26 May 2013

Power of Neuts and Tracking

Starwalker spotted a Tristan at a medium complex and warped in with this Merlin. He had void ammunition loaded even with the tracking penalty, as he expected the Tristan to be webbed and easily hit. Normally he used Caldari Navy antimatter but he wanted to try this heavier hitting ammunition this time.

The Tristan applied its neutralisers and Starwalker realised immediately that void consumed more capacitor resource and so the capacitor would stop sooner. He hoped that he could kill the Tristan before his capacitor ran dry. The Merlin blasted away and the Tristan was soon in structure but then the power of the neutralisers made themselves felt.

The Merlin's capacitor was finished and everything else stopped when it stopped, the web and point dropped, the ship came to a halt and the blasters stopped blasting. One or two more hits and it would have been all over but without any capacitor all the Merlin could do was wait for its destruction and eventually it exploded.

Starwalker was a little surprised to have lost to the Tristan at point blank range but he suspected that using orbit with the void ammunition might have played a part. So he checked the logs and could see that most of his shots were either grazes or glances, despite having the web applied to the Tristan. The hit quality was so poor that very little damage was being applied.

The problem was with the tracking of his neutron blasters and he had inadvertently exacerbated the issue by using orbit rather than keep at range. Orbit had the effect of increasing the angular velocity and reducing the incoming damage but it also had the effect of reducing the outgoing damage. He should have used keep at range, which minimised the angular velocity and so would increase both the incoming and outgoing damage.

Close range blaster fits would thrive in that type of brawl and Starwalker needed to maximise his blaster damage, especially when his ship was being neuted. He compared the tracking of neutron blasters with the two key close range ammunition types:
  • With Caldari Navy Antimatter ammunition the neutron blasters tracked at 0.47475 radians per second
  • With Void ammunition the neutron blasters tracked at 0.35606 radians per second
It was with some dismay that he realised that he should have checked those figures earlier as when he had practiced some manual piloting with Brink Albosa he had recorded some average angular velocity figures. His afterburner fit Merlin had sparred with Brink's afterburner fit Rifter:
  • Both ships orbiting between 0.5km and 1km had averaged an angular velocity of around 0.5 to 0.55 radians per second with a range from 0.44 to 0.66
  • Merlin using keep at range and Rifter orbiting had averaged around 0.4 radians per second with a range from 0.35 to 0.46
  • Merlin using keep at range with the afterburner turned off reduced the angular velocity to around 0.35 radians per second with a range from 0.3 to 0.4
In short, assuming that range control was not an issue, he should turn off his afterburner and use keep at range to maximise his damage output. As luck would have it Starwalker ran into the same pilot, archillae, again in a Tristan and he had the chance to try out the new tactic. It worked like a charm and the Tristan was a burning hunk of metal very quickly.

21 May 2013

First Daredevil Dies to Gate Camp

Starwalker had just fitted a brand new and very shiny Daredevil - he was looking forward to seeing what it could do. It had tremendous firepower at just over 400 DPS with void ammunition, rivalling the Enyo for sheer brute force.

[Daredevil, LNBSAAR]

Damage Control II
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II

Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I

Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S
[empty high slot]

Small Processor Overclocking Unit I
Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I

Starwalker took it for a spin and as seems usual when he had expensive ships - he lost it to a gate camp. This was no exception and within minutes of setting out he was back in station having lost both his ship and pod.

He was a little disappointed as he had accidentally clicked in space and it had revealed his Daredevil before he was ready to burn back to the gate. He had escaped the last three gate camps very successfully by aligning back to the gate and hitting his overheated propulsion module. The pod was lost because he took too long to realise he wasn't going to make it and that he needed to align out to any celestial and spam warp.

Back in station he went through the usual ritual of upgrading his clone and plugging in some more implants. He focused on just the learning implants as it seemed that having some speed implants made no real difference. He would need to consider whether he used speed implants anymore.

20 May 2013

27 Month Review

Starwalker was still patrolling the space lanes of New Eden mainly in frigates. It was a conscious choice to fly mainly T1 frigates as he enjoyed the flying style and the loss of ISK was easy to absorb. Over that time he had gravitated towards the blaster frigates, although he liked missiles and rockets too. The neutron blaster Merlin had established itself as his favourite T1 frigate.

He had recently started to take much more notice of range control, especially with the predominance of fast kiting ships in space. Range control was an area that he felt he was improving but also that there was more improvement to be had. The same was true of manual piloting and Starwalker had resolved to do more to improve his flying skills. Indeed recently he had been practicing flying the slingshot manoeuvre with Brink Albosa.

Starwalker was sure that he would continue to fly many other ships and try different fits as he enjoyed experimenting. He had recently purchased PLEX to allow for the loss of more expensive ships, in particular the pirate faction frigates that he had never flown. He felt that he was ready to lose his first Dramiel or Daredevil. He also felt that he was a better pilot than he had been, as he was more aware of ships and what they could do and his own capabilities and limitations. Starwalker was killing more ships than he was losing and that was his ultimate goal.

17 May 2013

Manual Piloting

Starwalker had aspirations to be a better pilot and part of that was to understand the art of manual piloting. When to use manual piloting and when to use the standard approach, orbit and keep at range commands. There were four situations that seemed to matter:
  1. Approaching a ship with long range weapons and trying to minimise incoming damage via a spiral approach (approaching at a 45 to 60 degree angle to increase angular velocity)
  2. Manual orbiting to either increase angular velocity to reduce incoming damage or decrease angular velocity to increase outgoing damage
  3. Breaking orbit to escape from scramble or more usually point range
  4. Slingshot to bring a kiter from point range into scramble range
Starwalker had tried to spiral into ships (Talos, Coercer and Thrasher) but they had each ended with the destruction of his ship before he could get under the guns. On other occasions he had started to spiral in (Omen and Cormorant) but was unable to take the incoming damage and had left again before being destroyed. Whilst spiralling was a technique he had seen Azual Skoll demonstrate on video he had yet to master it.

Prometheus Exenthal had said on manual orbiting:

For 98% of situations, a combination of orbit/k@r/approach will be all that's required. Maybe a click here and there to change trajectory, but that's all.

Manual orbiting is very much overrated and really only serves two main purposes;
1. slingshotting to get tackle on kiting targets
2. kiting/running away in x direction (the latter can be done via aligning since there's usually a moon somewhere)
For nearly everything else, those 3 buttons (and the right-clicks therein) will serve you better.

If you've overshot your target, manual piloting probably isn't going to get you under guns much faster (unless say frigate vs bs).
Technically if you're operating outside of warp range, that'd manual piloting. But that doesn't achieve much.

For everything other than the most niche of niche situations, manual piloting doesn't give you an edge any more than having properly set buttons.

Elitists will say otherwise, naturally.

Petrus Blackshell wrote Magic Nullification: Countering Kiting. In particular he identified two techniques to catch a kiter, both requiring good use of overheating the propulsion module:
  • When you see a kiter approaching you, watch for the direction his engine trails show up in, and double click in space directly opposite to them
  1. Double click in a random direction in space, preferably right behind where the kiter is.
  2. Turn on your propulsion mod (MWD preferably, but AB can work too)
  3. Run a cycle or so in that direction.
  4. Double click in the complete opposite direction (possibly slightly to the side), overheat things, and get ready to catch yourself a kiter.
Starwalker had also seen variations of the slingshot manoeuvre that had used keep at range set to a very high value to move away from the kiter and then watching the radial velocity (-value = towards +value = away) turn negative to then approach. His experience so far was that slingshots worked reliably when the two ships had comparable speeds but was unreliable as the difference in speed increased substantially, especially for afterburner fit ships chasing very fast MWD fit ships.

Manual piloting was still something of a black art for Starwalker but he felt that on occasion it was very useful. He would certainly experiment with it some more and no doubt would lose some ships in the process.

12 May 2013

Merlin Meets Breacher at Sun

Starwalker had gained a new appreciation of range control and was actively trying to apply that to each engagement. He was generally using a neutron blaster fit Merlin and knew that he was especially vulnerable to scramble range kiters and point range kiters. He had moved from the Merlin with two magnetic field stabilisers to this version after his EFT analysis:

[Merlin, LNBMSE]

Damage Control II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Micro Auxiliary Power Core II

1MN Afterburner II
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
Stasis Webifier II
Medium Shield Extender II

Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S

Small Core Defense Field Extender I
Small Core Defense Field Extender I
Small Core Defense Field Extender I

His Merlin carried the two key ammunition choices - Caldari Navy Antimatter (CNAM) as a short range, high manage ammunition with an optimal range of ~1.1km and falloff of ~3.1km and long range Null ammunition with respectively ~3.2km and ~4.4km. These ammunition ranges dictated that up to ~3km CNAM was the best choice for high damage but beyond that Null became the right choice.

Starting with the right ammunition was important and by accident Starwalker used CNAM against a Breacher, typically a scramble range kiter. Whilst he knew that Null would be the better choice he had pre-loaded CNAM and simply forgot to change it. His Merlin was at the sun when the Breacher arrived and so as the Breacher approached he overloaded the afterburner to get into close range.

He knew that the Breacher would be able to establish range control but overheating the afterburner worked and the range closed to around 1km. But it did not last as the Breacher tried to gain range again. Starwalker left the overheat on as he knew the Breacher was faster and a lot of damage was being inflicted on it despite its active shield tanking.

Starwalker was so busy trying to keep the Breacher in range that he did not notice his afterburner's heat damage and it burnt out. As the range increased he switched ammunition to Null to try to keep hitting the Breacher but it was gaining range fast and actually was leaving the fight. Since there was no scramble Starwalker took the opportunity to leave too and dock up and repair. Whilst in station the Breacher pilot, Mec Anders, challenged him to a rematch. Apparently Mec Anders had some problem with his medium ancillary shield booster and wanted to leave the earlier fight to sort that out.

The Merlin undocked with Null loaded this time and went to the sun. The Breacher closed in and Starwalker used the same tactic of overheating his afterburner when the two ships were about 25km apart. The range closed to around 2km and Starwalker had started firing from around 10km. As the Breacher tried to open up the range again the Merlin continued to rain fire on it and it was soon very clear that the Breacher would not survive and shortly afterwards it was just another wreck.

The Breacher had a very traditional rocket fit along with a medium ancillary shield booster:

[Breacher, Mec Anders's Breacher]

Damage Control II
Ballistic Control System II
Overdrive Injector System II

1MN Afterburner II
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
Medium Ancillary Shield Booster

Rocket Launcher II, Mjolnir Rage Rocket
Rocket Launcher II, Mjolnir Rage Rocket
Rocket Launcher II, Mjolnir Rage Rocket

Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Anti-Thermal Screen Reinforcer I

Starwalker knew that choosing the right ammunition was really important and these two fights really illustrated the difference in performance quite clearly. If the range was likely to be anywhere with scramble range then Null was the right choice. If the fight was going to take place around 1km then CNAM was the right choice. By default he would pre-load Null as only a few ships would typically brawl up close (Incursus, Merlin..), many more would kite (Condor, Breacher...).

6 May 2013

Harpy Destroyed by Station Camp

Starwalker had undocked in his Merlin looking for trouble and this hapless cyno-ship was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. He had warped in, fired a shot and then warped out and back again. This allowed him to kill the Magnate at leisure and when he shot the pod the sentry guns opened fire again. This Merlin had just over 8k EHP and so he had time to collect the corpse and go.

Starwalker had fitted up a nice Harpy to go with his complement of Merlins and took it out into the space lanes of New Eden. This cyno-ship was hardly a stern test of ship capability but he felt almost obliged to take an easy kill and at least it showed that it could take the sentry gate gun fire for a short while. In fact, long enough to not bother warping away before killing this cyno-ship piloted by Talia Tessony. Starwalker accidently left the system by the wrong gate and when he came back in Talia had a second cyno-ship up but not for long.

A little while later a quick directional scan of the next system revealed a Tristan and that it was ratting. Starwalker warped in to the asteroid belt and the Tristan was soon destroyed along with the pod. He docked up to take a short break in station and when he undocked he saw three ships at the undock, two Cynabals and a Talos. He decided to try to warp to the out gate wondering if he should have simply re-docked. It was an insta-locking station camp and the once proud Harpy was a ball of flames within a few seconds. He should have simply re-docked his ship and waited.

As always, the loss of a ship was no reason to stop flying and soon Starwalker was in space with another Harpy using the same fit:

[Harpy, MWDMSE]

Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Pseudoelectron Containment Field I
Micro Auxiliary Power Core II

Medium Shield Extender II
Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator

Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
[empty high slot]
Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S

Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I

He landed in a medium complex where a Vengeance decided to take his Harpy on and it came in to a really close orbit. Tactically that was a mistake, as the Harpy was blaster fit not railguns. The Vengeance armour tank struggled to keep up with incoming damage and then finally it gave out and the once proud Vengeance exploded. Something similar happened shortly afterwards with this Thrasher.

However, Starwalker did not have it all his own way as he landed into another complex and all three ships were just waiting for their next victim - the Harpy was soon gone. Similarly, a short while later his Merlin succumbed to a gate camp. Starwalker then spotted an Incursus and warped his Merlin into the complex. The Incursus was waiting and its first action was to gain range and start using its railguns. Starwalker tried to manually pilot towards the Incursus with an overheated afterburner but the range closed far too slowly and his Merlin expired from sheer exhaustion.

Starwalker loved the sheer firepower of blasters but kiters presented a real challenge as the blasters were a short range weapon system. He knew that trying to move directly towards kiters failed miserably, so he would try to move away and slingshot them in future. It would likely result in the loss of a number of brawlers as he had very little success to date with using a slingshot to get targets into scramble range.

5 May 2013

Butterfly Effect on a Ship Fit

Starwalker had long held the desire to be able to evaluate a ship fit and determine objectively whether ship fit A was better than ship fit B. Similarly, to understand the relative performance of selecting module A instead of module B. It was not possible beyond a purely theoretical scenario, there were too many variables and like in Chaos Theory a sensitive dependence on initial conditions or the butterfly effect.

The butterfly effect was also coupled with the rock, paper, scissors nature of New Eden. Particular types of ships had hard counters or could be put into situations to exploit weaknesses. Given the random nature of encounters it was entirely possible to lose a fight before it had even started, such as this experimental Heron, that never even got close to killing the light missile Condor, or this Breacher that landed at zero on a blaster Merlin and did not survive long enough to get out of range of the blasters.

Whilst the butterfly effect was in effect in full force in New Eden it was possible to make generalised statements about when to use one ship or module in preference to another, such as a brawler or kiter fit frigate or a web versus a tracking disruptor. It always came down to making choices and compromises and Starwalker had pondered those choices interminably as it related to fitting ships and defining his preferred combination of speed, damage and tank for any one ship.

Starwalker decided to do some EFT style warrior work to help decide on fine tuning a ship fit. Whilst it was not possible to objectively answer the question of whether a Condor was better than a Merlin or which ship would win in any one random encounter, it was possible to compare one Merlin fit to another. So assuming two brawling Merlins, which would win if both fought at their optimal range. And that was the key to defining the scenario - the ships had the same optimal range and all other factors were equal. 

Perhaps his favourite ship over time had been the Merlin, even back when it had sported two turrets and two launchers, as opposed to the newer three turret version. It was certainly this first ship he had lost in a fight, an arranged tournament in the Ambivalence Co-operative. Currently, Starwalker favoured the Merlin with a neutron blaster fit with two magnetic field stabilisers, EFT:

Awesome firepower (> 200 DPS) for a frigate with a very respectable tank (~6.5k EHP). However, he questioned whether the second magnetic field stabiliser was really worth it or would a Damage Control II be better. The second fit had slightly less gank (~176 DPS) but more tank (~8.2k EHP) and everything else was the same:

So if these two ships met and slugged it out at ~1km, which would emerge victorious? Starwalker calculated the outcome - incoming DPS modified for ship resists would destroy it in some number of seconds. So which ship would survive the longest. the fit with the damage control or extra magnetic field stabiliser? Starwalker had his objective answer:
Ship - Fit - Metrics Survival Calculator Raw HP Incoming DPS% Self Repair Incoming DPS ~1km
Merlin LNBMSE2MFS 211-6.5-29 1043
Survives (s)
Merlin LNBMSE 176-8.2-33 1043 
Survives (s)

This same technique could be used to answer similar fitting questions using the same assumptions and that was the limitation - it was only a useful answer in a specific context. Starwalker understood that even a theoretically inferior ship could still win in practice by virtue of superior tactics alone, ignoring other factors such as relative skills, piloting, human error, use of boosters, initial positioning and so on.

The Merlin with two magnetic field stabilisers could use tactics by starting the fight at 5km and attacking with null ammunition. This would effectively out DPS the target Merlin, assuming the target was using close range Caldari Navy anti-matter. If the target Merlin switched ammunition to null too, then the attacker could switch to close range ammunition and come in to a range of 1km. The target would not have time to change ammunition again and would have effectively been out damaged for the whole fight.

Starwalker recognised that the analysis was useful within certain limitations but like with the butterfly effect the consequences of a myriad factors made an outcome unpredictable. More predictability came from controlling (or trying to) as many factors as possible such as initial position, range, damage projection, tank and speed but to paraphrase Moltke "no battle plan survives contact with the enemy".

3 May 2013

Stock of Fitted Ships Depleted

Starwalker had roamed towards Covryn when he scanned some frigates at a small complex, usually he left on the basis that he did not know whether he would find a fight in progress or a small gang waiting to destroy the next idiot coming in blind. Having idiot tendencies himself from time to time Starwalker warped in to find an Incursus, Malediction and Executioner still fighting inside.

It looked like the others had left or were destroyed. Starwalker locked up the Incursus and Executioner as they were close by and started firing at the Incursus. He assumed the Incursus would kill the Executioner given it was so close but the Executioner actually slipped away leaving Starwalker in his Hookbill to kill the Incursus alone.

The Incursus was tanking like a champion, it was partially in structure and it must have mistimed the capacitor booster reload cycle as it went from Incursus to wreck. Starwalker collected the loot and carried on, when he scanned a Coercer in another complex. He was unsure whether it was a good idea to go in but he went in anyway and was greeted by the Coercer at over 20km establishing a lock and firing its lasers. Not a good start.

Starwalker tried to get the Hookbill into a close orbit but the damage kept coming in and just as he got in to around 7km his ship exploded. He had sustained too much damage coming into range and belatedly Starwalker cursed the fact that he had not used his tracking disruptor sooner and that he had not spiralled in. If he had done both of those things then perhaps he might have got into a close orbit but he would never know.

A Merlin themed Rebel fleet left Adirain with Patrick Kasper as the FC and the fleet ended up getting some nice kills in a complex, where each of these ships pretty much arrived individually Vexor, Blackbird, Atron and Caracal. Apart from the Vexor they seemed like they all wanted to spectate at range but ended up landing in the middle of the fleet, which the fleet found hugely amusing. 

A little while later, the Rebel fleet found themselves out-numbered by another frigate fleet waiting at a small complex but after dropping loot the Rebels went in anyway. The fleet targeted a Wolf and it went down and then this Rifter but Starwalker's Merlin did not last much longer as it went down in flames shortly afterwards. The roam had been great fun.

It was less fun how he lost his next three ships. Starwalker warped into a complex thinking a fight between two Merlins might be going on - it wasn't and they easily killed his lone Merlin. Similarly, in another complex the engagement started off as a Caracal versus Caracal fight that Starwalker was winning but it ended in a 3 v 1 that saw his Caracal bite the dust. Finally, this Merlin died to an insta-locking gate camp when he was on his way to join a Rebel roam.

Those recent losses had depleted his available stock of fitted ships and so Starstepper undocked his Mammoth in Hek and delivered some more Merlins to Covryn, Lisbaetanne and Gultratren. It was an easy choice, blasters were his favourite weapon system and T1 frigates were very dispensible. He also thought that it was time to try the Harpy as it shared the Merlin hull and love for blasters. Strangely, given his predilection towards the Merlin and blasters he had never flown the Harpy.