Flieger, grüß' mir die Sonne, grüß' mir die Sterne und grüß' mir den Mond. Dein Leben, das ist ein Schweben, durch die Ferne, die keiner bewohnt! - Hans Albers, F.P.1 antwortet nicht (Adaptation in the 80s: Extrabreit)

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Lost in the multiverse

My EDtacker seems to have lost calibration; when I look straight, it turns fully right. That is where I remember the button on its circuit board. I reach up and press the button on the top of my head. Click. My view centers, all is well. I just wish I had such a button at the top of my head also for some certain situations in real life. Click. All centered again. Sigh.

This session´s plan was slim. Get out there, try to do some pvp in a group. But first, I want to get a bit practice on my own. However, while I was rather jubilant yesterday about the raised frequency of encounters, tonight I am back and stuck in an empty lonely galaxy again. I supercruise a bit around Freeport and drop back, repeat. Some CMDR Backer# in Sidewinders appear now and then, but it would be downright unsportive and no challenge at all to attack them with a heavily armed Anaconda.

For a change, I decide to jump to Styx and figure out whether there is any difference to a system without any souvereignity. After some cruising and uncovering unidentified signals, I concede: No. Engage hyperjump to Eranin, looking for some combat in the high conflict zone close to Eranin 2. I tackle a Federal Anaconda. It is largely a matter of keeping on its tail and tickle it down while the Anaconda is busy with an Ernanin Sidewinder harrassing it. I get bored.

So I join the "TEST: mostly harmless" team speak again and find my bunch of people from last session. They, of course, hang out in Freeport, and just as I join, some serious PvP seems to evolve against two or three other CMDRs. I make haste back to Freeport. However, the multiverse is not on my side this night. I enter and just find one TEST colleague, CMDR McBane, who also tries to join the fray, but we are in a wrong instance of the multiverse. We try several times to get entrance into the right instance; he by save&quit and re-entering, me by supercruising and dropping back. It is fruitless. At some point we also loose each other. Needless to say, the original PvP situation had been dissolved already long ago.

In one or two instances, I re-encounter CMDR Rand Haginen, but he is blinking through the multiverse, too, then another TEST CMDR in a hauler, just as I chased away a CMDR Viper, so he has a safe passage to dock, then we loose each other quickly again.

So I fly alone again. Some sporadic encounters with other CMDRs occur. As usual, I leave the Sidewinders and "Backer#" players alone, as they are obviously not ready for PvP or no challenge to begin with. To not die of total boredom, I attack any CMDR Viper I meet. CMDR Birdawg´s Viper launches from Freeport and I am ready for him. However, he boosts away and, as if this was not enough to escape a slow-as-a-slug Anaconda, chickens out into a different part of the multiverse (i.e. saves&quits).

My only relief this game session comes with CMDR Kingkins, and a heartfelt thank you, dear CMDR, for having the courage to attack my Anaconda on sight. We had a nice little duel and I hope you earned some experience.

CMDR Kingkins sported beam lasers and railguns but did not manage to get through to my armor. With 7% hull, he boosted and jumped away. Good fight! The only weird thing; the CMDR was back after some 5 minutes and approaching Freeport in a straight line, even firing at me again. With 7% hull. Maybe he speculated on a quick pass due to his superiour speed, and indeed, my pulse lasers did not manage to fully get through his Viper´s shields. However, I send two missiles after him, which did not hit very well but at least took his shields down. After he was past, I turned after him, but my bottom turrets already had done their work and he exploded.

IMO, if a Viper wants to persevere against an Anaconda, it should not do jousting runs, as this only results in equally long, resp. short, firing positions for both sides and the Anaconda has more firepower. A better tactic would be to outmaneuver and out-turn the Anaconda from near close range. And for optimal damage, have at least a pair of cannons, which should have an easy aim agains such a big and slow target. Good flight next time!

I captured this little tussle on video, but there was a little accident. While the capturing software does not capture my constant voice commands via Voice Attack, it very well captures the ongoing chitchat from the Teamspeak client. The whole video with its dramatic combat scenes is covered by manly chitchat about gun sizes, probably bugged newtonian flight mechanics or not, instancing philosophying and justifying why one or the other let himself blew up in PvP while he graciously let escape the opponent. So, unusable, I have to find a way to shut it off for video capture, lest Teamspeak will be a no go again for me.

CMDR Nads in a Sidewinder captures my interest, as his Sidewinder shows off some nice colour scheme from the Frontier shop. I toyed with the thought to buy one, too, but they do not offer paint for Anacondas yet. I do not mind giving a little bit more profit to Frontier, as long as it does not intrude into gameplay mechanics. A choice for ship paint does not intrude and I think it is a good balance between merchandising and keeping a game intact. We have a brief chat via the ingame system; he is hunting criminals, me is hunting griefers, but we both admit, the time to search for some is excruciatingly long and the search is mostly not successful. After a while, I want to move on into the next instance of Freeport in the multiverse, to finally encounter more action.

On my supercruise, I am interdicted by three Cobras, and they pop out at very close range. They also launch close range full volleys of missiles. Déjà vu. This or similar setups had almost destoyed me two times in the past; once while I was still in a Lakon Type 9, once against four Sidewinders in my Viper. But at this occasion, I realize how much more experienced I have become, respectively how powerful a well equipped Anaconda is. Dispatching the Cobras happens almost like an afterthought and seems routine. I maneuver with FAoff/on until I have a Cobra showing its top-down profile and then empty my pulse laser´s capacitors. This is already sufficient and the Cobra is no more. While I am assaulted by two or three missile volleys, the numerous point defense systems do a top job and I do not even loose my shield.

Back in Freeport, I encouter one last CMDR Viper, but it makes away in haste before I can get through its shields. I then call it a night. My plan to find some group PvP and maybe even train some fleet combat maneuvers failed because the game was not able to make me stick together with none of my colleagues. The beta game utterly fails with regards to co-op multiplayer.

In the end, I wonder what is left for me to explore in this phase of the beta. I should probably reduce my game sessions, in order to not "burn out" or get bored from overuse. As it happens, the holiday period is ending, so some more RL obligations will get hold of me, anyways. Three more days, and a full month has passed since I started this blog and in addition to 2-5 hours gametime, I have created at least one blog entry per day since then. This means I have spend a huge amount of time with the game; considering my life situation, it is actually a crazy amount of time. However, it was a nice little holiday on the side, I can confidently say that I have suceeded in my game goals as far as possible and I know every aspect of the game in this beta phase. I am very much ready for the full game. Now the long wait starts, lost in the multiverse, until the "World of Elite"is ready for us.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Elite: Social

This headline should definitely NOT be the game´s title. The social experience in this beta version is rudimentary, at best. Nevertheless, the "social experience" is part of the game, and also my game strategy which I still stick to since I bought this beta version of a game.

The plan was to use stealth to waylay PvP-willing CMDRs around Freeport, trying also to make use of my new headtracking device to get a better immersion and more immersive dogfights. As concerning the actual game session, I overtasked myself quite a bit, to deal with the new head tracking input, to try out new stealth tactics and to go into PvP situations (and to keep track of everything via notes for the purpose of this blog). I was doing a lot of stupid mistakes because of this.

(This is also why I have little to offer in terms of screenshots or videos, this time.)

I positioned my Anaconda very close unter Freeport Station, in order to hide visual spotting and to go into stealth in order to disappear from radar. To be able to maintain stealth (i.e. closing all heat exhausts) for a longer period requires that you shut down the three main heat generators in the rightmenu: Engines (switch on for maneuvering only), Shields (are on standby during stealth, anyways, because they are an energy emitter by themselves), Frameshift (no need for, I will try to escape via docking if need be). Of course, the first thing I managed to do was to collide with the rolling dice of the station while in stealth, i.e. shields off. I had shut down the engine while my ship was still following a steering impulse. Bam! 14.000 Credits repair costs, thank you.

Sorted out again and positioned like this, I spotted CMDR Mushasi coming and going, but he was too far away and too fast, respectively I was struggling too much with all the controls. Stealth on/off, rightmenu-switching Engines on/off, keeping the ship positioned to identify CMDR ships in time, getting used to head-tracking. Gone he was. It is impossible anyways to stick to a Viper which does not want to engage, difficult even for another Viper. Same thing happened with CMDR King5ton, who also engaged stealth during final docking approach. No chance to get near quick enough. Have to mark this one as a more trained species of a pilot.

After a while, my ship suddenly started to take damage. Confused I checked heat; it was well within boundaries. Hastily I opened the heat dissipators; my cockpit was still afire. Maybe I was colliding with the station? I accelerated away. Still flickering sparks. I re-engaged every module, and finally it stopped. A bug?

To settle down my confusion and regain focus, I decided to do a little excursion to the asteroid field. I did a few loops there, close to asteroids and tried to incorporate my new head tracking for more precise glueing along the asteroids´ surface. Then CMDR Speedsarge appeared on radar. Trying to approach him in stealth worked out and I opened fire. However, his superiour speed in his Cobra carried him quickly out of range and he hyperjumped away. This demonstrates again very clearly that Anacondas are only good for fixed-location battles and less for roaming fights; the enemy has to come to you or you are literally left for yourself. To top it all off, I manage to collide with an asteroid; shields down still from my stealth approach, this nets me another 23.000 Credits repair costs.

Supercruising back to Freeport, I gave up trying to handle stealth and focused on combat and headtracking alone. CMDR Trollis´ Viper sat in the docking ring, a classical griefer position. He targeted me warily, but I decided to dock first and repair. I launched again and he was still there. Time for action.

Circling a bit to see what he was up to, and lo! and behold, a CMDR Backer#41245 appeared, and I observed already by the way he handled docking approach that he is not a very practised pilot yet. CMDR Trollis opens up fire and, by showing only his small frontal profile to the opponent, even a practiced pilot would have had difficulties to fire back without hitting the station (and I doubt this CMDR Backer even realized at that moment what was happening; I know the feeling too well!). But not me, as I float slightly above CMDR Trollis´ Viper and have its full top-down profile in my target reticule. Fire! Pulse lasers tear through the Viper´s shields and crisp its armor. While he reacts fast and accelerates away, he is already down to 80%. Right before I loose my firing position due to the Anaconda´s slow turning rate, I send him a bundle of two times three C2 missiles. Down he goes in flames. Jay! Feel the fire of justice!

There is a smallish problem, though. Freeport station suddenly is a red blip to me. I boost away in haste, thankfully unharmed, and wonder what happened. I had made painstakingly sure that my laser fire could only hit the ship, by staying in parallel and above my target so that I could not hit the station wall.
No idea how to reset Freeport to neutral status, so I supercruise away for a while, back in the asteroid field and come back to Freeport. The odd interdiction only brings up civil ships.

Back at the station, it is neutral again, and I am alone. But soon again, other commanders join me. This is new in this beta; while I used to be alone for most of the time during earlier sessions, today, and also last session, I notice a significant increase of appearance of other commanders. Frontier must be cranking up the network capabilities of the beta servers.

I notice CMDR Spliffy in an Anaconda and wonder if I should engage finally a worthy enemy ship. Exactly at this moment, I hear the humming of a Viper! WTF!? This must be a sneaky CMDR right at my six! I frantically turn and with noticable difficulty, I finally manage to seperate a blip on the radar from my own one. It is CMDR Trollis. I wonder why he did not use his advantage of the moment, and as response in kind, I do not open fire either.

However, the temporary truce is quickly broken and CMDR Trollis opens the dance, from a distance. He quickly hides behind the station, and the next five minutes we play hide and seek. Then my shield flashes up and dies and I hear the cackling of enemy fire on my hull. WTF? Freeport turned red on the radar. WTF. I boost away but little chance I have to get out of mass lock in time. My ship explodes around me. By hindsight, I should have probably tried to get docking clearance and land, but I am not sure if you can still dock after agressed and I was on the other side of the dice, and thus too far away to make it in time anyways.

Insurance sends me a bill of 406.000 Credits, due now,  and I am back in my ship. After launch, no trace of CMDR Trollis, so unfortunately no revanche for me. Instead, CMDR King5ton is back, happily cruising around with CMDR Finn Lazereyes. I hesitate to engage two Vipers at once, besides they seem to be not engaged in griefing, so I decide instead to try once again the social aspect and open vioce commm.

To my surprise, a distinguished gentleman´s voice, muffled a bit by sound effects simulating a radio-talk, answers me. Hello Finn. However, there seems to be a significant delay in transmission so that a flowing conversation is not possible and we quickly give up. Also I note a little bug where all sound seems to be a bit muted, even after terminating voicecomm.

I feel a little unfocused and need a little break from all the newness and decide to go for some brainlessness; there was a white target which consisted of an inert HE seeker missile and my point defense turrents automatically destroyed it. A new one poped up at 6 km. I follow up. There is a whole trail of HE seekers, evenly spaced at 6km. Hmm, maybe it was indeed a trail to follow? I want to find out and follow for about 15 minutes, then I give up. By then, I am about 120 km from the station. 

- nice view, especially with head tracking and my nose slightly raised; however, it should definitely be a bit more flare-ish (looks more like living room furniture at this stage!)
In order to get beck to the station quickly, I enter supercruise, check some unidentified signals, relax and enjoy the scenery, especially the new impression from being able to spot and follow the now numerous other player ships zipping around just by turning my head.

Back at the station, I resume my PvP patrol. CMDR Lehovron in a Viper is close, and I do not remember who started the dance, am still a little bit unfocused. While it starts allright, I am suddenly again confronted with the red blip of Freeport station, opening fire liberally on me. WTF. I was taking care to not hit it, was I!?! I am close to the docking entrance, so I request docking (which, surprisingly, indeed works!) and land under heavy station fire. I have trouble to not loose it. An "Elite"-moment of rather embarrasing nature. With a sliver of 13 % hull, the landing pad´s magnetic clamps finally catch me and fire ceases. Whew.

I hastily press F1 to save the video recording. I have to find out why Freeport is of such an animus tonight! Is this a major bug of the beta? By hindsight; no, it is not. The advanced and regular pilot-reader of this blog will already know the consistent mistake of mine. If not, I will explain this at the end of this blog entry.

Repairs cost me 135.000 Credits this time. The Anaconda sure is an expensive means for experiment and high-risk PvP! Disengaged from the launch pad, I resume circling the station. Soon, CMRD Pleborian appears, and a moment later, also CMDR Lehovron. I am never sure whether players arrive in a regular fashion via supercruise, or if the server phases them in from another instance; suddenly they appear on my radar, already close to the docking entrance area, while I am way outwards, "below". Thus, they dock before I can even get close to a firing position. CMDR Lehovron still stays inside on-radar for a while and I wonder if he will come back out and engage. I also notice CMDR Backer#41245 is back; he is inside the station and my scan shows him at 73%. I wonder if he got attacked inside and whether and how I should interfere to protect another beginner pilot from the griefer rabble around here.

Only later, when all three blips are gone already and I am alone around Freeport, I notice that CMDR Lehovron in fact tried to text-chat with me. Sorry, I did not notice! And thanks for the friendly, if not quizzical, advise; "\o/ try not to get killed by the station". Hehe, if you knew, if you knew, friend. Maybe you find this blog entry, one day!

After a short while, CMDR Backer#41245 leaves again, and he leaves the station without his shield online. Someone ought to tell him that he should stay docked until it regenerated in the background (which it does, even if it not shows while docked).

Again with I guess a server-phasing-in event, new hollow blips appear. They should definitly stop this phasing in stuff. It is irritating at best to not know where folks arrive from and whether they just escaped my attention or indeed "appeared out of nothing"!

Enter CMDR Rand Haginen (Viper) and CMDR Lord PJ (Anaconda). Ouch. They obviously belong together, otherwise they would not circle around each other so airily. An engagement would be surely to my disadvantage. They spot me and approach. I am now more attentive to the comm panel, so this time I spot the text chat popping a line, and CMDR Haginen asks "Can we shoot you?"
My, how polite, is he!? I verify that he means indeed just him, not his big Anaconda bouncer right behind him. Yes. Fire!

It is a nice little dance and I fully enjoy finally a moment where I have a challenging opponent and, for once, all my tactics designed to beat a challenging opponent are fully working themselves out. I am still in shields when he is down to 7%, and I did not even use missiles in this friendly contest. I stop the engagement, and as if to make sure that peace is kept, the big brother Anaconda CMDR Lord PJ gets close, I imagine with a wary eye. He gets close, literally, and we touch with our bows. The Viper joins soon after and we have a nice threesome.

I am a bit out of the water here. So far, this game was largely a solo experience, in a vast, inspiring and  frightenly big milky way of 400 billion star systems, with the occasional encounter with a CMDR being a welcome, if anonymous, combat challenge. Now the social MMO part seems to kick in, marked by my Anaconda drifting around in space in a close nose-to-nose with another (male) Anaconda and a (male) Viper hugging me head-over on my back!

We try to chat a while via the cumbersome text chat system, then it turns out they have teamspeak and I join their little group of one US guy, one Swedish and two German (I hope irrc) and put them on the friends list. I did not even have the TS client installed anymore, so long ago seems my last social ventures in an MMO game. Time flies!

It turns out these two guys are part of a rather public alliance called "TEST: mostly harmless", apparently founded in some reddit channel, some time ago. I join their teamspeak and we exchange a bit of experience. CMDR Lord PJ and me agree on another friendly tussle, between our Anacondas. We start at mid range, and to my dismay I have to discover that, while he also seems to sport gimbal pulse lasers, I seem to do much less damage in comparision. I boost to get close, out of his firing position, but the boost carries me way to far away. Another jousting approach takes place and I am already down to 47%, while he is still at 87%, so I call for a cease fire.

 - A partner Anaconda to practice with, how nice!

I forgot to ask about his weapon loadout. By hindsight, since we both had about equal times in firing position, he could have had more net damage if he was full laser-equiped. I instead had two C2 missile launchers, which I chose not to use in "friendly" engagements due to their unpredictabile damage, in order to not accidentally destroy him; and two C4 pulse turrets, which are relatively unreliable at hitting at a distance. This probably made the difference to victory, along with the kind of randomized relyablilty of the gimbal´s targeting algorythm. Ah, and maybe also the armor type; I have reactive armor, which is hardened to bullets but susceptible to laser fire.

Think about the social part, it would be nice to have a "duel mode" for your weaponry so that hits and damage are only simulated and do not incur repair costs or ship loss. I have to pay again 83.000 Credits for this little exercise.

We spend the rest of the game session with ramping around like some playful school of dolphins. During conversations, I mention that my mission was to blow some griefers out of the water, but I am having difficulties in actually finding griefers, i.e. the game seems much more peaceful than what I have read in some threads in the ED forum. "Well, erm", replies one of them, "actually, it might be that we are those griefers they write about in the forum..." Oooops. FIRE!


But maybe next time!  ;-)

Instead I jokingly reply that these guys must be the most polite griefers I ever encountered. Remember our first contact; "May I shoot you?", indeed! Haginen explains that he was just like this because of my earlier initiative of a friendly chat with King5ton; well, ok, my fault then...  ;*)

As it is late, I log off after some time. I wonder if this more "social" game experience of hanging out together in front of Stormwind.., uhm, Freeport, really belongs to a game like Elite. Right now, I am happy to go along, since the full gameplay potential of Elite: Dangerous is still to come, nothing really to do as a group right now. However, I still have to think about what I want to do for my next session, as just hanging around again like this would probably be not satisfying for itself. And I want to be no part in shooting down haulers (Yet. I might choose a pirate´s career later on...)

All in all, during this game session I lost about 1.000.000 Credits to repairs and insurance. Riding an Anaconda through rocky waves of PvP is an expensive venture, but it was fully worth it. One more session like this and I have to go back to hauling, though.

- chilling out in front of Freeport; "Elite: Social", for a little while in between

At the end of this blog post, finally the solution to the enigma as to why Freeport chose to attack me so often during this session. Remember my weapon setup? I better should, next time. Two C4 pulse laser turrets. They reset and target anything, if not disciplined every new drop/launch into normspace. Bam. No wonder Freeport was pissed-off. There you are, I have flown like a true newb, once more!

EDtracker review

My next game session was cut short, very much so. My EDtracker had arrived, quite early, and already pre-assembled/configured. This input device will be mounted on top of my headset and translate my head movements into a joystick-equivalent input, best used for free head-turning in the cockpit. The game conveniently allows for seperate control settings to this ends; one of the many wonderful and well thought-through features of Elite: Dangerous. 

I went through calibration and drift-setting exercises because the device worked a bit strange after I just installed the drivers and I tried it first in the game without this. This took me the better part of the evening, I am not very much aquainted with flashing, firmware and embedding circuitry into software. My main problem was that I first had to understand that you have to "load"/"flash" two different programms; first the calibration firmware and then later the drift-control firmware, which also allows you to do final settings, like for example setting the sensitivity (which I really recommend to do in conjunction with the game settings in order to make the input feel really natural and comfortable). Also, the flashing always caused the EDtracker to loose connection, which I could only solve by restarting the computer. But I worked it out in the end, and I exitedly started my game session.

Just having to get used to a new control input distracted me a lot and almost overtasked me. I felt and steered like a true newb again. Also, to be honest, the added level of immersion underwhelmed me. This might be because it still takes some getting used to, to make it feel a more natural experienced. A colleague gamer told me, it does not feel very "wow!"-ish, but after a while you would miss the feature to turn your head in every game environment.

What I still cannot get used to is that the tracking seems to have a certain "resistance" when you want to look away from the center-frontal looking position. It feels like having to overcome a kinf of a switch-barrier by moving your head a bit more then you should, i.e. the view drags behind your movement, before the view turns in sync with your head movement again; a kind of irritating "head-snapping" effect. I wish I could find a setting which makes the input translate into a truly linear movement (it is not the dead zone, I have set it to zero). Also, I have to find a way to position the standard position a bit higher, therby omitting the instrument panel, so that I will have to look down a bit in order to actually look at the instruments; like I do in my car. It feels a bit irritating to always have the instrument panel obstructing your view and I found that I instincively played with my nose raised a bit upwards, which felt kind of awkward.

Also, who the hell had the idea to put LEDs on that thing? You should have seen my wife´s look when she saw me sitting there, in the convenient half-darkness of my computer room, "with a lightbulp on top of my head", as she expressed it. Yes, it is hard to be cool as a geek!

Can it get any nerd´ier? Sure! Wait till the Oculus Rift consumer version is out next year! Anyways, I am sure it will take a few more game session to really get comfortable with this new type of input control.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Abraka Drabble

I think it is time to sort and collect the Abraka Drabbles which I participated in so far in the ED forum. They were all directly taken from my game experience and this blog and transformed a bit, made a bit moody´er.

What is an Abraka Drabble? The description in the forum is a bit confusing at first ("Have fun with creating your mini masterpieces."), but it basically boils down to this: Write a maximum of 100 words on a certain topic, given each week, and set in the Elite-Universe. I think this is a fantastic opportunity to start being a poet. It is fun, highly diverse, full of creative nonsense, and as such can only be highly recommended.

Dangerous Wildlife

After about 20 Minutes boredom, the Eagle spots a Cobra trailing slowly through the nightsky, and nosedives for it. Multicannons spit and spark and the Cobra hisses in pain and meets its demise, however, not after biting painfully back with a pair of railfangs, scraping away some skin from under the Eagle´s feathers. Here, pick a 650 Credit voucher. Not long after, another Cobra manages to slide away in time, but spills its entrails after being slashed by the Eagles claws. Great, sugar and mineral oil; I can probably mix it and sell it as Coffee on the black market!
- 8 August 2014 

Beta Iliad

The railgun, this alpha beast, became a beta waste of slots. Alphastrike, initial burst, they whisper in feeds, is snuck upon by cannons and missiles, those ancient harriers of war. Vipers rot together in numbers, bored and hunger´d by lack of prey, and Anacondas´ a muscular form are seen; more and more. The hissing and moaning of the collective soul swells, it always does, since newness and wonder slowly dull away, under the harsh gaze of mastery and the whip of routine. Innocents slaughtered, hapless space cities beleagured, the just cry out. They hunger; the decline of beta is nigh.
- 14 August 2014

Planetary grandeur

Its majestic sight draws me in. I let my ship drift along in silence, frameshift a bit and jump back to normspace, repeat. An unidentified signal close to the planet´s ring beckons me; a ship lost its cargo of Coltan there, and I scoop it in, so very close to the planet. The planet looms over me, I feel almost drawn towards it, the visuality instills a feeling of its mighty gravitational pull. It dwarfes you. I can see mountains and valleys and I know, one day, I will finally find my way to descend and touch virtual extra terra.
- 22 August 2014

As it turns out, Mr. Freeport-thank-you-very-much gives a damn about my purely selfless effort to clear his station´s perimeter of those loitering hot-shot Viper pilots. Actually, I am told by a heavily armed representative, Mr. Freeport is very unhappy right now, because of several new dents and kinks in his property and I ought to have to do something about it as a compensatory means?
I hastily open up the mission bulletin and offer to accept any mission in Mr. Freeport´s name. Seems Mr. Freeport just sucessfully recruited my Anaconda as part of his special forces to collect some debts. 
- 28 August 2014

Birthday cake

A ship approaches; an Anaconda class system security vessel. It starts scanning and I already know that a hell of a fight is pending, once their screen will start flashing red.
The ship looses some cargo before I obliterate it. Because I can. Yes, feel the dark side, feel my power. But even as monstrous murderer and pirate, I must sustain my life and my murder weapon. So I start scooping. Grain. Biowaste. Radioactive Waste. Consumer Electronics. Cobalt. It is not easy to be a murderer and pirate. A cargo units pops open. What the...? Slaves; women, children. Happy birthday, hero.
- 4 September 2014

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Mr. Freeport and the Morgor patrol

[My last game session just felt too much grindy and meta-gameish for me to really enjoy it. Inspired by the story mood of this video, I realized that all this powergaming makes you quickly forget the purpose of the game: To live a spaceship pilot´s adventures in the galaxy. So screw this weapon testing thing and get back into the mood!]


So.... yep, I am on Morgor patrol. Far out. And I owe Mr. Freeport (THE Mr. Freeport, as in "Freeport Station"!) a big favour, which I try to pay off out here. How come? Well, let me tell ya...

As I launch my nightly diddle-do runs once more from Freeport, there are several hollow blips on my radar. Hrm, well, perhaps I should go out and secure the close perimeter? I am sure Freeport traffic control or even Mr. Freeport himself would be happy to be relieved from those hot-shots-Viper-pilots-rabble lungering in front of his doors!  Mr. Freeport is said to be a tolerant man, but also a man of tough business, the occasion could make myself good in his books here...

CMDR Wonne is on target, another CMDR Backer# zips around. The latter turns out to be no headache, as this particular hot shot tries a very fancy docking entrance maneuver and manages to misestimate and enters the multiverse after ping-ponging in the docking corridor. ... What? Noo, it is VERY improbable, it has really nothing to do with the toothy grin of my Anaconda, pushing her snout through the corridor right that same moment!

In my haste to get clear I steer too low and get myself stuck in the docking entrance; but I am lucky and CMDR Wonne seems unsuspecting and keeps his static postion; good... I open fire. Amazing how fast pilots can react when you pad them unsuspecting on the back... this Viper turns and boosts behind the station, its shields are almost down. We play a bit hide and seek with the station in between us, then CMDR Wonne decides to go for it. He comes in very flat around the stations´s dice, but I was awaiting him. A brief exchange of laser fire with tungsten rounds and he has passed. Both him and me touch the station in our frantic maneuvering and I get stuck again on some antenna. Ouch, receive 100% piercing damage; my shields are now down, too, the CMDR ist at 87% hull.

Once I manage to unstick my clumsy ship the situation becomes even hotter for my ship, and in consequence, for me. A second CMDR´s Viper decided to join the party and both Vipers open up on me with multicannon-fire. My ship is already weakened, so I decide to play it save and to go immediately back into docking. Sorry for the slight damage, Mr. Freeport, I pay for the rep!

I am a bit frantic and manage to screw the comm panel for some seconds, while the Vipers´ fire goes on relentlessly. I am again thankful for my correct bet that most PvP-oriented players would go for multicannons and thus I installed reactive armor on my ship. As I am finally save inside, my ship is down to 61% hull. I wouldn´t have survived an extended combat out there. Here is the vid report for the turns so far.

After necessary reperatures and a "sorry" to Freeport traffic control for the hassle, I launch again. There is still one red blip out there, and since it is not CMDR Wonne, this must be the his partner-of-the moment, which I can now identify as CMDR Schlack. Target locked. Caution is required again, because there is also a CMRD Frigus in a Cobra outside.

My exit is again too hasty and like a true noob I manage to get myself again tangled with the station, this time with the exit frame´s protruding antennae. But I am also full of adrenaline and CMDR Schlack is in firing position, so, FIRE! Strange, his shields are already down and it could not have been my puny first salvo, of which only half actually hits. As the Viper quickly turns around to boost out of my weapon´s firing range, his hull dissolves further. Very quickly. Then I can clearly see the station guns firing on him. The commander boosts away and enters hyperspace at 77% hull. I guess he opened fire on me a little bit too early, while I was still exiting, and hit the station instead. Should I count this a win for me? If not by mesmerizing skill, then by tactics; station hugging is indeed a standard part of my repertoire and I was fully counting on moments when my hot-shot opponents would actually hit the station walls behind me instead. Bingo!?... Naww, who am I fooling, here? I was just lucky, once again.

 - always pay the station gunners a drink before leaving

CMRD Frigus in a Cobra has decided to preemtively disengage and enter hyperspace. To conclude my check of the close perimeter, I stay around a bit. Behold, after some minutes, CMDR Distance lauches from Freeport in his Viper. My ship is in a perfect position to open fire. Weapon capacitors are only half emptied when his shields are down and hull at 91% when he boosts past. The fight is already over. Once more, Mr. Freeport suddenly decides to intervene and his station´s mighty guns make short work of the poor commander. I wonder if it is a bug or if indeed other players might be as adrenaline-pumped as me and do some stupid mistakes now and then, like, shooting blindly and hitting the station wall instead of the opponent...

My close perimeter patrol is almost at an end. Some more minutes around, I spot CMDR Distance again in a new best-second-hand Viper as he launches from Freeport. He has become very cautious now and sticks inside. A long time, and I wonder already if he gave the guys over at station control a little tip. Actually, I wonder if he is somehow already out and behind the station? Right as my Anaconda turns a bit too far from the entrance, he decides to go for it and boosts right out of the docking corridor. I have no chance to swing back around in time, and once I did, he is already 2km+ away and has toggled stealth, which means my gimbal lasers cannot target him anymore. He jumps out shortly after. Well played, CMDR Distance! You had decided for your tactic and executed it sucessfully. This is what a good battle is about.

There is one last CMDR Izor, but he is too far away and too wary of, and too fast for, me to catch. With all rabble cleared around the station, it is time to dock one last time and not forget to honour my commitment to Mr. Freeport. A favour for a favour.

Turns out, Mr. Freeport-thank-you-very-much gives a damn about me efforts. Actually, I am told by a somewhat heavily armed representative, Mr. Freeport looks very unhappy at the moment, because of several new dents and kinks in his property and I ought to have to do something about it as a compensatory means?

I hastily open up the mission bulletin and offer to accept any mission in Mr. Freeport´s name. This way, Mr. Freeport gets himself a high-end battlecruiser for very cheap to do a deep space patrol along Morgor, LFT 992 and h Draconis; to cash in 1500 Credits after 5 very specific pirates have been successfully eliminated. Hey, this kind of cash does not even cover one single missile I should use!?! - Mr. Freeport`s representative then reminds me, waving politely with some heavy metal in his hand, again of some particular dents and the corresponding compensatory requirements...

So, here I am now and spend the rest of the evening in deep space, which the practical German-bred spacer would call JWD ("jans weit draussen" - very much far out there). Out in Morgor, I head for Morgor 2, which is far off the normal traffic routes, and hope to intercept suspicious unidentified signals. The patrol then takes me to LFT 992, where I check Szulkin Mines, a far away outpost at the outer fringe of the known beta cluster. And I can tell you, you cannot go more backwater than this! A last step should then have been h Draconis. On top, the mission bulleting conveniently forgot to tell me, who exactly those 5 very specific pirates are supposed to be!?

The next few hours are probably best summarized by the commander´s log, spelled out in matter-of-fact prosa of straight military patrols.

- outer space patrol near Morgor 2

[timestamp] +++ Morgor +++
[timestamp] US, Cobra flees.
[timestamp] US, Bauxite, not taken aboard because of mission timer priority.
[timestamp] ID, Anaconda attacks, flees after heavy damage, 2/3 of missiles exhausted, damage report 81% hull.
[timestamp] US, Viper attacks and destroyed.
[timestamp] US, Cobra attacked and destroyed, unfortunately a civilist victim of a tragic misunderstanding. Ooops.
[timestamp] US, Anaconda, attacks and destroyed, damage report 66% hull.
[timestamp] ID, Sidewinder attacks and destroyed.
[timestamp] US, 8 units of gold, scoop interrupted as 2 Cobra 1 Sidewinder intercept, Cobras destroyed, Sidewinder flees; scoop again abandoned by arrival of two system security vessels, 2 units aboard, entered SC quickly, without incident.
[timestamp] US, Sidewinder flees.
[timestamp] US, Cobra attacks and destroyed.
[timestamp] US, Eagle flees.
[timestamp] ID, Sidewinder attacks and destroyed.
[timestamp] patrol perimeter Morgor secured, jump to LFT 992

 - farther out than in LFT 992 is not possible; yet...

[timestamp] +++ LFT 992 +++
[timestamp] US, Viper engaged and flees.
[timestamp] US, several civilists mistake us for pirates and turn hostile, but disengage and flee without incident; no idea how come...
[timestamp] US, 15 units of gold, scooped sucessfully without interruption.
[timestamp] ID, 3 Eagles flee.
[timestamp] ID, Eagle flees.
[timestamp] ID, 3 Eagles flee, probably the same gang as before?
[timestamp] ID, 3 Cobras attack, 2 destroyed, 1 flees.
[timestamp] US, Cobra, civilist, no incident.
[timestamp] ID, Cobra, civilist, no incident.
[timestamp] ID, Cobra, civilist, no incident (if the next one, I swear...).
[timestamp] ID, Viper attacks and flees, last missiles sent to intercept but jumps away shortly before impact, lucky bastard.
[timestamp] US, Sidewinder flees. Sigh.

After an almost eternal night out there, my ship finally reaches the far out shores of the Szulkin Mines. Mission time is up, where are the 5 pirate kills in my log? Despite numerous encounters and also some victories, my mission log does only accredit for one pirate kill. Mr. Freeport will not be happy, not at all...

On top of my problems, I account for a high maintenance requirement now, and they don´t take credit cards out here. Since I had nothing else to deliver for the poor lonely folds out here in nothingness, I leave them with my latest upload of porn selection. Oh, and of course, some particular traders were also happy to accept 17 units of gold, which enabled folks to do the required maintenance on my ship and, as a bonus for the porn, wipe clean my "wanted" status.

On my trip back into civilized space again, I make a good deal of 118k Cr at Dahan for some back-of-the-water Bertrantite, and bring a similar good deal of Tantalum to I Bootis for 106k Cr. At I Bootis, I also get finally rid of that big useless thing on my Anaconda´s belly, the plasma launcher, and replace it and the C6 beam laser with C4 pulse turrets. (This is roughly Version B of the layout from my last blog entry, except for that I do not want to let go of my possibly ship saving C2 missiles.)

 - back in civilised space

Fish on I Bootis is in low supply and prices have risen. I empty their last supply stash and make a profit of 30k Cr. still at LP 98-132, Freeport. Home sweet home. I take a little detour to the asteroid belt and engage the shifty folks there. It is Anaconda mayhem, and I totally like how my belly turrets complement the punishment my upper deck armaments is able to deal out.

On my last approach to Freeport I play a bit around with stealth. Well, why, it is for testing purpose only, of course! Not that Mr. Freeport would not be pleased to see me after I worked a long hard partrol for him, no? And even for free, as the terms do not really require him to pay any bonus, right?

My Anaconda falls out of hyperspace, as most of the time, at about 20km from the other side of the docking entrance. Great. So I am not gonna pull off *that* stunt. Naww, I could, sure! But not from out here, right? Right? ... Screw ya!

I boost in a close-by trajectory and switch off shields and engines and to go into and maintain stealth. I scrape by close to a certain antenna which I happen to know intimately and which I am happy to see from close-up has been repaired already. Once on the right side, the one with the docking entrance, I switch the systems back on, request docking on urgend notice and enter in a tight curved, station-hugging course of final approach.

Before landing, I manage to scrape the docking corridor´s walls and learn of the value of having shields active. Since I do not, this little scraping brings me down to 81% hull, thank you very much, CMDR Noobish! Yes, this is my name! Falkenherz? Never heard of this guy.. aaah, he probably sold me this ship, along with a load of excellent delicassy fish from Chango, for you, and *just* for you at discount price if you please.... Why, yes, we can do a kind of compensatory deal here...

It is now late, as usual, and I log off for the weekend and let my CMDR seal the deal for himself until I am back.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Stumbling around

Well, well, there are game sessions and there are game sessions. The plan was to try different weapon setups for PvP and then dominate Freeport a bit. How it evolved was much less than what I would call a fun evening.

I jumped repeatedly between I Bootis, Asellus Prime and Aulin in order to get the weapon I want: C3 and C5 gimballed pulse lasers, which should replace my C6 burst lasers as well as the turrets. The C3 versions appeared pretty quickly, but not so the C5 version. Taking always cargo along makes my cash in the end go back to 4,4 m Credits. Unidentified signals (US) on the route were mostly boring. If there was a "wanted" target, I used it for target practice with the plasma launcher. After my game session was almost done, I finally "found" the C5-g-pulse laser. I hate this kind of waste of time, even if it filled my cash along the way. Almost whole game session just in order to find one specific weapon setup! I am very annoyed, this is not fun. One of the major turn-off factors in EVE Online was that you always hat to fly around for hours just to get the equipment you want (or take a trip across the cluster to Jita). 

Shortly before ending the game session, I was finally ready to test the setup. One C6 burst laser for ranged combat, C8 plasma for good alpha strike, 2 C2 missiles for "oh crap" moments on the bottom side. On the top side, two C5 gimballed pulse lasers and two C3 gimballed pulse lasers for the mid- to close range combat. Finally, I jumped back to LP 98-132 and did some US, which netted me some gold and one larger fight with 5 red ships; one Lakon Type 9, an Eagle and several Sidewinders. They were spread apart and didnot gang up on me so I could pick my order. The plasma launcher did quick work with the Lakon this time, and I can confirm my theory. One shot with the plasma launcher uses up capacitor from every weapon on your ship, and it cannot shoot if all capacitors do not have at least 1/3 energy.

Another US lead me to an Anaconda, which decided to attack me. Good. What was not so good that I had forgotten that I cannot circle with an Anaconda like I could with my Viper. I took quite some hits and in the end had 85% hull. My plasma launcher hit about two or three times, then the capacitors were empty and the Anaconda was around 80% hull still. I had to use my gimballed lasers to finish it, which was hardly possible with an empty capacitor. Before it could regenerate, the Anaconda had turned and jumped away. Underwhelming. Perhaps I still need more training in ice cold aiming and weapon management while under heavy fire. It already annoyed and distracted me that I was apparently not able to properly dodge the enemy fire.

At the end of this night, I had a brief, bumbling and moreless embarassing PvP encounter with CMDR Barros. Will upload video and check some details later this day. [EDIT: Done! And I have to realize that my memory of this session was particularily bad! I have to rewrite my story a bit as follows....; what can I say, I was obviously too tired already!]

CMDR Barros was waiting in a Cobra in front of the docking area. He was just sitting there, a sitting duck, and I attacked because I needed at least something to happen in this game session. I floated close, as if passing by, switched FAoff and turned my ship towards him, FAon for proper aiming, and fired my plasma launcher. His shields were down to one slim line. Another hit gets him down to 83%. He realized what is going on and boosted and jumped away, my Anaconda had no chance to follow.

After some minutes, he came back. It was easy to recognize because he showed already as a red blip on my radar. I was on the other side of Freeport and made way towards him. I do not know what he planned, if he hadn´t seen me or if he wanted to wait for me in a favourable position. He positioned himself above the docking entrance; this is what the usual griefer would do. But he hadn´t counted that I had a long-range weapon ready for him, my trusty beam laser. This forced the Cobra to abandon its lofty perch and slither towards me. I was happily crisping it soft until the Cobra came into mid/close range. [By hindsight: The video does not show any hit and I now suspect that the beam laser may be bugged]. I shifted my weapon group to my shiny new gimballed pulse lasers and gave him hell. I had him down to 82% when he passed me and my Anaconda needed some moments to swing around. But suddenly, he lost more hull, and I was not even firing. When I had turned around, I could clearly see that Mr. Freeport had interjected and bludgeoned heavily on him. He got destroyed the moment he jumped, at least it looked like this. Not sure wheter from my or the Mr. Freeport´s weapons.

I was so "lucky" to spot him again as he launched from Freeport. I had been flying astutely patrol and looked out for more CMDR opponents until then. I waited for him to clear the entrance. He was continuing rather lazily, like totally oblivious that I was still there. I showed him such. Poor sod, it was a painful death. I squeezed off one plasma shot, but did not hit him. He turned and approached me, firing railguns and lasers. Annoyed about my bad aim I switched again to the g-pulse lasers. The result was very much underwhelming because all of my capacitors were empty (of what is left after a shot of plasma), and he still had about 80% hull. Even more annoyed I launched two missiles, but in the meanwhile he was on a collision course and we crashed into each other, my missiles exploding right between us. My shield was down by then, too, and for a brief moment, I felt deja vu as his multicannons started splattering me and I could not swing around and get him into target.

However, the collision made the CMDR spin around and he still kept firing. A moment of confusion, sparks fly and smoke filled my cockpit (fantastic effects, Frontier! Even though I have to remark it might be a bit overdone since my hull was barely scratched at this point...). As the CMDRs Cobra tumbled off sidewards, it exploded. WTF... It was not me, of that I am sure. I was still struggling to swing along his close-by-tumbling trajectory. Then it dawned on me. Again Mr. Freeport, I assume! What must have happened is that, as he continued to fire his railguns while reeling from the ramming-impact, he must have hit the station and it opened fire on him, with me being briefly an obstacle in the firing line.

To summarize, all in all, one not so satisfying PvP event, it seemed more like my opponend had rather done a cop-suicide; I won because of heavy interference from a pissed-off Freeport station. 

Other than that, this game session I managed to test just one single freaking weapon setup. At least I know now better how the plasma gun works and had some target practice. Considering that this weapon can one shot a NPC Sidewinder (which I did in an US), the results on the CMDR Cobra were very much underwhelming. Two hits, and still at 83% in the first encounters, and no hits at all in the second one. I would guess that two C6 Cannons would make for a much harder and more accurate impact. (Still much more weapon testing to do...)

And it is hellish difficult to hit small targets. Sometimes the muzzle pointer would not show up and it is usually positioned far under the ship, out of your line of sight. The plasma gun failed to hit even when I was very much sure that the gun´s muzzle was right on target. A similar effect happened when I tested my weapons on cargo; they just would miss, even when the muzzle should have been right on. My conclusion, the C8 launcher tempts me to use it as "alpha strike", but it sucks my capacitors so much dry that in the end I probably would have had better results by using different weapons.

With some things to ponder about, I end this game session. All in all, the play experience was kind of underwhelming this time, mostly due to a very long ramp up phase which impeded me to come to a point of what I really wanted to do, namely go into PvP with blazing guns of a new and deadly weapon setup!

I shudder to think of having to hunt for the next weapon setups in a similar long winded fashion. Here is what I had in mind:

- Version A: All gimballed-multicannons plus plasma gun, because the capactior leech effect of the plasma gun would be harmless then. Disadvantage: Highest multicannon is C3, I would waste the potential of the three C6 mounts. No long range fixed gun (fixed multicannons need too much lead to be really effective at distance I believe).

- Version B: Underbelly all turret; once the upper guns have depleted cap, I just roll and let the turrets on my underbelly continue the barrage while the upper weapon cap recharge. Should result in overall more sustained damage. Disadvantage: No more missiles, no long range gun, turrets might have a too crappy aim to pull off the intended effect.

I am not sure how this theorycraft will turn out and I wonder if it is worth the effort, given that Frontier will still change a lot concerning the weapon mechanics.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Amongst chickens

After almost 70 hours clocked in Elite: Dangerous, I fully expect to have exhausted the game and getting bored. Not so yet. A good sign. And this game session did not disappoint, not at all...

The plan for this session was to squish the annoying crash-bug which I experienced last session, to re-arm my Anaconda´s turrets with multicannons and finally to jup to LP 98-312 and take on what ever this anarchy system throws at me.

From a research in the ED forum I know that the crash bug is caused by a faulty set up of the point defense systems. I can see now the signs and could have realized this earlier myself; when I am in supercruise, my HUD shows a point defense gun deployed. I remove all point defense systems, launch, deploy and retract weapons, enter into supercruise, and behold, no more deployed status in my HUD. The tip from the forum is to first by all weapons, then supercruise away from the station instance and set the firegroups, and only then install the point defense system.

Part 1 and 2 of my plan work out, but it takes time. I travel from Asellus Prime to Aulin (computer components, ~150k Cr.), to Asellus Prime (terrain enh., 156k Cr.), I Bootis (autom. fabricators, ~130k Cr.) before the bug is gone and everything is set up accordingly. I drop in various unidentified signals (US), but no more crashes and I still have a full armament of point defense systems. Great! A first combat test takes place against a "wanted" Cobra which is not immediately taking flight. The fight lasts 2 seconds and I cash in a 550 Credit bounty. Onwards to LP 98-132 I jump!

I drop into some US, which yields me two times some pirates who take flight before I can destroy them (NPC ships are clearly not affected my mass lock as players are), some containers of coltan, gold and grain. The latter I use to practice high speed cargo scooping (scooping while in blue speed range), which totally fails.

Then the game finally becomes dangerous again. A large "wanted" Lakon Type 9 with three Eagles as an escort (I did not verify in time, assuming wrongly that they are the usual security vessels; wroooong, this is an anarchy system!). I fire my plasma gun and score one or two hits, firing also my lasers in between the fire pause. Then inexplicably, the plasma gun is overheated. My C6 burst lasers are also quickly out of capacitor and the fight drags on while four ships are giving my Anaconda a heavy beating. I check the ship`s heat, it´s fine. For the rest of the fight, I cannot use the gun anymore despite several tries. WTF!? Later, I theorize that the plasma launchers need *all* weapon capacitors to have sufficient energy, but I did not test this yet. This must be a bug, and if not, it reduces the supposed mother of all guns to a mere one-time tool for an alpha strike.

I survive with 69% hull. It was a hot fight and I managed to capture it on video, see below. However, somehow I feel I should have done better. My C6 burst lasers constantly ran out of capacitor energy, despite having 3,5 pips in weapon energy, and I needed a relatively long time to destroy that Lakon Type 9. My multicannon turrets were firing but they seem not as effective as the beam turrets were; I still would not switch back to the beam turrets because it would effectively block all other weapons due to the ship overheating. Time for a repair in dock.

Repairs cost me ~50.000 Credits, which is partially compensated by ~33.000 Credits from the black market for my container loot. Add to this the fact that in an anarchy systems you apparently do not get bounties for "wanted" ships, this play style is certainly for the fun of it, but not for profit. It might be different in a small cheap Sidewinder, with some lucky gold loot along the way.

As I am lifting off from Freeport´s launch pad, I suddenly notice a rare sight; four hollow blips on my radar, zipping around in high speed. This reeks like PvP, very much so. Yay, finally! I scan every ship before I leave the station and already select and target my hopeful-to-be prey. It is CMDR Tyr in a Viper. I approach his Viper and open fire, 20 seconds later the Viper vanishes. Way to go, CMDR...

Next! CMDR Emon Azzaamen just leaves the dock high speed in an Eagle; I stick to him and open fire. He boosts away and tries to evade but my C6-lasers are good for mid- and long range and I get him into hull. He vanishes or jumps. Hrm, ok, I still think he could have delivered a fight with a better tactic of sticking close and trying to stay behind me; Eagles are very nimble and should have been able to pull this off.

Next! CMDR Gwendis Ryder (difficult to note all whats happening including names in the now very fast paced game!). She is in an Anaconda and warily targeting and pointing towards me, already from long range. I try to circle-approach her, but I get impatient and open fire before I am in a favourable position. I receive the bill almost immediately; a whole swarm of missiles at near close range. Ouch. However, I note that my point defense systems are indeed working; I see greenish pulses of light emitting from my ship and some missiles seem to explode before they impact on my ship. Despite this, I am not sure if I can win this fight; if my armor can soak all her ammo, it should be a win. I know from my own experience how fast your missile stock depletes when you really need them; a C2 missile launcher holds 18 missiles, which means three volleys, a C4 holds 12, so only two volleys. And indeed, the third volley has passed and my ship is still at 88%. Way to go, I did the right bet to install reactive armor (which is supposed to be especially good versus all kind of bullets, figuring that most PvPlers would install cannons and multicannons and missiles)!

However, I still did not figure out that and why my plasma gun does not fire and I try several times to blast her out of the sky; unfortunately, that damn cannon just jams. I waste precious seconds in trying. As I prepare to comfortably whittle down my opponent elsewise, she vanishes. With my experience of plenty of vanishing players, I have to assume that this is an intentional move from my oh so courageous colleagues in order to avaoid defeat. You know what? You cannon avoid it, by vanishing you are de-facto defeated, because you admit that your combat strategy (or your skill to apply it) failed. I don´t care if you save 300k insurance cost or not and I wonder why you care, given the ease by which you can farm Credits in this beta (two or three trade runs with an Anaconda, one with the Lakon Type 9, is not too much of a hassle, no?).

So far, I feel like the falcon swooping down on a heard of chickens which scatter in panic.

Having suffered some damage, I head for repairs in the dock. As I request landing, I get attacked by another player. Yep, that´s my courageous colleages as I came to know them in the meanwhile, attacking a already weakened opponent for an easy kill. I do not have the time to target him in order know who this is (Frontier, pls give us a means to do so pls! e.g. an emergency message "attacked by yz"), but I do not give him the pleasure of success. I accelerate and dive at full speed through the docking entrance; those hours of trading and parking exercise pay off.

At this stage, I start do make mistakes. For example, I dock and want to repair, but in my hectic to scribble the events and names down on my paper, reload ammo, I totally forget to actually repair my ship! I only realize this after the game when I analyse the video and I cannot help but laugh at myself! As I launch again, there is already a red blip on radar. I conclude that this is the player who attacked me during docking. Ah, welcome back, courageous CMDR Tyr! Let´s see if you fare better now!

Leaving the docking entrance, I do my second big mistake. I boost towards his Viper and immedeately open fire; he is at mid range and in a good firing position. However, I forgot about the no-fire zone. Actually, I kind of did not forget, but I assumed that there is none around a station in an anarchy system. Wrooooong! [Edit: By hindsight, people in the ED forum say the station does only shoot if attacked itself; maybe this happened later, because of a stray shot of my turrents? I also forgot to set them to "fire at target". Either way, my mistake.]
Things go down quickly from here on. First of, CMDR Tyr stays with me, good. Second, he plays his cards now way better than the first time. He has C2 pulse lasers and gimballed C4 multicannons (C4 are at the Viper´s "belly" so it is easy to discern when close).

He approaches and I first wonder why he sticks to me right in front of my nose. Easy kill. Staying frontal to an Anaconda would have been reckless, if I had had a different weapon setup, say, gimballed multicannons plus missiles (the latter of which I had, but totally forgot to use, third mistake), or just would have cool-headedly handled my plasma gun instead of going reckless with all guns blazing (yes, I can feel me being full of adrenaline). But he probably realized that my C6 lasers and C2 t-multicannons do not cut it at close range. And indeed, as I fire my C6 burst lasers at him in close range, the gunfire just passes left and right of my target, he is practically sitting in between my gun´s muzzles. Very annoying because this should not happen at this distance!

He wins the fight and I go down in flames, I had him probably at about 92% hull. The kill screen shows I was killed by Freeport. But to be fair, he played well enough. I say this because there was a decisive phase of a few seconds, where my hull suddenly dropped from about 76% to 20% . I replayed this several times and wonder how this was possible, because after this brief moment, my hull seemed to absorb his multi cannons much better and longer again. By hindsight, I conclude that CMDR Tyr did either target a subsystem or had a lucky shot at my ship´s "glass chin", the cockpit, or his lasers did an extreme amount of extra damage because my ship had reactive armor. Or I just received a hit from the station´s mighty gun at this point.

Either way, here is the video (remembered to capture too late, so starts with CMDR Rider), and I consider myself rightfully as the looser, as by hindsight while replaying the video I identify my big mistakes in this encounter. This experience costs me a 350.000 Credit insurance fee. I was confident that I would not encounter the insurance bug anymore, because Frontier indicated in the forum that this happens likely only when you buy and install weapons to fast in a row. Since then I consciously pause 4 or 5 seconds before I buy and install the next weapon.

Way to go! If it goes on like this, I might as well end up writing my blog, analysing videos and uploading them, etc, taking more time than actually playing Elite: Dangerous. It was an exciting game session again, and I log out being very content.

Addendum, totally unrelated:
Found this nice explorer´s overview in the forum. All that you wanted to know about each system.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Anaconda test pilot

I exchange my freshly bought Lakon Type 9 after the only few trade runs at the end of my last session, for the Anaconda. The plan is to explore things I did not yet explore, i.e. turreted guns and the C8 plasma launcher on an Anaconda. For a proper fashionable outfit, I install two C6 burst lasers as my main armament, complemented by two C2 missile launchers, for the "oh crap" moment. Louise Lacalle Station also has C3 turreted multicannons, so I can finally try them out according to plan. Next station, Aulin Enterprises, and this will be it, back and forth, for the rest of this session, until that goddamn C8 plasma launcher will appear in the shopping window! I am commited to be a test pilot tonight, and this I will be, in more aspects than I thought.

- the Anaconda´s precedessor in the 21st century

To make use of the Anaconda´s sufficiently cavernous cargo hold of 228 units, I jump to Tilian and drop off some consumer electronics (126k Cr.). I load terrain enchancers for Eranin and realize too late that I could have jumped directly to Aulin from here. The Anaconda for sure has a longer jump range than my previous Lakon Type 9. In Aulin, I am unlucky as expected, the plasma launcher is not for sale. I am prepared for a long game session. In the meanwhile, I fill the remaining weapon mounts with two C6 cannons, and one point defense for testing. Then it is time to ship my bulk freight to Eranin. Before I jump out, I remember to set the turrets from "fire at will" (which means "fire at yellows, too") to "fire at target only", so that I do not forget this in the heat of battle.

- Anaconda, 32nd century

On my way to Azeban Station, I drop into an unidentified signal (US). Two security vessels hunt a "wanted" sidewinder. I deploy weapons and join the hunt. I have to re-assign fire groups because of the bug which erases the setup which I do in the instance where I bought them. My two C6 burst lasers wear the Sidewinder down in no time. Suddenly, the security vessels turn red and fire at me. I know immediately what happened as memory from something I have read quite some time ago in the ED forums dawns on me; the turrets fire setting is erased each time you drop back into normal space. Goddamnit. How long does Frontier already know about this bug?

By the time I have destroyed the sidewinder and fully realized the situation, my shield are already gone. Partially, this is my own fault, because I forgot to reset the power distribution from "travel speed" (4 pips in engine) to "combat shields" (3shield3weapon). I also have great difficulty to get into a firing position. Those two Eagles just zip around me too fast. I set full reverse speed, and it helps. The first Eagle comes into firing position, and I immediately launch my "oh crap" missiles and fire my burst lasers. We were close range, so the Eagle dissolves almost instantly. The second Eagle thereafter is no problem as my Anaconda slithers around, hisses angrily and shoots forward to snap the hapless remainder. I doubt if one Eagle has enough fire power to destroy a fully shielded Anaconda.

- C4 and higher class lasers look much better than the small versions!

Damage report: 83% hull, and I am now wanted by Eranin jurisdiction for a 1.500 Credit bounty. Despite the bounty, I manage to approach and land in Azeban City safely. Hull repairs cost me 28.000 Credits on top. I decide to travel to Asellus Prime; I still have a bounty voucher to turn in there, and the high-tech system might also offer a nice selection of weapons to experiment with. In order to compensate my hull repair costs, I load fruits, which should give me a profit of 27.000 Credits (not a very viable trade route but better than going empty).

On my way to Beagles Landing 2, I drop into two US, but I encounter only ships with "clear" status. I remember now to re-set turrets to "fire at target only" before I deploy weapons. Very annoying, because approaching an US with an Anaconda takes almost double the time as opposed to the nimble and faster combat ships. In Asellus Prime, I find no weapons of interest to me. I load autofabricators for a trip to I Bootis (155k Cr). From I Bootis, I take fish to Aulin. Profit is 44.000 Credits, and I note that for the first time, prices have adapted to the diminuished supply (fish is now 410 Cr instead of 300 Cr).

In Aulin I am finally lucky as the plasma launcher is for sale. I drop all 20th-century weaponry i.e. multi-cannons and cannons, and have now: 2x C6 burst-laser, 2x C2 missiles, 3x C2 beam turrets, C8 plasma launcher. I load now all utility mounts with point defenses to make sure I get an effective anti-missile defense and for completion´s sake I install a docking computer. And go for patrol in order to finally see the plasma launcher at work. However, this prooves to be more difficult than I thought.

- plasma launcher; supposed mother of all guns?

The first US I want to drop in, I never see because the client crashes. I notice that Frontier has installed an automatic crash report sending programm; very cool, so I am releived of having to write tickets here. In the second US, a pirate spouts dire threats at me, but instead of turning red and attacking me, he jumps away. This pattern repeats now for the rest of the game session; every second drop into normspace causes a crash. All potential enemy vessels run away as soon as I deploy weapons. You know, the AI has become probably too smart. I wouldn´t necessarily want to challence an Anaconda with missiles and plasma launcher, either!

I am a bit frustrated. On top of the "being too scary for the enemy" problem, I somehow do not manage to scoop in cargo, which some US consist of. I constantly ram and destroy the containers, even through they are right in the center of the cargo scooping reticule. A brief research in the ED forum clears it up: The main problem of the Anaconda is its size and sluggishness. Pitch or yaw include considerable drift, even at lowest paces. In order to properly correct your vector towards a container, you have to use only vertical and lateral thrust. With this lesson learned, my scooping success rate improves again.

My cargo with swooped-in, stolen, goods make me go to Freeport in order to sell it. In the anarchy system, I approach every US I can find. The pattern is repetive and annoying, especially the approach takes so much longer with this slow and sluggish bucket of a ship. And no fricking combat to be found, only cargo; coltan, crash, explosives, crash, gold, crash...
A last US finally gives me what I craved for. At first, it "only" contains gold containers. But as I start to scoop, two pirate Cobras jump in and spout their threads. I calmy finish my current scoop and then deploy weapons, entering reverse flight. Weird enough, even these Cobra are scared and to not open fire. No matter, this time I do and I can, because this is an anarchy system! The Cobra starts an evasive dance and I have to go out of reverse and actually follow it as good as possible, which means even having to set 4pips in engine power to remotely come close. I hit the Cobra two or three times with my C6 burst lasers, but do not get a fire solution to bring my plasma launcher to bear. On top of it, I am irritated because the lasers seem to jam, despite full capacitors. [In hindsight I assume that it must be the C2 beam turrets overheating my ship]. Then I do not need to do anything anymore, because my beam turrets really do their job and vapourize the Cobra while I still struggle to get into a new firing position. Nice, I like! Feels much more like Battlestar Galactica now, in the right way! The second Cobra did not even bother to follow our weaving and dancing and chose to jump out. Amazing. Anaconda plus plasma launcher scare-off effect at work here. It now feels really good to calmy scoop the rest of the gold containers; like a lion gobbling its prey and the hyenas not daring to come close.

 - beam laser turret; hot°!

Around 1 a.m. and tired of the regular crashing, I decide to call quits to this game session and I head for Freeport. My plasma launcher still has virgin status, but what can I do. Having to deal with all kinds of bugs was tiring and despite of not having had to deal with any challenging situation, I feel exhausted.

As I approach the station and request docking, I suddenly notice a player ship and wonder if I now, this late and right when I am not in the mood anymore, I finally get to some PvP? It gets a bit hectic again as things happen almost simultaneaously; I targeted the CMDR to see who and what ship he is, in consequence my "request docking" macro fails because of wrong starting postion in the leftmenu, the playership suddenly appears as triangle so he has weapons mounted, I respond in kind, my FAoff vector steers me right into the station wall and I have to counter boost, the long dead communication controls suddenly come alive as CMDR Hobbes chats me "Hey CMDR, are you going to PvP me?". Bingo. First P2P communication established!

We chat a bit while I fiddle with the docking controls before I realize that after I finally received my docking permission, the docking computer had alredy taken over because flying with FAoff is interpreted as "zero throttle". Good, so I can concentrate on the chat, which is difficult to do because each chat line has to be preceeded by "select CMDR Hobbes in the menu", "press spacebar", "select text communication", "press spacebar".  I also remember to stop the docking computer from actually landing (just set the throttle briefly away from zero to do so), because I remember that I will loose all targets once I am landed and thus loose communication with my colleague here. Frontier should really do something about this horrible idea of an communication UI.

CMDR Hobbes tells me that he used to be frequently griefed by three players in Vipers while he was still flying a Sidewinder and now he has come back as a grown up Anaconda to exact revenge, but as it is, the instancing does not bring him together anymore with his enemy. He asks me about the plasma launcher, and I regret that we cannot chat more. The docking timer ticks down and it is late, I am tired and dazed from all the experimental stuff and crashes throughout this game session. Just in case he follows my invitation to this blog: Hello again, CMDR Hobbes, and good hunting!

The landing is again a symptom of my broken concentration; I cannot seem to make the magnetic clamps engage, even when I touch down on the screeching landing pad. After some repeated approaches and the precious last seconds ticking down, I finally find the culprit. Me; I simply forgot to set the landing gear, and I somewhow missed the computer complaining about the landing gear, amidst the chat and a Danube waltz doodling loudly in the background, totally irritating during all the hectics. I extract landing gear and set down, around 30 seconds before the timer runs out. Yep, it is really time to go to bed. I sell the cargo, 37.000 Credits all in all; a pittance compared to the time and work I have had, but I also forget why I went through landing at Freeport, namely to do a screenshot of the plasma launcher for my blog here. Logging out.

Weapon overview

Just some spelled-out descriptions about each weapon type. Concerning the ships, my blog already tells about the different types and their main purposes and strength. Also, here I collected some technical info on everything, and here more about it in the forum.

- Pulse lasers; default weapon with good damage, fires regular symmetric-timed pulses of visible red light.

- Burst lasers; supposed to do more damage but not sure, however, the burst lasts a bit longer than with the pulse laser, with a slightly longer break between bursts. This is why I prefer them because they enable me to apply more weapon energy on the enemy in a shorter amount of time, which is good because sometimes firing positions open up in only very brief windows of opportunity.

- Beam lasers; the laser fires a continous beam until its capacitor is depleted. Technically the best damage-to-time ratio, however, previous experience showed that this gun heats your ship up a lot and thus is not as sustainably to fire as the previous weapons, i.e. after a while, it stops firing despite of capacitor still left because your ships heat exceeds 100% (or close to this value).

- Railguns; fires a blue pulse after a brief charge up time. Needs a brief recovery period before it can be fired again. Heats up the ship like crazy. Technically much more damage potential than a laser, however, more than two or three shots are not possible before your ship exceeds 100% of allowable heat threshold. Used to be the most powerful weapon in the Elite alpha client but was nerfed for the beta client.

- Multi.-cannons; fires "multi"... it´s a heavy multi-barrel machine gun. Needs a brief moment to get going, needs reloads from time to time. Bullets take travel time to the target, i.e. you need to lead your aim. Because of this, does not pair well with instant-hitting lasers (except when gimballed maybe).

- Cannons; heavy hitter, 20th-century gun. Needs lead, fires slowly. Nevertheless the weapon of choise for high "alpha strike" damage, i.e. damage applied in one intial burst.

- Plasma launcher; handles very similar to a cannon. Still testing.

- Heat sinks: In theory, both beam lasers and railgun could be fired sustainably by firing off heat sinks from a heat sink launcher, but so far, it was not worth the hassle. Also good to drop heat for maintaining a low heat profile of your ship (stealth), or to accelerate cool-down after a hyper jump heated up your ship. Unfortunately, there is a bug which makes your heat sink ammunition deplete without having used them, so in doubt you will always be out of heat sinks.

- Chaff: Supposed to deviate missiles. Did not test them yet; the few situation where I was confronted with missiles, I was overtasked with other things i.e. I did not remember to fire them, or the missiles were so close and fast

- Point defenses: Are not to be included into fire groups, are supposed to work automatically. Still testing.

In general:

- The higher its weapon class (C), the more punch the weapon has. (Doh!)

- Gimballed versions (G) allow for a slight tracking of the target, so that you do not have to aim precisely; in return the weapon does an about 20% weaker damage than a non-gimballed version. The always have a uneven number for weapon class.

- Turreted versions (T) independently track and shoot at enemies. You need not include them into a fire group. The rightmenu, last tab, has a line where you can switch its programmed mode. Beware, after each drop into normal space, the setting is reset to "fire at will", i.e. it will fire at yellow targets, too. While they have even-numbered weapon classes, they can only be mounted on mounts of the next higher class.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Milky way

Just a picture, but mind blowing, kind of. And I do not mean the puny streak of a meteorite.

In a certain virtual world, I am flying in a space ship up there; the streak could be my ship boosting towards its destination.


Yeah, well, I am sitting back in a freighter, the trusty big Lakon Type 9. Why, because I became kind of bored. I did the mistake I advise others not to do; if you log in to a sandbox-style game, you better have a plan before you do so. Else you might end up with station spinning.

I started at Freeport with my heavy Viper craft. If there was PvP, I would have joined it, but there wasn´t. No player ships. So I went into slow supercruise to test the random generator in an anarchy system. And I struck gold. Literally, because the first unidentified signal (US) consisted of 10 units of cargo of gold, of which my Viper´s cargo hold can scoop 8 of. This yielded me about 36.000 Credits.

I launched again, and lo and behold, I spotted a player steered Viper! CMDR Cog, lets dance! I approach, he lets me get close to his six, which is already weird, and then... poof... vanished. Not jumped, just vanished. Might be the faulty instancing, but could also be the infamous "switch on-the-fly to single player to avoid unwanted combat"-tactic. Sigh.

 - station glueing; my patrol route when I am looking out for PvP

Another US, and I again stroke gold. I think I discovered now how some players made a fortune very quickly. Three of these finds and you can already buy a hauler and start profitable trading. Only the thing is, from my already very elevated cash pile, if I want to make money, I rather buy a Lakon Type 9 and do bulk freight shipping.

I decided to switch to exploration and visit again the planet next to freeport, which I learned now is called Anahit. I want to try out how close I can get. Somebody probably already did and I surely can look up the results in a post in the ED forum, but I wanted to try it out myself. So I engaged supercruise and directly headed towards the planet. At around 5000 km distance, I got bolted out of supercruise and I continued with boost/FAoff. However, after a while I had to realize that I did not really get any closer. Hardly a surprise, so this experimental exploration ended here.

 - so close yet so far

Next station: I Bootis B and C. I saw a funny and interesting post about a video in the forum. I hadn´t realized before that there is a double star in this system, as it is a bit farther out from the jump in and you cannot see this from afar. So I approached it to see it for myself. Nice to see something special, however, I am not sure if it would really look like this. I imagine that the gravitational pull of both stars would morph the double star more into a flat hourglass-shape, with a lot of eruptions across the contact area. So I was rather kind of underwhelmed, to be honest. It just looked too artifical to be real.

 - way too tame; I imagine all kind of hellish eruptions when two giant eruptive masses like this do touch

Close to the double star, to my surprise I also found an US which turned out to be a nav beacon. Out of curiousity I hopped in, fully expecting the usual random generator at work, i.e. freighters and ships of all kind jumping in and out at random. I was pleasantly surprised as I discovered this to be a staging point for the Federation military forces. Three or four fleets of Anacondas and Federal fighters, some Lakon type 9 ships which were labelled as "tanker"; it makes sense to put something like this a bit off from the public prying eye. There was also plenty of military chitchat in the chat-communication. Nice! Add some real voice comms and this would be a place for perfect immersion.

- fleet action; reminds a little bit of the good old "Wing Commander" days

After this little exploratory detour, I was out of ideas. I did not feel like doing PvE and patrol US. Thinking about what I did not do yet, I realize that I might have given the Anaconda an only superficial pass. There are still turret-guns to fit and I would like to get a feeling on how useful they actually are. Although I do not have much hope, judging from the weak, almost non-existant counter-fire I received while attacking and circling the NPC Anacondas so far. Also, I still bugs me that I could not try out the allegedly most powerful gun in the game, the C8 plasma launcher.

Getting again into an Anaconda means I had to travel the long way "down" to LHS 3262. My Viper had not the jump range to do so. This is when I decided to get into a Lakon Type 9, so the long travel at least yields me some more funds. besides, the latest newsletter hints that the endless supply of goods might come to an end soon. So better trade some more now while these supplies have not fallen dry yet.

Since I am hauling high value loads, I spend the cash to fully arm my new freighter. While equipping the Lakon-9, I wondered why I could not fit a C4 turreted laser in my C4 slot; maybe a bug, maybe intentional, but not very clear. A full missile loadout worked well last time, if not to say it saved my expensive butt, so I stick to it. I start my trading runs and travel as follows; I Bootis - Ithaca (fish, 129k), Ithaca- LS 3262 (palladium, 664k; wow, the cargo load is worth 5,5 million Credits!), LS 3262 - Tilian (consumer tech., 593k), Tilian - LS 3262 (food cartridges, 36k; yep, not much profit but it felt like fun to load up with food cartridges!). With this, I end my session around midnight. I am already a bit bored, there is nothing really new with hauling and it is too late to start buying and equipping the Anaconda, thus getting some sleep gets my bid.

I wonder if the Anaconda will really proove to be entertaining. Maybe I should rather start doing things which I would not do in the released game, i.e. pirating and becoming a most wanted player, like those two guys mentioned in the last newsletter? The only reason barring me is that it would probably make it later difficult to access new content in later beta updates. We will see.

Addendum: Nice write-up about Elite and the Ocululs Rift here.