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)

Friday, 31 October 2014

Exploring and some mining

Bosch Settlement, Pi Fang. The client is already patched to 3.01. Frontier seems to work in berserk mode!

The bulletin board offers 2 hauls, yielding 94k Credits, to 26 Draconis, Bouch Beacon. Lucky deal. Arriving there, it is again a chore, having to travel 20.000 ls out. Good that I immediately launched; one mission has a very close timer of 12 minutes. Oh, and on this occasion I note that I again forgot to pay off a fine from my unsucessful batch of missions last time. The fine is 7000 Credits, the black market value at Bosch Settlement was 5000 Credits. So, cheating the employer does no longer pay off, as it did in beta2.

Wow, at Bouch Beacon, I am able do disengage with a target lock at 500 km/s. This makes supercruise travel much faster, all in all! Onwards to H Draconis and then LP 61-157, two high population industrial systems, in seach of more good equipment, and maybe a good deal on the side. Both commodities and bulletin board here at Bouch Beacon offer only low-margin profits.

Crash on exit. Bad memories from last beta emerge, where I could play fine until they started patching... Hm, something more severe, I do not get to log in, failed to authenificate with connecting server (or something). During the enforced breack, to my great joy I discover that Slopey´s Best Price Calculator is back!

In Brislington Station, I can upgrade to a D3 powerplant, yielding 1000 more power. That´s it. I try to type data into Slopey´s sheet, but I do not understand it; there are no entries for demand and selecting the stuff is tedious. It should be pre-structured as ingame.

Bingo! On a hunch, before jumping to LP 61-157, I stop at the second large station here, Janjetov Memorial. They have an intermediate scanner for 500k and an advanced scanner for 1,5mio Credits. I buy the latter. There is also a detailed surface scanner; but where to put it? I would not want to drop the fuel scoop, no? So, I sacrifice a 16-ton cargo rack. Those are easy to get back, and right now I am not into commodity trading and I never seem to fill all my cargo with mission hauls, anyways. Wonderful, I think I am ready to go! Hmm, wait, somehow I do not have a refinery. Must have forgotten to buy it, even though I wanted to. So in goes an H3 refinery with 3 bins (damn, the other one was 6 bins!), out goes another 16 ton cargo rack. I have now only 64 tons cargo capacity, a little above a full-freight Cobra, but all the shiny multi-talent stuff is in.

What now? Looking for a bigger refinery and then out there, in search of richer mine fields, I would say. Some Paladium asteroids would bring in a nice profit...

The bulletin board has about 40k worth of hauls to 26 Draconis. Waait, forgot to check the shipyards! What do my tired eyes see? An Empireal Clipper! 22 mio Credits. Good to know. And an Asp is offered here, too. Launch to 26 Draconis. Damn, I forgot Bouch Beacon is is 20.000 ls out... should not have taken the run. Ah, no matter, this gives me time to think about next steps.

Bad news: Mission timer ran out from two missions, but thankfully the big one is still there.
Good news: I remember to scan the system, I discover 23 stellar objects, and I can sell them for 3200 Credits.

Next goal: Scan all 23 objects and see how much it makes. This is to test my upcoming big exploration, if it is worth doing surface scans, or, as in beta2, only system-wide scans. Interesting; the sun is already scanable from 10.000 ls out. Planets around 15 ls, moons around 7 ls. While flying around, I get interdicted. The new animation is amazing. The first interdiction is a greedy Eagle, but I can escape before my shield goes down, thanks to the faster recharge of the frameshift drive. The second is a security vessel, which promptly scans and fines me. Yeah, once more I had forgotten to dispose of the cargo from the failed haulage missions.

 - looks like being locked up in an planetarium

It takes a while, and in between I take a break from playing. When I come back in the evening, there is already a patch 3.02 out and ready. My gosh. Patching berserk rage, it is!

 - this planet distracts me from the monotone surface scanning and I drop into the ring for some more mining; however, it is as tedious as before, with only little yield

After some time, I have scanned all remaining 22 objects and head back to H Draconis. I overlooked one, but it is 13.000 ls out and I do not want to make the travel for just one measly object.

Arriving at the H Draconis, I am almost immediately interdicted. This time I notice that there is an escape vector. A little blue target indicator which looks similar to the one you get when trying to get away from a planet after you came too close, only that I am still in supercruise, as I realize after a short moment of confusion. It seems my stronger frameshift drive gives me an edge this time and I don´t get immediately kicked out of supercruise. But the escape vector is dancing around and difficult to align to, and all the blueish sparkling from the interdiction is around, too. There are also some indicators on my hud, probably showing my "escape power" versus the "interdiction power". By following the vector, I can increase my blueish escape power. I should have made a screenshot, but obviously, I was very busy.

I almost manage to follow the rapidly shifting vector, but in the end have to submit to the interdiction. However, there is no enemy ship waiting for me this time. I take this opportunity to quickly get back into supercruise. After docking again in Janjetov Memorial, I log out.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Reaching out

Alexandia Gateway, G 180-18. From there I make my way towards LHS 6309 and hope for some new ships to pop up there. When I arrive in the system, I am immediately grilled by a white small star. Smoke rises from my amatures, and funnily, when I turn away, the smoke behaves oddly and stays in place, resulting in a smoke cloud at my right window.

- notice the smoke hanging on the right side of my cockpit

The white star is not the main star, but in very close orbit. This system is full of stars, indeed. But I want to first have a well equipped ship, preferably with an advanced scanner before I start the sightseeing. Two big stations are here. Carey Colony has nothing to offer. Smeaton Port is out by 2500 ls. And no new ships neither. A bit irritating is that headtracking stays enabled in the station menu; I do not need it there so I toggle it off.

Via Hermitage to LHS 3262, a high tech system where I bought an Anaconda in beta1; let´s see if they can suit my needs. Other routes are difficult to plan; the galaxy map does not display any information on many systems. Explorers needed? Maybe I start buying data for getting a better overview? I sure do not want to spend my time scanning all 2400 systems here.

On my flights, I notice a lot of the fine tuning in this new beta client. Hyperspace looks much cooler, the exit is much faster and you really have to tone down your speed quickly lest you get grilled by the star. Which exactly happens to me in Hermitage. The star is a brown dwarf, and during the brief moments of me doing a screenshot, I am already so close that the emergency drop kicks in. My ship´s heat is at 180%, my hull down to 77%, oh my. Thankfully, the frameshift cooldown has also been finetuned i.e. shortened, so I can escape quickly!

 - beautiful view, a bit too hot though

Arriving at LHS 3262, on my way to Lacaille Prospect, supercruise is much easier again to handle; drop out with destination lock is again possible with up to 300 km/s. It was roughly half of this in the last beta, making the approach longer and more tedious.

Docking goes wrong due to a bug, the landing pad does not recognize my approach, so I have to leave the station and redo the docking process. On my way, there is a Lakon Type 9 getting stuck in the docking cage; I wonder if I should ticket those issues, which do not directly affect me, too. While waiting for the docking timer to exire, I observe from the leaving ships that NPC ships apparently are not affected by mass lock. A new warning message "frameshift charge detected" is uttered the moment those ships leave the docking cage.

- probably my fault that the NPC here gets stuck; it tries to avoid collision with me while still being in the docking cage


Sigh. Again, no new ships. I better switch now to the Lakon Type 6, and be it just for the better jump range! Done. The outfitting screen is rich. I upgrade to 2x32-ton racks, 2x16-ton racks, a fuel scoop, and a D4 frameshift drive (which is much cheapter with only 50k Credits than before!). However, I remember having had a larger jump range with it. Could it be that Frontier meddled a bit with the classifications? I read in the ED forum that A class should be what D class was in the last beta. This would explain the lower price, too. The only thing I want and do not find is an advanced scanner. And I am not sure; should I equip again the mining stuff? I want a multi-purpose ship, after all, and the Lakon Type 6 is closest to it besides the not-yet affordable Asp.

For a virgin flight, I take some transport missions to Guangul. Three of them available, and the board does not replenish. Fuel scooping is a lot of fun; you enter the system close to the sun so no waste of time having to fly far. My approach to Laue´s Claim is hindered by a request denied. I study the outpost a bit. Quite sinister, definitely a pirate layout. Hm... I really hope that the "request denied" issue is not because of me not having enough reputation to be accepted here...? That would suck, honestly. A relog does not change the situation, all the while I see NPC ships come and dock.

- screams "I am a pirate ARRRH"

As I study the rightmenu, I see that I have neutral reputation. Then I see it! I have a fine of 7000 Credits with all factions here! How? More important: Where to pay it off if they do not let me dock!?? Ah, one of my three missions must have expired, the fine shows in the leftmenu. Weird. I am trying to go to Fossey Station; all my mission timers are lost by now, no way I can still make it in time.

Thankfully Fossey Station lets me land. The are also owned by the same faction, Gold Creative LTD. I assume I was victim to a bug. Costs me 10k Credits of fine by now; the last transport mission is still up with 30 minutes. The outfitting screen gives me C4 thrusters, optimal thust now at 350 tons. I also buy a refinery, for one million Credit, but it has 6 bins which means much less hassle in selecting the right asteroids. Hm, a bug, I hear my breathing mask, and when undocking, it has endless looping message about life system enabled. Relog.

Must try Laue´s Station again, to make sure. Again, request denied. Something is wrong here. Ok scratch that mission. Looking for the next big system in order to complement my ship equipment. Amongst all the non-information, I finally find and spot LFT 1446, a high population industry system. On my way out, I am far enough to drop all the "stolen" cargo; actually, I have to, in order to make the 12 ly jump to my target.

It is a bright white star. A small one. As I try to get closer for scooping, I get kicked out of supercruise, hull drops to 98%. I see, so no scooping off small white stars! Oh, oh, but my heat is rising! Quick, enter supercruise... whew... 200% heat and my ship is down to 96%.

 - oooh, shiny... (moments before the BAM)

And another inconvenience: Bosch Settlement is 20.000 ls away. Hrmpf; time to grab a coffee, I guess. Bosch is in planetary orbit around a yellow and a brown star. I try fuel scooping at the brown star; no, does not work. The yellow star again does work. I overdo it a bit and get a lot of smoke on my amatures, and my hull drops to 88%. Docking in Bosch Settlement, repairs are 1000 Credits, and refueling the rest fuel is 500 Credits. So I guess it was a zero sum game this time. A bit more cautious fuel scooping and I might indeed save some money!

- finally a reason to play with fire...

 - nice arrangement

Better results here; they sell the Asp (6 mio Credits), and the new Federal Dropship (38 mio Credits!), which I personally believe to be very very ugly. No luck again finding the Empireal ship. In the outfitting screen, I update to a C4 frameshift drive, which propels my range from 14 ly to 17 ly. Much better! However, still no advanced scanner. This tool is important for exploring; if it works as it did in beta2, its scanning range is a multitue greater than the measly 500 ls of the basic scanner. If I want to go into all those systems which do not have any information yet on the galaxy map, I better have the advanced scanner aboard, lest I will need a lot of time just for the need of flying around scanning.

An announcement of a server shutdown leaves me 10 more minutes. I take my chances and grab a load of crop harvesters and head out for Pi-Fang, a rich agricultural system. Arriving there, I manage to fuel scoop at a sweet spot which keeps my heat at 98%. Arriving at Brooks Estate, I seel the harvesters for a profit of overal 60k Credits. Nice! Comfortably, there is also a black market, so I can ssell the rest of my "stolen" goods which are still in my hold from the unsuccessful transport missions.

 - note the planet having a new and improved graphic; gorgeous (need to look up more synonyms for ´beautiful´...)

Then servers are shut down and my game session so far finished.

Not sure where to start

The next few blog entries will resemble more to notes taken while playing than a good story about my adventures in Elite. So much to discover and find out about! Also, a lot of breaks because of my sickness. TV and PC can be a super pain killer, they just put your consciousness somewhere else, but they cost a certain amount of concentration, which of course is rather limited when sick.

 I definitely do not want to stay in the "starter systems", so I spend some time in the galaxy map to make myself aqcuainted and find all those locations I already frequented before. I want to see the new ship prices first, then pick a Jack-of-all-Trade type and to the new things, namely fuel scooping and mining. Wait, better try the fuel scooping first with the Sidewinder, in case I manage to blow myself up being too close to the sun...

My suspicions are confirmed. Some systems have changed. Adepti was an agricultural system, it now stands as a refinery system and no system informations are available. LHS64, my most lucrative mission site, seems to have gone. I just remember it was near Ross210, but that one is also gone, along with Dharai and NLTT49528. I feel a bit dislocated.
Oooh, there is Sol! Not far away just a bit "below" my starting location! It has no description and just borders the playable "tube" of the galaxy and I know from comm chatter in the ED forum that it is not visitable until the game goes into gamma.


- the new galactic pill (we neeed a new name for that thing...); the yellow pointer shows where some stars suddenly have been teleported to

As I search for, and find, Jurua (the system with that huge impressive brown dwarf), I notice that the galaxy map now displays all three stars, not only one generic one. Again I feel a nerdgasm coming! I so love this attention to details! But what is this? Jurua is not in the playable area!? Same for Taurawa. It seems that whole star systems got displaced! I wonder what is behind that change. There are also many many system descriptions lacking, even though the colour code shows a system type. This new set up seems to call for renewed exploration. So an advanced D-scanner would be a first good idea, and a ship with a reasonable jump range.

Aaaagh what to do what to do!?!

By chance I discover Jaitu, and this system has a station named Newcomen Gateway. That rings a bell; yes, Loga had also a station with the word "Newcomen" in it. It seems there is a random name generator at work here.

Aurea is still there, but it has changed. No stations in the system, but there are also some asteroid belds clickable. Maybe these are new mining locations? Maybe I should indeed first do some exploring and then start activities based on what I find, taking those aqcuainted systems for my compass. Without a "hold" like this, I would be so hopelessly lost in the galaxy map!

I need an explorations and prospecting ship. My Cash is handy 5,8 million Credits and I could go for the Lakon Type 6 again. But hopefully, one of the two newer ships will suit my needs, too!

After all this pondering, I need some action. Fuel scooping is the closest thing to do. The cheapest one costs 20k Credits. And off we go, to Chango Dock, I Bootis, let´s see if they have more ships than here in Aulin: Anaconda (oops, 146m Credits) Viper, Hauler, Eagle. Checking the commodity market, stuff is back in good supply and demand numbers, I am glad for that.

 - the flight is much more romantic without orbital lines cluttering my view

 On my arrival in I Bootis, fuel scooping starts kind of by accident. I just come a bit closer to the sun and it starts automatically. Heat is rising much more quickly than before, though, so I quickly have to dip out and in again. Vapour apprears on my consoles, and I am filled up and quickly out again. Cool! it surely could not be be done by dropping out of supercruise, with the quick heat up.

Chango Dock has only an Eagle and the Lakon Type 9 offered, the latter for 46 million Credits. Tough prices, but I am sure we will arrive at them soon enough once the final game is out. For checking the outfitting, there is still those annoying 30 seconds waiting time while my ship retracts on a sub level into the hangar. This seems to work faulty. Maybe due to that head tracking is now still enabled when you are in the station menu; the game hangs and freezes, which can be sometimes resolved by opening the game menu, but now it causes the client to crash.

Onwards to Asellus Prime. Dipping a bit into the sun´´s atmosphere already feels good and routine. And CMDR ships, a lot, like a swarm of birds, how wonderful. It felt a bit lonely in space during beta2!

Mere inches before touching the landing pad in Beagle 2 Landing, the client crashes. Again, lots of player ships around, so the reason seems obvious. Networking still needs some ironing.

Hm, same as in Aulin. Eagle, Viper, Hauler, Anaconda. Not what I want. Maybe the hauler, as a first time prospector? I´d rather get my fully pimped up Lakon6 again.

LHS6309 (agriculture) and G 180-18 (industry) seem to be the only star systems reachable, with a high population of 3 billion respectively 53 million. Let´s see what they got! While checking the outfitting screen, I get disconnected. I ticket it and attack the NetLog.log as I learned. However, I realize quickly that my internet connection is laggy; this might be the true reason. Sigh.

Finally, I opt for a test prospecting and by a Hauler, put one 8 ton rack in it and a refinery, replace the one loaned laser with a mining laser. LP 98-132 is advertised as a good mining system, but I want something off from the mainstream; LHS3006 should do nicely. Unfortunately, I get stuck in station without a menu; the hangar is really buggy right now. Save&Exit, relog, and what a sight, I am somewhere merged in the station. A pity I forget to make a screenshot. Ah nervermind, just a standard glitch/bug.

Turns out that the asteroid belt in LHS3006 consists of white asteroids which yield nothing. They must be ice. So, back to LP 98-132, planet Anahit, an old friend of mine. I supercruise in too fast because I hope to shake any interdictions from players and force-drop into Anahit´s ring, far away from the regular extraction points.

 - for sure the view is getting more and more gorgeous!

 The next 90 minutes I spend by with my mine laser, my cargo scoop, and me. Most asteroids yield hybrid chunks of metal, and my cheap refinery unit has exactly two slots, once for each metal. You have to determine the slots for each metal via the rightmenu, cargo, or the scoop is blocked after the first. Each chunk has a certain %tage of metal, and it is stuck in your refinery until you reach 100%, after which it is transported into the cargo hold. It is tedious. Every asteroid has a different metal combination, and they deplete so quick that I almost never can finish one metal to 100% in the refinery. Which means you have to spend time searching for another asteroid with the same metal combination. Or, maybe the more expensive refineries have more slots available?

 - laser mining has impact

Anyways, the result of a long evening are 1 silver, 1 indite, 2 lepidolite, 5 uraninite, all in all roughly 10k Credits at Dahan Gateway (has high demand in every mineral, as a refinery system). Ok, enough for me, it is a bit too tedious and monotone. Maybe with a scanner and some idea where to find the more expensive stuff, faster? Indite was the pricey one, with 2635 Credits.

Fuel scoop, check. Mining, check. Now on to the new ships! Set course for G 180-18. On my jump into Eranin it happens. I get interdicted by another commander. It is all very confusing; the interdictions for sure have become more flashy. I tumble and spin around into normspace, and before I regain control, a red blip has opened fire on my and I am down to 17% hull in no time. Finally I get the blip into my target and scan. It is CMDR Backer#3955 in a Cobra. No chance to escape this I guess, but I am resolved to make it difficult. Cobras turn slow, so I try to stick to him, out of his front guns. It works only so-so, and the reason I stay alive is mainly because I get scanned. At some point, he text-comms me "leave". I send a polite thanks back; there wasn´t really anything to gain from me I guess. Only later when I dock in Styx, Gerst Port, for repairs I realize that there was still 1 silver in my hold and it is gone now. I suppose he got it out via a cargo hatch breaker. I did not even realize this, things happened way to quickly for me. I wonder if that one silver made up the price for interdiction and cargo breaking? In the end, it does not matter. This was a perfectly executed piracy from a CMDR and I was witness to how it works and feels to a victim. Great experience. And I even got to keep my badly shot up hauler, what more to wish for.

Gerst Port. Rep costs are 2000 Credits. It sure has become more dangerous to fly an expensive ship. Certainly, the times of unarmed and unarmored ones. Maybe I should stick to the cheap ships until I am more aqcuainted with the new rules of the game?

Two last jumps to G 180-18, Alexandia Gateway. On my supercruise in I spot the holo form of the Empireal ship. However, at the ship yard, there are only all of the "old" ships. Well, something to quest for tomorrow then, I guess.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Beta 3 has entered the building

Here I am, sick with a head which feels double size, my eyes watering when staring at a screen, and beta 3 has arrived. Damn. So much I wanted to write about.

So, in short: Good bye beta2! After the initial awe at the graphics, you felt more like a work and you tried my patience with your gazillion hangs and crashes, and the repetitive gameplay with only missions and some NPC combat possible. In the end, I did not have patience and time anymore to follow through with all my bug reports; my bad. So, I am glad this is over and very hopeful at all the new shiny stuff arriving with beta3.

I let my PC download the new launcher and client, which took until midnight, and curiousity made me stay up and through it to finally take a first peek. Wow, as usual, when you are used to the current graphic, they crank it up a notch and totally makes you impress and appreciate every new detail. Suns are more flarish, the interface is much more hologram-ish, the blue faery lights from other ships in supercruise has been replaced by yellow flares, the planets look again better than before, the galaxy background is now so awesome, not so pinky anymore, for me exactly the right coulour tone to look good. I am blown away, even through the three layers of my headache.

As to the rest, I am stunned and overwhelmed, not sure what to do first, like under a Christmas tree with a lot of presents and not knowing which one to open first.

Fuelscoops, mining lasers and ore refinery, two new ships and a stunning range of systems, of which I do not recognize about half of them and I am pretty sure they were not there or not named as before. Only with the search function I am able to find the locations I spent my time in before, Evergreen, Aurea and so on. They are still there, of course, but the surrounding systems seem to be less familiar.

I have a headache and no plan. Can a game be too fantasticly good? I do not remember the last time I was so totally impressed by a game. It sure has been or at least feels like long long ago. And now I stop before I start to Nerd-cry, I already feel my eyes watering; my sickness, getting back to bed.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Some quotes from Alpha Centauri

Since websites have the habit to sometimes disappear, and for my personal enjoyment, I list here some quotes from the computergame Alpha Centauri which struck a chord within me. Careful. Dark humor and sarcasm - and some philosophy - ahead.

Sheng-Ji Yang:
We hold life to be sacred, but we also know the foundation of life consists in a stream of codes not so different from the successive frames of a watchvid. Why then cannot we cut one code short here, and start another there? Is life so fragile that it can withstand no tampering? Does the sacred brook no improvement?

Nwabudike Morgan:
Resources exist to be consumed. And consumed they will be, if not by this generation then by some future. By what right does this forgotten future seek to deny us our birthright? None I say! Let us take what is ours, chew and eat our fill.

Sister Miriam Godwinson:
The righteous need not cower before the drumbeat of human progress. Though the song of yesterday fades into the challenge of tomorrow, God still watches and judges us. Evil lurks in the datalinks as it lurked in the streets of yesteryear. But it was never the streets that were evil.

Pravin Lal:
Scientific theories are judged by the coherence they lend to our natural experience and the simplicity with which they do so. The grand principle of the heavens balances on the razor's edge of truth.

Prokhor Zakharov:
There are two kinds of scientific progress: the methodical experimentation and categorization which gradually extend the boundaries of knowledge, and the revolutionary leap of genius which redefines and transcends those boundaries. Acknowledging our debt to the former, we yearn nonetheless for the latter.

Sheng-Ji Yang:
I maintain nonetheless that yin-yang dualism can be overcome. With sufficient enlightenment we can give substance to any distinction: mind without body, north without south, pleasure without pain. Remember, enlightenment is a function of willpower, not of physical strength.

Nwabudike Morgan:
What goes up - better doggone well stay up!

Sister Miriam Godwinson:
Some would ask, how could a perfect God create a universe filled with so much that is evil. They have missed a greater conundrum: why would a perfect God create a universe at all?

Sheng-Ji Yang:
Einstein would turn over in his grave. Not only does God play dice, the dice are loaded.

Sheng-Ji Yang:
If our society seems more nihilistic than that of previous eras, perhaps this is simply a sign of our maturity as a sentient species. As our collective consciousness expands beyond a crucial point, we are at last ready to accept life's fundamental truth: that life's only purpose is life itself.

Corazon Santiago:
A ship at sea is its own world. To be the captain of a ship is to be the unquestioned ruler of that world and requires all of the leadership skills of a prince or minister.

Prokhor Zakharov:
Man's unfailing capacity to believe what he prefers to be true rather than what the evidence shows to be likely and possible has always astounded me. We long for a caring Universe which will save us from our childish mistakes, and in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary we will pin all our hopes on the slimmest of doubts. God has not been proven not to exist, therefore he must exist.

Nwabudike Morgan:
Objects once measured in meters have become so small that they cannot be seen by the naked eye, with revolutionary applications across the board. Gentlemen, forget what your courtesans have told you: size does matter!

Prokhor Zakharov:
The genetic code does not, and cannot, specify the nature and position of every capillary in the body or every neuron in the brain. What it can do is describe the underlying fractal pattern which creates them.

Sheng-Ji Yang:
Why do you insist that the human genetic code is sacred or taboo? It is a chemical process and nothing more. For that matter we are chemical processes and nothing more. If you deny yourself a useful tool simply because it reminds you uncomfortably of your mortality, you have uselessly and pointlessly crippled yourself.

Pravin Lal:
I loved my chosen. How then to face the day when she left me? So I took from her body a single cell, perhaps to love her again.

Sister Miriam Godwinson:
The Morgans fear what may not be purchased, for a trader cannot comprehend a thing that is priceless.

Sister Miriam Godwinson:
And so we return again to the holy void. Some say this is simply our destiny, but I would have you remember always that the void EXISTS, just as surely as you or I. Is nothingness any less a miracle than substance?

Sister Miriam Godwinson:
Man in their arrogance claim to understand the nature of creation, and devise elaborate theories to describe its behavior. But always they discover in the end that God was quite a bit more clever than they thought.

Nwabudike Morgan:
Human behavior is economic behavior. The particulars may vary, but competition for limited resources remains a constant. Need as well as greed have followed us to the stars, and the rewards of wealth still await those wise enough to recognize this deep thrumming of our common pulse.

Sheng-Ji Yang:
What do I care for your suffering? Pain, even agony, is no more than information before the senses, data fed to the computer of the mind. The lesson is simple: you have received the information, now act on it. Take control of the input and you shall become master of the output.

Sister Miriam Godwinson:
As distances vanish and the people can flow freely from place to place, society will cross a psychological specific heat boundary and enter a new state. No longer a solid or liquid, we have become as a vapor and will expand to fill all available space. And like a gas, we shall not be easily contained.

Pravin Lal:
As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth's final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.

Sheng-Ji Yang:
Learn to overcome the crass demands of flesh and bone, for they warp the matrix through which we perceive the world. Extend your awareness outward, beyond the self of body, to embrace the self of group and the self of humanity. The goals of the group and the greater race are transcendent, and to embrace them is to achieve enlightenment.

Lady Deidre Sky
Observe the Razorbeak as it tends so carefully to the fungal blooms; just the right bit from the yellow, then a swatch from the pink. Follow the Glow Mites as they gather and organize the fallen spores. What higher order guides their work? Mark my words: someone or something is managing the ecology of this planet.

Corazon Santiago:
Information, the first principle of warfare, must form the foundation of all your efforts. Know, of course, thine enemy. But in knowing him do not forget above all to know thyself. The commander who embraces this totality of battle shall win even with inferior force.

Beyond Earth - not elite

Just another turn... just one turn... one more.

In a nutshell, that´s how I spend my two weekend nights. It is the well known turn-based game mechanics from the Civilisation franchise, which is also the core of the newest installment, Beyond Earth. And here is my "a first look" impression.

Tempation wants me to call it a clone. A clone of Civilisation V, with different unit models (back in time, we used to call them sprites) and a slightly different tech tree. Which means, my first impression is rather tending towards "unimpressed". Unlike the "original" game, Alpha Centauri, this new version has no soul.

And now that I get started, I really have to vent it off. Attention, heavy rant incoming.

So far, I have played three games, the last one a "perfectly micromanaged" one after getting aqcuainted during the first two games, and I did not finish any of them. Not a good sign. Normally, I start one game, just to try out by doing and then launch a "serious" one where I try to take advantage of everything I have learned about the game mechanics. When I got bored somewhere in the middle of my third game, the feeling grew that something was not right with this game.

First, to get the good stuff out of the way: Graphics are up to date, the tech web really makes you think long and hard as to which order of research you want/need to go, the models are nicely designed, and some little new game mechanics, especially the explorer mechanic, add a nice touch.

Ok, now about the other stuff, in order of severity (read, level of rage I feel about the game designer´s undesignedness):

- Factions in Beyond Earth are bland, totally missing those overdrawn sarcastic personalities, which still make me quote today Director Morgan or Sister Miriam. Back in Alpha Centauri, every science discovery was accompanied by some vitriolic remarks about their societal implementation by one of the faction leaders. Beyond Earth has a generic female voice quoting some half-esoteric mumbo jumbo, quotes which never really seem to be in proper context. Let me give an example:
"It is every citizen's final duty to go into the tanks and become one with all the people." - this is a quote from Alpha Centauri´s faction leader Shang Ji Yang, a despotic communist who employs people like machines, but at the same time also representing the highest Bhuddist wisdom, on the development of the recycling tanks. Also vitriolic remark about applications at the borderline of ethicality. You will never ever find something similar in Beyond Earth; there are some references, but they are shallow at best.
Here is a collection of some of the fantastic quotes from Alpha Centauri. Read them, really! Read all of them!

(Side remark: Alpha Centauri is also one of the very, very few ones, where I consider the voice actors in the German version as vastly superiour to the English one. The faction leader´s personalities came to live thanks to their voice actors.)

- Beyond Earth´s units are subject to a simple level-up system, diverting into three branches; after the first level-up, according to the level of each affinity, you can choose two times one of three upgrades. This in no way comes near the versatility and fun which I have had with Alpha Centauri´s workshop, where you could assemble and mod every existing unit to your liking (weapon level, armor level, one or two of many different possible special abilities).

-  The Aliens look boring and uninspired, huge insects-animal crossbreed, as if they were copied from Starship Troopers and painted green. They roam the maps in herds, and a convenient colour code shows you if they are neutral or more agressive towards you. In Alpha Centauri, there were these amorph crawling chunks of tentacles popping in from out of nowhere, behaving like totally oblivious amoebae, not even identifyable as animal, so they were called mind worms. Those mind worms where totally creepy, mysterious, alien; descriptions which those bison-insects, here, are not even fulfil in the slightest.

- The tech web manages to be even more complicated (as opposed to complex) than the previous tech trees. The resulting applications are intransparent as to whether they are world wonders or installations. There are no armor or weapon inventions, only whole units, and as such the options still feel for me less diversified. See also under "no workshop". But I did not have much time to dabble with warfare yet, so I am a bit cautious here with my latter judgement.

- World wonders and victory conditions are bland. No secrets to discover, no moody scene setter, just the raw game mechanic, made very obvious level-ish, all requiring the same order of discover and build something, again with a female voice cast spouting some meta-ethical crap. In Alpha Centauri, the option for transcendancy only appears after the according story development, and the diplomatic and tech victory get complemented with another very inventive peaceful option, namely to dominate the energy market.

This is the stuff which immediately pops out of my mind, there is some little stuff which equally annoys the nerd within me, e.g.

- Starting screen. Nice graphics, but the landing ships look nothing like they are supposed to look, also not as they look in the game.

- The mood does not fit the game. And this is the core of the issue. Alpha Centauri has a personality; it is a very, very dark and sarcastic reflection on human society, with ample of vitriolic remarks and sideglances in their all time famous descriptions and quotes. It is a good piece of pop culture literature. Gameplay-wise, it oozed strangeness and complexity, but in a practical and easy going user interface. Opposed to this, Beyond Earth makes me feel like game rules with nice pictures. I doubt that anybody would attribute "personality" to this game.

- Hexes and animations. A gripe I also have with Civ V. While hexes can indeed benefit the core of any turn based game, namely a tactical and strategiy board game play, the graphic implementation comes across weird. It somehow tries to become more realistic, and by doing so, it becomes more unrealistic. Difficult to explain. Example, the Working Unit. Looks like an overgrown digger, nicely animated, thereby implying that this is the actual vehicule. It never is; it is supposed to be a representation of a whole fleet of workers and machinery, which work across several square kilometers of area. It therefore should be a representation, not an imitation. The same goes for the landscape on hexes; it just does not fit together. Either be gone altogether with a grid, or make the landscape more iconic for each grid. It is supposed to represent a certain landscape, not "be" that landscape. And, after three games, I still did not find an option to make the grid actually visible, thereby making me guess if a resource will be actually within range of my colony-to-be-founded, or not.

- "Health" game mechanic: I felt like forcing my people into a one-child policy, repeatedly. Population growth usually runs ahead of available medical care, represented by the health score. Thus, you have to manually reign in population growth every 10 turns or so, until finally one of those rare buildings with health bonus become available. It is not fun, it is tedious. I would prefer if they would just limit population growth and be done with it.

All in all, this game leaves me a bit dumbfounded. It is not a bad game. But, how on earth - how beyond earth - could the game designers miss virtually everything, everything which made Alpha Centauri so special? Beyond Earth is nothing more than Civilisation in space, and beyond that, for me, it is merely an uninspired accumulation of game mechanics.

Beyond Earth´s game mechanics are sufficiently complex, but the variations in gameplay are limited. Besides that, it is a bland, uninspired installment of Civilisation in space, totally missing the mood, queeriness and the soul of the original, "Alpha Centauri". It compares as a penny dreadful with a good novel about science fiction. If you still do not believe me, read e.g. this review. I bet with you that you will never ever find a similar review for Beyond Earth. If you want to play it, wait a bit until it is half price, because it is overpriced right now for what it actually offers.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Events and news

Reading in the ED forum, I come sometimes across descriptions of things which people thought were remarkable and then realized that, while I did encounter them, had not remarked or screenshot it for the blog. Also, looking back at the last entries, they are not as much of a travel description as I would like them to be. Everything is too new, the bugs very distracting. The same pattern is in my reports from beta1. The first ones very scetchy, focusing on my wrestling with the game mechanics, then focused on grinding money, and then, once equipped aquainted, the imo cooler stories started to emerge. I also realize that, already, my blog has become a sort of a lexicon for me, and I am indeed looking up stuff done and been when I plan for my next steps. It all comes nicely together with time. Anyways, I should remind myself more often to take note of nice in-game stuff, and maybe focus a bit less on meta gaming or game mechanic issues. It is all just pixels and all what counts in the end is the experience itself. However, I also have to realize, with time constraints, it is also the quality of writing which suffers. Most blog entries I just type and publish. For some of them, I can take the time to go through them and adapt and edit them, but a good article - no secret here - requires work.

But right now, it is a time of big changes. The news on Beta3 are absolutely thrilling. A huge area of space to roam, mining, fuel scooping, player interdictions, two more ships, and I expect a lot of improvements under the hood.

The forum has received a new design. As usual, it is a bit troublesome to get used to it. The standard setting with the white background seems a bit too glaring. There is an "Elite" and a "blackout" setting with a black background. I chose "blackout" because I think that this setting makes all those beautiful signatures look better (most were masterfully designed by forum member Mobius).

Also, the fanfest, aka permiere event, as been unveiled to take place on 22 November. I was one of those beleagering the website to get a ticket. This is the first event of this kind where I will be attending. Back in my World of Warcraft times, those BlizzCons and EVE Fanfests tempted me, but I always felt they were too big. I was once in Leipig on the GamesCon, and it was just too large and anonymous to find it really enjoyable. In principle, the idea of fanfests by a computer games´s producer is a great one, and it shows how computer games are starting to arrive in the middle society, thus merging from simple forums into party and event based socializing. I rarely go to any party anymore these days, and if I go, I find most of them rather bland; there is music, drinks and, ideally,  well dressed people. A fanfest, on the other hand, can merge this with an actual occasion and topic. A kind of a theme party, establishing a common grounds for all people to attend. As a student, I once organized a Vampire party, and it was great fun for everybody (I even had a real sarcophagus organized, which seemed to shock some guest a little bit). I am very excited and curious how the Elite premiere event will play out.

This weekend, I will have again a little break from playing; it would be just cash grinding or bug hunting anyways, so not much - or boring - to really write a blog entry about.

Also, yesterday "Beyond Earth" from Firaxis Games came out. I am an avid fan of Alpha Centauri (not so much of the more generic Civilisation series), and will play around a bit with this "almost-successor" this weekend. However, I suspect that this game will not be able to rival at the mood and depth which 1999´s Alpha Centauri has to offer. I still have it on my hard drive and all it would need was some polish and graphical update. But I am curious, maybe write a little entry here about my impressions.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Short bug hunt

Fullerton City, NLTT4952. Cash: 1,4 million Credits. I gather from the comm chatter (ED forum) that the highest upgrades in this beta are grade D outfits. In that case, my Lakon Type 6 freighter seems to be already not too badly equipped: E4 Frameshift drive, D4 Thruster, H3 Shields, H2 Life support, D3 Power plant, H1 Scanner. Class 4 is the highest class my ship type has access to.

Upwards, onwards, I say! I want to have enough cash for the next beta client in order to get right into the ship I want, with some good upgrades, in order to do what I want. Which is, as usual, a little bit of everything. I think the Jack-Of-All-Trades really is my archetype.

For this session I resolve to do only big transport missions. A first jump to Locke´s Claim, LHS64, goes without incidents. I have one >60k Credit transport mission aboard, plus Uranite and Indite which I know of are sometimes part of fetch missions at Fishers Platform, also in LHS64. Which is now my next stop. I was jubilating too early; the exit from supercruise on my way there hangs the client.

Also, I wonder why I haven´t seen other players now for quite a while; could this be linked to networking errors, too, or is this pocket of the galaxy indeed devoid of players?

Which prompts me to a change of plans. I received a message in my tickets:

"Please access your AppConfig.xml which can be found in your game directory and open this in Notepad. You'll see a block near the bottom named "Network". Please insert the following lines somewhere in that block -

This will produce a more detailed NetLog for us. If you could, please save your AppConfig file with these lines and then load the game again. After you close the game the NetLog can be found in your game directory with the date and time of your play session in the title. Attach this log to this ticket and let us know when you have done so.
Thank you very much for your cooperation and patience.

And, actually, a second message concerning my very early ticket on faulty bounties; I should try to re-encounter that bug and make a video of it.

Which means, I have to 1. try a few more travels and send any logs gained after hangs 2. sell my Lakon 6 for a combat ship and go bounty hunting. Willdo.

My next try to enter supercruise is perfect. For a ticket. First, the relog fails on the first attempt, as usual. Second, entering supercruise already hangs the client. But, there is a problem, closing the client via the Windows task manager yields no log entry. At least I cannot find any "NetLog" file. In the meanwhile, I of course lost the transport mission. Sigh. I relog (as usual only the second log in to "open play" after a hang succeeds) and make my way to Fisher Platform. Damn. I do not make it that far, the client hangs on supercruise exit again. I am lucky in terms of bug hunting; as I close the client via the task manager, this time, the crash report program sends a report.

Hm. Perhaps Laurie meant to just close the game normally so they can get better network settings? Well, this is all I can offer, anyways.

Strange. Still no file called "NetLog". Going through the game files, however, I find a "client.log", and it shows some data linked to today´s date. I hope this is it, so I attach this one to the ticket. Whoops, after some time I look again and suddenly I find a NetLog.log. Am I blind? I could have sworn it was not there before. After some clicking through paths, it becomes clear: There are multiple EDlauncher subfiles; the current correct path is "C:\Spiele\EDLaunch\EDLaunch\Products\FORC-FDEV-D-1002\Logs", I must have screwed up the install at some point. Probably, a new clean install would be helpful on the next occasion.

I relog into the game and manage to do a flawless flight from Locke´s Claim to Fisher Platform and back. Wow. I will send this Netlog.log, too, for a comparision between a faulty and a good run.

At Fisher Platform, I was able to sell all the Indite which I brought from Fuller Station and most of the Uranite; I sell the rest on the commodity market for a profit of 100 Credits/unit. And I got a new >50k Credit transport mission back on my way to Locke´s Claim.

This is all I can do tonight; I had only a brief time window for an Elite game session. Despite crashes and some hopefully constructive bug hunting, I managed to raise my cash a little bit up to 1,5 million Credits.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Back in business

Cernan City, Taurawa. There is a high population refinery system close by, BD+64 1452, and this high tech system here has a high demand of almost every metal. I smell a trade route. Cashing in money makes sense again, as I read today in the ED forum that the next wipe will be only partial and your money will be carried over. Good!

Both outposts in that system are a bit away; 3300 ls for Khayyam Outpost, which has the commodity market over there. Hmmm, yes, but every metal there is in low supply, the price being in the range of 100 Credits to the galactic average. Which means, overall no good profit margins.

Change of plans, studying again the galaxy map. Whoa. There is a slider which lets me fade out certain population sizes! I crank it 3/4 up and see only billion-populations worlds. I count just about a dozen of them in the whole beta2-pill. Would a trade route between those finally make sense?

HR7925: Agricultural, but oddly, the system map does not show a station.
Ross 210: Industrial.
Apishim: Agricultural.
Exbeur: Extraction; now, that is rare, with 930 mio population.
Most other high pop worlds are green, i.e. agriculture. Makes sense, many people where much food is to be had.

Ross210 is close to the system which made me so far my best profit runs: LHS64. So I decide to go back there.I jet a while between LSH64´s two outposts and Fullerton City in NLTT49528 (ai, almost forgot the latter is 6800 ls out there). A lot of Bertrantide fetch missions, I wonder where I could source this. Fullertin City does not have it, for starters. But there are so many missions, which are simpler and faster to do.

Well, fast, if I wouldn´t have hang ups or crashes. So far it went smoothly, but an exit from Fisher Platform to Locke´s Claim hangs the client. I have had enough the last days, so I relog to solo mode. This works flawlessly, and I finally have a peaceful game session ahead of me.

On one of my runs, I miss another >50k haul by just one cargo unit too less cargo hold. Unfortunately, when docked, you cannot jettison cargo, or I would have made room.

After a while, my cash jumped up to 2,8  mio Credits, and all that money itches. So, I buy it off with a better power plant, 3D, which brings my Lakon6 up from 9.000 to 12.000 power, and a 4D thuster, with overall 620 tons thrust. Down to 500k Credits again. My Lakon6 must be worth quite a bit by now!

What the increased thrusters serve at, is not very clear. Maybe turning rate? This is probably why I can fly better and better landing stunts and circle much closer in supercruise. My boost speed is now 370 m/s, and I believe I started with the barebone Lakon6 with a boost speed at around 320 m/s. Also, the increase power plant seems to accelerate the recharge of the capacitors. I can boost now almost nonstop.

At one point my grinding is delayed by a prolongued "request denied" incident at Fisher Platform. Many missions to Fullerton City are running out, since I collected them via several visits to both outposts here in LHS64. In my haste, I also abort a mission instead of repeating the docking request.

But all in all, the mission farming at this location earns me money at superiour speed, compared to all other locations I have visited and tried so far. Looking up the Asp´s price in Fullerton City, I am only 2,8 mio credits away. However, with all the upgrades, the Lakon6 has become much more fun to fly than I ever thought. Maybe I just continue and do the Han Solo and pimp my unseeming freighter to unexpected levels.

After a while, my cash is back at 1,4 mio Credits, and the evening over. It was a nice game session, no crashes and hang ups really made me relax again. Feeling a bit like letting down Frontier, since they probably still need feedback on the "open play" network issues; but, sorry, I needed a kind of holiday from all those crashes!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Disconnect staccato

Engle Station, Aurea. I never really looked at the display options in the galaxy map. There are two filters possible, one by colour and one by size of dot. If I had looked into this earlier, I might have had it easier in looking for places. I switch the colour option to represent the system´s type; the size option for population. Much more clear now. Makes me realize that my current system is a not too badly staffed refinery system. Oops, disconnect, just like this, from the galaxy map. This is new. Ticket.

Like a moth to the flame I am drawn to accept a 61k Credit cargo mission to Boas´ Claim, Evergreen. The bulleting board then suddenly loads for about a minute and then I am disconnected from server. I relog and find that the mission is in my log anyways. Another cargo mission to the same location for 52k has appeared. Same game again, disconnected. Sigh, this game shifts its behaviour all the time!

Wow, a third mission! Accepted! And it seems to go smoothly now. 180k Credits incoming, and some more small missions still! Shit, disconnect after launch. Relog. Enter supercruise. Crash, with report. Sigh. This session won´t last long if this stuff continues. Could not connect to server, second login. Damn, galaxy map as background, no way this will work. Sigh. 21 minutes for the three transport missions, I am so screwed. Relog. Yay, hyperjump gets through this time! And still 11 minutes left on the shortest timer! Make way to Boas´ Claim, 1800 ls, in all haste. My account jolts upwards from 2,02 mio to 2,16 mio Credits. Time to go shopping!

Taurawa is a high tech sytem with about 6 mio population. Opps, galaxy map disconnects me from game. Relog. I load the minimal supply (<10 tons are available each) of Gallium, Indium and Beryllium and hope that the high tech world will have according demand. After some moments, again disconnect. Relog. Launch. Disconnect. Relog. Hyperjump works!

I notice my voice macros do not work well, have to do most stuff manually. As I try to request docking at Cernan City, an Ocellus type station, a second time after a timeout, I get disconnected again. Relog. Request landing manually. Enter, approach docking pad. Disconnect. First relog failed, then relog. Finally, I get through to the landing pad. Accessing the commodity market makes the game disconnect again. Awww, come on, what is this? First relog failed, then relog.

Great. All metals are in high demand, 400/660/900 Credit profit per unit. A pity that supply is so low. First try to sell, disconnect. Second try to sell works, but immediate disconnect again.Then I check outfitting, but there is nothing interesting. Disconnect again.

Ticket, with a link to this blog entry. Good night, client.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Columbus hopping

Vogel Port, Andjeri. Nothing to see here, move on. A brief scouting in the galaxy map, I do not want to spend hours there again, just cursory travels until I have a better idea. Loga is 18 ly away, a high population refinery system with 7,4 mio population. I recognize it from my research during last session. Launch!

There are three stations in Loga. Newcomen´s Claim, well the name is an invitation, so I dock there. Interesting, the station is close to a double-planet configuration, one I saw already in another system and thought it special. Apparently not. Elite teaches a little bit of astronomy, too, it seems!

Having docked, I immediately press launch, because that crappy menu choses to place my cursor on that option instead of the station menu. Grrrr....

Three minutes later, Newcomen´s Claim let´s me dock again. The bulletin board has some missions, and finally, bingo, there is a "fetch stolen goods" mission and a hauling mission which has matching commodity of fruits! There, dear Order of Loga, here we go. What happens now? Nothing? Uhm... I notice no change... I notice that the outpost has a black market. And that I have somehow 34 stolen copper in my hold. Did I forget to turn in a >50k Credit hauling mission at the end of last session? Seems so. Oh my!

There are overall 12 hauling missions to Adepti, 5ly away. Ok just to have something to do I accept them. Aaand, after a quick check back with the galaxy map, Adepti is that 1,5 billion population agricultural system. My research last session was not fully in vain, I feel a bit more aquainted with my environment. Should be able to make some profit there? But first, I once more have to battle versus an endless hyperjump. At least the client manages to squeeze off a crash report. Aand repeat, crash again. Hey, it´s my job! Bit of confusion on my next relog; I am already in the target system. Lysenko Ring is 1200 ls close. Good, some time saved.

Lysenko Ring is orbiting a gas giant. I spot several whirlwind-spots in its atmosphere and suppose this is the simulator Frontier spoke of in one of its newsletters; apparently, there is a procedural generation which makes every gas giant unique and models it close to what reality should be. Well, I noted that it looks as a bit more substance than just a generic skin.

The station is one of those with a luxurious white-orange interior and palm trees; hallmark of a rich world. Good. Let´s see what they offer! Hrrm, no 64 ton cargo racks, already. But there is a class D4 frameshift drive, which would again propel my ship´s optimal mass range from 438 tons to 525 tons. Whew, 1,6 mio Credits, should I afford it? What do I need it for? Hey, and there is one of those seemingly rare advanced discovery scanners! The commodity supply is sup-par; only algae and fish in supply, what is this? But almost everywhere high demand. Could I make a trade route with this?

High value goods are: terrain enrichment systems (5500 Credits), indium (6500 Credits), beryllium (8500 Credits), gold (10200 Credits), consumer tech (7500 Credits). Coupled with a high range jumpdrive, I should be able to link this to some according high supply worlds? If I would have taken notes of all worlds´ commodities, but that was too tedious, together with this blog I would probably write 80% of my time instead of play... Welllll, some systems I indeed took note from. Dharai, for example. And they had terrain enhancement systems in high supply. I wonder if they still have. Worth a try, I believe.

First, I buy the advanced scanner, because I am curious of the improvement to be expected. Damn, that leaves me only 230k Credits for trading... and the frameshift drive is out of reach now... maybe better not? I reverse my decision, thankfully the outfitting screen also sports a basic scanner!

First I want to try to find Indium in Loga, if that does not work, I try out Dharai with the terrain enh. systems; consumer tech would also be a choice. In Loga, I decide again for Newcomen´s Claim, because I forgot that they do not have a commodity market. So I pick some hauls to Wegener Station and make way there. Wegener Station is directly behind the orbited planet, so I have to circumvent at low speed and take some time to reach the 110 ls-far station.

Yeah, well, as I check the commodity market there, I realize Loga is actually an extraction and industry system, not a refinery system. So no indium in supply, which is a metal produced by refinery systems. I never get it, always confusing those minerals with metals, do I?

Ok, I could search now for a refinery system, but I do not want to deviate from my plan, as tiny as the plan is. So onwards to Dharai! I chose to go via 59 Draconis, an empty system, and hope it is not a too high risk of interceptions. Ok, I get through without problems. Did HE Vision or Gelfand Survey have that commodity market? Ah, the system map shows the station type. Ok it is the latter, change course.

Arriving and doing a crash docking maneuver (those lateral thrusters seem to be without the ineratia of the throttled vectors), I am very curious about the commodity market. No consumer tech in supply, so this is probably an industrial product. Terrain systems are only on medium supply, what a pity. Still, about 700 Credits of profit is still possible. I also note a high demand for agri-medicines here. Maybe I can do a round tour like this. I fill up terrain enhancement systems and fly back to Adepti.

Thing is, about 500 Credits profit times 100 tons is 50k Credits, which is a bit more than one hauling mission (and if I am lucky, I can even stack them). So, if trading a full 100 ton cargo hold of commodities should be better than just dumb mission board farming, I need higher profit than this. Missions are one jump only, this trade route here would be 2 jumps. As it turns out, agri medicines are in medium demand in lysenko Ring, so, scratch the idea of a round trip trading route. Ack, it is tedious and annyoing! Where is something like Slopey´s trading tool? Back to missions, then? Naah, I cannot bear this brainlessness anymore.

Fu Haiting, it is then. Some 10 ly away and a refinery systems with some 56 mio population. If no worthwhile trades available there, I go on to Jurua, an industry system and see if I can find some good priced consumer tech. On my way there, hyperjump is endless once more.

I tip for the right station with the commodity market, Melvill Station. Damn, low supply only, which would mean, two trade routes to dry it up and only a meager profit of 200 Credits per unit. No chance.

Onwards to Jurua, then. last try, then I change play style, this attempt at trading is a bit too less productive so far. Wow, I am rewarded with a rare sight. A very much rare purple star, almost invisibly dark. I have to drop from supercruise and take time to study this. A large brown dwarf, says the description, merely a bit more than a super large gas giant. This trip was already worth it.

There are four stations in this system. I wonder what purpose do serve those many stations for gameplay. Only one has the commodity market, and in-system mission farming seems to be ineffective. Strekalov Settlement has food cartridges and basic medecines and cobalt in supply. Sigh. I simply cannot make something of trading like this. And the bulletin board is empty. I sell all exploration data; four or five systems have accumulated, but it is only smallish sums, all in all 800 Credits; there are about 20 new data to buy. I wonder if Frontier will still make data more attractive beyond knowing planet numbers and names.

For once, I want to see all stations in a system; maybe I find something out. So onwards to Musgrave City. Bulletin board empty. Onwards to Rutherford Terminal; nothing there. Cenker Depot; nothing there. Last one, Glashow Landing; nothing I suppose, and I am right, except for I remember to check for a black market and here is one. Space is big and boring sometimes, I guess.

Checking the galaxy map, I note that I have indeed crossed the galactic pill´s broadside, and almost all of its length. There is not much left at the end sides, and I am bored just to fly to find out exactly this. It also seems that the side where I came from is a bit more lucrative in terms of missions, at least.

Titicate should have, according to a post in the ED forum, class A equipment. I want to see. I do not have enough money but maybe one A class equipment as a souvenir? Plotting a course is difficult, since the system is still far away. On to LP 29-188 and then to Hsini, BD+67 1409. Oh, a white star, for a change, nice! Tsetan. Iota Cephai is near that system. That rings a bell. I was once in a system called Eta Cephei, but is is far away from here. A search in the ED forum tells me then that this system presumable has one of the largest stars. Worth a sight, I believe. Hyperjump is endless, for once again. But at least those happenstances seem to become rarer and rarer.

Yep. Huge and orange it is. You can guess sizes by the distance their masslock-orbital line has. This one is very close to the star, so it is a big star. Although I already have seen more interesting colours. Onwards, upwards! Titikate is on the nav list. My fuel tank is huge with its 16 tons; I haven´t even scratched the 75% mark.

Well, Titicate, at least Griffin Ring, has no special outfits. Maybe the other stations? Special here is only that I see, for the first time, a high supply of reactive armore and non-lethal weapons. And they have consumer tech. I fill my cargo hold 30/30/40. Those three items are frequently asked for in missions. At least some profit to bring back from the edge of the galactic pill! I also check in Pelt Terminal and Petaja Platform. Nothing. Hm, probably a joke in the ED forum, then.

Back to more civilized worlds. Killke, Macomaleleng Mu, Pemede, where I take a stop at Goeppert-Mayer-Gateway. I can sell my cargo here for overall 40k Credits profit. Nothing new to state that those >50k hauling missions are more efficient in terms of money making.

With my next jump, I am back in already known space. Auea, with Evergreen and Ao Shun close by. I start a mission routine to Evergreen, but wonder if I could find more efficient employements. An endless hyperspace later, both stations in Evergreen are about 1800ls away. I also re-encounter the docking bug, where you have to land the other way around. And then back to Aurea. Endless hyperjump again. And that weird blue circle after relog. I thought that problem was gone already, after a long session without too many crashes. Are certain areas of space more prone to crashes? I try a tutorial mission again in order to reset this crappy client. No use, third endless hyperspace. And a fourth time. And a fifth time, everytime with that blue circle floating in space, a sure sign that something is very wrong. Trying a solo play; no, also a blue circle of crash. Grrrrr.... It is until I play and finish the first wave of the tutorial mission "incursion" until I can finally come back into open play. Hastily I drop off my missions, but two have expired and I think in time of jettisoning the now stolen cargo while approaching Boas´ Claim in supercruise.

It is time to end this marathon game session. After trying for two full game sessions, I failed to make something out of commodity trading. At least I can say that I now have crossed known space on its full length and I am quite a bit more aquainted with some of those 500 stars.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Wrestling with the galaxy map

Nicollier City, Ao Shun. First thing I do, as usual, is to check the outfitting supply. Bingo. There is a
Class 4E frameshift drive, which propels my Lakon Type 6 transporter from a 380t (4F) to 435t optimal mass range. The jump range shown in light years is bugged, so the range show as 17 ly probably not accurate. I launch and exit to the main menu in order to pass by the mass lock bug. Relogging, I get an endless spinning ship. But I can close the window from desktop without task manager. Relog. Range: 25ly. That´s great!

Studying the galaxy map, I have troubles to recognize even where I came from. I am somewhere in the lower middle part of "the beta2 pill". I spot Dharai, an independent high tech system,  18 ly out. I am curious what I would find there. Hiowever, I am still undecided of what to do or to achieve in those last few days of beta2.

Maybe a Viper with good scanner in order to prepare for mining? Or Sidewinder even? But then... 4,7 m Credits missing for an Asp, and no real advantages of other ships besides combat. After a long and fruitless pondering, I lift off.

Gelfand Survey, Dharai. The bulletin board is empty? But lots of commodities in high supply! Agri medicines, animal monitors... should I check for the nearest agri system? Pareco is one jump only away. But the galaxy map´s lines eluded me, because as I fill up 100 tons of agri medicines, the range fully loaden is then only 16 ly. Which requires me a 2-jump, via STKM1-1676. Damn, an endless hyperspace again, black screen. But there seems to be a tiny improvement; no "server not connected" message on first relog!

Arriving after this interlude, I see Robinson Port is 12.000 ls out, which is not good for a time efficient trading route. Then I realize: 2 jumps! This is still STKM1-1676. Hmpf, I am again unconcentrated. Finally arriving in Pareco, interesting enough, the station there is called Nicollier Exchange, very similar to Ao Shun´s Nicollier City. I wonder what is the reason behind?  At least, here is a black market. I sell my 100 agri medicines for a profit of 33k Credits. Missions are better, I guess. The bulletin board is empty, too.

Now, what to do, what to do? Really difficult. Looking for high pop systems for good commodity trading; there is a cluster of systems with an agri, extr plus 2 refinery, but I quit the galaxy map and loose their position. Searching again; maybe crossing the pill, as I am currently very much at the border? Jumping via LP 45-128 and Perendi? There is H Draconis... mom... this one I recognize from the old beta1 bubble! So I would actually travel back to "old space", whereas I wanted to go towards new worlds! Orientation is really difficult. This example shows me: Probably it is the best to get familiar with a specific corner and then slowly expand?

Another hour of pondering what to do, where to do. An assumption: Rich trade opportunities come from rich worlds. Rich worlds are those with high populations. So, I look for worlds with high populations, which have matching trade partners, preferably also of high population, close by, e.g. agri-industry-high tech, etc. After quite some time wrestling with the galaxy map view, one crash there, I have identified about five clusters which could fit. I then decide to try to "cross the pill" to get to Mistana.

For my possible later reference, the clusters I looked through are as follows:

Mistral (agri, 439mio pop), LTT16972 (ind, 1,2bio pop), HIP2422 (ref, 0,212mio pop), LHS3631 (high tech, 12mio pop).

NLTT53889 (hightech, 12m pop), Pisamante (ind, 8,9mio pop), Gora (agri, 414mio pop), LTT16523 (ref, 0,46mio pop)

Apishim (agri, 1,1bio pop), Coquencitis (ind, 30mio pop), ... Tapipinouphinien (WTF crazy names, ref, 0,15mio pop), Jurua (ind, 56mio pop).

Adept (agri, 1,5bio pop), Lora (extr, 7,4mio pop), Chapoyo (agri, 458mio pop).

The route goes again via Evergreen, Pemede, LHS3631. Let´s see if I can make sense of some trade routes there!

Mhm, Merle Dock, the only station in LHS3631, is 1400 ls away. Not good already. I dock and take note in my usual routine. All ships are available at the ship yard. No 64 ton cargo racks in the outfitting screen. Overall, very disappointing for a 12million population system; only 4 commodities in low supply. But all metals on high demand, except for copper and titanium. So, let´s find a refinery system? Andjeri is only 5ly and there are missions for it, too.

Argh, crash to black screen on my hyperjump there, I almost had forgotten about that crap. Relog, crash again. Hmmm... could it have to do with the missions or cargo I am carrying? I had three empty jumps without a problem! Oh, next one is blurry and I have the galaxy as background, inclusive the blue location pointer. Not a good sign. Aaaand, crash.

Since it is late, I should stop here now. But I do not want to loose the missions, so I relog one last time for solo play. Damn, again the galaxy as background, not good. Hyperjump crashes again, as expected. Relog, doing a tutorial mission, and after that at least the background is reset to normal. Hyperjump works, too!

Avogadro Station is very close to the sun, and my d-scan detects overall six objects in range. Finally at Avogadro Station, the supply of minerals is low, low, low. I buy one gold, the rest is not worth it. Launching, I notice another sun, and again a small sun, which both seem to be also in close orbit of the main star. Another interesting system this is. After some scouting in supercruise, the second sun is not so close as it appeared, but it is indeed another sun with a close orbiting brown dwarf. Since I saw this already in at least one other system, it seems that constellations like this are not so uncommon, after all.

Vogel Port is another disappointment. No commodity market, no missions on the bulletin board. But some new data to buy from the cartographers. I always buy all data just to have better access to information. There is still enough out there to explore, anyways. Although I wonder, what value is that data actually for me? Just to know some planet names seems a bit too little. If it was also about the composition of planets and asteroid belts, it would be helpful for mining, at least. Therefore, I am curious how they will further develop the exploration system from its current beta stage.

It is late, so I pull a stop here. Overall, all my planning and musing probably just helped me learn a bit how to orientate myself in the galaxy map. The cluster I chose to explore so far was rather unexciting, though. Maybe this beta2 is really just made to fly brainlessly around and discover stuff by random? All my planning did not bring me really far, so far...

Friday, 17 October 2014

Nomad missioner

Checking where I am: NLTT49528, Fuller Station. The outfitting screen shows no attractive equipment. I could get into a Viper and get a refund of 1,4 million Credits. Hm. But here is nothing to do with a Viper. The bulletin board offers a hauling mission for >50k Credits Locke´s Claim. Since those missions are very short timed (12 minutes), I take it and launch quickly.

Yeah, the open play hyperjump works immediately in this session! Frontier is probably constantly working on the netcode while we are playing the game.

Arriving at Locke´s Claim, I have to wait for two NPC ships to land and start. I take my time to inspect the outpost, something which I have not done yet, blinded by the "have to make money"/"have to level up" sickness, which I brought with me from so many other computer games. It is interesting to see the NPC traffic, a Sidewinder which approaches, lands, rests on the landing pad for a while and then takes off again. So, the game seems to really simulate NPC pilots, instead of, say, just providing for random ships as background fillers.

Then, finally, my docking request is accepted. But my landing and touch down does not engage the station menu. Then I notice that the landing pad UI is turned around; this must be a bug. I try to land with my nose pointed away from the usual position, the tower. Yes, that did it; facing the direction you usually have when taking off, and the magnetic clamps finally captures me in. The bug seems to be without consequences.

Delivering to the bulletin board, there immediately are two more >50k-Credit-hauling missions, back to Fisher Platform in the same system. A third one pops up after the 5-minute-refresh, but I have to realize that my cargo hold is already stuffed, only 17 cargo left... damn. I need those 64-ton cargo racks!

As my ship attempts to exit supercruise at Fisher Station, I get an infinite loop. I can kill the client via the task manager instead of killing the process, so even a crash report is sent, good! I hope this helps to find the bug. Relogging is as usual, with the first try to enter open play barred by an error message.

Once back, unfortunately, both >50k-Credit hauling missions have timed out. And, consequently, I have 80 tons of stolen cargo in my hold; 50 Uraninite, 30 Lithium. A fitting "fetch stolen goods" mission would be cool now, but I am not that lucky. In terms of money grind, I should now jettison that stuff on my next supercruise and continue to farm those lucrative hauling missions. However, I want some change, so my goal is now to finally locate a black market around these star systems here.

An empty hyperjump to Jieguaje (tourist system) is rather blurry, but it works out. On my supercruise approach, I am contacted by CMDR Ruegi, German, who wants to know if working up to a Lakon Type 6 was difficult.Well, stack missions and find corresponding stations which are close to each other. And read my blog. :)

There is no black market at Feustel Station, though. I check the commodity market, but without gathering data from a whole cluster of systems, it does not make sense to start this kind of a blindfolded trading. Besides, my cargo hold ist still stuffed with illegal goods, 80/100.

Next try to find a black market, i engage hyperjump to Aurea (refinery system). Artsebarsky Port is close to the star, but no black market to find there. I notice a lots of ships around this outpost, but thankfully I am not scanned by a security vessel. The second outpost in this system, Engle Installation, finally is a hit. Bingo! Uraninite sells 515 (avg 1023), Lithium 659 (1744) so an overall yield of ~44k Credits. See, this was so totally not worth the time investment, comparted to simple mission farming. But I am sure that Frontier will still tweak and balance gameplay accordingly.

So, what now? I have got again a free cargo hold of 100 tons. As already stated, commodity trading requires a too tedious research. So I grab again a hauling mission worth >50k Credits, and a bundle of smaller ones, to Evergreen.

Hyperjump exit results again in a black menu screen. The usual pattern. The next try I enter supercruise before I want to engange hypercruise, and this results in an endless loop. Next relog and try to engage hyperjump works (in the meanwhile I tense up everytime I enter hyperspace, in expectation of a crash). Finally arriving in Evergreen, I notice a nice little anomaly. A little apart from the star where I arrive, there is another yellow star, orbited by a pinkish small star (or planet). Two stations are around there. Boa´s Claim is 1.800 ls out, and Trinh Depot 1400 ls. Mh, this is still ok in terms of supercruise travel time, but any farther distance would have to be considered as tedious, at least until in-system hyoperjumps are implemented in the game.

I first do a very speedy dock at Boa´s Claim and drop off the majority of my hauling missions there. Despite the crashes on my way here, I manage to fulfill every mission, even though one showed only 1 minute left when I came out of supercruise. From there, I grab another two >50k Credits-hauling missions to Trinh Depot, and waiting for a refresh of the bulletin board yields even one more. On my way there, I slow down to identify the pink stellar object in orbit of the yellow sun with the surface scanner by simply targeting it at under 100 ls. It indeed turns out to be a star, namely a brown dwarf. It also could have been one of those very hot gas giants.

From Trinh Depot, I take some hauls worth together roughly 100k Credits back to Aurea, Artebarsky Port. I launch rather quickly in order to have enough time in case of more crashes of the client. And indeed, a crash on exiting hyperjump, crash report sent. Next try. A blurry, endless hyperspace. Next try, works. Heff. It starts to be annyoing; these crashes to totally put me out of "the mood", by just focusing my perception on whether and when I actually will make it through.

Next stop: Back to Evergreen, Boa´s Claim, with roughly 60k Credits worth of hauling missions. I tentatively also accept one "fetch stolen goods" mission for 5t fish, on a 31minutes-timer. Maybe I am lucky and get an according hauling mission which I could abort? Well, no. Instead, crash on hyperjump. Hope the crash reports help. Next try; success.

On my supercruise to Boa´s Claim  I locate another unknown objects in that double-sun orbit; it turns out to also be a more unusal setup of two small planets orbiting each other. Arriving at the outpost, I am again docking very speedy because of one mission expiring in 1 minute, and I make it again. Yay! My cash account is now at 2 million Credits.

Time to switch my environment. I travel a bit further, to Ao Shun (industrial system), no cargo or missions aboard. Nicollier City is an Ocellus-type station. It has all ships for sale, nice. And a lot of gold missions on the bulletin board, to take note in case I find a good supply somewhere close.

So, what to do now? Just missioning around is a bit boring without a goal behind. Grinding cash seems moot because of the wipe in two weeks already. No Asp for me this time, I guess. Combat missions were not seen outside the Eranin-neighbourhood, but going back there seems boring too. It seems the best to do right now is to just continue a bit of sightseeing and to leasurly take some missions now and then. However, the scanning/exploration stuff is just too boring; I am fine with locating stuff visually and maybe get some info on particular intersting objects now and then. A systematic scan of every stellar object would be "work", and this is a game.

Maybe on my travels I will stumble upon even better chances to make profit? But at least will be able to say that I travelled through the beta2 pill. There is a nice thread in the ED forum where people can point out interesting points of view. Maybe I can find something to add there. But for tonight, this is the time to end my game session.