Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Finding a fleet comp.

As I wrote in the past couple of blog posts, our Corp has found itself in more and more fights in our own home wormhole. Normally, we use our hole as a giant retarded Titan, and go out and try to find PVP wherever our static and chain may take us. Sometimes, with a boring or bad exit, we might have to turn it off and on again by rolling our static and rescanning the chain. Based on the outcome of a couple of our most recent fights, it became apparent that our current home defence doctrine was a little dated and hadn't been used in so long that most members actually didn't know what ships to use or what fits to have on them. It was decided that we needed a new fleet comp, and the call was put out to members to each come up with some kind of doctrine meeting a specific set of requirements and purposes. There was also an ISK incentive for the person who created the fleet comp that was eventually decided upon.

I took part (I ain't gon' turn down iskies bro') , and it got me thinking about how you should approach creating a fleet doctrine from scratch. The following was my thought process for creating my suggestion for this competition.

Purpose:

In this example, the purpose is a fleet concept that can defend a home wormhole and give chance if successful in driving the attackers off. Another example would be a cheap frigate gang for lowsec roams, or a fleet based around camping gates or hunting ratting ships.

Requirements:

The requirement for this example is that it must be lower than battleship size due to mass restrictions on wormholes, it must be shield based, it must be mobile enough to chase an enemy and it must be able to support capital ships.

Opposition:

It's always wise to design a fleet doctrine around a known enemy composition. In our case, it's highly likely that we'll be facing armour T3s with either Guardian or Capital support. 

Their are multiple instances of large blocs designing specific doctrines based purely on that of their enemies (such as the Foxcat (Navy Apocs) doctrine vs 100mn Tengus, or Fuck You Fleet (Celestis) vs Slowcat blobs.

A frigate doctrine is most likely going to be designed to fight against other frigate gangs, and hunting doctrines should be designed around being able to catch, kill and escape before support arrives.

Cost:

In most cases, cost isn't a huge issue but it's worth considering how much a doctrine ship is going to set back a pilot. Some pilots are poor, and so a doctrine must include cheaper versions or cheaper hulls in order for it to be successful and accessible to your whole corp/alliance

Skills:

As above, not everybody in your corp/alliance is going to have perfect fitting skills, which is why, when theory crafting, you should take this into account. It's no use getting that ship to use every last bit of CPU or PG at All Level V skills when the pilots who are going to be flying it have to start downgrading mods or switching things around. I have, and you should have, an EFT (or Pyfa) character that has what I call "average" skills. 

This means most things at level III or IV, with maybe some of the support and fitting skills a little higher. This is obviously dictated by the pilots it's designed for as some groups, all pilots will have very good support skills whereas some groups will be full of relatively new players.

DPS:

This is the meat of your doctrine and in my opinion, should focus on being what it says it is, Damage. In my doctrine designs, I very rarely put things like armor reps or points, preferring to either do more DPS or be more tanky.

As fleet size decreases, the need for each pilot to bring more utility increases, so a small gang fit is likely to be less tanky but have a point, or a web, or a sensor damp , or a tracking disruptor whereas in a large gang, this can be left for the Support ships. 

Remember that not everyone has all the T2 weapons, and will have specialised into a certain race or a certain damage type. I always try to come up with at least one ship that uses each weapon category for my DPS section. I.e for a missile based doctrine, I'll include a comparable hybrid weapon ship, a comparable projectile based ship and a comparable laser based ship. It's not always possible, but you should at least try to do so.

Logi:

This is what wins you fights. When designing the fit, think hard about what it is that Logistics ships do. They rep things, and they try not to die. That's it. A key consideration for designing Logistics is how many of them there are likely to be. If there are going to be a small number, you might consider making them self rep with an ASB or AAR, whereas if they will be more numerous, you can concentrate on making them able to rep more, or on being jammed less, or surviving longer (or combination thereof). ECCM is a critical thing for any Logistics ship. 

The first thing I do when entering into a fleet fight is launch my ECM drones and stick the on a Logistics ship. Having ECCM counteracts this and you are much less liekly to get jammed out. A jammed Logi is a useless Logi. A lot of people forget drones on Logistics ships, despite them getting pretty good bonuses. Having a flight of rep drones for each Logi effectively means your 1.0 Logi pilot is not a 1.3 Logi pilot. 

I often ask at least one Logi to have the opposite set of drones with them (i.e. Armor drones in a Scimi or Shield drones in a Guardian). If your Logisitcs fits have any kind of DPS except ECM drones, you should feel bad.

Support:

Support ships, or Force Multipliers, are the other thing that mean you win more fights than you lose. Depending on the fleet size, support roles include scouts, tackle, ECM, damps, TDs, firewalls (things with smartbombs to kill drones or missiles), links, neuts etc. Any gang that doesn't role with at least some support is a waste of time as far as I'm concerned. 

In a smaller gang, these roles might have to be tacked on to your DPS ships (in the form of a midslot utility module). In a larger gang, it comes from specialist ships (either T1 or T2). They're great for a newer player to fill (about a week for a new player to sit in a decent Griffin).You should try to fill as much of the Support spectrum as possible as they all have their uses, but if you know what you're going to be fighting, you can alter the rations of the Support to match. For example, if you know you'll be fighting turret based ships, bring more Tracking Disruptors. If you know you're going to be fighting a sniping or kiting fleet, bring more Sensor Damps. If you're going to be fighting out numbered or are simply risk adverse, bring more ECM ships. 

Hictors and Sabres are a great replacement for each individual fleet Member having an individual point. The exception to this is if you are fighting ships with Micro Jump Drives, in which case you should ensure some of your fleet have Scrams. 

Links, either by on grid command ships, or off grid boosters also fall under this section, and it's worth the time to work out how the fleet performs both with and without links, and which links help the fleet the most. Don't forget that links affect the whole fleet, not just the DPS. Information links are great for making sure that your Logi don't get jammed. Remember that that link which makes the Logi rep more also makes them use more cap.

Compatibility

You can create some amazing ships in EFT that fulfil a role perfectly but then when you get into an actual fight, you'll find that the ships don't go well together. This might be obvious to some, but it's often overlooked. If all your ships are meant to group together, they must all go at roughly the same speed. 

A good FC will move at the pace of the slowest member of the fleet, but often that isn't the case and that one Recon that is AB fit in an MWD fit gang is going to get left behind and will die. The same principle goes for cap stability. Being cap stable is great, but most good fits aren't. Each doctrine ship should have a ~similar~ level of capacitor stability so that half way through a fight, your Logi ships are suddenly complaining that they have no cap left to rep anybody or your DPS ships are so cap dry their hardeners are all turned off. 

Each ship doesn't have to be exact, but try to make them roughly the same. If you're using cap injectors, remember that you will have retards in fleet that don't bring enough charges, so it helps if all ships use the same size so that someone can give that idiot some more cap boosters. This should go without saying, but I've seen it done in the past; don't mix armor and shield in the same fleet.

Size:

Think about the scale of your fleet. If you know you regularly role with 10 pilots, base your fleet concept around that and make sure all the boxes are ticked. If you know you're pulling 100-200 pilots, figure out the ratios of what you need. A rough base is 25% Logi, 15% Support and 60% DPS, but those bases are going to move a lot depending on who you have available and what they can (and want to) fly. 

Think about scalability. What's the smallest number of pilots to make your doctrine work and fill all the roles, what's the largest? Does it scale infinitely?

Adaptability:

So you're flying a specific doctrine to fight a specific threat, and suddenly you hear that your enemy has reshipped, or you are now faced with a third party entity that you haven't prepared for. What do you do? Well luckily, you;ve read this, and your fleet is prepared. In every single one of the fits I design, I include a Mobile Depot. They're cheap and infinitely useful.

I also try to include the refit options; different hardeners, different weapon systems, different utility mods. In a 256 man fleet, this isn't going to be as easy (although you could just drop a carrier and refit from that) but for a smaller fleet, it's amazing. Enemy fleet reshipped to be a direct counter? Not any more. You've just refit to tank specifically against their damage and you've all fit Sensor Damps. You win.

Presentation:

Presenting your fleet comp is another key thing you need to do right. Most groups have some kind of Out Of Game option such as a forum to do this in. You need to give the fits for every ship in either EFT or Pyfa format (prefereably both) with an very clear explanation of how that pilot is expected to fly that fit. "Shoot things" is not a good explanation. "Anchor on the FC, apply Target Painters and Damage to the primary target, use ECM drones on hostile Logi or Support" is a good explanation. 

For each fit, you should also suggest a set of implants that go well with that ship, what ammo types (and quantities), what drugs, and what spare modules to bring if you go down the Mobile Depot route. Don't expect the gaps to fill themselves. Also try to give "alternate" fits for the less skilled, such as fits with meta guns or other meta mods in the place of T2.

If you're not going to be the FC, explain how your doctrine should be flown, and what it can engage and what it can't. 

Try to also give a rough price. It's all well and good suggesting a Pirate Battleship doctrine with a spattering of faction or deadspace modules, people will love what it can do, but if that pilot then goes to buy one and realises it's way above what he can afford, he'll just not come on your fleet and maybe ask you for some money. 

Ask for feedback. Eve players like talking about spaceships and can be amazing for pointing out any mistakes you've made, and how you can adapt your fit to make it slightly better.

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