Thursday, October 12, 2017

I am the Alpha and the Omega

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt have realized I've been absent from New Eden for a few months now. It's not that I don't still love the game, the time investment is what's killing me. Conversely, it's the immersion and time investment which stops me abandoning it all together. I've simply invested way too much time to completely walk away. Quite the dichotomy. As such, just before going into Alpha state I put up 200 odd market orders which, to my surprise, stayed active and kept ISK trickling in despite being unsubscribed. I've had a third account training Alpha skills, too. In about a week he'll have gone as far as CCP will allow so it was with some surprise that I saw what CCP plans regarding Alphas before the end of the year.

Currently, unsubscribed Alpha players can only amass around five million skill points; come December that number will explode to about twenty. Twenty million skill points makes a pretty competent sub capital pilot. By that stage of your training you should have high level core skills, gunnery and ships competencies that will make you an asset to any fleet. A fully Tech II fit Battlecruiser, and lets face it - they are the current meta, should be well within your reach. Sure, those 100 million SP bitter vets will out DPS you ever so slightly, but not enough for it to count for much in a small gang or fleet engagement. There is a catch, of course. You can't progress past five million SP without buying a month of Omega time and I guess that's fair enough. Once new players get a taste of that sweet 2x training modifier I'm sure there are many who will continue to buy time. It's just a sound business decision from that perspective. Personally however, I'm more interested in how this will affect me directly.

During my current hiatus I've been entirely uninvolved with Holesale Operations other than selling my corp mates stuff in the home system. It's not that I'm unwilling to respond to pings for content, it's that I'm unable. I simply have no ships that my characters can fly in the home system that will be of any benefit to the fleet and I'm sure as Bob not going to drop a PLEX on the chance of content. All of that looks about to change. Whilst I expect I'll have to modify certain fits slightly, there's a strong likely hood that our vaunted Hurricane Fleet Issue Artillery doctrine will be entirely possible for an Alpha pilot to field, not to mention various eWar Battleships. Most notably, the Bhaalgorn. Further to that, Gilas, Ashimmus and Cynabals are all well and truly on the cards, as are their frigate counterparts.

For obvious reasons then, I'm a big fan of this change. Not only will it stimulate the real world and virtual economies, it will likely bring a lot of bitter vets out of retirement from time to time and even give Corporations a reserve force to call upon in times of need that wouldn't have been nearly as effective in the past as it soon will be.

The downsides I really do struggle to see. I've seen speculation that an Alpha will be able to run level 4 missions all day and accumulate ISK without the need for a subscription, but who really does that anyway? It sounds even more dull than mining to me. Which leads me to the next obvious objection, swarms of Alpha mining barges clearing belts and melting the mineral market. But really, how bad could it get? It's not like one person can log in more than one Alpha at a time. Even if you had multiple PCs set up and exploited your way around the one Alpha limit, I'm fine with it, frankly. Cheaper minerals means cheaper ships and more miners means more targets. That just sounds like a target rich environment. Bring. It. On.

But I'm curious to know if you can think of a downside to this change?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sibling Rivalry

Let me tell you a story of two brothers. The older of the two formed a Corporation a few years ago, built it up, settled a C4 Wormhole system and created a large asset base from which to enjoy his little slice of the Eve Universe. However, a year or so ago duty called and the older brother had to leave for Marine training and left the corporation in the hands of his most trusted Eve friend and probably closest living relative, his brother. In his absence his brother and his right hand man proceeded to strip the absentee of his roles and all of his assets. Cheers bro? Now, I don't have a brother, but if I did I could see something like that happening. No doubt the perpetrator thought it was pretty damn funny, too. The victim, whilst a good sport about it all, made it quite clear to his younger sibling that his time would come.

Today was that day, and Holesale were the executors.

The older brother advised our leadership that his sibling rival had just deployed a Fortizar to house their many capital ships in the C4, a Fortizar he was confident was paid for with borrowed funds, no less. On hand for the anchoring timer would be a Thanatos, Chimera and the little brother's pride and joy Nidhoggur, and it was right in the middle of the dead zone for active members, that being the AU TZ. As such, the fleet we formed was less than ideal. Minimal logistics, very little tackle and everyone else in DPS. Our go-to doctrine of late has been the Sleipnir/Hurricane Fleet Issue Artillery one and it would serve us well once again, but with only a dozen or so of us, it would take a while to grind down even one Carrier, never mind three.

Landing on the Fortizar as it became vulnerable we were promptly engaged by the trio of carriers. Our swarm of drones was barely able to pause the Fortizar timer and for at least half an hour we played de-fanging games, killing off wave after wave of fighters. To be sure, the carriers had some early success, popping a few of the lighter tanked ships in fleet, but the tip of the spear remained impervious to the incoming assault and eventually we had the fighters all but subdued. Focus first turned to the younger brother and his prized Nidhoggur, one he was very boastful of because of its collection of kill marks. But without a support fleet there was little he could do to stem the tide of artillery and Carriers being largely buffer fit these days, he was facing an inevitable end. Once dispatched he was sent back to HiSec via the express route and the Thanatos, also shield tanked, was next on the menu. The Chimera followed soon after and the Fortizar was the big fat cherry on top of the cake. Twenty Billion ISK destroyed for less than 1 billion in losses. Not a bad day at the office and justice for a jilted older brother.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Brain Drain

So I want to talk about implants. From scanning to boosting to fitting to skilling and performance, there's few aspects of the EVE Universe that aren't directly affected by their use. Both of my main characters are now beyond 150 million skill points so their need for fitting implants has long since waned. That's not to say there aren't instances where I could put a 5% powergrid or CPU implant to use, but I greatly prefer not to.

Of course there are some go-to clones for certain jobs. I have a mid grade slave clone for armour fleets and several boosting clones with mindlink implants to maximise my boosting effects, there's even a mid grade crystal clone somewhere that I've almost never used. Indeed, when shield slave sets happen I'll probably have one of those, too. The reality is however, that I almost only ever have a couple of +5 training implants in. In my early days, sure, I used 3% CPU implants all the time but since fitting isn't really an issue any more I avoid creating ship fits that would require it. I simply can't be assed constantly swapping clones to suit the ship I need to fly at that moment. So when it was suggested to me that I shouldn't ever fly my capitals without a full set of Genolutions in, I balked. If I can't fit it or fly it without Genolutions I simply won't fit it or fly it. I've lost a handful of capitals over the journey and I can't think of a single instance where those implants would've made any difference to the outcome. They were always situations that saw me heavily outnumbered or under supported, and the most recent one is a shining example.

I log on most mornings to reset my PI network. As I'm now a part of a predominantly US TZ Corporation, it's their prime time. I jump on TeamSpeak as I'm bringing up my networks and suddenly get hailed by the FC on duty asking if I had a Dreadnaught on hand with High Angle Weapons. As I had just recently acquired a Phoenix in that very configuration I replied in the affirmative. I was quickly advised to get in fleet and undock. Now, I don't normally like to get into a fight with zero intel, but I'm a good soldier and ISK isn't an issue so I did as I was asked. My lumbering behemoth shifted free of its tethers, slowly meandering into space from the confines of the Fortizar that was its home. Still weary from sleep, I immediately saw via D-Scan that a fight was underway. The tag of the enemy ships was familiar but didn't immediately strike me until just after I had activated warp. It was Lazerhawks. I didn't cancel warp however, I put faith in my FC that he knew what he was doing and the Moros that was beside me entered warp with my Phoenix alongside.

Landing on the field we were badly positioned. Alarm bells are already ringing in my head. I wasn't going to enter siege with their fleet and my supporting fleet over sixty kilometres away, I couldn't even hit targets at that range. Instead I aligned back to my Fortizar and advised the FC of our poor warp in. I warped back to the Fortizar and, with 20/20 hindsight, can safely say that's where I should have stayed. But again, being the good soldier I asked if I was still needed and a rather alarmed voice came back in the affirmative and that I should warp to zero. Make no mistake, my gut was telling me this was a gratuitous mistake, the tone of the voices on TeamSpeak told the tale of a battle that wasn't going well and even with High Angle Weapons, if I was unsupported I would have little chance of survival. But I followed orders, landed on field, entered siege and went to work.

Well, within about half a siege cycle my support fleet was dead or had fled. I was alone on field with a Moros some fifty kilometres away and a swathe of Sleipnirs and Scimitars, all with nefarious intent. It was clear how this was going to end unless a minor miracle somehow coalesced to save us. Despite my Corporation mates best efforts, such a save never came. We had just moved into our new home and were still dealing with the logistical nightmare of having enough doctrine ships on hand. So first the Moros went down and then the fleet converged on my Phoenix and whilst I was able to deal with the incoming DPS without difficulty, I was burning through cap charges to do it. I could've carried far more charges it's true to say, but I still had a job to get to, so the death of my Dreadnaught wasn't just inevitable, it was timely.

Which brings me to my point. No amount of Genolutions or any other implant for that matter would've changed my fate and in regards to Capital losses, it has always been that way in my experience. I can certainly see the benefit in regards to sub caps, the extra buffer that can be manipulated is vital to catch repairs in time but, in Wormhole space at least, I won't be flying implant dependant capitals any time soon. But I'm curious to hear your input, especially in regards to capital ships. I've had little to do with Force Auxiliaries and I can certainly understand how implants for capacitor management may be invaluable, but are they absolutely vital?

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Come out and Play

Holesale Operations don't have many blues, but those they do have are cherished allies. So when a hostile force set up to evict one of them, you can bet Holesale will form up to defend their home like it's their own. Ch3ss have long been close allies, always keen for a fight, so when a combined force from Ember Sands, Temporary Insanity and Scary Wormhole People threatened their home, we answered the call.

The initial assault went poorly for the defenders, losing some Capitals along with a large chunk of their and our SubCap fleet. Unfortunately it was a fight I missed due to work commitments, but I made sure to be on today to engage the hostile Astrahus and the inevitable defence fleet that would accompany it. I made my way to the target system overnight with a Guardian and a Scout Tengu, I almost never combat dual box, checked timers and called it a night, ready for what would follow in the morning.

Logging in several hours before the timer we spent our time bringing the fleet together, rolling connections for a favourable one whilst coordinating with our friends. Maintaining strict hole control was our top priority, we couldn't have the significant Sleipnir/Hurricane/Scimitar fleet that had logged off in system getting in additional reinforcements, especially since they had so convincingly bested us the day before. The Wormhole PvP channel was alive with talk about us, so it was fair to assume they were trying to bring in some back up and, having spent some time in that channel, I know they have no shortage of willing Bomber pilots on hand, a doctrine that would oppose ours very efficiently. Our weapon of choice being artillery Machariels backed up with Guardian logistic support and a variety of sensor damping eWar. It was hoped that the extra buffer provided by the armour tanked battleships could give our logistics ships a better opportunity to land repairs and the high alpha damage deem their logistics irrelevant. Keeping a very tight formation to counter the effectiveness of a Command Destroyer trying to "boosh" us off grid would make us a delicious target for a bombing run.

Leading up to the timer the enemy were scarcely spotted. Their fleet remained logged off at a safe and my Scout Tengu had the dubious task of reporting their log in as we had managed to scan it before they were off grid. I had no idea how close to their location my bookmark was and burning off in any particular direction could end up disasterous so I just punted on the fact that whoever made the bookmark had some labelled it correctly as a scout position and I wasn't at zero.

Two minutes before the Astrahus was vulnerable the enemy fleet logged on. I suddenly found my Tengu in close proximity to Sleipnirs, Hurricanes and Scimitars, exiting warp all around me. I held my nerve as as Sabre passed within ten clicks, most of the remainder of the fleet were over sixty away. I called the intel and we waited in our position, 25 kilometres off of their Astrahus, inviting them to engage us.

My PvP Logistics experience is limited but I focused hard on my broadcast list and reiterated time and again to call for armour if yellow boxed, the high alpha may be too much for even our brick Machariels. As the enemy fleet landed, primaries were called, drones were sent to the Astrahus and our Fleet Commander was quickly calling targets. The first thing I noticed.... SO. MUCH. ALPHA. Despite calling for early broadcasts they didn't always come, often locking up friendlies in low armour. By the time our repairs were landing they were gone and podding their way home. That happened more times than I cared for but for the most part we held the field. Which is the frustrating part of flying logistics, you really have no clue how the battle is going. As it turns out, it was going well. We held our ground, drove off the aggressing fleet and destroyed the hostile Citadel. The Ch3ss home was saved; for now at least.

Post battle there was some talk that Ch3ss were targeted to draw out Holesale. I don't know how much of that is bullshit, may be it's true, maybe it isn't, but all in all it was a damn good fight that gave me new respect for our logistics wing.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Tengu Dynasty

When I first started solo hunting in low class wormholes some seven years ago, a Covert Ops, Interdiction Nullified, HAM Tengu was my go-to. It had a credible tank but suffered with just 400 odd DPS and poor damage application. I can recall with some embarrassment my efforts to kill a lone Buzzard, going through more missiles than I care to remember only just managing to overcome his passive shield regeneration. The Proteus was a significant step up in regards to DPS but again damage application was an issue with the poor tracking of Heavy Neutron Blasters. Then came the Stratios and in recent years it has been the weapon of choice for covert hunters everywhere. I suppose the smart bombing Proteus should get a mention here, but it is highly specialised and clearly suited to killing small ships only.

Now everything has changed. The Tech III Cruiser rebalance has seen many doctrines reimagined and many small gang staples, like the armour Jamgu, entirely abandoned. Moreover, boosting Strategic Cruisers are again viable as they're not limited to just boosting, they can have significant utility in any small gang. We've seen the Loki as the clear winner, able to fit over sized shield booster, propulsion modification and capacitor battery all at the same time. It makes it very hard to pin down, neut out or out damage its local shield repair. Engage them with caution. That said, you have to invest a significant amount of ISK to do all of that, so the rewards for destroying one will be significant. Moreover, only the significantly wealthy will choose to engage in PvP with them, so you shouldn't seem them in tremendous numbers, especially when just trying to PLEX your account is close to a full time job these days.

The challenge faced by our Wormhole group has been to develop a doctrine from the new T3 Cruisers that had the right balance of DPS, survivability and utility but at an affordable ISK investment so everyone can get involved. As wormholers, Covert Ops ships are always important, the fact that using a Covert Ops Tech III Cruiser means you no longer have to get by with meager DPS is a delightful bonus. For OpSec reasons I'm not going to share the specific fits of our fleet doctrine, but let's just say it's rich with Tengus.

Covert Ops Fleet Composition.

DPS: HAM Tengu, buffer shield tank, 900+ DPS heated.
ECM: ECM Tengu. buffer shield tank, 600+ DPS, 3 x Multi spec ECM
LINKS: Boosting Tengu, buffer shield tank, shield/skirmish links, 4 x dead space medium remote shield transporters.

Now here's where it gets tricky for the enemy. They all look virtually identical. I pity the FC who has to call primaries when he has no clue which Tengu is doing the most damage, providing the logistics or engaging in eWar. It's no longer a matter of just saying "Primary the Falcon/Jamgu" as, unless the FC is being directly jammed by the offending ship, he will have no clue which is which.

The doctrine is still being developed so I'm sure there will be changes made as limitations are discovered, but if you see a swarm of Tengus uncloak in a wormhole near you I advise you to run, Forest, run.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Dead as Disco

There's a lot of activity about with the changes to Tech III Strategic Cruisers coming next month and whilst I agree they were in need of some serious overhauls to make Recons and Heavy Assault Cruisers more relevant, I couldn't help but be more than a little concerned about my most beloved of Strategic Cruisers, Night Fever.

For the uninitiated, she is my Smart Bombing Proteus that has netted me literally of hundreds of explorer frigate and pod kills over the journey, not to mention some pretty funny close calls from those who would see her demise. Despite their best efforts, she still lives today, although not getting nearly as much use as she has in the past.

So it was with some trepidation that I logged into the Singularity Test Server to play around with fittings and make sure my cloaked disco machine could still be of service to Bob. The reality however, is that it just can't happen, at least not as I have had it in the past. With some wrangling it is possible to get five large faction smart bombs on but I have to live without interdiction nullification, a propulsion module and a medium capacitor booster. Regrettably, that is too much of a sacrifice to make it viable any longer.

As horrible as that news is, there are silver linings. In my NullSec days I used to rat with a medium shield boosted HAM Tengu that I still have to this day. It hasn't fired a shot in over two years but it was a joy to use with its high mobility and in excess of 900 DPS output. Tanked for a specific damage type, it could handle all but the most severe sites and it made me a truck load of ISK when I was using it. For exercise, I thought I'd just make sure that I could still use it as I had and the good news that yes, it was still very comfortable in that role and just as effective. What I didn't expect is that I could make it Covert Ops and Interdiction Nullified too. The downside was going to be damage application in that set up, however. There just weren't enough mid slots for a target painter to assist the HAMS in hitting their target, so I opted for a Heavy Missile variant, allowing me to fit a large booster and a capacitor battery for neut resistance. The end result is pretty impressive.

650 DPS
10% shield boost per cycle [3.2 secs]
560 metres per second
Cap stable!

Carry around a depot with specific hardeners for the enemies you're facing and you have yourself a ship that can effectively rat in hostile space with impunity. No bubble camp can stop you unless you fuck up quite badly.

I'm sure there's someone out there who will come up with a better variant, I only spent about ten minutes on this fit, but it was pretty easy to do, so I encourage you all to log into Singularity and play around with the new fits yourselves. There's even some logistics bonuses that are certainly going to add a whole new level of versatility to these ships. The possibilities look very promising.

Fly safe o7

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Un-natural Habitat

Our most recent contract has been more protracted than most. For OpSec reasons I don't have all of the details, but our client has had quite enough of the Cavemen Alliance wreaking havoc on their favoured region of HiSec space, so much so that they were willing to part with a significant amount of ISK to have their Fortizar destroyed. Last weekend was dedicated to the Shield and Armour facets of the reinforcement and now a week later we assemble to finish the job. The beauty of Wormholes is that this sort of task is over in three days and there's no such thing as asset safety so the loot drops can be a very nice cherry on the pie, in HiSec it's a one week operation and there's little chance of securing any loot, but the contract and content ought to be loot enough.

As we have counted down the days our target has had a number of allies come to their aid so as we form up our high alpha fleet and coordinate with our own allies, the stage is well set for a battle of epic proportions. We make our way to our staging system and lay in wait behind a wormhole close to our target system as the timer ticks down. Our fleet composition of Sleipnirs, Hurricane Fleet Issues and Basilisks is designed around a hit and fade philosophy. We will strike targets of opportunity with 720mm Artillery fire and use our speed to withdraw before being overwhelmed. Whilst our 18 Artillery fit Battlecruisers were well buffered and capable of outstanding alpha, our logistics wing of just four Basilisks was concerning. The plan was to land after our allies in the hope that our Logistics wing wouldn't be high on the priority list. It was a vain hope and, in the end, bought them very little time.

Landing on grid moments after our allies the conflict was just kicking off. The defenders had formidable numbers, roughly thirty Rattlesnakes, fifteen Ospreys and a what seemed like and endless supply of Blackbirds, Griffins and various Tech I Cruisers. We immediately pulled to our optimal range and primaried their Vulture to get their boosts off the field. It was in low structure when the reps landed, saving it for a minute or so until the DPS was able to overcome the shield reps. From there it became our mission to wipe as much DPS off the field in quick order. Hurricanes were aplenty and were savaged by the high alpha artillery output. It was even uglier for the Blackbirds when they allowed themselves to become untethered, being instantly destroyed. As well as the battle was going for us, the same could not be said for our Basilisk wing. All four were quickly dispatched, leaving our fleet to fend for ourselves. The hit and fade tactics were employed with good effect and despite taking losses, we certainly inflicted more than we suffered.

The same could not be said for our allies however, for every ship we destroyed the enemy would quickly redeploy their pod to the nearby Azbel and re-ship. It was a shooting gallery but there were just too many ducks to shoot. The lack of interdiction in HiSec space was ultimately our undoing. Being unable to dictate terms and stop pods from escaping meant that the hive could just continue to swarm until we ran out ways to swat them away.

Eventually overcome, our allies could no longer sustain their own fleets so we withdrew, too. The after action report shows the defenders lost 130 ships for our combined losses of 38 ships. What looks like a resounding success on the face of it was actually a significant loss in terms of ISK, with our fleets suffering 22 billion ISK in losses compared to 10 billion. Moreover, the Fortizar survived, so the mission was ultimately unsuccessful. From a Holesale perspective however, we carried our weight, in both ledgers of ships killed and ISK damage inflicted we came out on top, further underscoring the effectiveness of the artillery shield doctrine.

Whilst it was a great fight, HiSec leaves a sour taste. I'll not turn down an opportunity for an engagement like that again, but I'd far prefer it to be in Anoikis next time. I think Bob would, too.