Being an effective member of a war fleet is an important part of belonging to a serious corporation, and also an important part for most EVE Online players' fun. These five rules will give a newish player a basic idea of how not to embarrass himself or accidentally trip up his friends when taking part in PvP operations.
PvPing is tricky work. Even under the best of conditions, you will still lose ships, and occasionally mess up and get your friends mad at you. But if you follow these guidelines, you should avoid the biggest pitfalls that cause newbies to not be desirable personnel for fleet operations. Master them, and you are what any serious corporation wants: an effective team PvPer that contributes to the total force projection of his corporation.
Rule One: Be Prepared
Ninety percent of combat takes place before you undock.
Being prepared is multifaceted. It means knowing where your corporation's base of operations is, be it station or POS. It means having a PvP ship fit and ready to roll at a moment's notice, so that no opportunities for PvP will be missed due to last minute scrambling to get a ship fit. If you can afford it, having two ships ready for use is a good idea. That way if your ship explodes you can easily rejoin a prolonged firefight without needing to take time to get everything set up, again. Your ships should conform to the standards of your corporation, if any. Even if a corporation does not have standardized fitting suggestions, it may have options listed under the ship fitting browser, or fleet commanders may express personal preferences.
Depending on what kind of operations your corporation pursues, it may be a good idea to have a spare remote-repair or long range heavy assault cruiser. These specialized fleets tend to get much better results than the usual mish-mash of random ships, so retaining one of these ships tends to pay dividends in killmails, assuming your fleet commanders are into it.
Being prepared also means remaining fiscally solvent. If you are broke, you are useless to your corporation. Thus, it is in your corporation's interest to keep you afloat. If you lack for opportunities to make ISK, ask your corp-mates what they have going on and if you can participate. Cooperative action is always more profitable than independent action, so you might be surprised about who will let you tag along for exploration, missions, or whatever else they have generating cash.
This rule can best be summed up as "no scrubs."
Rule Two: Don't Break Rank
The cohesive, controlled movement of a war fleet is one of the most important things that a fleet commander must manage. It is also one of the hardest. If people are constantly disobeying orders intentionally or because of short attention spans, an entire fleet can be lost or, even worse, end up not getting a fight at all. This is especially important in gank fleets that are looking for targets but must rely on not spooking the locals until they have what they want. One wayward pilot jumping into the wrong system can sour all of that. Jumping into the right system at the wrong time can be just as bad, driving away potential targets that might not have fled if the correct bait ship jumped in.
Similarly, don't do anything goofy like stay at a station or gate when the fleet commander tells you to warp out, or play games at the edge of a starbase force field. That stuff will get you killed dead, and moreover will reflect poorly on yourself, your corporation, and if applicable, your alliance as well.
Prompt adherance to command-level decisions is the best way to harness the potential of an entire fleet of people. If people just do there own thing, it ruins the whole point of collective action. If an order sounds garbled or you don't understand it, ask in fleet chat for the order to be repeated, or try to discern what to do based on the actions of the people around you.
Rule Three: Keep It Cool
There is a time and a place to criticize a fleet commander or corporation command staff, and the middle of a battle is not it. If the fleet commander solicits opinions or has been blown up and is no longer at the battle, that's one thing. If he is floundering or performing some grievous error, it might be worth risking the flak to speak up. Still, this is a tricky business, and some corporations will kick people out for offering contrary advice. So if you must interject, do so in the nicest way you can manage, and in a way that will let the fleet commander save face. EVE Online has pretty high stakes for PvP, and tempers tend to flare when things start going wrong. So be cool.
When you lose your ship, don't interrupt the flow of your voice communications to say so unless it is strategically important. "I'm dead" is not important, but "you just lost your interdictor" is. Don't ask what you did wrong right then and there. Don't bemoan your fate. All that can come afterwards, when the dust settles and things aren't still in flux.
After a fight is over, there is all the time in the world for hashing things out, pointing fingers, and complaining about what went wrong. So wait until then, and try to think about things with a sense of perspective in the meantime. Not only will you be calmer and more rational if you stew a bit before publishing a jeremiad about whatever it is that went wrong, but you will also enjoy PvP more.
Rule Four: Learn Your Game Mechanics
Nobody knows all there is to know about EVE Online, and anybody that claims they do is a liar. There are obscure mechanics, borderline bugs, and downright exploits, that make any body of knowledge incomplete. Add to that the constantly changing patches and game mechanic revisions, and you have a recipe for ignorance. Addressing your own ignorance as you encounter it is the mark of a good EVE player.
The entire game of EVE Online sometimes hinges on the smallest of game mechanics.
You don't need to be Encyclopedia Brown or anything. Just read up on whatever it is that you need to be worrying about, and maybe take notes or print out some helpful charts if you will need to refer to it very often. It's part of keeping yourself in top fighting form, and part of what makes you a valuable asset to a war fleet. Lord knows, when I first started learning how to use ECM it took forever to remember which jammers correspond to which race of ship. If I had not printed out an image explaining it and taped it to my monitor, I probably never would have learned them.
Rule Five: Be Dedicated When The Situation Calls For It
Not all corporations demand daily or even weekly activity. Not all corporations demand that any active member attend PvP ops. Not all corporations ask their members to stay awake until 2am defending their most important POS. But the corporations that do, and whose members respond, reap the rewards.
If your corporation doesn't do anything for you, that's one thing. But if you benefit from your corporation, it behooves you to respond appropriately when help is needed. I'm not saying you should call in sick from work to stay up late gaming. But most corporation members in EVE Online do not show even half of the dedication that pretty much any raiding guild member in WoW will display in order to participate. Part of that is due to differences in the accessibility of content between the two games, but part of that is because of the culture of the game. People don't expect to have to go to town for their corporation.
If you do, though, you're one of the valuable people. The real personnel assets. Dedication shows on a killboard or in the praise of your fellow corp-mates. If your dedication is matched by your competency, the sky is the limit. You may eventually become an officer or other important figure in your corporation. Certainly, the more reliably dedicated you are, the more opportunities will come your way. If your corporation does not seem to appreciate this dedication, find one that will. There are lots of corporations out there looking for players that won't quit the second something starts to get tough.
All things should be taken in moderation, of course, but when your corporation has its feet over the fire -and all corporations eventually do- it is up to members like you to help it pull through.