February 21, 2016

Keep Your Comms Clear and Your Guns Loaded

Communication is key to practically everything: relationships, work, coordinating dinner plans, and especially EVE. Fleets that have poor communication are almost certainly doomed, unless they're fighting a fleet that doesn't speak at all perhaps.

EVE corporations and alliances have spent a lot of time over a lot of years coming up with ways to communicate. I'm sure all of us are familiar with strange words like dics, bubbles, scram, align, broadcast, burn, overheat, Poitot, etc. In Noir. Academy, we train our scouts to report in a specific way to ensure information is passed along as quickly and concisely as possible. Many other organizations do something similar and have their own methods of communicating that, while it may not be exact, would almost certainly be recognizable to almost any other player in the game if they were to hear it. Comm discipline is important to any combat fleet, no matter who you are.

This has actually been a large topic in Mercenary Coalition lately, and I've been very happy to see it taking root within the FC core. Obviously we all pride ourselves in being professional and efficient in MC, but that certainly doesn't mean we don't have room to improve. Tightening up our comm discipline is an easy way to see large improvements, and I encourage you to spread the word in your own alliance if you notice any of the symptoms below.

What is Comm Discipline?

Comm discipline, in short, means when and why people can speak in Teamspeak/Mumble (if you use Ventrilo now, WTF?). Depending on the overall culture of your corporation or alliance, you may have very strict or very relaxed comm discipline. In MC, we're trying to find the middle ground.

Bad Comm Discipline

It's difficult to summarize what bad comm discipline looks like because it can come in so many forms. I'll try and list a few common formats below:

The Rambler
The Rambler is someone who wants to get across a piece of information but takes a very long time to get there. They have good intentions, but they're not being concise. This can make the FC's job very difficult because they're keeping a lot of things in their head at once, and The Rambler makes them then juggle a lot of information at once in their short-term memory and then forces them to parse that information, too.

Instead, The Rambler should learn to take a step back and look at the information from a top-down method in terms of importance. Only announce the most important information that directly relates to the fleet. If you've got 25 ships in local, don't announce them one at a time. Instead, group them by ship types. "3 Rifters" instead of "Rifter, Rifter, Rifter". Sometimes, it can be as simple as that.

The Unimportant
I see this one all the time, especially in new players (but often in people who should know better). People often don't know when or what is worth announcing. Instead of running the information through their personal filter, they just blurt it out. And guess what? No one in the fleet cares that you just sold a faction item in Jita, or about the two ventures in lowsec when we're on the way to a stratop in Battleships.

If unimportant information floats across your comms, let people know that it's not important and then remind them what is. Remind your fleet what type of doctrine counters yours or what type of targets you're looking for. Try and frame the information you want so that your fleet knows what type of information to float upwards. Over time, hopefully, they'll become better at parsing information before passing it along.

The Vague & Urgent
The Vague & Urgent is an all-too-common example. This is where someone is relaying very important, very time-sensitive information, but in a totally non-actionable way. For instance, "Help! They're on me! I'm right on the gate and they're aggressing me from 5km away! Their drones are out and they're red boxed! Get in here now!"

As you can see, there are two things you can glean from this comment: 1) something is happening right now and you need to get involved, and 2) you have absolutely no information to act on.

Again, information needs to be conveyed very quickly and clearly. The key is few words, much information. "In Obe on Hakonen gate there are 2 Rattlesnakes. They're 15km off gate and have drones out, aggressed."

This tells you all the information you need to make a decision and give orders.

Good Comm Discipline

There are so many examples of bad comm discipline, I could go on. The important thing is to develop good comm discipline. How do you do this? Well, again it will depend on your own organization's culture. For us in MC, we try to float back and forth between "loose" comms and "tight" comms. For instance, when I'm FCing I'll open up comms when I don't think anything is going to happen for a bit, usually when we're not moving. During these down times, people can chat all they want. But, when we're on the move or about to engage, I simply say "clear comms" and everyone knows that only scouts and I can talk.

When you have good comms discipline, information is clear, direct and actionable. Even when I'm not FCing, I want to be able to follow along with the FC and know as much as he does so I can understand how I can best fit into that. When multiple people are speaking over one another, there is far too much room for error. People will mishear information, people will misunderstand orders, people will die. 

Loose lips sink ships, so keep it tight and things will be alright.
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February 16, 2016

Get Comfortable, We're Not Going Anywhere

At this point, Mercenary Coalition has been on contract for almost two months, marking it as the longest contract that I've been a part of since we've joined MC. I should find out what the longest contract MC has taken to date.

We're pretty dug in now; we have a lot of assets in place, we're clicking well with the locals, and activity is high. It's pretty much the perfect situation for a mercenary alliance, no matter who you are.

Most of my play time has been spent doing Black Ops, mainly because it fits my availability right now and because in the late US timezone, we don't have huge numbers. Nevertheless, we've been (usually) pretty effective in the PST TZ. I've always said that the mark of an effective harrassment contract is when the targets stop logging in. Of course, that makes for sometimes boring game time, but when you zoom out and look at the abstract, it's a good thing.

As an aside, making someone not log in is actually terrible game design. That's for another post, I sure won't be digging into it here.

As you can see from our killboard, we've been fighting a lot of CO2 fleets out in Vale of the Silent and Tribute. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out what they're doing here and why we were brought in. So far, our efforts have been very effective at blocking CO2's, which is good since that's what we're paid for.

Unfortunately, MC has lost a corp due to real life circumstances in the corp leadership. We're all sad to see them go, but some things can't be helped. All the corps have opened their doors to anyone who wants to join, and we'll wish them a warm farewell as they go. Their departure won't slow us down in the slightest, but I do hope we bring in another corp to replace their numbers. It's always very difficult to find another corporation who is truly dedicated to the mercenary life though, so it may be a while. But hey, if you think you're cut out for it, I'd love to chat!

I've been trying to take the reigns more often when I'm logged in. I've managed to find time to login for the last 5 days, FCing a couple of minor fleets. I've never been super happy being a regular grunt, so it's a good way to break free of those shackles. I don't know how much I'll focus on the FCing career - I enjoy it, but it's not my first choice as far as playstyles go - but I'm enjoying it for what it's worth.

I feel like I've forgotten a lot of my EVE geography, and right now, that's such an important mental tool to have. Time to study my physical EVE maps again! I love these things, and they never get enough use. I should get them laminated...
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February 14, 2016