Thursday, May 29, 2008

Top Dog

There are many obvious career paths a pod pilot can follow in New Eden. One can take the path of little risk and high payout by finding ultra-rare ores to mine, prowling routes between trade hubs, building shiny ships for discerning combat pilots, investing in IPOs, diligently drawing out Tech II blueprints on paper, and so on. The more blood-thirsty pilots can partake in skirmishing, battleship and capital ship slugfests, pirating, griefing, lurking in cloaked ships, etc., resulting in (usually) little monetary gain but a great sense of satisfaction and an awesome killboard profile for many pvpers.

Eve is renowned for its glorious combat, ranging from hunting a quarry in a belt to downing massive titan-class supercapitals. It may be possible to not have a leader in a small sized gang of 3-5 people, but anything more than that and the efficiency of the gang goes down rapidly. I have seen pirate gangs fall prey to a single anti-pirate simply due to a lack of coordination. Fleet commanders are the generals in Eve; they organize a group of pilots to stay on a task that involves killing. Without them, large-scale warfare would be more madness than it already is.

Fleet commanders are perhaps one of the most respected positions that a pod pilot can attain in the universe, and the position is often the quickest path up any leadership positions. Many online celebrities and alliance leaders have been FCs at some point. I can name quite a few off the top of my head, such as SirMolle, TWD, xxAngelxx, Suas, Agmar (I had orders to fluff Game-Over), SuperTwinky69, Ernest G (curb your tantrum Ernest, stop swearing your lungs out at deaf people)… There are many, many more legendary FCs out there in the depths of 0.0 and lowsec, each with a powerful personality. Some are bold and cunning foxes, some ooze calmness and confidence, some are hotheads and a complete riot (Evil Thug, anyone?).

But anyone who has taken up the role of fleet commanding will tell you that it is no walk in the park, and certainly not as glorious as it appears outwardly. It can be a dirty job, collecting intel from spies and scouts; it can be a tiresome job, when morale and numbers are low; it can be highly stressful, when fighting outnumbered or when a friendly titan goes down. Many, many people, new and old players alike, wish to be an FC at some point. I applaud these people for wanting to step up, and we all know that almost anyone who has fought can become an FC. However, what are the qualities that distinguish the truly spectacular commanders from the mediocre ones that are forgotten in history?

1) Patience and quick reflexes. Although these may sound like contradictory entities, they really are not. A patient FC will be able to gather sufficient intel from his scouts, have enough numbers in his fleet, and can wait for his enemies to make the first mistake. Executing a move without thought will often get a fleet waylaid, just like a game of chess. However, when the situation warrants urgency, any hesitation will also get the entire fleet slaughtered.

2) Fleet discipline. This includes self-discipline. While drunk/stoned FCs are fun to roam with, or so they claim, internet spaceship is serious business and most people would not enjoy losing ships on someone else’s whims. FCs who can keep a cool head in battle and call targets are usually the most successful and popular ones. Combat comms should also be dedicated to only the FC and scout – which is one reason why the phrase “STFU” is so commonly used, as many people lack the discipline to respond to “break, break” or cannot, for bloody god’s sake, stop telling others that his ship is going down. This also ties in with patience; sometimes waiting is just a necessary evil, and going AFK while waiting in space is an almost sure-fire way to be killed.

3) PVP prowess. Any decent FC worth his salt will have sufficient knowledge of pvp under his belt. These include but are not limited to:
- the gate dance and the laws of aggression (especially in lowsec with sentry guns);
- knowing ship names like the back of your hand. Sorry newbies, but you really do need this in order to understand how to call targets based on ship types;
- an understanding of forward and rear scouts’ roles;
- how to use the scanner;
- the tactics involved in laying traps;
- the methods of evasion in case sh*t-hits-the-fan or “o-sh*t-its-a-trap”;
- extra tidbits such as spider tanking (remote repping), drone aggression, fighter/doomsday lag, etc. Hugely important in capital ship warfare.

Additionally, FC should have the ability to fly cloaked or tanked ships, especially in large and important sieges (km whores need not apply). Flying fragile ships that are likely to get primaried is a big no-no.

For the reasons stated above, I do not recommend pilots who are completely new to pvp to start commanding fleets at the get-go. Instead, get someone experienced to show you the ropes, fly with them on a few ops to get the hang of things, and try leading gangs after that. You will quickly learn being a fleet commander is not as easy as it seems, and don’t let the armchair generals and railbirds tell you otherwise.

And when you get your first battlefield full of yellow wrecks, the rush that comes over you will get you hooked, like cocaine.


Wen the Surprised said...

Very nice write up for what it is like to be a FC. You do make it tempting to walk on the pvp side instead of the carebear side. :)

Anonymous said...

Knowing what it is to lead is a big step in being able to lead. You know what it is, you've more than shown it in your blog. I'm impressed, but is that such a big surprise? Excellent and clear statments as what it takes and is to be an FC.


Bri said...

You flatter me Mac. After all, I was your protege, so I'm not surprised our thinking is similar.

Haven't seen you around for a while. Hope life is treating you well!

batolemaeus said...

Fcing sucks. Period.
First of all, you are always primary. The first bullets that are exchanged between fleets are always directed at the Fcs of both sides. You can't fly the ships you like, you need to get into either a cloaker or a trimarked bs.

Other than that, i'm further doomed. My name screams "primary me".

But sadly, as you already said, it's sometimes like a drug. If something is going wrong in another gang the urge to take over and do everything is strong..but first rule in fleets:
Never. Ever. Question the fc while he is commanding and enemies are around. NEVER!

Oh, and quoting you on the "internet spaceships is serious bussines" part. For the future.

Swift Voyager said...

"While drunk/stoned FCs are fun to roam with, or so they claim,... "

Yeah, that would be a good description of the first real corp I joined in Eve. The only thing worse than a drunk/stoned FC is a drunk/stoned diplomat.

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