February 25, 2010

Cheap and Dirty Rifter

I would like to commend a ship that has been invaluable to my experience as a newbie capsuleer: the Rifter.



As a Brutor, I have been more oriented toward combat and making people bleed from the start, and thus I studied up on my Minmatar Frigate skills a bit extra before becoming a capsuleer, so I was actually able to fly a Rifter right from the start. However, unlike most "starter" frigates, the Rifter stays versatile throughout a pilot's career. As I evolved from my days where I considered a shield booster an appropriate "tank" for anything, I have used it for everything from missioning ship, to a fast (3.8 km/s) suicide tackler, to a sniper boat, and to a general purpose dogfight role.

Because of its uniquely balanced 4/3/3 slot layout, the Rifter can fulfill these roles and more. However, there is one specific "cheap and dirty" set of modules I fit most recently that has brought me great success:
  • High power slots



    • 3 x 125mm Gatling Autocannon I, loaded with Phased Plasma S, or EMP S ammo
    • Small Nosferatu I



  • Medium power slots



    • 1MN Afterburner I
    • Stasis Webifier I
    • J5b Phased Prototype Warp Inhibitor I



  • Low power slots



    • Damage Control I
    • Small Armor Repairer II
    • 200mm Reinforced Nanofiber Plates I (or another 200mm plate)
That's right, a mostly Tech-I fit, since my skills are not quite good enough to fly all Tech-II modules. Now, here are some effects that I get out of my Rifter using this fit, and reasons for certain modules:
  • Small (125mm) guns: I will be flying very close to the enemy, so I'll need good tracking. I might also need to shoot their drones down, so all the better to use a smaller set of guns. DPS: 46. Not much, but a fair amount against small targets
  • Nosferatu: does so much for my defenses when I run it at the same time as my armor repairer. It repairs me while draining the target's energy. Win-win!
  • Afterburner vs. Microwarpdrive: Firstly, I would not be able to fit a MWD instead of the AB in this fit with my current skills. Second, I don't need to be afraid of bombs as much. Third, I don't need to be afraid of my getting close up and getting my MWD shut down by a warp scrambler. ABs are not affected by warp scramblers, so I will still be going my 800 m/s no matter what.
  • Small Armor Repairer II: Enemies usually get cocky when they see a lone Rifter with no MWD and no T2 guns, so they are most likely to be frustrated by the surprisingly strong tank that this module provides. Effective HP in this Rifter: 2890.
The way to use this fit is to stay within 0.5-2 km of the target, all the while slowing him down while spinning around him as fast as possible. This can achieve a lot of solo kills with overheating of the modules, as demonstrated by Jessie Arr, the inventor of this fit, but I myself deal a bit less DPS because of my... inferior skills.

Hooray, Jessie Arr and his special Rifter!

Nevertheless, I should present you some success stories. I was not solo in most of these, though, and also in some of them it was sheer luck to happen upon very poorly equipped/flown enemy ships:
  • Tanked a Harpy Assault Frigate at close range and held him still while my buddy Friek and I blew him to smithereens. Killboard
  • Tanked both a Vexor Cruiser and a Vigil Frigate while holding the Vexor still and making it sad, again together with Friek. To be fair, the Vexor did not use its drones for damage, so it was fairly easy to tank. Killboard
  • Friek had to run away because the Vigil started chasing him, so after he warped out, I solo'd the Vigil. Killboard
  • Helped my gang bump a cowardly Typhoon Battleship off its station's docking point, then kept him there and made him sad. Killboard
  • Solo'd a more expensive cyno-frigate (Crucifier) while it was doing its business. Killboard
  • Shot down a Taranis Interceptor. Killboard
  • ... And solo'd the Executioner Frigate that was helping it. Sad, though,  it was carrying exotic dancers and Quafe. It was heading to a party... Killboard
  • Baited and tanked a Vagabond Heavy Assault Ship until my gang arrived and helped me kill it. His mistakes: using longrange ammo against me, and not launching his Warrior II drones, which would have torn me to shreds. Killboard
  • Caught a Drake Battlecruiser trying to escape our gang. Killboard
  • Caught a rather poorly-fit Thorax Cruiser trying to escape our frigate-gang a few days ago. Killboard
  • Update: successfully 1v1'd a Punisher Frigate that had Tech-II guns and faction ammo. Killboard
Now, take a look at those links, and mark the worth of those ships. I played a principal role of bait/tackle in most of those. And, in the process, I have only lost about 10 Rifters in the same period of those kills (many in unrelated endeavors). Now, each of my Rifters is worth around 1 million ISK. The ships I helped kill were at times worth more than 100x my ship. 

Remember what I said about sticking to smaller ships at first? This is what I meant. Had I been in my Battlecruiser, many of these kills may not have happened, and I might have been on the hurting end instead. It's all about the ship roles.

Petrus out.
o7

February 21, 2010

"Confirming Arty Is Epic For Shooting Interceptors"

Quote from Makalu Zarya, whose gang popped me in my Hurricane battlecruiser because I shot back at an interceptor that tackled me off a gate:
[ 2010.02.20 05:15:19 ] Makalu Zarya > confirming that arties are epic for shooting inties
He was, of course, using sarcasm on me, to add insult to injury, but in fact what he said wasn't far from the truth... in some circumstances. Before explaining that, I should point out the educational value of my loss. In this engagement, I made two critical mistakes that newbies should probably take good note of:

1. Range: The interceptor appeared at 30 km range, and warp disrupted me at 20 km. I shot back, forgetting my optimal range was 40 km, and my accuracy falloff was 30 km (see this other entry about range if you're confused). Needless to say, I missed horribly, and his friends came in and blew me up. Point of note for newbies: unless it is a really unbalanced fight, don't shoot outside your range. You will only fail to hit, waste ammo (or capacitor, or both), and get an aggression countdown on yourself.

2. Aggression: The situation was that I was waiting at the jump gate, since I was ahead of my fleet and they were due to pass through soon. This is a smart strategy because if enemies pop up and shoot me, I can just jump through, and they cannot follow. Why? Because every time a pilot commits an aggressive act, they are not allowed to use any DED-sanctioned gates for 1 minute. Shooting via guns or drones, activating an offensive module such as a warp scrambler, and repairing another aggressor all count as aggressive acts. In this way, I was hoping to avoid an unfavorable engagement.

My strategy backfired, however. I was a bit too trigger-happy, and fired at the interceptor, which flagged me as an aggressor, and cut off my escape route.



I sort of sealed my own fate there, but while Makalu was right about it being "epic" to try to shoot an interceptor at this close a range with artillery, it is quite true that artillery can be epic at killing 'ceptors.

Ships guns have a tracking attribute, measured in radians per second. This indicates how far the turret can turn in order to keep pointing at your enemy. Radians are a unit of measure of angles, and an angle of 2π (about 6.28) radians makes a full circle. In the case of my Hurricane, I was using six 720mm Howitzer Artillery I turrets, which have a 0.03278 rad/s tracking speed. In order to simplify the math (and drawings), let's consider my position, my target's position, and my target's motion to be all in one plane, and assume that I am standing still.

(Click for larger version)

I am at 75,000 m, a bit far away considering my range is 50,000 m, but I am within my falloff, so I should be fine so far as % chance to hit. Now... Can my guns track this target? Let's see. To calculate the angle of motion that my guns have to track, I  need to know his transversal velocity relative to myself. This means, I need to know how far he is moving perpendicularly to my line of fire.


The transversal velocity can then be translated into the tracking angle necessary by some simple trigonometry. Namely, taking the arctangent of the ratio between the transversal velocity, and my range.


The effective angle my turrets have to track also depends on the ratio between my guns' tracking resolution and the target's signature radius. A Crusader's regular signature radius is 32 m, and 136 m if he is using a 1MN Microwarpdrive II. My guns have a 125 m resolution, and since it's safe to assume that any interceptor involved in combat is burning around with his Microwarpdrive, the ratio I have to be concerned about is 136/125, or 1.088. Incidentally, the larger resolution of larger guns is the reason that dreadnought guns will never hit a frigate, or other such occurrences.

Calculating in reverse, my 0.03278 rad/s tracking speed translates into 2,673.38 m/s maximum in transversal velocity that I can track well. Any more than that and my accuracy gets flaky. Astute pilots reading this would say "wait, but a Crusader goes at over 4 km/s, that's not even close!" Yeah, that's true. However, that assumes that the Crusader is orbiting me! For his transversal velocity to always be maximum, he cannot be approaching or departing. Or standing still.

Excellent frigate and interceptor pilots know that in order to get into range to a sniper like me you need to spiral slowly, keeping your transversal velocity just too high to track, but also approaching at the same time as quickly as possible. However, most pilots just charge, or run away. Some do nothing in particular, since they don't notice me until too late. The bonus of using artillery for this is also the huge alpha damage: with my poor beginner skills, I still deal 976 damage with a single volley.

This means that at first I was like


And then they were like

 

Confirmed. Arty is epic for shooting 'ceptors.

February 9, 2010

On Ship Progressions

If you are a Minmatar capsuleer like me, you probably started out at one of the stations of the various universities, were given a Reaper frigate, and told to get a move on. It had a Civilian Gatling Cannon (or whatever) equipped, which strangely takes frequency crystal charges, but does not need them to deal the pathetic damage it does. Oh and you also had a Civilian Miner. Plus, it's the ugliest of all Minmatar ships, and that's saying a lot:



After doing some of the tutorials in spacefaring, you probably ended up with a Slasher, a couple Rifters, and a Probe. However, while flying around ye olde Rens trade hub, you may have noticed that you are the small guy there. What are these Ravens? The Hurricanes? And what about those fancy ships that have a "II" next to their icon?

Upon inquiry, you would have found out about the different chip classes/types, and the skills necessary to fly each. Common sense dictates that you should try to train up to be able to fly as many types of ship as you can, right?

WRONG.

While the raw firepower of ships increases with size, price tag, and time spent training, firepower is not even close to the deciding factor in a fight. For example, if I were to fly a Hurricane battlecruiser with a regular skirmish fitting  into a fight, several things would happen:
  • This gang is a skirmish/snipe gang, so my allies would keep at range.
  • I don't have the necessary skills to be able to fire at 100 km like my allies, so I would have to move in to 60-70 km.
  • Enemy tacklers target the closest and highest value target (me), and hold me as still as possible, while orbiting close to me.
  • I cannot get away, nor can I kill them.
  • I become a free kill.


Because of my lower skills, it is more useful to do something of this sort instead:
  • Avoid long range battles, but equip long range artillery anyway. However, use a passive targeter to mask my targeting signal.
  • Warp in to about 70-80 km of a close range brawl.
  • Put the passive targeter on small, but crucial ships (such as interceptors, interdictors, etc.)
  • Fire once or twice, and laugh when they die before getting a chance to retaliate.
  • Because I am at relatively long range, I have time to conduct an emergency warp if I have tacklers heading at me or I'm taking damage.
The uses of this strategy are fairly limited, though. And, especially because I only deal maybe 70-80% of a fully skilled battlecruiser pilot, I am fairly useless. So what can I do to be most useful for the skills I have? The answer: use smaller ships.
 
"But my Rifter is useless if it comes across a Rupture, isn't it?"
No. Sure, in a 1v1 fight you wouldn't be able to bring it down, but you can certainly run away. It would never catch you (most of the time). Alternatively, if you have friends nearby, you go in close to it and warp scram it while yelling at your fleet over voice comms detailing them on the latest 1% change in your armour level. Even if you die, one of them may have jumped in and also achieved a point on your target, allowing the others to destroy that Rupture.

Plus, if you want to just be a pain to your enemies, or to accomplish a goal such as hindering their operations, you really don't need anything bigger than a frigate. If I can draw out 5 ships to kill me, including two T2 ships by using just a Rifter, I'm happy.

Then again, they may have overreacted maybe mistaking me for one of my corp-mates, who has a habit of taking a Rifter through enemy space and killing interceptors and covert ops ships with it, despite his fit not being worth any more than 1 million ISK and their ships alone being upwards of 30 million ISK. His example is a case-in-point. He is an excellent Fleet Commander, and can fly battlecruisers or battleships if he wants to, but for some jobs, small ships do just fine. And that, I'm afraid, is where starter pilots need to fit in.

February 4, 2010

A New Objective, Now Within Range

Well, as it may have been noticed, I did not write much in the log after the original entry. This is in part due to having been busy, but mostly because I could not gather anything interesting enough out of what I've been doing that others would care for. As such, I'm taking the log in a new direction: documenting what I learn in order to hopefully reduce the stress on future new capsuleers.

First topic? Range 

Something that confused me about my ship was the range I could shoot stuff at. This is because guns don't have a simple "range". Rather, it is a compound range consisting of Optimal Range, and Accuracy Falloff. This further contributed to my confusion, as projectile weapons are versatile in their falloff. For instance, the Gatling Pulse Laser I has an optimal range of 4000 m, and a falloff of 500 m, as compared to the 125mm Gatling Autocannon I, which has an optimal range of 800 m, but a falloff of 4000 m.

But I should explain what each of these is. The optimal range is the range at which the guns function *best*. They track their target best, are accurate, and do the highest amount of damage at that level. As the distance increases to the optimal + falloff range, the accuracy goes down to about 90% of what it was, and the damage goes down. Past that range, the accuracy falls quickly. On the other side of the spectrum, the tracking gets progressively worse the lower below the optimal range you are toward your target.
Graphically, this is what it means in terms of the laser versus the autocannon:





The colors (Red to Yellow to Green) correspond to the overall approximate DPS by the gun at the range shown. As you can see, each gun has different advantages. The pulse laser is really efficient at almost exactly the 4000 m range, whereas the autocannon is only really accurate at close range, after which it is mediocre at the 4000 m range. This means that in a fight, if the Amarrian ship fielding the pulse lasers could keep a Minmatar ship at 4000 m, it would tear the lightly-armored Minmatar ship to shreds. However, an experienced Minmatar pilot knows how to leverage his ship's fast speed to get up close and personal (with autocannons) or at super range (with artillery), in order to dictate the range of the battle. Take, for example, a comparison between the longest range Tech 2 cruiser guns, laser vs. projectile:


Update: I had used the data for battleship guns instead of cruiser guns for the artillery originally. Oops.

These ranges are also not considering any skills or ship bonuses. A Hurricane battlecruiser with Tech 2 Howitzers, range bonuses, and long range ammo can shoot at 100 km using its falloff. Unfortunately, the insane range of artillery comes at the cost of low firing rate, and hence relatively low DPS. Its shells do do a ton of lump damage (high Alpha), but that's a story for another day.

How to Kill Minmatar Ships 101: slow them down. For example, artillery is useless at short range, so if something fast caught the Hurricane off guard and pinned it down, it would soon experience a lot of pain from shortrange laser scorching once the Harbinger it was shooting caught up.
Hope my little story here was useful. Until next time,

 o7