Thursday, 26 April 2012

Combat Basics

In this post we will cover the basics of combat. Much of this stuff you were told in the Career Agent Missions and Tutorials but they probably haven't had the chance to sink in yet. Combat is a huge subject. There are so many variables involved that there are often many ways to do something. Take some time to familiarise yourself with the basics before experimenting. Its really worth reading the whole lot even if it is a long haul.

Damage Types
Damage comes in four different types; EM, Explosive, Kinetic and Thermal. The damage from any source will be a combination of these. For example, missiles come in all four types but hybrid turrets do thermal and kinetic. The rats in a mission, belt or complex will do a set combination of damage and you can find this out from web sites.

Every ship has resistances against these damage types for shields and armour (hull only has resistances if you fit a damage control). You should investigate what resistances your ships have. If you put your resistances up high you will reduce the amount of damage the repair module has to counter. For mission and complex runners, this means maximising the resistances against the damage type used by the rats they will encounter. For PvP play, you will want to even out your resistances and get them up too so you can deal with any threat.

There are two types of resistance module; Active and Passive. Passive means that the module does not use capacitor and is always working. Active modules must be turned on to work and use up capacitor. Active modules have higher resistance values than passive modules. There is a penalty for having multiple modules adding to the same resistance value. It scales up for each mod so that after three modules you aren't getting much benefit. Its not possible to get resistances of 100%. It doesn't take much time to train for tech 2 versions of these modules and pilots should do it before going for weapons and bigger ships.

There is a module of note to look at when you fit your tank. A Damage Control of some sort will provide resistances to shields, armour and hull for a very small capacitor usage. Its the only module that gives hull resistances and can give you that extra few seconds to escape if you are going into hull. It also is free of the stacking penalty but you can fit only one. Some people will swear that you should never undock without one.

Most ships have a “hole” in their resistances. Shields are very vulnerable to EM damage and Armour ships are weak against explosive damage. This means there will be certain rats which are challenging enemies to each type of ship. You should always find out what NPCs you should expect and plan ahead. If you don't, an otherwise good tank will fail and you will lose your ship. Plugging this resistance hole is also important for PvP.

Just about every rookie pilot makes the same mistake when they start their career. They mistakenly believe that bigger guns or bigger ships will improve their survivability. The truth is that just about any ship will die if the tank is not up to scratch. The “Tank” refers to the modules dedicated to dealing with incoming damage. An important factor to note is that most most tanks require capacitor to run. This means that your Tank also includes the modules that supply the capacitor to run it. So early training should be for repairers, resistance modules and capacitor modules.

There are two main types of tanking; Shield Tanking and Armour Tanking. Its inefficient to try to maintain both your shields and your armour. Tanking usually focuses on one or the other. Amarr and Gallente ships tend to be set up for armour tanking. Caldari and Minmatar ships are typically shield tanks. This is because of the resistances, hit points and layout of middle and low slots on these ships. There are notable exceptions to this rule but its a good guide for new players.

Shield Boosters and Armour Repairers both repair a portion of the damage done to your ship. The idea is to repair faster than you take damage or at least slow the rate. Without these systems you can't stay in a fight for long. Shield boosters and shield resistance modules use the medium slots. Armour repairers and armour resistance modules use the low slots. Capacitor modules can be either and there is a rig called a Capacitor Control Circuit that helps capacitor recharge rates. Normally you would fit a repairer, some resistance modules and then try to arrange enough capacitor to run it all. The Fitting window will tell you how long your capacitor will last with all your systems active. You can “turn off” things by putting them off line. A program like Eve Fitting Tool (EFT) will give you more accurate information. For PvP it isn't necessary for your tank to run a particularly long time as the fight is often over quickly but for running complexes and missions you must run the tank regularly for up to an hour or two. An option a new pilot should consider is to use a Capacitor Booster. This module uses a Cap Booster charge to inject power into the capacitor. You can get the charges in different sizes from 25 points to 800 points and you can choose a size that suits. Carry spare charges in your cargo hold and you can artificially sustain your cap until you run out of boosters. This is the option a new pilot must use to run missions until their skills are up to scratch.

All damage comes in one of four different types; EM, Explosive, Kinetic and Thermal. To match this your ship has resistances on both the shields and the armour. It possible to get resistances on your hull as well if you fit a Damage Control module. Resistances reduce the damage taken from a hit. If you have a 50% thermal resistance on your shields, then all thermal damage done to the shields will be halved. Different ships have different resistance layouts but there are some commonalities for most ships. Shields are extremely vulnerable to EM damage. This makes Sansha and Blood Raiders challenging opponents for Shield ships because they typically do large amounts of EM damage. Armour is very vulnerable to Explosive damage. The Angel Cartel and Rogue Drones do a lot of explosive damage so they are natural foes to armour tanks. If you are having trouble with a particular kind of rat in a mission or complex then you should check the damage those rats are doing and compare it to your resists. Increasing your resistances for your tank will reduce the work the repairer has to do.

Resistances suffer a stacking penalty when you add multiple modules of the same type to the ship. The first module gets the full effect but subsequent modules have a reduced effect. This means that it is impossible to get 100% resistances. Even the Devs have to settle for 99.99%. The Stacking Penalty follows the following pattern.

Module Effectiveness
   1            100%
   2              87%
   3              57%
   4              28%
   5             10.5%
   6               3%

Important Note: The Damage Control module is immune to the stacking penalties. This means the module's full resistances are added to the ship's resistances. This makes a Damage Control a very attractive piece of equipment and it is used by most pilots.

After the resistances have been penetrated, your shields and/or armour will take damage. The most common way to deal with this is to fit a repairer. For shields these are called Shield Boosters. Armour repairers are the armour equivalent. These will use an amount of capacitor and repair a portion of your tank. They tend to be power hungry modules so much of your fitting will be geared to feeding these devices. You may turn them on and off during a fight to conserve capacitor but expect to need them running full time for big missions or complexes.

Shield tanks have another option available to them. Passive shield tanking is using the natural shield recharge to counter damage. They fit modules that increase the shield size and recharge rate. This has the advantage of not needing any capacitor to run. The shield recharge rate works on a bell curve and is at its peak recharge rate around the 33% shields. This sweet spot is about three times the recharge rate of 90% shields. The problem with Passive tanks is you are already at 33% shields when you discover that your tank is being broken.

The last main form of tanking is mainly for PvP. Its the Buffer Tank. This is basically a big amount of hit points for either shields or armour. You are either relying on remote repair from fleet logistics ships or hoping to kill the enemy before you run out of hit points. Again good resistances are essential for this kind of tanking because it reduces the load for the logistics ships. This type of tanking doesn't work in missions or complexes unless you are supported by logistics. Its often used in Incursions though.
Weapon Systems
There are a number of different ways you can attack someone in Eve. The most obvious are guns and missiles. Next are drones which are robot fighters. Then there is Electronic Warfare (EWar). After that there are the more obscure and specialised weapon systems such as smart bombs, nosferatu and energy neutralisers. The following sections will cover each group in turn as they all have their own capabilities and restrictions.

There are different “qualities” of each type of weapon. There “civilian” weapons which are the basic guns you get with your rookie ships. These have the advantage of not needing ammo and being easy to fit but are inferior in all other respects. There is the “Tech 1” weapon which is your standard manufacturable weapon system. There are blueprints for these weapons on the empire markets and they tend to be fairly cheap. There are then a set of weapons that are found only from NPC loot but are not particularly rare. I call these “Named” weapons. They differ from the standard in many ways and you must compare them to see the differences as a weapon can be easier to fit but have less damage or can be good damage but poor rat of fire. After the basic named weapons are the “Tech 2” weapons. Tech 2 equipment is the best that can be mass produced. They are more expensive and have higher fitting and skill requirements but their statistics often make it worthwhile. Most PvP ships are at least Tech 2 fitted. Tech 2 weapons are the only weapons that can use Tech 2 ammo. Mission runners should be aiming for these after their tank is stable. The next level is “Faction Weapons”. These are usually equal to or superior to Tech 2 but are often easier to fit. They are expensive and only come from special sources. New players should wait a while before using these. It really hurts when you lose them. The last grade of weapons is called “Officer” and they only come from ultra-rare spawns in 0.0 space called Officer Spawns. They cost a fortune (we’re talking billions) and can get you killed. While they are excellent weapons, people will sometimes hunt you hoping that a few of them will drop as loot.

Overall, Tech 2 weapons are an excellent choice. By the time you can use them you should be making enough money to buy them easily. The option of T2 ammo is also worthwhile as it is usually less expensive than faction ammo.

Ammo comes in three quality grades; Standard, Tech 2 and Faction. Standard is just what it sounds like. The ordinary stuff which can be mass produced. Cheap but works. Tech 2 ammo can only be used in Tech 2 weapons. It usually comes in two types for each gun; long range or high damage. You need more skills for T2 ammo and there are some small disadvantages in using it (listed in the description) but on the whole it is cheaper than faction ammo and just as effective. T2 ammo can be mass produced. The last grade of ammo is Faction ammo. This is only sourced from faction rats or NPC corps as loyalty rewards. However you can buy it from the market and many pilots make good money using loyalty points to buy from the NPCs and sell it to pilots like you. The statistics on this ammo is superior to T1 stuff and sometimes to T2 ammo. There are no disadvantages in using it and it can be used in any weapon so there are no skill requirements. The problem is it is very expensive. If you are not careful you will spend more killing a rat than the rat was worth. PvP players should limit how much they take with them on roams or risk leaving a large amount in their wreck unused.

This section covers Hybrid weapons, Projectile weapons and Laser weapons. Each of these weapon groups uses ammo of different kinds. While it may seem odd that a laser would use ammo, they in fact use “frequency crystals” that affect the beam that is projected. The ammo for each weapon type comes in several varieties such as antimatter, iridium and lead for hybrid weapons. These varieties differ in range, damage done and sometimes type of damage. For example hybrid ammo has the long range, low damage type called Iron and a short range, high damage type called antimatter. You should have a look at the different ammo types for your weapon of choice and see what the options are. It’s also a good idea to carry several kinds of ammo in your hold so that you can adapt to situations. Many rookies lose their ship because they only had the short range ammo and couldn’t hit the target. There are four sizes of ammo; small, medium, large and extra-large. These ammo sizes match the gun sizes. Small for frigate weapons, medium for cruisers, large for battleships and extra-large for capital ship weapons.

Each weapon group has its own damage types. Hybrid do thermal and kinetic damage and this is only slightly affected by ammo choice. Lasers do thermal and EM damage and the frequency crystal you use can change the proportions of each. Projectile ammo is basically explosive and kinetic but you can get ammo that does some thermal or EM damage making it very versatile. You should know the damage types you are doing with your guns so that you can compare them against the enemy’s shield and armour resistances. Doing the right damage against a target will make killing it a lot easier.

Each gun type has two subtypes. Hybrids have Blasters and Railguns. Lasers have Pulse and Beam. Projectiles have Autocannons and Artillery. The subtypes differ in range and damage. Blasters, Pulse Lasers and Autocannons are high damage, high rate of fire, high tracking speed (see below) and low range. There are differences again between the different weapon types. Blasters are known for being some of the highest damage dealing weapons in the game but the range is very short. Meanwhile, pulse lasers can still reach respectable ranges. Railguns, Beam Lasers and Artillery have longer ranges but their rate of fire, damage and tracking speed are less. They are intended for targets at longer ranges. In each size group (except extra-large) there are three grades of weapon. For example, small railguns have the 75mm Gatling Rail, the 125mm Railgun and the 150mm Railgun. These differ in rate of fire, damage output, tracking speed, range and fitting requirements. This makes a total of six “types” of gun for each size group (except extra-large).

With all the different options you have it is hard to work out what the final statistics are on a weapon. Your skills will also change the calculations and ships often have modifiers to weapons. There is an easy way to work out the stats for a weapon with everything included. Get in your ship then go to the fitting window. Fit the gun to your ship, load it with ammo, and right click on the gun. Select “Show info”. The window you get under these conditions shows you the modified statistics for the gun with that ammo loaded. Compare this to the show info window you got from a gun in your hangar or on the market. You will see the difference. You can also right click on your guns in space to get the same info window for emergency reference.

Hybrid and Laser weapons use capacitor power to fire. This also is affected by ammo type with short range ammo using the most. If your capacitor is so low that there is not enough power to fire the gun (or group) then your guns will turn off. It is important to factor the gun firing into capacitor calculations when working out your tank as the amount adds up across 6-8 guns. Projectile weapons use no capacitor power to fire.

All guns have four critical properties; Optimal Range, Accuracy Falloff, Tracking Speed and Signature Resolution. These are as important as the damage the guns do because if you don’t fly to suit them you won’t hit your target. Here is a brief description.
  • Optimal Range – The guns will hit a stationary target 100% of the time out to this range.
  • Accuracy Falloff – At range equal to Optimal out to range equal to Optimal + Falloff, the chance of hitting a stationary target slides from 100% down to 50%. This means a ship can hit a target at inside Optimal + 2 x Falloff but the chances aren’t great until it gets to Optimal range.
  • Tracking Speed – This is how fast the gun moves to follow a target. If the target is going around you faster than this number then the gun CANNOT hit it.
  • Signature Resolution – This is a measure of the gun’s scatter. Shots are expected to hit inside this radius. If your Signature Resolution is bigger than the Signature Radius of the target ship then you will miss with some of your shots.
These properties are so important to how guns work that I recommend everyone looks at this tutorial that CCP set up. Tracking Tutorial  If you are finding that you cannot hit targets or miss often then you are probably running afoul of these properties. New players often get their first cruiser or battlecruiser and discover they can’t hit the frigate sized rats in missions. This is because either the guns have larger signature resolution than the frigate size and the weapons just missed or the frigates got so close or are moving so fast that the larger guns can’t keep up with them. All large ships need to consider during the design phase how to deal with small ships. If you can’t fit a full set of medium/large guns on the high slots, consider fitting a small gun for anti frigate work. Drones are often used to deal with this problem.

Missile Launchers
There are different types of missile launcher for each size group. Rocket Launchers and Standard Missile Launchers for the small weapons. Assault Missile Launchers, Heavy Assault Missile Launchers and Heavy Missile launchers for the medium weapons. Cruise Missile Launchers and Siege Launchers for the large weapons. There are Citadel Cruise Missile Launchers for Capital Ships. Each type takes its own size of missile but each missile size comes in four damage types. This means that a missile launcher of any kind is capable of launching any type of damage. Missile launchers also use no capacitor power to fire. The different types of launcher vary in capacity, rate of fire and fitting requirements. The missiles determine speed, flight time, damage and explosion radius. Note that you need the skill to use the launcher AND the skill to use the missile as they are different.

Missiles are very versatile as they can be changed to suit the enemy you are engaged with. They also have a Friend or Foe version for light, heavy and cruise missiles. This version does not need a target lock and is great for when you have been jammed. Also missile launchers can fit the only anti-missile system in the game called Defenders. These are somewhat limited and aren’t the “missile shield” we wish they were.

To work out range for a missile you need to put it in a launcher and fit it to your ship. Right click on your ship and select “Show info”. There will be a tab called “Modules”. Scroll down through that until you see the missile and then get the info on the missiles (right-click > Show info). The window you see should have the missile statistics modified for skills, modules and ship. Multiply the velocity times the flight time and you will get the number of metres the missile will fly. Remember that a missile will have to chase a target so this won’t be exact.

Missiles have two important characteristics; Explosion Speed and Explosion Radius. If a target is moving faster than the Explosion Speed of the missile when it hits then the missile will do no real damage. This is a big problem for battleships using cruise missiles and torpedos as they will not hurt frigates. Some frigates are so fast that they can outrun the missile completely. Explosion Radius represents the area the damage is done to. Bigger missiles have bigger explosive radius. If a target is smaller than the Explosive Radius then only part of the damage of the missile will be done to the target proportional to the size difference. The rest is wasted. Don’t confuse this with area effects. A missile cannot hurt more than one target. This is another reason why medium and large missiles have trouble against frigates as they are doing less damage per hit.

Missiles are great for PvE such as missions and complexes. They are heavily debated in PvP circles. The main argument against them is the time it take for a missile to hit. This delay often means you miss out on getting on a killmail.

Using FoF Missiles
FoF missiles will fire at the nearest hostile target without requiring a lock. This causes a few problems. First, a PvP foe will not be “hostile” until he attacks you. Even if the foe attacks other fleet members it is not sufficient. Second, attacking drones count as hostile targets so they will be shot first since they will likely be closer. Third, there is no concentrated fire if there are multiple things at the same range. This means they will spread fire among all attacking drones. Lastly, some structures in missions count as “hostile” and will draw fire. This only really affects mission runners but it seems to exist so people can’t run missions AFK. However, if your enemy is the only hostile target in range and you are jammed then these are your best hope. Manoeuvring is the key to using these effectively. Move away from anything that will draw the FoFs off target. If there is a valid target in range, FoFs will continue to fire until the launcher is depleted.

Using Defenders
Defenders can be put in any launcher available except Citadel Cruise Launchers. They don’t change with launcher type but the rate of fire and ammo capacity depends on the launcher. This makes rocket launchers and standard launchers the best options if you plan to use these. You activate your Defender when an enemy missile is inbound on you. The launcher won’t activate if there are no eligible targets. If there is an eligible target, the defender will launch and try to intercept the closest missile to you. If it reaches the target in time it will destroy it. When the launcher cycles, the defender will fire again if there is another missile homing in on you. It will stop if there are no targets or it runs out of Defenders. The problem with defenders is that it will fire at missiles it cannot reach in time wasting the shot. It is also not smart enough to re-target if a missile is destroyed while it is in flight. This makes using more than one launcher much less useful as two launchers will probably target the same missile. However, they are a method of reducing the incoming DPS from missile users. They are effective against cruise missiles and torpedos, especially in missions. Mission rats use them regularly and they seem to always get it right. Unfortunately, they will not target missiles chasing a friendly ship.

Everyone should learn to use drones. Gallente pilots should learn to use drones early. Broad statements but her is the reasoning for it. For Gallente ships, drone are an integral part of the ship's fire-power. If you aren't using them you aren't using the ship to its potential. I say all pilots should learn drones because most large ships use them as a frigate defence system. A battleship with large guns on it will have to rely on drones to kill close frigate targets. Your large weapons just wont hurt them. Since frigates often have a warp disruptor fitted you will find it critical to deal with them.

Drones must be loaded into the drone bay of your ship before leaving station. When you undock, you will find a new window under the Overview called “Drones”. There are folders there for your drone bay and local space. Expand them by clicking on them. You'll find the drones in the bay ready to deploy. You can put drones into “groups” which are just like folders to sort them. This allows you to give orders to a group easily. Launch or give orders to a drone or group by right-clicking on it. Make sure to remember to recall your drones after a battle or you will lose them.

There is a different drone for each damage type and a set of Ewar and Logistics drones. This makes them very versatile. Drones can be shot down though so you need to watch over then carefully or they wont be there when you need them. They have a damage readout in the drone window.

Ewar Modules
There are so many Ewar modules that I'll cover each in a brief note.
  • ECM – These have a percentage chance each cycle to block your targeting for 20 seconds.
  • Sensor Dampeners – These will either reduce your targeting range or increase the time to lock a target. Not very effective against rats.
  • Stasis Webifiers – This module will slow a target down. This is great for holding them still for guns to hit them.
  • Warp Disruptors – This module will stop your warp drive from working. An essential PvP module.
  • Warp Scramblers – This module will block your warp drive AND turn off your microwarpdrive. Also common in PvP.
  • Weapon Disruptors - This will either ruin the tracking or optimal range of a target's guns (not missiles). The Optimal range option works against rats and in effect reduces the dps from a ship.

Speciality Weapons
Here is a brief description of what these weapons do;
  • Smartbombs – this does an area effect blast of damage to all ships in range. Very dangerous to use in high sec. If you hit a gate or neutral structure/ship you will be attacked by CONCORD.
  • Nosferatus – These modules suck s little bit of cap from an enemy ship and put it into yours. An option to power a ship at close range. Will not suck a target dry of cap.
  • Energy Neutralisers – This module uses your capacitor to destroy some of the target's capacitor. You can drain a target to zero cap with these modules. Very power hungry.

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