EVE Evolved: A guide to roles in fleet PvP

EVE Evolved Roles in fleet warfare
It seems as if every time the topic of PvP comes up in an EVE Online news post or article, a few people will chime in with stories of their horrible experiences with it. This seems almost baffling to me, as I would say EVE offers the best PvP experience in the entire MMO genre. It soon becomes apparent that we aren't playing the same game and that their experience is one of helpless newbies being ganked by evil blobs of bad guys. If that describes your first few days in the depths of space, you may well have missed out on some incredible fights.

For me, PvP in EVE means fleet warfare; it's all about co-ordinated groups of players hunting around the map for other fleets they can probably defeat while avoiding all the larger fish that will swallow them whole. The players on PvP ops are always itching for action, but a good fleet commander will carefully weigh enemy fleets and be sure to engage only when he thinks he has the upper hand. Figuring out ways to fight above your weight or look weaker than you are play an important role in the PvP metagame, turning EVE into a kind of intergalactic game of poker played by fleet commanders using their pilots as betting chips.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at all the different roles that make a successful fleet and what you'll need to fill that role.

EVE Online side imageRoles for new players

PvP in most MMOs involves a maximum of a few dozen players smashing each other to bits without any real assigned roles or permanent consequences. EVE obviously differs in consequence and scale, but more importantly, ships and their captains tend to fulfil very specific roles with specialised requirements. The roles of Scout, Damage Dealer, and Tackler are all ideal for new players and require little more than a few weeks of skill training and some instruction.
  • Scout: Scouting is usually performed by a frigate or a ship with a covert ops cloak. It involves flying one or more systems ahead of the fleet and sending back intelligence on any enemy fleets encountered. This role is perfect for a new player as it requires only communication skills and a cheap disposable frigate. Some fleets will have multiple scouts searching nearby systems for potential targets for attack or impending threats.
  • Damage Dealer: The backbone of every fleet is a core of damage-dealing ships. Your role as a primary damage dealer is to listen on voice comms for the name of the ship you should shoot and apply as much damage to it as quickly as possible. Shorter-range ships will deal more damage once they get into optimal range and engage, but applying that damage will be delayed while you approach the ship in question. Most fleets expect every damage-dealer to carry at least one warp disruptor in order to stop enemy ships from disengaging.
  • Tackler: While most players want to fly damage-dealing ships, the dedicated tackler is an absolutely essential part of every fleet. The tackler's job is to warp scramble and web enemy ships to keep them in place and ignore all other considerations. Small ships like frigates or specialised vessels like the Heavy Interdictor make perfect tacklers because of their fast lock speeds.

EVE Online side imageFighting above your weight category

No fleet engages a target it doesn't think it can beat, by you can't judge a group solely on numbers and class of ship. Electronic warfare and logistics can act as force multipliers for any fleet by removing key enemy ships from the field or effectively nullifying their damage output. Roles like the Logistics pilot and Electronic Warfare specialist will benefit greatly from a few months of skill training and can be extremely rewarding for new players to train into.
  • Logistics: Previously used mainly by nullsec fleets and specialised pirate gangs, logistics ships are now seen regularly in faction warfare and empire war fleets thanks to the revamped tech one logistics cruisers. They can rapidly repair friendly ships at distances of over 50km and have the potential to completely turn a fight around if used well. Essential friendly ships like electronic warfare pilots and the fleet commander's ship will be added to the logistics pilot's watch list so that he can see whether any of them take damage and need assistance. Otherwise, the logistics pilot's job is to watch the fleet broadcast window and respond to players' calls for shield or armour support.
  • Electronic Warfare: Often overlooked in small fleets, electronic warfare can completely turn a fight around and help you win against a superior opponent. ECM ships can target-jam heavy damage-dealers to reduce incoming damage or disable logistics ships that are repairing the fleet. Sensor Dampeners can also be insanely effective, reducing enemy lock range so much that they're forced to come in close in order to deal damage. Effective use of electronic warfare can really turn a fight in your favour and let you engage a much larger enemy fleet that would otherwise stomp you into the ground.

EVE Online side imageFleet Commanding: Tying it all together

The Fleet Commander (FC) has undoubtedly the toughest job in the fleet. He makes rapid strategic and tactical decisions based on intelligence from scouts and barks orders to the rest of the fleet. His primary job is to lead the fleet into battles it can win and away from those it probably can't, but once the shooting starts, he's also responsible for picking which enemy ships to attack throughout the fight. An ability to organise people and instantly size up any situation is what separates a good FC from a great one, and having several months or years of combat experience will make a big difference.

Every fleet has to deal with the possibilities of spies, who may relay information like who is commanding the fleet to the enemy. Some commanders opt to lead their fleet from a cloaked ship to ensure they're never taken off the field, while others fly heavily tanked ships and have logistics ships guard them closely. A secondary and even tertiary target-caller is often assigned to temporarily take over from the fleet commander if he's taken out of the fight.

EVE Online title image
EVE takes a lot of flak from new players for the fact that individual newbies don't stand a chance against established groups, but I can't help feeling that misses the point. EVE is a game of strategy in which different sized fleets roam the stars in search of smaller fish to gobble up and sharks to keep their distance from. The outcome of a fight may be often obvious before a single shot is fired when you're caught with your pants down by a superior force, and that's all part of the experience.

Everyone has a specific role to play in fleet warfare, from scout and tackler roles that are perfect for new players to damage-dealing and more specialised roles for older pilots. Good fleet commanding will help your fleet size up potential targets and threats more accurately, and electronic warfare and logistics can let your fleet fight a disproportionately powerful one on practically even terms.

Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to brendan@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.