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)

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Anaconda crawl

My game session starts late, I was helping my wife to set up an application letter and this took a little while (I sometimes wonder how much degree of help is actually helpful and when would it be better to rather let people "learn by doing", on top of the fact that longterm husbands usually do not yield much tutor-ish respect or authority over their wifes anymore), so I skip that last trade run I wanted to do in my freighter and instead set course for LHS 3262, the only system I found out about which sells the Anaconda cruiser. Is it a cruiser? Heavy weapon loadout, the only spacecraft so far with C8 weapon mount, 228 units of cargo space; it is big, to be seems pretty good multi-purpose, coupled with superiour fire power potential. I guess it is a kind of mini-cruiser, then.

In order to make some cash off the long travel route to the other end of the beta cluster, I check Slopey`s trading tool and plot course:

Asellus Prime - Acihaut (resonating separators, 530k Cr)
Acihaut - LHS 3262 (beryllium, 292k Cr)

- last launch with the Lakon Type 9, here waiting for another Lakon Type 9 to squeeze through the docking entrance

Arriving in my target system, with the cargo shipment I bring in, I will have amounted overal 10 million Credits on my account. Immediately after landing, I access the shipyard. Lovely, the Anaconda costs me... 455.000 Credits? Wut? Checking, I realize quickly that the ship dealer does indeed factor in the value of your current ship plus cargo in your hold and some further testing shows that this also applies to your weapons (did not try to verify for ammunition, though). All in all, after the purchase, I am left with 6,4 million Credits on my account.

I enter the Anaconda´s cockpit and am impressed. Cockpit? This is a bridge! Three seats on a broad console which stretches along a huge row of windscreens ("vacuumscreen"? or better just "cockpit windows"?). I like the feeling of commanding a larger, more regal type of ship! Now it is time to mount the weapon loadout. Unfortunately, this station only provides for basic weaponry. It is just some barebones which I install here: two C2 pulse lasers and two C4 railguns. My forum research tells me that for the four C5 gimballed pulse lasers, I need to go to Acihaud, and for the mighty C8 plasma launcher, Aulin is the only adress to get one.

- right hand side to my pilot´s seat; "bridge to engineer! status please!" oh, nobody there?

Plotting course back with support from Slopey´s tool in order to make efficient money. With 228 cargo units, I can still make 182k Credits just by going to where the C5 lasers are and selling consumer technology, and the same onward to Aulin with 156k Credits for beryllium.

A little mishap on my way there consists of me trying to get my new beast of a spaceship through the - in my new cockpit´s perspective, rather narrow - docking entrance. I do not get it for quite a while and get stuck several times. Finally, I figure that the bulk of the ship is below my line of sight, contrary to my Lakon Type 9, where the cockpit and thus line of sight was quite centered. So all I have to do is to stick close to the docking entrance´s ceiling. Presto. Must have been quite a funny picture to observe an Anaconda pilot repeatedly ramming his ship into the docking entrance like the corc into a bottle, isn´t it? I hope for no witnesses...

The second mishap is, the C5 lasers are not for sale where they are supposed to be for sale, in Acihaut. Well, they briefly popped up in the list, but when I tried to buy one, I got a "server error 401" and they were gone. A bug, I suppose.

During the next hour, I go hunting the equipment I want, including the usual "request docking 12 times before they bother"-thing. What I hate, by principle: we are supposedly in an advanced futuristic society, but I have to travel from place to place like in the middle age to actually know what is where for sale? I already hated this aspect in EVE Online and the gameplay derived from this set up I consider tedious. What happens is that players adapt to this situation and create external tools and data sources which give you the information. This is not "playing the game" anymore for me, this is "working with spreadsheets in order to be able to play the game". For EVE, I still do have my share of google spreadsheets and admittedly, I learned how to do spreadsheets by "working on spreadsheets in order to play the game". Comes in handy sometimes in my job. But I nevertheless, it shouldn´t be a required part of the gameplay. Either you scribble down notes or you create a file with notes; I do this, for the purpose of this blog because I want it, but I should not be required to do so as part of a game mechanic called "trading". In principle, this is the same discussion as you can have on the use of Slopey´s trading tool, but on top I am even less motivated to do "the tour" when all I want is to have weapons to shoot something

Nevermind. In the end, I do get my C5 gimballed pulse lasers. However, Aulin and no other high tech station I try out offers a C8 plasma launcher. Very apparently, the catalogue of purchasable weapons is created like "random loot", i.e. each time you dock (or arrive in the system? couldn´t verify), the equipment list is different. And it also appears that a C8 plasma launcher seems to be a "rare drop". I really hope that Frontier does not stick to this stupid approach and makes the player basically to "reload the instance until the right loot drops". My final weapon setup is 5x C5 g-pulse lasers, 2x C4 railguns, 1 Cannon (which totally underwhelms me, at least on an Anaconda and I replace with a C5 g-pulse).

- left hand side, probably the navigation and gunnery seat?

After all this time of annoying equipment hunting, I am now very itchy to shoot something. I want to do some weapon testing load at the "Federal distress call"-site in Eranin; loading some terrain enhancements to earn some Credits along the way. However, I underestimate my itchy trigger finger. First thing coming across: A Viper in the docking area with wanted status. Deploy weapons, fire.
I guess it was clear what follows: Viper survives because my broad weapon array does not fully converge on it (I tested this and wrote about this myself here), and I get destroyed by station fire because I cannot escape fast enough. Boom. 2 million Credits less due to the lost freight. Positive side, the insurance company is fair and refunds my Anaconda, for a fee of 360k Credits. Ok. No further comment on this, please. Next.

Second thing coming across my itchy trigger finger: an unidentified signal consists of a Cobra with "wanted"-status. The moment it shows me its underbelly I unleash, and the Cobra evaporates after one capacitor´s salvo and a bit. Got a bounty voucher. And a bounty myself. What? I realize this only later, also that cannot pay it off because it does not appear in the pilot´s federation or security office´s inventory in the station menu. Some forum research reveils this is a bug and some more research reveals how to work around it: "Save and quit to main menu", quit game and restart from launcher. So far, this game session is way too much of figuring out "game issues"; obstacles which impede are not really relaxing. During the rest of the evening I do incur again some small fines of which I have no idea how and why; Frontier really needs to include a clear signal, when a fine is gained and explain better why this happens.

Third thing coming across my in-the-meanwhile-thankfully-less itchy trigger finger: a player-piloted Viper. This guy is cruising around the station, probably a pirate looking out for a prey. Obviously, he does not consider an Anaconda as prey, because he does not deploy weapons while I intentionally dawdle a bit around him. I tried to chat him up, but as usual he probably did not even realize this. It would help if Frontier could include a sound signal when a player chat pops up.

After some delay I finally enter the "high conflict zone" at Eranin 2, because the "Federal distress call" freezes my game again repeatedly when trying to drop into it. For a change, I side with the Federation. Oh dear, the Eranin have Lakon Type 9 ships as combat ships? Is this viable? Interesting thought experiment... maybe my freighter mayhem in my last session was not so "off" after all. The ship types in Elite are obviously all a little bit flexible in what you want to use them for.

I wrestle in combat for about 20 minutes, then I have to break off. The Anaconda is so slow and sluggish that I cannot evade all enemy fire and my armor/hull starts to suffer over time. My railguns are almost useless, because the g-pulse lasers together pack as much damage as them and are easer to aim. I should probably switch to missiles for emergency needs of extra punch.

- Looks like from "Battlestar Galactica", very regal; however, also handles like a "Battlestar Galactica", maybe better left for multi-player ship expansion?

After I have docked, I realize that flying the Anaconda so far has not been much fun. I kind of feared this would be the case. While the bridge-cockpit surely looks great, the large obstructed area in front of the cockpit is annoying and does not look really good. It looks more like a duck´s beak than an overview on your regal ship from its bridge. Also, it imo somehow does not fit to the fighter-space-sim style of combat. Combat is sluggish and more of the "freighter" style; you have to stick to take a beating and beat the others down faster. This makes not for a very sustainable combat and should better be left for the hopefully later upcoming multi-player ship combat. Best thing is not to get hit at all by being fast and evasive.

With this conclusion, and it is already very late night, I sell the Anaconda in Azeban (wouldn´t it be cool if other players could buy used ships and commodities from other players? In EVE, this is standard, in fact, it is supposed to be that players create, buy and sell every commodity in the game). I buy an Eagle instead. Not as deadly and fast as a Viper, but very nimble. And cheap, so I can try out fancy things and test my limits and skills as a pilot without regret. The station just sells C2 pulse lasers as top-of-the-line, so I go with it.

On launch, my Eagle explodes, almost immedeately. Déjà vu; this had happened once to my Lakon type 6. Now I can see a pattern to this bug: I had switched to the galaxy map, and switching back coincidenced with being released from the landing pad (earlier with the Lakon6, I had alt-tabbed out of the game and tabbed back the moment I was released from the pad).I should probably write a ticket about it. However, it is late, I am lazy and tired and Frontier never giving even the slightest feedback, like, "ticked read", does not motivate me a lot.

My second Eagle and me patrol some unidentified signals (US). They pop up and I can enter them rather fast by supercruising just at minimum speed; the US then appear very close and I do not have to slow down eternally long as usual when traveling in supercruise. It is kind of an exploit of how these "random encounters" are programmed, but they serve me to get to some diversified type of fights fast (as opposed to the pabulum offered at the Federal distress call). IMO, Frontier should rather programm US such that they appear throughout the system, detectable for all players including groups of players; as a mix of exploring/combat.

- feeling releaved from heavy weight flying; back in an Eagle cockpit!

After a while, I jump to Asellus Prime (I hardly have more options with the Eagles gimped jump range). I dock and buy a different weapon setup of two C2 burst lasers and a C2 railgun, but have to realize quickly that the Eagle still overloads and breaks down its powergrid when I deploy the railgun. Talk about heeding your own lessons learned; seems to be the motto for me this night.

So three burst lasers it is. So far, I was best with pulse lasers, but I want to find out why and what burst lasers strengths are. After some fighting, it seems that the gimbal versions of burst lasers are particularly useful to target and hit ship components. I never was this successful with pulse lasers as now with the burst version. Like this, quite an amount of Sidewinders and Cobras explode before hull is at 0% because I specifically target the "power" or "power plant" ship component. Time flies, I rack up quite an amount of bounty vouchers. So many, that in fact after some time the vouchers which I earned previously in Eranin and which I can only turn in for Eranin, respecively Federation, vanish under the load of Assellus Prime-specific vouchers. Surely a bug.

I love the flystyle, as no ship can really hit the nimble Eagle. In the end I imagine I even dodge enemy fire right through the middle of their hardpoints. I finally find the relaxation I wanted, however, the game session went on too long. It is 3 am, and even if I could and would want to follow "the flow", which I have finally entered, still longer, reason finally kicks in and I log out.

Typing my report about this session, I realize it must be a chore to read. It indeed is more a report than a story. I did not have much to tell story-wise, and clearly it was not nearly as exciting than my last session. Maybe this is also a symptom of the fact that I now have tried out everything I wanted in this beta game, according to my game-strategy which I discussed in an early post in this blog. It seems that my beta is nearing completion, I can probably "finish" it with one or two session. Maybe right in time for the next upgrade from Frontier, after the Gamescom this weekend? We will see! For now: Over and out.

Thoughts in-between:
- setting up fire groups in staition does not save, i.e. you have a little surprise when starting combat and you suddely just fire heatsinks and a single laser
- exiting supercruise on the inner side of the station`s orbit makes it very probable that the docking entrance is in front of you, not all the way around the station

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