2014/03/21

I don't always overestimate my opponent, but when I do ...

There is one particular mistake that I repeatedly make when it comes to fighting other players in New Eden. I don’t do it all the time, but it is safe to say that, excluding actual tactical errors such as burning out modules or messing up an approach vector, it is one of the most common things that I do wrong.

I am talking about overestimating my opponents. Despite knowing better I always assume that whoever I am about to engage will be prepared for me. He will know instinctively if he is either outmatched or in a good position to kill me. He will know what my ship is capable of, will know what my tactical goals are and, of course, will know how to counter them perfectly.

In a way, this is a good thing. It is one of the primary reasons why my heart rate still goes through the roof every time I engage in a solo or small gang situations. This doesn't happen in big fleet battles anymore – those are exciting too, but in a different, more detached sort of way. But this is topic for another day.

As I said: in a way, this is a good thing. Assuming your opponents will be prepared for you forces you to think ahead, to make plans for their attempts to counter your moves, to adapt. It challenges you to know at least as much about their capabilities and probable tactical moves as they (allegedly!) know about yours. What is their lowest natural resist hole? Should I go for this particular hole or rather use the second lowest resist to bypass his resistance rigs? What are his capabilities to project damage, both in general and specifically considering what I am flying? The list goes on.

For a while, I have tried to get myself into a different state of mind. To convince myself that not everybody out there could possibly have a perfect take on any potential tactical situation and/pr understanding of all facets of the game. And even if so: everybody makes mistakes, everybody has moments in which he doesn't pay attention. It happens to you, why shouldn't it happen to them? After all, you understand all this in real life, why can’t you just transfer this understanding to a game environment? Sometimes, those voices in my head are going of in weird directions. Again, not the point I am trying to make :)

I really cannot tell you why, but for some reason it is quite hard to get from understanding this to actually changing how I feel and react. Oh, I know perfectly well that all of the above is true. Of course not every opponent I engage matches this idolized description. Of course there is a good chance that they will be surprised if you engage them, that they will need a few seconds to get their act together, that they will make mistakes.  And still, despite knowing all this, I regularly experience the exact opposite just before I order my ship to engage. I start to worry, to think that the plan I have made will simply not work because he will know what I am about to do, to doubt that my ship will actually be able to achieve what I want it to do.

So I have come to terms with my shortcomings in this particular area. I simply ignore what my brain is yelling at me during those last moments before a fight. I remind myself that I have actually done this - meaning engaging other players - successfully before. Not once, not twice, but multiple times. And even if I lose this time it will still be a learning experience, not to mention the adrenalin rush that comes regardless of whether or not you win or you lose. Don’t overthink this, just put your plans in motion and follow through. Hit warp, focus, engage. Well, I try to, at least.

What happened the other day perfectly proves that in reality, most opponents are of course not perfectly prepared when you engage them, especially when you strike at their weakest link.

I had come home early from work, and since the weather had decided to simulate what we here call ‘summer’ for this day in March, I knew that I would only play for about an hour before going out for a long run around the lake.

Only two other people were online in both corp and alliance, and besides that my contact list was empty. A few old friends and acquaintances from my days in R1DER where online, but they were about 20 jumps away in Adirain and thus not able to join me for a quick roam.

I dealt with some logistics first, fitted a few ships at my station post in Kamela, bought a few more specialized ships and respective fittings (a Falcon, an Arazu and a Rapier) and finally got into one of the five rail Harpies that had been delivered by Black Frog earlier this week.

Before I could actually undocked, ypsiloon had logged in and was telling me about some Russian Minmatar pilots camping the Kamela gate in Sosala just next door. Having fought those guys before, we knew that they regularly fielded frigates and destroyers and figured that two nano Omen Navy Issues would be just the thing to burn a few of them down while they tried to get under our guns. So we got into a comfortable position just within our optimal range of 40km next to the Sosala gate in Kamela and waited for them to jump into us. Again, we had seen them switch the side of the gate they were camping a few times before, and it would only be a matter of time before they would come to us.

However, this time they did not. Might be that they had cloaky eyes on us as we had on them, might be that they had changed tactics. After about 20 minutes, Yps reported that next to the small gang of frigates and destroyers, a Tornada had now joined their little fleet and was sitting apart from the blob 50 or 60km off the gate. 

Those things have no real tank, right? Maybe even none at all. We should be able to kill it before his friends would be able to get on top of us, shouldn't we? Which of course they would do ... with all those frigs around, they would get under our guns, scram/web us and slowly peck away at our tanks. But even if, we should get out of this ahead ISK-wise. 

We reshipped to brawling cruisers, specifically a blaster-fitted Moa and a blaster-fitted Thorax. Including drones and heat, those two ships put out more then 1200 DPS ... enought to get the job done before our certain demise.

With our cloaky scout providing a warp-in right next to the Tornado, we began to travel the long way around. Kamela, Kourmonen, Huola, Roushzar, Labapi, Asghed, Sosan, Oyonata, Sahtogas, Tannakan, Anka. Ten jumps to get into position on the Sosala gate in Anka. 


While we were on our way, Yps reported another change on the field - a Talos had now taken position right next to our prey and was apparently trying to protect the Tornado. This didn't change our plans at all - we would still be able to burn down the Tornado, only now our chances of getting out alive had dropped even more. 

Yps made sure that his scout was less then 10km away from the Tornada before we jumped into Sosala. Side by side, we entered warp and landed just next to the Tornado and the Talos only moments later. 


The Tornado .. melted. There is just no other word for it. And while my own instincts told me to warp off since this would be the only small window of opportunity we would have to escape, Yps calmly said 'lock the Talos next' and proceeded to engage. 


Without thinking and trusting my fleet mate, I started to lock the Talos, stopped aligning out and started to approach him. The Tornado exploded, and we began to work on the Talos. It too didn't have a chance, and then there were two battlecruiser wrecks  floating next to us.


Again my instincts told me to get clear, and again Yps went down a more aggressive path by asking 'which one is next?'. Experience took over, finally replacing the misconception that we were actually the underdogs here. We had killed both of them with almost no damage to our buffer tanks so far. Two frigs were in range, but one was burning out again and the other one was taking heavy damage, not able to keep up enough angular velocity against both of us to mitigate all of the incoming fire. Another one down.


Looking at the overview, I realized that the remaining forces had taken up position way outside of long point range. Aligning out, we briefly waited for them to engage again, then warped clear. Op success.


The moral of the story is an easy one: when you fight, fight to win. Don't convince yourself that there is a limit of what you can achieve. Devise a plan, go in there and deal with what is actually happening, not with what you thought would happen. Evaluate. Adapt. Change. Win.

I doubt that this single encounter will completely change how I approach combat in Eve. In fact, I take all the fights I can get despite overestimating my opponents as described above. But I have once again learned that you can actually achieve great things if you allow yourself to approach an engagement with an open mind opposed to a predetermined perception of how things will develop.

Enough ramblings for today. See you in the warzone.

Cheers,

Vhal

PS. And here is a video of the fight itself. Enjoy.

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