Forming a Fleet
There are a number of ways to form a fleet. The easiest if to right click on a person in chat and select "Form fleet with". You can also do that to your own character and form a fleet of one (there are reasons to do this which will become clear later). If you are already in a fleet you can invite people to fleet by right clicking on them and selecting "Invite to fleet". You will then be given a menu to choose where in the fleet to put that person. The Leadership skill dictates how many people you can have in your squad. You get 2 per level to a max of 10 in a squad.
People can now search for your fleet in the Find Fleets Tab based on the options you provided. They may join by Right clicking the fleet in the advert and select "Join Fleet". The real power of an Advert is that you can drag the advert from the Fleet Finder into any chat window. This creates a link for people to join the fleet easily and quickly.
The Fleet Window
The Hierarchy shows the squads, wings and Fleet Commander of the fleet. It also shows who is Boss (the guy with the options) and who is boosting the fleet and whether its working. Most people will just need a single squad. A squad can hold ten pilots, one of whom is the squad commander. A wing can have 5 squads. A fleet can have 5 wings. This means a fleet can have 256 pilots in it counting commanders. Now anyone can hold one of these Command positions and anyone can make a max size fleet but you need to have certain skills to provide bonuses to your fleet members. More on this in the Fleet Boosting section.
The Boss has the options to create wings and squads, name them and move people around using a right click menu in this window. It is also possible to set "Free Move" on so people can move around the fleet themselves. The Boss also controls which pilots are boosters.
You get a context menu if you right click on someone in the fleet hierarchy. This included the "warp to" options that make fleets so versatile.
Benefits of a Fleet
A fleet provides a structure to permit various benefits. Here is a short summary of the advantages of being in a Fleet.
- Communications - The fleet window provides a set of "Broadcast" messages which show up in the Fleet History Window. Some Broadcasts also show an icon in the space view as well. Eve Voice is now plugged into the Fleet system so you can have VOIP communications if you don't have your own server.
- Fleet Boosting - There are a range of skills and modules that provide benefits to fleet members if you are set as a fleet booster. These range from more armour to longer warp disruptor ranges. You'll find the skills in the Skills > Leadership section of the market.
- Manoeuvrability - You can warp to fleet members in the same system. This allows you to go to missions and complexes you don't have a bookmark for. It also allows you to warp straight to the fight when someone starts yelling.
- Jump Ship Manoeuvrability - Jump ships must be in fleet with the Cyno Pilot to jump to his cyno. Also pilots that wish to use a jump bridge from a titan or Black Ops ship must be in the fleet. These are advanced items which most rookies wont need to worry about for a while.
- Loot Logging - The History window can be set to show you what loot everyone in the fleet is picking up. Just in case you don't trust them.
- Fleet Warp - If everyone in the fleet aligns to the destination and the Commander selects "Warp Fleet/Wing/Squad" then the whole fleet will form into a single warp tunnel and move at the speed of the slowest ship. Thus they will all arrive at the same time. This is often critical in PvP.
- Overview Filter Options - Fleet members are marked with a Purple star. You can set the overview to not show fleet members so there is less clutter. This is standard practice in big fleets since your companions are going to be closest to you and you want to see the enemy.
- Advanced Drone Options - You can set your own drones to "Assist" or "Guard" another fleet member. Assist means your drones will attack whoever the friendly attacks. Guard means the drones will attack anything attacking your friend. Carriers can also assign control of their fighters/fighter bombers to other pilots to use like drones if they are in the same fleet.
- Tracking - Its possible to see where all fleet members are in the map if you select the "My Information > My Fleet Members" option from the World Map Control Panel.
- Management - The Boss can pull up a list of all pilots in the fleet showing ship, location, docked status, and leadership skills
- Monitoring - You can get a "Watch List" of pilots in the fleet. When you add pilots to the watch list you can see their vital stats (shields, armour and hull) when in the same local space in a similar display tot he drone window. This lets you see how the rest of the fleet is fairing.
- Shared Wrecks - When you kill rats the wrecks will be white to all members of the fleet regardless of corp. This lets you tractor and loot wrecks without "stealing".
The Leadership skills allow a pilot to give benefits to fleet members. There are also modules called Gang Warfare Links which increase fleet effectiveness. The Leadership skill allows 2 people / level to join a squad and ensures everyone in the squad gets the fleet bonuses. The Wing Commander skill allows the creation of one squad per level and ensures that all squads in the wing get the fleet and wing bonuses. The Fleet Command skill allows the creation of one wing per level and ensures all wings under him get the fleet bonuses. The booster with the highest bonuses in the command chain is the one who applies. They do not stack. You should choose your squad and wing boosters carefully to ensure everyone gets the right bonuses. The bonuses for a fleet only apply to the fleet elements that are in the same system as the booster.
Strictly speaking, your commanders and your boosters do not have to be the same people. You can assign a person with Wing Commander 5 to lead a wing and assign the Wing Booster position to someone else in the Wing. As long as the wing commander has enough skill to cover all the squads in the wing, the booster's bonuses will be spread throughout the wing. You can assign and revoke Booster roles using the right click context menu.
The way this works, a squad member should get 3 sets of bonuses. The bonuses from his squad commander, the bonuses from his wing commander and the bonuses from his fleet commander. It pays to have each level specialise differently so they aren't cancelling each other out. This applies mostly to ships with gang links as they usually need to specialise in a particular type of bonuses. Remember that only the highest rating in the chain applies.
There are Leadership skills to increase Armour, Shields, Mining Yield, Agility and Targeting range. The Gang Links have a number of other effects but require leadership skills to use.
Battlecruisers, Command Ships and some Strategic Cruiser setups are specialised in providing fleet bonuses by running gang warfare links. They can increase a fleet's potential greatly when assigned as boosters. There is no point running a gang warfare link if you are not a fleet booster.
The Watch List
The watch list allows you to monitor the health of about 10 people at one time without targeting them. The subject's shields armour and hull are shown as bars the fill in red as they take damage. To add or remove people from the watch list, right click on them in the fleet window or watch list and look for the context menu option. You can also right click on a person in the watch list and select the "warp to" options. If you right click on a squad commander in the fleet window you can get an option to add the entire squad to the watch list.
Its unlikely that a rookie will get into a cap ship any time soon but you may be asked to to light a Cynosural Field (cyno) for a capital ship to jump to. These things are a beacon that the jump ship locks on to for the jump. You must be in fleet before you activate the cyno field. If you mess this up you will have to wait 10 minutes for the cyno to go down before you can fix it. That's embarrassing.You can broadcast the cyno beacon using the fleet menu on the fleet window. The message shows in the broadcast history.
Be aware that cynos disable your engines and you can't move or cloak until the cyno goes down. Also the cyno is displayed in the overview of everyone in system and they can warp to it if they choose. For that reason people tend to use cheap ships. There is no reason to waste a safespot on a cyno spot. Use a planet.
There are some advanced options in the fleet menu and context menu that you can work out fairly easily. Remember that the right click is your friend. Also remember that the set of lines next to "Fleet" in the fleet window is the fleet menu. Many of the options are self explanatory.