30 December 2011

First Null-Sec Roam Ends Badly

Kaeda Maxwell (Jaguar) and Starwalker (Hookbill) set off to roam around and see what trouble they could get into. They started in Pure Blind but were soon into Cloud Ring and then the Outer Ring.

A Rifter appeared briefly on gate and Kaeda instructed Starwalker to jump through the gate and potentially catch the Rifter on the other side. The Rifter duly came through but Starwalker had not de-cloaked yet and the targeting failed. Starwalker tried to de-cloak but it was too late, the Rifter was gone.

The roam continued and Kaeda decided that they would head to the End of the Universe – A2V6-6. It seemed like the entire pipe, that was apparently popular with ratters and those improving their security status, was largely empty. Although, strangely, there was an abandoned Velator near the YVA-F0 gate – so they ended its existence with a couple of bursts of rocket fire. Starwalker went to jump through the gate but the aggression timer was active and so they waited for the timer to expire.

Heading back down the pipe, they went into Fountain and flirted with the odd potential target like a Tengu but it amounted to nothing. It looked like they would get no action and so they headed back to Pure Blind. Then a few jumps from the end a Cynabal landed with Starwalker on the gate. The targeting failed as it simply jumped through but Kaeda was on the other side.

Starwalker jumped through and Kaeda commanded: “Burn back to the gate and hold”. The Cynabal decided it was going to fight as it targeted Starwalker’s Hookbill and opened fire. Kaeda engaged it with the Jaguar and a Hurricane and Tornado jumped through. The situation had just changed and Starwalker asked: “Shall we jump?” Kaeda understood it as warp away and noted “…I am pointed” but Starwalker had meant jump through the gate. First mistake, he had forgotten gate mechanics.

In the confusion, Starwalker thought he had heard “yes… I am pointed” or effectively get away, I will follow you or try to warp away. So Starwalker jumped. Second mistake, he did not independently assess the situation, just waited for a command.

As soon as Starwalker jumped he realized that Kaeda could not jump through the gate because of the aggression timer. And almost simultaneously, that the three ships on the other side meant that Kaeda’s Jaguar would not escape. Starwalker was on the wrong side of the gate - “Shall I jump back?” But Kaeda was too busy trying to burn down the Cynabal to respond and so Starwalker burnt back to the gate and jumped. Third mistake, it was too late to fight now.

No Jaguar, no fight, just the Cynabal, Hurricane and Tornado. It was over. Starwalker warped to the next gate. He was disappointed in himself for having left a Rebel to fight alone and that he had jumped. It didn’t matter whether he thought Kaeda was telling him to escape - he should have stayed. Fortunately, Kaeda was disappointed but philosophical about the Jaguar loss.

The reason Starwalker should have stayed was because he agreed with Kaeda’s assessment. There was a chance to take down the Cynabal, even with the two battlecruisers present. The Jaguar alone could not take down the Cynabal but the Jaguar and Hookbill had a real chance. Of course, they would die in the process but it would be a good exchange and worth trying to kill the Cynabal.

If the fight was simply lost and there was no chance that the Cynabal would go down THEN it would have been reasonable to escape. Instead, it was an opportunity missed because Starwalker also thought they could kill the Cynabal.

It was for that reason that Starwalker was disappointed and why for him the first Null-Sec roam had ended badly. However, every cloud has a silver lining and a couple of good lessons were learnt:
  • Assess the situation and decide whether to fight or not yourself, especially if the situation calls for potentially sacrificing your ship
  • Fighting on gates requires knowing gate mechanics, whether you will be fired on or not and when you can use them or not

29 December 2011

Stilletto Tackles for Gang on Arzad Gate

Starwalker prepared to set off again for Pure Blind after his previous attempt ended in being podded in 93PI-4. Another new Rifter was pulled into service, the last from this station, and the journey started.

It started uneventful and Starwalker started to read the EVE News as the jumps blurred into one another. Then arriving at a star gate there was a Stilletto, a well-known interceptor ship, providing tackle for a gang. Starwalker jumped through to Arzad and the Stilletto followed, piloted by Wynning Blodtann.

Starwalker waited, holding cloak, as there was nothing else on the other side except for the Stilletto but just maybe the Stilletto was on its way elsewhere. It was not flashy red so Starwalker was not about to attack it. If it was part of a gang then no doubt the gang was inbound.

Starwalker attempted to warp away and the Stilletto engaged, establishing a fast scramble. Starwalker did not hesitate and went for the Stilletto, if he was going down he wanted to take the Stilletto with him.

The Stilletto quickly entered armour and started to burn away looking for escape, the rest of its gang hadn’t arrived yet and was taking longer than expected. Starwalker chased the Stilletto and overheated the mid-slots but the Stilletto was too fast and moved out to around 20km as his friends arrived.

Starwalker started to burn towards the gate as the gang was starting to engage at range. A Thrasher tried to establish a point as the Stilletto came back in and damage was starting to arrive from the Thrasher’s 250mm artillery and jjohnpaul’s CN Scourge heavy missiles. Zenton Karvash’s Tachyon Beam Lasers were missing and that might have made the difference as Starwalker’s Rifter entered deep armour damage.

Starwalker starting firing at the Stilletto again and it entered structured but Starwalker had forgotten to reapply scramble and the Stilletto warped away in deep structure. However, it was the Stilletto that had Starwalker’s Rifter scrambled and as he warped away Starwalker was also able to warp away trailing fire. He had escaped! Starwalker was pleased at how well his “heavy tank” Rifter had performed under fire.

Very soon Starwalker was continuing his journey after applying copious amounts of nanite paste to the badly overheated modules. Fortunately, the rest of the journey was uneventful as Starwalker chose to dock up before entering Pure Blind and then entered cautiously at a quiet time.

Starwalker made his way to the Pure Blind station that had his Caldari Navy Hookbills, delivered by Starstepper. Starstepper had narrowly avoided destruction from gate camps in EC-P8R from Torrinos whilst Starwalker was doing the tourist thing in New Eden.

The Hookbill, a new ship for Starwalker and one that he was looking forward to flying – its sleek black lines would look good in flames.

28 December 2011

Impatience and Laziness Leads to Loss

Starwalker was a long way from Pure Blind. He was on his way to meet up with various Rebels but it was a long, long way from the usual haunts. A long trip coupled with his natural inclination towards impatience and laziness was not a good combination. It was almost inevitable that this impatience and laziness would lead to a loss.

It was Starwalker’s first time in null-sec space and he had read about the bubbles that can trap ships like a giant web but now he had a chance to experience it. The impatient “jump” from 93PI-4 to G-M418 started off as normal but as the star gate approached so did the bubble that looked like the force field around a POS.

The Rifter’s speed dropped and Starwalker did what seemed sensible but was probably wrong – burnt towards the gate with the module being overheated. That might have worked given enough time but of course the waiting Daredevil was ready to pounce and quickly closed to around 700m. Starwalker reacted and in the excitement of hitting various commands, like turning on damage control, the shoot command was lost.

Eventually, Starwalker realized he was not shooting and tried to shoot back. The Daredevil shields disappeared quickly but the Rifter was entering structure. Starwalker looked to escape with the pod but was simply too slow. The Rifter burst into a million pieces and before the pod could make an exit it too was caught and Starwalker was back in his clone vat. Strangely, he was now further away from Pure Blind than when the journey started.

It was a painful loss of nearly ISK 80 million in implants but as Starwalker emerged from the clone vat he fitted another set of nearly ISK 80 million implants and upgraded the clone. That was an expensive lesson, however, lesson learnt - patience is important, especially going from gate to gate in null-sec.

26 December 2011

Late 9 Month Review

In the last 6-month review Starwalker had noted that it was time to harden up or ship out. Starwalker had almost shipped out but a timely reminder – expect every ship to have a fiery death - had infused him with a new sense of enthusiasm.

The focus for the previous review had been on four areas:
  1. Ships - focus on a few ships and fits, suited to you, to learn to fly and fight. Only fly (and fit) what you can afford to lose and whilst taking risks is fine, try to avoid silly losses such as being destroyed by sentry guns
  2. Combat - maintain situational awareness and use all tools (display, local, overview...) and modules in combat and overheat
  3. Skills - focus training plan on particular ships, fits and skills needed. Be flexible and change the plan as needed but use the plan. Optimise that plan where possible such as using implants and a neural remap
  4. Base - select a small number of bases based on most important need such as central to roaming locations

Starwalker’s focus was still on frigates. There had been the occasional foray into something bigger but Starwalker liked frigates. Ship fitting philosophy was evolving around relative superiority and Starwalker was settling onto two types of builds:
  • Brawler - slower, tank type that aims to establish superiority by lasting longer than expected to gain the kill. There is one significant variant and that is to go all out damage for a fast kill. Downside for brawler is that it is unlikely to be able to dictate range and runs a significant risk of being kited to death
  • Kiter – faster type that sacrifices tank for agility and speed and relies on speed and range to reduce or avoid damage. Being able to dictate range is critical and this type runs a significant risk of being caught in close combat
Combat offered the same challenges, knowing what to do is not the same as doing it. This had been demonstrated most recently when taking on a Wolf and forgetting to change the ammunition to explosive. Starwalker was contemplating using rockets with the Caldari Navy Hookbill as one opportunity to compensate for known weaknesses.

Skills training had remained focused with a good number of level 4 and 5 skills completed and contributing to the now 14 million skill points. In addition, Starwalker was sporting +4 implants to speed up training. The current focus was to get more Navigation and Missile skills to 5.

In terms of bases, Starwalker was actually now moving to a new model. The hi-sec base was established with Starstepper and the low-sec bases had been consolidated and reduced to a few ships in Heimatar, Molden Heath and Pure Blind. Starwalker now had lots of surplus ships and equipment and was considering liquidating the stock. In short, to buy what he needed when he needed it or just in time.

Starwalker was enjoying life in New Eden again and being in R1FTA. 

23 December 2011

Tourist in New Eden

Starwalker exited the wormhole in Heild and was in New Eden. That was fast. It was also the first time through a wormhole but he remembered to bookmark both sides.

Being in New Eden was also a first and Starwalker did the tourist thing of taking some pictures. The serenity of the moment was interrupted by a video call from Starstepper, who immediately burst out with "I nearly died here in Pure Blind, moving your stupid Hookbills. A Talos got me down to 56% structure before I warped away".

Starwalker wanted a small number of ships, equipment and ammunition (one ship load) moved on a just in time basis to any new location. Also, as Anxiir had noted those ships remained packaged for easy transport away again. Starwalker had been around long enough to know that his ship of choice and ship fitting was continuously changing - another good reason not to build them and leave them there.

"Did you scout ahead, check for a back door route or go at a quiet time?" The answer was impolite and Starwalker simply noted: "Well you had better make sure your clone is up to date then".

19 December 2011

Bait? Coming in Hot

The d-scan showed a Rifter in the area but it was very strange. The pilot - sl Garsk – seemed to be bouncing around the celestials but for no apparent reason. If he was ratting, he would be in the same place and similarly if he was bait.

Of course, if he were hunting then he would typically be d-scanning from a safe. He might be the hunted, but then no other ships showed up so that didn’t seem to be the reason. Strange or not Starwalker decided to hunt him down. If he were bait then Starwalker’s Rifter would be coming in hot!

Shortly afterwards the target was scanned down to an asteroid belt and rather than wait any longer for him to bounce again Starwalker warped in to zero. Surprise! The target Rifter was there but so was a Republic Fleet Firetail (Endureth). No time to check whom the other pilot was, and so Starwalker went for the Rifter on the basis it was closest and being hunted by two people.

Starwalker ran into the usual problem when coming out of warp – some commands seemed to be lost by initiating actions too early like target and approach. However, when Starwalker was around 14km away sl Garsk warped away and Starwalker was now being bombarded with artillery from the Firetail, around 18km away. This was not looking good, as there was a real possibility of being kited to death. Equally, why had the Firetail switched targets, unless Starwalker was always their target? But if so, why had sl Garsk run, perhaps to save his Rifter?

Never mind the speculation – time to act. Starwalker decided to burn away to a random celestial with the afterburner overheated. This was not especially to run but to try and slingshot and then get into close range. If that could be achieved then the Firetail would go down fast, however, the Firetail was fast and maneuverable and might be difficult to pin down.

Before that plan could even really begin a Stabber Fleet Issue arrived on the scene. This was simply too much and the Firetail must have felt the same as he dropped point, and so Starwalker’s Rifter took the opportunity to simply warp away. This Rifter would burn, but not today.

17 December 2011

Fly Fast, Shoot First, Do or Die

Starwalker was cruising around Heimatar, with a new attitude - fly fast, shoot first, do or die. It was overcoming risk aversion with more fights and Starwalker was looking for a fight, same class or above class.

He found it in the form of a Wolf in Aliette, piloted by Hogaarr. Starwalker checked the Battleclinic killboard and Hogaarr had lots of kills so this was not an easy fight with a Rifter against a Wolf. Previously, Starwalker would have simply moved on but this time was different.

Starwalker went to a customs office, to be easily found, and started to d-scan for the Wolf location. No need. The Wolf arrived on scene about 50km away. Starwalker started to burn towards the Wolf and wondered if it would possible to get under the guns and do some damage.

Setting the auto-cannons and rockets to overheat the Rifter targeted and engaged the Wolf, setting the range to 600m. The range closed but only to around 1800m and the auto-cannons from both ships spat death at each other. The Wolf shields melted away but the armour was much tougher and Starwalker realized his first mistake – Republic Fleet Phased Plasma.

This ammunition choice was fine for T1 ships but nigh on useless against a Wolf. It was too late to try and change the ammunition and Starwalker could see that the Rifter armour was being riddled with bullet holes. It wouldn’t be much longer. This was when Starwalker realised his second mistake – he hadn’t tried to overheat the afterburner to close into 600m. The Wolf was dictating range and had kept the Rifter from getting under its guns. The Rifter started to burn.

Starwalker aligned out with the Rifter in flames and started to spam the warp – not to save the ship but to save the pod. The shiny new Rifter, now riddled with holes and on fire, exploded into a ball of fire and was no more and out of the dying flames the pod emerged and raced away to safety.

Starwalker had lost another ship – to be expected, every ship would have a fiery death. So what about those other factors for risk aversion?
  • Killboard, another loss – so what?
  • Target selection, above class fight so not an easy kill but some lessons learnt – so good outcome
  • Sense of loss – around ISK 9 million, so not so bad. Lost a ship, sure but that was lost anyway it was only a question of when and how
The pod docked in the home station and Starwalker realized that he had no more Rifters to lose. Well, time to buy some more then and maybe it was time to see what else would look good in flames.

16 December 2011

Overcoming Risk Aversion with More Fights

Miura Bull was describing the R1FTA School of Hard Knocks and it reminded Starwalker of what seemed to have been forgotten: expect every ship to have a fiery death. The only questions are when and how.

Flying the ship was more important than looking at it. Fighting in the ship to a fiery death was why Starwalker was in New Eden. So what had happened? It seemed that this truth had been lost and risk aversion had become more dominant than fighting spirit.

Starwalker realized that this risk aversion was being fed by:
  • Killboard – and perceived efficiency or getting more kills than losses
  • Target selection – and wishing to find easy kills
  • Sense of Loss – losing ships and/or pod and its financial impact
To a much lesser extent the risk aversion was also being fed by the lack of confidence (and skill) to engage small groups with the intent of divide and conquer.

Starwalker felt like he had just pushed through a barrier, that he could fly and fight in New Eden with a renewed sense of purpose and enthusiasm. That enthusiasm had almost disappeared with the many long hunts and few short fights.

Starwalker looked towards the space dock and smiled as the ship looked shiny and new – time to see if tonight could be fiery death for that ship or preferably the target ship. Either way Starwalker was looking for a fight, same class or above class.

Perhaps this attitude would result in being too aggressive and silly losses but that would be better than few or no fights. Without fights, without losses Starwalker would never become a better pilot.

Starwalker had a new credo - fly fast, shoot first, do or die. He reached for his black jacket and walked towards the shiny new ship, smiling.

12 December 2011

Many Long Hunts and a Few Short Fights

Starwalker looked back over his flight logs and was frustrated over the amount of time out flying and looking for a fight versus the actual time fighting. This was not the immediacy and availability of combat that he wanted but equally the universe and the possibilities pulled him in and kept him in New Eden.

It was both very frustrating and oddly compelling to search for targets, to not know what was out there and how things would end, hopefully badly for someone else. Long hunts tended to be like prospecting for gold – lots of work for the chance of a big reward. The reward was hopefully a good fight and a kill, with the fights being short, addictive, adrenalin rushes and like any addiction there is a strong compulsion to find the next rush.

Current reality was that it was many long hunts to a few short fights, not counting gate camps or ganks. But the rush… So whilst at times, that rush is hard to find the odds can be increased, by hunting with others. Starwalker knew that he was a lone wolf at heart but sometimes coming together with other lone wolves to form a wolf pack was fun. A wolf pack opens more opportunities for finding targets because the range of targets that can be engaged becomes greater.

Many long hunts and a few short fights – when stated so clearly, did Starwalker have the patience and perseverance? Starwalker sat back from the neocom console and looking over his shoulder saw the Thrasher floating in the space dock. He felt the pull - the need for the next rush, it was time to hunt.

4 December 2011

Small Bases in Strategic Locations

Starwalker felt like a new capsuleer after his holiday. Whilst away, the recent upgrade to optics had resulted in the universe and its nebulae being shown in brilliant colours and even visible engine trails. Nice new touches. However, not everything was new and Starwalker turned to the neocom console to see where all his assets were located – an old problem.

Selecting a base for operations was tricky because inevitably new bases were needed and moving between bases was either expensive or time consuming and dangerous. Starwalker had recently moved to yet a new model for organising ships and equipment – main base in hi-sec and small bases in strategic locations.

In short, one main base in hi-sec, in a central location with comparatively easy access to multiple low-sec bases, which were for fast re-shipping as needed between ship losses and a few consumables such as ammunition

The hi-sec base would be at or near a trade hub and this would be the main location for any purchased ships, common equipment such as auto-cannons and consumables such as ammunition.

Those low sec bases would change over time but they would only contain a few ships. Each of these small bases would only have one Mammoth (level IV) load of ships and equipment. This would allow that base to either be left there after moving to a new region or allow it to be easily moved, the probability being to simply leave the small stash of ships and ammunition there.