I have now officially moved to Aideron Robotics and am part of the Gallente militia in Faction Warfare. I started attending the open fleets and quickly found I was involved in more fights (and more kills) in one fleet a week with Aideron than I was in the rest of the week in Rifterlings. Now to be fair, I wasn't putting in a lot of time during the week, but still. Nonetheless, I also would recommend Rifterlings heartily to some pilots. So I'll review quickly how they're different and why I'm shifting corps.
I would recommend Rifterlings for someone who wants to get into solo and ad-hoc micro-gangs. The term "small fleet" is one that has a wide range of interpretations, so I'll try to be precise. Rifterling fleets are generally along the lines of "I'm roaming come join me." The fleet comp for the fleet might be described on comms as something like "Make sure you can fit into a small plex, we're going to have a Navitas so armor would be better, and try for MWD, but whatever you want is fine." There is a friendly, casual nature to the fleet comms. Rifterlings are generally happy to explain the difference between a scram and a long point, why you should warp to a plex at 10km, et cetera but may be a slightly different set of descriptions depending on the person. Most Rifterlings fleets top out at something like 8 or 9 pilots, though I've been ones large enough that the lead pilots had to figure out wings and such (that I know nothing about). This means that direction from the FC is primarily about getting the fight, and then it's more a matter of calling primary and having everyone do their own thing. Point Blank Alliance (which Rifterlings is the lead of) has in the past run themed fleets including the "Fuck Your Killboard" roam that led to my most expensive loss and my only combat against a dreadnaught, but those are rare - and one hasn't happened in months. Even in that big shiny roam the FC direction was mostly just primary calling. The most skilled Rifterlings are soloists, such as our famous CEO Fintarue.
Outside of the PVP there are plenty of Rifterlings making their ISK, and you can participate in a WH op or get into a discussion about the market and industry if you stumble onto the right conversation. This is of course in humorous contrast to the "PVE is forbidden in Sirekur" tag line which is currently displayed on a Mobile Depot outside of station. There is also plenty of chat on comms available for people on games other than Eve, though they generally keep it out of the main fleet comms.
Rifterlings are good people. I'm an easy going guy so it isn't that much to say that nobody pissed me off, but really they are a bunch of nice guys. I happily contracted a HAC over to a corp-mate the day before I left at a discount rate, and I know they'd have done the same for me. I'm sure they'll also have no compunctions about shooting me in the face if we see each other on grid, and I'm confident we'll joke about it afterwards too.
Aideron Robotics is part of Gallente Faction Warfare. I won't try to take time here to explain what that means, though I expect I'll be posting about the FW experience in the future. I'll also disclaimer that my impression so far are from a handful of fleets and the general new recruit training info. Aideron's motto is "making a better pilot" and like Rifterlings they take on the newest of the new. However, the approach is much more structured: train Gallente and train for specific fleet doctrine ships. While Aideron pilots may solo to plex and hunt, the focus of the corporation is fleet action. The open fleets I was in quickly went into the 12-20 ship range. The composition of those fleets is defined in theory and at least strongly considered in practice, with concessions to reality such as a cruiser-fleet will have some newer pilots in a meta-fit Atron as tackle. The direction I've seen from FCs so far includes considerably more direction both in terms of reminders for those new to the game or the doctrine ("Make sure your DC and TC are on") as well as more maneuver ("Align to X, prop mods on, keep on the primary, now switch back to Approach on Y, new primary is Y" as an opportune enemy has pulled out of position).
There is a risk that the fleet action of Aideron will start to feel more like the F1-button-pushing that I am distinctly not interested in from nullsec battles. However, I think that the smaller scale of things will help there, as well as the opportunity for me to move into a variety of non-dps-centric roles (tackle, ewar, scout, logi). I'm fortunate that as a slightly older character I have the skill ranks to do many of these things, even if I do not yet have the personal skill. I'm a lot more likely to learn how to fly an effective fleet-support Celestis in Aideron than I was ever going to in Rifterlings. I do expect that I'm not as likely to fly the shiny T2 hulls I recently trained into, but I found I wasn't finding a good opportunity for than in Rifterlings (outside of PVE) either.
Aideron is also definitely not as casual as Rifterlings. I have once heard a Rifterlings comm discussion about how a fight went bad and what so-and-so should have done instead, but mostly it is "gf in local, reship and we'll meet back in Sirekur, watch out for camps." Aideron comms is definitely going be more disciplined, which also means having tougher conversations about why a fight went the way it did so that everyone can do better next time. I think that at the end of the day people like Marcel and Asherothi think of it as a game and something for fun and aren't going to go overboard, but that just like any game you have to be some level of serious to improve.
Faction Warfare also means two things that I'm looking forward to. The first is an objective beyond "find a fight tonight" in the form of warzone control. I can really see myself getting into that, though I know that I'm not exactly likely to have any big input into the corp or militia strategy for a long time. The second is the opportunity to make LP (and thus ISK) either while in fleet action (through the LP for killing enemy militia) or when there isn't a fleet (or I don't have time/brain) in the form of plexing. I'd like to reassure my old Rifterlings friends as well as my new Aideron corpmates that I will never by flying a stabbed up farming fit - if you come into a plex I'm in then I may run away if I don't like the odds of your three AFs against my Incursus, but you're more likely to just find me overheating everything.
Sidenote: Standings and Sec Status
I have said before that what turned me away from my previous brief stint in FW was the standings loss with the opposition. Since then I've paid the PLEX to develop an alt for industry, so I expect to just deal with any awkwardness on the resupply side there. We'll see how that goes. I've also generally been convinced that faction standing is just another resource you can burn down and rebuilt. I'd hate to have to, but I could probably find a way to get the standing back if needed, though not as easily as sec status.
Speaking of sec status, in Rifterlings I had been using ratting between fights to keep my sec status around -2.5. In one night with Aideron I knocked down to -3.1 as we smashed a neutral/pirate fleet. We'll see how that goes then. Given that Aideron capsuleers are not to go into high sec I won't see a real impact there until I hit -5.0, which granted might not be too far away.
I think in a future post I'll talk about all the things you need to do when shifting corps, since it can be quite a list each with different things to do: fitted ships, unfitted ships/modules, clones.