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)

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Becoming a trader-slave?

There are some posts in the ED forum which discuss this issue; trading seems to be the way to go, thereby almost invalidating other playstyles because of the comparatively fast way to make money (and thus get to the ships with the stuff you want faster, get greater jump range for exploring, become a powerful fighter faster, etc.). Last night, I made exactly this experience.

I started in my trusty Eagle in I Bootis and checked the bulletin board. An unusual high payed job pops up; bring 1 unit of palladium and receive 12.000 Credits. This I can do. So I think. Only after I accepted the mission and looked up the galaxy map for the nearest extraction or refiniery system (not sure which one is the right to look for; probably refinery), I was confronted with a severely short jump range of my fighter ship. I couldn´t even jump to the neighbouring Eranin and was stuck with only Aulin as a viable route. At first I wondered if this can be right, but then I remembered how it was explained in the forum that weapon/equipment loadout has a mass, too, which shortens any jump range. So my three gimbals actually gimp me.

The mission has a duration of one hour. I decided to patrol some unidentified signals (US) and then to go back to the hauler and do this mission. I do not want to be a bird without (jump)wings.

Zipping around I Bootis and diving for any US, I encountered security vessels, security vessels, security vessels, security vessels, security vessels... aaaand; security vessels.

After about 20 Minutes of 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!

 - I did not find a screenshot of en Eagle using triple multicannons; space is full of a swarm of angry sparks when you fire! This picture here is probably portraying rather a railgun-hit in pre-beta (the graphic effect has changed a little since then. I liked it better before, as shown here, looks more powerful an impact like this).

I am bored, besides, I still wanted to haul that well-payed mission, so I pick some units and head for Chango Dock´s black market. Chango stalls its docking clearance for quite a while so that I am tempted to go get a coffee. There, finally. Wanting to cash-in my bounty voucher of 650 Credits (feels like getting pocked money from grandad), the security office gratiously also offers me to pay off my fine of 2150 Credits. WTF! How come? ... I must have attacked one of the Sidewinder pirates while they were still yellow. From experience relayed from the ED forum, I can guess how it must have happened: It is confusing; some yellow ships you can attack because they already have the "wanted" status. However, a pirate, who is threatening you via communication ("NOW YOU DIE MUAHAHAHA!") must first shoot at me and hit me so that I am not fined when I shoot at him.
Selling my self-made coffee cargo at the black market, I get compensated with a plus of a grand 535 Credits. So much for founding a coffee business. Great. That´s it. Bye, Eagle, bye system patrols!

Enter the second phase of this night´s play session. I head for Aulin, swooping for two US on the route. A Sidewinder nets me a voucher for 750 Credits. Another Cobra, but the Eagle has competition in form of three security vessel Eagles. On the brink of dealing the final deathblow, the multicannons stutter and die off; no ammo. Jeez, I totally forgot about buying ammo. So this Cobra is some other Eagle´s spoils.

In Aulin, I sell all guns and exchange the Eagle back into a Hauler. Checking the bulletin board, there is a "long range haul" to Dahan for 5000 Credits. Fine, I wanted to check for Palladium there, anyways. And I can load the remaining cargo bay with some agri-medicines to drop them off on the way in Eranin.

With his notion, my brain for the next two hours somehow succumbs to a grind. I do a few times a Dahan - Aulin trip, because a combination of "long haul" mission and cargo makes it seem worthwhile. However, soon after this, I am back doing Asellus Prime (catalysators) - Dahan (Cobalt). I want that Lakon Type 6. I grind, do not have really fun, but I do not realize it until after some time has passed and my account is up to 182.000 Credits. I decide to call it a night and go in my next session for two or three more runs and then buy the Lakon Type 6. Yay, next session, Lakon Type 6! According to players´ feedback from the ED forum, this space cow must have a phenomenal jump range, and I would finally be able to reach every system.

- waiting the queue for docking permission became a bit too repetitive for my taste this night; sometimes, I had to request docking about a dozen times before I could get in

For this night, I cannot help but feel a bit dissatisfied. There was not really something new to discover, and while some of the combat was there, it felt very routine already and the rewards felt more like pocket money.

Already shutting down my PC, something nagging at the back of my mind blooms fully into my awareness. Cobra! I totally forgot that I could buy a Cobra Mk3; could have already done it at 150.000 Credits and thus saved myself a part of tonight´s mindless grinding!

This is one of the moments where impulse overrules rationality; it is already midnight and I really should conserve more energy for the day. But I want to fly the Cobra and reap this satisfaction of having achieved something, which I felt slightly missing today.

Off to I Bootis I fly, taking one new trade good along the way, of which Slopey´s tool tells me would bring 10.000 Credits profit. However, as I arrive, I actually can only sell it off with a loss. I re-check. Slopey´s tool still shows a profit, so the update seems to be very slow. I cannot imagine that I Bootis is checked so rarely by other players that its data would be outdated? Maybe there was just a moment ago a visit of a player in a Lakon Type 9 who reaped all the profit and smashed the price level? I don´t know and don´t care: It is Cobra-time!

 - Cobra, THE iconic Elite ship

And it is, for the next one and a half hours. First thing I do is the Aulin fish run, then agri-medicines to Eranin, then grain to Aulin. One Cobra-run equals two runs with my Hauler before (36 units instead of 16). Good, now I should have the cash to also buy weapons and have enough left for an insurance fee in case my snake get squished under some other ship´s boots.

Fitting weapons to the Cobra, I can draw from my earlier experience of fitting the Eagle: I try again a railgun approach and realize that even the Cobra can only fit two of its four hardpoints with C2-railguns before the power allowance hits its max. In this case, I might as well fit four C1-lasers and have the same damage output with less punishment on my ship system.
There are some interesting other weapon combinations (here is some outdated information, but it gives a good overview of what is available), but I do not have the cash and I do not want to gimp my jump range too much, so no C3- or C4-weapons please, which weight 9 tonnes. After some pondering, I want to fit the Cobra to play its strength, which is multi-purpose. I decide to fit four C1-gimballed-burst lasers, which I consider have a good weight-to-punch-ratio. Like this, I can hopefully fight well but still make use of a higher jump range than with what I now instinctively call the "starter ships" (Sidewinder, Eagle, Hauler).

Side-remark: I don't like the "level"-ship concept and think that no ship should be outdated by another type. Each needs to have its strength and viability also in a late game stage. The Sidewinder e.g. could be a cheap scout for risky approaches, or could be specifically good with a certain exotic weapon setup (railguns?). Etc.

Having 30.000 Credits cash left, which is hopefully enough to cover insurance, my Cobra starts to hunt for US-prey. The first few Sidewinders encountered pop very satisfyingly after only brief firing position, no more than three needed. However, the burst lasers do draw a lot of power. I guess it is ok for the Cobra. This ship is not very maneuverable compared to the other I have flown so far, but it has superior speed. Rush in, hit hard, get out of it, repeat. The gimballed C1-burst lasers support this tactic nicely.

I am getting bold; a US contains an Anaconda with "wanted"-status and three security vessels. I attack the Anaconda quickly, because I already saw them jump away rather quickly if not immediately enganged. The security vessels jopin the fight on my side, as I expected from earlier observations. This should help. Whew, the Anaconda it is a big bad ship, which turns suprisingly fast; I do not manage to stay at its six, respectively, the moment I believe I am at its six it somehow almost instantly manages to turn 180 degree and fire a full frontside laser barrage at me. Three times I get caught in the Anacondas mighty gunrange, I am at 66% hull even though I try to vertical strafe on its lateral axis (this is how successfully used to evade Cobra fire with my Eagle). Then it happens. My energy batteries have recovered and I swoop in for another salvo at the Anaconda. A security vessel strays exactly this moment into my fire. All three security vessels turn red and open fire on me. Damn, damn, damn. No dice, I won´t risk my new and expensive ship. Thanks to superior speed, I am quickly out of range and can warp away. One last look on my target shows it at 8% quickly whittled down to the end by the Eagles who apparently did not bother to follow me with an angry Anaconda on their six.

I really have to start making my own screenshots; dancing with three Eagles and an Anaconda feels a bit similar this screenshot, though

This was exciting, and a good point to finish this session, finally. It is 2 am, once again. I guess I will have to do a break from the game at some point this week and recover some sleep. For now, I am very satisfied, as buying the Cobra somehow turned this game session into the good experience I wanted to have. Engage shutdown!

Thoughts from in-between:
- It would be good to have access to the galaxy map while browsing the board. I could check jump ranges before accepting a job without having to exit and re-enter the whole station menu (with this slight every so annoying loading time).
- I totally ignored the Viper so far, even though I was totally wanting to have it before I entered beta. I guess this is because of my mediocre experience with the Eagle. The Viper seems to be as well a pure fighter, a bit faster than the Eagle. However, my playstyle is not very set, so I seem to fare better with a multi-purpose approach. But I will sure still try out the Viper at a later stage.
- I still forget to load and make use of NVidia´s shadowplay, so that I might support my blog with videos and screenshots; I guess I am still to caught up in the game itself, so no real focus on reporting from the game. This might change when I have seen it all and can shift my focus a bit more to the social experience.
- As the reader might have noted, I totally forgot to do that one mission from the start of my session; I totally did not find any Palladium in Dahan, Asellus Prime, Eranin or Aulin, and I did not bother to waste time flying around looking for it.
- Putting in pictures in this article somehow totally destroys its formatting. I guess this is where for-free-software reaches its limits.
- Placed a passage of this article in the Drabble-Thread here.

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