January 5, 2017

Tale of Two Battles: Pilot Experience

So apparently I didn't post a blog in all of December.  Fortunately I've got some ideas lined up that should help me keep this moving in the new year.  I wasn't inactive for December though, and indeed there were two major battles I was in that I think provide an interesting compare and contrast.  This won't be a battle report though, so if you want to know about The Battle of Vey or the Battle of Vlillirier then you should read those linked articles.  This is about the experience of being a pilot in these two very different scenarios, and what that tells me about what I enjoy in Eve.

The Battle of Vey (18 Dec)

The motivation for Vey was largely that of denial - CHAOS was an enemy and they were putting down a Keepstar.  My corp (RDRAW) formed up Machariels, fit with Arty but as usual carrying full refits.  We bridged in and found the local count was 3000 plus and TiDi was in full effect pretty much as soon as we landed, as I recall.  Now I've fought in battles where TiDi kicked in before, but generally in lowsec we don't see TiDi pinned to the 10% level for a full engagement.  We're more likely to see TiDi kick in right as people undock or take a gate, or carry some smaller slowdown.  As plenty of people have reported, this made the battle progress slowly.  Before the "in my time" vets jump in, I completely agree that slow is better than broken, so I'm not quibbling with the mechanic of TiDi.

The other aspect was that we were coordinated with other fleets, with separate comms bridged by the FCs.  Comms discipline was good, which also meant it was pretty quiet.  It seemed pretty clear that our target caller was relaying the target selection made by others, which made the whole thing feel even more distant.  We'd all go guns quiet, then be given a target to lock and shoot.  We were teetering on the edge of being able to break enemy Machariels, so I'd guess that part of the limited information we were being given was so that spies couldn't relay the target so that their logi could get reps on before our alpha landed.  On our side, our logi reported that we were losing ships before they could lock the friendly.  We ended up withdrawing in good order, so my Machariel made it back home and my killboard had some nice enemy battleships lined up (though no final blows, so no killmarks).  If I had been primaried then losing the ship would have meant an end to the night, as smaller ships weren't useful and reshipping from that distance wasn't feasible, particularly given TiDi.

The experience as a pilot was much what I hear of the nullsec battle experience.  You anchor up, you wait for a target call, then press F1, then stare either at the target's armor swing down or out the window into the black night wondering what you've gotten yourself into and when you'll get to bed.  At least it was Saturday night (my time).

The Battle of Vlillirier (22-23 Dec)

The motivation for Vlillirier was fighting our side in Factional Warfare.  CalMil has been on a strong push (see The Rise of the State) and GalMil has frankly been divided, which is pretty much a mirror of the warzone from when I first joined up.  Word went out that Vlillirier was under siege, so get into empty capsules and go help out.  (spoiler: guess what part of that I failed to do.)

I won't get into the basics of factional warfare, but in short we were running fleets of let's say 10-50 in and out of the FW plexes.  Ships were cheap (if you brought your own) and plentiful (handed out by FCs).  System control is often attrition warfare where if your opponent sets up in T2 ships (such as assault frigates) a good option is to have everyone reship into glass-cannon Catalysts, enter the plex, and blow up as many ships as you can before they can take you down.  Often this may even be a "free fire" situation because the FC can't call the targets faster than you can kill them.  Alternatively you may be in longer-range ships and you anchor up and follow targets like a more traditional Eve Online fleet.  Your fleet will often split up into smaller groups to span across multiple plexes with those pilots having responsibility to call back intel and (to a limited degree) decide to stand and fight or flee when enemies appear on d-scan.

The experience as a pilot is generally rapid-fire.  Our FC was generally light-hearted and chatty, with comms swinging between something closer to "battle comms" and fairly open with newbies asking how to use modules or work the overall mechanics.  Die, reship, and possibly even jump back into the same plex.  The pilot has to be paying attention, but the costs of not paying attention aren't that high in terms of ISK or being removed from the fight.

So which would you pick?

It seems obvious, doesn't it?  This is why many of us fans of lowsec have trouble understanding the appeal of the "big nullsec fight."  I know there is smaller-gang roaming in null, but the headlines are the big fights.  Now I'd also expect that many of the nullsec fans would speak to how their fights have meaning, particularly when you've been part of an alliance and its community for a long time.  I get that.  I just can't see staying up until 2am in the morning hitting F1 every five minutes when someone tells me to.

At the same time, there are also plenty of times when the FW battles can be F1 centric.  There's plenty of trying to hold a plex in your solo frigate when you see a dozen destroyers appear on d-scan and you have no choice but to warp off.  As someone who isn't very good at solo (as my recent killboard will attest) I can't say that I'm that variety of FW hero.  But it sure seems that there is a readier opportunity for content in lowsec in general and FW in specific.

That said, I've decided to give something a bit new a try, which I'll cover in coming blog posts...

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