When it comes to game mechanics, EVE is just yet another MMORPG. It’s skill-based, not class-based, but it has distinct roles that you want to train up your skills for. The typical roles I know in other games are tank, damage, healer, buffer, and debuffer. EVE is quite similar. It lacks tanks, but adds tacklers. For anybody who doesn’t know much about EVE, I though I’d make a short overview of the “jobs”. I’ll try and look at the different roles from a fleet perspective. Of course, in very small groups, or if you’re on your own, you might want to fulfill several roles at once to be successful.
As I said, EVE doesn’t really have them. In PvP, tanks are useless. In PvE (missions etc.), you technically can try and get a ship with superior defense to “tank” damage for other ships, but there are no taunt mechanics or anything like that.
Typically done by the larger ships. For the fleets I fly in, this means battlecruisers and battleships. Above that, capital ships start, some of which can pack impressive firepower. In my case, I bought a couple of Drakes for the current UNI war. Drakes are battlecruisers that specialize in missile damage. For the most part, missiles are considered inferior in fleets, because they have a travel time to the target (whereas guns are modeled as having instant travel time for their projectiles), which means they sometimes simply might reach their target after it is actually down. The Drake is a very very capable mission runner ship though, and last time I picked up EVE, I had specialized in the two things Drakes do well: shoot missiles, and take a decent amount of damage before they go down. So Drakes it is for me. Besides, I can’t properly fly any battleships yet. I can fly around in them, but I’m not very effective at actually doing anything.
The “healer” ships in EVE are called logistics. They are typically highly sought after, because there are no really viable basic ships that do logistics well. You need to train into Tier 2 cruisers, which takes quite some time. (Or into carriers, which are capital ships, so obviously take even more time to train.) Logistics come in two flavors: shield healing and armor healing. Depending on whether the ships in your fleet specialized in increasing their shield or armor resistances, one or the other is more desirable, obviously. I can’t fly Logistics ships at the moment, hence I didn’t bother buying any. I did fit out a basic “POSprey” though. It’s a basic ship (the Osprey) that is fit to sacrifice all defenses for an at least acceptable amount of shield healing. The idea is to use it if a Player Owned Starbase is attacked: as long as the control tower of that station is up, it projects an invulnerability field around it. You can sit in the invulnerability field (hence no need for defenses) and help heal the shields of the control tower, hoping the POS will survive the attack.
There are several things you can do to help out other ships. First of all, you can transfer capacitor energy from your ship to another. This is a job that is also subsumed under “Logistics” in EVE. Capacitor could be considered the “mana” of EVE. Most modules that you fit onto your ship will need capacitor to do anything. I don’t have experience with these kinds of ships, but I assume they would fit modules that increase their own capacitor recharge speed, so they can then support other ships by beaming it over. Second, you can fit modules onto ships that directly buff stats of your whole fleet: movement speed, shield and armor amount, etc. They have ludicrous CPU requirements that mean they can only be used on ships that come with some sort of bonus (such as “99% reduced CPU need for warfare link modules”). These ships are capital command ships, and battlecruisers. As I said, I can fly the drake, a battlecruiser, but I don’t have the skills to use warfare link modules, so I can’t be a buffer yet.
These are typically called “EWAR” (electronic warfare) in EVE. Debuffs come in four categories. Tracking disruptors make it harder for the debuffed ship to properly shoot enemies. Target painters make it easier to hit a target. This can be especially useful because larger ships have a hard time hitting smaller ships with their larger weapons (due to, for example, slower tracking speed – you see how the two belong together?). Sensor dampeners reduce the lock-on range for ships (you need to lock onto targets before you can shoot/debuff/buff them). ECM (electronic countermeasures) make the target completely lose all locks and unable to lock onto new targets.
That sounds very overpowered, and it would be, if not for a small detail: while the other debuffs are applied to a target and do their job 100% of the time, ECM only has a chance of working. Every 20 seconds, the attacker rolls a random number based on their ECM strength, and the attacked rolls a number based on their ship sensor strength (which is based on the ship type – larger ships typically have stronger sensors – and can be further boosted by certain modules). I have halfway decent skills for ECM, so I bought a couple of Blackbirds, which are dedicated ECM cruiser-class ships.
These fill one of the idiosyncratic EVE niches. In EVE, it is very easy to get away from fights. You hit your warp drive button, warp far far away, dock up in a station, and that’s it, you’re safe. To actually make people stay when the fight is not going their way, you need to deactivate their warp drivers by means of warp disruptors or scramblers (I won’t go into the details of the differences between them). Many larger ships fit at least one warp disruptor module, but larger ships are typically slow, so it’s hard for them to get into range and apply their modules. This is where the small ships, frigates specifically, come into play. They are fast, they are cheap, and they need very few skills to fly. The typical role of a new player in fleets is to fly a tackle frigate, a fast, lightly tanked ship that has one or several warp disruptor modules (typically complemented by a “webber” or two, which slows down ships that it gets applied to). The hope of a frigate pilot is that he’ll be able to dive in fast, stay close to its target, and orbit around it at high speed, so the enemy’s weapons won’t be able to hit it.
That often doesn’t work, especially if you’re new to the job. So the next best thing is to dive in fast, apply a tackle and simply survive long enough that others can come in and help tackling down the enemy ship. Tackle frigate pilots die. A lot. My personal opinion is that flying a tackle frigate as a new player is both a blessing and a curse. The ships are cheap, so you don’t lose much when you get blown up. On the other hand, you will get blown up, often very early, and you don’t have much margin for error. I am not that good at flying tackle frigates, I often die early enough that I won’t see much of the actual fight at all. Nevertheless, I bought a few frigates just to have them around in case we really need more people to fly them. Did I mention they are cheap enough I don’t really care?
You could argue that this list lacks several roles, either because I don’t have much experience with them (travel time decrease: some ships can put up jump portals that allow fleets to quickly jump to systems several normal stargate jumps away), or I’m not sure I’d consider them a full-fledged role instead of a sub-role (scouts). Furthermore, I am still new to many EVE mechanics, so I probably got several things wrong, and forgot a bunch of interesting details. So be careful with that information, and you’re welcome to point out mistakes so I can correct them. The main reason of this post is: I realized that it is really hard for people, even other RPG players, to follow things you say and write about EVE, because many things work so differently in the game – or work similarly, but have totally different names.