Art by Redline XIII
I have no idea what percentage of EVE’s player base will ever lead a fleet in combat against hostile players. I would bet it’s less than 1% and might even be less than 0.1% (one player out of every thousand). For many players, myself included, being an FC just doesn’t sound fun. You’ve got perhaps as many as two hundred players, all counting on you to deliver them content, to lead them well, to pad their killboards. You have to know ridiculous amounts of information – and be able to remember it on the fly, in high-pressure situations – about the strengths and weaknesses of your fleet and the enemies’ fleets. You have to coordinate scouts, logistics, tackle, and damage-dealers, making sure everyone knows who to attack and who to repair. There’s a decent chance of getting publicly called out or memed on Reddit if you make a mistake. Who would ever want to deal with all that?
Thankfully for all of us, there are a number of people who eat all those challenges for breakfast and ask for seconds. Those people are our Fleet Commanders (FCs). One relatively new Goonswarm FC is Giribaldi, who was riding “backseat” on a recent fleet (assisting the FC) when the FC was called away by real life. Giribaldi found himself suddenly in charge of the full fleet, and led it as it carried out its original mission of destroying several hostile Cyno Jammers and Jump Gates. INN sat down for an interview with Giribaldi to talk about the process of becoming a Goonswarm FC and what his experiences have been.
INN: Can you tell the readers a little about yourself?
Giribaldi: I’m currently serving in the U.S Army as an Infantryman. I get out in 2 months, and I’ll be going back to California, which is where I was born. I have a long history in EVE Online as an FC and in life as a leader in the military, which is where I developed my passion for not just leading other soldiers but leading fleets as well. I’ve been playing EVE since 2016. I’ve had a few breaks but for the most part I have been an FC for a while. I’ve been in many senior FC positions [before joining Goonswarm] and once I was an alliance level sky marshal for two alliances. I joined EVE because both my brothers used to play and it was a family thing. Now it’s just me.
INN: Could you talk a bit about how you became an FC in your previous alliances, what made you want to do it, and what it was like becoming an FC for Goonswarm once you joined?
Giribaldi: I became an FC because when I joined the game my brothers loved PvP and I loved it too, but we lacked leadership. So naturally, because I loved the feeling of leading a fleet and it succeeding, I developed myself as an FC.
Becoming an FC for GSF was effortless really. Their system that they have for Skirmish Command (SC) is perfect in my opinion: any applicant gets vetted by the super secret squirrels, and once they pass the background check they are given a handful of tools and posts to read on how to be an FC. They even have FC mentors, though most people even if they aren’t [officially] a mentor step up to mentor in many ways, through backseating or by fire.
For me, my experience was rough as a SCFC because of my military background as a leader and because of my past FCing in lower population alliances, so I’ve made some major mistakes along the way – not so bad as to whelp a fleet but such things like forgetting ozone, or letting a titan doomsday me while trying to bait for it.
The fleet commanders are just like any squad really; they have their own little community, a way they like to conduct themselves and how others should conduct themselves, and it’s important you learn those things quickly.
As an FC you need to develop a level of humor and a thick skin in order to continue being a FC and to become better. I have personally been the butt of many jokes and Reddit posts since joining SCFCs, and it wont end. The way I look at it is that if someone is making fun of you it is because they like you and care about your progress, otherwise they wouldn’t waste their breath. So make sure you keep a positive state of mind and never let your failures affect your future as a FC.
INN: Can you tell the readers a little about what it’s like to backseat?
Giribaldi: To be a good backseat you need to shoulder a lot of the workload in order for the FC to be effective. A good backseat handles the boosters, gets an LA [logistics anchor] to organize the logi and verifies that he is doing a good job. He watches and calls out people who are making mistakes. He pays attention to key events that may tip the scale of war in the FC’s favor, whether it’s a Bifrost burning in to boosh your fleet or a enemy straggler way off his anchor. A backseat needs to be active and constantly busy scouting and helping to manage the fleet so that the FC and coordinate with other fleets and control his fleet effectively.
If you want to learn how to FC, ask to join as a secondary backseat so you can listen to how comms works between a backseat and an FC, and ask questions along the way to the FC and backseat FC.
INN: What would you say are the hardest parts and the most fun parts of FCing?
Giribaldi: The hardest part of FCing for me is not losing my composure when a portion of the fleet doesn’t listen to your commands whether it be because they aren’t in comms, or because they are in different fleets with multiple characters at the same time. Remember, your job as an FC also includes making sure your fleet is having fun. If you ruin their fun by raging like ProGodLegend, you’ll find that your morale and participation will plummet.
One fun part of FCing is going against odds that you know you should lose, but because of you and your backseat, as well as the fleet’s ability to perform at their best, you overcome those odds and win the fight. Those are my most loved fleets and I’m sure a lot of players will agree.
Being able to prove yourself as a competent FC to those above you and even to your peers is also an amazing thing about FCing. Being an FC you set yourself apart from those F1 monkeys, and it’s something only very few can do or will do. There is no better feeling than recognition of one’s own accomplishments.
That’s also why one of the most essential things an FC needs to do is to reassure his fleet that they performed admirably and that he was impressed.
One of the hardest parts of FCing is the failures. You need to take your failures and turn them into a way to succeed the next time; don’t let the failures you go through get in the way of you becoming the best. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day and the best FCs weren’t born good – they developed themselves every single day.
INN: Can you tell a story or two of a memorable moment or a nervous moment for one of the fleets you’ve led?
Giribaldi: Every fleet I’ve ever led makes me anxious and provides me with an adrenaline rush…at least the ones where we see actual combat, that is. Being anxious or nervous isn’t a bad thing, because it makes you cautious, it makes you analyze and that is a good thing. The biggest thing is not letting that cause you to freeze.
I remember a fleet that me and Pittsburgh were doing with a 120 man fleet of Feroxes within Liberty Squad. Zed Starshine came in after we had cleared our objective and started relaying back that Pandemic Horde had formed an Ishtar fleet of about 80 to come fight us. With the assistance of a ship scanner interceptor we were able to see that they were set up for [a drone loadout of] 2 Bouncer sentries and 1 Ogre heavy, and I knew that we could easily out-fight and maneuver an Ishtar fleet. So as we were heading home in an attempt to make them think we were running, they bridged into the system we were in and warped to our out-gate at range and dropped sentries. I told my fleet to jump and waited for Pitts to get his dictor ready. After a failed attempt to separate their fleet we decided to go one more jump and aggressively pulverize them as they jumped in to anchor and add cap chain. The idea worked; I burned us 65km away from gate and as they jumped in I started an orbit of the gate giving us perfect transversal against their bouncers. They weren’t hitting a single ship effectively.
And because of that on the initial decloak we were able to focus down 2-3 of their logis before they decided to burn into close range and use tracking disruptors + heavy drones to blap our fleet. Because I didn’t activate MWDs, the Ogres hit on the initial wave, but were evaporated by my wing of Recons who had smartbombs fitted. They were able to get 1 ship into low structure during the heavy wave, but because their wave of heavies were quickly disintegrated we were able to gain a massive advantage. They maintained a 25km orbit and dropped Bouncers. I kept my fleet MWDs off and led us angled into the Bouncers to line up smartbombs and avoid their damage. In this time we were able to clear 80% of their logi power and as we started to kill their boosters and main line ships their FC sounded a retreat. We held the grid to loot and than evacuated back to Uemon.
A second situation, while also in GSF, I was FCing a hot-drop fleet within Space Violence, and in an attempt to bait out their titan doomsday I sieged on their main station and started blapping subcaps.
Just as the titan showed up on grid I disappeared and found out that I had effects turned off [in graphics settings] so I couldn’t see his doomsday. Kendarr was not happy. I laughed hysterically, to be honest; my failures often make me laugh, so long as I’m the only one who suffers.
INN: What kinds of fleets have you led so far in the Glassing of Tribute, and how do you feel you’re contributing to the war effort?
Giribaldi: So I’ve FC’d quite a few fleets, and backseated even more. I feel I have been very effective and active in assisting in the Glassing of Tribute just as much as any other FC, whether it led to a fight or not. Unfortunately, the way EVE works is not all timers will produce fights; only key structures will. So whether you are FCing a fleet to reinforce a structure or to kill the structure, it really doesn’t matter, because all of it leads up to the grand finale, and at the end of the day YOU helped get us there. In whatever way you helped, you helped. The biggest takeaway that I’ve learned from the current war is that people often join more than one fleet [with different characters] and i highly discourage that. I think that if you are going to join a fleet, forget about the PAPs man; join one fleet and be effective in that fleet, whether it’s as an FC or as a line member, because even SCFCs join as line members too. You can’t FC everything.
Everything we do as FCs is important to the war, even if you don’t see it. There is a bigger picture, and although sometimes OPS FCs and coordinators don’t always explain the bigger picture for OPSEC reasons, trust me when I say your participation and help matters.
All the fights, events, and anything else that happens in this war, is because of the participation of every man and woman in fleets, in ANY fleet no matter what it is.
If you read books on war, one of the common themes is that reducing (eliminating, destroying) an enemy’s infrastructure and supply line is the primary way to win a war. Without a way to resupply or somewhere to run away to, they are cut off and will suffer the most casualties.
Everything we are doing now is going to lead up to one grand finale, and trust me, EVERYONE WILL BE THERE.
I will divorce my dog , lock my GF in the closet and go AWOL in order to be there for the ENTIRE thing.
INN: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Giribaldi: I’d like to mention the people who continue to mentor me and thank them. Without the assistance of people like John Hartley, pittsburgh2989, Zed Starshine, Cainun, and formerly Kendarr, I would not be the FC I am today. I appreciate their continued help, support, and guidance in my goals to being the best FC I can be. These are just a few of the ones who have affected me as an FC and their are still some nameless ones out there who also deserve credit.
It’s easy to take for granted the wealth of opportunities we have within the Imperium, and the fact that at almost any given moment a person could hop into a fleet and go in search of some proper violence. Yet none of these fleets would happen without the expertise of our FCs, and the massive pyramid of training, support, and mentoring that gets them to the top of their abilities. Whoever you are, whether you’re in the Imperium or not, be sure to thank your FCs and tell them you appreciate the job they do. We wouldn’t get very far without them.