November 11, 2010

What Do Turrets Look Like?

They look like small pointy guns on your ship, duh! This would be a pretty boring post if that was really the answer, though, don't you agree?

The question is, rather: "How can you identify turrets on a ship... without opening the fitting window?"

Now why is this relevant at all? The fitting window is oh-so-convenient! Well, your ship's HUD has a convenient button to send one of your camera drones to look at other ships.

Unfortunately, this only functions when your target is within 100 km of yourself, but that is usually (exceptions for battleships and sniper HACs/battlecruisers) more than enough of a safe buffer to safely examine their ship. Now, when you look at them, you not only see the direction they are flying in, but you also see their guns -- the only visible modules of a ship.

Say you spot this Incursus burning at you:

What can you expect from it? Is it a tanky Incursus with electron or ion blasters? Or is it one of those all-in Incursi that use painful neutron blasters? And are they T1 or T2?

Most people can't tell. However, I can tell you that those guns are Light Neutron Blaster IIs. How? I've spent a long time observing various guns and their looks. Each caliber/type of gun has a unique profile. Plus, T2 guns generally look like a more shiny/enhanced version of the T1 gun, possibly adding some extra targeting bits, or having more power cables exposed. To spare you the trouble of stalking ships to see all the different turrets, I went and bought every type of small (frigate-sized) turret and fitted them to various ships.

The result:

Click to see the full size table.
So, for example, I was able to identify the guns on the Incursus as Light Neutron Blaster IIs by noting that they had glow points as all T2 blasters do, but that they had neither the narrow barrel of the electron blaster, nor the large glowing section of the ion blaster.

How is this information useful? Well, in this case, by noticing the neutron blasters, a wise pilot will not orbit the Incursus at anywhere closer than 5 km to deny it optimal damage. Alternatively, a ship with a tracking disruptor could load a tracking disruption script, to further break the already poor tracking of neutron blasters. If, on the other hand, those were electron blasters, the safe distance to engage the Incursus becomes much smaller.

This information might not be much, but it can very well make enough of a tactical difference to win you fights. Now go out there and try it!

(No, I cannot and will not make a table like this for cruisers or battleships, since I cannot use those guns)

This is also a fun party trick, especially when bored in space. Tell people exactly what their guns are, and watch them be amazed. Though probably not anymore, if they read my blog.

November 6, 2010

Learning From Your Losses

For a while now I've wanted to write up a post on how to best learn when you die (as it really is the best way to learn). However, I can't quite seem to have the inspiration for exactly what to write so it helps everyone. But today, I had an idea! I'll just list my first several losses (as identified by BattleClinic) and give the lessons short titles. Here we go.
  1. Rifter - - "Dramiels suck." (also what the hell was I doing carrying around those battleship fittings?!)
  2. Rifter - - "Carbonized Lead S does no damage."
  3. Rifter - - "Disorganized militia fleets are not conductive to hull integrity."
  4. Thrasher - - "Most one-sided fight ever"; or "I accidentally a whole mid slot."
  5. Thrasher - - "Solo travel through hostile 0.0 is painful."
  6. Rifter - - "Bubbles suck."
  7. Hoarder - - "Hauling a single Rifter in an untanked hauler, during a war."
  8. Rifter - - "Gate camps suck."
  9. Rifter - - "Gate camps suck extra bad."
  10. Rifter - - "Failed the official Rifter skill test: killing a Crusader solo"; or "Interceptors really aren't all as harmless as a SML Crow."
  11. Slasher - - "Wheee!"
Most of these still apply. Make what you will of what to learn from these losses.  Most of these fits aren't horribad because I got a lot of great advice from more veteran players.

But enough negativity and speaking of losses. How about some of my first kills?

  1. Coercer - - "Lowsec camping is actually kind of boring."
  2. Raven - - "Why can a Stiletto tackle so fast?!...  oh."
  3. Harbinger - - "I just need to be more reckless to tackle first! Hah!"
  4. Drake - - "Yeah! I got a po-- ouch"; or "Dreaks suck."
  5. Jaguar - - "Wait, he was blue?"
After that it sort of blurs, since the losses outnumbered the kills (or at least, so I think). By the time I arrived at this point (Hi Aralis!!) I had already started this series of logs to share what knowledge I gained with others who need it.

At any rate, I hope you enjoyed seeing some of my epic fails!

November 4, 2010

What Tank for What Ship?

Remember how in the past I said hull tanking is good for nothing? Well, it still is not when done on purpose. However, since I have been dabbling in Gallente frigates lately I should mention that there are some ships that are flown "untanked", or what some call "hull tanked" where this is not too bad an idea.

To understand why, let's look at how certain ships are made for certain tanking methods:

Amarr Punisher frigate firing its lasers
Take the Punisher. What sort of tank should it have? It has a 4/2/4 (4 high, 2 medium, 4 low) slot layout, so it would have the low slots for a hull tank if it wanted to. Why not, though? Its default distribution of defensive strengths is 391 in shields, 469 in armor, and 391 in its structure. On top of that armor leg-up, it also receives 5% bonus to armor resistances per Amarr Frigate skill level. All these reasons are why the Punisher strongly favors an armor tank.

Caldari Merlin frigate firing its railguns
What about something that is classically shield tanked, like the Merlin? Unlike the Punisher, the Merlin is more fit for a shield tank because of the large number of mid-power slots in its layout (4/4/2). Its basic defense also favors shields, with 469 shields, 351 armor, and 313 structure. Additionally, like the Punisher, the Merlin gets a 5% bonus to shield resistances per Caldari Frigate skill level.

But these are textbook examples of different forms of tanking. What if we look at our good friend, the Rifter?

Minmatar Rifter frigate firing its autocannons
The Rifter's slot distribution is a bit harder to read: 4/3/3. What about its default defense? 391 shields, 351 armor, 336 structure. Somewhat reminiscent of the Merlin, but it is nowhere near as tough overall as either the Merlin or the Punisher. Plus, the 40-point gap between shields and armor is not too significant. The Rifter also does not get bonuses to any resistances with its skills, getting projectile turret damage and tracking bonuses instead. So then, as far as tank goes, the Rifter has a choice.

A shield tanked Rifter is fast and can do a lot of damage, because it has its low slots free for speed modules, or a gyrostabilizer. An armor tanked Rifter is slightly slower, but a lot more versatile because of the 3rd mid slot in addition to the usual propulsion module and warp scrambler, which can fit something like a stasis web.

The ships within each respective race usually follow suit with what I've shown here: Amarr prefer ships with heavy armor tanks with few mid slots, Caldari prefer shield tanks with few low slots, and the Minmatar are all over the place.

But what about the Gallente?

Gallente Incursus frigate firing its blasters
The Incursus is somewhat the ugly duckling of the combat frigates. It has a 3/3/2 slot layout, which means it's somewhat less flexible than the others. But it has an even weirder base tank: 313 shields, 368 armor, 368 structure. Its highest amount (368) is the lowest of the strong areas of all combat frigates. On top of that, you'd think it favors armor, but it only has 2 low slots to accommodate for it! On top of that, compared to the Rifter, it has less CPU and less power grid available, in addition to blasters being much more resource-hungry than autocannons.

All this, why? Well, if fit for damage, the Incursus far outpaces the other frigates, even doubling the damage that a railgun Merlin can put out. It is also fairly nimble and fast. But... what to do about its tank?

Most Incursus pilots opt for a "just enough to stay alive" tank, comprised of a Damage Control unit, and possibly an Adaptive Nano Plate. Of course, this is nowhere near any semblance of the other ships' tanks (the Punisher can more than double the effective hit points of an Incursus), but it is meant to be just enough to overwhelm its target with superior firepower. Many of the smaller blaster-heavy Gallente ships, such as the Ishkur, Taranis, and to some degree, the Thorax, share this philosophy.

Often, it is dubbed a "hull tank" because the opponent of such a ship will have the most trouble eating through the ship's thick structure hit points, with the enhanced resists (60% against all damage types) from the Damage Control unit helping a ton.

The reason I was reminded of this was because of the Guardian Angel Daredevil frigate, which exemplifies the same philosophy of tanking, but takes the "high damage" aspect to an extreme.

A Daredevil is an extremely dangerous ship not only because of its stupidly high damage, but also because it gets a stasis webifier bonus similar to the Cruor's. It will likely be the primary target in engagements, which is why some Daredevil pilots even go as far as to armor tank it and sacrifice some of its agility and speed for the bonus of living to fight another day.

So, imagine my surprise when I noticed an abnormally fast (not armor tanked) Daredevil that was using a Sensor Booster to lock and kill war targets of his coming out of the Brutor Tribe Treasury station in Rens. Going on a hunch that the pilot didn't even bother to equip a Damage Control unit, I tested his hull with a barrage of 720mm phased plasma artillery shells from a Hurricane battlecruiser fit for that special purpose. He indeed did not have a damage control.

He went on to complain in the local channel about what a "waste" it was for me to one-shot his Daredevil in a Hurricane. While I'm sure this is not what he meant, it is indeed a waste to fly a frigate worth 100 million ISK if you can't survive a single volley from a ship worth less than a quarter of the price. CONCORD may disagree with me (and consequently blow up my Hurricane), but it is what it is.