Updated Mon, Feb 08, 2010 by Space Junkie
This article is the first of a series presenting a general overview of combat in EVE Online. This article deals with the basic weapons systems and general capabilities of each player race, and provides a foundation of knowledge to use when evaluating ship types and weapon choice.
Weapon Size And Range
Each major class of weapons has a close-range and long-range version. The general rule is that that close-range weapons inflict more damage and are easier to fit on a ship, while long-range weapons inflict less damage and have a harder time tracking targets.
Weapons are also grouped according to size. Versions of each turret and missile system exist for frigate-sized ships, cruiser-sizes ships, battleship-sized ships, and for capitals and super-capitals. Each weapon excels at hitting ships of their own size and larger. Thus, weapons sized to be used by frigates can potentially hit any ship, while cruiser-sized weapons will deal radically less damage to frigates, and battleship weapons have a hard time hitting smaller targets, at all.
The Four Damage Types
There are four flavors of damage in EVE Online. Namely: EM, Explosive, Kinetic, and Thermal. EM is good at damaging shields but weak against armor, while explosive does a lot of armor damage but is less useful against shields. The other two are more subtle, depending on what race a ship is and what it is prepared to fight against. Each race excels at inflicting a particular kind of damage.
There are a bewildering number of ships available to pilots of each race. Each of these ships has special bonuses, a module slot layout, and statistics that allow it to excel at one or more roles. Although some ships are genuine lemons or are less effective than ships requiring more advanced skills, most ship excel at their task when properly fitted and piloted.
To this end, one of the best things to be done is to improve efficiency as a pilot is to compile a list of the most common ships used in PVP, and to print it out for hasty consultations during a fight. Eventually, the list will no longer be needed except when encountering the most rare ships.
Knowing the specifics of each ship is not necessary if the role of each race's ships is known. Here is an overview of each race and what their ships generally specialize in. Each race specializes in a particular weapon category, a particular kind of electronic warfare, and, with the exception of Caldari, has a few ships that specialize in a kind of "secondary" electronic warfare.
Amarr ships armor tank, use lasers or the occasional missile launcher, and tend to have ferociously powerful capacitor. Their primary racial ewar is tracking disruption, and their secondary racial ewar is energy vampires. Amarr hulls tend to be slower than those of other races, and to have fewer mid-slots, allowing them to specialize in absorbing or dealing damage, but with little flexibility, making their ships more predictable. Their ships tend to inflict EM damage, which excels at damaging shields but has trouble chewing through armor.
Caldari are the most popular race in EVE. Their ships shield tank, use missiles or hybrid turrets, and usually have a large number of mid-slots. Their primary racial ewar is ECM, and they do not have a "secondary" ewar type, but this is for the best as ECM is the king of ewar. Their ships tend to have a large number of mid-slots. This, and the unique ability of missile launchers to inflict any kind of damage make Caldari the most flexible race. Their ships tend to inflict kinetic damage, which does all right against both shield and armor.
Gallente ships armor tank and make heavy use of drones, often in tandem with hybrid turrets. Their primary racial ewar is Remote Sensor Dampening, and their secondary ewar type is warp disruption (or warp scrambling). They tend to have more balanced slot layouts. Their ships tend to deal thermal damage, which is generally considered the hardest kind of damage to protect against.
Minmatar ships shield tank and use projectiles, though they often have missile bonuses as well. Their primary racial ewar is target painting, and their secondary ewar type is stasis webifying. Their ships tend to have fewer low-slots, but more high and mid-slots. Minmatar are often considered to be the "speed race" because a number of their ships have gained notoriety for their effectiveness at speed-tanking. Minmatar ships tend to inflict explosive damage, which is great for damaging armor but less effective against shields.
Turrets and Tracking
Gun turrets include lasers, hybrids, and projectiles. They strike (or miss) their targets instantly. Their limitation lies in tracking, the idea being that the faster a target is moving, the harder it is to hit. What's more, the closer a target is to the attacking ship, the harder it is for the turrets to follow the target. A target that is holding still and is far off (yet still in range) is much easier to hit than a target that is nearby and orbiting at a great speed. Turrets have an optimal range, indicating the distance within which they are most likely to strike a target.
Turrets also have a falloff range beyond that, in which they have a reduced chance of hitting a target. The closer a target is to optimal range, the higher the chance a turret will hit, and the more damage it will do when it does. Additionally, turrets inflict reduced damage to targets with small signature radiuses (see below).
The names and damage types of each turret type are listed here:
Lasers: Lasers inflict heavy amounts of EM damage, with some thermal damage mixed in. Their short range Pulse lasers have very good optimal range and tracking, while their long-range Beam lasers have good optimal range and excellent damage. Lasers require high amounts of capacitor to use, and are difficult to fit. Without exception, only Amarr ships can effectively make use of lasers. Lasers do not require ammunition, but instead use crystals. The basic kinds of crystals are not expended with use, and can switch between different types nearly instantly. This allows competent laser-using pilot to optimize their weapons for whatever range their target is at.
Hybrids: Hybrids inflict a mix of thermal and kinetic damage. The short range version, Blasters, are very short range but inflict the highest damage of any turret type. They mostly find use on station undocks and gates, when mobility is less of an issue. Railguns, the long-range option, have exceptional range but poor tracking, making them most effective against larger targets. Hybrids require energy to use, though not at much as lasers, and can be used by most Gallente ships and some Caldari options.
Projectiles: Projectiles inflict a hodge-podge of damage types that always includes a large portion of explosive damage. The close range version is Autocannons, and have good tracking and rate of fire, insuring a steady stream of hits. The long range version is Artillery, which has decent damage and poor tracking. Projectiles are the only turret type that does not require energy, and are very easy to fit. As a result, even though it is only Minmatar ships that receive bonuses to their use, ships from other races will sometimes use them if energy or fitting is an issue.