Learning to FC
Original text by Bamar
Becoming an FC is a slow, complicated, and non-linear process. Ultimately there's no secret to becoming a great FC. You need a combination of natural skill, tons of experience, and a good attitude. This article's objective is to provide some pointers for aspiring FCs to take their game up a notch. I've defined four general skill levels for FCs, simply read through the descriptions, pick out the one that best represents you (when in doubt round down), and then work through some of the suggested things to work on.
The beginning, we've all been here. You don't really know anything about anything. You've tried to read up on things a bit, and you think you have a vague idea about how to FC from observing others. Really though you're not really sure what to expect, and you're pretty sure you'll make a huge mess of everything.
- Just running a fleet is overwhelming - Dealing with incoming intel reports feels like drinking from a fire hose, and the fire hose is winning. You regularly feel like there's too much information, too many choices, and not enough time.
- You don't have a very good grasp of fleet concepts - Sure, you might know generally about some different types of fleets, but when it comes down to actually fighting them you're not really sure how to go about it. You tend to default to charging right on in against most fleets.
- You get nervous taking out anything expensive - You probably feel self-conscious about your abilities and get nervous when someone brings out a shiny ship into one of your fleets. Given the choice you'd prefer just flying a T1 cruiser swarm all the time.
Things to Work On
- Run a gang - Stop right now, switch to another tab and post a planned gang, or better yet just take out an impromptu one right now, you can read this later. It's way too easy to get caught up in all sorts of advice and tactics around being an FC, and never actually FC a fleet. Doing is better than reading, so go out there and do. Take out a gang, give it a try, make some mistakes, and learn from them.
- Ask for constructive criticism - After each fleet you run ask some of the more experienced pilots for advice. Some advice will probably be better than others, and some might even be contradictory. There can often be more than one right answer to things, and the objective here isn't to take every single bit of advice as gospel. What you want is to be exposed to as many ideas and possible ways of thinking about things as possible.
- Screw up - It's inevitable, at some point you're going to do something monumentally stupid and get your fleet wiped out. Just accept this fact and move past it. This isn't to say you should just go out and suicide a fleet for no reason, but you can't be afraid of making mistakes. Do your best to put this off for as long as possible, but when it does happen suck it up and move on. Learn from your failures, don't dwell on them.
- Learn ship types - If you're an experienced player who's just starting to learn how to FC this probably won't be a huge issue, but if you're a newer player it probably will be. As an FC you basically need to know about every single ship in the game, what their abilities are, and how they work together. This is also one area where it's purely about knowledge, so you can actually study it. Play with EFT, look through battle reports, read up on fittings and strategies. If you're lucky you might even find someone to quiz you on them. Eventually your goal is to be able to see any ship in the game and be able to rattle off it's general abilities, it's weaknesses, how it's typically used in fleets, etc. This needs to become automatic, you shouldn't have to think about it.
The Gang Leader
Things are starting to make sense, you're no longer nervous taking out a gang, and you think you're on the right path. There's still plenty you don't know, but you at least have a good handle on what it is you don't know.
- You feel pretty comfortable flying a fleet around - Sometimes in the heat of a battle you still feel overwhelmed, but generally you don't have a problem navigating a fleet around and keeping track of your scouts and skirmishers.
- Fleet combat is starting to make sense - You're starting to understand some of the tactical decisions more advanced FCs make. You still might not be an expert on any particular tactic, but you're starting to see the differences between general fleet types, and starting to understand how to maneuver your fleet to take advantage of strengths and weaknesses of your opponents. You might still get surprised now and then, but generally you know how to react when you see your scanner fill up with drakes.
- You're starting to like having expensive ships in your fleet - Yes you might still feel bad when they get blown up, but you're starting to recognize how useful specialized T2 ships can be in a fleet. You're getting to the point where there are certain ships you'll ask for when forming up, and have some preference for how to arrange your fleet setup.
Things to Work On
- Pick a tactic - Running T1 and kitchen sink gangs is good and all, but if you want to evolve as an FC you have to start running specialized fleets. Pick one that suits your natural style and start running it all the time. If you're slower and more methodical then something heavier like armor BS is probably good, if you like making quick snappy decisions then pick something like nano roams. Either way though get to know the tactic inside and out. Know what ships you need, how you use them, what gangs will kick your ass, when you need to run away, etc etc.
- Get to know your pilots - Being a great FC is pretty useless if you have a crappy rapport with your fleet members. Get to know your scouts well, and get to know their habits. The less chatter you need on comms the better, and when you fly with the same people on a regular basis you'll get good at anticipating their actions, and they'll get good at anticipating yours. Talk with people after fleets and work together to make things better next time. Be a leader, not just someone who tells everyone what to do.
- Think farther ahead - If you have a good handle on basic fleet mechanics then start getting fancy. Work on more elaborate traps, get used to breaking your fleet up and coordinating more than one group at a time. Get used to warping around on grid, luring enemies into the right spots, etc. Always keep an eye out for new tricks, either from friendly FCs, or from moves enemies use on you. Actively work on expanding your play book, mastering things you already know, and learning things you don't.
You're one of the go-to guys in your corp/alliance. You might not be perfect, but you tend to know what you're doing, and know what needs to be done. You've taken out large, expensive, and complicated gangs, and have probably coordinated with groups outside your own. You probably have a particular type of fleet as a specialty, but you don't have much trouble switching contexts.
- You don't get overwhelmed - Navigating a fleet around in second nature, and even in an intense battle you can keep your wits about you. You might not always make the best decision, but you never freeze up.
- You understand fleet tactics - You probably have a particular fleet style you enjoy the most, and you know it pretty damn well. You're good at getting fights on your terms, and you don't tend to fall for traps.
- You bring the rights ships for the job - When you see a T2 ship you don't see the price tag, you see the role it will serve in your fleet. When forming up you know what you need, and you know how you'll use it.
Things to Work On
- Mentor - Sometimes the best way to crystallize things in your own mind is to explain them to someone else. Offer advice to newer FCs, teach tactics that you know well, and just generally help people who know less than you. You probably know all sorts of stuff, but might not quite see how it all fits together. Having to teach it to someone else is a great way to pull everything together.
- Experiment - At this point you've probably got very deep knowledge in some areas, but are probably missing breadth in others. Try fleet types different than what you've flown before. If you've mostly flown kiting gangs then try a close-range fleet. If you're used to fast roaming gangs then try a big heavy one. Figure out your weak areas and specifically work on them.
- Metagame - No, I don't mean make a bunch of spy alts, I mean think about the metagame. It's easy as an FC to focus in on each individual fight and to ignore the greater context. Chances are you fight the same fairly small group of people on a regular basis. Think about your history with these opponents, how they view you, and how you view them. Maybe they've beat you pretty badly a few times recently and they're getting cocky, can you use that against them to spring a trap? Maybe you tend to beat them and they're skittish, how can you lure them out and make them think they have the advantage. Get to know your opponents and think at a larger scale than just each individual fight.
- Think bigger - Start to think about working capitals into your fleets, hitting things like POS, etc. Obviously this varies a lot depending on your group, but start to scheme and plot beyond just taking out roaming gangs. Figure out who your enemies are and how you can hurt them.
You're "that guy" in your corp/alliance. You've been running fleets for longer than many of your fleetmates have been playing the game. You might not know everything, but you can usually figure it out pretty fast. It's rare that you see something new when running a fleet, and while you may still screw up from time to time usually it's because you knew better but did something dumb anyway.
- You run on instinct - Processing intel should just happen naturally as reports come in. You can easily keep a picture of everything happening around you in your head. When you see a fleet on your overview you immediately know who you want to call primary first.
- You really understand fleet tactics - While you might have a favorite tactic, you can switch between different styles of fleets without too much trouble, and maybe even come up with some of your own strategies. You find that you're rarely surprised, and most decisions are a matter of a calculated risk rather than a leap of faith. Given a particular enemy gang you can quickly decide how to counter it and get people formed up in the right composition.
- You think outside the box - You know what ships are right for what, but you can also be creative. Whether it be tweaking fittings or tweaking fleet composition, you experiment and come up with ideas outside of typical fleet doctrines. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but you generally come up with good ideas.
Things to Work On
- Teach! - You have a ton of great experience, share it with your corpmates and alliancemates. Fly along with others' fleets and offer pointers (assuming they want them, and after the fleet's over of course). Write an article, guest lecture at EVE-Uni, do something to help other FCs improve their skills.
- Don't be complacent - This is a far too easy trap to fall into. Just because you know all about FCing doesn't mean you can stop learning. EVE is a constantly changing game and you need to change right along with it. Always be looking to pick up new tricks, new tactics, etc. Don't get arrogant and don't get lazy otherwise it will come back to bite you.
- Have fun - It's also far too easy to get jaded. When you feel like you've seen it all before it's not nearly as exciting to take a gang out. Challenge yourself by trying new fleet tactics, inventing new ones, taking on tough odds, etc. If you've always run big sov ops then try an interceptor roam, if you always fly in low sec then try a wormhole gang. Mix things up for yourself and keep finding parts of the game that are new to you.