Improving Fleet Mechanics

It looks like my return to Eve has had an element of, “I thought I was out, but they’re pulling me back in!” Eve for me has always been a game about player accomplishment, and I have been unable to resist the call to dig in deep, finding myself already running a small factional warfare corporation in the Amarr militia. Originally just building up ISK with solo industry, a random contact in my area tempted me to help him set up a fledgling alliance. Soon the endeavor became quite taxing, not simply because he had no idea what he was doing, but also because he became hostile when faced with making the decisions that he would have to make in order to set up a successful group. While in that environment, I hooked up with a guy, Tiberius Zenon, a rather comical and crazy British pilot who ended up being really fun to fly with. Looking to make my way out at that time, I ended up donating an Endurance as a ransom to a small group in the local area who ended up recruiting me, and I joined them with Tib in tow, the two of us running a small corporation that hoped to fill out the small alliance’s EU TZ. Alas, that group also would not provide a suitable home to us. Relationships had already been established, and bringing new people in at a leadership level caused strains. It wasn’t until Tib, an officially recognized alliance FC, was refused opportunity to FC an operation that ended up being lead by the alliance leader (who had just said in comms that he knew nothing about leading a PvP fleet), that we realized it was time for us to make our departure. After checking around with friends about where we could go, the corp ultimately decided to join the Amarr Militia.

Most of the people I talked to did not have any particularly interesting options for us, but one did. However, taking the option would have strained the corp quite a bit, and ultimately I was convinced to go into FW by the lure of an opportunity to finally, after over three years in Eve, learn to FC. The corp told me they’d die as much as it took to train me, and FW and action in the sites and lolfrig roaming would be an ideal environment for me to get my feet wet. Now this opportunity has come to me after the release of the Command Destroyers and after CCP’s comment that they were checking on the feasibility of the long-awaited Rorqual rebalance. To me, the Rorqual rebalance signals the last nail in the coffin of off-grid boosting. The end of off-grid boosting has been unequivocally promised by CCP for ages, and I am certain of its demise. I am convinced that this will happen soon, sometime after the capital rebalance. Likely there will be a Command Ship rebalance and tweaks to the T3 boosting defensive subsystems in tandem.

Given this conviction of mine, I have determined to get a handle on on-grid boosting, and as I have explored the various tools available to FCs, I have made some observations. In my previous experience I have become acquainted with various Teamspeak and Mumble setups that have allowed FCs to share command channels via whisper and shout keys and other tricks that are beyond my knowledge, and have seen combined fleets interact with a shared level of integration. However, in general, these different fleets are in fact different fleets, each with their own off-grid booster, quite often managed by the FCs themselves via alts. With enormous grids and the threatened end of off-grid boosts, it seems like some of the mechanics of how fleets are managed could use some sprucing up. So with this post I hope to inspire some pro-active thinking that could facilitate a smoother transition to a world without off-grid boosts. Admittedly, I am completely green to all this, but in my experience, positing some silly scenarios and solutions can result in good fruit.

So it seems to me that the fleet mechanics in Eve provide primarily three things: fleet/wing/squad warps, boosting, and broadcasting. On-grid boosting seems that it will tax the fleet mechanics of delivering boosts to the fleet while preserving the ability to provide fleet movement. If boosts are on grid, the booster will need to avoid being primaried instantly, which would take Command Destroyers out of the running for many situations. Even Command Ships and T3 boosters in the hands of FCs at the center of the blob rely on a gentlemen’s agreement in Eve not to headshot the FC in quite a number of situations. The fact of Command Destroyers being unable to tank an alpha requires that they provide boosts independently of the basic maneuver schema of the fleet as a whole. However, if a Command Destroyer is assigned its own squad and is given freedom to maneuver alone or with some light, fast protection, it can no longer provide boosts to the main fleet or the entirety of the fleet. Further, for the on-grid boosters to have any support with them that they can fleet warp around, they’d need to be in their own squad in order to be able to avoid fleet warping the entire fleet around. Yet if they are in their own squad escorted by light and fast protection that they can carry around the grid with them, they won’t be able to provide boosts to the entire fleet. Something tells me that this problem was the genesis of the micro jump field generators. The fleet commander can have a few folks next to him to protect him that he can jump around. However, being able to jump a few companions 100 km every few minutes isn’t going to cut the mustard, if you ask me. It’s a nice supplementary tool, but it just won’t do for keeping a boosting element free of squads of Claws MWDing after them.

Because of this problem, the conflict between providing boosts to the right people and providing fleet warp to the right people, I have thought of two things that can make a single fleet much more diverse. The concept of a fleet that I am thinking of that would use these tools is one where there are a couple of echelons of fleet commanders working in the same fleet, rather than separate fleets. For instance, a fleet would have a fleet commander that is responsible for getting the entirety of the force to the system and to the grid. Once on grid, the wing commanders would be the primary target callers and tacticians, while the overall fleet commander concentrates more on keeping himself alive and providing boosts.

The first thing I have thought of is that squad leaders should have the ability to exempt their entire squad from wing warp while maintaining the ability to squad warp, and wing commanders should have the ability to exempt their entire wing from fleet warp while maintaining the ability to warp their wing. So for example an AHAC fleet with a Crucifier EWAR wing could be lead by an FC with Skirm and Armor links and pass his boosts to the entire fleet. The EWAR wing could be lead by a WC in a Command Destroyer with EWAR links. Say this wing only has a couple of squads, and this wing would benefit from Armor, Skirm, and EWAR links. Then the DPS group could be one or more wings of AHACs lead by WCs in AHACs themselves not particularly vulnerable to being headshot. Finally, there would be another wing containing just one squad of a few jammers to keep people off the FC. All wings would exempt from fleet warp except the FC protection wing. Therefore the FC and his bodyguards can just concentrate on warping away from the aforementioned Claws.

Now in the above example, the two operating wings are EWAR and DPS (logi is assumed to be rolled into the DPS wings to share wing warps with them), and EWAR is not known to rely on target calling so much as getting into position and doing its stuff on whoever. However, there may be situations where different target callers existing in the same fleet may want to broadcast. In the above fantasy fleet, if there are two wings of AHACs, one of the WCs may want to broadcast targets for both DPS wings but not to the EWAR. This leads me to my second suggestion. I’d like to see squad, wing, and fleet commanders be able to put a 2 or 3 letter code in front of their broadcasts, and I’d like for fleet members to be able to color code their broadcasts in the fleet history window with not only broadcast type, but also by 2 or 3 letter code. So the members of both DPS wings can be instructed to color the target broadcasts from the first wing commander, with the code WC1, to be orange, for example. The two DPS wings could be instructed to alpha the orange broadcasts, etc.

The above improvements to the fleet interface would allow for a vastly greater variety of configurations for warfare links, fleet broadcasts, and target callers. If these capabilities are used to their fullest, the history tab could be filled with a bewildering rainbow of broadcasts. I don’t think this should deter such a system from being implemented, though. Smaller groups and more competent groups will be able to make use of the advanced capabilities, while larger and less experienced fleets will have to voluntarily cap the amount of flexibility they will be able to make use of.

So with these suggestions I just wanted to offer a proactive development of the fleet mechanics in advance of a move to on-grid boosting. Too often a change is made, and the fallout from the change is addressed after the fact. But if we think about on-grid boosting, we can see that fleet configurations that allow for maximum boosting conflict with booster survivability which conflicts with fleet warping. Allowing elements of a single fleet more autonomy in control of movement and broadcasting create room for tactical options to be given to the booster.

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