I thought I scaled EVE’s learning cliff after I realised I could answer 80% of questions in the Help channel.
I thought wrong.
Then I thought I had scaled the cliff when I could safely fly with my safety set to yellow.
I was wrong.
Then I thought that surely, since I’ve led one successful roam, I finally understood most of EVE. Then I got into fleet combat proper, and whelped a few fleets. Then I realised that even if I had scaled that first learning cliff all newbies hit, there is a level 2.
This cliff face is smooth, and more or less vertical. An impossible climb alone. This, I feel, is where EVE really becomes more than a game. Because this level is where you turn to others, to friends who have made it all this way together, to allies you’ve formed strong bonds with, and together, forge your own path up to eternal glory.
5 1v1s don’t equal 1 5v5
In 1v1 combat or 1vMany combat, you know your ship, you know the enemies’ rough composition and what they can do to you, and you go about your actions to try inflict as much damage as possible before you have to escape, or get blown up.
But when you fight in fleets, there are more factors, many more, that grow exponentially every time you get another person involved in any one fight.
Firstly, as I am learning, every single ship is a new ‘module’ to your fleet, and every module on that ship is a ‘sub-module’. That’s how I think of it.
What I’m trying to say is that every module counts, every ship counts, all of it impacts your engagement profile, what kind of DPS you deal and how well you apply it. In a small-gang fight, whether or not a single member decides to fit a web in that spare mid slot over another piece of gear that may improve their fit’s efficacy, whether or not he was primaried or not, whether or not he was in range to use his web, whether or not he thinks to overheat the web, whether the enemy notices the web, whether the enemy tries to break free of the web, whether ANOTHER fleet member had a web to secure the enemy, it’s a mind-boggling jigsaw puzzle, and you have the duration of the fight to figure out where the pieces fall.
There is the environment the FC finds him/herself in, too. This may include ‘internal’ factors such as their own SP, leadership skills distributed between fleet members, their pilots’ SP, ISK and resources, and ‘external’: the current ship meta, changes to ships due to patches, new ships, popular ships in the local area, competition, allies, and enemies in the local area.
It’s… daunting, and sometimes I let my eagerness for a fight take control and I skip over all that. Today I whelped another fleet to some cruisers because I thought they were fighting and we could come in and cherry-pick some kills. I offered myself up to warp in first and check the situation out, and I did a pretty poor job. Had I watched overview and the grid more carefully, I would’ve seen that the fight was more or less over, and my frigates would’ve met certain doom from their destroyers and cruisers.
Underneath the portraits…
Next, every new ship (usually) means another person behind another screen, and this makes it even more complicated.
There’s clarity of the FC to the other members. This can include his/her voice, languages spoken and accent, but also what information he/she discloses to the fleet and when. I think most of my members seem to understand what I’m saying, and I try to repeat myself twice (thrice maximum).
Things like relationships between members, and between a member and the FC, come into play. How well do you know the FC, how far are you willing to go in terms of following orders? How much are you going to trust that logibro to heal you, or that scout to provide intel? This comes with experience and training of course, and I’m slowly working it out.
The knowledge, skills, expertise and anecdotes of your fleet members get involved. Sometimes they’re detrimental and needlessly discourage the other fleet members, other times they can be extremely beneficial in providing insight into a scenario. Once again, depending on how and when they’re used. Right now, my members are all new to EVE, and I am training them as hard as I can to acquire the same amount of knowledge I have. So right now, it’s lack of this experience that is the problem, rather than too much.
Attention spans and patience. How long are your members willing to fly around waiting for a kill? I try to keep them active, making members take turns to scout, engaging them in conversation, making stupid, dry jokes and muttering sarcastically in my own little way to keep them entertained.
These are only a few elements that I can think of off the top of my head with nearly no experience in fleets compared to other FCs. There is undoubtedly a whole lot more. I aim to uncover them, and understand their nuances. I need to. For every fight I lost in solo PvP, I found that I could come out and understand exactly what went wrong. At the pace I’m going now, it’s taking me 10 fights leading a fleet to even begin to achieve that same level of understanding of what is happening. This is most likely unsustainable, not to mention demoralising for those members who do pay attention to alliance killboards, and I can’t let myself be the cause of that.
A Fleet Commander in EVE Online is short for armchair psychologist, entertainer, theory-crafter, fit-designer, a friend who is also a leader, a mediator who is also a dictator. Charismatic, insane, hilarious or absolutely outrageous, this is the person you turn to when all else seems lost.
A fleet commander can look at the cliff of all cliffs, and his or her pilots will form a human ladder for him to climb, knowing he will ensure each and every one of them will also make it to the top.