30 September 2011

T1 – Rifter Kited to Death

Starwalker undocked in a 400mm armour Rifter ready for some T1 tournament action with Super Space Fighter, who also arrived in a… Rifter. Good, game on - it should be a stand up fight, so let the brawl commence.

It started well with Starwalker flying in from the sun but then it all went horribly wrong as the distance did not get down to close quarter combat, the range remained at 10km to 15km. Starwalker’s 150mm auto cannons tried to lay down the hurt but fighting at that range was barely hitting and even overheating did not appreciably change the damage.

The artillery fit Rifter had no such trouble and was now tearing away Starwalker’s armour to get to the pod. The armour repair was not keeping up and a last desperate measure was tried – to overheat the afterburner to close the distance.

It was useless and in all the excitement Starwalker forgot the basic lesson – try to slingshot (move away and then back towards) a kiter to get into range. Eventually the armour was ripped away and then the structure to destroy (http://r1fta.griefwatch.net/?p=details&kill=2720) the valiant but doomed armoured Rifter. It had been kited to death.

26 September 2011

T1 – Another Rifter Bites the Dust

Kooba Kaundur came to Auner for a T1 tournament fight and Starwalker obliged with his trusty Rifter, waiting at a safe spot. The d-scan revealed that this would be a Rifter on Rifter duel and Starwalker spun up the engines and headed off in a random direction.

The enemy Rifter arrived on the scene and this time Starwalker quickly went through the lock, orbit, scramble, fire and overheat guns routine. It was immediately obvious that there was very little incoming damage but that the outgoing damage was seriously ripping apart the target’s shield and armour.

Kooba Kaundur’s Rifter tore apart (http://r1fta.griefwatch.net/?p=details&kill=2691) and the flames were quickly quelled by the cold dark of space. It was over and another Rifter bites the dust.

What was strange though was that the damage pattern echoed the one with Joe Struck:

The mystery remained as to why the damage was highest in the first 20 seconds or so of the fight. Perhaps the initial approach had a very low traversal but once the orbit settles in the traversal becomes higher and reduces the damage. One way to test this theory would be to use keep at range instead.

25 September 2011

T1 - Kestrel Kite Strikes Again

Duke Thunderhorse was in system looking for a T1 tournament victim. Starwalker answered the call and emerged in a new Kestrel after the last one got its comeuppance from Overnauta.

The Kestrel swooped into the fray and engaged from 18km. The missiles smashed into the Rifter and it was unable to respond. The Rifter shields disappeared and the red march through armour continued uninterrupted. The Duke was about to be demoted to a corpse when the capacitor ran out and the point dropped.

Duke Thunderhorse needed no second invitation to leave the dance and warped away. Starwalker waited, guessing that the Duke was bouncing between planets and trying to repair. Starwalker waited for the capacitor to recharge rather than waste a booster and then warped to the Duke for the last dance.

Duke’s Rifter hung limply in space near a huge planet. The Kestrel circled its prey, which was in bad shape with around 25% armour remaining but the shields had recharged back up to 90%. The Duke was bloodied but ready and went for one last throw of the dice with a do or die run at the Kestrel.

It was no good – he was too slow and too weak to put up much more of a fight and a few more shots laid the Duke to rest (http://r1fta.griefwatch.net/?p=details&kill=2695). The Kestrel kite had struck again.

22 September 2011

Evolution of Ship Fitting Philosophy

Starwalker had observed from the T1 Tournament and more experience with R1FTA that there was an evolution in his ship fitting philosophy. It was adding depth to the core idea of select a ship and fittings that was fit for purpose. Miura Bull had identified a number of different Rifter fits and a short description of each.

When Starwalker had first read through these variations it seemed like lots of different fits for different purposes such as Can Flipper and for different strengths such as 400 Beast and Shield Buff.

What was missed at the time was that the strength of each fit is very situational. That the selection of modules and rigs is balancing between damage, tank, capacitor, speed and range. The game rock, paper and scissors, is a very good analogy for how any individual ship fit could be countered. Similarly, when roaming in the wilds of space any encounter is basically random, so there is no prior knowledge of the right fit to use.

This randomness of encounter with ships fitted for situational strength creates a challenge - to fit the ship and blend the modules between damage, tank, capacitor, speed and range. The ideal is to surprise the opponent by establishing relative superiority where and when it matters:
  • More damage at combat range
  • Faster speed to establish range control and the range of combat (and reduce incoming damage)
  • Tank the incoming damage long enough to get the kill
  • Superior capacitor to continue to run systems whilst the opponent with no remaining capacitor is forced to shut down systems

The real challenge is that there is no one ship or fit that can do all of these things better than all other ships. So selecting a ship and fit is about fitting for a purpose such as low-sec roaming, scouting, tackling, damage dealing, electronic warfare, covert, repairing… and a fit that offers the “best” blend of capabilities for that purpose.

This understanding of relative superiority has led to another evolution of Starwalker’s ship fitting philosophy that has become clearer in hindsight:
  1. Initial focus was on kill or be killed – a simple damage race, who will be the first to get the kill. Emphasis on using simple cookie cutter builds but not really appreciating the reasons behind the fit 
  2. Next evolution was that survival is needed to apply damage, so tank is fitted first and damage second. In short, no damage if dead, so fit tank before guns 
  3. Current focus is on relative superiority – define a ship fit to counter most likely ships encountered and their methods of attack. Maximize intelligence to gain relative superiority in selection of tactics, ammunition and range 
The beauty and bane of the Rifter is that it is very flexible and can be fit in many ways. So it becomes important to define one or more fits based on intelligence, probabilities and personal preferences and decide on questions such as:
  • Fight in scramble or point range? 
  • How much tank is needed and what type of tank? 
  • How much damage is needed and what specific range to (generally) fight at? If range cannot be dictated then how does it affect tactics? 
  • How fast must the ship be to establish relative superiority in general? If slower then how does that affect tactics? 
  • Will neutralisers be used to attack the opponent capacitor or energy vampires to protect against such tactics? Will capacitor boosters or rechargers be needed? 
  • Should electronic warfare modules or counter measures be used? What tactics are needed if electronic warfare is used? 
Of course other frigates and indeed ships classes would offer their blend of strengths and weaknesses. Similarly, a pilot may feel a preference for close combat brawls one day but kiting the next, or to select a Merlin for close combat one day and then a Rifter the next.

Re-reading the Brutor Bullfighter’s list of Rifter fits and descriptions Starwalker noticed much more and appreciated the differences.

Experience had also shown that whilst ship fitting is important and will play its part in the result of a fight, many other factors also affect the outcome of a battle – most notably pilot error. Starwalker sipped some more whiskey it was time to consider how to apply this information.

T1 - Kestrel Gets Comeuppance

Overnauta was in his Rifter ready for T1 tournament combat and arrived on scene to find Starwalker’s Kestrel. The Kestrel moved in and engaged at a distance of around 18km. The Rifter tried to respond but the 150mm autocannons simply missed completely. It looked like the Kestrel would claim another victim.

It was looking bad for Overnauta but his luck was just about to change as Starwalker accidently burnt out his microwarpdrive and then his missile launchers. Starwalker was helpless, waiting for the inevitable end. The Rifter closed in and started scoring some real hits. The Kestrel shields dropped away but unexpectedly the firing stopped – Overnauta had in turn burnt out his guns!

The real result was right there – a draw due to both pilots burning out their weapons. But this was the Black Rebel Rifter Club and the right outcome is a kill!

So a rematch was agreed and a few minutes later the fight was on again. However, Starwalker was having trouble with the controls and despite trying to turn off the overheating on the missiles – it wouldn’t work. Starwalker was winning the fight but had to leave because his missile launchers had burnt out again. As soon as he did so he realized that it was a mistake and that he should forfeit the match.

Overnauta was very sporting and suggested a third and final match. Starwalker knew that he should change ships but since he should have lost the match already he decided to stay in the Kestrel and see what Overnauta could do – third time lucky.

Overnauta’s 280mm artillery fit Rifter managed to land reasonably close to the Kestrel from the warp-in and he lost no time in striking first. It was a good and massive hit and the Kestrel shield melted down to 25% immediately. Starwalker tried to gain a bit more range and delayed overheating the missile launchers because of the earlier trouble with overheating. It was a fatal mistake.

The Rifter continued to apply damage out to 20km but much less so and the Kestrel was slowly catching up, tearing away the Rifter shields and armour. But the excellent first strike start, the delayed overheating of missile launchers and a final well-aimed artillery shot decided the match. The Kestrel had got its comeuppance (http://r1fta.griefwatch.net/?p=details&kill=2690).

21 September 2011

T1 – Rifter versus Rifter Brawl

Starwalker issued a T1 tournament challenge in corporation chat and Joe Struck answered. He was a younger pilot but that did not necessarily mean much. Zodiac Black had been a younger pilot but had easily won the practice duels. Preparation, combat skills and effective ship fit could easily overcome any training skill deficit.

The decision now was what ship to choose? Close or ranged combat ship? Undocking a Rifter Starwalker headed to the rendezvous point. Joe Struck landed in a Rifter only 4km away and the fight was on.

What was clear immediately was that Joe Struck operated the ship controls much faster than Starwalker as the damage started coming in before Starwalker had even started. The shields disappeared almost immediately and Starwalker decided to overheat the auto cannons and rockets.

The armour repair started to deal with the incoming damage to the armour and Joe Struck’s Rifter was still comfortably in shield. Slowly the shield Rifter started to give way and then it went completely and was quickly followed by the armour and structure. It ignited (http://r1fta.griefwatch.net/?p=details&kill=2639) into a burst of flames and then it was gone. Starwalker had about 20% of armour still remaining.

The combat log revealed the tale of two damages and Starwalker noted the increased damage at the start, followed by a tailing off and then and a slight increase and tailing off again.

Starwalker did not understand why this particular pattern was produced and decided that more combat logs would need to be seen to understand the applied damage mechanics.

20 September 2011

T1 - Kestrel Kites Tristan to Death

Rebel Gul’gotha Der’vash issued a challenge in chat for a T1 Tournament duel – Starwalker accepted. It was agreed that it would take place in Auner and Starwalker undocked in his especially prepared Kestrel.

Gul’gotha arrived in system with his Tristan and Starwalker approached. Targeting the Tristan and settling into an orbit of 15km the missiles started to crash into the Tristan and inflicting damage.

As expected there was little or no return fire as the range was simply too great for most close combat ships but the Tristan had one trick to pull which was to release a Hobgoblin I drone. However, a single drone unassisted was simply no match and a couple of bursts of missiles destroyed it in short order.

The missile assault on the Tristan restarted and it looked like the Tristan could neither run away nor close the distance to catch the Kestrel. The only question that remained was would the firepower be sufficient to overcome the Tristan tank. It was time to overheat the missile launchers.

Unexpectedly Gul’gotha had an opportunity to escape as the Kestrel capacitor ran out and point dropped. Starwalker boosted the capacitor and reapplied the point. It was all over now unless the Tristan could pull off some fancy flying. It couldn’t or didn’t. The Tristan armour was stripped away and then its structure – it was helpless and exploded (http://r1fta.griefwatch.net/?p=details&kill=2634) in a fireball of death and destruction.

Good fights were exchanged and Starwalker reviewed the combat log to see the course of events in terms of dps:

It was clear to see the key stages of the fight

  1. Missiles start applying damage
  2. Hobgoblin I attack unassisted provides a tepid response with some hits and misses
  3. Drone is destroyed and attack on Tristan then continues
  4. Missiles are overheated with a noticeable impact in applied damage
This had proven to be interesting and Starwalker wondered whether there was a case for taking the Kestrel out into the wild. It could clearly take down a T1 frigate but could it do the same against a frigate with a T2 tank? Similarly, a Rifter had the opportunity for above class kills by getting under their guns but the Kestrel was more likely to be picked off at range. This was something else to think about.

19 September 2011

R1FTA T1 Tournament

Kaeda Maxwell arranged a R1FTA tournament based on T1 frigates and modules only with no ECM. Many of the R1FTA pilots signed up and Starwalker was no exception. The key of course was to define what ships and fits to use against whom. In essence two different fits would be needed one for close combat and one for ranged combat.

Starwalker had seen previously in corporation chat that range fits would generally do better in frigate duels than close combat fits. In essence you strike and kite the opponent to death, whilst typically being out of range of any return fire.

Numerous Rifter close combat fits could be modified for T1:
·       Shield (buffer) tanked with auto cannons and rockets | neutralisers | vampires
·       Armour (active and buffer) with auto cannons and rockets | neutralisers | vampires

Looking for a ranged fit, the search began with the favoured Rifter and using the 280mm ‘Scout’ Artillery I but that did not seem to have either the range or bite needed against multiple different targets. Whilst some other rebels had been successful with it, most notably Tomba, it seemed too easy for an opponent with a web to get close. Starwalker looked elsewhere and came to the Kestrel after re-reading Azual’s excellent articles on Know Your Enemy.

Starwalker had previously flown various Caldari ships during his pre-R1FTA days when missioning. Unfortunately an accident with the medical clone had removed 5% of skills and Standard Missiles V but that would be easy enough to train again.

The Kestrel fit created nominally had less DPS than the artillery Rifter but it could operate easily at a range between 15km-20km. At that range the Rifter DPS would fall off dramatically and 15km-20km was also comfortably outside of web range. So effectively the applied DPS would be higher and the chances of being caught by a close combat ship would be reduced.

So decision made, Starwalker went to the Neocom console to order the ships and equipment for the T1 Tournament. The final confirmation, if any were needed, was that another rebel - Rocanegra – had already successfully used a Kestrel.

16 September 2011

Rifter - 400mm Armour Fit

The fight with Tawa Suyo had ended in defeat but had also resulted in a very interesting post mortem about the Rifter fits used.

Tawa Suyo had engaged with a dual armour repair fit and at face value that had bested the combination of 400mm + armour repair. The key reason had been that the dual repairers had been able to keep pace with the incoming damage and repair it all but the buffer fit with one repairer had not been able to do the same. Consequently, over time the armour buffer was slowly eaten away with the single repair only able to slow the incoming damage not repair it all.

Starwalker had tried to innovate on the fit by taking a fairly standard 400mm + Micro Auxiliary Power Core (MAPC) fit and adding the small armour repairer instead of the MAPC. The compromise needed with Starwalker’s skills was to fit 3 small ancillary current routers:

This left the armour fit vulnerable to explosive damage and also removed some of the flexibility that might have been available with the rigs.

Tawa Suyo made a convincing point that it was better to go either buffer or active with the 400mm armour plate and not to try to do both since that required a fitting compromise. He also extolled the virtue of the neutraliser and that offensively it made more sense than fitting a rocket launcher. Not only did it potentially make the target ship helpless with no propulsion, active repair and so on it also provided a GTFO (get out fast) option if things were going badly.

Some good points about fitting and something to think about.

10 September 2011

Laid Low in Ladistier

The Rifter banked smoothly between the asteroid belts as Starwalker tested the agility of this 400mm armour fit. It was not as fast or agile as the shield fit Rifter but it had been successful recently. Whilst a full bank balance meant that any of the frigates in the market place were potential new purchases it needed careful consideration. No point in buying ships and equipment and finding that the wrong choice had been made.

So Starwalker was currently roaming in the ever-faithful Rifter with few targets and even fewer engagements recently. That was a strong reason why the challenge from Tawa Suyo in his Rifter was accepted. An opportunity to fight Tawa Suyo had presented itself a few weeks ago in Heimatar but Starwalker had moved on. The main reason had been because Tawa Suyo had a much better killboard and so Starwalker had looked elsewhere.

So what was different this time? Starwalker had decided that it was time to take more risks. If he was serious about becoming a better pilot then he had to engage more targets – even if that meant losing more often. No guts no glory.

The challenge was accepted and Starwalker arrived at Moon 2 about 50km away from Tawa Suyo. Very quickly the Rifters were locked in combat with death being spat from the guns. It was clear very quickly that the opponent had an armour fit and a good repair cycle going as all the damage was quickly repaired. Meanwhile Starwalker’s armour was slowly being torn away, with the 400mm buffer providing some extra time and the small armour repair fighting a losing battle against the incoming damage.

Tawa Suyo applied the neutralisers and Starwalker responded with the capacitor boosters. Suddenly, the enemy Rifter went into structure and Starwalker thought he was about to win, assuming that Tawa Suyo was capped out. It was not to be, the repair cycle kicked back in and nearly repaired all the armour damage. Starwalker’s armour was finally torn away and then the structure. Starwalker’s Rifter exploded (http://www.r1fta.killmail.org/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=10611340) and before the light show finished his pod was warping away to safety.

Good fights were exchanged and then for the first time outside of the R1FTA corporation a post mortem was held about the fight and fit. It was a really interesting discussion and Starwalker felt that he had learnt some more and whilst his Rifter had been laid low in Ladistier his spirits were high.

8 September 2011

Rest In Peace Starstrider Shikkoken

Starwalker returned to his quarters and noticed that a message was still flashing away in the Neocom console. He opened the message to find that he had become an ISK billionaire. Apparently the Caldari state had denied liability when a mass clone resurrection process failed but had decided to compensate victim families following a threat of legal action. Starstrider Shikkoken had inadvertently lost his immortality along with many others and Starwalker had become a beneficiary.

Starwalker felt nothing, no moment of recognition or sorrow or anything. However, he needed confirmation and found it with his wallet balance – he really was a billionaire. After, a few moments of stunned surprise Starwalker looked towards the market. Funds were now available to buy ships and equipment – it was time to think about ships beyond the Rifter. 

4 September 2011

Rifter Kill in Egghelende

It was generally quiet with few other lights in space apart from the stars. Starwalker moved from system to system looking for prey and found none. The punisher kill was still vivid and it drove Starwalker on – to seek the next adrenalin rush.

A Probe came up on d-scan at a customs office and Starwalker initiated warp to zero. It was gone. Starwalker aligned out and as had become customary more recently simply burnt away, as who knew what opportunity might present itself.

Indeed opportunity did present itself in the form of a Rifter that had arrived 45km away at the customs office. Starwalker hesitated for just a moment – he knew nothing about this pilot (Cable Udan) but then the desire to engage in mortal combat took over and Starwalker turned around and moved towards the Rifter. It was kill or be killed.

As the distance closed to 10km Starwalker engaged the afterburner, set orbit to 500m, turned on the warp scrambler and starting the guns blazing away. Range settled in at around 1500m – it was going to be a slugfest with the last man standing collecting the spoils of war.

Starwalker’s shields evaporated but that was to be expected in this active armour tank fit but the other Rifter was clearly sporting a shield Rifter as the little red bar had hardly made any progress around the dial. It was time to overheat the guns spewing phased plasma. Now, to check defence, the armour was being blown away so time to start the repair cycle.

Now the inflicted damage on Cable Udan's Rifter was going much better, the red damage bar was moving along the dial. Looking to defence and the armour repair cycle had slowed the rate of damage to the armour. Good. Aura chimed in with “the capacitor is empty” and Starwalker hit the capacitor booster. It was a new fit, one that had done well against the punisher and was doing fine now.

Everything was holding, the armour was now down to 25% left but the enemy Rifter was quickly moving through armour. Another capacitor boost was needed, and another. Udan Cable was fighting for his life but the end was inevitable and his Rifter exploded (http://r1fta.killmail.org/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=10556749).

Starwalker’s hands were shaking, his heart was pumping and he was elated. He tried for the pod but it got away. No matter. Starwalker quickly collected the meager loot and warped away. It was another kill and Starwalker was happy with that and basking in the afterglow of victory.

3 September 2011

Punished a Punisher in Lulm

Starwalker had been roaming around again with what seemed like little opportunity to find a victim. The closest to getting into a fight had been with a Tristan than was on grid but not interested in engaging and after maintaining a safe distance of 150km for a while it then simply warped away.

Making one last attempt for action Starwalker loitered around Lulm and scanned for targets. A Rifter appeared at one of a number of possible asteroid belts and Starwalker warped in to one at random at 20km but found empty space and a few wrecks left behind.

Starwalker aligned out but was in no hurry to leave and continued to scan when a Punisher warped into the belt. A quick check on employment history showed that this pilot was much older but taking the tip from Zodiac Black, Starwalker checked the killboard. The pilot, Reyner Ve’chroneus, was also inexperienced – game on.

Starwalker cruised in trying to conserve capacitor and the Punisher engaged. It was locked, webbed, scrambled and the autocannons started blazing away. Damage control was started and then the energy neutraliser was started. It would undoubtedly be armour tanked and killing the Punisher capacitor would make the ship helpless. Guns were overheated and it was looking good.

The Punisher was entering deep armour just as the Rifter capacitor hit zero. If the Punisher pilot was paying attention, then he could simply warp away from what was a lost fight. Either he did not know he could leave or he was living in a dreamland of victory – he stayed and died. The Punisher destruction (http://r1fta.killmail.org/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=10518486) was closely followed by the pilot’s pod (http://r1fta.killmail.org/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=10518510) being blown up too. Starwalker considered doing the piracy ransom thing but he wanted the kill more.

The fight was over and Starwalker collected the loot and corpse. After waiting out the GCC Starwalker returned to base to repair and enjoy the spoils of the kill.

2 September 2011

Message for Starwalker Shikkoken

The Neocom flashed with a message for Starwalker Shikkoken but it was too late. Starwalker was heading out into space hungry for a kill. The message could wait