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, 3 October 2014

A negative first Beta2.03 experience

Beta2.03 has arrived and I am finally let into the game, the "open group", more specifically. It is a rough ride. Not because of freezes or crashes, but the game mechanics, they leave me very confused.

Sorry, I have to name this article a bit harsh because I am right now very frustrated about some of the new or changed game mechanics which I encountered in a first long game session in open play with beta2.03. And I do not mean the reversed flight assist mechanic; the following stuff I consider much more annoying than having to get used to a stricter dogfighting-style fly-by-wire flight model (which for me, and about 50% of testers so far, kills quite some of "Elite"´s coolness factor).

- similar to a purple ball in the sky, beta2 sticks out a bit weird (gorgeous scenery, anyways!)

The session goes as follows:

I pick a courier mission to Styx for 4000 Credits, no cargo space used. There is a second mission to Styx, kill three civillians for 18.000 Credits; I give in to temptation and accept. Arriving at the sun in Styx, I confirm that the raise of ship temperature when you are too close to the sun is indeed there and starts very quickly if you don´t turn away in time.

An unidentified signal in Styx finds one "wanted" ship. I destroy it for a nice bounty of 1000+ Credits, but two security vessels attack me. I dispatch them and to not get wanted status. Bug?
Entering supercruise again, I am able to see and follow an NPC hauler, and it leads me to a planet which was not registered in the rightmenu. So this is the exploring part kicking in; Styx is largely unknown and I have to discover everything. Since the planet I was led to is no. 5, there must be at least four more. At the next docking, I get 1000 Credits from the cartography submenu for discovering Styx 5.

Styx 5 has a ring (white´ish, so either ice or metal) and three extraction sites. I chose one of them and destroy some ships there. Lots of "wanted" targets with high bounties (5500, 1500, 1650, 1145 Credits). I also have achieved 1 of the three civillian kills this way. Out of "wanted" targets, I destroy a "clear" status Sidewinder, which brings me up to 2 of 3 and incurs a bounty. I do not show up as "wanted" in the UI, but the info message showed a bounty of 532 Credits on me. Bug? There are also system security vessels in that site and I get attacked by three of them. I manage to escape into supercruise with 31% hull.

Supercruise goes on and off, message "too close to stellar object", after several tries I finally get away from the planet´s ring. I arrive at another extraction site, find no "wanted" targets (the one Cobra which was did not increase my mission kill count) and kill again a "clear" status sidewinder to get my mission (on a timer) done. Infoline shows another 532 Credit-bounty on me. The poor sod also dropped his cargo and I scoop in the three titanium.

I pay 800 Credits reparatures at Bixby Station and cannot clear my bounty, because it is suddenly at 4532 Credits! I also cannot cash in my vouchers at this station; I wonder if I have to clear my bounty first before they accept my vouchers? I have to fly to Eranin in order to cash in my 18k-Credits-mission in order to be able to pay off my bounty. However, cannot jump: Cargo is too much mass, so I have to jettison all three titaniums again.

Coming then back to Styx, I dock at Wingrove Platform and can cash in the bounty vouchers for 9800 Credits.

So far, as was well. Financially, it did not go bad, so far, already about 25.000 Credits on my account. Now the negative part starts.

I decide to test the exploring element and spend quite some time searching for and then target-scanning all planets. The fourth one eludes me for quite some time, until I D-scan (via firegroup+mouseclickhold) close to Styx 5 and discover its five moons and, after a second D-scan, one sub-moon. Financially, it confirms what I learnt in the ED forum; just discovering the planets yields 1000 Credits per planet, target-scanning each one of them and also all six moons only gives one or two times 210 Credits. This feels ridiculous, both with regards to time investments as well as the amount of data; a complex surface scan should be more valuable than just the stellar coordinates of a planet?

I am docking in-between to check for better equipment on theWingrove Platform, but the client crashes repeatedly until it finally works out. Another visit at an extraction side yields me 3000 Credits in bounties, and a lot of security vessels participate and steal quite some kills from me. I consider this financial yield is too little for the time invested and depart. A courier mission from Wingrove Platform leads me to Aulin for 4000 Credits, where I wanted to check for ship equipment, anyways.

The wear&tear of my shiny Sidewinder paint job, still from when I was down to 31% hull I suppose, does not go away, even though it says 100% repaired, resp. 0% to repair. The single sub-items still show a rep cost of 2 Credits each, though, which does not go away after I click to pay (nothing is deducted). However, the wear&tear is then gone.

In Aulin, there is some equipment for the different slots on my ship. It is very tedious having to click through all slots in order to see what Aulin Enterprises has actually to offer. Also, the data given is still a little cryptic. E.g. there is a frameshift drive for sale, which has a higher letter and higher other stats, it has a maximum mass capacity of 75 tons instead of my current one with only 48 tons. However, this gives me no idea what this means in terms of jump range or fuel usage or both?!

Aulin Enterprises has two well payed cargo missions, one unit each, for 13.000 Credits. Nice! I know where consumer technology is, as well as super conductors. At least that is what I think I know, until I discover that really non of the stations in range have these commodities in supply. Industrial or High Tech systems should have it, but, nope. I find this very weird.

After I checked I Bootis, Asellus Prime and Ragnarok by flying there, I scout further via the galaxymap and switch to the system map; each station shown there also displays some products which they export. However, a quick reality check at Ragnarok shows that this data does not match what is actually in supply at Ragnarok. I start to be a little annoyed; is this intentional by Frontier, to just turn commodity availabilty totally upside-down? What are we supposed to test here? Just combat and exploring?

The mission timer expires before I can manually fly to more systems/stations. Bye, thought-easy 26.000 Credits! I decide to skip this kind of mission until I have a clearer idea how to find out what a given system actually has in supply. I really miss Slopeys Trading Tool already. And I am very disappointed that Frontier did not improve in-game data availabily. The galaxy map is as inaccurate as ever.

Systematically I check for all other sources of income as I knew them from beta1. Nope, no gold containers in LP 98-132 anymore, but ships now have a wanted status in this anarchy system, too. And the Freeport Station has security vessels. Some bounties richer, Freeport offers two courier missions to Aulin Enterprise, each 3.000 Credits.

While flying around, I have to deal with several new/changed game mechanics which irritate me by quite a bit.
- dropping out of supercruise needs you to be <100km/s, it was <300km/s before, which causes me to overshoot quite some times before I realize the change
- the station menu does not anymore start relyably at the first row of its menu; sometimes it is the last row, namely "launch". Yeah, guess what. Quite some times I find myself launching again instead of accessing the station services...
- Voiceattack is extremely unreliable; some CPU processes seem to hamper it from properly capturing previously unproblematic phrases; I have to resort a lot to manual key input for functions which I am not used to ("boost", "landing gear", "request docking", etc).
- EDtracker has now a serious drift each time I exit from a menu; I have to hard reset the center of view almost every time before launching into space again.
- Getting an overview over ship equipment has become very, very tedious. Not only do you need to click though every ship slot in order to get a view on what could fit on this slot only, but your ship also needs about 20 seconds to be put into the maintenance hanger in order to be able to browse the stuff at all. I am very much fed up by this already.
- I don´t remember how it was in beta1, but it is annoying having to adjust radar range each time again when coming out of supercruise. I usually adjust the radar range two steps to the right.

After some flying around in order to find out about the existing options for ship equipment, I need again some action. I have 40.000 Credits already, and in Asellus Prime I finally find both Eagle (16.000 Credits) and Hauler (23.000 Credits) in supply. Since I am undecided at first, I fly a bit around and check missions in different stations. "Transport" or "bring stolen goods" seem to prevail at the higher prices. In Eranin, I find two combat missions with 13.000 Credits each (interesting note; I get a mission to shoot Eranin craft in an Eranin station...). I also remember how commodities seem so screwed up around here. This makes me finally choose the Eagle. So I travel back to Asellus Prime and buy one.

Nice, the hyperjump range is now with 8,47 ly, comparable to a sidewinder, and the Eagle is faster in combat and more nimble.
With the change of the ship, there are suddenly new ship equipment options. This annoyes me a lot; so there is no way to find out what equipment is where without having the proper ship which could actually equip it? This technically that you need to scout every station every time you fly a new ship in order to know what is out there. There is hardly something which annoys me more than artificially obsuring gameplay options!

Equipping the eagle, on the still empty mount on the back I put a pulse laser turret; this is new, those things were not available for the old C2-slots and I want to test it. I want to leave the two loaned lasers, because every station so far had only gimballed weapons, and my experience so far showed me that a nimble ship like the Eagle has no big problems in targeting with fixed weaponry. 26.000 Credits is for the turret. Than I realize that, actually, the empty weapon slot was not the one on the back. So I sell and rebuy the turrent at the proper slot. However, now I shot myself in the foot. One loaned laser is gone forever. Since I want same weapon types, I have to buy now two lasers on top. There is not enough cash to do so and to buy the turret. Grumble.

Out goes the turret again, for two "focused" gimbal burst lasers (I cannot memorize the new typified letters, they seem more obscure to me than before; "A" seems to be lowest, and the current quality options range between "F" and "G"). The mount on the back now receives a "scatter" multicannon.

Off I go into the high conflict zone around Eranin 2; I was already worried that this had vanished, but both high and low conflict zones are still there. The former is just not called "high" anymore. Dropping into it, the noise of disengaging supercruise in an Eagle is horrible!

Deploying weapons, aaaaaand, offline is my whole ship. Great. Power grid overload. Frontier still did not install a warning of this or even blocked over-installation in the equipment screen (or I just overlooked it). I have to quickly switch off some modules in the rightmenu; cargo hatch, even frameshift, to make all my weapons work.

- beautiful scenery for a conflict zone; fightig for a world (note a little glitch, the orb is not entirely round at the left but straightens out)

The combat goes smoothly, until I try to shoot something with the multicannon. No shooting animation i.e. ammunition streaking towards its target and no hits registered. I have no idea what a "scatter" multicannon is for, or this is another bug. Also, the gimbal burst lasers hit as crappy as I feared (I am better with fixed cannons with an Eagle), and they suck more capacity. Combat is veeery slow like this. Thank god the sidewinders do not have much bite.

However, after four or five kills,  I realize they do not count for the missions. It says "warzone" in the description. A quick research in the ED forum; aha, it only works in the "low conflict zone". Another bug. Ok, off we go there, and I use the occasion to redock and replace the ineffective multicannon with a gimballed pulse laser. In fact, every mount gets now a gimballed pulse laser.

From here onwars, my scribbled notes stop. What happened. Well, I entered, separated an enemy sidewinder from the pack and started lasering it. Then, missile warning, and the radar not only shows those missiles, but five (FIVE!) blinking triangles. I am focused by FIVE Sidewinders or Cobras. What the hell is this? Do I have a mark "shoot me, and me only" painted on my ship? There are plenty of Federal crafts around me!

I do not survive long, although I manage to outboost and outcurve all missiles, the focussed laserfire is too much. Gone is my Eagle, and I sigh in relief when I see that I have enough cash left to pay the insurance. Barely.

Only after flying back into the conflict zone from Asellus Prime, my last docking point, I realize that both missions are gone. Right, ship destruction terminates combat missions. Grrrrrreat...

Rather demotivated, I find another combat mission, which tells me to destroy three civilian ships, 18.000 Credits. Just for the sake of having a combat mission, I accept, and fly to the hyperjum entry nav beacon close to the sun. Only "clear" status ships. After 15 minutes, there is some dogfight and I join the Anaconda´s side against a security vessel Eagle, which strange enough became red to me, too, the instance when the firefight started. Bug? After the Eagle is dispatched, I realize that actually the Anaconda is "wanted", and also rated "elite". To get a feeling for "elite" ranked AI, I attack; I should be able to stick to an Anaconda´s back without problems with an Eagle. 15 seconds later, I am destroyed.

My mistake was that I started the fight before I actually was at his six. Getting there already engaged in combat made me prone to a very heavy turret laser fire from the Anaconda´s belly. I recognize this pattern from my own sucessful Anaconda setup.

After this rather embarassing try, I log off. It is very, very late, and I reckon that I caught up with the two missed evenings due to the beta2 errors so far.

This game session was riddled with annoyances about changed game mechanics and even more added new mechanics which obscure more and make things tedious than enabling fun. Sorry to say this, but my initial awe for the nice graphics is heavily counterbalanced now by a rather "meh" game impression.

I wonder how to sort this mess of a blog entry into tickets and discussions for the ED forum. In my opinion the way this game version develops is hardly acceptable.

After all of this, I also ask myself, what actually are we supposed to test when everything I knew so far (and I started to particularily like about Elite: Dangerous) has been made very difficult to access? Should we all just fly around and explore?

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