In hospitals, medical examiners perform autopsies on deceased patients to determine cause of death and to see what, if anything, could have been done to prevent it. Most organizations that deal with life-and-death risks - or where the cost of failure is particularly expensive - has a similar practice. Mistakes will happen, but competent professionals examine their errors and make them happen less.
I would encourage anyone who wants to improve their PvP skills to do the same after a loss. Before you rush off to build yourself another ship, stop and take a moment to do an autopsy. Ask yourself what happened, how you got in that situation, and what you can do to prevent it next time. EVE is game where losses aren't cheap - wise pilots endeavor to make sure they happen as infrequently as possible.
Now, it is tempting to simply post a list of questions for you to ask yourself (maybe make one of those numbered list things that advertisers like so much), but I think an example would better teach the point and be more enjoyable. So... let's examine one of my losses. As I tell the story, I'll point out the mistakes I made and what I would do differently.
I'll wait as you make some popcorn.
THE SETUP: ROAMING ARIDIA
This story begins with me roaming through a new region in my (now infamous) Caracal Navy. Aridia is a huge, tangled web of lowsec systems that seemed ripe for a good roam. Many of the systems are 0.0-0.3. That means there should be some nice level 5 and 6 anomalies for ratters to sink their teeth into, and good ratting generally means good hunting. Additionally, the region has a notoriously low population - once again, a good sign. Low pop often means that pilots feel more comfortable flying bigger, fancier ships with fewer warp stabs. All told, I was expecting a very active night...
But for whatever reason, I was finding nothing. System after system was just plain empty - and in the one's that weren't, the belts and anomalies were completely empty. Over two hours combing twenty systems and I had NOTHING to show for it.
That brings me to my first (and most minor) mistake of the night:
MISTAKE 1: FLYING BORED
Normally, when I roam I am cool and collected. I am pretty good at sizing up risks and deciding when to engage and when to run. Its one of the things that makes me a solid pirate - I have no problem ducking out when things turn south.
BUT... things change when I get bored. This might not be true of everyone, but when I'm bored I tend to turn into a daredevil risk-takers who flies like he has nothing to lose. At some point, I get so focused on making SOMETHING happen that I will fight just about anything to make the tedium go away.
What I should have done is just set autopilot back to my hanger in Perimeter and called it a night. Instead, I kept going...
HIT THE JACKPOT, AND COULDN'T WALK AWAY
After two hours of low population systems with nothing to hunt, I was nearly the end of my route. I suddenly pop into a system with more than 20 pilots in local - a shock after so many 1-2 pilot systems before it. As I scroll through local, I realize a few things:
- Nearly all of these pilots are in the same corp
- They all have Chinese names
- A lot of their names are simple variations of each other (yay for knowing a bit of Mandarin)
In other words, I have found a corp full of bots. Like many players, I take great delight in killing botters - they are a plague that makes the game worse in almost every way. I quickly jump into an anomaly and find a Caracal Trainer...
As anyone who has flown my "Bird of Prey" build knows, T5 trainers simply don't pose much of a challenge. After less than a minute, the ship is a pile of debris and I finally have my first kill of the night. Basically undamaged, keep roaming the anomalies in system, waiting out my timer.
Sure enough, a few anomalies later I find another one - fit exactly the same:
Around this time, I see signals being passed in local - a system of dots that I'm sure was some prearranged code the botters used to communicate with one another. Since my timer was about up at this point, I went ahead and jumped to the next system, only to find that it too was run by the same group of botters, using the same fit. Apparently the botters had taken possession of this entire little corner of Aridia and made it their own.
I may have gotten a bit greedy...
After killing 16 of their Caracal trainers, local was in an uproar. The elegant dots and dashes were replaced by a series of poorly-translated threats and entire conversations in Mandarin as the botters tried to nail down my exact location. Soon, I saw my first non-Caracal ship - a Maller Trainer - appear in an anomaly (sitting at the 100km mark). Warping to the sun, I caught sight of a fleet - a Maller Guardian accompanied by several Caracal trainers.
MISTAKE 2: PRESSING MY LUCK
At this point, it was clear that organized resistance was beginning to form. The smart move would have been to move on. In fact, I probably should have stopped after 6-7 kills and began seeing local swell as I moved from system to system. As a solo pirate, the moment a group starts actively hunting you, the chances of you losing your ship dramatically increase (if only I had taken my own advice). It was clear that a doom fleet was dogging my steps, obviously I should have stood up from the table and walked away...
...BUT like a bad gambler I chose to keep pressing my luck. I was hoping to get to peel a ship or two off from the fleet and get some quality kills on the Combat Log. This was really the critical mistake - and, if I'm honest, the one that leads to most of my deaths. It is SO tempting to stick around and keep messing with the swarm of angry pilots that wants to come murder you back.
Problem is, EVENTUALLY they usually suceed...
MISTAKE 3: FLYING DISTRACTED
Just a few minutes after seeing that fleet forming at the sun, I made my last - and fatal - mistake: as I kissed my son goodnight, I accidentally hit "Warp" instead of using "Warp to 50km" like I had been ever since local began to erupt. As I exited warp, I knew I was doomed - I landed right next to a Maller Guardian, Succubus, a Caracal Navy and a Caracal Trainer.
I was disrupted almost as soon as I left warp.
I fought to escape - targeting the Succubus while burning for a nearby planet. Sadly, I was only able to take the Succubus to half armor before my ship exploded.
CONCLUSION - WHAT DID I LEARN?
So which mistake really killed me? As is usually the case - all of the them. It is rare that any one mistake in this game costs you your ship. There is almost always a series of errors that leads to your downfall.
That said, the biggest takeaway for me was that I need to move on faster. Sticking around for multiple kills in a system was a temptation I should have known to avoid. I would have done much better to take note of that system after 2-3 kills, moving on to some place else and come back the next day to kill a couple more.
Since then, I've implemented a 2-pass rule on myself: always stop hunting after the second pass through a system, even if you suspect there are more kills to be found. As a result, I haven't had the same issue again (though, I'm sure I'll screw up eventually).
Hopefully this example helps you examine your own losses and learn from your mistakes. Feel free to share your own stories down in the comments!
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