Safety In Numbers

Plus one.

Sunday night we had a little fun.  We had our fleet up in Camp Curse, AFs and frigates like always.  Quiet for the most part, but every so often a small gang floats through.  Appetite 4 Destruction blasts through in an assault ship gang.  Pandemic Legion on the hunt in a BC gang.  Dirt Nap Squad surfing by in a Talwar gang. Red Alliance roaming in a small BC/HAC gang.   Then Brave Newbies rolls through in a 30 ship kitchen sink fleet, a mixed bag of frigates, destroyers, cruisers and battlecruisers.  

You can see where this is going.  

Back before I joined Open University of Celestial Hardship, there was a fundamental disagreement among the leaders on what ships were best for newbies.  One group wanted everyone to fly frigates, because they were cheap and easily replaced.  Another group wanted the new guys to fly cruisers, because cruisers are harder to take out and bring much more to the fight than a frigate.  The guys who wanted frigates won, and when I joined, OUCH had a frigate replacement program:  If you lost one, our CEO would send you ISK to get a new one.  Strangely enough, very few people actually asked for replacements.  

Small gang pvp demands self sufficiency.  

Now I’ve come to believe that, despite the fact that OUCH puts new players into frigates, that frigates are really best used in the hands of experts.  They are not necessarily the best ships for a brand new player to run around in, because frigates are unforgiving.  The 3 month old guy in a frigate just isn’t going to be as effective 12 month old one.  Period.  That’s why OUCH instructors preach that support skills are the most important skills to work on while you are young.

Frigates are fragile.  They require good support skills (Engineering, Mechanics, Navigation, etc) and experience to be flown well.  Failing that, they require EWAR and Logi support to help them make it through the fight.  Not many new players have those skills, so I can understand how some corps would want to get newbies into cruisers and drag them out in large fleets.  

Cruisers bring a lot to the table:  A poorly skilled cruiser pilot still is flying a ship with at least three times the tank and gank that the newbie would have in a frigate.  Cruisers are generally slower than frigates, which makes them easier to manually fly:  slower means you have a little bit more time to think.   Cruisers are much more forgiving of mistakes made while flying one.  And to top it off, a newbie in a cruiser, in a fleet of cruisers, is camouflaged.   In a gang of 5 or 50, depending on what you engage, a newbie in a cruiser is pretty safe.

Unfortunately, once your 30 ship fleet gets ROFL-stomped (in this case, I think DNS chased BNI into PL) and you scatter to the winds, you’ve got to get your surviving pods and ships home.  So we got a BNI frigate, then a Brutix – which was just yummy, by the way – then a couple of pods, then a second BNI Brutix – which was also yummy, thanks for asking!

Some of those Brave Newbies could use some training.

Then we closed the night with a fight with the Red Alliance gang, where we danced with 3 Hurricanes and a Vagabond, took a ‘Cane and disengaged cleanly.

I used to wonder what fight these large gangs think they are going to find in Curse, but as I’ve gotten older, more and more I believe that half the time what I am seeing is safety in numbers.  Simply put, small gangs tend to avoid larger gangs.  They avoid the Blob and I think that in a lot of cases, the Blob isn’t there to fight.  It’s just passing through.  

Are you implying large fleets are a form of risk aversion?

Well, in the case of the BNI guys, no.  They’re looking for a fight, looking to lose some ships, that’s their thing.  But in my experience, if you want to move some ships and gear from point A to point B through null sec, just fleet up 25 to 30 guys.  More than likely, everyone, including another 30 ship fleet, will just get out of your way.  

No one really wants an even fight in null sec.  Well, no one except small gang pvpers who look at 3 to 1 odds against as even.

Not me, of course, but I can name a few.

Minus one.

BB47: You Just Don’t Know

Plus one.

So Camp Curse is up and running.  The fleet is fat: tackle, damage dealers and EWAR all well represented.  One of the junior guys is flying a Crucifier.  I tell him to link his fit so can make sure it’s up to snuff.    

I believe your exact words were:   Please link your fit so that I may ridicule you.  

Sigh.   My story, not yours.

I look at his fit.  Highs:   Yeah, yeah.  Some weapon things that I don’t care about because fragile EWAR ships shouldn’t be that close.  Meds:  Tracks and MWD.  Check.   Where are your scripts?   A pair of each for each tracking disruptor.   Lows:  A 200mm plate, a nanofiber and an adaptive nano membrane?  Need a signal amplifier and a damage control.   Rigs:  No rigs?  I draw a blank.  Honestly have no idea what rigs he should put on it.  The guys chime in that he should put some tracking disruption rigs on it, drop the nano, adaptive nano, add the DC2 and the sig amp.  

I’m stunned.  Tracking disruption rigs?  What rigs, I ask?  

They get linked in fleet after a few moments.  It’s like the day when your teenage kid drops his shoulder and goes right past you like you were standing still.  To the hoop.  He scores!

Bren, I’m surprised you don’t know about those rigs, one says, aren’t you like an EWAR god?

More like a Prince of EWAR, I say.  

Bren, the next time someone asks you if you’re a god, you say, Yes!

Roger that, but they just proved, once again, that I don’t know everything.

Blog Banter 47 touches on the exploration Eve Online as a quest for knowledge:  Can any one of us really be an expert of this broad based and depth defying game, steeped in lore, driven by players and framed in complex game mechanics?   From my point of view, honestly, Eve is pretty big, pretty complex and I wholly understand that there is a blind spot in Eve knowledge.  

You just don’t know what you don’t know.  

For example, I’m a combat pilot and I fly Falcons, but I really can’t tell you how to make one besides that you need a station and a Blackbird hull.  I do planetary interactions, but I can only tell you a handful of the final products that use planetary materials.  I mine, but I couldn’t tell you if you get more income from omber or scordite.  Oh yes, I am sure that I can look all of that stuff up, someone’s got it posted on the internet someplace, but those areas of Eve are not not my game.  There are experts in Eve that choose to make that their game, their Sandbox.  I leave it to them to compete with one another to ensure there are enough enough ships, modules and ammunition to for me to play my Eve.

So here I am, a combat  pilot teaching other pilots about how to play my game, which is guns versus EWAR, yet as a supposed expert, I don’t know about tracking disruption rigs?  That’s absurd.   Did I look at these rigs at one time or another?  Probably.  Did I remember that they existed when I needed that information to help my corpmate, a junior instructor that may someday replace me as a High Priest of Electronic Warfare?  

Not at all.  

But you know what?  My guys knew.  These friends of mine that I fly with every day.  The pilots who joined OUCH as students, who stayed on as instructors.  The guys I trained and mentored.  Guys I helped raise from noobs and carebears to null sec pirates.  Guys I’ve brought into my fraternity, where we kill more and die less and teach others what we do.  They learn, communicate and exchange ideas, and get more knowledgeable every day they play.  

These guys who I’m teaching everything I know are now taking me to school.  Teaching me stuff.  They prove to me every day that all of us are smarter than any one of us.

So my advice to any player out there trying to win Eve with your expert knowledge, get yourself in a group of really smart guys, keep in mind that you are a noob – you don’t know everything, but you’re learning- and you’ll be fine.  

Just keep learning, keep growing.

The elite?  Well, they know everything already.  

Except for everything that they don’t know.

Minus one.

From the Other Side

Plus one.

We’ve been getting a lot of interest from the Eve University Work Fair lately.  I’ve posted publicly that it’s a great thing that Eve Uni provides, a central location to advertise your corp.  There’s a lot of the same old, same old, from myriad corporations:  fun casual pvp, hard core pvp, free ships… the one I love are the corps offering “training” in their feeder corps, so you can lose ships but not affect their KBs or AWOX them, of course.  But all and all, I like what Eve Uni is doing over there over there.

Keris Soleil came to us from Eve Uni, graduated and is now killing more and dying less in Red Federation.  He sent me a preview of the review he planned to put on our recruit thread and posted it with my blessing.  With his permission, I’m posting his review in full here.  The original post can be found on the Open University of Celestial Hardship thread on the Eve Uni Work Fair.

Minus one.

*************

Fun and games in nullsec!

Having graduated from the Uni, and looking to explore strange new places and then shoot everyone in them and take all their stuff, I decided to get a headstart on null by joining OUCH’s nullsec survival programme. Having now completed that, I thought I’d come back and share my experiences both good and bad.

First up, while death in null can be instantaneous, the actual dying is often a slow and painful experience. When you hit that bubble camp, or get caught by that interdictor, you’re dead… you just don’t actually die until all their friends are ready to whore in on the killmail. This is unpleasant, and is the focus of OUCH’s programme – how to a) avoid getting into situations like this one; and b) give you a small chance at survival if you can’t avoid it.

OUCH offers, for free!, a fully structured training course during which you’ll learn movement and survival skills in null (bookmarking, D-Scan, MWD-cloak trick etc.), basic combat (tackling, bubble camping, avoiding bubble camps) and null-think (intel analysis, situational awareness and neighbourhood watch).

Before you graduate from OUCH, you’re expected to complete a 27-jump solo trip through Curse, in a T1 meta-0 fitted frigate, within a 5 hour window (so none of that sneaky “log off until tomorrow to avoid that gatecamp” nonsense!). Oh yeah… and you have to complete that trip without losing a ship. Thing is, though… if you pay attention to your lessons and implement the things you’re taught, this expedition is (if not easy) certainly feasible. While it’s always possible you’ll get unlucky and run right into a roaming fleet, such things are the way of null. You just grab another ship and try again.

The Good

  • The OUCH programme is an excellent crash course on null survival. If you’re looking to move into a null alliance after the Uni, spending a month taking the OUCH course before making the move is likely to be a valuable investment. Even if you’re not looking to move to null, the OUCH lessons can be applied (with adjustment) to wormholes, low-sec, high-sec PvP and wardecs etc.
  • It’s free! That’s always good, right? Also, they replace any ships that you lose during fleet ops. Nice. (Note that you’re required to be flying the T1, meta-0 student fits)
  • OUCH places no post-graduation demands on you, yet again making OUCH an ideal stepping stone to other things. Like the Uni, you’re encouraged to move on afterwards. In fact, unless you plan to stick around OUCH and teach, you’re required to move on.
  • OUCH has a good reputation amongst several null alliances, so your OUCH Graduate medal will be an asset during your application to those alliances.

The Bad

  • OUCH is pretty heavily US-based (although most most classes are equally accessible to US and EU timezones). If you’re AP-based, get used to staying up late or getting up early. This can lead to some activity problems as, under OUCH rules, unless you’re in a fleet (generally around 22:00 – 03:00 Eve Time) about the only thing you can do is high-sec PvE. You can fly around low/null etc. but you’re not allowed to engage anything, so once you’ve completed your survival test, it’s kinda pointless. It can be fun cloaking up near an enemy gatecamp, watching them kill people and reading the local-sperg that invariably follows, but that’s about it. Make no mistake though, there are good reasons for why the rules and student fits exist, but it’s important to take them into consideration (as I failed to do) prior to making the move to OUCH. See comments below.
  • Every OUCH Graduate who stays on is required to teach at least one class per month. As a result, the quality of instruction can be variable. The best instructors are those with the experience to share and the skill to teach well, and that’s an unfortunately rare combination. OUCH has some excellent instructors, from whom I learned a great deal. On the other hand, after one class I was left with the impression that perhaps I should have taught it and the instructor should have attended.

The Ugly

  • DON’T suggest shooting blues for lulz or playing gun-tag with corpmates. No, not even as a joke. Seriously. Just don’t do it. I know it’s pretty common during slow fleets / activities (it certainly was while I was in the Uni), but really, really just don’t go there. :D All joking aside, this is a much bigger deal in null/low/WH than in highsec, so try to avoid the inevitable culture clash that I walked straight into.

How to make the best of your time in OUCH OUCH is a great opportunity. To make the best of your stay there, I’d suggest the following:

  • Make sure you’ve read up on the OUCH student fits and put five (or so) fitted ships into the Berta HQ. The last thing you want is to have to run to some highsec trade hub (or pay premium prices) when you get killed. And yes… that’s “when”.
  • Move your clone to (at least) Berta. Getting podded in null is easy and (for your attacker, anyway) consequence free. I’d be amazed if it doesn’t
    happen at least once during your stay. You don’t want to end up 35+ jumps away on the other side of highsec when it happens. Also, if you don’t get podded at least once, I think you’re doing it wrong – OUCH is about learning null, learning your limits, learning enemy limits etc. If you don’t get podded at least once, you probably played it too safe to have learned much. Dying in Eve is no big deal. Take advantage of that.
  • Due to OUCH rules, you’ll probably spend your first week (possibly two) confined to highsec PvE. After that, although you can go into null, your activities are limited unless there’s a fleet. If you’re EU-based, or especially AP-based, make sure you have backup activities planned – you will have downtime when there’s very little you can do on your OUCH character. Move your mission ships to highsec near Berta, play an alt, play another game, read a book, unplug and go outside. Whatever works.
  • Get on TS and listen in. Even if you can’t join the fleets yet, you can learn from what’s being talked about in channel. Introduce yourself. Ask questions. Eve is a community based game. Although there is a (small) niche for solo players, you’re only gimping your own experience playing that way. Make yourself part of whatever community you join.

Conclusion All in all, OUCH is a fantastic experience and an excellent platform to launch a PvP “career”, one which I’d recommend to any Unista looking for a stepping stone to scary-land. That said, it isn’t perfect and there are several areas that could be improved upon, and OUCH management are fairly open to appropriately presented new ideas. In addition, most of my concerns can be offset with suitable planning on your part – if I’d known then what I know now, I’d have spent my time with OUCH a little differently… but I’d still have joined OUCH.  Hopefully, my experiences and comments will help you make the most of your time in OUCH and, once you graduate, you’ll come back here to share yours and help the next student along.

Keris out.

A Different Perspective

Plus one.

We’ve been doing null survival now for a couple of years now.  We think we have a pretty good program.  We have a system in place to get new players and veteran carebears into null sec as painlessly as possible.  Our graduation requirements are pretty well laid out:  complete two classes on null survival, two on basic combat piloting, travel successfully through null sec on a timed skills test, and get some combat experience with the staff and students in Camp Curse.  Most of the feedback we get from students is positive.

Well, people who quit is feedback too.

I’ll grant you that.  We’re always trying to improve retention.  Our rules restrict students into high sec until they’ve completed null survival training and we’ve always thought that many people just are unwilling to wait too long to get their feet wet, but we always encourage people to be patient.

You can’t win them all.

A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed with Alexia Morgan, who also known by her alter ego, Black Claw.  Black Claw is the founder of Open University of Celestial Hardship, which was born from Alexia’s vision of creating a “school of hard knocks” for null sec life.

Alexia has a new corp and a new blog, Touring New Eden, which is going back to the roots of OUCH’s training program.  It’s a loose organization of nomads and pacifists who just want to go where they want to go, and live where they want to live, peacefully.  Few rules.  No PvP.  No killboards. No taxes.  Like OUCH, Alexia plans to teach players how to survive in the harsh environment of New Eden.

Alexia calls it a corp for “hippie space ninjas.”  /laughs

My discussion with Alexia made me take a look at OUCH’s null survival program from a different angle.  I’ve always measured OUCHs success by two yardsticks:  OUCH’s rank on Battleclinic, now just under 500, as a gage of OUCH as combat pilots, and the number of Graduates, as a gage of OUCH’s success as a training corp.  The number of graduates has been traditionally low but completing the Null Sec Survival Course can be a serious investment in your time, and lots of people just want to Do PvP Now!  On the other side, some people just don’t want to PvP at all.  We’ve had quite a few pilots who joined OUCH, graduated and went right back to high sec to build their industrial empires.

So I went thought OUCH’s records:  each student’s training record for the past two and a half years, and wonder of wonders, for every two Graduates, three students take the null survival portion of the course and quietly move on.

Now, I don’t think it’s going to change how we do things in OUCH.  To survive in the Sandbox, people are welcome to join us and get the training that they think they need.  But looking at it from a different perspective has given me another yardstick to measure OUCH’s success.

Not too shabby.

No, not at all.

Minus one.