Fly with, not for.

Started musing after I stood down a roaming fleet earlier today. Specifically, about how I FCed differently to others. I’ve been actively seeking other FW FCs to fleet up with, and have over my EVE career so far been part of many different kinds of PvP experiences and encounters, with the sorely lacking exception probably being wormholes, and big null-sec fleet PvP. Oh, and high-sec PvP, but come on, we all know that’s just a game of “who has the most neutral logi available”.

Anyway, I think I have enough experience to safely compare myself to others, and the resounding difference was that other FCs, whilst they are as good as or better than me at handling fights once a fight broke out, they didn’t pick fights that I would have.

The FC should be responsible for his or her fleet. Yes, you’re telling everyone what to do, and that makes you responsible for what happens. But being responsible for what happens, and being responsible for keeping as much of the fleet alive as possible, are two different things.

How I think of it is, since you’re responsible for what happens, you should try your best to keep your fleet alive. But if you focus on keeping your fleet alive, nothing will happen. That is, sometimes people avoid fights because it appears as if the odds are not in our favour.

But screw it! The odds weren’t in Katniss Everdeen’s favour either! Be responsible after you’re in the fight, where you can really show off your FC skill. I tell people I’m just lucky being able to find so many fights for my fleets. Maybe it is luck, but maybe it’s also because I don’t turn away from the fighting when the going looks tough. There are countless PvP opportunities out there, especially in FW space. I am always doubtful when I hear a roam in FW turns out fruitless because the space is empty. I’ve never experienced it empty, even during our typically quiet Aussie timezone. If you seriously look for a fight, one will come. Unless maybe you fly a solo Armageddon; that may smell a little too much like bait.

It’s normal for FCs to think about their fleet’s engagement profile, but there is a difference between engagement profile, and protecting the fleet. So the first question I ask myself after coming to the conclusion that FCs are too protective of their fleets, is why?

Logistically, it’s seems a nightmare to constantly reship, refit, return (hehehe, the 3 re’s :D), and that’s what will happen a lot in my fleets. People don’t mind it too much, though. In null-sec, it might be a different story, having to travel back dozens of jumps in bubble-infested god-forsaken space only to reship, and risk traveling all the way back, for a fight that might not even happen. In FW low-sec, though, it’s 10 jumps at most to get nearly anywhere. So some of the FCs who came to low-sec from null definitely need to get that mentality out of their minds.

Secondly, FCs might think it’s not fun to die. Well… that’s true, but it’s also not. It ain’t fun to die helplessly, over and over. But it’s fun to rush headfirst into a blood-pumping battle and duke it out until you kill or be killed. I always do still feel sorry for the first guy to die in our fleets, which is why I prefer going into fights or decloaking first, AND of course, running logistics. But death happens, and people aren’t too squirmy about reshipping. Of course, we have the great ISK faucet of FW plexes and missions, so the economic troubles are much lesser. The important thing here is that it’s not fun to lose a ship, but it is infinitely more boring to not get a fight.

Lastly, though, and this is really what I wanted to talk about all along, is that while you should do your best to keep your fleet together, that does not mean you fighting should be done with the same mindset. This takes time to wrap your head around. Basically, FCs should have two modes: travel and fight.

In travel mode, you keep your guys together, you keep everyone alive, yada yada. You make sure stragglers keep up, scouts are awake, and fleet is healthy.

In fight mode, you don’t throw everything you were thinking about in travel out the window. It’s a very subtle shift, actually. Everything is the same, except you stop worrying about keeping people alive, and start thinking about how to kill the enemy.

The key here is when do you switch modes? The question FCs have to constantly ask is, “when do I commit?” and the answer depends on the scenario and the FC’s experiences.

It doesn’t seem too difficult, but it is vital that FCs distinguish that. There IS a time to commit in every fight, and finding that time is part of learning to FC. And when you make the decision to commit, expect your fleet to die, yes, but also expect to come out with some kills. That way, you’re not crippling yourself before you even begin by assuming you will not succeed in any way.

It’s not a big change when you write it down, but in the mind of the FC, when a fight breaks out, they should be focused about fighting. What does fighting mean? Compared to moving/travelling in a fleet, fighting is more dynamic. And that means you need to let your pilots breathe. Many FCs don’t switch from travel to fight mode when they enter a fight, and they immediately load a whole bunch of pressure on their own shoulders because they feel like everything needs to be going perfect, and if ships are dying, things are looking bleak, and they lose hope. No! Trust your pilots! Trust your pilots.

They don’t need you to tell them everything to do in a fight. Which means you don’t have to panic because you failed to tell them every single thing to do!

The tl;dr of the matter is:

1) When moving a fleet, fly for them.

2) When FCing a fight, fly with them.

Because you can’t control every individual module on their ship, and you shouldn’t feel helpless about it. If CCP implements F1 automation so the FC can fire his whole fleet’s guns, you should not be happy. Because the fact that the enemy can’t do that too, means that simply because your fleet loses on paper doesn’t mean it cannot inflict substantial damage on the enemies.

Giving your pilots freedom to TRY fight, instead of attempting to save them every time the the fight goes south, is the greatest experience they can get. Whenever you think you’re faced with a bail or a whelp, ask yourself whether you really have to bail. Is the experience lost worth the ISK saved?

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