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)

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Transport missions, only

Starting at Isherwood Ring in Eta Cephei, I immedeately check for the outfitting market. No luck, no 16-ton racks, which I know were offered here previously. Since I sport now a much more powerful frameshift drive, I do not need to save every tidbit of mass from my ship anymore. So I re-equip weapons. After a long pondering, I decide to go for four 1G gimballed multicannons with overcharge. They will provide for only a modest increas of ship mass of 8 tons.

The are rated G1, meaning they are of smallest size class 1 and have an overal rating of "G". Contrary to my earlier assessment, "A" is indeed the best class, but the usual selections do not get that high and range between D and H. Meaning, a 1H gun is the lowest level weapon you can get. A Cobra has two class-1 and two class-2 weapon mounts, but the class-2 weapons are so expensive that I stick to the much cheaper class-1 models. It is for self defense or an occasional easy side job, and if not, I count on my combat skills to compensate for lesser-than-possible installed damage output of my armaments.

My Cobra also gets a cargo scanner and a kill warrant scanner. I have read in the forum that those "get stolen items" missions are in some cases also an entry-test in order to access more lucrative missions from that particular faction. I spot one of them in the bulletin board, with  80k Credits very profitable at that, however, I have no freaking idea how I would be able to collect 43 autofabricators in within the missions timer of 50 minutes! The same goes for all "steal"-missions. Either I would have to take a fitting transport mission and "repurpose" those goods by simply abandoning the transport mission, or I would have to patrol unidentified signals and the nav beacons close to the sun and use that new cargo hatch-opener-module on ships after scanning them with the cargo scanner. This is way too tedious and risky, compared that I can find some similar lucrative income by simply stackpiling transport and courier missions. But, you never know, so I rather be equiped to switch my assessment and playstyle on the go. It is difficult enough to find equipment when you really need it, so better be prepared for everything.

One such lucrative transport mission pops up right now in the newest 5-minute refresh of the bulleting board´s offer of missions. 50k Credits transporting stuff to Irens City, right in the same system. This mission is of course only doable if you have enough cargo hold, here 32 units, but I do have, so I grab this one immediately and launch, because the timer is just 10 minutes. Arriving there in time, my cash is, after my previous shopping tour for my ship, back up to 71k Credits.

I find there some smaller transport missions back to Isherwood Ring. Unfortunately, all my pondering about what to do and how to do leave me rather unfocused on the actual piloting. Boom-crash-bang, I manage to screw myself in the docking entrance, because I do not realize that my fingers still rest on the "landing" controls (forward/backward, strafe right/left) instead of my flight controls (up/down, roll). Quite a disorienting feeling when your ship does not steer to what you expected. Since I replaced my shield with an additional cargo rack, this fancy maneuver results in an explosion and a hefty insurance fee of 52k Credits, effectively neutralizing my profit from the last trip, i.e. roughly 15 minutes of game time; back to 19k cash. No big deal, thankfully. (I would really be found swearing now if I would be in EVE Online...)

Some smallish transport missions again, take two, back to Isherwood Station, bring my cash up to 28k Credits. No lucrative missions to be found there. I do not want to stack missions again to Aldermin. That long flight time in supercruise needed to get to the stations over there is putting me off. Instead, with my remaining cash, I load up some coffee and tea and leave for LFT1446. This system is shown in the galaxy trading map as a receiver of coffee and tea. The system station Ray Colony is also a bit off the chart, with 3.600 ls. Sigh. Frontier should really install those planned in-sytem hyperjumps! The galaxy map was right again, I can sell my cargo off for a little profit, getting up to 37k Credits. Maybe I can really start to use and trust in the galaxy trading map? Not sure, the ED forum indicate it was still inaccurate.

No matter, the bulleting board handles me another transport mission for 67k Credits, very nice, to Edison Station, again in the very same system! Wonderful quick cash. Arriving there, I am not so lucky again, but at least I find 9 missions to stack, headed for Naraka, to both its stations of Hawking Depot as well as Novitzki Oasis. After that, I have 140k Credits. It seems that money is coming in at resonable rates.

However, after this, I am stranded with only small budget 2k-Credits missions to diverse corners of the cluster, which I do not want to involve myself with, anymore. Instead, I move on "empty", to LHS3006, and after a similar bad luck, onwards to Lalande 29917, and again to G203-67.
I chose the first system because I hoped to take some minerals with me; I encountered so far plenty of fetch-missions involving the odd mineral, and "extraction" systems are the place to look for them. Unfortunately, either LHS3006 is very poor, or I do not have a good reputation with them; market is near closed. After this, I spent quite some time to figure out what to do or where to go, and after much pondering and browsing of the galaxy map, went for a hopefully rich high tech system ("hopefully rich", because I guess from size of the blob which represents the system in the galaxy map). My way there leads me through Lalande29917.

I have to say it is very difficult to navigate through the stars. The galaxy map is of course 3D, but my jump range of >20ly opens so many paths that I do not even see the endpoint of all 1-jump connections (those which go further than roughly 15 ly). A lot of scrolling up and down and guessing where I endet up relatively to my current location is involved. I hope that Frontier can find a way to make this navigation issue a bit more accessible.

Arriving in G203-67, Horrowitz Station, I am finally lucky enough to see those 16-ton-cargo racks offered. My thusly upgraded Cobra now has a cargo capacity of 52 tons, and thanks to my powerful frameshift drive only very little loss of range (to ~17 ly) when fully laden. My plan was to chart the sourrounding systems according to their type and try to esablished a kind of close-cluster trade route, thereby finally getting a grip on those fetch-missions, or even back to free commodity market trading. However, it seems I chose my new hub here badly, there is almost nothing on supply here. Also, I just do not feel like filling in a google-spreadsheet today, so I drop this idea again pretty quickly. How I do miss Slopey´s Trading Tool!

A new lucrative transport mission amounting 60k Credits pops up and leads me to Wise1647-5632, Hirase Platform. Damn, another far-out station that is, with 16.300 ls of emptyness to cross. No further mission luck over there, so I go back empty to G203-67. A new 60k-Credit mission, plus one for 20k Credits, awaits me, this time to a well-known beta1-system, Acihaut, Cuffey Plant. When I try to wait for a refresh of the bulletin board´s missions, I realize that the timer of any mission already starts while the mission is still uncollected on the mission board. Makes sense, I guess. And I am not that lucky so far as to collect two of those more lucrative missions.

In Acihaut, I am lucky again, and a 66k-Credit mission sends me over to Nag Ta-Khian, Hadwell Orbital. I go where the mission winds blow me, I guess. This goes on for a bit more; 60k Credits to Lalande29917 again; 65k Credits back to Acihaut. All this routine leads me again to being a little careless, incurring a dent on my shield-less ship now and then, but for only minor repairs.

Then there is again a bit of a low, only smallish missions pop up even after awaiting a few refreshments. Change of plan, then. With about 420k Credits, I might be able to afford a new shiny high graded piece of equipment. Or a new ship, next in the row would be the Lakon Type 6. I go to check in Aulin. And, yes, with all the upgrade already installed on my Cobra, I would need to pay onl 43k Credits more in order to get a barebone Lakon Type 6. The outfitting screen offers just one notable piece, a D4 shield generator, for freaking 1.6 million Credits! For several stations, I checked already for getting a shield back again for my Cobra, but so far I only found either too small shields, which would not install, or too expensive ones. Very annoying, if you are really looking for something important. So, again, dear developers at Frontier, please think about giving us a better overview on availability!

Another interesting note on Aulin, the commodity market has shifted by quite a lot. Last Monday, I still was able to buy medium-supply performance enhancers. Today, they are in medium demand! This complicates things a lot, I wonder if too much, down to the level of a roulette, no planning possible anymore.

I head over to Rakapila, Stone Enterprise, another moreless rich industrial world. They sport an Anaconda for 45 million Credits. Way to go still, I doubt this beta period will see me in one, since it will already end on 28 October, probably again with a wipe of all accounts. (Side remark: My kills from beta1 did not get wiped, but they also do not seem to count yet towards my reputation; I am still ranked "harmless", with 632 kills on my board...)

It is here that I decide to quit this game session. Overall, it was a lot of cash grinding with hardly anything exciting to see or do. I have again the feeling, for some reason I still cannot completely name, that something is missing for me in this beta2-iteration. Maybe a kind of clarity about the game mechanics, proper tools for analysis? E.g. trading without Slopeys Best Price calculator becomes a tedious excel-sheet exercise?
E.g. navigating the expanded bubble with a 20ly frameshift drive is difficult, as I do not even see some of the end points of my one-jump lines? E.g. trying to find proper equipment makes you dock at every station, preferable industry or tech ones (although I also found good stuff in a rich agricultural system), clicking repetitively onto every module slot? It is like poking around with a blindfold on.
All these things were non-issues in beta1, it was much more limited in scope, thus the problems did not appear firsthand and thus I had the feeling of being more in control of my environment.

Well, let´s see, there are still some options to explore. Should I continue to pimp up my Cobra, to be flexible also for the odd combat mission, or should I go for the Lakon Type 6, and be some kind of travelling trader, thereby holding a stock of items of which I know that they usually pop up in fetch-type missions? Also, I still did not test my reputation-theory. Somehow I am not in the mood for testing something which will probably change again in about three weeks.

Those transport missions are nice to have, but I felt more invested when I still had Slopey´s Trading Tool, as a sort of mini-game to find and pick the best trading routes by myself (a kind of "create your own mission"), instead of getting them handed on an orange bulletin board. However, I also have to admit that I became a kind of mission-junkie in this session, and a tunnel-view might have obstructed different paths (e.g. galaxy map trading now viable?).

This is an interesting thought to leave off for tonight; is the current mission system killing the spirit of the Elite gameplay? Shouldn´t we rather have a more individual experience with missions, e.g. actually encountering and talking to certain NPCs, getting some feedback about the results and implications of a successful/unsucessful mission, and I mean, beyond the cash grind? Some food for thought, definitely!

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