Saturday, April 30, 2016

Citadels and the Solo Player (with hypothetical fittings, strats, and uses)

Updated, fixed mistakes already!

If you're not a capital pilot, and you are not interested in owning a Citadel, the Citadel expansion is mostly business as usual. (What percentage of the EVE population flies capitals? And what percentage flies them on a regular basis? Those are good questions I do not have answers for, but charts of the player distribution in EVE suggest that it is probably a minority!)

In fact, it's likely that the majority of the playerbase will be unaffected by the expansion (setting aside paying overall higher prices for items due to the increase in taxes!), at least until Citadels become so common in all areas of space that docking in them, using their market, and so on, will become an everyday occurrence. The first few Citadels are going up currently, though the price of the M/L Citadels likely will not stabilize until June or July (a lot depends on what happens in the PI market and how many players want to set up an XL, which would drain the market of supply). After the initial excitement of using the first Citadels, though, most players will likely see them as just another kind of station to dock in and maybe buy/sell in.

However, are there any reasons a solo player might want a Citadel? And if so, is there any way it would work? While I have tried almost everything in EVE, my play style is largely solo, and primarily solo PVP. Often I like to do things in EVE just to take on the challenge of accomplishing something solo. There are two ways I am going to use the new Citadels (a M and a L), just for the experience of using them. However, I also think more casual solo players do have some good potential uses for M/L Citadels. I am going to talk about how I am planning on using Citadels, and then go into detail about the fits I've tested for the M (as well as how to destroy it!). I am sure what follows has a ton of mistakes, so any feedback is welcome! Also, I'd love to hear how other solo or small group players are planning on using a Citadel.

Two ways a solo player can use a Citadel

The two uses I have in mind involve Citadels in HS and C1-C3 WH space. I am not going to theorize about using Citadels in LS/NS/C4-C6 WHs simply because of capital ships and the groups who use them! With Citadels being so new, of course everyone wants to destroy them, and any Citadel in any region is going to attract a lot of attention. Every Titan pilot in EVE is just itching for a reason to try out the new DDs and so on. However, there may come a time when a solo player or small group can get away with building a Citadel in such space. Once Citadels are "old news" (like POSes are now), they may simply be too much of a hassle, and too boring of a killmail, to destroy. That's not going to happen until 2017 or latter, though. So what follows are the two ways I plan on using Citadels as a solo player in the coming months.

An Astrahus (M) Citadel in C1-C3 space: Solo players have small groups have a fairly easy time living in C1-C3 wormholes. The logistics for a POS isn't too bad, and the hassle of evicting you is often reason enough for large groups to ignore you. A M Citadel in such a wormhole does not have to worry about capitals (unless, of course, they are built in-system) and the logistics is far easier than a POS. In fact, if you forego service modules altogether, you don't even need to fuel the Citadel. Why forego services modules? Well, if you are running a M, you won't be able to use the market. If you aren't mining, you don't need the reprocessing ability (or, you can export minerals to k-space). That leaves, for now, cloning. Clone services in wormholes is going to be one of the best quality of life improvements for WH dwellers in years, as it allows the ability to swap clones (to go from your slave set to +5s or an empty clone for when you want to roam null for instance). However, for the solo or small group, it is not very necessary. Just having clone services will consume a fairly irrelevant amount of fuel, though, but the clone center itself is going to be quite pricey. The upshot, though, is that you can have a fully active and functional Citadel (albeit without services) that does not require any fuel. That by itself is a reason to use Citadels instead of POSes in wormholes, especially for small groups that do not have time for the logistics involved in POS management. Putting a Citadel up (and taking it down) is very convenient, and the 24-hour timer is brief enough to sneak one up without groups noticing, especially if you find an empty wormhole.

There are disadvantages, however. The M Citadel, especially without services, is simply fairly useless right now, and a giant target. In a wormhole, there's no asset safety, so everything will either be destroyed or dropped if the Citadel falls. CCP will eventually add more services to Citadels, but currently they are either useful as a market hub, or simply as a staging and storage location.

In the next week or so I will be putting up a M Citadel in an empty(?) wormhole. I'll be writing some posts about how it goes but I do hope I get attacked eventually. I will be disappointed if 1-2 months go by and no one has attacked it, but if that happens I'll just move it to somewhere more visible and name it "Vote Trump"!

A Fortizar (L) Citadel in HS: While the L class of Citadels will not be on the market for a few more days, and not reasonably priced probably for a good few weeks into May if not June-July, they should eventually come down in price to sub-10b isk. With significantly better fitting and defenses than a M, the L class should be fairly hard to remove from HS. And, once there's a lot of them, the inconvenience might be their best protection. My plan is the same as many players, some of whom are solo or in small corps (such as Delonewolf on Youtube who has been making videos about his plans for using a L Citadel in HS for a while). Build a L Citadel in HS, set up public market and reprocessing services, put a low tax rate, and see if you get any business. It probably won't be until summer that I'm able to do this though, at which point I will post more about it.

Fitting, Defending, and Attacking a M Citadel (besides just nuking it with caps)

Since I'll be putting up a Medium class first, I've tested fittings and services on SiSi to get an idea of what to expect. This is my first pass at fitting a M Citadel. I am sure I am making a ton of mistakes, but at this stage Citadels (and capitals) are really an unknown. I will definitely improve on this as I learn more.

Here is an example fitting for the M Citadel I've tested a lot on SiSi.  M Citadels simply do not have a lot of fitting options. First off, the missiles. ASML missiles come in three sizes L, M S. The large sub-cap missiles do omni damage with an explosion radius and velocity similar to torpedoes. With a max velocity of 8700 m/s and a range of over 1k, they can hit well past the Citadel targeting range.
 On this test fit I am using 2x ballistic controls and one guidance enhancer, along with a projection and a precision rig, with a base damage of 1.7k. That's highly deceptive unfortunately: These missiles will primarily be effective against battleships, but any signature sizes lower are going to reduce that DPS substantially. As a result, I think two webs or a web and a target painter are essential. The Citadel stasis web has a range of 250km and reduces target velocity by 70%--very nice! The M and S missiles sizes are much more useful than the high DPS large size. The M size applies comparable to heavy missiles, but with 2 webs or 1 web and a target painter than will apply well against most ships with a signature size of 100 or more, and makes fitting 3x ballistic controls more sensible. That leaves the small missiles, which go 10k m/s and apply well against frigates and destroyers.

That brings us to the other two high slots. The guided bomb launcher and point defense battery do not fit on the M class. Heavy energy neuts do, however, and they are at least as important as the webs. With a range of 100km and a neut power of 1.5k capacitor drained every 15s, two of them can drain a T2 logi dry in one cycle. With a neut projection rig, you can boost this range up to 145km. Having either ECM or Damps in the 4th mid slot is going to be important for combating enemy logi in particular, as fleet comps will likely be designed around keeping logi outside of the Citadel's neut range or simply repping through the slow neut cycles, and either a signal amplifier in the low or a scan res rig is going to be important for boosting the Citadel's terrible scan res.

Now, the fighter bay. In my limited experience with light fighters thus far (I have even less experience with the support fighters), they feel strong against most sub-caps. Take 3 flights of tech 1 Firblogs on a Citadel as an example. Depending on your skills, their slowboat speed can be pretty bad. Their MWD ability boosts them to ridiculous speeds, easily as fast as interceptors. The blaster canon is their primary weapon, but it is the heavy rocket salvo ability that is particularly scary. They have a 10km range, 8 charges per fighter squad. With an explosive radius of 100m and velocity of 120m/s, and doing around 250 damage per fighter, if you have a target with a 70% web on it (or two, or one and a target painter) these salvos are going to be doing high damage against most ships (e.g., against a target with a sig of 50 the salvo was doing between 500-1k damage). Unfortunately, a simple question like "how much DPS can a M Citadel do against a target X?" does not have a simple answer, because of how much depends on the fittings, fighters, skills, and specific abilities you use--but that's part of the excitement of the new Citadels (and capital changes). Destroying a Citadel's fighters is likely going to be a strong strategy unless you have enough logi to tank the DPS.

Now that we have an idea of the potential defensive capabilities of a M Citadel (admittedly I may have missed a lot or made mistakes, sorry!), what will it take to destroy an actively defended one? A M Citadel has 7200 shield, armor, and hull, with 20% resists across the board, and as far as I know there is no way of improving these defenses. The M Citadel only has 3 hours of vulnerability per week. If you think about it, that narrow window is a massive form of defense in and of itself, but Citadels also have a damage limit. No more than 5k DPS can be done to a M.
So, in sum, you have 3 hours to do 7200 damage (before resists) but anything more than 5k DPS will be wasted. If you brought one ship with 1k DPS, before resists it would take 2 hours to put the Citadel into invulnerable (note that Citadels do not repair while being attacked, so besides resists there's no, say, passive regen you have to out-DPS as well). That's good news for solo players interested in destroying Citadels like myself, as it means if I find a poorly defended/fit Citadel, or one that is not actively defended during its vulnerability period, I can easily put it into reinforcement. A bomber with polarized launchers can get upwards of 1k DPS. A  Raven with polarized torps can get upwards of 1.5k DPS. A Talos with polarized blasters can get upwards of 1.7k DPS. And so on. Further, many players can bring an alt or two in "POS" bashing ships. Bring 3k DPS and the Citadel is goes into invulnerability in maybe an hour. Bring the max 5k DPS (easy for players with many alts or just a few friends, or a gang of 10-15 svipuls or bombers for instance) and it's maybe a half hour total. Put in that perspective, and Citadels with no one to defend them are extremely vulnerable. CCP has basically said, unlike POSes, if you aren't there to defend it, it's going to be really easy to lose.

But, we are interested in actively defended Citadels, which will absolutely shred through a POS bashing small gang of sub-caps. Unfortunately for the solo player like myself, I suspect it is going to be fairly easy to destroy a M Citadel in either HS or WH space for the dedicated group (again I am not considering LS/NS or C4-C6 wormholes here where capitals make destroying a M Citadel even easier). The hardest part might simply be the inconvenience of the once a week 3-hour timer!

Just focusing on a solo player defending a M Citadel, one of the best ways to kill an Astrahus with sub-capitals is going to be by bringing a T3 fleet, T2 logistics, and skirmish links for reducing signature radius. The L size missiles won't apply, the S won't do enough damage, but the M size still might not apply well enough and not do enough damage. However, how many will be needed to have minimal or zero losses? I really don't know, partly because I simply don't know how well fighters work. I would guess, though, that a gang of 3-5 logi and 10 T3s could destroy a M Citadel with no losses (at this point I am largely guessing of course). 2 neuts and one ECM would probably not be enough to disrupt the logi enough to burn through the high resists and low sig of such a fleet, and meanwhile the T3s melt fighter squads before the salvo DPS can take out a log or T3. Keep in mind that there's no overheating on Citadel modules currently, leaving them with limited burst outside of fighter abilities.

It is also likely that a large enough T3D fleet with afterburners and T2 frigate logistics could work well against the medium Citadels, particularly because they would be able to destroy fighter squads very quickly and sig tank the DPS of the Citadel. Plus, the heavy neuts have such a low cycle time that the logi could simply cap boost up after getting drained and be fine for the next 15 seconds, making the neuting power of the M Citadel largely useless. My feeling at this (hypothetical) stage is that the defenses of the M Citadel are best against a small group of battleships with only a few (or zero) logi, but that's also one of the least likely compositions that is going to attack it.

The first M Citadels come out of reinforcement in around 8-12 hours. When will the first be destroyed? How many will be up by next weekend? When will the first L go up? The first XL? There's a ton of "firsts" and big questions to look forward to, even for players who won't personally use or own one. But I hope what I've written here is some evidence is favor of using a Citadel as a solo or small group player, even if it is only a matter of time before you lose it!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Reaching 80 Billion in Loot from Offline Starbases (but nearing the end of the project?)

Way back in the summer of 2014, I stumbled across an offline POS in high security space and wanted to see what would happen if I tried to blow it up. What started as a test of science became a regular part of my routine of casual EVE time, along side doing occasional exploration in high security space and working toward my goal of visiting every system in game. My skills for scanning POSes have improved to the point where I can scan a region in a short afternoon.

Granted, I didn't find any tech 2 BPOs, such as this player did. With one offline POS that player likely made over 150b isk, but this is potentially a drop so rare that it will never occur again. (I mean, who would store tech 2 BPOs in a POS?)

Though I haven't quite gotten so lucky, I have reached around 80b in loot dropped--in assorted BPCs and BPOs, ships, materials, and ore. It has been a fun--and profitable--weekend activity over the past 1-2 years. I used most of the funds from this activity to donate to the last Plex for Good campaign, and the rest I've simply re-invested back into market trading or bought ships to explode in solo PVP.

Here's some screenshots of the various loot piƱatas. Part of the fun is in seeing what drops:

But in two days a massive change hits EVE, Citadels. Citadels do not replace dedicated manufacturing and research POSes, so it is likely we will see M&E POSes remain at least until the the next expansion (or so far as Fanfest suggests, fall and winter of 2016) when more new structures are released to cover such roles. Medium Citadels are also a few hundred million isk more expensive than a small staging POS that might be used in C1-C3 wormholes or for storage in systems without station, meaning we will likely see small and medium POSes still used as convenient staging platforms.

Based on the records I've kept, I estimate there are around 1.5k-2k active POSes in high security space currently. Around 500-1000 of them do not have any research or assembly arrays, I estimate (but only reprocessing arrays and maybe a single hangar). Finding an inactive POS in HS with labs or assembly arrays is roughly 1/40 systems per week, or one per HS region per week. When Citadels are released, some of these POSes will be removed in favor of the more convinent or at least newer option.

Well what about Citadels in HS? How vulnerable will they be? We already know how vulnerable Citadels in LS and NS will be: in LS, you will likely attract the attention of groups like Shadow Cartel etc., who will form overwhelming numbers of dreads to kill your Citadel. In null, the same thing, but different groups. Can a solo or small gang Citadel survive in LS or NS? I don't think so (but I'm happy to be proven wrong). So that leaves HS and wormholes.

How can the solo player use--or destroy--Citadels? Is there any possible way? That's what I am going to be testing in the upcoming months. And maybe my POS destruction side-project will transition into a new and much more interesting project involving Citadels.