December 19, 2013

Question From A Newbie: "What is stacking penalty?"

"Stacking penalty" is a model for diminishing returns on identical ship/module effects. Or, in other words, the more effects of one kind you pile on, the less powerful each successive effect will be. If you're to remember one thing from this post, remember this:


If you look at the description of many modules, you will see this message or something similar:
Penalty: Using more than one type of this module or similar modules that affect the same attribute on the ship will be penalized.
It sounds ominous, but all it means is "the more of these you use, the less effective they will be". The above rule of thumb is simply boiling this down to the most popular cutoff point.

But... why?


Back in the day, things didn't use to be this way. All modules applied their full effect, all the time. This meant that some ships which had very high numbers of mid or low slots, could fit multiplier modules in all of them, resulting in insane total modification. We're talking "insane" as in "battleships moving faster than frigates by filling their low slots with nanos" levels of insane. It was so crazy that it started breaking the laws of physics.

So it was changed, and the Machariel shed a manly tear.


How big are the penalties?


It's not a linear progression, and the penalty grows the more modules there are. The actual equation and visual representation of how effective your modules are is below:


Note that 100% simply means 100% of the module's effect. For example, a Gyrostabilizer II increases projectile damage by 10%. The second gyro would increase the damage by a further 86.91% * 10% = 8.7%. And so on...

Summing up these modifiers, this is how much you get out of fitting a number of identical modules:

Update: Turns out I'm a big fat wrong liar, and there is no such thing as additive stacking. The graphs have been replaced with graphs showing the real multiplicative effect.


Math is fun, isn't it? Note how fitting the fourth module is only of tiny benefit, and all further modules are nearly useless... hence the rule of thumb.

In case you really love math and would like to play around with the stacking penalty calculation, you can use this function for the total multiplier (M) of n modules each giving a m bonus:


Does this affect guns? If so, it's stupid.


It would indeed be stupid if it affected guns, but fortunately, it does not. "Absolute value" modules such as guns, shield extenders, armor plates, etc. are exempt from stacking penalty.

Are there other exceptions?


Yes. Here are some notable ones:

  • Damage control modules. The boost they give to shield and armor resistances does not count as part of other resistance-modifying effects.
  • Fitting modules. Co-processors, reactor control units, capacitor rechargers, cargohold expanders, and other such modules do not suffer stacking penalty.
  • Trimark rigs and CDFE rigs. The amount of extra armor or shield hit points you receive from fitting multiple of these rigs does not diminish with each successive rig. This makes them extraordinarily powerful and popular on ships that need a lot of buffer tank (such as battleships or capital ships).
  • Implants. Bonuses from implants do not count towards the stacking penalty of a certain attribute. Snake implants are an exception, to avoid excessive speed problems.
There are a few others, but I'm not going to attempt to go hunt down all of them. With very few exceptions (such as falloff "ambit" rigs), all stacking-penalized modules are indicated as such in their description. A quick search should let you know if a module is stacking penalized, even if it does not have the warning in its description.

What if I'm using modules of different strengths? Is it possible that the strongest one gets penalized for weaker ones "counting before it"?



No, not at all. Effects are "counted" in order of their strength. 

Suppose I had an Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II fit (20% resistance bonus to all armor resistances) along with an Armor Explosive Hardener II (55% bonus to explosive armor resistance). Since the hardener is the highest modifier, it gets counted first, and thus receives the full 100% of its effect, or 55%, while the EANM's explosive component gets counted second, receiving only 20% * 86.91% = 17.38% of its effect Since the other resistance bonuses the EANM provides do not conflict with anything else, they receive their full effects of 20% each.

My head hurts. Can I take advantage of all this somehow, or is this just hot air?


You can! By just knowing and applying all this, you already have an advantage over many other players. Some don't know better until it's too late (as one thing wrong with that fit). 

Now go forth and conquer!

November 17, 2013

Question From A Newbie: "What is this 'Crimewatch' thing? What's a crime?"

Well, I got a little bit of writing block finishing the blog post about drones, so to keep you sated, I am instead addressing something I have had to answer over and over (and over and over) again: how does the "law" system of the cluster work?

Luckily for you, I will not be writing a giant wall of text this time. Instead, I am throwing a flowchart your way:
(click for full size)


Enjoy!

(I think this might be the shortest blog entry I ever did. I should do this more often.)


Update: After some feedback on Reddit, I re-uploaded the image with some fixes.

October 18, 2013

Blasters 101: Vaporizing The Competition

Last but not least of the turrets in this blog series, we have the awesome weapon system that is blasters. Hold on to your hats, since this post turned out to be fairly lengthy. Maybe get a snack first.

Blasters do damage. No, really. They are far above all other weapon systems in raw damage output, and have the best tracking out of all turrets. This makes them an excellent choice for a wide variety of situations, and makes them especially attractive to young pilots with few skill points.



However awesome they may be at melting ships though, they have their own downsides. Let's look at blasters' attributes in more detail:

Pros

Amazing damage. Nothing much more to be said here.

Great tracking. Well... in most cases. Small (frigate-sized) blasters are actually out-tracked by autocannons, but that's simply because the two main autocannon frigates (Slasher and Rifter) both have large tracking bonuses, while no blaster frigates have a tracking bonusCorrection: there are plenty of blaster frigates with tracking bonuses. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I typed that.

Ease of use. Blasters are a pretty no-nonsense weapon system. Get in range, fire. Like pulse lasers, you also only have to worry about two ammo types (one if you use T1 guns): Antimatter, and Null. Ed: well, and maybe Void. Read on to the ammo section for more.

Wide applicability. Even though they are technically preferred by the Gallente, blasters make an appearance on both Gallente and Caldari hulls. The optimal range bonus they get from some Caldari ships isn't particularly useful, but does not invalidate the usefulness of having a high-damage shield-tanked ship.

Let's joust!

Cons

Unforgiving fittings. Since the objective of blaster ships is to maximize damage output, you'd think that using the neutron (largest in the class) blasters is a no-brainer. However, they can be very hard to fit, and usually leave their ship lacking tank. Swapping down to electron or ion blasters helps, but it comes at a fairly high price in damage output.

Range. Range range range range range. Blasters have awful range. A day-one pilot cannot expect to hit past 3 km with frigate blasters (and at 50% miss rate, at that), while a perfectly-skilled pilot only pushes that out to 4 km. T2 blasters with Null ammo somewhat help with this, but they do it at the price of damage and tracking. Look for ships with range bonuses to mitigate this.

Difficult range control. Blaster ships tend to be helpless when caught by a ship with superior mobility. In addition, blasters are very vulnerable to optimal range disruption from tracking disruptors. There is no surer way to shut down a blaster ship than to lower its range to completely impossible levels.

Poor in large fleet fights. Large battles tend to spread themselves out over wide areas. Having to move close to every target in order to apply damage wastes a lot of valuable seconds that other weapon systems would be using to apply damage.


Electrons, ions, and neutrons, oh my!

Yes, yes, I keep talking about these different sizes of blasters, and it is extremely confusing. Luckily for you, the naming scheme is actually uniform throughout the ship classes: neutrons are larger than ions, which are larger than electrons. Need a better mnemonic? They're alphabetical!


So, where do I start?

If you like armor, the Incursus. If you like shields, the Merlin. If you just like overwhelming raw damage, the Catalyst. The Incursus and Merlin are both incredibly good brawlers. They both have a bonused to their tank and damage, and are straightforward to fly. The Catalyst doesn't really do tanking (and it's fairly flimsy for a destroyer because of that), but it does do damage that rivals that of some battlecruisers.

For the Incursus, try something like this fit to start with. Some notes about it, though:

  • It may be difficult to fit with low skills. Feel free to remove the armor plate or replace the magnetic field stabilizer with something easier to fit (like an adaptive nano plate)
  • Mind the range. Those might be neutron blasters, but they still don't go out that far.
  • Replace the armor repairer with an ancillary armor repairer if you can. The extra repair is worth it, and fights don't last nearly long enough for the regular armor repairer to overtake the AAR. More words on ancillary tanks in a later post.
  • Never ever forget the damage control. Gallente ships benefit more than most from it.

The Merlin brings to the table very similar features, but in a shield-tanked package. Try something like this. It's a little simpler to fly than the Incursus, due to the lack of active tank. This comes at slightly reduced damage, and higher signature radius (why would I care about that?).

Lastly, the Catalyst... Its fits are very straightforward. However, they tend to also be extremely tight. Luckily, being a destroyer, it gets both optimal and falloff range bonuses, which means that "downgrading" to smaller blasters isn't too big a tragedy. The fit I linked is a sample "optimal" tech-1 glass cannon Catalyst. One alternative that works especially well in fleets is not to use a scrambler/disruptor; just use a stasis webifier instead. Slowing down your targets helps both with people who kite your blasters, and with you getting in range fast to apply that awesome destroyer damage. Just be wary that, due to only having a damage control for tank, that Catalyst is significantly less suited to tanking than almost any other destroyer.



What next?

There are lots of great blaster-centric ships. These are usually either fast, tanky, or both, and their sole objective is to get in the enemy's face and shoot it off. Let's have a look:
  • Atron: Think of a faster, flimsier, and slightly longer range Incursus. Good fast tackle, but also works for solo combat.
  • Enyo/Ishkur: Both of the Gallente assault frigates work great with blasters, along with being very tough nuts to crack. The Enyo is more dedicated to blasters, while the Ishkur uses both blasters and drones.
  • Taranis: Combat interceptor that out-damages most assault frigates. Fairly thin-skinned, but very dangerous against larger ships, or when it's roaming around in a gang.
  • Thorax: Gallente attack cruiser. Very fast, outdamages some battlecruisers, and has a tracking bonus on top of that, making it very dangerous to anyone encountering it. Has to trade a bit of that damage for survivability (if you want it).
  • Moa: Caldari combat cruiser. Extremely tanky, plus sports high damage thanks to its bonused blasters. However, its mid slots have tackle, electronic warfare, and tank competing, and it only has three light drones, making it a non-optimal choice outside of a fleet. Very good, functional bait.
  • Deimos: A T2 super-Thorax. Slightly slower, but tankier, higher damage, and range-bonused. 
  • Brutix/Astarte: The Brutix and its command ship big brother, the Astarte, are the ultimate medium weapon battlecruisers. They're not the tankiest in their class (though the Astarte is not to be underestimated), but in exchange they can reach damage figures that compete with, and sometimes excel, those of battleships.
  • Talos: Essentially a discount Megathron battleship in a battlecruiser-sized package. The Talos has the exact same gun-toting capabilities of the Megathron, but like all attack battlecruisers, it has very weak tank. Unlike the other ABCs though, it features a flight of light drones, which makes it usable at much shorter ranges.


Quite the selection, yes? But wait, I'm not done! There is a selection of ships which are generally considered to be weapon-agnostic. That is, they have working fits with high slots featuring autocannons, missiles, energy neutralizers, nothing, and... you guessed it... blasters!
  • Tristan: The Gallente drone frigate can fit two guns, and it receives a tracking bonus for hybrids, but those fitting resources are often used for something else (like a tougher tank). It can use blasters to good effect to have great overall damage.
  • Vexor/Ishtar: The Tristan's cruiser-sized big brothers. These do more than enough damage just using their drones, but can further enhance it to awesome heights by fitting some (lightly bonused) blasters. 
  • Myrmidon/Prophecy: Yes, that's an Amarr ship there. These two battlecruisers receive no weapon bonuses, so they have a lot of options for what to fit in those high slots. Blasters are a common choice when aiming to maximize damage dealt.

So, since they're so good, can I fit blasters to everything?

No! While yes, your damage figures may be higher, you may be wasting the potential of a ship by slapping blasters on it. Alternatively, there is probably a good reason that blasters are not meant for it. Here are some examples of ships that make me weep bitter tears when I see them equipped with blasters:
  • Cormorant: When using blasters, the Cormorant's optimal range bonuses hardly get used, and it gets relegated to the role of being a slower, lower-damage Catalyst. Use railguns!
  • Ferox: Same deal, it just becomes a crappier Brutix. Railguns railguns railguns!
  • Naga: While it may do slightly more damage on paper than the Talos, it is slower, flimsier, lacks drones, and is missing the tracking bonus, making it overall a poorer choice at short range. Raaaaaailguuuuuuns!
  • Maller: fitting blasters does not gain that much damage, and loses lasers' immense range flexibility. Don't do it!
  • Rifter/Punisher: I think people just do this on purpose to tick me off. I hold personal grudges against anyone who does this.
Does this look like a %@#$ing blaster ship to you?!

Antimatter is king

When picking out ammo for your blaster ship, there is no T1 ammo that makes sense other than Antimatter Charges. All the others progressively do less damage, while increasing optimal range. Since blaster optimal range is very short, scaling it up with ammo is not worth it for  the amount of damage traded for it. It's the same deal as using autocannons with anything but EMP/Phased Plasma/Fusion.


Oh, and keep in mind: the Federation Navy and Caldari Navy variants of hybrid ammo are exactly identical. When buying either, make sure the other isn't cheaper first (unless you're racist, in which case you already know what to do).


If you  have T2 blasters, always make sure to bring a load of Null ammo as well. When you only have Antimatter on you, it is very easy to get kited, or to get shut down by a tracking disruptor. Null extends both optimal and falloff range to a point where you are no longer helpless.

Update: (because I have gotten a complaint about not including this) The last T2 blaster ammo type is Void. Like Conflagration and Hail, it penalizes tracking but increases damage. A lot. Void is generally useful when fighting above your ship class, or in other situations where you are confident you can avoid tracking problems. It also trades off a little bit of falloff range for a little bit of optimal range, meaning that it is easier to get into "point blank" range, but when leaving it the damage drops off much faster.

Moros is also a pretty cool blaster ship... but it's not really a frigate.

Anything else?

Nope! You made it through the wall of text. Or maybe you didn't, and are just looking for a summary here. Well, fine. TL;DR: Blasters are a high-risk, high-reward weapon system that involves running up to your target and shooting it in the face from within arm's reach. Their sound is also closest to "pew pew", so they have that going for them, too.

Tune in next time to hear me rant about drones. Or maybe missiles? I already wrote a sort of missile primer, but it's not quite as exhaustive as the posts in this series. What do you think?

October 9, 2013

Railguns 101: Range Limitations Are For Losers

On to hybrid weapons! Let's start with railguns.

As the title of this post implies, railguns are the longest range turrets. In some cases, they even overtake all other non-turret weapons in order to claim the "top range". This is a very useful tool. However, railguns are more complicated than being plain "sniper" guns.


Before getting into the nitty gritty of railguns' peculiarities, let's take a look at some simplified pros and cons:

Pros

Great range. Have I mentioned this already? Railguns have great range, and is a wide variety of optimal range bonusing ships that gives them even nicer range.

Good damage. At the ranges where they excel at, railguns out-damage most (if not all) other weapon systems on equivalent ships. More on this later.

Easy fitting. Unlike most other long range weapon systems, railguns in general tend to be light on fitting requirements. Of course, the largest ones in each class size may be difficult to fit, but its range usually enables trade-offs in other parts of your ship.

"Gatling" alternatives. All sub-capital classes of railguns have one variety that has very high rate of fire, good tracking, and a relatively short range: 75mm, dual 150mm, and dual 250mm. Not only are they useful for some short range kiting, but they are also very easy to fit, making for good "placeholder" weapons for ships like the Vexor.

The Harpy is an amazing frigate-sized railgun platform.

Cons

Limited damage types. Hybrid weapons only deal a combination of thermal and kinetic damage, with a lean towards kinetic when using longer range ammo. Usually these are "okay" damage types, but they don't really have the huge potential to wreck a heavy tank that EM or explosive dealing weapons have. They also tend to be next to useless against T2 Gallente or Caldari hulls (which have very high Thm/Kin resists).

Very poor at short to medium range. When used anywhere closer than their optimal range (particularly when using Antimatter ammo), railguns are plain inferior to other weapon types such as beam lasers and artillery.

Unforgiving learning curve. Unless you're looking to only snipe from maximum possible range, expect a tough time learning how to pilot a railgun ship correctly. I hope this post will be of some help.

Edit: Some capacitor vulnerability. While hybrid guns do not use as much capacitor as lasers do, they are still vulnerable to having your capacitor drained. Without power, they can't fire. Thanks to /u/Killerx09 for pointing this omission out.


Where do I start?

The Cormorant destroyer, hands down. It receives a double bonus to its railguns' range (50% base, plus 10% per Caldari Destroyer level), making it a great first ship to start taking advantage of being far away with. Try this fit to start with. If you have problems getting the 150mm railguns on there, it's okay to swap down to 125mm ones.

To fly it, you simply have to try to stay at whatever your optimal range is (10 to 18 km, depending on skills), and fire your guns. Orbiting is unnecessary (and might even be counter-productive) unless your target is a cruiser or larger. The web is there for "pushing off" frigates that get too close and become hard to track -- not for purposefully getting within 10 km to use it. Needless to say, because the Cormorant is a bit slow, this fit works best when put as "fire support" into a gang.

Using the Cormorant solo is... difficult, to say the least. I used to have a working gimmick fit for it, but since it does not have 4 mid slots anymore, that fit is useless. I have some experimental ideas for it, but nothing concrete yet. I may report back if I find a mind-blowingly good fit.

Okay, enough on the Cormorant. If you absolutely refuse to use it, you can find a shorter range, higher damage variant of it in the Catalyst. Though it is optimized for blasters, the Catalyst can still handle railguns fairly well.

On the frigate front, the Merlin, Incursus, and Atron all can be fit with railgun kiting fits. Railguns also find a home on the Tristan, where the tracking bonus makes them a decent auxiliary weapon (along drones) for ranged fits. If you would like more info on these sorts of shenanigans, get in touch with Fintarue, my corp expert on these matters.


What's next?

Everybody always says "Caldari are the missile race". Everybody is wrong. Along their lineup of missile ships, the Caldari also have a whole array of hybrid weapon equipped ships, all of which are excellent with rails. Some work with blasters, too. Here's a sampling, with some approximate range figures from common fits.

  • Harpy: one of the tankiest assault frigates, with great range and damage. It has some problems tracking (even when blaster-fit), but if flown smartly it can demolish a huge variety of stuff. Expect 20 km railgun range on a good fit.
  • Moa: the Caldari take on "tanky brick with lots of damage". Works with both blasters and railguns, and has very good flexibility to trade between tank and utility, due to its large number of mid slots. Expect 15-25 km of range.
  • Ferox: outdone at short range by the other battlecruisers, the Ferox instead beats all of them in ranged fights. It is very hard to kill, and projects damage to great ranges. Expect 30-40 km of range.
  • Eagle: recently reworked to improve its combat performance, this heavy assault cruiser takes the Moa's tank and mobility, plus the Ferox's range... and improves on both of them. A great sniping ship. Don't get caught. Expect 50-60 km range.
  • Naga: the longest range attack battlecruiser, specialized for doing very high battleship-sized railgun damage from long distances. Outdoes all the others at ranges above 70 km or so. Expect 70-90 km range (unless equipped with Spike ammo, in which case it fires farther away than ships are allowed to lock).
  • Rokh: So far I have made a point to not mention battleships in this series, but the Rokh is the epitome of "giant brick railgun platform". Its range is the same as the Naga's, and the damage is a little lower, but it cannot be counter-sniped easily due to its massive hit points. Oh, and it's so badass it even has a song dedicated to it.

(Adult language warning; cover any nearby kids' eyes and ears)


On the Gallente line-up side, the ranges tend to be shorter, but the damage is usually higher. This leads to a lot of unconventional semi-kiting fits (like the frigates I mentioned). As this post doesn't go very far in depth on those tactics, I will leave those for another day.

Ammo selection

Like with beam lasers, the ammo choice when using railguns is a serious consideration. The most common options are:

  • Antimatter Charge: General purpose high damage ammo. Fairly short range if your ship does not have a range bonus, though. Use the Federation Navy or Caldari Navy variants if you can. The extra damage is worth it.
  • Uranium Charge: Higher range and lower damage than antimatter, uranium charges are for those situations in which you really need to squeeze a little more range out of your railguns. May actually end up doing better damage than antimatter due to superior tracking at longer ranges.
  • Spike: Uranium doesn't give you enough range? Spike cranks the range up to maximum. It's another slight damage decrease, but the range is immense: 3.6x that of antimatter. Caution! Spike also reduces your tracking 75%. Never ever use it against fast moving things, or at short ranges.
  • Javelin: Okay, your target caught you, and your antimatter is no longer tracking. Stick this ammo in and enjoy the tracking boost. It comes at the price of range, though, so remember to switch back to other ammo when you need to shoot stuff far away.







Damage/range comparison

Many critics of railguns claim that railguns are not useful due to their having lower damage figures than those of beam lasers. However, railguns have something that beam lasers do not have: range.

To demonstrate what I mean, I have whipped up some quick Oracle and Naga fits, respectively toting Tachyon Beam Laser IIs and 425mm Railgun IIs. Naturally, since everyone loads the shortest ranged ammo first to test out damage, they see something like this (graphs courtesy of Pyfa):

Range in km on the x-axis; DPS on the y-axis
The Oracle is clearly superior at up to about 65 km! The trouble is, with these sorts of guns, the closer you are to the target, the more your damage gets reduced by missing the target. For example, this is what happens when the two battlecruisers shoot an average cruiser moving at its base speed:

130 signature target, moving 200 m/s at a 35 degree angle
The Oracle now has a much slimmer window where it is superior. But that's no problem, since it can just switch to longer range ammo and match the Naga, right? After all, lasers are known for ammo flexibility. Let's see what happens when it loads Xray ammo, which gives it roughly the same range as the Naga:


Ouch. Now, just for curiosity, what happens if we compare hyper-long range performance (Aurora vs Spike)?



The extra vertical lines are the lock range limits with these two fits. To get locking range matching the Naga's, the Oracle would have to give up either speed or gun range, while the Naga can be more easily refit as it won't suffer as much from replacing one of its Tracking Computers with a Sensor booster.

Disclaimer: This entire theorycrafting session was manufactured inside my sick and twisted mind, and may be full of bad fits, opinionated statements, and overall wrongness. Feel free to be offended if you dislike it.

Do you have a headache yet?



I know I do. I'll leave it here.

Good luck with your railguns, and tune in soon™ to learn about the last kind of turrets: blasters!

September 24, 2013

Beam Lasers 101: Space Light Shows

Have you ever seen any mid-combat pictures that look like this?



Yeah, those are beam lasers. They are decidedly the most fabulous weapon system.

On top of making for spectacular-looking space shootouts, beam lasers are quite useful as a long range damage delivery system. Whenever the range of pulse lasers with Scorch is not sufficient, it's time to bring out the beams. Let's look at some of their characteristics:


Pros

Great tracking (relatively). Beam lasers have much better tracking than railguns and artillery, the competitors in the "long range turret" section. 

Great DPS. Not only do they track better than railguns and artillery, but beam lasers also do more raw damage. It is comparable to that of autocannons or pulse lasers!

Decent alpha. While they are not quite artillery, beam lasers still fire fairly slowly, and as a result, do their damage in respectably-sized lumps.

Incredible range flexibility. The long optimal range of beam lasers synergizes very well with the rainbow of available laser crystals and the instant switching of laser crystals. Beam lasers can always pick the appropriate crystal for the range their target is at in order to maximize damage.

Taste the rainbow!

Cons

Cap usage. Beam lasers are extremely capacitor-hungry. You have to consider your capacitor seriously whenever you plan a beam laser fit.

Fitting requirements. Beam lasers are also a pain and a half to fit. Be prepared to make significant sacrifices to use them.

Limited damage types. All lasers do some combination of EM and thermal damage. As crystals increase in range, though, the proportion shifts heavily toward EM. This means that beam lasers are quite poor against armor tanks.

Competition with Scorch. The long range of pulse lasers using Scorch usually encroaches on the operational range of beam lasers. Usually it comes down to a difference in damage and tracking, but there are some times when it is really just pointless to use beams instead of pulses with Scorch.



Where do I start?

There is no better way to jump into beam lasers than the Coercer. It is decently fast, which lets it do all sorts of tricks with its long range lasers. It also has a tracking bonus, which helps with the "I'm missing all my shots" learning curve.

Try this fit. Here's how an optimal engagement with a short range ship can go. Refer to my kiting guide for the basics of how/why this works.

  1. Load Ultraviolet/Standard/Infrared crystals to start off, depending on your skills.You want about 20 km range.
  2. Get point and start firing at 20 km. 
  3. Have your microwarpdrive on and burn in a straight line away from your target as soon as he decides to fight you. This forces him to chase you, and gives you more time to do damage to him while he's not doing anything to you.
  4. When he gets to 10 km, swap to Multifrequency crystals to maximize damage. Overheat.
  5. If you get scrammed/webbed, continue drifting in the same direction. It will still help your tracking.
  6. Boom! Either he's dead by now, or you're in a brawl with a heavily damaged ship. You probably have a tracking disadvantage, but with some luck, you'll still win.
The fit can be upgraded by switching to Small Focused Beam Lasers, or by fitting T2 guns. Unfortunately it is quite difficult to do so unless you have good fitting skills, but in my opinion it is wholly worth it.

So far as tactics go, something like this works on most beam laser platforms. There are some exceptions (such as AHAC Zealot fleets), but they are advanced enough that they do not belong in a "101" level post.


What's next?

There are a variety of beam-capable ships. Let's take a look at some of them. Some might seem similar to the pulse laser list, but that is simply because pulse laser kiters also usually make great beam laser ships.
  • Retribution, Imperial Navy Slicer: Frigate sized pew-pew boats. Pulse lasers usually make the most sense if you plan to stay within point range (24 km), but outside that they are still great when using beam lasers.
  • Omen, Omen Navy Issue: Fast cruisers with good beam damage and good support from drones. like the Retribution and Slicer, they both work well with pulses and beams (especially the Navy Omen). 
  • Harbinger: I do not have personal experience with the beam Harbinger, but it seems that with proper support (in a fleet), it can become an incredibly powerful, if slow and fat, laser platform. Its damage from 20-30 km rivals that of point blank blasters.
  • Zealot: Amazing long range laser platform. Somewhat slower than the other Omen-type ships, and lacking drones, but it projects damage very, very well. Fly with care; it has no way to deal with frigates that catch it.
  • Oracle: In my experience, the perfect platform for battleship size beams. Fast, with lots of damage. I would only recommend it to experienced pilots, though. It requires a lot of manual piloting to do well.
Also, the Oracle is vertical. That's right.

Beam Laser Peculiarities

Yeah, beam lasers are a little bit weird.

Cruiser-sized Beam Lasers do more damage than Crusier-sized Pulse lasers. Yup. This is only the case with the cruiser variants. Frigate and battleship still lasers follow the "shorter range is more damage" pattern, though.

Quad Light Beam Lasers, a type of cruiser beam lasers, do not deserve their "beam" denomination. They have higher damage, shorter range, and comparable tracking to cruiser pulse lasers. Try them on a brawling cruiser! They're fun!



Pew pew!

That's about it. Go light up the sky!



Oh, and a reminder of something that you really need to know: never mix crystal types. It might make for sweet looking beams, but just don't do it. Why? Glad you asked.

September 17, 2013

Pulse Lasers 101: Pew Pew Pew!


Lasers have often been derided by being nicknamed "flashlights" -- good for looking at pretty things, but useless at doing anything other than illuminating their target. While various recent improvements in laser-toting ships have made lasers more appealing to the general public, they still suffer from the same thing they have always toiled under: a complete lack of understanding of how to best take advantage of them.

In this post, we will be looking at the short range variety of lasers: pulse lasers.



To start with, let's see what they are good at, and what they suck at. Pulse lasers are a very "polar" weapon system, in that their benefits are amazing while their downsides are awful.

Pros

Long optimal range. Pulse lasers have the longest base optimal range of all the short range turrets. This means that, barring tracking problems, they will be applying damage much better than their counterparts.

Little to no ammo concerns. Lasers do not use conventional "ammo". Instead, they use "crystals" which modify their damage, range, and the capacitor usage. T1 crystals can be fired infinite times, while faction and T2 crystals crack after several thousand shots. Unless you're very good at not dying, running out of ammo will never be a concern. Also, you never have to stop firing to reload. How cool is that?

Instant ammo switch. Crystals are similar to "scripts" of other modules, in that they can be swapped out instantly. This allows for great flexibility to adapt to whatever you're currently shooting.

Shields get dunked. Lasers are prefect for taking down shield-tanked ships due to their damage type and good ranged damage application. 


Cons

Poor tracking, especially at short range. Pulse lasers have very poor tracking compared to blasters and autocannons. As such, they have trouble hitting things that move very quickly, or are very close up.

Very little falloff range. Once a target exits a pulse laser's optimal range, the damage very quickly drops from full to zero. Range management is critical for applying full damage.

Vulnerable to tracking disruptors. Tracking disruptors take advantage of both of the above weaknesses. The arrival of a ship equipped with a tracking disruptor is big trouble for someone equipped with pulse lasers.

Vulnerable to capacitor warfare. Lasers eat a ton of capacitor to fire, so an opponent with an energy neutralizer spells trouble.

No damage type selection. Lasers are stuck dealing EM and thermal damage. The ratio between how much of each is dealt can be modified by using different ammo, but lasers simply cannot deal kinetic or explosive damage. This means lasers are poor at dealing with armor ships, and nearly useless against T2 Minmatar ships.

Scorch




Scorch is the wind beneath pulse lasers' wings. It is a T2 ammo type that enormously boosts the weapon's effectiveness. Why? A huge range boost. 

When equipped with Scorch, a laser ship will not only handily out-range its competing weapon systems, but it will also be significantly better at applying damage, as it is still firing at optimal range. Scorch boosts pulse lasers almost to the range of long range weapons (notably artillery and beam lasers), while preserving most of the high tracking and damage of short range weapons. 

Plus, it makes the lasers purple. PURPLE!



Where do I start?

Punisher, or Coercer. These two ships are completely focused on being laser platforms, without much else involved, which makes them perfect for getting used to the odd way lasers work.

The most common mistake people make when flying a laser ship is orbiting the target. With a couple exceptions, you should never, ever, ever orbit your target. Tracking is based on the relative movement of your ships. This means that not only is it harder for you to hit a moving target, but it is also harder for you to hit when you are moving.

This does not mean you should stay still, though. Try to keep as close to your optimal range as possible. Propulsion modules (afterburners and microwarpdrives) are your friends, as are stasis webifiers and warp scramblers. One trick to use to improve tracking when you are having problems is to fly in a straight line away from your target. This forces them to "trail" behind you to catch up, which improves your damage and may mess up theirs. Inattentive pilots who always orbit their targets are particularly vulnerable to this treatment.


Now, some suggested fits... The Punisher is a very hardy frigate because of its armor resistance bonuses, and can be fit as an effective brawler like this. The Coercer is focused more on being a glass cannon with amazing damage application (hence its range and tracking bonuses). Try something like this. Stay near the edge of your optimal range, and let the flashlights illuminate the non-believers.


Where do I go from there?

Laser ships follow one of two philosophies: big, tanky bricks that roast things from relatively short range, and agile, flexible kiters that are infuriating to fight. The "brick" ships you can look forward to are:

  • Tormentor: Similar to the Punisher, but a bit more flexible and skill intensive.
  • Maller: Very sturdy crusier with great damage and tank, but trouble tracking things. Works best with friends.
  • Harbinger: Powerful battlecruiser that will shred anything that gets in its range. Unfortunately, it's a bit slow.
The kiters are a bit more finnicky to fly, and I recommend reading over my magical kiting guide before trying your hand at it. T2 pulse lasers with Scorch are required.
  • Executioner: Very fast short range frigate; commonly found at 7-8 km, laughing at its target.
  • Imperial Navy Slicer: A super-Executioner; more speed, tank, plus a huge range bonus; usually found at 20 km or so, laughing even harder at its target.
  • Retribution: A super-Punisher; yes, it kites, because it has a big range bonus which the Punisher misses; think of it as a very tanky, slower Slicer.
  • Omen: Can be used as a brawler or kiter. Usually preferred over the Maller due to its improved mobility and drone bay, despite the reduced tank.
I could mention the Apocalypse and Abaddon, but... I won't. Bigger is not always better, kids, especially when you don't know how to fly your ship.

Pew pew!

Get out there and try it out! Whether you're a completely new pilot, or someone reaching out to try something new, pulse lasers are always a fun and different experience. They're also great for parties.


Come to the dark side. You know you want to.

September 11, 2013

Autocannons 101: There Are Never Enough Bullets

It is commonly said that "flying Minmatar ships is like riding a wheelchair down a staircase while wildly firing two Uzis and screaming." Artillery lacks the rate of fire for this to nearly apply to it, so it must be talking about autocannons instead.


Autocannons are the short range variant of projectile weaponry. Unlike Minmatar artillery, autocannons consume far more ammunition, and do not require immobile, bigger, or otherwise easy to hit targets. They are very easy to use, flexible, yet not lacking complexity. Let's look at some basics:

Pros

Very long falloff range. When comparing the falloff range of the various kinds of short range weapons, autocannons easily come out on top. This gives them a large engagement envelope; they will continue doing damage (albeit little) far past the range of comparable weapon systems.

"Magical" awesome ammo. As projectile weapons, autocannons get to take advantage of a variety of ammo types to best adapt to the current situation. 

No capacitor usage. This is especially important for short range weapons, as it means your damage will continue even if your capacitor is dry.

Very easy to fit. The powergrid and CPU draw of autocannons is very low. Some non-Minmatar ships actually even sometimes opt to equip autocannons as supplementary weapons because of this.

Republic Fleet Firetail

Cons


Very short optimal range. This means that autocannons will almost never do their full "paper" theoretical damage; it will always be reduced because of firing beyond the optimal range. Since long range autocannon ammo only bonuses optimal range (not falloff), using it gains almost no range while sacrificing a ton of damage. Never use medium/long range ammo in autocannons!

Low damage. Not only does autocannon theoretical damage get reduced by falloff, but it is also lower than that of blasters and pulse lasers to begin with.

Knowledge/luck dependent. In order to make up for the damage reductions from above, the pilot needs to be able to properly identify what the correct ammo is to use in the situation. If you pick wrong -- you're dead. Pick right, though, and the damage is great.


Barrage


A big selling point of autocannons is one of the ammo types only usable on T2 guns: Barrage. This ammo is the only projectile ammo type that bonuses falloff range (by a hefty bit). This means that autocannons can use it to stretch out their range even farther. 

Barrage is specialized ammo, though, so it has some downsides. While using it, your guns will track more poorly, and do less damage than shorter range ammo would. Barrage also only comes in a single damage profile: mainly explosive. This makes it a difficult sell against shield tanked ships, or Amarr T2 ships. Ironically, it's best suited to fight Minmatar T2 ships.

The Vagabond is well known for having falloff of 30-35 km or more for its autocannons.

Where do I start?

The Rifter! Or... the Slasher and Thrasher. 

Truth is, autocannons are used successfully on almost every Minmatar ship capable of fitting turrets, so you have a lot of options. The most straightforward one I've found (and the one which is apparently easiest to jump right into) is to just use the Thrasher with a fit like this one. The tracking and damage bonuses that the Thrasher provides to its guns are great for turning the rack of seven autocannons into a ship grinder. The fit is pretty straightforward: lots of guns, some tank, and a little bit of ability to hold things down via a warp scrambler and an energy neutralizer.

One small note, though. All frigate-sized autocannon-toting ships (Rifter, Slasher, Thrasher, Republic Fleet Firetail, Dramiel) have tracking bonuses for projectile weaponry. Very few larger ships have those kinds of bonuses. While frigate autocannons will almost always hit (a reason they deal with drones very well), larger ones may not. 

It's not pretty, but the Slasher means serious business.

What's next?

Practice, practice, practice. Because of their inherent lower damage, they tend to require more manual piloting, tricky tricks, and luck. Ammo takes a long time to swap (10 seconds), so the right choice is critical. During the fight, the large engagement envelope allows you to "fire and forget" the autocannons, producing the full-automatic "firing two Uzis while screaming" effect. This actually allows you to do more manual piloting and to pay more attention to what's going on, how to sabotage your opponent, and how to reduce incoming damage, rather than worrying about if your guns are hitting.

As you keep learning, try some of these autocannon setups. This is in no way an exhaustive list, as autocannons are extremely common.
  • Brawling Rifter/Slasher: Both of these ships are nimbler, more fragile, and do less damage than their same-class counterparts. However, the low fitting costs of autocannons and the balanced slot layouts allow both of them to bring unpredictable and highly tuned setups (think varying types of tank, electronic warfare, rockets, energy neutralizers, etc)
  • Brawling Thrasher: The Thrasher scales up very well with skills, and becomes a fast, flexible, high damage platform when equipped with autocannons. It can use either a shield tank for speed and damage, or an armor tank to have the extra utility mid slot.
  • Brawling Rupture: The Rupture is a very robust cruiser brawler, which brings a little bit of everything to the table. Can fare quite well both solo and in a gang.
  • Kiting Stabber: The Stabber, like the Vagabond from above, receives a large falloff range bonus. It is also extremely fast for a cruiser. This combination allows it to pull a lot of tricks, pecking away at its targets from range. T2 guns with Barrage are preferred, but it can sort of work with T1 weapons too.
  • Hurricane: Can be fit either as a bigger Rupture, or as a bigger, slower Stabber. The former (heavy armor tank, a lot of point blank damage) works better in my opinion, but a lot of people swear by the latter. 

Good fight!

There's a lot more that I could say about autocannons, but it would probably just devolve into lengthy ranting about weird fits and situations, so I'll stop here. Let me know if there is anything you would like me to address! Good luck out there, and may the ammo types be with you.