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)

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Earning Spacelegs again

It took some game sessions to get back into my “Elite: Dangerous legs”. But the game finally and fully meets all my expectations. I frankly cannot imagine playing it ever again without VR goggles and joystick/thrustlever! Now, it is just a matter of having enough time to embed yourself into that universe. Two hours are a minimum, or you end your game session with the feeling of not having really arrived there. Similar to EVE: Online, Elite: Dangerous does not hold your hand and you have to plan and think a lot if you want to evolve in the game. This, unfortunately, is a bit counter intuitive if you play in VR, because the necessary planning tools like webbrowser, wordpad, excel, etc. are not really available as a kind of VR-desktop environment. I guess that´s the kind of stuff an early adopter has to adapt to.

From HIP46659, I made my way back to inhabited space and arrived in the upwards-rimwards border. Lots of independent systems, then followed by the outer trails of Federation space.
So, what to do with all my precious exploration data? I could just sell it on the first random space station. But the money is not what I am after; I also want to control my reputation rating with the different factions. There is little use of being “allied” to one independent system of, how many, 5000? So I need either a Federation, Alliance or Empire system. My current reputation with the Federation is at 60% “unfriendly”. No idea how I arrived there. I guess it was because of bounty hunting for an independent system or rebellious faction, thus killing a lot of “wanted” targets who were allied with the Federation. Don´t do that ever again. You can easily become public enemy almost everywhere but one single independent system.

So it is a question of either repairing my bad reputation with the Federation, or start anew from my current “neutral” position in the Empire or Alliance systems. After some pondering, I chose the Empire. They have the broadest choice of their own ship lines, iEagle, Courier, iClipper, iCutter, and they do look sleek and good. Already for the lowest class, the iEagle, I need an advanced reputation for the Empire.
Second choice to make, where to go in Empire space. In comes a game element which I did not touch yet, “Power Play”. An according overly in the galaxy map shows me the realms of each faction leader. But I need to read a lot of additional info from the community to really make sense of it. In the end, my choice is impulse, and I go for Daenerys Stormborn.. erm… Aisling Duval.
With all that overwhelming new information, I choose to ignore the third choice to make, namely “Engineers”. I hope that the game did not “de-volve” such that only pimping up your ship with their aid would make you viable in combat again! 

Despite all my pondering, I am still totally at a loss where I should place my new base of activities. Community lore tells me, choose a well inhabited high-tech system. This will find a broad choice of ships there and the good ship equipment and also plenty of good trading opportunities. However, especially the systems of Aisling Duval seem to be scarce of such. So, I finally ground myself in Yehel, an average good industrial system with some extraction and agricultural systems around. Mainly because, I just want to stop doing the “theorizing mini game” and just play the game in VR!
Doing missions specifically for Aisling Duval looks extremely boring. Go there, fetch 10 tons of information material, which respawns every 30 minutes (or by paying 100.000 Cr) and bring it someplace else. So I do this once, thanks, but I need more action. 

Enter the new mission system. It is a great improvement to finally have some personality sit behind those missions. If I want to raise my reputation with the Empire, I am already limited to two of the six agents here. Plus, the missions are low level of course. But thankfully, in come my exploration data. Turning it in, the profit is at about 7 million credits, and my reputation goes a bit up, yielding already better missions. Only in hindsight I realize, there also was a community goal where I could have profited much more from bringing my exploration data to a certain station. Sigh. Sometimes Elite: Dangerous seems to be more about reading news and guides instead of just playing it. So, forget it, just damn play the game, already!

A fitting mission for my mood now: Massacre 14 ships of a specific factions, in a conflict zone. Yeah, some action! Little do I know that conflict zones nowadays were re-scaled for wings, i.e. multiplayer. I get my ass handed to me very quickly as a “dangerous” Asp outcircles my Cobra easily (how is that possible????) and blasts me out of the sky with railguns. After my second attempt, each insurance cost is at about 300.000 Credits, realisation slowly dawns. My first step to adopt is, buy a cheaper ship. First, an Eagle with all-out railguns, later a Viper, both with only A-grade combat equipment to keep them as cheap as possible.

Like this, I use the conflict zones to hone my pilot skills. Even Eagles are a challenge in 1:1, and they also know the trick to lure me back to their comrades... in some zones, my own allies are quickly overwhelmed and I have no chance. In others, the situation is inverse. Like this, I at least manage to complete some of those massacre-missions. All in all, I pass some very challenging fights, augmented by my VR experience, and some game sessions just fly by in endless dogfighting circles.
After this very tough experience, my confidence in my skills gets only rebuild by some interdictions, where the enemies are, in comparison, a piece of cake. Time to look for some missions which include planetary landings, recognized by “kill Skimmers of faction x” which are the planet based enemy vehicles.

It is a fantastic experience to glide down to a planet, land, set out with the Scarab jeep. Also, a very nauseating one in VR. The Scrarab wobbles and bounces across the harsh surface, very difficult to control at high speeds. At first, I don´t manage more than one excursion before I get nauseous. But with some practice, I adopt. Key is, as in real life when you tend to get seasick, look at the horizon, and anticipate the movement. The planetary missions still feel a bit beta-y, though. Only via community feedback, I realized, I don´t have to attack a planetary base in order to kill the required skimmers, but there are also “points of interest” scattered around the planet. The “point” is, you can only find them by flying above 2km and watching your scanner; if the surface turns to blue, a point of interest is close. It can be only some minerals to harvest, but also some wrecks or even bases. Those are usually protected by skimmers of the same type as the closest planet bases. Sigh; this information is not difficult to find out, but still not very intutitive. Probably one of the reasons why Elite: Dangerous appeals more to the small experimental crowd.

As anot small gripe, I have to notice, the ships in Elite: Dangerous really seem unrealisticly small. I still remember David Brabens boasting how ships are as big as a Biong 747 and larger, but this is simply wrong. The Cobra, for instance, looks way smaller in VR. So small in fact that you wonder if where the space for engines and fuel and all such is supposed to be. Talk about suspension of disbelief, played on the monitor, you can still do away with it, but in VR ships need to be bigger to make a really realistic impression.

After some game sessions, my wealth is at 12 million credits, which was moreless my “starting capital”, i.e. I at least I have compensated my numerous ship losses, plus owning in addition to my Multi-Purpose-Cobra, a short range combat Eagle and combat Viper.

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