Most eve PVPers are risk averse, myself included. Nobody likes to lose, and when we're offered the choice between taking a risk and making a relatively small change which would eliminate that risk, it's only natural that most people choose the latter. How many times have you seen someone wait until they had overwhelming numbers before taking a fight that they could have won anyway, or reship from something comparable to their opponent into something larger or more powerful? We rationalise it as common sense - why would we risk losing when we could win? Fighting fair is, after all, not what eve is about.
However in my experience, some of the best fights come when we put ourselves in a high risk situation and come out ahead. By avoiding fights where there is a risk of losing, are we in fact cheating ourselves out of our own enjoyment?
|Winning a fight against the odds is an incredible feeling, but would never|
happen if you didn't engage against the odds in the first place!
I'll be the first to confess to this. I don't do it intentionally, but I have a tendency to overestimate my opponent and always plan for the worst. In a way, this is simply a survival instinct that eve instils in us - we learn from an early age that everyone is out to get us, and if we see something that looks too good to be true it probably is. You find an older pilot sitting in a belt with a really odd choice of ratting ship? It's a trap. You get engaged on a gate by a ship that you could easily kill? It's a trap. Ackbar would be proud.
The thing is though, a lot of the time it's not a trap. I can think of so many occasions where I've declined a fight because it simply seemed too convenient to be for real, or because I was convinced that I couldn't possibly kill X with Y, only to discover shortly afterwards that I was wrong - that the backup I was certain I'd find on the other side of the gate simply wasn't there, or or that the assault frig pilot I'd just turned down was un-tanked and died to a rifter two jumps later. I'm sure I've evaded my fair share of horrible deaths in this manner too, but probably far fewer than you'd expect - for every time I've saved my hide through caution, there's another where I've passed up a legitimate and a potentially excellent fight. And ultimately, it's not the losses that stay with you.
I came to this realisation quite recently after I spent some time flying duo with ChildOfDestruction, one of Agony's crazier solo pilots (this is the guy who took on a zealot and a naga single-handed - using an exequror of all things - and killed both!). Within a fairly short space of time we had ourselves two epic fights, neither of which would have happened if I'd been following my own instinct on whether or not to engage. I made the decision early on that if Child decided to engage then I'd just follow him in and go down swinging, and that couldn't have worked out better!
We initially set out in a pair of blaster feroxes - no scout, mainly low meta fittings, strictly a suicide mission. A few jumps away we found a cynabal, naga and navy caracal sitting at sniping range from our in gate. On paper this seems like an awful gang for us to take on - their ships are significantly faster than ours, and should simply pick us apart from range without ever coming close. My wingman had other ideas of course, and immediately started burning towards the cynabal. I stuck to my word, and did the same for the caracal. Somehow Child's sluggish ferox managed to land a web on the cynabal, although it narrowly slipped away before he could scram it. If we'd be carrying t2 scrams, that would have been a kill despite common sense protesting that it should never happen. The navy caracal wasn't so lucky - I don't know whether he panicked or just wasn't watching his range, but we got a scram on and pumped him full of antimatter without any problem. Child's ferox was about to go down at this point and the cynabal, against all logic, decided to dive back into web range as he did. I switched my webs over, and as the caracal burst into flames I turned my guns to the cynabal. I was lightly tanked with a dual web fit, and it was going to be very close. I was already taking a sliver of structure damage as the cynabal hit armour, and then his ECM drones got a jam and he warped away. I was so surprised that I hardly noticed that the naga was still plinking away at me, and finally warped out myself with only the last little fraction of my structure remaining.
The thing that surprised me wasn't the result - trading a cheap battlecruiser for a faction cruiser is decent but not anything special, and if the cynabal had stuck around after he got his jam off we probably would have left two wrecks on the field rather than one. No, the thing that made this fight so great was that I went in expecting to lose horribly, only to find that it went completely the other way!
A few days later I was out roaming in my thrasher, with Child flying a thorax in the next system. He called out that he was about to warp into a drag bubble (intentionally) to fight the rapier that was camping it, and asked me to back him up. I'd passed through the system a few minutes earlier and knew that the rapier pilot had support from a fleet stabber and a malediction, although neither were on grid any more. However, if we could catch him without his backup there was a chance that Child and I could snap the kill before they arrived.
I came back into the system as quickly as I could, and immediately warped to Child at zero - a move that I knew would land me right in the bubble. Moments after I entered warp, I got the bad news - Child was down. I was screwed, but I was already committed - I wouldn't be able to escape the bubble before the rapier could lock me, so I had no choice but to fight. The two things I had in my favour were that the rapier's backup hadn't turned up yet, and that I would be landing at zero. I locked him up the moment I came out of warp, finding my target with a little over half shields remaining. I hit orbit at 500m with my MWD off, and overloaded everything.
When people discuss ships in 1v1 scenarios, you'll almost always hear things like 'X will win because it can dictate range' or 'X can't kill Y, because Y can just warp off'. The thing about this kind of statement is that it's purely mechanical, and assumes that both parties do everything right; the real thing rarely works out so cleanly. With webs, an autocannon rapier should have been able to pull range and hit my thrasher just fine - but it didn't. Its flight of ECM drones should have jammed me and let it slip out of scram range - but they didn't. What happened is that the rapier died. I didn't expect it to, but it did.
The rapier's backup arrived while the fight was still going on, but they warped to a bookmark rather than warping straight to the bubble - their caution despite having the odds on their side gave me just enough time to put the last few rounds into the rapier's hull, although not quite enough to warp off before the fleet stabber got me tackled (the malediction was wary and stayed at range, playing no meaningful role in the fight). While rapiers are hardly dps machines, fleet stabbers put out a lot of hurt and their tracking bonus makes them excellent for fighting small ships. I had nowhere to go but down, although even that didn't go as expected. As my shield buffer dropped, my autocannons started eating into the stabber's armour tank too. The stabber pilot had a strong fit with dual propulsion and a web, which meant I couldn't quite control range without pulsing my MWD which made me easier to hit. If I'd had an afterburner, I honestly think I might have soloed him too. That wasn't to be, but blind luck still had a card to play - as the stabber hit two thirds armour, a neutral wolf landed in the bubble and turned its guns to the task. I died with the stabber in low armour, but my new ally was able to finish the job. I warped my pod back on grid just in time to see the stabber reduced to space dust.
I don't think any of us expected that fight to go the way it did. Both fleet stabbers and rapiers excel at killing small ships, let alone a destroyer with neither an afterburner nor a web. Either one of them would probably have considered this an easy fight. Many things could have turned it around - if the rapier had damage drones instead of ECM, or if his fit had been a little better (he was heavily tanked with only a single web) I probably wouldn't have killed him. If the stabber had warped directly to the bubble instead of bouncing via a tactical, he would have saved his gangmate and killed me easily. The fact that both ships engaged at point blank, one after another, worked strongly in my favour. Maybe they were feeling overconfident after killing Child's thorax so quickly, or maybe they just made a poor judgement. Either way, those are hardly unusual mistakes.
These two fights, and the second one in particular, were some of the most fun I've had in eve. The fact that they should have turned out differently only makes the victory all the sweeter. However, I'm acutely aware that neither fight would have happened if I hadn't taken a risk, and engaged a target even when my instincts screamed against it. Since then, I've made an effort to change the way that I PVP, taking fights that I don't expect to win and generally just being a little more reckless. I can't recommend it enough.
What's Stopping You?
I'm sure we've all seen our fair share of epic killmails - the kind where some daring pilot (usually one of the same few) achieves a result so unbelievably against the odds that you can't help but be in awe of their internet spaceship prowess. If you think that fights like these are just the result of being awesome though, you're likely to be disappointed. It might seem obvious, you can't win a fight against the odds unless you actually engage against the odds in the first place. If you only take the fights that you think you can win, you'll never achieve this kind of unexpected outcome.
With that in mind, why is it that so many people tend to avoid risky fights? I think there are a number of reasons, but I'd like to talk about a few of them in particular.
The first of these is our attitude to loss. Losses in eve are real - when your ship is destroyed you lose the real time and effort associated with replacing that ship. However, there's more to it than that; give someone a ship that's fully insured and paid for, and they probably still won't want it to die. The truth is there's a stigma attached to loss in eve - we associate losses with bad players and wins with good ones, rather than taking the more realistic view that victory or loss is often the result of the circumstances we put ourselves in and our willingness to take risks. Someone who roams solo and takes difficult fights will lose far more often than someone who only flies on fleets, or who spends most of their time camping a gate and only engages safe targets. What makes the stigma worse is that we know any losses we take will be immortalised on killboards for all to see - everyone will know just how bad we are!
The truth is though, making any assumption of skill (or lack thereof) based on killboard stats is a dodgy science at best. To demonstrate, go to your public killboard of choice and look up a few people who you consider to be really good PVPers - usually you'll see a lot of kills, but also plenty of losses. Next, look at someone who you recognise from attending fleets fairly regularly, but who never really does anything to surprise or impress you - you'll probably find fewer kills, but very few losses in comparison. The thing to realise here is that losing fights is a natural consequence of challenging yourself as a PVPer, and that it's generally those people who learn to embrace this fact that achieve greater success.
The second significant factor is a psychological one. There's an axiom known as Hanlon's Razor which says 'Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.' In eve, we learn to follow exactly the opposite - when we see something that looks like a mistake or an act of stupidity, we're immediately suspicious. As I mentioned earlier, this is something of which I'm especially guilty. I find I'll often put myself in my opponent's shoes and ask what I'd be thinking in their position - would I want the fight if our positions were reversed? In doing that though, I'm assuming both that my opponent is acting in a rational, considered way and that they have the same level of experience and competence that I have myself. I overestimate my opponent, despite history clearly showing that one or the other of those things probably isn't the case.
I can't deny that this kind of paranoia isn't good for your long term survival, which is great if you're a scout and you just need to stay alive to do your job. However, it's not conducive to getting fights and it tends to result in long roams without ever finding something that you consider to be a viable target. Sometimes opportunities are brief (particularly if your opponent actually doesn't want to fight you), and if you play things safe you'll quickly find you've missed your chance.
As a reader of this blog, it's fair to assume that you're more informed about PVP than your average eve player. You might not feel above average, but trust me - there are a lot of people out there (including active PVPers) who simply don't understand how to fit and fly their ships, and who have never really made an effort to change that. Even if your opponent is experienced, mistakes happen - watch a few of the better known PVP videos (which it's worth noting generally feature fights which went particularly well) and you'll still see people forgetting to turn on hardeners, not noticing a tackler getting too close, or making some other piloting error. These things aren't unusual - they happen all the time, to everyone, and that makes the outcome of any fight far less predictable than it might at first appear. There are many reasons why a given fight might not turn out the way that you expect, and if you don't take the risk you'll never know.
In the end, the attitude you take towards risk in PVP is your own choice, and it's always tempting to choose the easy option. Even if it's not something you feel comfortable with all the time, I do recommend that at least every now and then, you just go for a fight that you're not sure you can win - you may well surprise yourself, and the victory will be that much more rewarding because of it. Worst case scenario, all you have to lose is pixels!