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Fleet Competence

Recently one guy in my alliance forums brought up a good point about player competency in a fleet. He broke down the types of players into the following three groups.

  1. Those who don’t know what to do or why to do it.
  2. Those who know what to do, but not why to do it
  3. Those who, in a given situation, know what to do and why to do it

In a reply to this thread someone mentioned that this was very similar to the Four stages of competence

Now the reason it was brought up was an incident that happened in fleet on the weekend, allow me to set the scene:

Map of the Prelle Constellation in the south-western corner of Cloud Ring Region (courtesy of Ombey Maps)
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Despite the best efforts of TCF and Defi4nt alliances, Evoke have pushed into cloud ring to the extent that they took control of the station system G8AD. Shortly thereafter MH announced 24hr operations in and around that area. Basically there was nothing mandatory, but if we were planning on gate-camping anywhere, it had to be in that system or in the pipe leading to Evoke’s home system in A-S in Syndicate Region. We were also given the mandate to ensure that the fitting services on the now evoke-controlled station were to remain unavailable so that any Evoke docked in the station could not fit their ships.

Now, Evoke have for a long time been trying to take the 9-4 station system just a few systems away. This is a fairly critical hub-system and has been defended furiously for the past 4 months and as I have posted about a couple of times before (here , here and here, and we also got a mention in two of Concord’s Outer Region Political Summaries here and here).

Evoke, having achieved sovereignty in G8AD are now pushing for control of 9-4, and should they win the POS spamming war they’ll get it by this coming weekend, but in the meantime it is still held by Mostly Harmless as we have yet to hand over fully to TCF/Defi4nt. The current sov mechanics basically mean whoever has the most POS’s in system wins control – bring on Dominion I say! We have made a few attempts at taking out the Evoke towers, but because we don’t want them to jump capitals into the system, we have cyno-jammed it. This also means we cannot jump our own capitals into the system and therefore have to take out their towers with battleships.

The Fleet

Now here’s the situation: Mostly harmless put a fleet together on Monday night in order to provide support for TCF who were reinforcing yet another POS in 9-4. We weren’t going to actually hit the POS’s ourselves, but were just going to help lock down the surrounding area. We had a fleet of about 50 people, about half/half split between battleships and light/medium support.

At one point we were all in 9-4 protecting a gate when the FC told the fleet to warp to the G8AD gate. Then after a short duration he said for everyone to warp to the station at 50 and hit the fitting services. He then repeated the last command, confirming that we were to shoot the station fitting services.

Now, to the FC’s great frustration, these two fairly simple commands ended up splitting the fleet into three groups.

The first group jumped through into G8AD, warped to the Evoke-held station at 50km and proceeded to pound on the station fitting services.

The second group turned around and warped to the Mostly Harmless-held 9-4 station and started shooting the fitting services there.

The third group stayed on the gate and asked the FC if he meant for everyone to jump in to G8AD or not.

Now here’s the thing: These three groups of ships could be placed into groups 3, 2 and 1 respectively.

The people jumping through to G8AD and shot the station knew what was going on and why. The people that went and shot the friendly station were just following the exact orders that they heard. the third group perhaps at least had the presence of mind to realise that the FC hadn’t said jump and/or were just confused with some people jumping and some people turning around and warping away.

Either way, you could hear the FC’s head banging on his desk. After a bit of swearing and back and forth, the FC did the honourable thing and defused the situation by taking the blame for it (he didn’t actually say “jump” after all).

Covert ops scout displaying superior situational awareness
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The theory of the person who started the thread on the alliance forums was trying to make the point that competence comes from experience. But my theory is: In war situations, apart from any tactical competence people may have with flying their actual ships, a good fleet is made up of people that are situationally aware, not just of the surrounding systems as per scout reports, but they’re aware that the bad guys have taken xyz system or that they stage out of xyz system, or that there is a common bottleneck between abc and xyz systems that needs to be camped etc. ok, so some of this comes from experience, but a lot of it comes from just reading things, something that’s not hard to do.

Having a map is obviously infinitely useful. Go here and get it and print it out if you haven’t already.

Also the point was made that there is a rare breed of FC who (obviously time and situation permitting) take some time off from swearing at everyone and actually explain why they are giving certain orders. I’ve had the pleasure of flying with a few of these. I particularly like those that go over an encounter either failed or successful and explain what they were trying to achieve for the benefit of others.

A side note

I just want to take this opportunity to heap praise and adoration on EvE as a game. When thinking over every other game I’ve ever played, the pvp involved has always been similar. WoW – there’s battlegrounds, or you’re fighting on places that don’t change. Guild wars is the same – you’re fighting on a certain set of maps and everyone knows the objectives. all the first person shooters are the same to varying degrees of complexity (I lost count of the number of times I’ve played the “DE-Dust” map in CS). But Eve. heck, the terrain is very static, but the factors involved in determining each engagement (or non-engagement) are so immense that every fight is different.

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  1. October 22, 2009 at 00:41

    you know, I’m with those who say the FC didn’t actually say ‘jump’. What you seem to be suggesting is that you should always be trying to second-guess the orders of a FC. I completely disagree.

    If you have fleet members doing what they THINK is required, rather than what is ordered, you have a fleet that’s in chaos.

    Successful fleet operations will always come from doing what the FC tells you to. If he doesn’t say it, don’t do it. You can always ask for clarification of an order, but you should never assume to know. (Eg. “are we jumping through or attacking the station in this system?” would be a good question.)

    The FC was in the wrong by swearing at people for not doing what he didn’t order. Not a very good FC in my opinion.

  2. evemonkey
    October 22, 2009 at 08:30

    true, but after confirming twice that he wanted everyone to hit the station, I would have thought it was pretty obvious which station he wanted hit… still, you’re right, for those guys that didn’t know which station needed to be hit it was a bad command.

  3. October 22, 2009 at 13:27

    In a fleet, the FC’s word is GOD. Those people who jumped and attacked the “right” station and those that sat on the gate are the people who got it wrong. The fleet as a whole should have warped and attacked the wrong station even though it was obvious is was the wrong thing to do. At least they would not have been split up and vulnerable.

    I’d rather be in a fleet that follows directions than in a fleet that likes to think for itself.

  4. October 27, 2009 at 08:18

    Situational awareness is certainly a good attribute to possess, but I have to agree with the other commenters that it is perhaps not best to display it as part of a squad. Leaders should have situational awareness, because they are the ones giving the orders, but the followers should only follow.

    It only takes a few people to think they know better and hit a different target, warp to a different point, or bug out early to reduce the overall effectiveness of the entire fleet. By the same token, the leaders need to show they have the skills to lead in order to get others to follow.

  5. evemonkey
    October 27, 2009 at 10:42

    hmm – I’m not convinced, but I’ve never lead a fleet (hopefully shortly). I would imagine though that I’d prefer a fleet of people who can anticipate certain things rather than a fleet of lemmings. unless the FC is extremely good and the fleet extremely disciplined…. hmmm need to test my theory somehow…

  1. October 26, 2009 at 10:38

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