I accidentally the whole fleet!

Fleet Commanders (FCs) in EvE, like any pilot/player have a ceiling on their performance.  A good part of this ceiling comes from their makeup, how quickly they adapt to situations, their understanding of game mechanics etc.  In this article I am going to talk about something else, the basic assumptions that go into the role of a Fleet Commander.  Many inexperienced Fleet Commanders think since they are in charge they need to constantly give instructions.  This does two things – it prevents them from thinking ahead and planning as they are constantly doing something, and it commits the fleet members to constantly acting on new instructions instead of refining their approach or following through on the previous orders. 

I propose a view where: An EvE FC is a negative multiplier on a given fleet’s theoretical performance.  In a sense an FC is a necessary evil, where you need one to keep a fleet flying together and on task; however a good FC is at his best when, once the shooting starts, he exerts only enough influence to focus the fleets efforts and allow each pilots to maximise his ability without giving too many commands or bad commands.  Part of this is the simple fact that no command will actually boost DPS over the statistical damage each pilot can do as an individual.  In fact every time he switches targets, there is a pause in DPS where 0 DPS is being done, and people who would normally just target the best target in range of their ship must now find a called target, target it, and possibly approach into range in order to continue the engagement.

First let’s get some assumptions in place:

  1. Pilots will act to maximise their DPS on the target called, or in the Non-FCd fleet, maximise individual DPS overall
  2. Pilots will maneuver to minimize incoming DPS unless ordered otherwise.
  3. Battle is taking place with all NPC Force Multipliers being even.  No gate guns, aggression timers, towers/POS guns.
  4. Leadership Bonuses are also not taken into account as that isn’t a “Player” skill issue, it is a “Character” skill issue.  See KK’s Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah for a great article on this. http://www.ninveah.com/2011/03/eve-master-class-mechanics-of-command.html
  5. The engagement cycle is “Lock the target.  Position my ship to hit it as well as possible.  Shoot it”
  6. Switching from a called primary to a called secondary is faster than calling a new primary.

The goal of this is to show how FCs compare to an “Ideal” fleet where pilots are constantly hitting and flying their ships at their individual optimum; and that while an FC cannot boost the damage of the ship over a theoretical maximum, a good FC can minimize the loss of potential damage and increase the fleet’s ability to win a fight.

With no FC, people will potentially shoot at whatever strikes their fancy.  Take a fleet with both Harbingers and Hurricanes.  Harbingers will tend to chase down shield tankers as they do more damage to them, while the Hurricanes will tend to chase after something with an armor tank to attack their explosive damage hole.   Everyone is doing as much damage as possible, however they won’t be an effective fleet as they are not focusing fire.  Focusing fire is important because even though, for example, the Harbingers will do less damage shooting at armor tankers, they will be removing enemy DPS (or jams, or repairs) faster.  This is where the FC comes in.

For example, an FC who knows his job calls primary, secondary, and even tertiary targets and sticks with them as much as possible.  This allows damage to flow naturally from target A to B to C without people having to start the engagement cycle of “targeting, positioning and shooting” from scratch.  If there is already a secondary then people should have it locked LONG before they need to shoot it, and as the primary gets into structure the fleet can move into range of the secondary so that it can swap targets fast.  Less effective FCs don’t call secondary or tertiary targets or switch them when its not necessary resulting in split fires or wasted time locking up new targets.

Coordinating movement is the other big responsibility of a FC.  Again lets look at a non-FCd fleet this time with Brutixes and Harbingers.  The Brutixes are going to be chasing the enemy down into knife fighting range due to their inability to hit anything they are not physically touching.  The Harbingers will be quite happy sitting 35km off due to the fact that Scorch is the best ammunition ever.  If a new force enters local and warps in on the Harbingers while the Brutixes have been off chasing someone else, the force risks getting cut to ribbons before the Brutixes can return and help the Harbingers.

In this case a good FC operates by making sure that the fleet is staying together as a unified force, and upon seeing a local spike getting the fleet to either align to a safe spot, or re-approach the gate/station in an effort to de-aggress and escape.  Another case where controlling fleet positioning is key is the use of remote-repair systems.  While logistics sometimes have prodigious range, a ship that wanders away can often be destroyed very fast before it even realizes its predicament.  To go back to our first example, perhaps the Brutixes don’t do quite as much damage moving in a group with the Harbingers, and the Harbingers take more damage closing in to knife-fighting range, but the fleet it not as susceptible to being defeated in detail.

However a bad FC can make commands that will place a fleet in a disadvantageous position.  Ordering a fleet with weak scouting to chase an enemy off a gate, or to try to catch a sniping fleet can place the members in a terrible position, or not recognizing the need to dictate the range and taking steps to do it effectively when it is called for can leave a fleet taking damage that it could avoid, while not being able to respond effectively.  Our Harbinger/Brutix fleet, camping on a gate, gets attacked from a force entering another gate that warps in at range.  Sitting on the gate will get them nowhere, and chasing the snipe fleet will do very little to help; however having a fast ship (an interceptor, or a covops ship with good bookmarks) get a warp-in point on the enemy fleet, while the friendlies warp out and back might be effective for example.

The key to all this is realizing that every order an FC gives has the potential to greatly reduce the power of the fleet following the order.  A responsible FC gives the absolute minimum number of orders needed to employ his fleet effectively, while maintaining situational awareness and ensuring that the orders appropriate to the situation are given promptly.

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About Corelin

An Eve playing Fool who occasionally writes about the shenanigans he and his minions get up to.

Posted on April 5, 2011, in Lessons Learned. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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