Friday, 28 September 2012

The Rules to Can Ball

Can Ball was the brain child of columbio, one of my boffins of long standing.  He's moved on now but I have carried the ball and developed rules and tried a few games.  Now I'd like to share the game with the Eve community and get help formalising the rules.

You can think of Can Ball as football in space.  Doesn't matter which game you call football.  It has similarities to all of them.  Essentially, we use a jetcan as a ball.  Abandon it so anyone can tractor it.  Then use tractor beams to move the ball across a goal line.  Players tackle the ball carrier using ECM, Webs and other Ewar.  You pass the "ball" by disengaging the tractor and telling your receiver exactly when to active his tractor.  Remember, a T1 tractor beam moves a can at 500m/s (600m/s for T2) so its not a matter of getting in a super fast ship and racing for the line.

I have chosen to go with tech 1/ meta level 1-4 gear so that anyone can get into a game.  I see that there is a good chance people will try a tech 2 game but I'm a little worried about the sensor strengths of tech 2 frigates.  This is something to test.

Setting Up the Field
I asked CCP if they could spawn objects to use as goals.  There are some structures I've seen which would be perfect.  They however, declined.  I then went about making a field with Small Secure Containers.  They are so annoying to place that I had to give up on "goals" and went with a "goal line".  This is the easiest to set up but I do hope that if Can Ball becomes popular then we might be able to get real goals.

You need a minimum of 5 small secure containers and the anchoring skill.  Anchor one container to mark the centre of the field.  This I call "The Spot" and is where the game starts.  Draw an invisible line 75 km from the spot and anchor a can at either end to make a goal line.  Do the same in the other direction.  The image to the right is better at describing than I am.  The goal line cans should be at least 20km apart.  If you have the patience, try to make a line out of cans so the goal is more defined.  However I found that very difficult to place the cans.

I've found that making a team play into the sun is a bit unpleasant.  For this reason I put the field at the last planet in the system and make it go sideways so no-one is constantly staring into the sun.

Setting Up the Ships
As I said before, I have gone with tech 1 and meta level 1-4 gear so that the game is cheap and easy to get into.  It can be played with relatively rookie pilots and the ships wont get blown up so you can keep costs down.  Advanced players can try tech 2 ships and gear but you should have the whole game declared tech 2 or tech 1.  I personally don't want to see people using faction gear in these games.  It would get way too expensive.  However if a league forms that may be an option.

The ship setups are as follows;
  • Tech 1, non-faction frigates only.
  • No weapons that do damage.
  • No drones.
  • No Rigs
  • Choose a Tech level for modules.  Eg. Tech 1, Meta 1-4, Tech 2, or Faction
This leaves a lot of equipment left to use.  Here are some comments on various useful modules;
  • Small Tractor Beams - These are your hands.  Be aware that they will only move a can at 500 m/s.  only one tractor beam can activate on a target at one time.
  • ECM - If you want someone to drop the can then the best way is to break their lock on.  Of course they will expect this.
  • ECCM - Ahha.  Their going to try break your lock.  This will make it harder.
  • ECCM Projector - Help your team-mate avoid dropping the ball by boosting his sensor rating.
  • Energy Neutralisers and Nosferatu - Drain the targets cap so much they can't keep their AB/MWD or Tractor running.
  • Stasis Webifiers - Stop them going anywhere.  This gives you time to break their lock or drain their cap.
  • Warp Scramblers - Useful for shutting down MWD.
  • Sensor Dampeners - Make it hard for people to target their team-mates or opponents.
  • Afterburners - You'll find you have to travel slower so you can tow the can around.  MWD will make most ships too fast.
  • MWDs - Ok so you can't easily tow a can with a MWD going but its a big field and position is important.  There is a good argument for dual prop.
  • Capacitor Boosters - They are going to drain your cap and MWDs are expensive to run.  This may give you the cap you need.
  • Capacitor Batteries - These now have an anti Neutraliser/Nos effect which may make the difference in a head on rush.
  • Speed and Agility Mods - These are pretty obvious.  Lots of running in a sport like Can Ball.
  • There's more but that's for you guys to work out.....
There needs to be a Referee with a tractor beam, ship scanner (or two) and some random ammo or veldspar todrop as cans.  He wont have to move so that's about all he needs.  He can use the Look button to zoom to a goal line container and see if the ball has crossed.

Team Size
 I recommend six players a side to begin with.  To many and no-one will maintain a lock or move anywhere.  You could do it with three a side if you are short on numbers.  The size of the team can be a little flexible but must be agreed upon with the other team before game time.

I think 15 minute halves are good with a ten minute break.  This mean that empire teams will retain their aggression counters for the second half and shouldn't run out mid game.  However this is up to discussion as you may find there isn't enough time for many points in 15 minutes.  The Referee is in charge of watching the time.

Important Step for Empire Games
If you are playing in Empire anywhere and your opponent is not in your corp then you have to get aggression timers on everybody.  Both teams meet at the spot and each person jettisons enough ammo/veldspar for all the other team members.  Players then proceed to steal from each of the other team's players.  The team captains confirm with their team that all opponents are red then confirms to the Referee that they are ready to play.The counter will reset every time you aggress each other so you should be able to play a half without issue.  If necessary, do the same thing at half time.

Important Note:  As of Retribution, stealing has become a global offence and anyone can shoot you for taking someone's stuff.  If playing in Empire you had better set up your field at a safe spot somewhere so you don't get interrupted.  Be careful who you invite to watch too.

Starting the Game
At the start of the game the Referee scans the members of both teams with a ship scanner to see if they have obeyed the fitting rules (hence the ship scanners).  Anyone caught not complying is suspended for the game and their team will have to play short handed.  This avoids people trying it "in case I get through" since the scanners aren't perfect.

Both teams start the game at their goal line.  They may target each other and the can but not the other team.  Range will probably stop this anyway.  The Referee drops a can at the spot and abandons it so that everyone can tractor it.  It adds flavour to rename the can, "ball".  The Referee call go and both teams are free to run for the can or whatever.

When a goal is scored, the can is popped (remove the ammo) and the Referee makes a new can at the spot (this means the Referee doesn't have to move).  The teams quickly return to their goal lines and awaits the restart.  The Referee confirms with the team captains that the opponents are still red and then starts the game again.

Scoring a Goal
You score a goal when the can crosses the goal line.  The Referee can see when the ball has crossed by zooming to the container than makes up the goal line and sighting across to its partner.  The Referee announces the goal and the game starts again.  Extra cans on the goal line would make this easier for Referees and players to see but I've found it very hard to make a straight line.  If CCP ever gives us goals that would work wonders.

Miscellaneous Rules
There is no "out of bounds".  I don't see the ball moving to far left or right except when "passed" to another player.  The Referee can call a halt if it gets silly.

Players are free to target any other player (once play starts) and use any legal module on them.  Its not necessary to target/tackle only the player with the ball.  This gives players the option of blocking opponents and supporting the player with the ball.

The Referee can penalise a team for their players taking too long to get back to their goal line.  Suspension of the offending player for 5 minutes is a good option.  The Referee needs to make allowances for ships without MWDs though.

It is easiest if you have a VoIP system like Teamspeak, Mumble or even Eve Voice to allow you to talk to each other.  You will need two channels, one for each team, and the Referee will need to be able to "whisper" to both channels.  I'm not sure if Eve Voice can do this but i know TS3 and Mumble can.

If unable to share comms, the Referee can make a common chat channel that all players are in.  People will just have to watch for the Referee's calls.  Players wont talk in this channel except to confirm with the Referee that they are ready and the enemy is red.

To be honest a team is going to need voice comms to play this game.  Eve Voice is your basic option and a chat channel to the Referee.  You will find the game needs good communication skills to the team as it is often hard to see who has the ball.  you will also have to verbally co-ordinate passing the ball.

I hope players will enjoy playing this game.  I see it as something a corp/alliance can get together and play to improve their communication skills and teamwork.  It is also intended to be new player friendly with low skill requirements and costs.  This provides a friendly competition that people can do in Empire. 

I'd like to see a league form if the game gets popular.  However I can't organise it.  I don't have the organisation skills.  I'm told the game is actually fun to watch too but that's for you guys to decide.  If enough people get into it, we may be able to get proper fields from CCP.  Lets hope.

 If you have comments of suggestions for rules changes or issues with game balance please add comments to this post or send your ideas to  I want to hear what you thoughts are.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Fine Print on Contracts

Contracts have several advantages over the market.  They are the only place you can sell researched original blueprints or blueprint copies.  You can sell rigged ships or fully fitted ships.  Kits and collections can be sold.  I used to make money selling bookmarks.  Contracts can also be set to be private, corp wide, alliance wide or Eve wide. There are a lot of possibilities with contracts which is why they are the most abused mechanism in the game.  Scammers use them extensively to con pilots out of money and items.  You need to know what you are looking at to avoid these scams.

The Contract Window
The Contract window has three tabs.

The Start Page gives you information on recent contract activity, contracts assigned to you or your corp, how many contracts you can create a the current time and any contracts that need attention.

The My Contracts tab will show you contract assigned to you and issued to you.  There are filters to help sort your contracts out.  You can drag a contract from this page to a chat window to provide people with a link to the contract.

The Available Contracts page is the giant search engine for all the contracts in the game.  The search filters at the left can help you  filter the results to find what you are looking for.  You can drag a contract from this page to a chat window to provide people with a link to the contract.

At the bottom of all three tabs is the Create Contracts button.  Another way to start the contract creation process is to right click on the selected items (it can be a group) you want to sell or courier and select the "Create Contract" option.

Types of Contract
There are three basic types of contract; Item Exchange, Auction and Courier.  We'll cover each in sequence.  First you will find the contract button on E > Business > Contracts from the neocom.  If you use contracts a lot drag the link onto the neocom for easy access.  If you want to trade something for something then you want an item exchange contract.  If you want people to bid on a item you are selling then an Auction contract is for you.  To get something moved from one place to another, use a courier contract.

Contracts can be linked in chat windows by dragging the contract from the contract summary window to the chat window.  Be aware that the text can then be edited so the text you see in local can be a complete lie. The link is a link to the contract and will show the contract itself not the contract window.

Everybody can make one contract.  To get more contracts you will need to train the Contracting skill.  If you want to make many contracts on behalf of your corp then you will need the Corporation Contracting skill.  There are no other skills that effect contracts.

Item Exchange Contracts
These are the most used and most abused contracts in the game.  I'll deal with the scams later.  Here are the steps to set up an item exchange contract. 

  1.  Push the Create Contract button on the Contracts Window.
  2. Ensure the Item Exchange radio button is selected as shown right.
  3. Select the Availability.  If you want only a single person to access the contract then select Private and type the name into the box.  The system will pop up a selection window if there are multiple matches.  You can drag a person from chat to this name box.
  4. If you are making a contract on behalf of your corp then tick the "On Behalf of..." check box.
  5. Click on Next.
  6. The Pick Items window will give you a pull down box to select the station.  If it is a corp contract there will also be a pull down box to select the hanger (including Deliveries hangar).  This allows you to contract things a long way from your current location.
  7. Check the items you want in the contract.  These may be containers with things in them, fitted ships or just about anything in the inventory.
  8. Select Next when everything is selected.
  9. The Select Options screen is where you set the price.  If you are buying something you would have skipped the last step and would now put a value in the "I will Pay" box.  If you are selling something you put a value in the "I will receive" box.  Don't use the "Base Price" button.  Its estimates are never very good.
  10. Set the contract duration from the pull down list.  Two weeks is the longest time period.
  11. A description may help buyers choose your contract or explains something about the contract.
  12. If you are buying something then you have to tell the contract what you want.  Click the "Also request items from buyer" check box.  This will give you a new panel.  Type the item you want in the "Item Type" field.  The system will prompt you for the exact name.  Then insert the quantity.
  13. Click on Add Item button.  The item should go to the list under the "Item Type" field.  If there isn't anything here then it wont be on the contract.  Don't miss this step when buying or trading.  You can now add another item.
  14. When done click the next button.
  15. The last screen is a summary screen showing the details of the contract.  Check the details carefully.  Make sure you know what is being given and what is being received.  Check the prices are right.  Check the recipient is correct.  If you are happy with it then click "Finish" and create the contract.
Public contracts can be seen anywhere in Eve.  This is a great way to sell something that is rare or unusual because you are not restricted to your current region.  These contracts have no wait time on them.  You can issue a contract and have it accepted immediately which is convenient if you want to transfer something to someone else over a distance.

Contracts of all types have a limit on how many items can go into them.  To get around this, put your items into a container of some kind then contract the whole container.  The items in the container will be listed in the contract.

Items or money listed in green are things you will receive.  Items or money listed in red are things you will pay or trade to the contract maker.  Be careful to check this as many scams rely on you not knowing the difference.  The most common is the "I'm giving my money away for one trit..." scam.  The contract will really sell you one tritanium for a large sum of ISK.  The money will be in red and the item in green.

Make sure you check your prices too.  Check the number of zeros and the placement of the decimal point.  Do this for contracts you have made as well as ones you are considering taking.  Another favorite scam is the missing zero scam.  Someone will link a contract in local saying "selling 500,000 tritanium at 5 each" and when you look at the contract they will have left out a zero in the quantity or added one into the price.  

Auction Contracts
Auction contracts are for selling thing in a process where people bid against each other for the item.  You set a start price and other pilots bid steadily increasing amounts to win the contract.  This is often a good idea if you don't know the exact value of something as it will tend towards the current sale price.  You can set a buyout price which allows someone to purchase the contract outright if they meet your price.  I see no point in making the buyout "reasonable".  Put in a high value so that if you have greatly underestimated the item's value you are covered.  If you want someone to pay the buyout then make an item exchange contract.

The steps to make a Auction Contract are as follows;
  1.  Push the Create Contract button on the Contracts Window.
  2. Ensure the Auction radio button is selected as shown right.
  3. Select the Availability.  You should not make auction contracts to a single person.  This will mean the person will never be outbid and will win with the minimum bid.  Auction contracts to your corp or alliance are ok though.
  4. If you are making a contract on behalf of your corp then tick the "On Behalf of..." check box.
  5. Click on Next.
  6. The Pick Items window will give you a pull down box to select the station.  If it is a corp contract there will also be a pull down box to select the hanger (including Deliveries hangar).  This allows you to contract things a long way from your current location.
  7. Check the items you want in the contract.  These may be containers with things in them, fitted ships or just about anything in the inventory.
  8. Select Next when everything is selected.
  9. The Select Options screen is where you set the price.  Set the starting bid in the first box.  You may then choose to add a buyout price.  If you leave the field as 0 then there will be no buyout price.  Don't use the "Base Price" button.  Its estimates are never very good.
  10. Set the contract duration from the pull down list.  Two weeks is the longest time period.
  11. A description may help buyers choose your contract or explains something about the contract.
  12. When done click the next button.
  13. The last screen is a summary screen showing the details of the contract.  Check the details carefully.  Check the prices are right.  Check the recipient is correct.  If you are happy with it then click "Finish" and create the contract.
Once someone bids on an auction contract, they will receive a notification when someone has outbid them.  Hopefully this encourages them to bid again.  Auctions you are bidding on appear in your journal in the "Contracts" tab.  The last day of the contract the system says that the contract has "Less than a Day" on it.  This reduces the amount of sniping that can be done as you are never sure when the contract is done.

Auction Contracts suffer the same scams and exploits as item exchange contracts.  They can also be bid on by an alt of the owner.  Don't get into bidding wars unless you really want the item.  Someone may be playing you.

One common scam for auctions is the BPO/BPC switcharoo.  They advertise that the auction is for a BPO of some value.  When you look carefully at the contract you will see that the item is actually a BPC.  They often mix BPCs in among some low value BPOs to try hide them too.

Courier Contracts
Why move stuff yourself when you can pay someone else to do it.  Consider how much money you could make in the time you took to drive your freighter to somewhere and back.  Since at the moment miners can make about 13 - 18 MISK per hour the time wasted driving the freighter is costing you.

When you create a Courier Contract, you ask the courier to accept a "collateral".  This is an amount of money that should cover more than the value of the goods.  I work on 130-150% of the cargo's value.  This amount is deducted from the courier's wallet when they accept the package and returned when they deliver it.  If they fail the contract somehow, the collateral goes to the contract owner in compensation for the lost cargo.  This makes Courier Contracts the only way in Eve to insure your cargo.  You should realise that people will try to gank a freighter that has more than about 4 BISK in it.  Contracts with huge collaterals should be avoided.  If you need to, split the load into smaller batches.

Obviously you got to pay the Courier.  The "Reward" is up to you.  While people wave figures like "500 KISK per Jump" that is not necessary.  I get stuff delivered from my local trade hub for 400KISK over 5 jumps.  You can get stuff moved between trade hubs very cheaply as the freighter pilots look to fill up their holds.  Consider paying a local courier to move items to a trade hub in small batches and then send a big batch between trade hubs in a freighter sized package.  Reward should be based on distance and cargo size and only a little bit on collateral.  Consider how far away from the trade routes the start and end points are.  Check what size the cargo is and whether it needs a freighter or an industrial.  Be aware that pilots won't like to transport valuable goods in industrials due to suicide gankers.  If you want your contract to happen faster then pay more for it.  

The steps to make a courier contract are;
  1.  Push the Create Contract button on the Contracts Window.
  2. Ensure the Courier radio button is selected as shown right.
  3. Select the Availability.  If you want only a single person to access the contract then select Private and type the name into the box.  The system will pop up a selection window if there are multiple matches.  You can drag a person from chat to this name box.
  4. If you are making a contract on behalf of your corp then tick the "On Behalf of..." check box.
  5. Click on Next.
  6. The Pick Items window will give you a pull down box to select the station.  If it is a corp contract there will also be a pull down box to select the hanger (including Deliveries hangar).  This allows you to contract things a long way from your current location.
  7. Check the items you want in the contract.  These may be containers with things in them, fitted ships or just about anything in the inventory.
  8. Select Next when everything is selected.
  9. The Select Options screen is where you set the destination, collateral and Reward.  Type the destination system name into the box and click search.  You will get a list of stations that match the search.  Pick the desired one and select ok.
  10. Set the Reward value.
  11. Set the Collateral.  This should be 130-150% of the cargo's value.  Make sure you allow for the value changes due to region.  Some things are worth more in some regions than in others.
  12. Set the contract Expiration from the pull down list.  This is how long the contract is offered for.  Two weeks is the longest time period.
  13. Set the "Days  to Complete".  Its a good idea to give 2 days or more on freighter contracts.  This is a rough guide to how long the courier has to deliver the goods.  If after the time period listed, the contract has not been completed, then the contract owner can claim the collateral.  However a courier can deliver the goods after this time period if allowed to by the contract owner.
  14. A description may help buyers choose your contract or explains something about the contract.
  15. When done click the next button.
  16. The last screen is a summary screen showing the details of the contract.  Check the details carefully.  Check the prices are right.  Check the recipient is correct.  If you are happy with it then click "Finish" and create the contract.
Courier contracts must go from one station to another.  Be very wary of courier contracts going to null sec.  You may discover the station wont let you dock or there is a pirate camp waiting for you at a gate. I'd avoid them altogether.  Also be wary of contracts will high collateral on them.  They are often traps.

Freighters can easily end up with billions of isk in their hold.  They have to be careful of suicide gankers scanning them and deciding its worth sacrificing multiple ships to get at the cargo.  Thus couriers appreciate it when you help them hide the cargo from pirates.  Put your shipment into a container like a general freight containers or similar.  Then put the container in the courier package.  While the courier can see the contents of the container, pirates using a cargo scanner will see only the cargo container and not anything else.  You can then note in the contract description that the cargo is unscannable and thus safer to carry.

Being a Courier
If you have a ship that can carry cargo then you can move courier contracts for some easy money.  Be very wary how much money you are putting in your ship.  If a cargo is worth more than the ships needed to blow you up then its not safe.  Also check that the contract wont take you into or through low sec.  Lastly check that you have enough cargo capacity to carry the package.  Common courier contract scams ask you to carry a package none of the freighters can carry.

When you accept the contract, the collateral will be deducted from your wallet and a package will show in your Items hangar.  Don't forget to put the package in the ship.  You can look into the package but if you "Break" it then you fail the contracts and forfeit the collateral.  When you get to the destination, put the package in the Items hangar and right click on it.  There will be a "Deliver" option.  When you deliver the package you will get your collateral back and the reward.

Contract Scams
If you want to see a lot of contract scams then go to your local trade hub and watch local chat.  At least half the contracts linked are scams.  In Jita you can expect 90% of the contracts to be scams.  Its worth looking at these to see if you can recognise the scam but keep your mouse away from the Accept button.  I'm going to list a few of the scams I've seen in my time in Eve.
  • Link in local chat says "500,000 Zydrine for 500 per unit" or similar.  When you look at the contract you see that there is only 50,000 zydrine and it works out to 5000 per unit.
  • Link in local says "PvP fitted Tengu".  The contract has a tengu hull, some fittings and some subsystems skill books but no subsystems making the contract worth a lot less than advertised.
  • Link says "Buying plex for 400 MISK".  When you look at the contract its selling you a plex AND buying one too.  I believe it will take the plex you just bought or one you already have.  You end up paying for nothing.
  • "I'm leaving and giving my isk away for one tritanium...".  The contract is actually selling you one tritanium for 300 MISK or more.
  • "Selling Faction Modules Cheap".  The contract has several faction modules that are rare or not available in your current region.  There is usually a single item in the contract that has a buy order on the market for more than the contract price.  That is the contract has a Serpentis EM Hardener at 700 MISK and there is a buy order for that hardener for 900 MISK.  This exploits the margin trading skill.  The owner of that buy order has emptied his wallet so that he cannot pay for the item.  The buy order just disappears leaving you with an item you wont be able to sell at the price you paid.  This is also done with tech 2 rigs.
  • Courier contract goes to null sec.  The destination station is alliance owned and you cannot dock at it.  You loose the collateral.
  • Courier contract has a huge collateral.  Someone will get a notification that you have accepted that contract and will have a ganking fleet waiting for you on the way.
  • Link says "Navy Raven selling cheap".  The ship in the contract is a normal raven.  Lots of variations on this scam.
  • Link says "Original Blueprint ......". Contract actually has a blueprint copy.
  • Courier contract goes through low sec.  Usually sized for a freighter.  Someone is waiting for you.
There are a tonne more.  People are creative about scamming.

The Other Way to Start a Contract
There is a simple method to start a contract without opening the contract window.  Select the items you want to put in the contract and right click.  There will be a "Create Contract" option.  that will swing you right into the contract creation screens with the objects already selected.  You can do this from your Items hangar, Assets screen, Corp Assets screen or just about anywhere you see items as long as they are on a station.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

The Benefits and Mechanics of Fleets

Forming a fleet is a standard way of working with other pilots.  It provides a number of benefits to the fleet members which give you an advantage over other pilots.  It also allows a few important functions which permit pilots to help each other. Its important to realise straight away that being in a fleet does not change aggression rules.  If you attack someone in fleet who is not in your player corp, you will be CONCORDed.

Forming a Fleet
There are a number of ways to form a fleet.  The easiest if to right click on a person in chat and select "Form fleet with".  You can also do that to your own character and form a fleet of one (there are reasons to do this which will become clear later).  If you are already in a fleet you can invite people to fleet by right clicking on them and selecting "Invite to fleet".  You will then be given a menu to choose where in the fleet to put that person.  The Leadership skill dictates how many people you can have in your squad.  You get 2 per level to a max of 10 in a squad.

You can also create a fleet by opening the "Fleet" window from the Neocom.  At the top of the Fleet window next to the word "Fleet" is a menu that will allow you to form a fleet.  Your next option is to create a fleet advert.  This is great for allowing a large number of people to join your fleet without you clicking on them all.  Go to the Fleet Finder > My Advert and hit the Create Advert button.  There are a number of options there.  Choose a name for the corp and who is allowed to join.  I suggest you also click "Hide Details in Advert" so people can't scope out your fleet from the adverts section.  Submit and you now have an advertised fleet.

People can now search for your fleet in the Find Fleets Tab based on the options you provided.  They may join by Right clicking the fleet in the advert and select "Join Fleet".  The real power of an Advert is that you can drag the advert from the Fleet Finder into any chat window.  This creates a link for people to join the fleet easily and quickly.

The Fleet Window
When you create/join a fleet, two new windows come up.  One is a chat window and we'll always call this "Fleet Chat".  The other is the real "Fleet" window.  It has the tools for managing the fleet.  I have the window set to show the fleet hierarchy.  To get this view check the Fleet Menu which is the little lines next to the word "Fleet"  at the top.

The Hierarchy shows the squads, wings and Fleet Commander of the fleet.  It also shows who is Boss (the guy with the options) and who is boosting the fleet and whether its working.  Most people will just need a single squad.  A squad can hold ten pilots, one of whom is the squad commander.  A wing can have 5 squads.  A fleet can have 5 wings.  This means a fleet can have 256 pilots in it counting commanders. Now anyone can hold one of these Command positions and anyone can make a max size fleet but you need to have certain skills to provide bonuses to your fleet members.  More on this in the Fleet Boosting section.

The Boss has the options to create wings and squads, name them and move people around using a right click menu in this window.  It is also possible to set "Free Move" on so people can move around the fleet themselves.   The Boss also controls which pilots are boosters.

You get a context menu if you right click on someone in the fleet hierarchy.  This included the "warp to" options that make fleets so versatile. 

Benefits of a Fleet
A fleet provides a structure to permit various benefits.  Here is a short summary of the advantages of being in a Fleet.
  • Communications - The fleet window provides a set of "Broadcast" messages which show up in the Fleet History Window.  Some Broadcasts also show an icon in the space view as well.  Eve Voice is now plugged into the Fleet system so you can have VOIP communications if you don't have your own server.
  • Fleet Boosting - There are a range of skills and modules that provide benefits to fleet members if you are set as a fleet booster.  These range from more armour to longer warp disruptor ranges.  You'll find the skills in the Skills > Leadership section of the market.
  • Manoeuvrability - You can warp to fleet members in the same system.  This allows you to go to missions and complexes you don't have a bookmark for.  It also allows you to warp straight to the fight when someone starts yelling.  
  • Jump Ship Manoeuvrability - Jump ships must be in fleet with the Cyno Pilot to jump to his cyno.  Also pilots that wish to use a jump bridge from a titan or Black Ops ship must be in the fleet.  These are advanced items which most rookies wont need to worry about for a while.
  • Loot Logging - The History window can be set to show you what loot everyone in the fleet is picking up.  Just in case you don't trust them.
  • Fleet Warp - If everyone in the fleet aligns to the destination and the Commander selects "Warp Fleet/Wing/Squad" then the whole fleet will form into a single warp tunnel and move at the speed of the slowest ship.  Thus they will all arrive at the same time. This is often critical in PvP.
  • Overview Filter Options - Fleet members are marked with a Purple star.  You can set the overview to not show fleet members so there is less clutter.  This is standard practice in big fleets since your companions are going to be closest to you and you want to see the enemy.
  • Advanced Drone Options - You can set your own drones to "Assist" or "Guard" another fleet member.  Assist means your drones will attack whoever the friendly attacks.  Guard means the drones will attack anything attacking your friend.  Carriers can also assign control of their fighters/fighter bombers to other pilots to use like drones if they are in the same fleet.
  • Tracking - Its possible to see where all fleet members are in the map if you select the "My Information > My Fleet Members" option from the World Map Control Panel.  
  • Management - The Boss can pull up a list of all pilots in the fleet showing ship, location, docked status, and leadership skills
  • Monitoring - You can get a "Watch List" of pilots in the fleet.  When you add pilots to the watch list you can see their vital stats (shields, armour and hull) when in the same local space in a similar display tot he drone window.  This lets you see how the rest of the fleet is fairing.
  • Shared Wrecks - When you kill rats the wrecks will be white to all members of the fleet regardless of corp.  This lets you tractor and loot wrecks without "stealing".
 As you can see, being in a fleet is a good idea if you plan to work with other pilots.   There are some things you just can't do without it.

Fleet Boosting
The Leadership skills allow a pilot to give benefits to fleet members.  There are also modules called Gang Warfare Links which increase fleet effectiveness.  The Leadership skill allows 2 people / level to join a squad and ensures everyone in the squad gets the fleet bonuses.  The Wing Commander skill allows the creation of one squad per level and ensures that all squads in the wing get the fleet and wing bonuses.  The Fleet Command skill allows the creation of one wing per level and ensures all wings under him get the fleet bonuses.  The booster with the highest bonuses in the command chain is the one who applies.  They do not stack.  You should choose your squad and wing boosters carefully to ensure everyone gets the right bonuses.  The bonuses for a fleet only apply to the fleet elements that are in the same system as the booster.

Strictly speaking, your commanders and your boosters do not have to be the same people.  You can assign a person with Wing Commander 5 to lead a wing and assign the Wing Booster position to someone else in the Wing.  As long as the wing commander has enough skill to cover all the squads in the wing, the booster's bonuses will be spread throughout the wing.  You can assign and revoke Booster roles using the right click context menu.

The way this works, a squad member should get 3 sets of bonuses.  The bonuses from his squad commander, the bonuses from his wing commander and the bonuses from his fleet commander.  It pays to have each level specialise differently so they aren't cancelling each other out.  This applies mostly to ships with gang links as they usually need to specialise in a particular type of bonuses. Remember that only the highest rating in the chain applies.

There are Leadership skills to increase Armour, Shields, Mining Yield, Agility and Targeting range.  The Gang Links have a number of other effects but require leadership skills to use.

Battlecruisers, Command Ships and some Strategic Cruiser setups are specialised in providing fleet bonuses by running gang warfare links.  They can increase a fleet's potential greatly when assigned as boosters.  There is no point running a gang warfare link if you are not a fleet booster. 

 There are two ways of sending "Broadcasts" to the fleet.  There are the little buttons at the bottom of the fleet window and there are more options in the right click context menu.  These broadcasts are displayed in the History window and also in space over the icon for the selected item.  For example, in the image right I have broadcast the Trafficker as a target and it has shown in the History and an icon has appeared above the target.  The overview will also show and icon and you can set it to pop the broadcasted target to the top of the overview temporarily.  Broadcast messages can be right clicked to get a context menu as shown.  You can also choose which broadcast you see.  Its common for Logistics pilots to filter out the attack broadcasts so they can concentrate on the armour/shield requests.  In a fleet of 250+ pilots the last thing you want is a confusion of voices on the chat channels.  The broadcast menu is heavily used in these situations.  It also avoids having to sort through the Overview for the target you need.

The Watch List
The watch list allows you to monitor the health of about 10 people at one time without targeting them.  The subject's shields armour and hull are shown as bars the fill in red as they take damage.  To add or remove people from the watch list, right click on them in the fleet window or watch list and look for the context menu option.  You can also right click on a person in the watch list and select the "warp to" options.  If you right click on a squad commander in the fleet window you can get an option to add the entire squad to the watch list.

Cynosural Beacons
Its unlikely that a rookie will get into a cap ship any time soon but you may be asked to to light a Cynosural Field (cyno) for a capital ship to jump to.  These things are a beacon that the jump ship locks on to for the jump.  You must be in fleet before you activate the cyno field.  If you mess this up you will have to wait 10 minutes for the cyno to go down before you can fix it.  That's embarrassing.You can broadcast the cyno beacon using the fleet menu on the fleet window.  The message shows in the broadcast history.

Be aware that cynos disable your engines and you can't move or cloak until the cyno goes down.  Also the cyno is displayed in the overview of everyone in system and they can warp to it if they choose.  For that reason people tend to use cheap ships.  There is no reason to waste a safespot on a cyno spot.  Use a planet.

There are some advanced options in the fleet menu and context menu that you can work out fairly easily.  Remember that the right click is your friend.  Also remember that the set of lines next to "Fleet" in the fleet window is the fleet menu.  Many of the options are self explanatory.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Fitting Your Ship - General Principles

What's a good Fitting? is a question many new pilots ask.  The problem is there are so many modules that there are literally thousands of options which will work and a million that are poor fits.  Rookies often forget to say what the fit is for as that makes a big difference as well.  Fitting a ship is the subject of many debates in Eve and you will always find someone claiming their new fitting is better.  In this post I hope to give you the general principles so that you can design your own fits.

The Basic Steps
There are some basic steps to follow to design a good ship fitting.  Here they are with a short description;
  1. What is the role of the ship?  You must decide what the ship is intended to do.  The design process for a level 4 mission is completely different from preparing a PvP ship.  Define the limits of what the ship must do first.
  2. What are the ship features and bonuses?  Each ship has a set of bonuses in the description and a unique set of characteristics.  It is best to design the fitting to suit these characteristics to get the most out of the ship.  For example, fitting a Dominix as a railgun platform completely ignores the huge drone potential of that ship.
  3. What type of tank should you use?  Ships often lean towards one type of tanking.  Also the different roles also lend themselves to a particular style of tanking.  Mission Runners and Complex Runners (plexers) often require a tank that runs permanently (perma-tank) while PvPers need a tank that will withstand a lot of damage over a shorter time.
  4. Who is the Enemy?  You need to design your weapon systems to suit the likely targets you will face.  Using large guns on frigates is going to cause you trouble.  Using frigate guns on battleships will take a while.  How close are you going to get to the enemy?  It is extremely frustrating to have super damage close range guns and never being able to get close enough to use them.
  5. What auxiliary equipment will enhance my ship?  PvP ship usually need a warp disruptor or warp scrambler.  Plexers may need a codebreaker.  Mission runners may want a Ewar module or two.  These are usually the last slots filled in on a ship.
Ship Roles and Requirements
We'll look at a few of the more common roles ships have in Eve and discuss a few of the design requirements you will have for those roles.

Mission Runner/Complex Runner
One of the first requirements of these ships is the ability to withstand damage over a long period of time.  The amount of damage is not huge, PvP does a lot more damage than missions.  However you can be in a mission or complex an hour or two and you don't want your tank running out.  The tanks that seem to work for this are Active, Passive and Speed.  We'll discuss tanking styles later.  Normally a mission boat will sacrifice overall damage output for a stable, permanently running tank.

The next thing a mission runner or plexer must deal with are frigates.  As you use larger weapon systems you will find they have a reduced effect on frigates.  The nasty fact is frigates often do the Ewar things to you that make life dangerous.  The are also often the warp scramblers in missions and plexes.  Its no exaggeration to say that it is frigates that get you killed.  You must find a way to kill the frigates fast.  Drones are the most common solution to this issue and you should always carry a flight of scout drones for this purpose.   If you have a high slot spare, consider fitting a small anti-frigate weapon to assist your drones.

Mission runners should avoid trying to fit salvaging gear in place of weapons.  Better to be able to deal with the rats first and come back later with a salvaging ship.  There are a few exceptions to this rule like the Marauders but on the whole you should be ready to fight.

Mining and Hauling aren't as safe as people think they are.  People will still attack you in high sec for any of several reasons.  Thus every ship should have some kind of tank on it.  Haulers, Barges and Exhumers lend themselves to shield tanks.  A bit of buffer and a little shield boosting and some resists make a much tougher target.  If you find that your area is being haunted by gankers then try one of the tougher mining ships or the tougher transport ships.

Mining ships should split between yield and tank.  There are Mining Laser Upgrades and Ice Harvester Upgrades to increase yield.  Find a medium between the two and you will lose less ships.  There is no excuse to lose a barge or exhumer in high sec to rats.  They should be immune with the right tank.  Other players are your issue.

Transporters should consider tanks they don't have to turn on if they autopilot a lot.  Passive resistances and shield extenders will make you harder to blow up.  However the best way to avoid gankers is to disguise your cargo.  If you can, put it into a container and then put that container into a courier package (you will need an alt or friend for this).  Gankers wont be able to see the goods and will leave you alone.  If you are going to low sec then consider the cloaking transports like the Viator.  They should be uncatchable in low sec.  Otherwise consider sacrificing some cargo capacity for a couple of warp core stabilisers that will make it harder for people to catch you.

PvP- Fast Tackler
The purpose of a tackler is to catch the target with a warp scrambler or warp disruptor (often called a "point") and hold them long enough for a bigger ship to get their point on the target.  They are fast ships relying on speed mostly to avoid damage.  Usually they have a little buffer tank and a lot of speed modules like overdrive injectors and nanofibre internal structures.  They always have some kind of point.  Weapons are completely secondary to their role and are just used to get on killmails.  A damage control is a good option for these ships as it turns your hull into a reasonable tank as well.  You also must have a Microwarpdrive or you can't catch targets fast enough.  Afterburners work in some situations but MWDs are the standard.

Some tacklers also use a stasis webifier to hold a target still.  These have the disadvantage of bringing you into web range as well.  If the target has a web then you are probably going to slow down and get shot at.  Same for warp scramblers, as they will turn off your MWD.  You should probably look at a stronger tank to use webs and scrams in combat.

PvP - Small Fleet/Solo Roaming
There are so many variation to this its difficult to be specific.  There are a couple of design principles that are common at the moment though.  First is you must have a point.  A warp disruptor is best unless you plan to get really close and can swap to the scrambler.

Next you want to do a lot of damage quickly so damage modules are a common fitting.  Remember that stacking penalties make the third module only a little helpful and the forth nearly pointless.  Next the current flavour of the month is to fit a large buffer tank with resists.  These are good in empire space as you can easily dock and repair yourself for the next fight.  They are a little harder to manage in Null or WH space.

People often sacrifice manoeuvrability for tank but this is a bad habit. To control a fight you must control the engagement distance so your weapons are in the correct range band.  There is also the fact you may want to run away from a big gate camp.  An afterburner at least will help you do this.  People using close range weapons should use MWD or risk being ineffectual.

Having a trick up your sleeve is very useful in a fight.  The two most common are energy neutralisers and ECM drones or modules.   A weapon disruptor could ruin things for a blaster or autocannon boat.  A smartbomb can clear enemy drones fast.  A fleet fitted with sensor dampeners can really frustrate an enemy.  Your creativity comes into play here.  Spend some time looking through the Ewar and Engineering modules to see what is useful.

PvP - Large Fleet Op
When joining a large fleet op you pass the responsibility for keeping you alive to the logistics team in the fleet.  That means no local armour or shield repairers.  There is no way a single ship can repair fast enough to beat the DPS of a fleet of 30+ enemy ships.  However a set of 28+ large repairers on 7 logistics ships can do it.  You need to give the Logistic team all the help you can though so the standard fit is a large Buffer with resists.  The whole fleet will have the same type of fit.  People in a ship with the wrong tank will be left to die. A "Buffer Tank" is lots of hitpoints.  Always in either shields or Armour.  Never both.  You will use modules that give you more hitpoints and resistances to reduce incoming damage.

Normally your corp or alliance will specify the fit you must use on big ops.  They will typically have an AB or MWD, some Buffer tank with good resistances and some damage modules.  Points are usually passed to specialist tacklers (in null sec these are almost always interdictors).  Its important to use the fit specified as it allows the FC of the fleet to know exactly what his fleet can do.  Alliances often shame people who turn up in the wrong fit.

Tanking Methods
There are a number of tanking methods available to a pilot.  Choosing the right one is part of the fun.

Active Armour Tanking
Armour tanking uses a repairer combined with resistance modules to maintain the armour of a ship.  The shields are ignored as just a time buffer.  Use a repairer that is the same size as your ship; small for frigates and destroyers, medium for cruisers and battlecruisers, large for battleships.  Resistance modules should at least fill the resistance hole in your armour or be tailored to the enemy you expect to fight.  For example my mission dominix uses kinetic and thermal hardeners when fighting Serpentis rats to match their damage types.  Higher resistances are usually better than more repair ability as it reduces the damage you must deal with.  There are three levels of resistances to use; plating, energised plating and hardeners.  The hardeners are active modules meaning they use cap but the others are passive. Hardeners give the best resistances.

Armour tanking modules use up low slots on the ship.  So do most of the power modules.  This is an important matter as you have to sacrifice some protection to power that protection.

An active tank uses up capacitor.  In a PvP fight you may only need a couple of minutes of repair.  In a mission or a complex you will need constant repair for ages.  Thus part of your tank is how you are going to pay the capacitor bill for it.  The modules that increase capacitor recharge are; Capacitor Power Relay, Capacitor Flux Coil, Cap Recharger, Capacitor Batteries and Power Diagnostic Unit.  Each works slightly differently so read it carefully.  The Capacitor Power Relays and Cap Rechargers are the best for armour tanks.  You can passively increase capacitor recharge by fitting a Capacitor Battery and you can use a Capacitor Booster to use booster charges to inject cap into your capacitor.

There are rigs which will also enhance your armour tank and capacitor recharge rate.  The Capacitor Control Circuit rig has no down sides to it and are a good investment for a mission running fit.  Armour rigs vary so you will have to read them carefully.  They typically affect your ship speed.

Active Shield Tanking
This kind of tanking is the same as active armour tanking but using the shields instead.  The principles are the same except that shields also recharge themselves a little normally (one advantage over Armour).  Shield Boosters come in five sizes of which four are for subcaps.  This gives you a little more flexibility with fitting.   There are two grades of resistances; amplifiers (passive) and fields (active). 

Active shield tanking has the same power problems as active armour tanking.  The notes above apply here as well.

A new kind of active shield tanking came out with Inferno.   The ancillary shield boosters take cap booster chargers and inject the value of the charge straight into your shields (ie a cap booster 400 charge will inject 400 hp into the shields).  This is basically skipping the capacitor altogether.  The down side is the booster takes a minute to reload so you will run out of tank eventually.

Passive Shield Tanking
Passive tanking uses the shield's natural regeneration as a tank.  There are modules you can fit to increase the recharge rate of the shields.  You can also greatly increase the recharge rate by increasing the HPs of the shields by fitting extenders.  A truly passive tank uses no modules that require power but most people fit a few resistance fields anyway.

The shield recharge rate is based on a bell curve with the peak recharge rate at about 30% shields.  At that point your shields are recharging about 3 times the rate than at 90% shields.  This sweet spot is also the warning point.  If your shields drop below this point then its time to leave.

Passive tanks are largely immune to energy neutralisers and vampires which is a big advantage in PvP.  The main disadvantage is there is nothing you can do when your tank is broken and you find out that it is broken at 30% shields.

Buffer Tanking
A buffer tank is just what it sounds like, a buffer.  Take one tanking type (armour or shields) and put HP modules on it and some resistances.  The idea is to make it take time to kill you.  This is either to give you time to kill them or to give your logistics team time to repair you.

This is the common tank for massive fleets where there are 10+ logistics pilots waiting to repair you.  Its largely immune to neutralisers and takes little effort to manage.  The problem is it is limited.  Eventually you will run out and die.

Speed Tanking
This requires some piloting skill to make it work.  If you move fast enough then enemy guns can't track you and enemy missiles can't catch you.  You don't have to be going like a bat out of hell.  My ishtar speed tanks Serpentis battleships at about 530m/s.  This kind of tanking is often combined with another.  Eg the aforementioned ishtar has an active armour tank but can punch above its weight by speeding out of the way of the heavy hitters in a complex.  Interceptors are almost always speed tanks with a little buffer.  You should be careful though relying on speed.  A stasis webification tower or a frigate with a web can spoil your tank and make you take damage you can't handle. 

Direction of flight makes a difference in this kind of tanking.  Never fly directly towards or away from the enemy.  That allows guns to track you more easily.  Flying perpendicular to their fire is the best way as it maximises your angular velocity.

Speed tanks rely on either and Afterburner or a Microwarpdrive.  You need to be able to run that AB or MWD full time or you'll get popped when you slow down.  They often have several speed modules fitted too.  Be wary of enemies using webs or warp scramblers as they can kill your speed.

Weapon Systems
On the whole, weapon systems should all be of the one type.  Some ships are designed to mix missiles and guns or guns and drones but you shouldn't mix long and short range guns on the same ship.  This mean you only get half your damage potential at any range.  It is better to make all your weapons standard and fly at the right range to use them all.  There are a few exception to the rule.  For example you may want to fit an anti frigate weapon.  However most successful ship designs use all the same weapon.

You should use the weapons that the ship has bonuses for.  Most ships have bonuses listed in their description and many are for particular weapon systems.  Choose the right weapons to get the most of your ship.

Select your weapon based on your desired engagement range.  Many Gallente pilots try to use blasters in missions only to discover they can't get them to hit.  Blasters are very short range weapons and not really suited to PvE.  Choosing an engagement range also has to do with how fast your ship is.  If you are slow then you better have long range damage projection.

There are three variations of weapon for each class. For example, for medium railguns there are 250mm Railguns, 200mm Railguns and Dual 150mm Railguns for cruiser size ships. While the 250mm have the biggest punch and range, they have trouble with tracking a target. As you come down the sizes the rate of fire and tracking speed increase making the Dual 150mm Railguns the best tracking of the set.  Don't be afraid to downgrade your weapons to either get better tracking or make more fit on the ship.  Often the lower grade weapons are better for the situation.

Ammo type makes a big difference to how weapons work.  You should check the stats on the ammo types for your weapons.  Its often a good idea to carry several ammo types to allow you to adapt to any situation.  For example I once rescued one of my boffins who had only short range ammo and had got webbed by a tower 50km away.  He had no way to attack the tower or the frigates that had scrambled him.  Some long range ammo and some scout drones would have made a big difference.

Drones are a common method of dealing with frigates.  Battleships should always carry a flight of scout drones.  However the drone ships like the Vexor, Dominix and Ishtar are impressive in their versatility. I've used my Dominix for almost all the Gallente level 4 missions.  Heavy drones or sentries can put out an impressive amount of damage.  The main complaints against drones are that they can draw aggression, get killed or take time to switch targets. There are now new modules to increase drone speed, range, accuracy and damage output (finally). 

Electronic Warfare
Electronic warfare tends to work very well against players and poorly against rats.  Here is a list of the different types and some notes about them.  Some ewar modules use "scripts" as a kind of ammo.  Scripts are for one or the other facet of the ewar module.  For example a Tracking Disruptor will have a script to affect target tracking and another script to affect target optimal range.

Sensor Dampening
Sensor dampening either increases the time a ship takes to lock on to a target OR it reduces the targeting range of the ship.  The second mode is most often used.  Its possible to dampen someone's targeting range to 5km or so if you have enough dampeners.  The problem is that if you are getting close to the enemy then the issue is moot.  You also usually need a lot of dampeners to get the targeting range down for long range ships.

If sensor dampening works against rats then I haven't seen it.  Rats seem to have huge targeting ranges and fast lock ons so this just doesn't work.

Electronic Counter Measures (ECM)
ECM breaks the target's lock on a ship and blocks them from re-targeting for 20 seconds.  Its extremely effective if you can get it to work.  Your chance to jam a target is equal to the strength of the ECM unit (against that sensor type) divided by the sensor strength of the target.  Each module activated on a target gets a "roll" to jam.  Same with ECM drones.  There are four sensor types, one for each race and you need to counter the sensors type of the ship you are facing.  The normal ECM modules are very strong against one type and very weak against the others.  There is a multispectral ECM unit but its not as strong as the racial ones.

ECM works against rats but when the rat re-targets it will target the jammer.  That's not always what you want.  An ECM boat in a mission is in trouble.

Drones have four different sensor scores so they must be jammed against each one.  This makes them almost impossible to jam. 

Tracking Disruptor
These modules either ruin the tracking of guns or reduce the optimal and falloff range of guns.  They have no effect against missiles though there are rumours that this may change.  I think these are under used.  That's largely due to the large amount of PvP drakes wandering around.  However they "always" work against gun systems.  They are especially effective against blasters and autocannons.

These modules work against rats.  Especially the range disruption.  The result is a reduction in the DPS incoming but since you can only disrupt one ship at a time this is a small amount.  Rats are not smart enough to change their range when they are disrupted so they always work.  Throw it on a rat battleship and take its damage out of the fight.

Target Painting
Target painting increases the signature radius of the target.  This makes it easier to hit with weapon systems larger than the target.  For example, if you target paint a frigate it will be easier to hit with cruiser missiles or guns.  Its is of no advantage to frigate guns and not a lot of use against battleships.  It always works if there is a size difference between target and weapon so battleships often carry them to help against cruisers and frigates.  Make sure you turn on the TP before your guns so your first shot gets the bonus.  I think it will even help heavy and sentry drones against small target but I haven't been able to get data on this.

Works fine against rats.  Works well against you too.  If you are a HAC, Strategic Cruiser or smaller then being target painted is going to make any battleships in the field hit you more easily.  Get rid of them.

Many pilots neglect the speed of their ship and to be honest in missions a patient person can get away without it.  It wasn't until I went to null sec and started using an Ishtar for complexes that I realise how important movement was to your tank and survivability.   The smaller your ship, the more important it is.  I have heard of people tanking complexes in a fast frigate because the enemy can't lay a finger on them.  Killing targets is a bit slow but there are options.

Afterburners use a modest amount of capacitor to increase your speed by 100 - 150% (depending on module).  You can usually arrange enough cap to run an AB easily.  They make mission and complexes tolerable when there is a commute between gates.  On a small hull like a HAC or Strategic Cruiser, they can move you fast enough to avoid the fire of most battleship guns allowing you to tank more stuff.  In PvP they will greatly increase your chance of getting back to a gate to avoid a camp or controlling the range of a fight.

If you feel the need for speed then the Microwarpdrive is for you.  It gives you a 500% bonus to your top speed.  However its not perfect.  It doesn't increase your acceleration or ability to turn.  That's your ship agility that does that.  It also uses a tonne of capacitor to run.  To top it off the module reduces the capacitor total just by fitting it.  The last drawback is that your signature radius flares out 500%.  That means its easier for people to hit you with large weapons.  The last nasty surprise for MWD users is the warp scrambler.  If someone hits you with a warp scrambler then your MWD shuts off immediately.    Having said that, a MWD can make you almost untouchable by conventional ships.  Special frigates can catch you but you'll fly rings around a battlecruiser.

Modules You Need to Know About
There are a number of modules that are either useful or dangerous and your should be aware of them.  Here is a short list of the ones I can think of.

Damage Control - These amazing little devices are magic.  They give resistance bonuses to all damage types on shields, armour and hull.  They are the only module that gives hull resistances.  The resistances you gain are also immune to the usual stacking penalty.  They use a tiny amount of power and are a low slot fitting.  Some pilots swear you shouldn't undock without one.

Warp Core Stabilisers - A "Stab" counters one point of warp disruption.  That enough to escape a warp disruptor.  Two will escape two warp disruptors or a single warp scrambler.  The down side is they halve your targeting range and speed.  That's not important on a transport though.  Highly recommended for low sec operations.  They cannot save you from a warp bubble or a heavy interdictor though.

Damage Modules - These are modules that increase the damage and fire rate of your weapons.  There is a different type for each weapon group.  They are; Heat Sink, Gyrostabiliser, Magnetic Field Stabiliser,  Ballistic Control System and Drone Damage Amplifier.  There is no point fitting the wrong module.  Read the description carefully. 

Warp Disruptor/Warp Scrambler - An essential tool for PvP, these modules shut down the target's warp drive.  The scrambler also turns off MWDs and is double the strength of a disruptor but has shorter range.  They are usually the first module activated in a PvP fight.

Capacitor Booster - These modules take charges like a Cap Booster 800.  When activated the module injects an amount of power equal to the Cap Booster rating into your capacitor.  IE a cap booster 800 injects 800 points.  They are often used to artificially sustain a tank when there isn't enough skills or modules to do it.  People run double and triple repairer fits using these.  The charges are bulky and you usually can only carry a few at a time.

Cap Rechargers - These modules increase your cap recharge rate.  No down side other than using a slot.  Great for armour tanks who don't make a lot of use for mid slots.

Smartbombs - These are usually anti-frigate or anti-drone weapons.  The do damage in an area effect blast.  They use a lot of cap and are very risky to use in high sec as you can accidentally hit structures or people that you aren't allowed to hit.  Then CONCORD shows up.

Rigs - There are rigs available for most things.  Your ship can use between two and three rigs and they are like implants for your ship.  If you aren't using rigs then you should be.  The most useful rig there is is probably the Capacitor Control Circuit which increases capacitor recharge rate.

Cargo Scanner - You aren't likely to use it but you need to know it exists.  This module may be activated on anyone as it is not an attack.  It reports everything in the ship's cargo bay and the containers in that cargo bay.  It can't see into a container that is in a courier package.  Gankers use this on trade routes and busy stations like Jita to find people moving expensive cargo in cheap ships.  If the cargo is worth more than the ships needed to blow you up then they will kill you and loot what they can.  It takes only one tornado to kill an normal industrial so that means cargoes over 100 MISK are a risk.

Cloaking Devices - There are three levels of cloaking device.  The Covert Ops Cloak is the only one that can cloak and warp and can only be fitted to certain ships.  Cloaks will not work if ANYONE has you targeted.  They usually slow you down a lot and have a targeting delay after de-cloaking.  They also make targeting a ship take longer.  Its possible to de-cloak a target by flying within 2000m of them.  This means that its not as good at getting away from baddies as we'd like.  However, if you are cloaked in a safe spot it is impossible to find you.

Co-Processors - This is a low slot item that increases the ship CPU by a % amount.

Reactor Control Unit - This is a low slot item that increases the ship powergrid by a % amount.

Micro Auxiliary Power Core - This low slot item adds between 10 and 13 powergrid to the ship.  Intended for frigates and destroyers.

Power Diagnostic System - This low slot item increases shield HP, shield recharge, capacitor recharge, capacitor amount and powergrid amount.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

R&D Agents

Each state has a set of corps which have R&D agents.  These are special agents that are not really for missioning but are a left over from an old system of distributing Tech 2 blueprints.  Now days they are a source of Datacores, the essential components in invention.

Corps that have R&D agents are as follows;
  • Amarr - Carthum Conglomerate, and Viziam
  • Caldari - Ishukone Corporation, Kaalakiota Corporation, and Lai Dai Corporation.
  • Gallente  -  CreoDron, Duvolle Laboratories, and Roden Shipyards
  • Minmatar - Boundless Creation, and Core Complexion Inc.
An R&D agent has a list of sciences in their agent details.  The agent is capable of starting a research project in one of those sciences.  For example an agent may have Mechanical Engineering as one of their sciences.  That agent can then research Mechanical Engineering.  When an agent starts a research project they start accumulating Research Points daily.  You may then cash these research points in at a later date to get datacores matching the science you where researching.  That is, to get Nanite Engineering datacores you must do a Nanite Engineering research job.  Datacores now cost 100 RP and some 10,000 ISK each.  Research agents just keep accumulating RP points without your interaction but you can make them go a little faster.  They will offer you a mission once per day and if you complete that mission you get a day's worth of RP points.  These missions are either Courier (with a small package) or "Get me some tritanium" missions so they are dead easy.  You don't have to do them though for the agent to keep working.  That makes R&D agents the most passive ISK generation in the game.

The RP you get per day is dependent on several factors.  First is the level of the agent.  They come in levels 1 - 4.  The higher the level of the agent, the higher your standings must be with the agent's corp and faction.  You must also have the science you want to researched trained.  The higher your science level, the more RP you get.  Lastly, the agent is sensitive to standings and quality.  that means more standings = more RP.  Also getting the social skills that affect agent quality and reputation up will increase your RP rate a bit.  Now with pretty good skills and standings, and level 5 in the science, I'm getting 117 - 119 RP/day from level 4 agents.

To get more than one R&D agent you need to train Research Project Management.  You get another agent each level.  The last level takes forever though so even I don't have it yet.

R&D agents used to be the only steady source of datacores in the game.  However, recent changes now mean that people can exchange LP for datacores at Militia agents.  At the time of writing, the new system is so recent that the market is still fluctuating to reflect the change.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Jump Clones

Jump clones are one of the benefits of getting standings with a corp.  They are an extra body which you can occupy and move around as normal but can have a different set of implants and be kept in a different place.  In fact that is the main use for jump clones; preserving implant setups and getting around quickly.

To get a jump clone you need to either have;
  1. Standings of 8.0 with an NPC corp that has medical bays (not everyone does).
  2. Your corp has 8.0 standings an NPC corp that has medical bays.
  3. Docking rights and medical bay rights at a station in null sec.  These rights are assigned by an alliance.
You need to have at least one level trained in Infomorph Psychology to get a jump clone.  You can have one spare body per level.  Once made you can move the body anywhere you want by jumping into it and flying there as normal.  You may also have a different set of implants in each body.  This means you can have a body for skill training with +5 attribute implants, a body with a Snake implant set and a body with no implants for PvP as an example.  Having a spare body with no expensive implants for PvP is the most common use for a jump clone.

A pilot may jump between clone bodies once per 24 hours.  That total not once per body.  This is a great way to get across large distances quickly.  I have a character that is a market seller and she jumps between two different markets and sells in places 28 jumps apart without travelling.  People who live in null sec or wormholes often have a jump clone in empire so they can buy skills and equipment easily.

You can't keep all your clones in the one station.  It causes issues and you should get an error message if you try.  There doesn't need to be a medical bay on the station you have your jump clone though.  It can be anywhere.  You should also make sure your respawn point (or medical clone) is not on a station you have a jump clone as it causes issues.  I'm fairly sure you will get an error message if you try to do this.

Jump clones last until you destroy them.  That means you should make them when you are able in case you need them later.  They cost nothing to leave in a station and cost less than a million to make.  They are a worth while investment as you may find yourself in a war tomorrow and you don't want to risk your +5 implants on a station camp.

There are now new skills that affect jump clones.  Advanced Infomorph Psychology adds an extra jump clone per level to a total of 10 clones.  Infomorph Synchronizing reduces the cool down period for the next jump by one hour per level allowing you to jump every 19 hours at level 5.

Exploring Exploration

Whether its in high sec, low sec, null sec or a wormhole, exploration can be extremely profitable.  The problem is that it is also extremely fickle.  You are a slave to the randomness of the whole thing.  I've gone two weeks without a serious find and then had nearly a billion ISK drop in five hours high sec work.  Null sec can be billions from a single site if you are lucky and exploration is a way of life in a wormhole.  In this guide I'll concentrate on high sec exploration as most new explorers will start there.

You should have had an introduction to exploration during the tutorials. I still recommend that you have a look at YouTube for some of the latest scanning tutorials.  Much has changed since Odyssey was launched.  I haven't found a tutorial I liked but when I do I'll link it here.

Skills You Need
Fortunately for rookies, there are only a few skills you need to train for scanning.  However those skills make a world of difference.  Here is a list of useful skills;
  • Astrometrics - This skill reduces the time probes takes to scan, Increases the strength of probes and reduces the deviation of results.  It highly worth while training to 4 at least.  You also need it for the other skills.
  • Astrometric Acquisition - Reduces the time probes take to scan.  Not the most useful of skills.
  • Astrometric Pinpointing - Reduces the Deviation on scan results.  That means the indicated guess on the signal location will be closer to the real location.  Makes it harder to lose a signal.
  • Astrometric Rangefinding - Increases probe strength.  This is the most useful of the scanning skills but I get by in high sec with it trained to 4.
There are also a few skills needed for the complexes you will find.
  • Hacking - Needed to do Data Sites.  Level 4 is enough.  Lets you use a Data Analyser.
  • Archaeology - Needed to run an Relic Analyser unit.  Used in Relic Sites.

Navigating the Solar System Map
When you are scanning for exploration sites you will spend a lot of time in the Solar System Map.  Getting around can be tricky but there are some tricks that will help you speed up your scanning efforts;
  • Holding the primary mouse button (normally left) and moving the mouse will rotate the view around a central point.  This is usually a planet or something similar but you can select the pivot point by clicking on the item in the map.  I usually click on a probe or the signal I'm scanning so the view centres on that.
  • Holding the secondary mouse button (normally right) and moving the mouse will pan the view of the map.  
  • You can grab the edge of a probe bubble and drag it in or out to change the probe range of all probes.
  • If you hold the SHIFT key down you will get the option to move or change the range of a single probe at a time.
These Are the Signals You Were Looking For
Some pilots get a little confused about what you are looking for in exploration.  Your Scanning interface can find several things; Ships, Structures Cosmic Anomalies and Cosmic Signatures.  Anomalies are simple combat sites that can be found with the on-board scanner of any ship.  They will always show in your scan results at 100% if the tick box is selected next to the filter.  These aren't the real prizes in high sec but are a steady source of income in null sec. The do have a chance of spawning a faction enemy which may have some nice loot and there is a smaller chance of they will escalate into a private exploration site called an expedition.  More on those later.

Ships and structures are used for PvP operations mostly.  However some people do  scan out high sec mission sites to steal loot or gank mission runners.

The thing you are really after are the Cosmic Signatures.  These are more likely to have faction spawns and special loot in them.  They can also escalate into expeditions as well.  You should create a filter on your scanner interface that only shows Signatures.  This will save you hassle scrolling through a bunch of sites you don't want.

When scanning there are a set of different results you can get.  These tell you how close you are to finding a site.  Scan results can be;
  1. A red globe – means only one probe is in range of the site and the sites is somewhere in the globe.
  2. A red circle – means two probes are in range and the site is near the circle edge.
  3. Two red dots – means three probes are in range near one of the dots.
  4. a single red dot - means four or more probes are in range but the signal is not strong but is near the dot.
  5. A yellow inverted triangle – means 4+ probes are in range and the signal is strong. You should get a signal type about now.
  6. A green inverted triangle – means you have 100% fix on the location and can warp to it.

Exploration sites spawn randomly in systems during the game "day".  You can scan a system and then come back two hours later and find new signals.  I find that if you clear out sites in a system by making them despawn, there is a greater chance of there being new sites when you come back.  For this reason I occasionally do the less valuable sites just to clear them away so I can come back later

Working With Probes
There are two types of probes to work with in exploration.  Core Scanner Probes and Combat Scanner Probes.  They do the same thing with a few small differences.  Core scanner probes can only find Signatures.  The combat probes can also find ship, POS, and other structures.  However the difference you need to worry about is the scan ranges.  Combat probes can manage 64 AU - 0.5 AU but core probes can do 32 AU - 0.25 AU.  That means you need core probes to find the weakest signals.  The lack of upper range is rarely an issue.  At the time of writing, Sister's Core Scanner Probes are the absolute best you can get.

My usual procedure when scanning is to open the solar system map and flick through the filters to refresh the system pre-scan.  This should show all the Anomalies in system and any Cosmic Signatures in system.  When you go to the solar system map you should see a red globe for each Signature in system.  This is a rough approximation of where the signal is.  There is one more clue though.  Signatures are usually within 5 AU of a planet.  So look for where the red globes intersect with planets.  Those are your likely scan locations.   I then launch probes in the Pinpoint Formation (second last button on the scan panel).  This launches eight probes in a 4 AU pattern that is good for scanning.  The area in the middle where all the probes overlap is your scan area.  Move the probes so that scan area is centred on the planet you have chosen.  Don't forget to look at the scene from the side on view to get the z-axis right.

The new Interface for probes now automatically applies changes to all probes in the group.  When you move the probes, you move them all while still in their pattern.  You can also change the probe range and all of them will change.  Furthermore, when you change the probe range the probes will move in or out automatically to maintain the pattern.  This makes the whole thing much quicker to do.  If you need to move a single probe, hold shift and the individual probe Markers will come up.  At this stage I haven't found a good reason to do this.

When your probe cluster is centred on the location you want to scan, hit the scan button.  A little timer happens and then you get your results.  The probable results are as listed above.  If you have the single point markers then you can reduce the range on your probes and move the new scan area over the icon.  Scan again.  Keep going until you have the signal at 100% or you reach 0.25AU without getting it.  With low skills or poor equipment its quite possible to have signals you can't find.  However try moving probes closer or scanning again in case its just a unlucky scan.

If your signal disappears after a scan then you may have had a wild deviation in your last scan.  I typically leave the probes in place and bring the range out two ticks.  Then scan again.  I have found that if a signal is at the very edge of a scan area (that overlap in the middle) then you can get some wild deviations which will send you chasing shadows.  If you think this is happening then expand the probe range out so that it covers the whole area you have seen the signals in.  For me I normally go to 8 AU or sometimes 16AU to just get a confirmed signal to chase.  This is rare though.

Types of Exploration Site
There are five "groups" of Cosmic Signatures.  They are Combat, Wormhole, Relic Site, Data Site, and Gas Site.  Here is a brief description of each;

Wormholes can provide a great deal of ISK but they are extremely dangerous.  First off they are null sec so its anything goes in that space.  Second, local does not show anyone unless they talk.  That means you have no idea who else is in system with you.  Third, a lot of wormholes are owned by someone.  By this I mean that someone has set up a POS and is farming the system.  They get annoyed with people taking what they see as theirs.  There are no beacons to sites in wormhole space.  You will need to scan out all the sites you do with either probes or the on board scanner.  Lastly the rats are different.

Sleepers are the rats in wormholes and they have a different AI to normal rats.  They will choose the weakest target to attack, switch targets during a fight and attack drones and logistics ships.  They also do their damage to your weakest resistance value and they tank all damage types equally.  You can solo Class 1 and 2 sleepers but above that you need friends.  The most common approach is the spider tank.  Everyone in the fleet has the same tank, eg a buffer shield tank.  They also all fit a remote repairer.  When one person is attacked, all the others in the fleet put their remote repairer on the victim.  This means the victim gets the repair ability of 3+ repairers while not using cap.  This approach takes some teamwork so practice with friends in advance.

Next, there is no actual money in wormholes.  The cash doesn't magically appear in your wallet.  You will have to salvage every wreck and get the stuff to empire to get a payout.  That makes you vulnerable again.  The items dropped by sleepers have a set value in empire but certain salvage items are worth a lot of money and you are trying to get as many of them as possible.

Lastly, the wormhole you came in through is your lifeline.  Make sure you bookmark both sides before warping away.  Wormholes can disappear based on time or how many ships have been through them.  Wormhole corps often close wormholes deliberately.  You may find yourself in a wormhole with no way back to empire.  For this reason, you should always have a scanning ability in a wormhole whether its a probe launcher on your ship or and alt in a probe ship waiting under cloak.  There are only two ways to get out of a wormhole without a probe launcher; get someone to help you or self destruct your ship and pod.  Don't rely on the first one.

Its my opinion that wormholes are for small gangs of organised people not soloers.  Rookies should avoid them like the plague.  The risk is not worth the payout for a low skill character.  They are something for later in your career.

Gas Site
These are gas mining sites or sometimes sites relating to booster production.  To date I have never found one in high sec but the ones in wormholes can be worth a lot of money. Gas mining is a special skill and takes a bit of money to get into.

Relic Sites/Data Sites
Relic and Data sites never have rats.  They are usually some scenery and several objects you can access to get goods.  Relic sites provide tech 1 and tech 2 salvage and sometimes blueprints and skill books.  Data sites provide decryptors, datacores, parts for Interfaces as well as blueprints and skill books.  They also have a batch of basic loot which is NPC trade goods.  It is possible to scan these can with a cargo scanner.  The result will show you the unique items in the can.  The rest will be trade goods.  Decryptors and Datacores are good money.

To access a Relic node you need a Relic Analyser.  To access a Data node you need a data Analyser.  This takes you to a mini-game where you hack the can.  The interface is a collection of linked nodes.  You may reveal a node by clicking on it.  You can only click nodes adjacent to the ones you have revealed.  However there are obstacles.  These are Firewalls.  They have a Coherence and Strength score.  To defeat them you use a virus who's stats are dependant on your equipment and skills.  Your virus has a Coherence and Strength as well.  When you attack a firewall/virus you do your Strength in damage to the Firewall's Coherence.  If the Firewall is still there, it then does its Strength to your Coherence.  That ends the tick.  If you run out of Coherence you fail the hack attempt.  So far I've found you get two tried in high sec before the node self destructs (no area damage).  There are different kinds of Firewall so you need to read their details.  Also there are items which can help you.  Read the mouse over text when you see an icon.  be quick though, you have a time limit but I don't know how long it is.

The goal is to find the System Core and destroy it.  That will open the can.  The general strategy I've used is to go around the outside of the pattern revealing every node you can before attacking any firewalls.  You should find a few useful tools along the way.  Usually the core is on the outside but not always.  Once you reveal everything you can you can choose which firewalls to fight.

Once you open the can, things get frantic.  The Can sprays the loot out in all directions.  These show as little green/white/yellow circles with crosses on them.  Green means they are in range of your built in tractor beam and you can suck it aboard.  White means its out of range.  Yellow means you are busy.  Flashing ones are about to go pop.  A single ship cannot collect all the items by itself but fleet members can help.  The "spray cans" are named with a general type which gives you an idea of the contents.  You will need to learn these.  I only know that Parts cans hold the decryptors and datacores and Data cans have the blueprints.  When the mini tractor beam brings in an item it shows its icon for a minute above your cargo button on the HUD. 

Combat Sites
Combat sites are where the real money is for high sec explorers.  There are two kinds of combat sites;  DED deaspaces which have a difficulty rating out of 10 and ordinary combat sites.

DED ratings are 1/10 = frigates, 2/10 = destroyers, 3/10 = cruisers, 4/10 = battlecruisers and 5/10 and up are battleship zones.  The gates wont let bigger ships get into these complexes.  However, the gates work on hull size so a tech 2 frigate can get into a DED 1/10.  I use a HAC (Ishtar) to do exploration and that lets me into all but two sites I can find in high sec.  As a special rule, Strategic Cruisers cannot enter 3/10 or 4/10 sites.  You can find 4/10s in high sec but 5/10s are low sec only.  DED sites usually have bosses at each level or cans containing the loot.  Some require you to destroy a structure.  The loot is a overseer's effects and often some faction modules.  The bosses sometimes salvage into tech 2 loot too.  I've had one site drop over 300 MISK in loot in high sec so these can be rich finds.  The tougher sites need some serious tanks and DPS to complete.  They are probably out of reach for new pilots trying to solo them.  Call in your friends and work together on them.

The other combat sites usually have a faction spawn at the end.  That means one of the elite rats for the faction appears.  They have the chance of dropping faction modules or implants and they salvage into tech 2 salvage.  These sites also have the chance of "Escalating" into an "Expedition".  More on Expeditions below.  The faction rats can drop some serious money but the expeditions lead up to a faction loot drop.  Its hard to say which is more profitable.  These sites sometimes have ship size restrictions too so its worth using a cruiser size ship so you can get into most of them.  The Evelopedia has some great information on all these sites so look up the name of the site you found before doing it so you don't miss out on loot.

Combat sites have the potential for a lot of ISK worth of loot.  That means there are a lot of people looking for them.  I have found that at least half of the people I've bumped into doing a complex have competed with me for the site.  They race ahead trying to be the one to get the loot at the end.  I've even had people steal the loot out of my can at the end.  You need to decide how you will deal with these people.  Most will be set up in very powerful ships.  Often you wont have a warp disruptor to deal with thieves.  Personally I find people who contest a site that they didn't find first to be just short of pirates. Don't salvage these sites as you go.  Bookmark each room and race to the final loot drop.  Then when the site despawns you can warp to your bookmarks and salvage uninterrupted.

The combat sites you find in a region will be either against the local pirate faction or Rogue Drones.   While the rogue drone sites consistently drop overseer's effects they rarely drop faction loot.  The "boss" drone does salvage into tech 2 salvage but that's about it.  They aren't worth a great deal compared to the pirate sites.  However it is worth clearing them out so that new sites can spawn later.

An expedition is a set of linked complexes.  You will get a message pop up when you trigger an expedition giving you some story info.  The destination for the expedition will be in your Journal under Expeditions.   When you get to the system you must right click -> warp to the expedition site.  You can't warp a fleet there so you will need to tank the first bit yourself until your friends get there.

Each expedition site has a faction rat which can drop faction loot or implants or blueprints.  There is also a percentage chance that the next step in the expedition will be triggered.  The last step is often in low sec but has the chance of some good faction modules as loot.  Again these expeditions are detailed in the Evelopedia so research them in advance.  I have discovered that I can solo all high sec expeditions except the final step of one in my ishtar.

So far the final step of most Expeditions have been in low sec.  They don't always drop loot too so you must weigh the risks with the benefits.  Check the  Evelopedia to get an idea what you have to do. 

Cosmic Anomalies
I have recently gained an appreciation of Cosmic Anomalies.  For starters you don't have to scan them down.  I often put my ishtar in one and let the drones clear it while I scan the system.  However the main reasons for doing them is A) they can spawn a faction rat with nice loot and B) they sometimes escalate into a private DED zone.  The later one is rare so don't be too depressed if it doesn't happen to you.  However with exploration you want to maximise the number of faction rats you encounter and kill since each has the chance of good loot.  Thus I tend to clear Anomalies as I find them.  They can also be done in a good cruiser or assault frigate.  In null sec they are a major income source but high sec only gives you a small amount of bounty.  Its the loot you want.

So far all but one of the escalations I've got from Anomalies have been in low sec.