Welcome to Jester's Trek.
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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Monday, January 16, 2012

Sunday definition: Counter-cycle

And now, an EVE term definition for the newer EVE players.  You vets can move on to the next post.

When using modules, it's always very tempting to hit F1-F2-F3-F4 (or the like) as quickly as your fingers can carry you across the keys.

And this is almost always the wrong thing to do.

As a simple example, let's start with being a logistics pilot with four repair modules.  The cycle time on large remote repair modules is between 3.2 and 5.0 seconds, depending on the exact mods, skills, boosters, and fleet boosts.  If you commit all four of your reppers to a friendly all at once, you're committing to two things:
  • that there will be gaps of between 3.2 and 5.0 seconds when your rep target receives no reps at all; and,
  • that there will be a gap of between 3.2 and 5.0 seconds if you need to shut down and redirect one of your reppers to a new target.
Counter-cycling is the alternative.  It is defined as creating gaps between your module activations to reduce the amount of time between individual activations of those modules.  If your reps cycle every four seconds, for example, to counter-cycle two reps on a target, you'd activate one repper, wait two seconds, then activate the second.  The net result is that the target will receive some reps every two seconds, and if you need one of those reppers for someone else, there will be a maximum of two seconds before one is available once you hit the key to disengage it.

Counter-cycling is even more important when it comes to jammers with their long cycle times.  Most jammers have a cycle time of 20 seconds.  If you have four jammers, and you throw all four of them at a target and -- totally by chance -- all four of them fail, you will have a 20 second wait before you can try again.  It will seem like an eternity.  Even worse, if a new target comes on field that you want to attempt to jam, your first attempt will also have to wait 20 seconds.  The alternative is to limit yourself to using one jammer every five seconds; this will reduce the amount of time you have to wait between jamming attempts.  Jamming this way is also optimal because if you get a successful jam, after the target becomes unjammed, chances are that it will take five seconds for that ship to lock up its first targets... right when you have a new jammer available to try.

Counter-cycling isn't just for reppers and jammers, by the way.  Just about every module can at least somewhat benefit from counter-cycling.  Take guns, for instance.  In PvP situations, if you counter-cycle your guns, you'll always have a gun available quickly to KM whore on a new target...

The drawback to counter-cycling is of course that it takes patience and willpower... something that EVE players sometimes have in short supply.  ;-)  The urge to get those mods cycling as quickly as possible can be overwhelming.  For any mod you have more than one of, it's almost always the wrong thing to do.


Occasionally on Sundays, I will be defining a common EVE term for those who might not have heard it.  If you have a suggestion for such a term, please drop it into the comments.

16 comments:

  1. Counter-cycling can also improve cap stability, by keeping your cap above the 33% for longer

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  2. Countercycling is also better for your cap. Instead of taking 1 big chunk away from your cap, possibly taking you below peak recharge, you take more smaller bit of cap.

    DeBingJos

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  3. For the guns, counter-cycle can be useful to shoot small weak targets like inties; you will get more chance to catch the target when its angular velocity goes down.

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  4. "Most jammers have a cycle time of 20 seconds. If you have four jammers, and you throw all four of them at a target and -- totally by chance -- all four of them fail, you will have a 20 second wait before you can try again."

    If you cycle them and the first 4 attempts fail you'll get no jam in the first 20 seconds too...

    While you are right about the advantages, you fail to mention the drawbacks. When cycling you will obviously miss some rep/dmg/jam strenght/... in the first seconds.

    Also no mentioning of neuts? That's the module I'd ALWAYS cycle (unless blobbing and a shitload of neuts being on the target anyway).

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  5. If your cycle lasts 20s, then, from a statistical point of view, you have to wait most likely about 10 seconds to switch to another target. ;-)

    And for weapons it is better to fire in full volleys on large targets: the second (third, fourth..., x-th) voley might kill it, which will have taken you to (x-1)*duration to kill the ship. If you start your y weapons staggered by t seconds it will take longer to kill the ship - at least (x-1)*duration+t and at most (x-1)*duration+(y-1)*t. ^^

    For small ships and guns (even more if missiles are used) it is better to fire staggered, though.

    Remember, your ship has capacitor and the such - but you as human you have just a limited amount of perception and actions per second.

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  6. In large fleet fights a logi pilot needs to apply max reps to the guy taking damage as soon as possible before he goes down, especially when facing alpha fleets.
    Same thing for guns, you need to apply as much damage as possible as soon as the target is called, so that logistics don't have time to catch reps. Counter cycling in these situations(large fights) is not advised imo.
    With the rest, i agree.

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  7. KM whores ruin kills in small gang warfare with logi in play.

    As an FC, I want that dps fast and in as big a volley as possible, whether it's AC/Blaster guns or Arty/Rail style guns (and whatever the Amarrian variants are... crazy amarr...)

    I ask Logi to counter cycle when they think about it.
    I always ask ECM to throw two jams on a target immediately and counter cycle the remainder until they have a target perma-jammed.

    But guns? No. DPS, Volley, as fast as humanly possible. This is the one thing I don't budge on. If I catch a fleet mate doing it consistenly, I call him primary. And I routinely get called a very professional FC that everyone in my (admittedly bearish) alliance likes to fly with.

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  8. I'm by no means an expert pilot, but it seems to me that in order to gain time (by having a counter-cycled rep available in 2 seconds rather than 4) I would also have to spend time visually looking through my module cycle timers and identifying which one is the next-up to cancel and reallocate. In combat with a lot going on, I'm hesitant to give myself one more thing to have to pay attention to.

    Is that something that becomes second nature with practice, or is counter-cycling generally just more useful with longer cycles (like jammers) where the gain outweighs the cost more?

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  9. Some good comments here! In particular, Anon0544 is right: counter-cycling isn't something that you should do every single time; there are times that it's the wrong choice. That's why I described it as the right move "almost always" and not "always". ;-) Still, it should be your default choice with "everything at once" being the exception, not the rule.

    For those worried about the additional cycles to think about it, as you train your brain and your fingers to do this, that training and muscle memory will take over. I counter-cycle instinctively now, without even having to think about it. "Everything at once" is the thing I have to think about now... when I'm applying volley damage in a Tornado, for instance.

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  10. I really hate to bring up mining in this society here... But on a retriever / covetor with the right lasers and miners, 1 full cycle of the lasers can generate more ore than your cargo hold can pack. Staggering the lasers by e.g. 30 seconds is the easiest way to overcome this. Not that anyone here mines of course ;-)

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    1. You're absolutely right, and it's something I should have thought of. I DID do mining, back in the day. ;-)

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  11. Please, I implore you, define kiting, why it's effective, how to do it effectively, why idiots who allow themselves to be kited are gonna get killed by it and how bad it is to succumb to the newbie urge to rush off towards the enemy without thinking, for the sake of all FC's and the sanity of competent pvp'ers. I'm getting sick of trying to tell people to stop chasing the nano drakes that are 80 km away. I would love to be able to direct my alliance mates to some more of your great guides ^.^

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    1. An explanation of transveral, radial, and angular velocity would be appreciated. Especially if you don't have to resort to too much math and formulas :)

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  12. "Is that something that becomes second nature with practice, or is counter-cycling generally just more useful with longer cycles (like jammers) where the gain outweighs the cost more?"

    Yes, it becomes second nature, actually once you start to see more of the overall picture you may even start to counter cycle with others, as this is in most mmos a standard strategy to overcome two hit kills if incoming damage is faster than cycle time of heals.

    Dunno if this could be relevant in mom sites, but I guess bombers fire slower than rep cycles of logistics?

    Oh and @Deen http://www.evealtruist.com/2011/12/video-tracking-and-spiralling.html

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