On Fleet CommandApothne
Many people have written “FC 101” guides; you can find them dotted all over EVE University and on many blogs and news websites (including CZ). Hell, I wrote one of the damn things myself on my personal blog a few weeks into my FCing experience. Recently I felt the urge to revisit that post with an “FC 102” update. However, as I mulled it over, I decided it would be more useful to approach the topic from a different angle. Most articles about FCing focus largely on the basic mechanics of fleet combat in different kinds of space: how to target call, fly doctrines, and so on.
Here I hope to discuss more of what I would refer to as a “Career FC,” which by my definition is someone whose main role in EVE is to consistently FC fleets, whether public roams or for their corp, alliance, or coalition. There are many notable examples of people who I consider Career FCs, such as Shadoo and Elise Randolph of PL, Elo Knight of Black Legion, and Lazarus Telraven and Mr Vee of the CFC. Most groups with a PVP wing will tend to have “regular” FCs, and I consider those (and myself) to be members of that group.
In the interest of transparency, I feel I should point out the (rather obvious) fact that any article on FCing is going to be coloured by the experience of the writer. I spent seven months FCing in E-Uni, followed by 18 months in SniggWaffe, just recently starting in Pandemic Legion. These three groups are all markedly different, but that does mean I have a breadth of experience with different doctrines and playstyles. For example, I am most familiar with low sec mechanics, followed by null, and have a little experience of WH space. I have participated in more T1 cruiser and BC fights than I’ve had hot dinners, but have never FCed a capital-based fleet or run a sov war. I have attempted only to cover points that I believe will be generally true for most, if not all FCs, but there will most likely be exceptions with varying levels of importance dependant on each FCs situation. No two FCs are the same, nor do they have the same style and goals. Even in just one alliance, PL for example, an Elise fleet feels totally different to a Hedliner fleet which feels totally different to a Shadoo fleet, and so on.
General Functions of FCs in Modern EVE Alliances
Generally speaking, being a competent FC means you are providing a good deal of content to the group of people you fly with, and they are familiar with having you in a position of authority. Commonly, this means FCs are given elevated positions within their groups even if they’re not actual administrators, purely so they are more visibly part of the leadership structure.
Personally, I became a senior director in SniggWaffe largely due to my contributions to the corp as an FC. Moreover, once an FC is established and they are in a PVP focused organisation, they can end up being the CEO of their corp/alliance, with the extreme being some cult of personality forming. It is a running joke that Black Legion is only active when Elo is not busy IRL, and this can be the effect that top-tier FCs have on their groups. Pandemic Legion is generally regarded to have the largest group of FC talent in the game, and the way they function as an alliance is that they do what the active FCs at the time want to do. An FC will decide on a “campaign”; be it anything from declaring war on the CFC to BlOpsing Providence for a weekend.
In addition, established corps and alliances have the need to foster talent and train up new FCs, both to provide content for the ravenous member base and to maintain/expand their FCing roster. Unsurprisingly, FCs have an exceptionally high burnout rate. While I cannot claim an intimate knowledge of the procedure, the CFC as an example has several tiers of FC qualification, providing a clear path on how to gain experience in the craft. I know that BNI has a system whereby as you gain experience, the SRP your fleets have available is expanded, from frigate fleets all the way up to their Eagle and Domi/Geddon fleet.
In my experience all the fights you can have in EVE fall into two primary subsets: the ones you expect, and the ones you don’t. Most FCs start as “roaming” FCs, taking fleets around their local area of space in an attempt to find someone to shoot at. These generally result in the latter kind of engagement. Over time roaming through your local area, you’ll inherently form relationships with other local groups. Some of these will be positive, some will be negative. You’ll learn who their FCs are, what their numbers are, what types of fleets they fly, their SP and most importantly, their attitude towards taking engagements. Some groups like to form chat channels so FCs can easily contact each other to arrange fights, and ~brofist~ against larger entities who come to the area. An example of this might be RAZOR’s foray into Faction Warfare a few months ago, where they brought Ishtar fleets three times the size of the T1 cruiser gangs which most of the groups there fielded at the time.
These joint channels and close relationships can be double-edged swords. While they provide a crapton of low effort intel, how trustworthy that intel might be and whether or not you’re being manipulated into achieving some else’s goals is entirely questionable. In any case, if they exist, you want to be in them. Bear in mind that purely responding or not responding when you’re trying to engage the others in that channel can give your game away.
Gathering intel which is ideally reliable, exclusive and timely enough to act on is one of the things you’ll spend a lot of your time in between fleets managing. Someone is dropping caps on a POS? Who? Who do they have as backup, and who else knows? Where will they have eyes? How should we get there? Who is in range if things escalate? What numbers can we achieve in that timezone? What numbers do they have? Do they know we’re coming? Could it be bait? How long do we have? Do we have the ships we need good to go or do we need to ship them down? Will I be on to FC or do I need someone else? What’s our exit strategy if the mammary glands tend vertically?
Over the past few years the use of doctrines has gone from few to many. Doctrines are powerful tools: effective ways of marshalling your forces into a single, focused weapon to smite your adversaries. All modern PVP groups will have a set of doctrines they rely on for given situations. It is worth noting that if you are a group that deploys, it is optimal to have the fewest number of doctrines that allow you to take the most possible engagements favourably.
Starting off, it is easier to copy/paste existing doctrines from entities who live in the same kind of space as you do, however over time you will want to learn the ins and outs of these. Over time you can tailor-fit them to both the numbers and SP your group can bring to bear on a regular basis, as well as what you are fighting either on a day-to-day basis or specifically for special ops.
The FC Team – AKA Cynos, Eyes, Recon & Spies
Rhyming is fun. (ffs Apoth 😉 /ed.)
As fleet sizes grow, developing to be more expensive and complicated, it becomes impossible for one person to manage everything that needs doing. Also, as mentioned previously, having intel on nearby entities and watching certain areas of space you are interested in is exceptionally useful both as general information and in being able to have notice for fights as soon as possible in order to take part in them. Cynos allow you to have ships and resources readily available and help you maneuver them to make those fights happen. Being part of the “FC Team” is something any member can do, and makes a massive difference in avoiding FC burnout as well as involving players in interesting content.
Everyone needs cynos. Whether you’re bridging onto a fight, or just want to travel faster, helping with logistics or quickly burning one for an emergency, everyone needs cynos everywhere. It is common practice to have spare character slots on however many accounts you have filled with characters who can do noobship cynos, spread across places common hunting grounds. Every FC is elated when they shout on comms “I need a cyno in XXXXX RIGHT NOW” and someone says “I can do that”. Suddenly a 10-15 minute wait while a cyno gets moved (and hopefully not killed by a gatecamp) disappears and the whole operation runs a million times more smoothly.
I have three accounts. I wish I could afford eight. More data is better data, and thus a corollary would be more observation is better observation for your intel. You want eyes on everyone’s staging stations, POSes and pipe systems within your locus of influence, following their fleets. Basically if there’s the slightest chance spaceships might be there, ideally you want someone watching it. At least half the fights in EVE I have ever had happened because I was minding my own business and either I noticed or someone else told me that “Hey, there’s some X in system Y and Z, let’s go shoot them.” More eyes gives more fights, and you can’t FC a fight that isn’t happening.
Equally, you may already be in a fight, but if, say, oh I don’t know, I’m killing dumb Kadeshi supers, I want to know if NC is coming to save them, what they’re coming to save them in, when they’ll be here and how they’ll be arriving and putting all their fighters on me.
I suppose recon can fall under the ‘Eyes’ section, but I want to make a specific distinction here. I refer to recon more as doing the legwork for spreadsheets of data. Moon scanning, scouting POSes, monitoring staging systems; essentially creating and maintaining an up to date list of assets you are interested in. This can also be searching killboards/evewho/dotlan to find out publicly available information about groups you expect to interact with. It is common practice for any deploying group to have a “[REGION] Intel” thread detailing to their memberbase in broad terms who and what to expect from the coming deployment, and then in a slightly more OpSec forum of discussion, spreadsheets listing POSes, POCOs, stations and anything else relevant to your interests.
Eyes and recon are like casting a large net into the ocean and seeing what you can find. Spying is like putting a robot fish in the waters to swim with the school(s). A short disclaimer: I have no first hand experience with spying, and I am unlikely to have any in the near future given that my voice is to some extent recognisable in the EVE domain after casting ATXII and being a known FC that the groups I’m interested in are probably spying on. Thus this is the section of this article I am least confident to be definitive on, so please bear with me.
In my mind there are three rough “tiers” of spying:
Tier I – Getting a character past API checks and into corporation forums/IRC can provide a wealth of information. You can keep up to date checks on doctrines, forming fleets (both scheduled and unscheduled), with access to huge amounts of glorious form porn. All you need to do this for most groups is a clean account, a decent backstory and enough time to maintain minimum activity requirements.
Tier II – Similar to Tier I in many aspects, but a Tier II spy attends the fleets flying against you. The Tier II spy can provide up to date information on fleet movements, insight as to to what the FC is thinking and movement of eyes. The Tier II spy can even notify your logis of upcoming primaries to be pre-locked, and therefore have a huge impact on the outcome of the fleet.
Tier III – The Tier III spy puts effort into working their way into the inner circles of the organisation they are targeting, usually for some form of sabotage. Can you find out POS passwords? Cause drama to destabilise leadership? Steal everything that isn’t nailed down? Cause half the fleet’s capitals to warp into the loving embrace of yours? Usually the final act of sabotage will lead to “burning” your spy, so you always have to assess whether or not that action you are about to take in the short term is worth losing the ongoing level of access and influence you have gained with a considerable amount of effort thus far. A lot of the time killing the group from the inside is a far easier way to take their structures/sov/assets than direct conflict.
FCing is the shit
I find FCing to be simultaneously the most challenging and satisfying experience one can have in EVE. It’s multi-faceted, intellectually stimulating, competitive and causes all kinds of interactions with the other players of the game – what more could you want from a pastime? What many FC tutorial articles miss are these qualities that I have spoken about here and a million others. The basics are not going to inspire the next wave of top tier FCs – it’s the intricacies, the challenges, the subtle moves alluded to that will really capture people who are destined to be the next Shadoos or Mr Vees of Eve Online.