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, 2 September 2014

The dark side

Being rich and bored, my options are few. I cut down my game sessions significantly, since I reallocated power distribution, uhm, my time resources, towards other things, waiting for the beta client to update all the bugs and disfunctions encountered so far, and maybe to include new interesting elements, too. Instead, I looked a bit into another MMORPG, Star Trek online. I might write something separate on this. Concerning Elite, I did not write anything until now, but after two or three short superficial sessions, a coherent new story started to emerge.
A first short game session found me patroling unidentified signals (US) in h Draconis. I wanted a new environment and I never was in this system before. As I am bored, I automatically loose some sharpness, which I had to realize at an US which constisted of 7 gold containes. While I lazily scooped them in, three Cobras made their appearance. Since I had repeatedly experienced that most ships do not even dare to attack my Anaconda and quickly make it away, I just ignored them and continued my scooping. Quickly, I was woken up. The Cobras had snuck up on me to close range and simultaneously opened fire. I accelerated to destroy them routinely, however, in the end I was down to 84%, even had been forced to use expensive missiles to get some breathing room. I was rather annoyed about myself; the gold´s worth does not weight up the repair and ammo costs. What happened? Bordeom made me careless, complacency made me forget to retract the cargo scoop while figthing, so I was a real sitting duck throughout the fight. This way, I learned that even maneuvering at the Anaconda´s slow speed is useful to avoid enemy fire. You have to stay sharp in Elite: Dangerous. I wouldn´t want it any other way.

A hyperhump later in 26 Draconis, a system which shows to be under an independent government, but a population of zero. Weird. And soon it becomes obvious that this system indeed behaves like an empty system; no bounties gained. Not before I am interdicted by an Anaconda, though. This little dance leaves me again down to 83% hull, and the prospect if another 26k repair cost with nothing gained annoys me again. Devoid of any ideas of what else I could do in a leasurly way, I quit the game session.

Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. Wait... there is still... the dark side beckons. Something I would probably not start doing when the game is finally out. Perfect occasion, now. Smuggling, piracy, murder.

- ... and whores, but they are not implemented yet. (courtesy from godofallcows here)

In general, smuggling seems to be the FOTM after Isinona did that famous moody video and some smuggling tips have been summarized nicely in the ED forum. However, cut the mood away and just realize that all you need to achieve is to get to land before any security vessel has enough time to scan you, no matter how you achieve it. And it is economically not all-too profitable, except if you manage to get hold of some gold or weapons.
Isinona was acting overly redundant; just going in with full boosted speed would have been more than enough to escape a scan (it might be different at different station; maybe Isinona happened to pick exactly the one station which scans every ship by default). So for any beginner, you can go more slowly by using stealth e.g. at Chango Dock in I Bootis, a station of which I know for sure that they do not scan by default every approaching ship. Just make sure to not dawdle; security forces can still spot you and scan you, even in stealth, as I have to learn later in this story here, when they are close enough. However, docking with max speed, going down to blue when entering the docking cage, usually is enough to pull it off. I did it already and never had any issue with security, so I did not consider smuggling as a challenge, yet.

Piracy, on the other hand, is difficult to do. Players are usually away before you can make them yettison something of value, but some NPC ships drop cargo if you scare them sufficiently by shooting their hull into very low cohesion grades.  However, murder... well there was this newsletter which warned of some wanted ruthless CMDRs with very high bounties on their head. Maybe I should indeed try out this playstyle, too. I assume that bounties on your head get cleared once you are shot down (?), so the challenge would be to stay alive and acumulate a high value. You may judge your stature by that of your enemies.

- a proper dark signature file for murderous deeds (courtesy from Mobius)

Before launching into the next session, I prepared some more voice commands, i.e. macros. I will have to drop from security forces´ radars. One voice command will activate/deactivate stealth. My Voice Command does not react well to the word "stealth", so I use the more unique, easy to recognize "Schleichfahrt". Another one will access the modules in the rightmenu and shut frameshift and shields off ("shut down"). Another one to reactivate them ("wakeup"). Last, a seperate command for the engine, needs also be more unique, so "Triebwerk".

So, the order will be, when I arrive as "wanted" and/or with stolen goods at a station:
- approach with "boost", "flight assist" (FAoff),
- "shutdown","triebwerk"
- enter "Schleichfahrt" once I am 4km close and my ship has cooled down sufficiently,
- "request docking"
- "triebwerk", FAon, final approach to docking entrance,

presto. Doing this on the base of voice macros is mainly for personal comfort and for instilling the mood of acutally "commanding" a spacecraft, as opposed of just "piloting" it.

In between the game sessions, I also tried to find a way to make my video capture software ("Shadowplay" from Nvida) to not capture the chitchat from Teamspeak. However, I have to realize that it is still a beta and does not have a corresponding option yet. I am too lazy to find another video capturing software, since I am not really needing Teamspeak yet, considering the futileness of social gameplay in this game´s beta client.


In order to become an actually feared pirate, I jump to independent governed space, Dahan. It is an independend government, which means I will incure "wanted" status and also bounties, but it should be limited to this system [forgot to test this theory, though]. In order to accelerate my encounters with all kinds of ships, yellow "clear"-status ships is enough this time, I drop into the nav beacon, which every system has near the sun, presumably an as an entry point for NPC ships coming out of hyperspace. I start shooting ships liberally and unscrupulously; many take flight and the Anaconda is not in the position to hunt them down, but I get my share of spoils.

Unfortunately, a severe gameplay bug appears, which kind of disqualifies my weapon setup and, ultimately, also the concept of a slow-turning gunboat-Anaconda in a dogfight. Two of my gimbal pulse lasers do act like fixed lasers. This makes aiming very difficult and 50% of my shots do not hit anymore while I am maneuvering. Even if I adjust, I have to realize that I am not used to proper aiming anymore! Testing and verifying this bug and creating a ticket take up some time. I can shut down, sell and re-buy, but the guns stay bugged. Sometimes, they "switch", i.e. it is suddenly the other pair of guns which lost its gimbal. Despite all efforts, this bug now accompanies me consistently. Flying an Anaconda without gimbals gimps my combat performance; any manual aiming will not compensate, since my combat tactics rely upon a certain strafing movement which prevents direct aim. I nevertheless try to keep to my plan and try to treat the bug as an added challenge. But it is not so much fun with this bug.

A Cobra drops some cargo before I destroy it anyways. Because I can. Yes, feel the dark side, feel its power. Even as a mean pirate and murderer, I must nevertheless earn a bit of money, so I start scooping. I ignore the fact that there are more efficient ways to earn money besides pirating and try to live as if I had no access to trading opportunities. So I have to get by now with the spoils of pirating. And a hard life it is. Grain. Biowaste. Radioactive Waste. Consumer Electronics. Cobalt.

A ship approaches. This is new to me; an Anaconda system security vessel. It starts scanning me. Thankfully, I do not forget to retract my cargo scoop, but I still did let it sneak up a bit too much on me. In single combat, NPC Anacondas usually manage at most to tear me down to about 80% hull. Thanks to the gimbal bug, I now score less damage and it takes me longer to finish the fight. A fight of this magnitude is already ok difficult, but having on top to deal with a kind of malfunctioning weapons makes the whole experience a bit too close to my taste, and rather expensive, too. Since I cannot totally avoid being hit, this time my hull is down to 63%. On top of it, the rest of the yet not scooped cargo suddenly disappears. Combat took too long and some timer must have expired. Not great, at all, Frontier, this is a total breach of your "realism" approach, here!

For repairs, I go back to Brislington Station in h Draconis. Aware of my "wanted" status, I do the smuggler´s stealth approach which I planned and detailed above, using and testing my new voice commands. It works out fine, I land unmolested.

As a little break, I try again to wrestle and kill the gimbal bug, with some test subjects at the nav point. Shutting modules on and off via rightmenu, adding some tries to save&quit in between, leads the client to a crash. When I log back, my painfully bug-impeded collection of bounties on my head of 7.800 Credits are suddenly down to 100 Credits, as seen in the rightmenu. On top of my annoyance, I now feel insulted. However, after checking my "wanted"-status later at the security office, it still costs me a fine of 7.800 Credits to pay off. Another bug, ticket.

Launching again, I start my new murdering routine and catch some Haulers and Sidewinders, which do leave cargo. Soon again, ships approach. Eagle, Viper, scan reveils both as system security ship. A third one lags a bit behind. A fourth at my four-down. Two Anaconda system security vessels! Things escalate. They start scanning me and I know that a hell of a fight is pending. As I accelerate, they open fire. I focus on one Anaconda, but it is fruitless. Two Anacondas plus two nimble ships on top do hurt too bad. I manage to boost away and enter supercruise, a bit breathless and annoyed, with 37% hull, 69.000 Credits repair costs (which, in fact, seems to be bugishly low; I have already payed 130k Cr to repair similar damage). Calculate the cargo scooped, no, it is not even worth calculating, so low value the stuff I got even is.

Aaand, back for repairs! Again Brislington Station in h Draconis. Again my stealth approach works out fine. Absently, I note the thought that pirating and murdering and then docking at legal system stations for maintenance might not be a sustainable way of pirating and murdering. How true this foreboding became during the next few minutes!

- Brislington station, frequent stops for repairs

Launching again and leaving the docking corridor, my scans already revealed quite an unusal number of system security vessels close around. Distracted, I turn a bit too early and manage to entangle myself with the protruding antennae of the docking cage. As coincidences are sometimes, I did not go into stealth yet, and I am glad that I forgot to do so as it saved me some repair costs. Immedeately, I make up for my mistake. Some short moments later, a scan warning message pops up. What? I am in stealth! The police vessels must be really close, then, to be able to lock me anyways! I guess that is what you get if you crash into their front doors with a loud bang. And they do react bloody fast.

There is no stolen cargo in my bay; even though I have to admit that occasionly I do forget to sell them, this time I did sell them. However, I did not clear my "wanted"-status, which is all those trigger-happy police forces need to scratch the itch. Railgun fire impacts my ship as I hit the control for the afterburner. No shields due to stealth, slow as a slug against three very fast and numble red dots on my radar, presumably Vipers from my earlier observations. But even then I am surprised at the incredible amount of beating my Anaconda has to suffer.

Barely, I make it past mass lock and escape into supercruise, with 13% hull. Had I already had locked another system, my engines would have charged up longer to prepare a hyperjump and I would have been destroyed.

Did somebody famous once state that the dark side is the easier way? I feel the urge to shoot that guy.

With 13% hull, I am faced with the decision to hyperjump to an anarchy system in order to avoid security in my weakened state. However, CMDRs lying in wait at Freeport might be an even greater risk. This is why I decide to try another stealthy approach to Brislington. Stealth is now not only fun, it is paramount for my Anaconda to survive. Fortunately, my landing approach works according to plan and I settle down with my barely-holding-together Anaconda. Whew, close.

At least I can say, docking and repairing again in a non-anarchy system has some added tension to it, as a pirate and murderer. However, the according fame and profit are missing, which takes some significant part of the fun away. And this is also the end of my last game session for this blog entry.

All in all, after these last game sessions, I see my plans to play the dark side thwarted by bugs and an overal economic inefficiency. Right now, piracy is simply not worth it. Maybe smaller fishes, but right now there is absolutely no in-game reason for a dark side Anaconda to exist. The just-for-fun aspect suffers from bugs, what is left is the challenge to regularily tackle Anaconda-sized system security vessels with escorts, and pay the rep bill for it, or insurance, if it comes to the worst. I would be happy to re-try this part, once the game updates with all the intended additional features and a more propfitable outlook.

As I have never encountered so many security Anacondas before, it was interesting to note that, apparently, the game scales up the police forces according to the level of danger your ship represents.

As an interesting afterthought, maybe this result kind of reflects that status of theft and bribery in real life. You do not get rich with it. For the latter, you better be a big fish asset manager or something, playing and abusing the system by some grey means which are not exactly forbidden, with the backing of vast amounts of funding. Maybe Elite right now is a bit too much of real-life?


  1. I too, was bored and frustrated with life in an anaconda and sold mine last night and downgraded to a viper w/ 4 x cannons and decided to try life as a bounty hunter for a while. I will give this a try till next beta.

    1. I totally like the Anaconda´s versatility, and it is hard to consider going back down to a Viper, or Cobra, if I want to pirate and scoop a sufficient amount stolen cargo.

      What else to do, even in a Viper? Been there, done that. I am toying with participating the Buckyball race, but it is a lot of hassle. And no guns involved.