“You must not ask yourself what your fleet can do for you, but what you can do for your fleet.” – Apoth, trying to sound fancy and provide a good opening to this post.
Something of a cliche I know, but I want to discuss the limits of what an FC can do for his or her fleet, and what is reasonable to (in my eyes) for newer players to expect from the FC (what each side cam do for each other, see?). As I FC for the UNI, I have (and continue to have) trouble finding the right things to say at the beginning of each fleet I run to introduce each player to the knowledge I need to communicate for whichever fleet I happen to be running. This problem is only exacerbated by the constant cycle of new students as will as non-consecutive participation (darn real life!), meaning that something mentioned last week may be vitally important or completely pointless to bring up in detail again. Not only this, but many members of the fleet will not have English as their native language, or come from a part of the world where my Bristolian accent is less than understandable. Equally, new players don’t necessarily know what they don’t know, or how much research to do between fleets. I remain of the opinion that to take part in the vast majority of fleets in the UNI all you need is a ship and a chair (though a microphone is preferred and the chair is optional, I happen to know a capsuleer who pilots from the comfort of a bean bag).
This idea came to the forefront my mind when I recently took a kiting cruiser fleet into Black Rise. This was the second ever kiting fleet I’d been on, and the first I’d FCed (having stolen the doctrine from the first), and it was certainly the first or second time flying in one for almost every pilot on the fleet. I’m sure you can all imagine what happened, and you’re exactly right. I didn’t originally want to go to Black Rise, but there are very few places you can go with a 60-man fleet and still have people shoot at you.
Given the inexperience of everyone involved, we had a dress rehearsal before we left Aldrat and to be frank I was actually rather pleased with how well everyone flew. Despite my best efforts and what I though was a good long explanation as we traveled to our destination, you could have probably written a short novel of other things I did not say that would have been useful.
Let us for a moment consider a “perfect FC” for new players. He covers every detail of fleet movements, exactly what he wants every ship to do at every point before and during the fleet in a perfectly clear and calm voice. He knows exactly how to communicate the finer points of what each pilot needs to be doing in a elegant way that covers the finer points and has helpful hints, without it becoming too much of an information overload. I think it’s fairly apparent that this is actually both impossible, and even if it were possible not a good thing. The start-up to each fleet would take over an hour, and the FC would have to be able to say multiple things simultaneously during combat, similar to the Djinni Bartimaeus having multiple consciousness in the fantastic trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. Not only this, but the repetition of the same information on every single fleet would bore every single pilot to tears.
On the other hand, any singular piece of information could be exactly what the fleet needs to hear for the concepts require to click in their minds. These fleets are designed to some extent to provide practical experience in each role over varying styles of fleets. To what extent can I expect EWar pilots to have attended/listened to “EWar 101”? To what extent can I rely on Squad Commanders to answer questions? Will the Squad Commanders give good answers? Will the new pilots ask the right questions, or even be confident enough to ask?
The only answer to this problem I have found is to cover the super basics on every fleet (insurance, clean clone) and then cover the vital points for the situations we are likely to face. If we’re brawling, focus on broadcasts, spreading points and keeping DD in optimals. As on the fleet mentioned previously, I focused on kiting distances & where each ship should be in the kiting blob, as well as the different target priority for both DD and EWar, given that they are significantly different from a close range slugfest. During bouts of Hi-Sec, when I’m hanging around in mumble, and directly after the fleet I constantly attempt to encourage discussion and questions, if there is anything anyone wants to bring up as well as in the AAR which I (usually) spent a good deal of time on.
This will be an ever-evolving problem, but hopefully over time I will learn how to communicate more eloquently and usefully to newbros, without boring or alienating oldbros. It’s more than likely that there is no solution, and each of us have to do the best we can and deal the hand we’re given when trying to pass on what information (however little it may be in my case) to players still discovering the basics of the game.