May 31, 2012

Question From a Newbie: "How does overheating work?"

Today's question comes from Navani Shahni of Rifterlings.

Ever been in a fight and hear your FC order something like "overheat and get him down quick!" or "heat your webs and points for tackle"? Ever wonder what they meant, and why this "heat" thing is so important? I will tell you!


Or, as known in official terms, "overloading", is when you super-charge your modules to juice them for more efficiency, at the expense of them taking damage from being overworked. Some modules have different effects when overheated than others, and there is a whole art to how to do it right, but first...

What do I train?

There is only one skill required: Thermodynamics. It's that simple. Thermodynamics is one of the single best skills ever. Even better, it "gives you the ability to frown in annoyance whenever you hear someone mention a perpetual motion unit".

Just look at that face. You just know someone mentioned  perpetual motion in the vicinity.
Only Thermodynamics I is strictly necessary. Every successive level reduces damage taken by your modules by 5% when they take damage. It helps with overheating for very long periods of time, but for short bursts it's largely irrelevant.

So how do I do it?

Modules that can be overheated have a small section at the top of their button show up as green. To overheat a module, simply click on the green part of its button, and its next cycle will be overheated.

This thing, here.
You can also overheat by adding Shift to your hotkey for activating the module. In this case, Shift-F4 toggles overheating on my microwarpdrive.

But, you said it damages my stuff. How does it damage my stuff?

Note that I am going 3700 m/s compared to my non-overheated speed of 2800 m/s.
Above, you can see an actively overheating microwarpdrive. Its top section glows yellow, and as it has been running for a cycle or two, there is now a partial red ring around it. The more red, the more damage the module took. You can also mouse over it to see the exact percentage it has left. 

Also, note that the warp scrambler and the tracking disruptor are also damaged. Overheated modules do not always take damage. Instead, they have a chance to damage themselves, and other chances to possibly damage modules on the same rack. I have had instances where I have burnt out modules that weren't even related to the module being overheated -- like breaking my shield extender because I overheated by afterburner and my scram.

So we're... burning out modules now?

Yep. See how the microwarpdrive has a full red circle, and turned itself offline? It burnt out. Also note how my ship is now lacking an usable propulsion mod. Lesson to be learned? Don't burn out your modules. Bad things happen when you do. Just remember to stop overheating once in a while.

How do I repair this?

The simplest way is to just dock and use a station's repair service. If your mod isn't completely burnt out, there is also another way: nanite repair paste.
It allows you to repair your modules while you're still in space, by just right clicking them and picking the option to. The mods are not usable while the paste is active, and doing this requires some extra skills. This is usually not worth it unless you do not foresee being able to dock (on a nullsec roam, for example).

Can I lessen or prevent damage somehow?

Yes. Both offline modules and empty slots contribute to your ship being more heat-resilient. Empty slots contribute a bit more, but you can't online them to do cool things like you can offline modules. T3 cruisers also have a subsystem to reduce heat damage, but that's an entirely different story.
Curse you, T3s. *shakes fist*

Any last tips?

  • In a frigate, never not overheat. You need every force multiplier to win a fight, and often your modules don't even have a chance to burn out before the fight is over.
  • Microwarpdrives kill themselves in two or three cycles. Be careful.
  • T1/deadspace/faction modules take less damage than T2 modules do from overheating. If you plan to rely on a lot of overheating, consider not using T2 modules.
  • Know what overheating each of your modules does in advance, so you know when it's appropriate to  do so.
  • Remember to stop overheating if you don't need to. No need to overheat a web if your target is at 2 km.
  • Heat damage is very random. I have out-performed someone with Thermodynamics V with my measly Thermodynamics II in the past. It's really weird. Any lack of exact details or numbers in this post is partly due to it being so random.

The Bottom Line

Overheat overheat overheat! That will be all.

May 25, 2012

Question From a Newbie: "How do I find fights?"

Fights are not often just handed to you, and when they are, you're probably being ganked by a superior fleet. If you want to fight on your own terms, you need to catch it, or manipulate it into catching you. One of the most often-ignored yet most important aspects of fighting Capsuleers is the setup - finding something you can kill, catching it, and getting the hell out if it turns out to be more than you bargained for. 

 I will preface this entry by saying that it will be more vague than most, because it covers a vague topic. Finding good targets requires experience and knowledge; the best thing I can do is explain the tools and explain the mindset. 

I’d like to start by pointing out that the nuances of both fighting and finding fights vary significantly based on your location and situation.. If you reside in high-security space, you will be limited to “suicide ganks” or CONCORD-sponsored wars against specific corporation. In low-security space you have to deal with gate guns. In null-security space you have to deal with warp disruption bubbles, and there’s more. The various nuances of different regions of space are far too numerous for me to elaborate here. Maybe if there is interest I will elaborate more in future entries, but for now I will assume that none of these need to be worried about. It’s just you (or your fleet), space and your targets. 

Stop babbling and teach me things!

            I’ll start with location. Location is big; you need to know both the layout of your area and the people who inhabit it. Over time you can learn which systems are dangerous, which are tame, which corporations will give you good fights and which will drop capitals on you at the first sign of trouble. This is something that can only be learned through experience, though to some extent common sense plays a role here. A capsuleer in a corporation of 250 is more likely to be bait for a large gang than a capsuleer in a corporation of 10. If you’re in an enemy’s home system, they’re likely to bring more and larger things against you than if you’re off in the middle of nowhere. Use your head and learn what your enemy is like. 

            There are tools at your disposal, however, which can give you more immediate information. The first and most obvious is Local channel. It will give you the names and other information of every capsuleer within your solar system. Whenever you enter a system this should always be perused to see who is around. By checking the local channel you can see how many hostiles are around, how old they are, and which corps they belong to.

            Two hostiles of the same corporation are almost certainly going to call on each other for aid if attacked. Two potential targets who are not allied in any way, however, may not (though you should not necessarily assume that two pilots are not friends just because they do not share the same corporation!). Always keep in mind, however, that a target can still have friends in nearby systems; just because you’re alone with one other in system does not mean that you aren’t going to have a fleet dropped on you. When fighting, you should keep an eye on local chat. If you suddenly see numbers spike, then especially with people you know to be allied to the poor bastard you’re shooting, you’re about to get blobbed.

            Another interesting note is that if you are near a stargate, you will see a flash when a pilot goes through the gate from either side. If you see this flash and it didn’t come from someone jumping through from your side, someone’s coming.

            When roaming around the system, hunting, you’ll want to use your directional scanner so as not to waste time (and risk your ship) warping everywhere just to find out where something is. Proper directional scanner usage is utterly crucial, and is discussed in Petrus’ entry here.

The second crucial information tool I’ll discuss is Dotlan maps. Much like the basic starmap, it can provide information on the number of ships in space, the number of jumps made through a system recently, and the number of capsuleer ships destroyed among other statistics.

The numbers show ship kills/pod kills in the last 24 hours. Enough said. 

In a quiet, out-of-the-way pocket of space, you are unlikely to run into any large gatecamps or other unpleasant things. However, you’re also less likely to run into potential targets, and you will be more noticeable in local channels to whatever targets are around. Neither are clearly superior options, but you should keep these things in mind when you roam.

The Right Ship for the Right Job

            The type of ship you select will, obviously, affect how you hunt. A cheap frigate is capable of catching slower things that don’t want to be caught, and if you lose it you have lost virtually nothing. However, individually such ships are rather weak in direct combat. On the other hand, you could fly a battleship, and be able to take on almost any other ship in a direct fight; however, when you lose it, it will be expensive. Worse, you’ll be so slow that you’ll be unable to catch anything that doesn’t want to fight you, and enemy gangs that are large enough to take you down will have no problem chasing you down.

            If you’re new to fighting capsuleers, you should take the former approach. Mistakes will cost you little, and you will learn how to fight against overwhelming odds (which makes victory so much sweeter if you do win). Otherwise, the choice is situational. You should always, however, think about what could go wrong. If you are in a ship that is fast and able to easily run away if things start going poorly, you can afford to be more aggressive than a slow ship that has no escape mechanisms. If you’re in a cheap ship, you can afford to take more risks than someone in an expensive ship. I will gladly fly into almost-certain death with a Rifter, but not with a Daredevil.

Sleek, deadly...but not disposable

            Ultimately, once you find a target, you will need to decide whether or not you can kill him. He will be asking himself the same thing. I cannot help you with this question; it’s a function of what ship you’re in, what ship you’re in, how you’re fit, how he’s fit, how you think he’s fit, how good of a pilot he is, how many friends he has, how many friends he thinks you have, and many other factors. Remember back when I told you to research the people in your area? Every single one of the factors I listed, other than what ship the target is in (which you should hopefully learn from directional scan, or at least before you decide to engage) is an unknown to you unless you have prior experience with him or his friends. And remember, no matter how good or how bad you are at the above, you either have to be fast enough to catch your target, or capable of convincing him that he should attack you.

The final piece of advice I have to offer is to never be afraid to risk your ship. Too many pilots will refuse to engage if there’s even a chance of them losing, and that is the wrong philosophy to have. It is not conductive to learning, it is not fun, and you certainly won’t get any exciting, memorable fights out of it.

Fly dangerous! 

May 24, 2012

Questions From A Newbie: "How does the directional scanner work?"

Accidentally The Whole Frigate is starting a new initiative: "Questions From A Newbie". How it works: I receive questions from newbies, and if they are good enough and deserve a long-form answer that would be a pain to repeat over and over to new people, I make a post about it. Even you can send in questions! Get to it!

So, let's get started. The first question comes from Matthius Carole of Rifterlings.

The Directional Scanner

The D-scan Button
The directional scanner (henceforth "dscan", pronounced "dee-scan") is one of the most useful tools in your ship's arsenal. No, it's not a weapon, it doesn't do damage, and only provides limited information -- but invaluable information.

The dscan provides the answer to the question "what ships/things are around?" Note that I did not mention "people". It provides information on any ships (piloted or unpiloted), wrecks, stationary structures, celestial objects, etc.

So, how does it work?

If you push the scan button (as illustrated above), you get a window that looks something like this:

The simplest way to use it is to do a full scan around yourself, to see what is nearby. For this, drag the angle slider to 360 degrees, and stick "999999999" into the range. That will get set to 2,147,483,647 km, the maximum distance for dscan, which comes out to a little over 14 AU away. Hit the scan button and see what you get.

Those are all ships and other objects within 14 AU of you. Exciting, eh? But... how do you tell who's in what ship? Well, you don't, unless the person in that ship is a baddie.

Pro tip: whenever you get told to change your ship's name, this is why. Look at the image above. You can't tell who is flying the "XXL Invincible" Machariel, or the "Jolly Roger" Maelstrom. However, you can very easily tell who is flying the Cyclone: ross2by4. That's because his ship's name is still the default "ross2by4's Cyclone". So, pro tip? Change your ship's name.

Okay, but... how is that "directional" at all?

You can narrow the angle. And, in fact, you should! Suppose you're sitting next to a planet that has 10 asteroid belts, and there is some guy who is ratting in one of them. You want to kill him (you pirate, you), but   you will almost certainly miss him if you pick through the belts one by one. So, what do you do? Use your dscan!

Neat, so it scans for that particular angle in front of my ship, right?

No! It scans that particular angle in the direction your camera is pointing. Allow me to illustrate. The angles you can set, in degrees, are 360, 180, 90, 60, 30, 15, and 5. Here is an image of approximately what area of the sky they each cover:

Click for more readable full size
This wasn't calculated with a lot of trigonometry or effort on my part. Rather, this is a ballpark of what the areas are, which I picture in my mind's eye whenever I scan. You need to scan a lot to evolve your own way of eyeballing the angle you're scanning, as there is no visual indication.

Note that the scan not is centered in the direction my ship is heading, but rather in the direction the camera is pointing. If you want to get an exact "place" that the center of the dscan is (useful for the 5 and 15 degree scans), simply click on your ship and a small white square will appear.

So, what angle and distance should I use?

Depends on how good you are with the scan, and what you're trying to use it for. When you are in hunting mode, you should be prepared to hotswap dscan settings in order to get the best info. My most commonly used scan angles and directions, plus their purposes, are:

  • 360 degree, maximum range: Plain readout of possible things of interest nearby.
  • 360 degree, 10,000,000 km: "short scan" able to detect if anyone of interest is about to drop on top of me, or is on the acceleration gate of my complex.
  • 60, 30, or 15 degree, maximum range: "Spotlight" search through individual celestials to narrow down where something might be. This is what is going on when you hear "Target is somewhere near Planet V" in fleet.
  • 5 degree, maximum range: Very narrow scan to try to distinguish between very close celestials, without warping to either of them.
  • 90 degree, 180 degree, maximum range: broad scan to use when baffled by a target I simply cannot scan down, to check whether he is at a safe spot.
Varying the distance can be very helpful at short ranges. It can give you clearer information about what's going on, especially if you're trying to scout out a gate without being on the field. However, it's fairly advanced and I'm not going to cover that here.

To be a great scout, learn to use the dscan to quickly inform your fleet of everything going on.

Any other tips or tricks?

Why yes, I'm glad you asked.
  • You can use your current overview tab to filter what gets shown on dscan. Use it to filter useless results (POSes, cargo containers, etc) out of the long list.
  • Rats, faction navy, CONCORD, and other non-capsuleer ships do not show up. Their wrecks do. Use this to detect if someone is ratting.
  • The scan can be confusing if you see someone while they're just warping by. Repeat scans to confirm results.
  • Combine with the system scanner and various objects on your overview, to be able to pinpoint your target's location quickly.
  • Shift-Alt-X toggles the display of icons for moons on your screen. Have it on, so you can see if your target is just sitting safely at a POS -- your cue to leave them alone.
  • Corollary: If you have POSes and Force Fields on your overview, you can easily spot offline POSes this way... possibly yielding sweet loot.
  • This is not just a PvP tool. Dscan can spot incoming suicide gankers, scanner probes, recently decloaked AFK cloakers, etc. Use it.

And, above all...

Use of the dscan is an acquired skill. That is "skill" as in "piloting ability", not "skill points". It is, in fact, not affected by any "skills" at all. You simply need to practice, practice, practice to get it down to the point where you can quickly tally everything that is nearby and where it is.