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, 7 September 2016

Ship tuning via engineers

My ventures in Elite: Dangerous once more grind to a halt as I discover Dreadnought, a little newcomer with some very positive reports from Gamescon. This is not about Tie Fighters. You fly in a team of five, each in command of some serious heavy spacecraft. The pacing, mood and graphic are very well done, and even after three weeks of Beta, I have trouble not going back to do “just one more battle”. Watching those behemoths dishing it out with all kinds of impressive weaponry never gets old. Thus, the nights were long. As typical for closed beta games, the community is small, such that I quickly stumbled upon a German casual guild named Blue Vengeance, with a well done webpage and teamspeak capacity. As it turns out, there are also some who play Elite: Dangerous, which in turn finally motivate me to go back from that “instant action” type of gameplay to the more serene, planning type which Elite: Dangerous is.

Speaking of planning, it is exactly those moments where a plan fails which tend to kick me “out of the gameflow”. My Vulture is docked in Yhele, a nice occasion to pay off some fines and finally get rid of my “wanted” status. However, as my Powerplay-Faction lead by Aisling Duval in the meantime did expand and started to exploit Yhele, the conflicts have died and Yhele is a quiet vassal of the Empire. A pity, because those three conflict zones were in proximity to the station, and especially all specialized mission concerning those conflict zones are gone. Also, my Powerplay-status has dropped again this cycle, barring access to prismatic shields, nevermind the fact that the Vulture has not enough powergrid to sustain them. Time for a new plan, a new venture I guess.
I still think that a massively shielded Vulture would be formidable permanent part of my fleet. I just need a way to tune up the power plant output. In come the engineers, but a lot of research on fan websites is required until I get an overview where all of them are, what they can offer, and how they work. A pity, because this kind of “have to look-it-up” gameplay collides with the immersion provided by my VR-goggles; put them on, fly to a station, don´t find what you seek, put them off, research and memorize system and station names, put them on, fly there, next step of the plan, rinse and repeat.

After some afternoons of “idle planning”, I roughly know which tuning is available and how it could play together for a fully pimped-out Vulture. Here is the plan:

- charge up the powerplant by +35% (-50% heat efficiency, integrity), i.e. from ~15MW to ~20MW;
- buy and tune low powered prismatic shields to -31% powerdraw, -20% mass, i.e. from 6.5MW to ~4.4 MW and from 40 tons to ~32 tons;
- tune power distributor to increased weapon output (because this one has double the output than system or engines on the Vulture and thus profits must from the tuning percentage);
- tune one or two shield boosters to +279% (+300 mass increase, +25% powerdraw), i.e. from +20% shield power to ~+50% shield power and from 3,5 tons to 10,5 tons;
- tune clean drives to +18% optimal mass, -60% thermal load (+25 powerdraw,), i.e. this should compensate for the greatly decreased heat efficiency of the overcharged powerplant;
- tune frameshift drive to +50% optimal mass (+25% powerdraw, integrity), as everyone loves farther jump ranges;
- tune hull to -15% mass, 18% hull boost (-25% reinforcement), i.e. from 230 tons to ~199 tons;
- tune armor to 68% reinforcement (+30% mass, but not for light armor!), i.e. from 288 armor to ~450 armor
- tune weapons as last because they are most likely to be switched out according to needs.

Quite a shopping list, eh? Engineers require first to be found, then a mission to access one, then some requirements before they work for you, then slowly ranking up to the best modifications like above at rank 5. Not that it would be that easy, though. Some engineers are “hidden” behind others, so that I first need to rank up here before being able to access the one I want. Sigh. Ok, I understand that this is for the long term player, but still… I hope the game does not rely too much on those uptuned ships. Drawback if it rightly so doesn’t: Once you have tuned your ship, combat should become ridicously easy…

Well, there is nothing better to do right now, except for doing either transport, assassination or conflict zone missions in a new system. I waver a bit between those options. My new wing mates hide in a private group and after I coaxed them out of it, they chose to do what the do every day: Dogfights in HiRes zones, i.e. resource extraction sites, for bounties. But I want a perfect ship, first.
I need to visit Liz Ryder in Eurybia. She will work on reinforced armor and hull reinforcements, and finally give me access to Hera Tani, who in turn will work on my power plant and power distributor. After that, I need to look for Lei Cheung or Didi Vaterman for the shield improvements, and so on. Let´s see if I can stand the grind!

Since there are likely also transport missions involved, the Vulture gets stored, out comes my Asp. It still needs a pit stop to upgrade the frameshift drive from C to A. Off go the VR-googles, research on webpages, fly there. Then it is tima to move on to Eurybia.

In order to meet Liz, I need a friendly status with a faction called “The Blue Mafia”. Well, I hope this goes not too far so that I would loose status with the Empire-aligned factions in that system. In the end, it doesn´t. I can immediately stack some well payed planetary missions, with an overall profit of ~1 million Credits very profitable ones, considering that I am just “neutral” with them. The mission type is a new one: Destroy a “Main Flux Generator” in a low-security settlement, a base assault is in order!

The mission takes some time. First, I try an assault with my ship, but two cannons quickly shatter even my Asp´s prismatic shield while I can´t seem to hit anything myself. Weird. Since the base is situated in such a rocky area, I take quite a while to actually find a landing spot. Then, driving up that rocky slope is a nightmare, making the Scarab sommersault and this provokes again seasickness with my VR goggles on. Finally my assault with the Scarab jeep fares well. Once in the base, I have to get rid of two ground-defense turrents. This turns out to be easy, I just have to hide behind a corner until my shield recharges. There are three datapoints, not sure what to make of all those hacking messages I get once I access them. And there is just one other targetable building, the “Power Grid”. Once I destroy it, all three missions give the blue success message. So, for the future I know that Main Flux Generators are really the Power Grids. Sigh. This is what difficult to access means. But as usual, in the end, everything turned out as doable and fun, after all!

Back in Eurybia, my status is now up to “Cordial”, and I immediately get a transport mission, which as reward promises access to an engineer. Great. Except for, the transport mission requires a supercruise along 280,000 light seconds. Time enough to put my VR goggles off and read some webpages in the meanwhile… This game could definitely need a built-in webbrowser!
Next mission: Bring me 200 landmines, Liz Ryder the Engineer says. From where, she does not say. The web says, you can find them in military installations, only planetary ones. Great, how do I know if an installation is military??? Forget it. Off go the VR goggles, using this commodity specific webpage for a search. Unfortunately, I confuse “sell” with “buy” and make a wrong trip. A bit miffed about these literally  bureaucratic hindrances, the “flow of the game” is broken, and since it is late, I log out.

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