Life in a Wormhole: Fleet Ops #eveonline

CB and I are heading out of the hole for an “Amarr-themed” roam with Red vs. Blue. As a general rule of thumb, these things are a fine bit of fun (it’s fun to listen to drunken Brits chatting over Mumble, at any rate), so I don’t think I’ll spend (much) time going over my complaints with how this (and other) roams ran. Instead, I thought I’d turn my frustration into something more productive by writing down some thoughts on what I consider good ideas when it comes to forming up and taking part in roams in EvE.

For the uninitiated (those who play MMOs, but not EvE), a roam is basically just forming up a fleet and sort of going on a patrol/prowl/hunt through the wilder areas of low-sec and null-sec space, with the hopes of finding that holy grail of EvE PvP play: the Good Fight. It’s not unlike forming up for a raid in typical theme park MMO, in that you have an organized start time, a known agenda, and roles that need to be filled within the fleet, but (obviously) unlike it in that what you actually end up doing and what you end up fighting is a complete unknown until (or after) it happens.

Still, I’ve found that the basic “raid” mindset I developed in other MMOs serves me well here. Starting with the rank-and-file pilots in the fleet, I think there are a few good rules of thumb that will improve the experience for you and everyone else in the group.

If you’re familiar with the somewhat cutthroat and “Harden the Fuck Up” attitude prevalent in EvE, it might be a surprise to learn that there’s such a thing as good fleet etiquette. Let me assure you, there is. Every fleet and fleet commander is going to handle things differently — some more casually, some more strict or even “hardcore” — but I think I can say this fairly safely: if you observe these general guidelines, you’ll do okay regardless of which kind of group you’re flying with.

Be Prepared

Before you do anything else, make sure you’re prepared to roam.

  • Is your ship fitted out in accordance with whatever style of fleet is going to be going out? A bunch of fast frigates will look sideways at your neutralizer-heavy, armor-tanked Dominix battleship, and a bunch of long range, skirmishing battlecruisers will have little use for your short-range, high-damage Brutix brawler.
  • Do you have enough of the right kinds of ammunition and other consumables, such as cap boosters or nanite repair paste? For roams, I usually don’t bother with more than two or three reloads for each type of ammunition I’m bringing, and even then I’ll probably lose my ship long before I run out even that small amount of ammo — but make sure you HAVE the ammo — nothing’s more annoying than waiting on someone who just realized they don’t have the long-range stuff they need for the skirmishing fleet they’ve joined.
  • Do you have appropriate skills for the ships and fitting you’re flying? If not, consider a different ship. If you’re flying with a fleet of armor-tanked heavy assault cruisers, and your armor skills are terrible or non-existant, you’re going to have a bad time trying to force yourself into a ship you can’t fly well — there’s always a need in any fleet for scouts or fast tacklers (neither of whom have a tank to speak of), so fly that instead, or simply realize you don’t have the skills you need for that fleet and move on.

Is the answer to any of those questions “No”?

Then stop. You have other stuff to do before you take this thing any further.

Is the answer “not at this exact moment, but with some trips to my supply cache and some quick purchases on the market, I’ll be ready”, then DO THAT STUFF NOW. The time to get your ship properly kitted and fitted is BEFORE the scheduled start… all that stuff takes time. Maybe not much time, but it’s not just your time you’re taking — multiply every minute you spend running round by the number of people in the fleet, waiting to get started. That’s how much time you just wasted, and if you’re sitting there reading this and saying “so what?” then you’re bad, and you should feel bad.

Do the Homework

No, you’re not the Fleet Commander (FC), but that doesn’t mean you can’t do a bit of reading on whatever region or regions you and your merry band are planning to prowl through, or that you can’t improve your own performance by reviewing the common tactics used by whatever kind of fleet you’re going to be flying in. In this, Google (plus some smart search querying) is your friend. Yes, the FC will assign people roles and call targets and make decisions about where you’re going and when you hold up or keep moving, but understanding WHY he’s doing that helps you have a better experience.

Start time is START Time

This is one both pilots and FCs could stand to remember. If the roam starts at 2pm, you should be in your ship and TOTALLY READY to undock at 2pm. Don’t do a ‘quick run to Jita’ at 1:30. Sure, you can get there and back again in time, if nothing goes wrong and you have no delays.

If.

Don’t plan based on any kind of ‘if’, except for this one: “IF you can’t get done with whatever other thing you’re considering at LEAST fifteen minutes before fleet invites start going out, don’t start it.”

Can You Hear Me Now? Goooood.

I’ve heard people say that since it’s just a basic roam, and they know the area, the FC, and their sihp, they can come along on the raid, just reading the fleet broadcasts, asking a question in the fleet text chat every so often, and doing their job, without using voice chat.

That’s… sort of sad and adorable. Like a mentally handicapped puppy.

Here’s the deal: your fleet is using some kind of voice chat. Period. If they aren’t, they’re going to die, and you should avoid flying with them. Find out what voice communication software your fleet is going to use and set it up ahead of time. (The in-game chat in EvE is quite servicable, but Ventrillo/TeamSpeak/Mumble are all common — they’re free downloads, easily customized, and generally dead simple to set up on the user side of things.)

Do you need a microphone? No. You don’t have to talk, but you do have to be able to listen.

Now that we can talk to each other, STFU.

When the fleet commander talks, listen (or at least shut up so everyone else can hear). Ears open. Mouth shut. Don’t be the person that has to have everything explained twice — once beforehand, and once after everyone dies. Especially don’t be the guy who wouldn’t shut up long enough for everyone else to hear instructions properly.

(One of the downsides to the RvB roams is that I end up muting over half the fleet members, simply because they’re generating too much noise to hear the signal.)

Understand that there is a time and a place for screwing around and/or socializing, even during a roam, but when the FC or some other person in a designated role calls for silence, give it to them, and do so immediately. Some fleets are very lax about who’s talking when, some… aren’t — the easiest way to find out how your fleet operates is to shut the hell up and listen for awhile.

Limit AFKs

AFK. The roam killer. There are many good times to have extended AFKs — a good FC will announce them ahead of time and keep them short. Communicate with others to check for when those scheduled AFKs are coming, and if at all possible avoid going AFK at other times — it goes back to the fact that every minute you wasted is multiplied by all the people in the fleet.

Yes, there are absolutely times when you will have to go AFK. Absolutely. However, even in those cases, be respectful.

  • Announce yourself – don’t just vanish.
  • Give a reason. We don’t need to hear your life story, but say something. If you’re going to be a long while (“my kid just set the dog on fire”) say so.
  • Say when you’ll be back. “One sec” is inaccurate and unlikely. Be realistic and if you have to estimate, estimate high.
  • Don’t you DARE get upset if you go afk for ten minutes and come back to find that you’ve been replaced or (more likely) left behind. 10 minutes multiplied by the twenty-four other people is four wasted hours of collective time — of COURSE they kept going. It’s not personal, so don’t make it personal.

Do Unto Others As Though They Were You

Stop for two seconds and consider your actions within the group — if someone else was doing what you’re doing right now (long AFKs, lack of prep, showing up late), would it annoy you?

Yes?

Then knock it the fuck off.

For the FCs: This All Goes Double for You

  • Do the Homework — nothing is more annoying and lame than a fleet commander who doesn’t know where they’re going, what kind of fight they’re looking for, or what kind of roles they need to have filled. Figure this stuff out beforehand, and (as much as is ever possible) stick to that basic plan.
  • Start time is START Time — Starting late is a great way to ensure that people stop taking you seriously before you’re even out of the docking station.
  • Exercise good comms discipline — I’ll borrow from my teaching background and suggest you be a bit stricter than normal at the outset of a roam, and slowly relax down to whatever ‘normal’ is for you as the roam progresses. Comm discipline will deteriorate as time goes on, anyway, so it’s best to aim high so that the result you actually get is acceptable.
  • Limit (and schedule) AFKs
  • When it comes to comms, don’t be this guy. Don’t be these guys, either. Think about how you sound, and strive to be someone you wouldn’t mind following into a fight.

In addition to all of that, you have a few other things to worry about, but one of the main ones is:

Keep Moving

If I had a dollar for every time I sat for twenty minutes on a jump gate in a fleet of over forty guys while scouts try to find a single battleship in the next system over, the accumulated cash would pay for each of my EvE accounts, with money left over to play Somer.Blink. Yes, your job as FC is to find fights, but have a sense of proportion — there is an easily deduced ratio between the amount of actual ‘fight’ a potential target will give your fleet, and the amount of time you should spend trying to get that fight. I say again: have a sense of proportion.

Now, not everyone had a bad time with this roam — CB in particular enjoyed himself, but decided to leave when I had to take off for other commitments. It’s too bad that he did, because on the way back out of Syndicate, he ran headlong into the Agony Empire fleet that was just entering the region for a roam of their own, and that marked the end of his beloved Prophecy, Angry Bird. His problems gave me just enough warning to get away and dock up, which let me take care of my other commitments and come back later to sneak my own (blaster fit) Prophecy back to Stacmon, where I dock up, clone-jump, and head back to the Class Six wormhole.


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