December 9, 2011

Case Study in Tackler Interceptors

Whee, I'm so fast! Oh hey look, an enemy ship! I got a point guys! Quick, kill it fast before I'm de-- I'm dead, guys.

Game over. That's all there is to tackling, right?


If that's how you do it, you are doing it wrong.

This is a failfit! Don't use it!
The pilot using that knows who he/she is and should be ashamed. Why, you ask? A few reasons:

  • Stacking penalty. There are so many redundant speed mods/rigs that most of them are being wasted.
  • Cap stability is not important in real PvP. The recharger shouldn't be there.
  • No tank. You're in a Gallente ship; at least fit a damned Damage Control II.
  • Useless guns/missiles. At the speed an interceptor goes, any long range turret (railguns, beam lasers, artillery) won't be able to hit a thing due to tracking. Use guns to pop drones that get too close.
So what does a good fit look like, you ask? Like this:
A few things to note about this fit:
  • Only 600 m/s slower than the previous. Still plenty fast for catching... well, anything except the first fit. Tackling interceptors with interceptors is dumb anyway.
  • Twice the tank. Just because interceptors are fast and nigh-unhittable doesn't mean they won't get hit, particularly by drones. The latter will always survive much longer. Note the Damage Control II, as is proper on a Gallente ship.
  • Twice the scan resolution. The latter interceptor can target a pod in 1.2 seconds, a frigate in 1 second, and everything else in less than 1 second. Nothing warps away from it, ever.
  • Twice the damage, many times the tracking. A Warrior II drone goes somewhere around 6 km/s with is MWD on, and tries to stay within 1 km from its target. Between amazing blaster tracking, interceptor tracking bonus, the MWD-bloomed signature radius of the drone, and the fact it takes this Ares just a bit over a second to target a drone, what do you think is going to happen to a Warrior II if it even gets close?
  • Lasts over 3 minutes with MWD on. Seriously, when are you going to need to hold a point on a target for 3 minutes? Bonus points if you noticed that it lasts 5 minutes if you turn the Sensor Booster off after you're done targeting the enemy at insane speeds.
Okay... Now that I'm done with my ranting rage, let's get some major points covered for those who don't want to fit an Ares like my crazy contraption above.

Disclaimers: These apply to the Stiletto, Ares, Raptor, and Malediction. They are the "Tackle Interceptors" in that they receive range bonuses to scramblers and disruptors. The Combat Interceptors (Claw, Taranis, Crow, Crusader) can fulfill the same role to a point, but they are generally better at doing damage than at being fast tackling pests. As such, I am not going to mention scramblers, as they are wholly different beasts.

Let's cover this slot-wise:

Mid Slots

I am starting with these since they are the most important. Key mods? 
  • Microwarpdrive. preferably a Catalyzed Cold-gas Arcjet Thrusters. T2 MWDs suck for cap efficiency. Interceptors get crazy reduction to how much MWDs increase their sig radius, making the interceptor nigh-impossible to hit with turrets when it has its MWD on. Keep it on.
  • Warp Disruptor II. T2 for awesome range
  • Sensor booster. To target everything really friggin fast.
  • Tank - Medium Shield Extender II; shield tank does not reduce your speed, but it increases your sig radius, making you easier to hit. Be careful. Try to aim above 3000 EHP, 3500 preferably.
  • Electronic Warfare. If you want to be a real asshat and have the CPU to spare, fit a tracking disruptor, or a target painter.
  • No web. If you are using your warp disruptor properly, you will be outside web range of your target anyway. If you get in web range, you are most likely scrammed and will soon die a fiery death. The web also does not help against drones, as it simply makes them so slow they can't keep up with you -- which also means they drop away from your guns' range.
Low Slots

This is where your speed comes from, so they are second most important. This is also where you put a friggin Damage Control II. 
  • Damage Control II. Equip it. Now. It gives you actual structure HP. If you're an Ares, congratulations, you're now tanked.
  • Tank. Armor plates, or resistance mods. Plates slow you down though, so be careful. Try to aim above 3000 EHP, 3500 preferably.
  • Speed. Overdrive Injector IIs and Nanofiber Internal Structure IIs. Careful to not lower your tank too much with the latter. Aim over 4000 m/s speed.
  • More targeting speed. You could fit signal amplifiers to get even faster targeting speed.

High Slots

There is little point to these other than shooting down drones. Autocannons, Blasters, and Rocket Launchers are preferred. Lasers track too poorly, so do not use them. If you want to be an asshole, you could also fit a Salvager.


Plug an EM hole in your shields with a Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I, add to your speed or agility with Astronautic Rigs, or add to your targeting speed with a Small Targeting System Subcontroller I.


General Flight Tips

You have a really long point range (30 km  at Interceptors V). Make use of it. Stay far, far away from the 10 km warp scrambler range. If your MWD goes down, you're as good as dead. My suggestion: orbit at 24 km.

If you are scouting, remember that you are far faster in warp than the rest of your gang (more than twice as fast as any non-interceptor ship). You should also be faster than anything they can throw at you in a gate camp, so you can get away (or back to the gate) safely. 

Shoot drones down as soon as they get on your tail. Even if the target doesn't die, make them have to replace their drones.

Survive the fight! Just because you're a frigate doesn't mean you need to die in a fire. Your job is to get the first point, and maybe to draw some fire, but if your job is done, warp off. 

You're in a lightning-fast frigate, so act like it. Be awesome and fly crazy. 
And remember, ending up like this is unacceptable.

October 15, 2011

It's A Good Day To... Wait, I Guess

Update (2018-05-31): The aggression/timer systems have been overhauled since the writing of this post, with the new version being dubbed "Crimewatch". You can find a newer write-up on it here.

Tick tock. Much of being a capsuleer is waiting for things. However, be it waiting for those guns to cycle, that enemy to show up, that wallet to flash, or that skill to train, there is no more misunderstood "waiting" than that for aggression timers (and other timers relevant to combat).

The reason many like 0.0 space (more on system security here) is not because of the profit, but because of the lack of stupid regulations around combat. You can shoot everyone you want, anytime you want. Simple. In lowsec and hisec, though, CONCORD likes imposing rules on weapon discharge and all other "offensive" modules. For the purposes of simplicity, I'm calling any aggressive action (guns, missiles, drones, ECM, smartbombs, etc etc) "shooting".

This is definitely shooting. Definitely.
While I'm not going to cover all existing timers, I will give you an overview of those most relevant to day-to-day combat life. Let's start with...

Global Criminal Cooldown

Or GCC, for short. Some people call it a global criminal "flag", but that's just details. Let's look at a rundown of its characteristics:
  • Reason: Shooting someone unlawfully (without reason) in hisec or lowsec space
  • Duration: 15 minutes
  • Display: RED notification in the top left area of your HUD
  • Effect #1: If this happened in hisec, CONCORD is summoned and disables/destroys your ship
  • Effect #2: Everyone (including capsuleers, faction navies, and CONCORD) can shoot you

They will get ya.
In lowsec, though, there is no CONCORD, and the only navy presence are gate and station guns (which can be tanked against), so it's somewhat safer to shoot random people. Those in ships not specifically designed to resist the gate and station guns, or aren't sturdy enough to get away in one piece, should let the enemy shoot first, especially if the fight is at a gate. You can get hilarious results.

All this sounds awfully inconvenient. So, what constitutes shooting someone unlawfully? Well, it's easier to define what shooting someone lawfully is. A lawful aggression is if any of the following apply:
  • Your target is not a capsuleer, a capsuleer's belongings, or an asteroid belt or similar capsuleer-interactive space object.
  • Your target is at war with you.
  • Your target's security status is -5.0 or below.
  • In the last 15 minutes, your target stole from you, shot you, or remote-repaired someone who did the first two. This is called "aggression", and I will talk more about it in a bit.
  • Your target killed you in lowsec/hisec without you firing back in the last month (which grants you kill rights).
Usually if these are true and your target is a capsuleer, then there will be some visual indication on your overview (flashing red/orange background, etc). It might not be a good idea to shoot everyone who is flashing red becuase of...


Or aggression cooldown, or other such terms. Let's look at its characteristics:
  • Reason: Shooting anyone lawfully or unlawfully in hisec or lowsec space, stealing from someone, or repairing someone shooting them. Also, getting lawfully shot by someone.
  • Duration: 15 minutes
  • Display: YELLOW notification in the top left area of your HUD
  • Effect #1: The person you shot or shot you is allowed to shoot (or continue shooting) you
  • Effect #2: If the aggression is new (you fired the first shot, or stole something), you also get an aggression to his or her whole corporation for 15 minutes.

The reason I say it's not a good idea to shoot just anyone is because then they can shoot you (since you will have an aggression flag on them). That is  actually the main tactic behind ninja salvaging, a way to trick and trap hisec mission runners into letting themselves get killed. Look it up!

Note that you get an aggression cooldown upon getting shot as well. This is most important when dealing with faction navies. If you just ran a mission in which you had to kill a bunch of Imperial Navy ships, do not immediately fly into Amarr space, or you might get shot.

Similarly, if you went GCC in lowsec and get shot by station or gate guns 10 minutes into your GCC, your aggression to the faction navy that owns the guns starts then, and does not expire when your GCC does. That means that for 10 minutes after your GCC, other pilots won't be able to shoot you, but the gate and station guns will. I've lost good ships to this, and you will too, if you're not careful.

They will also get ya.

Despite being pretty simple, aggression is often confused with...

Docking/Jumping Aggression Timer

The docking bay managers and jump gate managers are awfully skittish people who are afraid to let any warm guns to enter their installations. As such, there is a timer after shooting anything during which you cannot use stations or gates.
  • Reason: Shooting
  • Duration: 60 seconds (1 minute)
  • Display: None
  • Effect: You can't dock or jump
Once again because you're bound to see this a lot.

Simple as that. This timer is abused by people who play "station games": fighting outside of a station only to stop shooting and dock a minute later if things aren't going well. This is also the mechanic that I tried using (and royally screwed up) in this engagement.

This also gets confused with the last type of timer you should know about:

Session Change Timer

There is a limit to how often you can use certain space installations like jump gates, stations, and other such things. It is mostly to conserve expensive resources spent whenever pilots abuse jumping or docking for their own safety.

  • Reason: Undocking, jumping, fleet operations, and similar activities
  • Duration: 30 seconds
  • Display: None by default, can enable small pulsing circle in top left corner of HUD
  • Effect: You can't dock or jump
Yes that tiny thing there. Watch it.

Out of character note: this is also here to prevent abuse of things like fleet bonus hotswapping. It used to happen on switching ships in a hangar, but that was recently changed.

So, why does this all matter? Mostly, it's because these timers provide not only super exciting waiting times, but also plenty of opportunities for people to screw up. You're on a gate with an enemy that you don't want to engage? Wait for him to fire first, then jump. He won't be able to follow for 60 seconds because of the aggression jump timer. Want to split up an enemy gang? Wait until only some of them aggressed you, then jump. Want to kill a battleship that keeps undocking and re-docking? Bump it off the station within those crucial 30 seconds!
It's Bumpage Central in Amarr

And, of course, always keep these in mind so you don't fall for the same tricks.

Tick tock. Hey look, that timer I wrote this blog post to distract me from finally ended. I can get on with my spaceships now! Until next time!

September 28, 2011

Ship Tiers: Why They Matter, and Why They Don't

Update (2018-05-31):  This post is entirely irrelevant due to a set of sweeping balance changes dubbed "Tiericide". Ship classes no longer have redundant ships that ascend across tiers. Instead, they equally-tiered ships with different roles or bonuses so that there is always (in theory) a situation in which one ship is better than the other.
Every once in a while, I run into someone who believes that a ship is objectively better than another of the same class. This is usually while berating me about using the "weaker" ship, or even discussing its merits.

I'd love to come out here and say that these people are absolutely wrong, and that they are horrible people who badly need to be podded. But I'd be wrong if I said that. (I'd still want to pod them though.)

Two tiers of Minmatar Battlecruisers: Cyclone, and Hurricane
There are, in fact, "tiers" of the different ship classes. Higher tier ships of the same class generally have better firepower, tank, and other capabilities, while having costlier blueprints (in price and in resources necessary), and thus a higher price. This doesn't apply to frigates as much; while frigates do have tiers of prices and materials, they also have much more specific roles and are harder to fit into an universal "tier" system. Tiers mainly apply to T1 combat cruisers, battlecruisers and battleships.

But what does this mean?
In essence, it means that if a Cyclone and a Hurricane headbutted each other, the Hurricane would most likely win. Let's run a comparison between these ships:

  • Cyclone
    • Bonuses - Battlecruiser Skill Bonus: 5% bonus to Medium Projectile Turret rate of fire and 7.5% bonus to shield boosting per level; 99% reduction in the CPU need of Warfare Link modules. 
    • Slot layout - 8/5/4 (5 turrets, 3 launchers)
    • Powergrid - 1210 MW; CPU: 425 tf; Capacitor: 2187 MJ
    • Shield HP: 4395; Armor HP: 3906; Speed: 165 m/s
    • Drone bay: 40 m3; Drone bandwidth: 40 Mb/sec
  • Hurricane
    • Bonuses - Battlecruiser Skill Bonus: 5% increase in projectile weapons damage and Rate of Fire; 99% reduction in the CPU need of Warfare Link modules. 
    • Slot layout - 8/4/6 (6 turrets, 3 launchers)
    • Powergrid: 1350 MW; CPU: 400 tf; Capacitor: 2182 MJ
    • Shield HP: 4297; Armor HP: 4688; Speed: 165 m/s
    • Drone bay: 30 m3; Drone bandwidth: 30 Mb/sec
The ships are largely similar. The Hurricane is a bit more armor-oriented, with more low slots and no shield tanking bonus. However, there is a big reason the Hurricane is often picked over the Cyclone: the damage.

The Hurricane gets an extra turret, and an extra 25% damage bonus (at Battlecruisers V) on top of that compared to the Cyclone; the Cyclone's extra missile slot can't make up for that. The Cyclone gets a shield boost bonus instead, which is largely useless in anything but 1v1 fights (and even then it's debatable, and a possible subject for a later blog post). It also means the Cyclone has a large disadvantage in capacitor compared to the Hurricane, as they have the same capacitor but the Hurricane sports a buffer tank.

Hence, the "Hurricanes are better, why are you ever even considering using a Cyclone, you are a terrible person".

But you said tiers also don't matter?
Yes. I usually respond to harassment about my choice in ships with "it's much cheaper," or "I need to active shield tank these explosive-damage rats," or "the extra CPU makes it easier to do cloaking," or "shut up it has sentimental value to me."

See, just because a ship is lower tier doesn't mean it should never be used, or that the higher tier ship should always be used. For example, the Hyperion battleship out-damages the Megathron on paper, and is 3rd tier compared to the 2nd tier of the Megathron, but the Megathron is often a more practical choice due to its tracking bonus, lower price, and larger drone bay.

It all comes down to "choose wisely" and "don't follow groupthink." Also, remember: using an uncommon ship can catch many people off-guard on how to combat you, possibly leaving you at an advantage!

So, what are the tiers?
Hooray, tables. Click the image to see it full size.

Note that EW stands for "electronic warfare," not an onomatopoeic reaction to the ship.
Congratulations! You now have the knowledge to pretentiously tell people they don't know how to pick a ship! 

What? No, I don't! What do these tiers mean?!
(New section based on Reddit asking for moar)
Let's look at these individually, going down the table.

First, cruisers! 

The logistics and EW cruisers are in tiers of their own, since it's hard to compare them on just combat merits.

In logistics, the Exequror and Osprey actually serve as repair ships (for armor and shield, respectively), while the Augoror and Scythe are mostly miners/haulers and provide bonuses to tracking links -- which I have yet to see used effectively in a combat situation.

The EW ships each get large bonuses to their racial EW system: tracking disruption, ECM, sensor disruption, or target painting, in the racial order of the table. The Arbitrator, Celestis, and Bellicose also get drone or damage bonuses for combat (the Blackbird's more of a dedicated ECM boat). With some fits, they can serve as solo combat ships, but they are usually used for supporting a gang. For example, an Arbitrator can be of more use to the gang staying at distance and using its tracking disruptors and drones rather than being close up trying to tackle and do other things.

"Can't track this!"
Then, the actual two tiers of "combat" cruisers. The first tier is usually more difficult to fly since it usually requires a steep trade-off between survivability and damage. For example, the Caracal can do quite a fair bit of damage with Heavy Assault Missile Launchers, but it can only fit them if it minimizes the amount of shield tank it packs on. Conversely, it can be fit with a decent tank with Assault Missile Launchers, but then it can only reliably be used to take down frigates. This trade-off is present in all the others, though arguably the Vexor gets the long end of the stick, since its drones do not affect its fittings.
"I will blink you to death with my flashing lights!"
The tier 2 cruisers require less of a trade-off, and are somewhat more specialized. Maller? Flying brick. Does little damage, but is incredibly tough. The Maller is always bait. Moa? Same thing, but with shields instead, and technically it can snipe. Thorax? Don't let it get in range, or it will overwhelm you with amazing blaster damage. Rupture? Like the Thorax, though faster, somewhat tankier, and more likely to hit you at longer ranges because of autocannon flexibility. And... that's about it! Of course, there are some fits outside the norm -- long range Rupture/Thorax, Maller that pretends it's a Rupture, etc -- but the stereotypes usually hold.
Don't let the 'Rax come up from behind.
Cruisers For Battle
The "Battlecruiser" name always struck me as odd. Are Cruisers not battle-y enough? 

Differently from the cruisers, the lower tier battlecruisers have the lower flexibility. Tier 1 battlecruisers usually only have a few ways of being flown "right". Be it the Cyclone's "damage sponge" active tank, the Brutix's "glass cannon" firepower, or the Prophecy being bait, there are few ways you can get creative with these. Well, there are some creative fits, like a Prophecy with six medium neuts. I have no idea what the Ferox is good for. Halloween prop?

No seriously, maybe someone can enlighten me.
Tier 2 battlecruisers, however, are some of the most versatile and arguably the most popular general PvP ships out there. They each sport good tanks and good damage, along with varied fits for long range, short range, and all sorts of variations. They also have 1-3 extra slots compared to their tier 1 brothers. The Hurricane and Myrmidon even have slot layouts that accommodate either shield or armor tanking. The Drake is a tank-master with good damage, and the Harbinger can alternate between "massive brick" and "ow ow these lasers hurt". The Hurricane can do a million different things, and the Myrmidon uses armor repairs like no other. I hate those things. I can't touch them in frigates!
Triple armor repairers for triple the asshat
Big Ships for Battle
The battleship tiers tend to vary in ambiguity by race. The price/material differences, of course, are still there, but you can't really compare the Caldari battleships to each other since they all have such different roles: the Raven is a close range slugger with torpedoes (or cruise missile sniper, but I don't see that much), the Scorpion is an EW ship, and the Rokh is pure sniper, I-will-peck-at-your-hit-points-from-300-km-away style.
It even looks like some long gun thing.
The Gallente line-up is a bit better, although the Dominix can't really be compared to the Megathron and Hyperion, since the latter two are damage-centric blaster-boats, and the Dominix is a specialized drone-fielding battleship. Also a space potato.
No, seriously.
The Amarr and Minmatar battleship line-ups are much more straight-forward. The firepower increases as the tier increases. The first tiers have the Armageddon and the Typhoon, both cheap and dirty battleships. Not the tankiest or most damaging things, but they do their job at being close range knife fight battleships.
Pew pew! Er... Bnarrr!!
The tier 2 and 3 battleships are the ones most often used in large fleets, due to flexible and very powerful fittings and tank. The Amarr Apocalypse is a long range ship, with an amazing bonus to its lasers' optimal range, while the Abaddon is a "big and bad" version of the Armageddon. It hurts a ton at close range, and is quite a heavy brick.

The Minmatar Tempest and Maelstrom are both good at both close and long ranges (though, of course, this depends on the fit). They also usually shield tank, which gives them more agility and ability to outmaneuver an enemy fleet.

A friend of mine once said the Tempest is so agile it doesn't deserve to be a battleship.
One last notable detail is that tier 3 battleships have a far easier time equipping nasty fits than the lower tier ones. On top of overall higher stats, they have more powergrid and CPU, allowing for more creative fits. However, they tend to be more sluggish across the board.

Wait, but how do I use tiers to win?
Fly high tier ships mindlessly? Tiers are a very rough reference of how "good" a ship is. Very rough. Also, they aren't always correct, nor are they always relevant (see Caldari battleships). However, if you run into an Abaddon, which is a tier 3 battleship, you can pretty safely bet it will be tougher (by whatever definition) than an Armageddon (a tier 1 battleship). Same with a Rupture vs a Stabber, or a Drake vs a Ferox. That's all, really.

Oh, and remember, they are also good for feeling good when you belittle people's preferences for lower tier ships. They are excellent at that.

September 22, 2011

Offended by Offensive Drones

Wow, it's been a long time. Let's pick up from where I (sort of) left off: drones. Something happened to me a while ago that I would like to tell you all about, and to warn any drone-toting peoples about.

So, I was roaming solo in this neat Rupture.

I was set up for speed and long range engagement with 425mm Autocannon II's loaded with Barrage ammo. That means I could orbit and peck away at any ship of size comparable to mine from relatively safe distance of 20-ish km away.

So, in my roaming, I come upon this lone Imperial Navy Slicer on a gate.

"This is perfect!" I think. "The Slicer also engages at long range, like I do, but it's a frigate, so I can tear it to shreds! It can't be this easy though, he definitely has friends. Oh. There they are."

As the Slicer activates his warp disruptor and starts shooting me, in come a few other frigates: Dramiel, Taranis, Ishkur, and Kitsune. A nice assortment, but way too much for a lone Rupture to handle.

So, I jump to the next system, re-approach the gate, and wait.

Suddenly, the gate flashes. The four friends of the Slicer's have (correctly) decided to pursue me. The Slicer is not with them, since he still has an aggression timer from shooting me.

"I can use the same tactic that separated him from them to separate them from him." I think. "Let them all attack me, then I jump through and I'm all alone and personal with my buddy, the Slicer. For this, though, I need to make them believe I will stand and fight."

So, I throw out my drones. In combat between bigger ships, this is always an indication the pilot wants to fight.

All four of them attack me. They fell for it! I tell my drones to withdraw, and try to jump.

The stargate denies you permission to jump for the moment due to your recent acts of aggression.

Why? How?!

The drones. The morons shot my attackers in "self-defense". Now I'm scrambled, jammed, webbed, and taking heavy damage. I slowly facepalm as...

Yeah. I already knew this lesson though... Or, should have. It is very dangerous to keep your drones set in "aggressive" mode. Sure, they will attack hostile targets even though jams, but they won't consider not attacking either. This can be especially risky for high-sec mission runners, or for others for whom limiting aggression is preferred.

So, lesson learned: all my drones are now "passive".

June 14, 2011

Back in Black, Baby

Or so a song goes. At any rate, my frigate-flying corporation, Rifterlings, has merged with Minmatar Ship Construction Services, a corporation of Ushra'Khan, moving our operations out of the militia area to other regions where we can make a difference. This marks my return to MSCS and Ushra'Khan, as I have long past said I would.

Our move came at the same time as a renewal of recruiting efforts for MSCS. As such, there is an active campaign for getting more pilots to fly with us against the slaver. Check out the forum link for more infos on that.

The merger coincided with a CONCORD-sanctioned declaration of war by Ushra'Khan against Curatores Veritatis Alliance and their allies (Care Factor, and Yulai Federation). This places us as temporarily operating out of low security space in the lower Domain region (near Providence), and makes it an excellent time for both new and experienced pilots to join and learn what it's like to be part of the oldest active capsuleer alliance.

So what are you waiting for? Contact me directly, or join the MSCSPUB channel to learn more!

We come for our people!

April 25, 2011

Because of Falcon

The Falcon is a very infamous ship. The presence of a single one can turn the tide of battles, despite its looks.

Oh. Um... It cloaked. Dammit. Where'd it go? Come out, come out. It can't have gone too far...

I'm really sorry, I wanted to show you a Falcon, and it went and-- OH GOD THERE IT IS AND IT'S JAMMING ME AUGH.

Well then, let's try this again. So, what does a Falcon do? Well, it cloaks for one thing. And for another, it applies

Electronic Countermeasures
Or ECM, or jamming, for short. Whenever a ship is jammed, it is simply unable to target. Its drones continue to operate as they were, but no targeted attack (guns, non-FoF missiles, electronics, etc) works, as it has no lock. This makes ECM a very potent form of electronic warfare. But... how does it work?

Jammers come in 5 different types. The first, usually identified by a "multispectral" ("multispec" for short) designation, works equally well against any target. Unfortunately, in general it doesn't work as well as the others, has shorter range, and requires more capacitor to run.


Multispectral ECM
This module is usually used on ECM-focused ships that do not have the available mid slots to fit up large amounts of specialized jammers (such as the Griffin, or Kitsune). Specialized jammers can be much more useful, on the other hand, as they are racial-based:

From left to right: white noise generator, spatial destabilizer, ion field projector, phase inverter

Each of these are about 3 times as effective against their target race of ships than against the other 3 races, and about 1.5 times as effective as an equivalent multispectral ECM. But, what do I mean when I say effectiveness? How does ECM work?

First, let's throw out the names of each race's sensor type:
  • Amarr - Radar - How to remember: backward and inflexible society leads to backward, simple, and inflexible radar tech; the jammer is golden/yellow, like their ships.
  • Caldari - Gravimetric - How to remember: Caldari are businessmen, aka "fat cats", and fat things generate gravity; the jammer is blue, like their ships.
  • Gallente - Magnetometric - How to remember: Gallente girls are usually the most "attractive", aka magnetic; the jammer is aqua, the only non-primary color jammer, because Gallente are fabulous that way.
  • Minmatar - Ladar - How to remember: laser radar, because while backward, the Minmatar are more badass than Amarr; the jammer is red, the color of badassery (and of some of their ships).
Now, let's move on to how it works. Say a Griffin is trying to jam out my Rifter.

In essence, jamming works via random chance, and comparison of the jamming strength of each individual jamming module with the sensor strength of the target ship. This means we need to look at numbers. So let's look at numbers.

The Rifter has a Ladar strength of 8 points. At first, the Griffin is using a flat tech-1 multispectral jammer. Since his skills are perfect, he gets 4.37 jam strength. This means that he has a 4.37/8 = 54% chance of jamming my Rifter. That's... not too good.

So, instead, he swaps out for a Phase Inverter, which gives him 6.56 jam strength. He now has 6.56/8 = 82% chance of jamming me. Yes, the racial vs multispec jams make that much of a difference.


But, the Griffin has 2 other mid-slots that could fit ECM. What if both of them had Phase Inverters (he was extra-ready to kill Minmatar ships)? What happens if he uses his 3 inverters and the multispec on me? Time for some probability calculations!

There are 3 jammers with 82% chance to jam me, and 1 with a 54% chance to jam me. Or, in other words, there are 3 jammers with a 18% chance to not jam me each, and one with a 46% chance to not jam me.

In order for him to jam me, only one of those needs to work. Conversely, in order for me to survive the jam cycle means they all have to fail. The chance that a bunch of random chances will all happen is the product of all of them. Therefore, the chance all the jams fail is:
0.18 * 0.18 * 0.18 * 0.46 = 0.00268 = 0.268%
Therefore, for him, the chance I get jammed is 100%-0.268% =  99.732%. That's pretty good.

So good that there is a term for it: permajam. When your jamming is so good that the target ship will never realistically be able to regain its sensors, you get cake. Lastly, for those more mathematically minded:

ECM drones work on the same concept: the drones have jamming strengths in their attributes, and if the calculation works out in their favor the target's targeting is dropped. Unfortunately, drones do not jam as ships do, but only drop targeting (and the victim can start re-targeting immediately).

Edit: after messing around with ECM drones more, it appears I was wrong. They jam as if they were weaker Multispectral jammers. And are awesome. For reference, their jam strengths are: Light (Hornet EC-300) = 1; Medium (Vespa EC-600) = 1.5; Heavy (Wasp EC-900) = 2.5.  

There is also another ECM type of modules, ECM Burst modules, which act as multispectral jammers that drop the targeting of every ship in a distance close to you (similar to how smartbombs work). They use the same concept.

Lastly, there exist Electronic Counter-countermeasures (ECCM) modules, and Sensor Backup Arrays, both of which increase your ship's sensor strength so as to make it harder to get jammed. But, that's pretty much it! You now know how jamming works.

Oh and for the record? That Falcon is still there, and all my poor Rifter sees is

You are already managing 0 targets, as many as your ship's electronics are capable of.
It's going to be a long day.

January 23, 2011

How Do I Shot Drones

Update (2018-05-31):  While the fundamental mechanics I outline for drones here are still valid, this post is outdated in a couple ways. First, Amarr drones were rebalanced and no longer suck (they fit into the progression)! Second, fighters are no longer drones and use a special system only accessible to carriers to do their thing. Also, for some reason this post has been exceedingly friendly to spammers posting comments about real-life drones, for some reason, so I am disabling comments for it.
Most frigate pilots have been foiled one time or another by the little buggers called drones. If you haven't, you will be soon. The little bugs swarm you and are impossible to target before they start putting hurt on you. And once you do target them, they are horribly hard to track. Plus, while you can shoot them down, it does not damage their host ship at all, and it could always just keep pumping out drones.

Minmatar Warrior II drone, the fastest drone type.
Like turrets and missiles, drones are weapon systems for various ships. However, unlike turrets and missiles, drones rest in the ship's drone bay. By default, a ship can fly a maximum of 5 drones, so long as they all fit in its drone bay, and the total bandwidth of the drones in flight is less than the ship's bandwidth capacity. This means that, for example, even though a Dramiel frigate can fit 4 light drones in its drone bay, it can only fly 3 of them at a time due to its 15 Mbit/sec bandwidth. For reference, these are the different sizes of drones and their requirements:
  • Light drone - 5 m^3 drone bay space, 5 Mbit/sec bandwidth
  • Medium drone - 10 m^3 drone bay space, 10 Mbit/sec bandwidth
  • Heavy drone - 25 m^3 drone bay space, 25 Mbit/sec bandwidth
  • Sentry drone - 25 m^3 drone bay space, 25 Mbit/sec bandwidth
  • Fighter - 5000 m^3 drone bay space, 25 Mbit/sec bandwidth
  • Fighter bomber - 5000 m^3 drone bay space, 500 Mbit/sec bandwidth
The Templar, an Amarr fighter drone used by carriers.

Also unlike turrets, the basic drone skills give you the knowledge to use drones of all race types. The only race specific skills are the specialization skills, which unlock Tech-II drones.

So now, how do you deal with drones - both in using them and in being shot by them? To answer this,  we will have to look at the specs of the different types of drones. For simplicity, let's focus on light drones: the Minmatar Warrior, Gallente Hobgoblin, and the lesser used Caldari Hornet and Amarr Acolyte.

I have sorted them from "light" to "heavy", a trend that is present in all drone types. Minmatar drones are generally the fastest, but flimsiest and least damaging, while Gallente drones tend to be large bricks that do a lot of damage and don't move as fast. Now, some highlights of using drones.

Damage projection. Some pilots are tempted to dismiss drones on account of the low "paper damage" they do. After all, what's the point of using drones when you can achieve much more damage on a drone-less ship using autocannons? The answer is: you really won't. Not as easily, at least. The tracking of drones is very good, and their speed ensures they will be in range to deliver the damage. They are also not susceptible to dumb pilot errors such as accidentally moving your ship off-course instead of keeping an orbit at the engagement range.

Range. Drone control range starts at 35 km and only goes up as you learn more skills and use range-increasing modules on your ship. There is no advantage to being in your target's face when their face is already full of drones. Unless you're a Gallente blaster-boat like the Taranis.

Taranis, Gallente combat interceptor

Getting shot down. Drones can indeed be shot down. If you are the one using drones, make sure to not put them out until the enemy is safely focused on a different target (e.g. you), or he may very leisurely pop your drones as soon as you throw them out of your drone bay. If you are the one attacked by drones, try to kite them with an afterburner: it lowers their transverse speed, and might force them to pulse their microwarpdrives to keep up with you, which bloats their signature radius and makes them really easy targets. However, do keep in mind that dedicated drone boats almost always have more than a flight of drones, so you need to be fast about popping them.

For the love of all that is good, don't forget to recall your drones before warping out. Seriously. On the flip side, if you force a hostile drone boat to warp out without his drones, you get free drones!

Picking the correct drones. It is futile to send medium drones after a frigate, and light drones will only tickle a cruiser, that much is clear. But which drones for which task? What you mainly want to consider is the speed of the drone, and its damage type.

If you got tackled by a Stiletto that is speeding around you at 4 km/s, sending out Hornets or Hobgoblins is just asking for them to get shot down horribly. Use Warriors. However, if you have a Claw up in your face dealing massive autocannon damage, the quickest way to get rid of it is some Hobgoblins, since it won't be moving too fast.

Similarly, if your enemy is shield tanked (or has Tech-II Amarr resists), Warriors will be mostly useless. You most likely have to use Hobgoblins or Hornets in that case (depending on how fast the target is).

Now, something that you might have noticed is I didn't even mention the Amarr drones. Here's why:

Amarr drones suck. 

They seriously do. In the drone table I showed above, there is generally a trend towards slower drones with higher damage, going from left to right, and all drones follow that trend. Except for this:

They deal less damage than Warriors! The marginal EHP boost is not worth the decrease in speed and damage, so there is no real reason to ever use Acolytes. This same trend appears across larger drone types, too. It's a pity, too, lasers are pretty.

So, now you know about drones. And knowing is half the battle (dying horribly is the other half).