scout you should jump ahead of him if you can ( to determine who might be in local over there, but also the get point on him when he jumps) and have your mates jump in and also warp to the gate.

Anomalies and Missions: Both of these are easier if you have a Prober along with your gang, either in the main gang or as an alt of someone. If you do not have a Prober along Missions are going to be off-limits to you, there really is no other way to find a Missioner imbedded in a Mission. However, anomalies are a different story. You can find someone running an Anomaly without a Prober and here is how.

In addition to your directional scanner, you also have a System Scanner. The system scanner takes about 25 seconds to scan the system and show you the various anomalies in the system. Your target is at one of these, but which one? It is tricky and time consuming, but it can be done. Wrecks are the key, wrecks and drones. Your d-scanner will pull this information for you. I find the quickest way is the following, double-click the anomaly and wait until your ship aligns, then stop its warp. Now your ship is pointed in the direction of that anomaly, now run the d-scan at maximum and see if any wrecks or drones appear. Continue doing this until you get a hit on wrecks, drones or the enemy ship. There is also the option of simply warping to each one, or guessing and warping, or having your mates jump in and everyone picks one to warp to. ( We used to call that a Belt Blitz in Null, when you have as many ships as belts, everyone jumps in and warps to a different belt.)

If you do have a Prober along, then use him. He is also the only real way to find enemy ships hiding in a safe spot.

At a Gate: Gate tactics are so complicated they really do deserve their own post. So the next post in this series will be focused on fighting and killing on Gates in both low and null sec space.  Once we've covered the basics of gate fighting we'll start teaching tactics for fighting other small gangs and eventually larger enemy fleets.

Eve is a complex and ever changing universe and the advice and information given here is intended as an overview to small gang tactics in that universe. I encourage you to seek out more detailed information, advice and strategy from your fellow Corp and Alliance mates, on the forums, or from other Bloggers. Feel free to ask me specific questions in the comments and I will do my best to answer them or point you in the right direction.

Wallpaper: Golden Rokh

Eve Art Wallpaper: Golden Rokh

Click the image to download various sizes.

This is a version of a recently completed private commission that I just finished, which I converted into a wallpaper. I'm particularly proud of the sense of scale in this piece and how well the Rokh "feels" within the environment. Someone contacted me about two months ago ( I know, I am being extremely slow in responding to commissions lately, my continued apologies.) about creating something that showed the relative scale of the Rokh against something based in the real world. I immediately thought of the Gold Gate Bridge.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.

Swinging Lucifer's Hammer

The following work of fiction is my entry into Mord Fiddle's Lives in Low Sec writing contest. It is based on several true stories.

The wrench slipped from his gloved hand and tumbled, end over end, down into the bowels of the Station dock. He sighed, and pulled another one from the tool-belt laced around his hips. Fourteen hours straight on the Secondary Plasma Coil Relays and still no blue light on the monitor. Once again, he cursed Muppets and the exodus from Osti that brought them to Lisbo.  He banged the wrench into the side armor plate and watched the little flecks of Minmatar rust sparkle in the docking lights. A touch of sweat stung his left eye and he couldn't scratch it.

"Are you still pissed about Itsme and that blue freighter?"  His wife's voice crackled in his CommLink and he reflexively glanced up into the gloom, he could barely make out the outline of the Archon above him.  "I was never 'pissed' and you know it," he growled back.  "Uh huh," She said and laughed, "Tell everyone else you planned it, but don't lie to me."

He sat in the Manticore cloaked off the hi-sec Gate, watching.  They had talked about this, planned it - as much as anything was planned with Itsme - and now it was only a matter of things playing out.  He watched the collected gate campers buzzing around the Gate. If he could spit, he would've. But the spit might pierce the hull of the stealth bomber. Fresh out of Syndicate and Curse, the Corporation needed an "incident" to spark things. This would be it. The freighter popped into local, blue as the balls on the Caldari Citadel... the freighter was already aligning. And then, like fucking Muppets, they took the bait. Blue on blue aggression. They both protested in channels. And Rixx watched two of his cargo'd ships explode. A small price to pay for being famous. He even figured he could get the ships back, they were clearly still viable on his scanner.

Blue light on monitor three. Just a few more tweaks and he could get out of the monkey suit. The CorpLink buzzed in his ear, "This is me."  He held onto the wrench tightly, it might be the last one in his belt.  "Carrier tackled, you coming or not!?", it was Itsme of course.  He sighed and smiled all at the same time, "Where are you?"  "Fleet is up, undock and warp to me, I can't hold him forever in this thing!", he sounded slightly less mad than usual.  "On my way", he clicked out, already jetting back to the gantry and his Pod. "Was that Itsme?", Ana asked in his ear.  "Fire up the Archon baby and get into fleet, he's got another one."  He wasn't sweating now as he watched the Station crew pulling his Megathron into position.

Like a well-oiled machine the pieces fell into place almost immediately. Well practiced and maintained, the 'machine' was the Corp and the pilots that had joined since he started it back up again. Rogues, scoundrels, dregs, pirates, whatever the bastards in Empire decided to call them, each one was a proud, honorable in their own way, independent minded fighter. Wrangling them all into a cohesive machine, well that was his job. And in typical Lucifer's Hammer fashion, well, they were all drunk.

His mind felt the Megathron power up and start swinging into alignment, already the power of the Battleship coursed thru his veins. His muscles flexed and the beast responded. "The rest of the Corp is sleeping one off.", he said to Itsme as he waited to align. "No worries, Invicta is here with me."  His "eyes" told him Jakkul was undocking next to him in his Baddon. "Well Jak's here and we're in warp."

He didn't trust Invicta as far as he could throw them. Itsme might be insane, but the man knew everyone. He could put a gang together faster than a Dramiel could get point, so it didn't surprise Rixx that he already had one on the Thanatos. They'd been killing Carriers at a steady pace since arriving in Lisbo, Itsme had the nose for it, and so far his nose hadn't let them down.

"You want me undocked?", his wife asked on their private channel. "No. Keep our retirement fund parked for the time being.", he tried to say it as nicely as the Megathron would let him. But flying Gal ships always put him on edge. "I know the drill", she said wistfully, "you hate it when I fight."  "That's not it and you know it... hold on."

The fight had drifted since he entered warp and the Mega landed far from the desperate hulk of the Thanny. He only had one choice, so he pointed the beast towards the Carrier and unleashed some EC Drones in its direction. Hopefully he'd get close enough before the damn thing... exploded.  Oh well, one less Spiritus Draconis carrier in system.

The Auto-Cannons thrummed under him, above him, all around him. The bastards were coming one by one into their gang. Two Drakes were already getting hammered and then the Claymore arrived.  Immediately it started turning and aligning out, as if it had mistakenly landed in a social party for which it hadn't been invited. Itsme, Mtitus, Angor, Atro, Angor, Jushin and Dismo worked their magic like always and pinned the Claymore down. Nothing was getting away today. Rixx actually laughed as his projectiles tore thru the ships in front of them. He watched his friends, the Canes, Pests, and Ruptures firing into the night and he felt it. That thing he rarely felt in Null. This wasn't combat for God, or for ownership, or industrial might, or lining the pockets of the already rich, this was personal. These were his men, his friends, wronged by one Empire or another, tossed aside, stomped on, pummeled and forgotten. And as the Empire's Militia paid for their own arrogance with one ship after another he laughed like he had once long ago. It wasn't a happy laugh, it was madness.

The guns on the Megathron hadn't even been fired when the call came over Comms. "Rixx, you still around?", it was Jak. "I'm docked, but what'cha need?"  "Remember that Rattlesnake that was with the Carrier and ran off? I've got him on scan."

The Tempest was already sliding into position and he just knew it would... "I took the liberty of fitting a Disruptor... so no worries.", as usual his wife had taken care of things just as he was thinking them. "I still think you can read my mind", he replied as his Pod entered the ship. It unfolded on the bridge and he blinked, "God knows what is going on in there!" She said laughing.

God knows. 

He ran into the Parlor, out of breath, his heart pounding in his chest. Even in the gloom he knew something wasn't right. His Father's shape against the writhing shadows of the chair, slumped, in his mind he already formed the heart-attack... but reality wasn't kind this day. He threw up his stomach, he felt ashamed, but it wasn't something he could control. His eyes betrayed him and he slipped on the insides of his Father. His ears betrayed him next, his Mother's screams pierced the night. He skidded across the room and ripped open the forbidden cabinet, his little boy hands grasping at the large, heavy, weighted blackness of the Brommel 820 his Father once used to kill a thundering Teradon. The mounted beast loomed above him as he dashed upstairs. His imagination wouldn't stop but he couldn't think. All he saw was red against the flashes of lightning thru the open windows. Six of them, Gal every single one. One of them was on top, moving, his Mother was strangely silent. He braced himself against the walnut wall and unleashed his madness. He killed every living thing in that room that night. The fire burned out his eye and ripped open his face. He went on living, but he was dead on the inside.

He settled into the couch and mindlessly watched the scrolling news. She sat down behind him and rubbed his shoulders. They didn't talk. They didn't need to. 

After awhile he leaned back into her softness and barely above a whisper he said, "Fuck God"  She kissed his shoulder and he could feel her smile on his skin, "Who needs him."  The thought that they shared at that moment went unspoken, but they both knew what the other one was thinking. They always did.

Gang Tactics: Part Three - Travel

Gang Tactics is a new on-going series in which we explore the fine art of death dealing in small gang warfare.  This series is not intended as a technical exploration, but as more of a guide to the fundamental basics involved in small gang warfare in New Eden. And hopefully, one that is enjoyable and educational.

Now that we've covered the basics of small gang formation and the various types of damage your small gang should be doing, it is time to head out of your home system and find some good fights. Which is the whole purpose of getting your friends together in space in the first place.

For the sake of the post let us give you some ships. You have a Taranis, 2 Hurricanes, a Drake, and that other ship that always shows up. ( It doesn't matter what it is, someone always brings it. For the sake of argument let's call it a Caracal.) This is a good small gang, five ships ready to rumble. You have the bases covered, tackle with the Ranis ( not the fastest tackle, but a strong choice for survivability ), solid DPS with 2 Arty fit Canes and the Drake.  Even the Caracal doesn't break our formation rules, since he'll be firing from the same range bubble as the other three. The Caracal also helps us get good fights. Cause it is excellent bait.

In this set-up we don't have a typical tipping ship, a Falcon, or Curse, or something else that will tip the battle in our favor. Which is ok, with the Drake along, it will fill that role for us. Remember, the tipping ship doesn't always have to be the usual, usual. In fact, this set-up will get you more good fights than bringing along a Falcon or Curse will anyway. If you happen to be in Null space a good tipping ship is the Sabre, for example.

Speaking of Null space for a moment. In this series so far I've been talking about space as a generic all-encompassing entity. I'm going to continue doing that for awhile. While we are learning the basics, the type of space is less important than how you think. 

So basic gang protocol. Send your Ranis pilot ahead of the main gang. Tackle is also going to serve as Scout until contact with potential targets is obtained. Your gang will be traveling in three pieces from system to system. The first piece is the Scout/Tackle, who will be staying one jump ahead of you. The second piece is the DPS, the Canes/Drake, which will travel together. The last piece is the Caracal, which you will have one (ish) jump behind you as a following Scout.  Why? If you do get into a fight, the Caracal should be the last ship on the field. So, in the meantime, he should be watching your flank. Enemies come from behind just as often as they come from in front. And if someone is following you, it would be nice to know about it.

Each pilot in this small gang needs to understand their role and what is expected of them. The Scout will be reporting conditions in the system he jumps into, based on that information the DPS will be deciding the course of action they will be following. Small gang movement is a constantly evolving and fluid organism, the smarter each piece is, the more likely you will achieve Op Success. And bring everyone home alive.

The Ranis pilot reports one potential target in system. The D-Scan reveals nothing from the Gate and the Scout warps off to a point further towards the center of the system. In warp he detects a Cane. At this point we can assume several things, the Cane is in a belt ratting, the Cane is on a Station, the Cane is running a Plex/Mission, or the Cane is in a POS. But he is alone in system, so potentially he could also be bait. A good Scout would already have linked the pilot's name in fleet chat. Why? The targets Show Info can tell you a lot about him, how old is he? What Corp/Alliance does he belong to? Is he negative or positive standing? Is he in a NPC Corp? All of these factors add up to Intelligence about your enemy, and even while your Scout is still in warp, you are learning things about him.

This guy is about seven month old and in a three person Corp. He is also, believe it or not, actually ratting in a belt. Your DPS is at zero on the other side of the Gate, you already told your Caracal pilot to get on the Gate. The Ranis is now Tackle and already in warp to the belt. Sure enough, he lands, gets point and starts holding. The DPS jumps and warps to the Tackle at their point range. The Ranis pilot is already screaming about entering structure when the boys land and start hammering the Cane. The Ranis warps off if he can. The Caracal pilot notices that local has spiked by two. As the enemy Cane explodes, a Tempest and a Curse land amid your gang...

Eve is cool huh?  You might think the arrival of his buddies is bad news, but it isn't. In that case you'd still win the fight. You might lose one of the Canes and maybe the Caracal, but you could take the Tempest and the Curse. How? Well you are smart remember? The poor Cane ratting alone was dead the moment the Ranis got point on him, as a smart FC you knew this. So while you were killing him you already had your gang aligning to the Sun. Smart man. So now your options are run away or stand and fight. The Curse/Pest won't get point fast enough, so you could run. But you shouldn't because the enemy made a huge mistake that plays right into your hands. They landed right on top of you when they warped in to save their buddy. Already the Pest is at a disadvantage, because he is well inside his damage bubble with those big guns. The Curse is tough, but fortunately you have three non-Amarr DPS ships with you. Get points on both ships, primary the Curse and then torture the poor Pest until he explodes. If the Ranis can come back, have him focus on killing their drones. (If he was smart and has a Web fitted.)

That is probably the most straight-forward scenario of small gang fighting that you could ask for in Eve. It is always pretty rare. Things are rarely that simple. There are usually multiple people around, ships behind you, ships coming and going, and the Cane was more than likely a Tengu running a mission. And you didn't bring a Prober, did you?  

In the next post we will learn more about getting good fights, baiting, probing, and staying away from blobs. We'll also start adding more complications, and eventually get to the point where our small gang can kill enemy fleets that actually out-number ours. Cool huh?

Any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

Gang Tactics: Part Two - DPS

Gang Tactics is a new on-going series in which we explore the fine art of death dealing in small gang warfare.  This series is not intended as a technical exploration, but as more of a guide to the fundamental basics involved in small gang warfare in New Eden. And hopefully, one that is enjoyable and educational.

Part One: The Basics

Now that we've covered the basics of putting three or four ships together from a structure standpoint, it is time to learn the fundamental issues you'll face from a DPS standpoint.  I must warn you up-front, I have never used EFT or any other fitting software. I fit my ships based on two things, 1) Real Combat Experience, and 2) The opinions of those I trust with Real Combat Experience. So when I talk about DPS, I might be talking about it in a way that you are not familiar with. Since it has absolutely nothing to do with Maths.

There are millions of variables involved with any three ships in Eve, variables that only get exponentially more complicated with each additional ship, so trying to keep track of the Maths involved is a fools errand. Any three ships involve not only the skill levels, implants, bonuses and personal skill of the players flying them, but also the ammo types, drones, ranges, distances, deployment of the enemy, transversal... ok, already my head is starting to hurt.

Gang Warfare is about having fun and making things explode, so let's get on with it.  First thing first, in a small gang situation it is important that your ships are fit to their bonuses, in order to maximize their effectiveness, but also to give you some confidence sending them into battle. It does no good to send that Drake thru the Gate to bait when the idiot flying it has armor fit his Drake. That ship go boom. So for goodness sake, leave the tricky fits to solo or large fleet battles, and stick to the strength of the ship bonuses for small gang work. ( For example: The Drake gets a bonus to Kinetic damage, +5% per level. That is a significant damage bonus, so undock with kinetic missiles in the launchers!! Have others ready in the cargo, but load up on the bonus. Unlike Amarr, it takes time to switch, so always, always, always start with your strength.)

So first rule of Derp is: Fit to Bonuses.

The next most important small gang consideration is range. All damage is inflicted from within a certain range bubble.  It is critical that the heart of your DPS is being delivered from the same range bubble. Let's say you have a tackle Frigate, 2 Canes and a Rupture in your gang. Once you undock and start forming up you find out one of the Canes is AC fit and the other is Arty fit.  Not only that, but the Ruppie has Blasters!  Sheesh, you're doomed dood. Fix that right away, get two AC or two Arty fit Canes at the very least. Then slap the guy that put blasters on his Ruppie, but bring him along for the lols. (Kidding, don't bring him, make him go put ACs or Arties on that thing. Or bring something else.)

Mixing damage ranges is not a good idea. Small gangs work best when they are coordinated, traveling together, aligning together, attacking together and generally delivering maximum damage from the same general location. (More on this in a future post in the series.)

So second rule of Derp is: Shoot from the same range (ish).

Every ship in Eve has a hole and your job is to fill that hole as fast as possible with Death. The faster you fill the hole the faster the enemy 'splodes. The cool part is there are really only TWO holes you need to worry about - Shield and Armor. So right away the complication is starting to level out. We can all handle two things to remember right?  Of course we can.

The shield hole is EM. And the Armor hole is typically explosive. ( This varies tremendously, especially since most people tend to patch their natural resist hole. But we'll deal with that issue in a future post in the series.) In other words, I want to shoot bullets that do EM damage at ships that rely on Shields for defense.  It is amazing just how fast their tank will melt when you are shooting the proper type of damage at them. And killing the enemy quickly is critical for your success, you are not a huge fleet, you are vulnerable small gang fighters!

Third rule of Derps: Fire the right damage type!

And really, that is all there is to it. The rest is all common sense, based on those three rules. Fit to the strength of your ship, fire from common distance and fire the right type of damage against the enemy. Everything else is a bonus, neuts, target painters, sensor boosters or dampeners, drones, and anything else that you can bring to bear on the enemy. The key is balance weighted heavily to your gang strengths.

So now that we have you formed up, undocked, and carrying the right type of weapons, next time we'll cover tactics involved in picking a fight and living to tell the tale.

Remember, Eve is a complicated game that involves endless variation. There are tons of exhaustive and horribly detailed guides available for further reading. Like this one on the various types of tanks and resistances. But there are plenty of other ones.

Part Three: Travel
Part Four: Track & Kill

Blog Banter 30: Stalemate Unleashed

"With the Winter expansion possibly being named 'Crucible', it certainly is a melting pot of refinements and tweaks aimed at making the EVE experience smoother and more wholesome. If the developers suddenly found themselves some spare resources and approached you for an additional feature to include before release, what single concept would you pitch them and how would you implement it?

For bonus points, the one thing lacking from this "patchwork" of iterations is a cohesive storyline to package "The Crucible" together. How could this expansion be marketed to potential new customers?"

The news from Empire was not good. The buzz was everywhere in station, the Cantina, the Lounge, the Corporate Work-rooms, even the mechanics were buzzing about it. Rixx arrived back in quarters after his morning routine and switched on the news, flipping thru the various Empirical propaganda machines until a cohesive picture finally emerged. And there he was, the bastard leader of CONCORD, running his pie hole in the comfort of the Amarrian home worlds. The stalemate is over.

For years the Empires were content to play the "game", to bump heads over border territories, to rely on militia forces to push and pull. But the rumors lately, well, it seemed a new generation of middle-managers had become the next generation of higher level executives unwilling to continue playing the same old-same old.  And while it had started with the Amarrians, as it so often did, the other Empires were forced to match their moves step by step. Escalation meets escalation and new lines are drawn.

Rixx laughed as he dried his hair. He knew what it all meant... bullshit. But his eyebrow raised when he heard about the new ships of the line. New ships?  And that wasn't all, the wiener from CONCORD was talking about system wide changes to basic configurations.  Rixx buzzed his wife and opened the Corp channel, just to make sure the rest of the Tuskers were watching.  Of course they were, he expected half the known... and changes to Super Capital production runs?  Ok then, maybe the entire universe was watching.

In the Corp Lounge later that morning the general consensus was extremely positive. The system wide changes would take some getting used to, but generally it meant little to the pirates. The introduction of a new ship class stirred the pot in just the right ways and new specs on existing ships meant more power in their hands. More options, more loot, more beer. Everyone wondered when CONCORD would stop paying out on ships that they destroyed, the whole idea being ludicrous to common sense anyway, so those Empire changes meant little if anything. Empire incursions were mostly for fun and extra bling.

So why was the mood somewhat... what exactly? Grumpy? Was that it? It was hard to pinpoint, but the news that started the morning as 'not good' wasn't getting that much better. Because it didn't make any sense, why now?  The status quo, while certainly stupid and meaningless, had served everyone for years. The Empire coffers were full, Null Sec was thriving - if anything it was thriving... so that was it then?  This wasn't about centuries old Amarr Gal Cal Minnie bullshit, this was about the border lands. This was a thinly disguised attempt to neuter any possible menace from the hinterlands.  They just cut the balls off that horse of the apocalypse so the fat-cats in Jita could sleep easier.

Now it started to make sense. But where was the expected counter?  The tightening of Empire nut crackers and null sec boundaries only had one effective counter... the rogues. The shackles need to come off the pit bull. Rixx scrolled through the incoming transmissions but he didn't see anything about Criminal markers, from CONCORD or the Empire.  Didn't those fools realize that it would be pirate incursions into Null and the borderlands that would keep the frontier Alliances in check?  The Militia wouldn't be enough.  Not nearly.

But not a word. You can't cut off the hand that feeds you and expect them to take it lying down, not without an answer. Not without a Big Fucking Hammer. Especially when that hammer is locked away inside your tool box.

Russell, his contact in the Hevirce station buzzed in his ear. The first Tornado had just been delivered. Time to go check out this new ship and raise some Hell.  If CONCORD and the Empires won't help, then goddamn it we'll just help ourselves!


The State of Commissions

Man, what a week.

I was actually catching up on my project list when the week started. Then all Hell broke lose. Just so you know how serious it has been, I've been in-game the past week a total of one hour. Baring Holidays I don't think I've ever logged less time in Eve than I have this last week.

I could tell you about the long days, the death of an associate, the complete and utter collapse of my hard drive on Thursday and all the other elements that went into making this an extremely difficult week. But those are normal things that happen in real life, just been more of them lately.

The point is, I should be back to a normal schedule again tomorrow and starting back on the list of projects. As always, my apologies for those waiting. 

The Individual Story

There was another post here earlier. I deleted it because it was leading to some misunderstandings between myself and my good friend Mord Fiddle. I don't enjoy misunderstandings.

So let me be clear. In almost every meaningful way possible, I agree with his post. ( Which you can read here if you want to be bothered, it's mostly tripe. I kid of course. )

No one could argue that more stories are written about the goings on in Null sec than anywhere else in New Eden. You'd have to be an idiot to make that argument. And, by their very nature, such stories get more attention.

My original post was intended to expand on that idea. Mord used an argument in his post that I disagree with. He uses a metaphor to illustrate his point regarding a battle on a spit of sand. And while I totally understand his point in doing so, the argument is fundamentally invalid. A good story exists outside of context. A good story involves people, individuals, characters, engaged in small, medium and large conflicts. But at its heart, all good stories are about people. A good writer can make a compelling story about two soldiers fighting over a spit of sand just as easily as another could make one about the two armies that surround those two soldiers. They might be equally well written and compelling, but just because more people read the one about the two armies doesn't make it better. Just more popular.

So if all good stories are about people, there should be no inherent bias in the QUALITY of stories told about Null sec or Low sec or Worm-Hole space or anything else in New Eden. A good story is, by its very definition, a good story. The only difference then is in the POPULARITY of the different stories.

I look at the Blog Pack and I see a majority of bloggers involved in Low-Sec, NPC Space and other non-sov holding activities. Is that a fluke then? Are all of those bloggers bad at telling stories? Of course not. And while I understand the intent of challenging us to write more good stories about our adventures, I did take some umbrage at the assertion that we're not already doing so. Because I think we are. In fact, I enjoy many of the stories my fellow non-important, less consequence low-sec, worm-hole, npc space dwelling friends tell already.

Heck, to me, most stories about Null sec sound like I'm reading a story on a news channel like the BBC or CNN. While most stories I read about Low sec seem more compelling, interesting and engaging. We can all have our favorites, but I prefer the stories about individuals. People. In whatever part of space they call home.

More good stories? On that point, Mr. Fiddle and I agree.

Gang Tactics: Part One - The Basics

Gang Tactics is a new on-going series in which we explore the fine art of death dealing in small gang warfare.  This series is not intended as a technical exploration, but as more of a guide to the fundamental basics involved in small gang warfare in New Eden. And hopefully, one that is enjoyable and educational.

Small Gang warfare is, in my humble opinion, one of the most enjoyable aspects of playing Eve. Hanging out with your Corp mates, friends, and blowing up enemy ships. It can be very rewarding no matter your skill points or experience level. New players and veterans alike can quickly form up to go on a roam, form a defense, or plunge into the unknown.

So let's start with the basics. What I like to call Catch, Hold and Destroy. This is the basic fundamental tenant of any small gang and you only need three ships to get started.  For lesson one we'll start with just these three ships. The great thing about small gang tactics is the expandability of each lesson, once you master the fundamentals, adding more ships becomes easier and easier.

Catch:  What good is the hunt unless you can catch your prey?  This role is easily filled by a Frigate or Interceptor. The perfect catch ship for your small three man gang depends on where you are, in low sec, null sec or wherever. But there are basic considerations that should be addressed and those mostly concern speed - both in velocity and in locking. A good catch ship has velocity on its side - it is very fast. But it also needs to be able to lock the enemy quickly before he can escape. Two points in the mids are preferred, a long point disruptor to catch the enemy from a distance, and either a Scram or Web to hold him down once you get closer.

Rifters, Crows, Taranis, Ares, Lachesis, Arazu - there are many, many ships that can fill this role depending on your own skill level and where you are in space.

Hold:  Once the enemy is caught, living thru the fight is critical. If you catch him and then explode, this does no one any good. You might think it odd that this is a separate category, once the enemy is caught shouldn't we skip right to Destroy?  That is asking a lot from your Catch ship isn't it?  The role of the Heavy Tackler is something we'll discuss later on, but for now expecting your Catch ship to survive past the tackle is asking for it to achieve more than its role allows.

This is a role that needs to be considered. What is the next ship to arrive on the scene?  Typically this role is filled by Cruisers/Battlecruisers.  For example the Thrasher or the Rupture is a good ship for this role. They can deal damage from a tank that should be able to survive long enough to see the enemy explode. The Drake or Hurricane also fill this role exceptionally well for the more advanced pilot.

Destroy:  The Destroy role can be filled by the Hold ships, you could have a Catch ship and two Canes for example. But it would be wrong to not consider the Destroy ship its own category, because "destroy" can take on many different meanings.  For example, the role of the Destroy ship could be filled by a Falcon or Curse. In that example the destroy ship arrives on the scene last and is the tipping point of the battle. Let's say your Catch ship has tackled a Dominix in a belt. He is holding him down, but his cap is drained and he won't last long. The Cane arrives and starts delivering the DPS, but not fast enough against the tank of the Domi. The Catch ship warps off and now it is the Cane Vs. Domi. The Cane, if he can stay out of neut range and destroy the Domi's drones, might eventually win. But he might not. This is when the Destroy ship arrives. Certainly another Drake or Cane would help tip the balance, but the arrival of a Falcon or Curse (or other role player) would do the job as well.

The CHD is a thought-process that helps you determine the basic make-up of your Small Gang. If you have three Canes available, applying CHD would make you think that at least one of those Canes should probably have a Sensor Booster in his mids, for faster locking speed. It might also make you canvas your pilots regarding the types of points they have, to make sure you have the bases covered. At the very least the SeBo Cane should have a long point.

So it isn't always about the types of ships, but more about the roles each of those ships will be playing in your three man gang.  This is the basic underlying logic behind ALL gangs and fleets in New Eden. From three to three-hundred, once you start thinking CHD the rest becomes only a matter of scalability.

So, now that we've mastered the basics, let's add one more ship:

Hunt:  While you are forming up another Corp mate logs on and wants to join your gang. You already have your CHD bases covered, you have a Taranis, an Arty Nano Cane and a young player in a Blaster Harpy.  So what role do you still need to fill?  You need a Hunter.  Now the Hunter/Scout role is one that can be filled by a lot of different ships and depends on the skill level of the individual pilot. It could be as basic as yet another Frigate or as complex as a cloaking T3 Cruiser.  The perfect Hunter for your small gang would be a cloaking ship with Probes. But beggars can't be choosers and your Corp mate can't fly T3 yet, but he does have a Buzzard. And he'd like to learn to Probe better.  How better to learn than on the field of battle?

Now we're talking. Our small gang is starting to be pretty awesome.  With just FOUR ships your gang can take on just about anything New Eden has to offer, by being smart and picking your targets carefully, you should be able to kill just about any one or two man gangs you happen upon. And brawl with anything your own size. No matter your skill level.

So good three man or four man gang set-ups:
1x Frigate (long point, scram or web, maybe Sensor Boosted or Nano fit for speed)
1x Cruiser (DPS but good solid tank)
1x Cruiser 2 (DPS, with surprise - like a sensor damper, or ECM, or EC Drones, etc.)

+ Tipper = Electronic Frigate, Neut fitted Cruiser, Falcon, Curse, Blaster Thorax, anything that can specifically fill a role that tips the battle to your favor.

For more experienced pilots a good fleet comp could be:
1x Interceptor (Fast speed and lock, long point or Scram depending on how fast)
1x Battlecruiser (DPS and tank)
1x Falcon
(This is a nasty three man gang set-up. Make sure your BC is nano fit or at the very least is carrying EC Drones. In case he gets caught the Falcon is his escape clause.)

The role of the Falcon can be played by many ships, including an additional BC class or even Cruiser. The Falcon choice right now is the obvious one, but choosing something that isn't obvious (or a Falcon!) will probably get you more good fights.

Next time we'll cover small gang DPS, making the most of various types of DPS delivery in a small gang setting.

Fly safe.

Part Two: DPS
Part Three: Travel
Part Four: Track & Kill

Crucible: Features List

Fellow blogger tgl3 has a running Winter Expansion "Crucible" features list over on Through Newb Eyes.  You really should check it out.  It is amazing to me just how much CCP has managed to accomplish with this expansion, and the hits just seem to keep coming.