This is a collection of short in-character fiction pieces about Awakened Industries, a group of capsuleers and their crews living in the enigmatic and dangerous regions of Wormhole Space in EVE Online. None of the protagonists are actual characters or corporations in-game. All similarities with persons fictional or real are possibly coincidental and only sometimes intentional. - Emergent Patroller

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: The stories on this blog contain mature themes involving sexuality and violence and are not suitable for minors or sensitive people.

1 Feb 2014

TRS - A beginner's guide to scouting

Are you a new player who would like to mean something in a PVP centred corporation, but while everyone around you is flying big and expensive ships, all you can fly is frigates?

Very often, corporations will assign their newbies to the role of frigate tackle. While this role can be important, it can also feel like you are being used as cannon fodder. You will also be doing a lot of reshipping and playing catch-up with the fleet as it moves on.

But you don't have to be that guy.

You can be a scout instead!

Being a scout is more difficult than just locking up a target and pointing it, but it is also much more rewarding. If you volunteer for this role, you can make a name for yourself much quicker. FCs will remember you and corpmates will appreciate your effort, if you do it well.

Like tackling, scouting is a role you can fulfil with a cheap frigate. Very often, veteran pilots do not want to be scouts. Especially in small gangs they tend to be of the opinion that they can be more valuable in their fighting- or logistics-ship. When an FC asks for volunteers to scout, coms can turn awkwardly quiet. This is your opportunity. If you know how to be a scout, you can seize it.

This article is about teaching you how to do that even if you are a character just out of trial. Scouting does not require skillpoints, it requires skill and here I will give you the basics about how to develop that skill.

Different corps and alliances will have different styles, so I will keep it as general as I can. Still, most of what I am going to write below will apply to small roaming gangs rather than big fleet operations.

The basics

  • Overcome your fear As a scout you will be the first to jump into a hostile system. Do not panic if you see a whole gatecamp on overview. Stay cloaked, take a deep breath and have a look at what the enemy ships are. A scout who can not keep a cool head in the face of danger is useless. If you are inexperienced, then take the time to fly through lowsec and nullsec on extended round-trips. Jump into gatecamps with rookie frigates and a clone with no implants. This way you can practice to stay calm even if you see an overview full of red. You can also practice getting out of such situations alive without losing anything valuable if you don't
  • Set up your overview The best way to do this is to import an overview pack and customize it. EVE Uni has a very detailed article on how overview customization works and at the end you will find links to some overview packs. It's a long read, but it can literally save your life in EVE to understand how that works. You will need a properly configured overview for the next part. Make sure you have a tab that shows enemy ships and other ones for loot (for scanning wrecks to tell you where ratters are active) and other things that are important for your scouting style. (That can vary but could include POSes, Customs Offices, Sovereignty Structures etc.)
  • Configure DSCAN Directional scan (DSCAN) is the next step. Your DSCAN window has several things you can configure. The first thing to do is to tick the box "Use current overview settings". This way you will make sure you see only the things necessary. The second thing is the range. The maximum for this is 2,147,483,647 km which is a bit more than 14,3 AU. Set it to this value initially. The third one is the angle. This angle refers to a cone in the direction you are looking at. You can fly your ship in one direction while you are looking in another, always remember that. To start with, set your DSCAN angle to 360, that means you will see anything around you in a 14AU sphere.
  • Activate camera tracking If you do this, your view will track anything you click on. This is very useful if you want to use your DSCAN to pinpoint things quickly. To activate camera tracking simply hit "C". 
Here is an image to show you what your DSCAN window should look like (note that the tracking camera checkbox has been removed in the latest Rubicon patch. The Keyboard shortcut still works, so use it):

Ships for the job

I don't want to go too much in-depth here or provide you with fixed fittings, because there are many different ones suited for that role. What I will do is give you a few guidelines on selecting your scouting ship and how to fit it.
Other people might have different and better ideas on how to fit a specialized scouting ship. but I will give you my recommendations based on experience and preference, and explain why I consider them valuable.

Ship type 
I guess it is pretty obvious that you will be using frigates as scouting ships. They warp fast, they are hard to hit and they move quickly on grid. All those things are important for a scout. If you have enough skillpoints to fly an interceptor an assault frigate or a covert-ops frigate (and you can fit a covops cloak), then go for that. Otherwise, choose the fastest and most agile ship you can fly. Agility is a function of the ship's mass and it's Inertia Modifier. Choose a ship on which both of those values are the lowest for it's ship class. Also choose a ship with the lowest signature radius after you have satisfied the other criteria.

  • High slots Don't bother too much with weapons. Other things are more important for a scout. Fit anything in the highslots that you can after you have made sure you have all other things in place. One thing that can be very useful for a scout is to have an energy neutralizer in the high slots. That can help you to get away from fast tackling frigates by hopefully deactivating their web and scram when you drain their capacitor.
  • Mid slots If it is in any way possible, I would always recommend fitting two propulsion modules on a scout. One Afterburner and one Microwarpdrive. One is to move around, and the other one is to still move comparatively fast when you are scrammed (i.e. your MWD is shut down). The other thing is, an Afterburner keeps your signature lower, and you should have a low signature so enemy ships can not lock you that fast. If you can't fit both it's a coin toss, but I would personally rather go for an afterburner when flying a standard T1 frigate. You should also fit a Warp Disruptor so you can point ships if necessary. If you have more than three midslots, you can go for some electronic warfare modules like a sensor dampener, a tracking disruptor or an ECM for defensive purposes. Use whatever you have skills for. Also a sensor booster can be helpful so you lock quickly in case you want to point an enemy ship. "What about shield tank?" I hear you ask. I wouldn't recommend fitting a shield tank. You need the mids for propulsion and point. Also, shield extenders increase your signature, and you should avoid that. I would also not recommend fitting a web or a scram, because you will not survive getting close to an enemy. Keeping at range and keeping your transversal speed high is your best defence.
  • Low slots Definitely always fit a Damage Control here. In addition to that, a Nanofiber Internal Structure module is also very good to have. If you have more low slots available, go for some armour tanking modules. I would recommend resistance over buffer, because armour plates reduce your speed and agility. If you end up having no tank, don't worry too much. You will rely on your low signature and your high speed to not get hit. If you are under fire, just don't turn on your MWD if you don't have to. The exception is if you fly an interceptor or an assault frigate which get reduction bonuses for the signature bloom.
  • Rigs If necessary use the rig slots for Ancillary Current Routers or Processor Overclocking Units to make your fit work. As for the rest, put some armour resistance rigs there, or a Polycarbon Engine Housing if you feel comfortable with losing some more hitpoints (it will reduce your armor). A Targeting System Subcontroller is also not a bad idea, to increase your lock speed.

Scout go plus one

You have just been ordered to jump through into the next system ahead of your fleet. At this point you should have an overview set up and selected that shows you all relevant targets. Now it is time to check your surroundings and report what you can see. To make this easier, sort your overview by type.
  • Hold your cloak. Do not move and start with everything you see on the gate. Are there any ships? How many? Which type? Are they camping, moving, fighting someone else? Are they criminals, wartargets or neutrals? Report all those things on coms. If there is nothing, report that the gate is clear.
  • Are there any relevant landmarks in the system? In FW that would be plex beacons, elsewhere SBUs and TCUs can be relevant. Judge that depending on the sort of fleet you are with. Again, report what's visible.
  • Next hit DSCAN. At this point it should be long-range and set to 360 degrees with a filter suitable for PVP. Report everything you see on DSCAN. Tell your FC what you see.
  • At this point, if you saw ships on DSCAN, narrow things down a bit. Set your DSCAN angle to 30 degrees and click on stations, beacons, asteroid belts, cynosural fields etc. if they are within 14AU. As your camera view swings around, you can now see whether any of the ships you saw are in the direction of the respective landmark.
  • You can also change range on your DSCAN. To do this quickly just remove the 2 at the beginning of your DSCAN range. This way you can quickly switch back to long range - you just have to add the 2 again. 147,483,647 km is slightly less than one AU, so if nothing is within that short range (like a close planet), ships you can still see on DSCAN are likely to be in warp to your position. 
  • Finally - if you are hunting PVE pilots - take a look at the Probe Scanner to see whether there are any Anomalies in System where they could be busy making ISK.Switch to an overview showing loot as you scan in the direction of the anomalies. If there are NPC wrecks then there is (or at least was) a PVE pilot active.

Further afield

Depending on the situation on the other side, the FC will make a decision and give you new orders. You could be ordered to lock and point a target. If so, get to top speed (using the Afterburner rather than the MWD) and orbit them outside web and scram range (just choose a 20km orbit to be sure). Now your speed and low signature radius will be important to keep you alive long enough for the fleet to jump in and start killing targets.

If the gate is clear, you might be ordered to create safespots and tactical warp-in points. You can find and explanation about tacs in my previous post and a guide to creating safespots here.

If you saw hostiles or possible targets in range, then you could be ordered to get to them to either hold them down or to check them out. Do not warp to 0 on your destination, take a distance like 10 or 20 km. That will put you in a range where you can still possibly point targets on grid but not be webbed and scrammed yourself.

You could also be ordered to go to destinations which are off your DSCAN range. In that case, keep your DSCAN angle small and face in the direction you are flying while constantly clicking DSCAN. As soon as ships appear on your scanner, report that immediately. If they are actually on grid when you land, confirm that to the FC.

In the simplest of scenarios you might just be ordered to go plus one i.e. warp to the next system on your route. If so, then just do that and repeat the procedures from above.

In Summary

  • Always keep a level head, stay calm and keep looking at overview and DSCAN.
  • Don't get distracted by bullshit in local or in fleet chat. Do not click links, you have more important things to do.
  • Constantly report everything of importance. Don't be afraid to talk over others (even the FC) and use Break/Check commands to notify people of incoming information.
  • Move fast, never stay still.
  • Listen to your FC's orders.
  • Take no unnecessary risks, you are important to the fleet.
  • Double check whether your overview and DSCAN settings are fine.
  • Practice, practice, practice
Don't worry about not being perfect the first time you do this. If you don't feel confident enough, listen to scouts from fleets you join before taking the role yourself. In time you will become skilled in scouting and a valued fleet member even if you can not fly a T2 fitted battleship or a logistics ship on max skills.

Happy hunting.

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