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I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Guide: Warp Drive

Introduction and Definition
From almost the very first moment an EVE player begins play, he or she will become used to Aura's computer voice announcing "Warp Drive, active."  Warp drive is the most important propulsion system available in your ship.  Virtually any movement of over a hundred kilometers will require its use.  Using, and preventing the use of warp drive is an integral part of EVE PvP combat.  Preventing a ship from entering warp drive will keep it from escaping destruction.  Conversely, the only time an undocked EVE starship is truly safe is while it is traveling at warp drive.

Warp drive at various speeds is available to every starship in EVE, from the largest super-capital ships to the humble shuttle and pod.  Warp disruption is available to virtually any ship, though some classes of ships are particularly effective at it.


Entering Warp
Entering warp drive in EVE requires five things:
  • A specific warp target location;
  • alignment with that target;
  • sufficient sub-warp Speed;
  • at least some Capacitor; and,
  • at least +1 Warp Strength.
A warp Target is some form of celestial object with a known location in space.  Planets, moons, stargates, and stations are the most common targets.  But a bookmark in deep space is also a known target, as is a ship or celestial object locked down by a probe ship.  Finally, a member of your fleet, a jettisoned can, or a wrecked spaceship can act as a warp target.  The target must be at least 150 kilometers from your ship.

Alignment specifies that the ship entering warp must be pointed in the direction it wishes to go to warp, to within five degrees.  A ship that is out of alignment may not enter warp.

Speed is also required to enter warp.  Specifically, the ship must be at 75% of its current sub-warp speed.  Below the speed indicator are three thin marks indicating 25%, 50%, and 75% speed.  The 75% requirement is measured based on the ship's current top speed.

The ship entering warp must have at least some Capacitor.  Any amount of capacitor over zero will be sufficient to allow the ship to enter warp.  The more capacitor available, the closer the ship can travel at warp toward its target without having to stop and recharge the capacitor before proceeding.

Finally, the ship entering warp must have at least +1 Warp Strength.  All ships in EVE have +1 Warp Strength by default.  Each race's heavy Transport ship receives a +2 bonus to Warp Strength, giving them a +3 Warp Strength by default.

Assuming sufficient capacitor and +1 warp strength, the time it takes a ship to enter warp is determined by what takes longer: aligning the ship or accelerating to 75% of the ship's current top speed.  In most cases, the latter will be the limiting factor.


Preventing Warp
As a result of the above factors, there are four means of preventing or slowing a ship attempting to enter warp: disrupting its alignment, affecting its speed, disrupting its capacitor, or reducing its warp strength.  Affecting another ship's speed is the most difficult; reducing its warp strength is the easiest.  Preventing a ship from entering warp is called "tackling", and is most often done by smaller ships, notably interceptors, frigates, and cruisers.

Preventing Alignment
Aligning is normally quite easy for a ship entering warp.  However, it can be prevented.  Some EVE pilots specialize in knocking ships attempting to enter warp out of alignment.  This is most often done by using a ship with a large mass or great speed to "bump" the ship out of alignment, literally ramming the nose or the tail of the ship attempting to enter warp.

This will slightly increase the speed of the ship being bumped, and (if done properly) will knock it out of alignment.  For larger ships in particular, the speed increase coupled by the alignment change will delay the entry into warp by as many as ten seconds as the ship struggles to re-achieve alignment.  This gives a sufficiently quick tackler ample time to bump the target again.  It is theoretically possible to prevent a ship entering warp by this method alone, though it takes great skill to master.  If you are flying a large enough ship, you will very occasionally encounter players practicing this technique on you.

Affecting Speed
The current top speed of a ship can be modified by Afterburners, Microwarp Drives, and Stasis Webifiers.  Since the former two modules increase a ship's speed, they actually make it more time-consuming for that ship to enter warp.  Ironically, a Stasis Webifier, by decreasing a ship's maximum top speed, actually makes reaching warp faster!

As a result, a tackler fitted with both a Stasis Webifier and a means of warp disruption should be very careful to engage the warp disruption first!  If you mistakenly engage the webifier first, you may inadvertently reduce the target's maximum speed sufficient for it to enter warp instantly.

It is theoretically possible to prevent a ship from entering warp through a series of head-on bumps similar to the means for affecting ship alignment.  However, this is extremely difficult to master, and few have bothered to learn the technique.  Still, since this is technically not a hostile act as EVE defines it, from time to time you will encounter griefers who will park their heavy ships in the path of your movement into warp.  This is most common at the station undocks of busy stations.

Reducing Capacitor
A ship that has been completely drained of capacitor may not enter warp.  There are several means of neutralizing a ship's capacitor, most often through a high slot Energy Neutralizing module fitted to a tackling ship.  Even though the neutralized ship has alignment, speed, and sufficient warp strength, the lack of capacitor will prevent it entering warp.

This technique is most often used by battleships against enemy tackling interceptors.  A battleship-sized neutralizer will reduce an interceptor's capacitor to zero in only one or two cycles.  This has the dual beneficial (to the battleship) effect of preventing the interceptor's escape into warp and removing the tackle on the battleship, since an interceptor with no cap cannot use its warp disruption, either.  In this manner, the hunter can quickly become the hunted.

Reducing Warp Strength
Reducing warp strength is the most common means of preventing a ship from entering warp.  The many means of doing so are covered in the Guide detailing Warp Disruption and Bubbles, coming soon.


Countering Tackling
In much the same way a tackler can negatively affect all four means of entering warp, a defender can positively affect them.

Alignment
Achieving alignment is most often about reaction time.  The quicker a ship can achieve alignment, the quicker it will enter warp.  There are many means of achieving a quicker alignment:
  • Have the ship pre-aligned.  This is mostly useful when undocking, by having an undock bookmark.  However, before entering combat, a ship with long-range weapons can align to a celestial and in that way "hedge its bets" against an engagement going badly.
  • Have a more agile ship.  Don't use an Iteron V when an Iteron II will do.  Don't fly a battleship or other large ship without an escort.  Don't fly the battleship at all if a cruiser or battle-cruiser will perform the task at hand.  If the important thing is to get yourself to a location and the ship is unimportant, use a frigate, shuttle, or pod.
  • Increase the ship's agility with modules.  Nanofiber Internal Structure and Inertial Stabilizers will cause your ship to align more quickly, as will certain types of Astronautics rigs.
  • Increase the pilot's skills in Evasive Maneuvering, Spaceship Command, and Advanced Spaceship command.  Each of these skills increases ship agility, the first two for all ships, the last for particularly large, heavy ships.
  • Increase the pilot's agility with implants.  There are both specific implants and implant sets that increase starship pilot agility.
  • Increase the pilot's agility with fleet boosts.  The Leadership skill Skirmish Warfare and the related skills will increase a ship's agility, if that ship is in a fleet where the applicable booster has those skills.
Speed
There unfortunately isn't much a single pilot can do about his ship's acceleration.  A ship's acceleration, like its shield or capacitor recharge time, appears to be a constant, regardless of modules or Navigation skill.  The time needed to reach 75% sub-warp speed, therefore, will always be a constant number of seconds.

Being pre-aligned, and already at full speed toward that alignment point, is often the best defense against being tackled.  For this reason, many PvP fleet commanders will order an alignment to a nearby celestial before or as combat begins.

The good news is that modules that increase a ship's base speed, such as the Overdrive Injector, will not cause a ship to enter warp more slowly.  The bad news is that modules that decrease a ship's speed, such as the Expanded Cargohold, will not cause a ship to enter warp more quickly.  However, modules that increase the ship's speed artificially, such as an Afterburner or MicroWarpdrive will increase the speed needed to enter warp and therefore will delay that ship's entry into warp.  If you want to warp quickly, do not use these modules!

Particularly large, slow ships can benefit from having a friendly tackler nearby whose pilot is in the same corporation or alliance.  Once the ship achieves some speed and is aligned, a friendly tackler can web the large slow ship, instantly reducing its maximum speed by half or more.  The combination of this reduction in the ship's top speed combined with the speed already achieved will often cause the large, heavy ship to enter warp instantly.

This is regarded as "hostility", and will engage a 60-second timer before the tackler may dock with a station or use a jump gate, so the technique should be used with this in mind.  However, as long as the tackler is in the same corporation or alliance, one can use this technique in high-sec systems without fearing from CONCORD.

Capacitor
As long as there is at least some capacitor available, the ship will enter warp.  Therefore, having a Cap Booster module fitted with charges available can address this concern at the proper time, regardless of enemy neutralizers.  When the proper sub-warp speed is reached and the ship is aligned, trigger the Cap Booster, and the amount of cap injected will immediately be fed to the warp drive and the ship will enter warp.

Some scout pilots will deliberately reduce their own cap by triggering and then quickly canceling several warps in a row.  This action will reduce the ship's capacitor.  Once it's at a sufficiently low level, the scout pilot can then engage warp part-way to a location that he or she desires to scan.  Done skillfully, the scout pilot will warp part of the way to the location, but won't have sufficient capacitor to reach all the way.  He or she will therefore drop out of warp at a mid-point which -- if the mid-point is in range -- he or she can then use to scan the target location using the game's directional scanner.

Warp Strength
A low-slot module called a Warp Core Stabilizer will increase the ship's Warp Strength by +1 for each module of this type fitted.  Amarr and Gallente ships which traditionally armor tank will have quite an advantage here.  Theoretically, if you wished to, you could fill the low slots with such modules.  The Occator, with its +2 Warp Strength bonus and 6 low slots, can have a +9 Warp Strength, as can the Armageddon battleship with its 8 low slots.  The Impel, with a +2 Warp Strength and 7 low slots, can achieve +10.

Unfortunately, though, these defenses are of little use against a bubble.  Against a bubble, all a ship can do is find the closest edge and approach it at the maximum speed possible.  Microwarp Drives are invaluable here, as a bubble will not disable them and a MWD will sometimes allow a quick ship to escape a bubble.  Once out of the bubble, the ship can usually initiate warp drive normally.

Tech 3 cruisers such as the Proteus and Tengu can fit a subsystem module called an Interdiction Nullifier which will make the ship using it immune to bubbles (though not to other forms of warp disruption).


Combat Fitting versus Travel Fitting
When it is necessary to travel a long distance in a heavy ship and combat is not desired, particularly in 0.0, do not be afraid to "travel fit" the ship in question.  Travel fitting involves using modules that will increase the likelihood that a ship can escape being tackled.

There are no guarantees in life, of course, and in EVE, the tackling ship has most or all of the advantages.  Still, you can at least stack the odds in your favor.

Travel fitting is mostly done in the ship's low slots.  Two to three Warp Core Stabilizers -- "stabs" -- are desirable.  While one will prevent a single ship tackle, two will prevent a scram.  Some particularly fast tacklers use one of each type of module, giving a ship with a +4 warp strength the possibility of escape from such a tackle.  In addition, at least one Nanofiber Internal Structure II module should be used.  This will not only increase the ship's agility, but it will increase its speed.

In the mid slots, a travel fit ship should carry both a MicroWarpdrive and an Afterburner suitable to its size.  Having both propulsion mods available gives the pilot additional options if the ship is scrammed, rendering its MWD unusable.  Finally, a Prototype Cloaking Device should be carried in a high slot.

The remaining modules of the ship's normal combat fitting can be carried in cargo until the travel-fit ship reaches its destination.  Preferably, carry the remaining modules in a smaller scouting ship.  Having a scout will greatly increase the chances of a large ship survival when traveling through 0.0 by preventing it being tackled in the first place.

3 comments:

  1. The MWD+Cloak to warp trick actually means using one MWD cycle gets you to warp more quickly than not using it (and safely too).

    Also, some very large ships have such poor ship acceleration that using one MWD or AB *can* reduce overall align time - as the cycle finished before they would normally be at 75% top speed.

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  2. Hey Jester, read through your guide, a couple of changes I'd make:

    1.) "However, as long as the tackler is in the same corporation or alliance, one can use this technique in high-sec systems without fearing from CONCORD." This is not true, only people from the same corporation can do this, afaik. I wouldn't recommend testing it with anything other than a rifter...

    2.) A ship's acceleration is absolutely affected by it's mass and agility ratings. Agility isn't just how fast a ship turns to be aligned, but also how fast it reaches warp speed. Put a 1600mm Plate on a Cynabal and you see a NOTICEABLE difference in how fast it goes from 0 to warp. Same with every ship. Armor tanked ships in general are slower overall, accelerate slower, and enter warp slower. Their advantage is that Armor Tanking is a more efficient form of tanking (less power, less cpu).

    I have a shield rupture that aligns/accelerates like a frig, and I have an armor rupture that aligns/accelerates like a battleship.

    I have a Cynabal that aligns and warps just a hair slower with MWD active as with MWD inactive, because it accelerates so ridiculously fast.

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