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, 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!

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