Friday, August 24, 2012

Travel fits, fail fits, and...

The paired Tech-II warp-core stabilizers did more than save my personal bacon last night.

The fleet that was up in militia wanted high-DPS ships, preferably Tier-3 battlecruisers, to roam around and bust infrastructure hubs.  I don't know about POSes, but hubs can absorb an awful lot of damage, and the night before last, we were throwing a couple of dozen stealth bombers at hubs and not making much progress at all.  Stealth bombers are great for sneaking in and out of hostile territory, and for sneaking up on targets and laying down a lot of pain, but for extended damage-dealing, they're less than ideal - lower damage potential, and more importantly, limited ammunition reserves.  We had someone in a blockade runner camped in a safe spot dispensing additional torpedoes, but we were on the edge of running out of ammunition (and my sojourn in the Manticore ended with its shot locker basically empty).

So for this one, I brought out my bunker-buster ship: an Oracle.  Only Tech 1 lasers, but the best meta lasers my sketchy bank account could accomodate, with multifrequency crystals that deal max damage at short range (and can essentially fire forever; the crystals don't degrade, and my Core Capacitor Elite certificate means I can make this fit capacitor-stable), rigged for pure firepower with three heat sinks in the low slots, a microwarp drive and a cap recharger in the mids along with a shield extender, and three more slots to play with.  Some people use inertial stabilizers, others use tank modules, others will just put nanofibers in the lows.

Last night, I fitted two Tech-II warp-core stabilizers, and left them in the lows.

The only real difference between them and their Tech-I counterparts is lowering of the penalties - 40% reduction in targeting range and scan resolution, per unit, as opposed to 50%.  Normally crippling, but since my guns were going to be shooting at a stationary target, and their range would only be about 20km or so, chopping targeting range to 30km was an acceptable sacrifice.

We were hitting hub after hub - I joined late, but they'd managed to knock over a bunch already, and I was there for about three system flips, and we were working on a fourth when pirates started to drop in on us.  One hostile came to the hub we were bashing, flying a Tengu.  We'd lost a bunch of ships as the EU timezone claimed their pilots for sleep, so I was the last Oracle on the field.

I guess that made me the juiciest target.

The fleet coordinator called for everyone to warp out; my corp had saved a safe spot in-system, a while ago, so I was aligned and ready to roll.  Off to the side in the overview, the Tengu pilot's line showed up ... with the little blue warp scrambler icon.

But there was no corresponding alert in the lower center of the HUD.

My shields dropped by about a quarter - the Tengu had decided that the Oracle was the highest-value kill on the field, and had started launching missiles at me - but then: "Warp drive active."

I'd tanked the salvo, slipped the tackle, and gotten away clean.

The FC asked: who got killed?  Because when a hostile drops into tackling range, especially an armed-to-the-teeth strategic cruiser, usually one person gets left behind, tackled, unable to run, helpless as the rest of the fleet warps away.

Not this time.  Everyone had escaped - because I'd drawn the point, and the incoming fire, shrugged them all off, and in the time it would have taken for the Tengu to switch targets and scramble someone else, everyone was gone.

Essentially, we'd decoyed the Tengu with a travel-fit banana boat.

And when an aggressor comes away from an ambush without any kills, I mark that down as a win.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Honorable profession

I've been back in the game for about a year now, and getting involved with a good corp has made life a lot easier, but I remember how hard it was to grind when I renewed my subscription after four or five years away.  Back before I got a new job and moved to a new continent, I'd been in a small corp that had done some low-sec and null-sec mining and manufacturing operations, so I'd ended up with one jump clone way out in null-sec, some scattered assets all over the place, and for some reason I couldn't even remember, I was parked in a dead-end 0.6 system deep in Gallente space with a mining-fit Exequeror, a Vexor, an Iteron Mark V,  a few million ISK, a pile of unallocated skill points, no corp, and no idea of where to go.

So I did what any number of newbies do when they don't have a clue.

I started drilling.

Now, back when I'd first signed up, there hadn't been any such things as mining barges, so that was my first clue that things had changed - there was a specialized ship for doing what I was doing, more efficiently, but I needed a new set of skills for it, and those skills cost money, and the barge would cost more money ... so I had to start out small.  Drill with the Exequeror, refine down the ore, and maybe make invest in a blueprint or two.

For a while, I made ISK by making medium-sized antimatter charges, and it was enough to scrape by, invest in a destroyer to run some missions and hopefully improve my financial status some more.  I didn't know any better, and since I'd been signed in way back when, I didn't even have the benefit of the tutorials until I finally got around to running career agent missions.

So I drilled.  I got can-flipped.  I drilled some more.  I bought cargo expanders that turned out to be in Rancer, got my destroyer ganked at a gate camp while trying to pick them up, my pod ransomed for 75 million - several times my total worth - and got podded when I was too slow to respond.  And I drilled some more.

I wasn't sure what I wanted to do ... and then I saw a bunch of people roll into my belt, in mining barges and a big mothership-type boat that "Show Info" identified as an Orca.  I was worried that these guys - who were obviously well-organized - would roll over me for mining in their patch, but when I checked their info, it seemed they were open to new applicants.  I convo'd the guy in the Orca - or maybe he was in one of the Hulks - explained I was sort of at odds, looking to join a corp, and lo and behold, I was accepted.

The corp got hit with a war declaration something like a week later, if I recall.

But the point was, up until then, I'd needed some way to build up reserves for the inevitable combat, some way to keep my head above water.  Mining and manufacturing was it - and I wasn't someone in a max-yield Hulk; I was really a newbie all over again, scraping by.  I was a high-sec miner because that was what I was able to do.

And I was providing goods that people needed - why else would anyone buy the ammunition I was running off?

I know that null-sec and wormholes are where the real money's supposed to be - that people out there, sitting on twelve-figure bank accounts, with dozens of Titans and supercarriers on call, want to dictate how everyone else plays the game.  I know that there are people out there who see high-sec miners as a blight, a stain on their vision of New Eden as an objectivist paradise, where the fittest prosper and can impose their will on the lesser folks.

But when you're at the bottom of the food chain, or you've been wiped out and have to start over, you need some way to start.

If I hadn't been able to mine, I'd never have gotten my foot back in the door.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

With a little help from my friends

The pirate had already wiped out one Worm in his Hookbill that night; he thought he was going to get another.

I was flying a new Worm almost by accident; a corpmate had stumbled across a blueprint, built the frigate, and decided to go fly it out and get killed in it.  I checked the stats, realized that my cross-training meant I could get full use out of its bonuses and that it would make a very nice frigate for the plexing end of faction warfare, and asked if I could buy it off him.

A couple of days later, I'd fitted it out, put it through its paces, and discovered that a fully bonused Worm with Hobgoblin IIs and a tech-II drone-damage amp could basically run small and medium plexes on easy mode.  With Tech II rockets (and double range on them), and full shield resistance bonuses, it made a tidy little ship.

Then I showed up where the corp was running a few plexes, and things went a bit sideways.  After going looking for fresh plexes, I accidentally warped to the wrong one - a minor plex that had already been opened ... and that had a Hookbill sitting right at the acceleration gate.

I quickly looked for the nearest celestial, but it was too late; I was pointed, webbed, and engaged, and suddenly the fight was on.  I hadn't prepared for the fight, and if this guy had already wiped out one of my mates, I wanted to disengage.  Out went my ECM drones to tag the guy, while he threw rockets at me and hammered down through my shield buffer; I engaged with my own rockets, but suddenly his shields kept popping back up.  Ancillary shield boosters strike again, apparently; suddenly his shields were back to full, quicker than I could take down his buffer ... and again ... and again.  I realized I'd forgotten to turn on my damage control, and hit it right as my shields went down, and he started to bite into my armor.  I still hadn't dented him.

Then my buddies landed from the other plexes they'd been working, right as he stripped off the last of my armor and bit into my structure.  One of my corpmates was flying an Arbitrator with which he'd been testing a spider-tank fit, so he quickly threw a shield booster at me, giving me a tiny bit of extra buffer, and the rest of them started hurling nastiness at him.  My structure hit fifty percent and lower, and I was spamming the warp command, ready to face the loss of my brand-new pirate frigate ... when all of a sudden, I heard Aura's voice:

"Warp drive active."

Thirty-four percent structure, but I was away.

And the Hookbill was pinned by another Hookbill, an Arbitrator, and a Navy Caracal ... which finally cracked its buffer and blew it to shrapnel.

As he ran in his pod, he complained in local:

"You can't handle a 1v1, so you blob, huh?"

I was too busy looking for a place to dock up and repair my smoking wreck of a ship to respond, but my corp-mates answered nicely that he didn't exactly have a right to expect a one-on-one matchup.

The corp's at war, and strength in numbers is what helps keep us alive.  If one guy gets tackled, and corpmates are in system in fighting ships, it's understood that combat support will be coming as quickly as possible.  Granted, it might not be quickly enough to save the ship, but we don't leave our guys to turn in the wind to do our own thing, not if we're close enough to help.

Now, if he'd issued some sort of formal challenge, demanded a one-on-one duel, and I'd accepted, and then my mates had landed on his head ... he'd have had a legitimate gripe.  But when the challenge is issued via warp scrambler ... then the rule is, there are no rules.

He had a Hookbill fitted with dual medium ancillary shield boosters, overpowered for a frigate, theoretically invulnerable.

I had my friends.

And in the end, that made all the difference.