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Apr 11 2012

Fleet Roles in PvP: A Very Short Introduction to Eve Online – Part 5

Fleet Roles in Eve Online

A Gang of Minmatar Tornadoes in one of CCP's Eve Online Wallpapers

In this week’s instalment of my very much not short introduction to Eve Online I would like to talk about fleet roles in PvP. These are the different specialties that players can fill in fleets, each of which contributes into making fleets coherent and effective fighting forces. At the end of last week’s article I mentioned that I wanted to talk about fleet sizes as well, but this article ran far too long to cover that today.

Instead I’ll cover fleet sizes and what they mean for the player experience in my next article.

More after the jump…

Previous Instalments:

Part 1: A Very Short Introduction to Eve Online

Part 2: Futuristic Fascists and Internet Space Ships

Part 3: Exploding Internet Space Ships

Part 4: Sociopathic Corporations, Roaming Gangs & Gate Camps

[Note: The use of terms in each of my articles assumes that you have read my previous instalments. If you are unfamiliar with Eve Online I strongly suggest you read my previous articles otherwise there will be many terms I use here that you won’t understand.]

So Just What the Hell is a “Fleet” Anyway?

When you join a fleet in Eve a window opens in your client that shows you all the characters in the fleet and the hierarchy in which they are arranged. The Eve client allows for a hierarchy of up to 1 Fleet Commander, 5 Wing Commanders, 5 Squadron Commanders in each wing, and 10 Squadron Members in each squadron. Since squad leaders count in the maximum 10 members of a squad, but wing commanders and the fleet commanders don’t, the maximum number of players in a single in-game fleet is 256 (1 FC + 5 WC + 25 Squads of 10 = 256). Please note that while the highest rank in an in-game fleet is called fleet commander, this term is used in Eve to refer to the person leading a fleet regardless of whether they have the in-game fleet commander position in a fleet.

This by no means prevents large corporations and alliances from having more than 256 people flying together in a unified “fleet”, it simply requires the use of multiple in-game fleets but a shared set of voice comms (i.e. Teamspeak, Ventrilo, Mumble, etc) and having everyone listen to a single fleet commander.

In-game fleets allow those with leadership roles that have trained the relevant leadership skills to pass on bonuses to members of their fleets that can give bonuses to speed, agility, shield hp, armour hp, and so forth.

Being in an in-game fleet allows you to warp to other members of your fleet as long as you are in the same system as they are, something normally not possible in Eve. The fleet window also contains a tab for broadcasts where you can see if players in your fleet broadcast that they need shield or armour repairs (more on this later) and an FC can broadcast targets that they want the fleet to concentrate their fire on. Finally, leaders in an in-game fleet can warp everyone hierarchically below them (i.e. members of their squad, or their wing) together to destinations within a system which is of course vital for being able to move and engage targets as a coherent fighting force.

If you’d like to learn more about the in-game mechanics of fleets (including how to join fleets, how leadership bonuses work, etc.) I suggest checking out this article on the Eve Wiki.

Fleet Roles: FCs, Scouts, Logi, Recons, etc.

With the in-game mechanics of fleets out of the way I can talk about the player organized aspects of fleets. Players organize fleets with up different specialized roles in order to make the combat power of the whole better than the sum of its parts. I’ll go through several fleet roles here and briefly explain them.

Fleet Commander
As you might expect, the FC is in charge of the fleet. They decide what types of ships they want in their fleet and what specialist roles they want people to fill. Obviously this is limited by the number of players and types of ships that are on hand to join the fleet, but in many corps/alliances FCs will give a few days of advanced notice that they want to run a certain type of fleet so players have time to prepare.

The FC also decides where the fleet will go, which targets the fleet will engage (and which they will try and avoid engaging), and what they want the specialists in their fleet to be doing at any given time. While in an engagement the FC will call out which enemy ships they want the fleet to focus their fire on (because in Eve focusing fire is virtually always better than scattering fire), where they want the fleet to align or burn towards, and when the fleet members should try and run away if a fight is being lost.

FCs do this primarily by giving orders on voice comms, which are obviously essentially for players in a fleet to be able to act in a cohesive fashion in real-time.

Fleet commanders bear the lion’s share of the responsibility for what a fleet does, where it goes, who it fights, and how successful its tactics are (excepting the problem of fleet members making mistakes or just not doing what the FC orders them to do). This makes FCing a lot of work and doing it well requires the ability to keep a lot of information in your head simultaneously.

In light of this, a lot of players in Eve aren’t very comfortable FCing, or even if they are ok with the prospect of potentially getting their entire fleet killed if they screw up, they just may not enjoy the workload of FCing. This makes the people who FC, and especially those who do it well, very valuable to PvP corps/alliances.

Scouts
Scouts usually use frigates (most commonly interceptors, a special class of frigate designed to be very fast and hard for bigger ships to hit so they can tackle targets for a fleet, or in larger fleets they can use covert-ops frigates that can move and warp cloaked) and move a few systems ahead of the main body of a fleet. They provide the FC intel on potential targets ahead of the fleet as well as warning them of gate-camps or hostile fleets that might be too much for them to handle.

In small gangs (where Scouts commonly fly interceptors or other frigate variants useful for tackling) scouts can also act as initial tackle, basically locating targets of opportunity and tackling them until the rest of the gang can get there to destroy it. This type of scouting requires players that do it to become skilled at using the directional scanner, being situationally aware, and ship piloting skills required to be able to burn towards hostile targets while minimizing the amount of damage they can do to you until you can tackle them and try to hold on until your gang gets there. Basically all skills that translate fairly directly to solo PvP, making this role excellent training for players interested in solo PvP.

In larger fleets (where Scouts will commonly fly covert-ops frigates) they can provide intel but also can use special modules called combat scanner probes to try and precisely locate a hostile ship or fleet and then position themselves so their fleet can warp to them and land on that target ship/fleet. As I mentioned in a previous article, this is a bit hard to pull off as any competent player watches their directional scanner for combat scanner probes and will likely move long before the fleet can get there.

Logistics
This role is filled by players flying logistics ships which have the ability to repair the shields or armour of other players in their fleet. Their job is simply to work to keep the other members of their fleet alive by watching for which members of their fleet are being targeted/shot at by enemy fleets and using their remote repair modules to try and keep them alive. Logistics are one of the most powerful force-multipliers for fleets in Eve Online as they can massively increase a fleets ability to tank incoming damage, allowing a smaller fleet with logistics to engage a much larger fleet without logi and come out on top.

Still, as becoming a good logistics pilot requires a significant amount of skill-training specific to this role and also means you tend not to get on the killmails created for enemy ships destroyed, the pool of people interested in flying in this role is somewhat limited. The players who excel at this are very sought after by PvP corps/alliances because of their utility.

Combat Recons
This role entails using ships that can tackle, web (and sometimes also target-paint) enemy ships at longer ranges than tackle-frigates. Combat Recon ships (an advanced cruiser variant) have bonuses to range for warp disruptors, warp scramblers and stasis webbefiers and can use fit multiples of those modules and are used to tackle and slow down enemy ships while being more survivable than tackle frigates. They are critical in long-range fleets using larger ships/guns which can have a lot of trouble hitting smaller, faster targets. By tackling, webbing, and target-painting targets they become much easier to hit for larger, long range guns for more damage thus compensating for the weaknesses of larger, long-range guns against smaller targets.

This is a somewhat specialist role that is primarily used where the composition of the overal fleet stands to benefit from it.

Bubblers
Bubblers fly ships called interdictors (an advanced destroyer variant) or heavy interdictors (an advanced cruiser variant) that have the ability to launch (or create) a warp disruption bubble directly from their ship, as opposed to a module that has to be anchored to a fixed spot in space (as I mentioned last week). As a reminder, warp disruption bubbles are spheres that prevent ships within them from warping, like a warp disruptor, but location and area of effect based rather than one module from one ship targeted against another ship. Their utility in a fleet lies in their ability to rapidly deploy bubbles during an engagement either right on top of an enemy gang or deploying bubbles in a location to catch an enemy fleet trying to warp somewhere.

To give an example of how a bubbler can be used tactically: Lets say you’re in a fleet that wants to engage enemy gangs at 30-50km and you warp to a gate at 100km and see an enemy fleet there that would want to engage you at 0km. Your fleet warps fromt that gate to another gate at 50km, the bubbler deploys a bubble, and your fleet starts burning towards the sun away from the bubble until you’re 30km away. Now, if the enemy gang tries to warp to the same gate you did to chase you, they will land in the bubble (check last week’s article for how bubbles can drag people off their intended warp to if you aren’t familiar) right at the range you want to fight at, and unable to warp away until they burn out of the bubbles radius. This is just one example of the many tactical uses for bubblers in fleets.

The only problem with them, particularly with the smaller interdictors, is that they require a lot of skill and luck to fly in a fleet and not get blown up very early in your first engagement. Bubblers present such a threat that enemy FCs will usually primary them almost immediately when an engagement starts.

Electronic Warfare
While technically Eve Online categorizes warp disruptors and stasis webefier modules as e-war, when players in Eve talk about e-war they usually mean jammers, sensor dampeners and tracking disruptors. Jamming modules give you a percentage chance to jam enemy ships, making them unable to target anything for a certain period of time. Sensor dampenors can reduce the targeting range or targeting speed of enemy ships, while tracking disruptors can reduce the optimal range or tracking speed (tracking essentially being the ease with which turrets can hit targets moving perpendicular to them) of enemy ships.

By far the most commonly used e-war in Eve are jammers which can act as a very large force multiplier by reducing the amount of incoming damage from an enemy fleet (because some of the enemy ships won’t be able to fire at all while they are jammed). While jamming is tactically useful when engaging larger fleets, it has a somewhat slimy reputation many gangs will have jamming ships with them cloaked and will surprise opponents with their cock-blocking prowess once the fight has already started.

The ship commonly used for this is the Caldari force recon called the Falcon, which is the best jamming ship in the game and as a force recon ship, can fit the same type of cloak as a covert-ops frigate.

DPS
While there are many specialist roles in fleets, the core of every PvP fleet is necessarily the damage dealing ships. These will make up the majority of the ships in a fleet and will determine what supporting fleet roles will be necessary or useful as well as the engagement tactics the fleet will have to use to maximize their chances of winning.

These ships can be of any size class from frigates all the way up to capitals and supercapitals, depending on the type of fleet the FC wants (or the people in the fleet if the decision is being made by consensus), what kinds of targets you want to engage, or for large fleets what strategic objectives you want to accomplish. In all but the smallest gangs the DPS ships in a fleet will all usually at least be of one size class (e.g. battlecruisers). In very large fleets, on the other hand, there will often be several classes of DPS ships in the same fleet supporting each other (e.g. A 500 man fleet could have ~100 battleships, ~350 battlecruisers with the last 50 made up of various support roles and anti-frigate DPS ships. They could additionally have any number of capital and supercapital ships on standby to join the fight if the situation calls for it).

The player skill required of DPS pilots in a fleet can vary wildly. For very large fleets used by large corps/alliances it can be as simple as follow the FCs basic fleet commands and shoot the primary, while for smaller gangs a lot more individual pilot skill and situational awareness can be required to be effective. In a future article I will go in-depth on the anatomy of a fleet composition where I’ll spell out how individual pilot skill can be essential to making certain small-gang fleet compositions work.

Cynos
Capital and Supercapital ships in Eve do not move from system to system through stargates like sub-capital ships do. Instead they are equipped with jump-drives that allow them to jump a certain distance (which can cover a span of several systems). In order to be able to use their jump-drives, however, they require a ship in their fleet to activate a module called a Cynosural Field Generator in the target system (that is within their jump range) so that they can jump to that beacon. Titans (the largest ships in Eve Online) can not only jump themselves to a cyno, but can instead act as a bridge allowing a large number of friendly sub-capitals to be jumped to a cyno, without the Titan itself having to go through as well.

This is known as “cynoing” in Eve Online and beyond simply being required for caps and supercaps to get around, it is also allows a fleet to escalate an engagement. This is done by having a ship equipped with a cyno light it in the midst of an ongoing engagement, allowing caps and supercaps in fleet to jump directly into the midst of an active engagement, or sub-capital reinforcements to be bridged in. This is known as “hot dropping” in Eve and is one of the most exciting/terrifying experiences you can have in a fleet fight in Eve Online, depending on whether the hot drop is friendly or hostile, obviously.

Given the dramatic impact a cyno can have on fleet battles, fleets usually watch like hawks for their activation and will immediately primary any hostile ship that lights a cyno in order to try and destroy it before it can be used. This makes flying a ship equipped with a cyno an exercise in trying to live long enough for the hot drop to work, but it is well worth it for what it can accomplish.

Bringing it Together

If you have been reading my Eve articles so far, you’ve now read a ton about the basics of PvP in Eve Online. Now its time for you to see what a large fleet battle can actually look like and how these fleet roles can combine to wreak devastation on an enemy fleet.

Below is a video on Youtube made by the Raiden alliance and uploaded by Youtube user PetriJarvenpaa summarizing battles in the 3rd week of a territorial war between Raiden and the ClusterFuck Coalition and Test Alliance Please Ignore. Please fast forward the video to 4 minutes in where a Raiden fleet mainly composed of Strategic Cruisers (advanced cruiser variants that can do a lot of damage and have a lot of survivability) is engaging a TEST battleship fleet.

The player who took this video is a logistics pilot in the Raiden fleet and has zoomed out as much as possible allowing us to get a look at the overall picture of what is going on. Purple icons in space are members of the Raiden fleet, squares of no-color, yellow or red are hostile TEST fleet members, the yellow triangles are wrecks of ships already destroyed. On the right side of the screen in the vid (which you have to watch in 1080p and maximized to see what’s going on) is the logi pilot’s overview where only hostile ships are visible. You will see as the videos plays that the ship types column in his overview starts off showing lots of enemy battleships, but ends up showing mostly escape capsules as enemy ships are destroyed.

You can follow along with the voice comms of the fleet as a Raiden pilot lights bubbles the TEST fleet and lights a cyno, allowing Raiden to jump in a large number of Titans (so large they can be seen on screen when every sub-capital ship is so small as to only be an icon at this zoom level) and annihilate the TEST fleet while taking minimal losses.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this instalment of my introduction to Eve series. Next time I will actually finally get to talk about fleet sizes, and maybe something else if I manage to fit it in.

That’s Yo “Wall o’ Text” Garbage!

About the author

Lorenzo

Lorenzo tends to utterly emphatic opinions on the things that interest him: Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Video Games, Anime, Tabletop Games, Technology and Internet Spaceships.

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  1. Claire

    i’ve read them all, keep it up!

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