June 28, 2010

Blasters on a Rifter

Every so often, there are some comments thrown at killmails that say something to the tune of "that's not how you fly that ship" or "what is this, I don't even". Or "what the heck?!" Some times the commenter may even be correct (like in the previous examples). So then, what exactly is wrong about flying a Rifter with blasters and both an armor and shield tank if the slots allow it? (Edit: killboard links removed since the killboard they were on stopped working)

Ship Bonuses

So let's talk about the blasters on a Rifter. It would make sense to use high-damage close-range guns, since the Rifter is a high-damage close-range ship, no? Let's compare it to the Gallente Incursus, which is a blaster-boat.

With perfect training, an Incursus with 3 Light Ion Blaster IIs will deal 111 DPS. However, a Rifter with the same guns will deal 89 DPS. The Incursus'  blasters also have a longer falloff than the Rifter's. What gives? The ships' design choices make them more useful for different tasks. Here's how:
  • Incursus: Gallente Frigate Skill Bonus: 10% bonus to Small Hybrid Turret falloff and 5% bonus to Small Hybrid Turret damage per skill level. 
  • Rifter: Minmatar Frigate Skill Bonus: 5% bonus to Small Projectile Turret damage and 7.5% bonus to tracking per level. 
These can be found in the ship's description. As you can see, by fitting blasters (which are hybrid turrets) onto a Rifter, you do not benefit from the damage and tracking bonus that the Rifter offers. However, if you fit 150mm Light Autocannon IIs to the same Rifter, you will see the DPS drop to 87. What gives? These other effects should be considered, though:
  • CPU usage went down from 29.5 tf to 13.5 tf.
  • Power grid usage went down from 18.9 MW to 5.4 MW. 
  • Falloff distance went up from 2.5 km to 5.5 km (with close-range ammo fitted).
  • Ammo can now be picked according to damage types.
Not too bad, considering especially the changes in CPU and PG will mean the Rifter can fit more of other modules. 

Ship Attributes

It is also wise to take into consideration not only the bonuses, but the ship itself. For instance, the Slasher gets the same bonuses that the Rifter does. However, with its 3/2/1 slot setup, it is impossible to tank for proper battle.
However, because it's more agile - the Slasher's inertia modifier is 2/3 that of the Rifter's - it means it can accelerate, decelerate, and manage turns very well. This makes it an excellent fast tackler, albeit a suicide tackler because of the lack of tank. This is a case where ignoring the bonuses is advisable.

Special Ship Abilities

In some cases, ships have specific special abilities that give them special roles. For instance, take the Ashimmu loss I linked earlier. The Ashimmu is a cruiser of Blood Raider design, so it specializes in webbing and draining its targets dry. More concretely, its bonuses are:

Special Ability: 100% bonus to Medium Energy Turret damage

Amarr Cruiser Skill Bonus: 15% bonus to Energy Vampire and Energy Neutralizer drain amount per level

Minmatar Cruiser Skill Bonus: 10% bonus to the velocity factor of stasis webifiers per level
 Because the Ashimmu has room for 3 turrets, that gives it an equivalent 6 turrets of damage considering the 100% bonus. On top of that, with Amarr Cruiser V, it gets 75% bonus to neutralizer drain amount, and another great bonus to webs. In other words, by fitting "to the fit", these statistics would go up (all generated using max skills):
  • DPS: 139 to 297
  • Energy drain (peak): 801.5 to 945
  • Energy drain (range): 10.5 km to 12.6 km
  • Stasis web (range): 10 km to 15 km
  • Effective hit points: 24,616 to 37,182
  • Has a warp scrambler. 

The speed denial of the stasis webifiter is slightly worse, but a good sacrifice for the range. Also, the tank might be a little misleading, since he had an armor repairer on his, and I did not on mine. Other than that, I am really wondering why he would fly it as poorly fit as he did, especially after paying for it more than for a Heavy Assault Cruiser...

The Bottom Line

I didn't nitpick the Ashimmu loss at whim though. Expensive ships are expensive for a reason. They usually have some insanely overpowered bonus, in this case the neutralizer/web bonuses. It's fine to try out a blaster Rifter, or an autocannon Punisher. However, in cases like this, to pay so much for a ship then to not capitalize on every drop of bonus it gets is a waste, and makes you and your corporation/alliance look stupid.

As my personal instructor at the Pator Tech School used to say, "You can't turn an Apocalypse into a Tempest."

June 18, 2010

Rules of Engagement

I normally avoid commenting on politics since there's a lot of exciting stuff that goes on without regards to it. However, recently there have been some important changes in the Providence region.
Ushra'Khan has finally secured the Providence region well enough to declassify it as NRDS. But before that, I should explain what the two most common ROEs (Rules of Engagement) are:

  • NBSI - Not Blue, Shoot It - The most common ROE in 0.0 and lowsec, it just means, shoot anything that is not blue. This is mostly done for security (from neutral spies) and for having stuff to shoot.
  • NRDS - Not Red, Don't Shoot - In other words "unless it is explicitly an enemy, don't shoot it". This means neutrals can live in the space safely.
Ushra'Khan has just de-classified the Providence region (all of which is 0.0) to NRDS from the previous state of NBSI, hence returning it to the status quo of years ago, back during the previous time we held Providence. Ushra'Khan remains NBSI in Catch, and we reserve the right to hunt neutrals who are serving the Amarrian cause into the Amarr Empire. In other regions, Ushra'Khan has a policy of NRDS.

What does this mean to you? You can come down to Providence to play!

Even though Ushra'Khan has reverted to NRDS in Providence, it does not mean that everyone here is allied. Many of the alliances here still run a NBSI policy, often conflicting with Ushra'Khan, which results in them being set red (take Agony, for example).

Unlike the previous Providence block, the new one does not enforce a "red list" or "blue list" that all residents must conform to. Instead, the only law is no sovereignty warfare. This means that any attempt to plant SBUs or TCUs will result in full retaliation from the United Providence, regardless of their red or blue standings to each other. This policy has facilitated defense against CVA, Paxton Federation, or their other friends.

But really, what does this mean? Drop by Providence and neither Ushra'Khan, nor Star Fraction or the other NRDS alliances will shoot you. We even allow station access in most of our stations to neutrals. Who says you can't get sweet kills in 0.0 if you don't live in 0.0? You certainly can.

Personal Security and Survival Tips

The solar systems newbies start their adventures in, and the areas they travel during their training, along with most systems held by the four large nations, are usually well-guarded from rogue pilots who wish to take advantage of someone unable to fight back. However, if a pilot steps outside of these regions, or even takes a misstep inside them, he or she may quickly find their ship under the form of a scrap pile. Since the more dangerous regions are also some of the most profitable regions, though, everyone should have some idea how to navigate (relatively) safely everywhere. So, here's a quick guide to the different types of space you may find yourself in.

High Security (Hisec)
Security levels are measured on a scale from 0.0 to 1.0, going from the least secure (0.0) to the most secure (1.0). Solar systems rated for a security level of 0.5 or above are considered high security. Here, the CONCORD police patrols the region to ensure the peace (CONCORD battleship pictured above). They will respond to any activation of guns or other offensive system on another ship not belonging to the same corporation. In this event, they will lock down all jump gates, disable the aggressor's warp drive, and promptly destroy his ship.

The aggressor will also have his security status (a number between -10 and 10) marked down. The reason for this is that pilots with low enough security statuses become marked as kill-on-sight pirates in hisec space.


For this reason, you won't find longtime pirates most of the time in hisec. Most of the time. There are some pilots who fly cheap, but high volley damage ships (like Thrashers or Brutixes) in a small pack. They scan the cargo of haulers or other passing ships, and see if they contain anything of high value. If they do, all ships in their group open fire at once, possibly destroying the target instantly, before CONCORD has time to warp in and destroy the aggressors. Then, a friend of the aggressors in his own hauler, comes by and picks up all contents of the wrecks.

How to survive: avoid using your Autopilot when flying a ship containing more than 10-20 million ISK worth of stuff. It allows the pirates too much time to think. For really valuable deliveries, use a scout ahead to make sure no gates look suspicious. Also, remember to use a scout if you're at war, since anyone you're at war with can attack you without CONCORD intervening.

Low Security (Low-sec)

These little things are the only obstacle standing in the way of other pilots turning you into a scrapheap between the security ratings of 0.1 and 0.4. CONCORD does not respond to distress calls in low-sec space, but these sentry guns are placed at jump gates and near stations in order to ensure some sort of law. They will fire upon anyone who initiates an engagement (fires the first offensive module). Combat initiators also receive a penalty to their security status.

Because those are the only things dissuading others from attacking you, you may want to take more precautions.

Survival Tips:
  • At peak-traffic hours, some systems such as Amamake or Old Man Star become death traps due to pirates sitting on gates and killing passers-by. The pirates have enough tanking power to not be bothered by gate guns, yet can catch anything larger than a frigate for sure. Make sure to use a scout at those times.
  • Haulers always attract attention. Only use them if absolutely necessary.
  • If you are at an asteroid belt hunting pirates from an illegal organization (such as the Arch Angels, or Sansha's Nation), take out the ones that warp scramble/disrupt you first. That way you're not trapped if a capsuleer pirate wants to hunt you down.
  • Never use autopilot.
  • Groups of ships almost never bode well. Avoid groups of other capsuleers.
  • Moons may have player-owned starbases with point defenses set up. Be careful when warping to them.
Null Security (Null-sec or 0.0)
That there is exactly everything standing between guns and your ship. 0.0 space is completely lawless so far as CONCORD or gate guns are concerned. 0.0 is the only type of space that can be owned by player alliances, though, and is the most profitable type of space. Because of this, 0.0 is usually fiercely defended against intruders... something you probably are, unless otherwise noted. More on rules of engagement in an upcoming post.

The main difference in combat in 0.0 compared to higher security space is that in 0.0 you can deploy warp bubbles.
These things are probably the most common cause of 0.0 frustration. Warp disruption bubbles can be deployed by Interdictor and Heavy Interdictor vessels, and also by stationary deployable structures that anyone can carry in their ship.

Anything inside a bubble simply cannot warp. Any warp core stabilizers don't matter. And, as if that weren't bad enough, if you warp off from somewhere, and your destination is near a bubble, you're at risk again. If your warp path happens to cross that bubble (if it would end up directly in front of you or behind you), you will be sucked into it, where a tackling ship is probably waiting for you with a warp scrambler and stasis webifiers.

Additionally, most alliances will deny docking rights at their stations to everyone but a select few.

  • Going to most 0.0 alone is suicide. Unless you really know what you're doing, don't.
  • Intelligence helps. Try to secure some friends that have an active intel channel where hostiles are reported.
  • Gangs that need the element of surprise will sometimes travel via pre-setup jump bridges. Don't be surprised if you suddenly find your enemies coming from a system you just deemed clear a minute ago.
  • Most of the low-sec tips apply.
  • If you are a beginner to 0.0, expect to die. A lot. There are a ton of tactics to learn to survive well in 0.0. 
With all of that in mind, don't let it stop you from going to low-sec or null-sec to shoot stuff. If you expect to die, use cheap ships, but make sure to bring someone down with you as you do.

If you're really interested in 0.0 fights and living though, but need combat training, feel free to try joining 0.0 corporations. Some are even meant for training, such as the PvP University offered by Agony Unleashed.

However, they have red standings with Ushra'Khan, and their lessons are live-fire, so if you join them you may get to shoot me (bonus points for killing me).

June 6, 2010

Strafing 101

Before the days of spaceflight and wars, strafing was a tactic in conventional warfare in which an aircraft would fly low over an entrenchment and bombard it with bullets or bombs. That's not exactly what I'm going to be talking about here. What strafing means today is closer to a more obscure definition in the warfare of old. A more obscure definition of strafing from the time describes it as "high-speed firing runs by fast boats or other high-speed naval craft using smaller-caliber weapons and targeting other craft or the shoreline". That's what I'm talking about.

Remember the tactic I proposed in my last entry for fighting a Punisher using a Rifter? That was an adaptation of the strafing tactic to a frigate fight where one had the clear speed/tracking advantage. However, that was only an adaptation because there is a harder and more common aspect to strafing which is most often performed by interceptors against bigger ships. Let's take the example of the Claw interceptor vs. the Rifter frigate.

The Claw is one of the fastest ships of the Interceptor class, and it is built to bonus its weapon systems in damage and tracking. The setup I will be considering today is the fastest/most agile fit with the Claw:

  • High slots: 3x 200mm Autocannon II, Republic Fleet EMP, Phased Plasma, or Fusion small ammo
  • Mid slots: 1MN Microwarpdrive II, Warp Disruptor II
  • Low slots: 2x Overdrive Injector System II, 2x Nanofiber Internal Structure II
  • Rigs: Small Auxiliary Thrusters I, Small Low Friction Nozzle Joints I
 With my skills, this fit hits 4.7 km/s speed, and is able to keep the speed up at that level for 2m 22s of constant use of the microwarpdrive and warp disruptor.

For the Rifter, I will just use the "cheap and dirty" fit I described here.

We could even give it 150mm guns since we know it does not need to be concerned about drones. Now, this Rifter is quite a big concern to some interceptors. Why? Interceptors rely on the speed provided by their microwarpdrives for staying safe. The trouble is that this Rifter sports a warp scrambler, which shuts down microwarpdrives. It also has a stasis webifier, which slows down its target drastically. This means that, if an unwary interceptor gets caught by the scrambler and web, it is slower than this Rifter with an afterburner, has less tank, and is, more importantly, dead.

So, how can the Claw overcome this? Let's look at a graphical representation of the ranges involved.

The ships are very out of scale to the ranges of these modules. So out of range, that if the ships wanted to shoot each other and be within the optimal+falloff range, they would practically be touching using the scale used here. This means that, for the Claw, it is not an option to disrupt the Rifter, then orbit around it, shooting it.

Not even close. The Rifter's velocity isn't shown because it is pretty insignificant to that of a Claw.

So, what can the Claw do?  Not this:

Orbiting closer to the Rifter would get the Claw murdered painfully, since the Rifter might deal slightly less DPS, and have worse tracking, but it has more hit points in armor than the Claw has in its entire ship, and an armor repairer on top of that. Plus, it moves much faster than a completely scrammed and webbed Claw.

So, the claw can try to strafe!

Just as a Rifter can do to a Punisher, the Claw can pass by the Rifter at a close distance, getting a couple of shots before getting away again. Losing its microwarpdrive in flight does not make it lose all its speed instantly, so it can still get out, drifting with the remaining speed. The difference here is that if the Claw slowed down to get a few more shots, it would die because it would lose all its speed. So, why can't any frigate do this to another? After all, interceptors are not that much faster.

The answer is: agility. And yes. They do. The agility of a ship determines not only how fast it changes direction, but how fast it can slow down or speed up. On top of that, a ship with a higher agility also gets affected by Stasis Webifiers less. All together, this means that an interceptor headed to strafe another ship has a much higher chance escape out of the scrambler and webifier range out the other side than a Rifter would.

Against a Rifter, this is still somewhat of a gamble, because if the Rifter sported a microwarpdrive instead of an afterburner, and did something like this:

It would be able to keep the web on the Claw long enough to not allow it to escape. It is much safer to try this on bigger ships, like cruisers, until you get the hang of it.

Remember to improvise, too. It is much easier to strafe in a dual-propulsion (microwarpdrive and afterburner) ship, since you can fire up the afterburner after the microwarpdrive gets cut off because of the scrambler, and get away much more easily.

And, lastly, remember to improvise to the situation. Generally, strafing through a scrambler/webifier can only be done with expensive ships. If the enemy ship only has a scrambler (like a Punisher) or no scrambler (a stupid Punisher, or a Retribution), it is much easier to make it across at a higher speed. If, however, the enemy has a fast ship (like a Firetail) that is likely to have both a scrambler and webifier,  it may be safer to forgo the encounter. No sense losing an expensive ship to a fight you are not equipped to fight.

That's what Rifters are for!