ascent, comments, drama llama, elite dangerous, internet spaceship, news, sandbox, space mmo, star citizen
…look, I know the title sucks, but it’s a sequel to one of my posts shuddup.
Specifically, this is a sequel to my musings about internet spaceships in general and Star Citizen in specific. I was sort of hoping to ignore the elephant in the room, but I have to face facts. The entire thing going down with the game, its devs and its detractors has gotten to me. Against my own better judgment and event my own advice to others to ignore haters…its there, like a bunch of mosquito bites.
Thing is, this is beyond being a troll or a hater. This has now stretched outward in to a bona-fide legal matter. Ticked off by Derek Smart, and now perpetuated by The Escapist’s recent report about the game’s office environment, the whole thing has spun itself into coalescence the size of a planet. A planet made out of angry words and ugly feelings.
It’s a sick sort of fascination I feel about the whole matter. On the one hand, I sort of am rooting for CIG and company to finally attack all the bile being thrown at them…but on the other hand, you have to believe that a website wouldn’t actively seek a staring contest with a company unless they really, honestly felt they had a case. Right? The information being handed on both sides is so murky, so spin-like and so self-serving that even thinking about it makes me feel…
Nothing positive can come out of this whole matter, regardless of the resolution. If Star Citizen wins, they’ll have wasted time and effort and money on clearing a name that was besmirched by a League of Extraordinary Assholes. If they lose, then the bubble on crowdfunding may well and truly burst, and the shockwaves of the supernova could incinerate other projects and overall consumer confidence. And in both cases, the poor folks who are simply trying to develop a really neat game could be dragged through the mud.
All because two guys wanted to have a pissing contest.
The genre of the Internet Spaceship MMO is woefully underserved. There are three games that spring to mind when I consider the game style–the not-my-cup-of-tea EVE Online, the scrappy, solid underdog Ascent: The Space Game, and the title that kind of just keeps on keeping on, Elite: Dangerous.
More and more, I want to be removed from the swamp of Star Citizen and its fart gas and experience….like, REALLY experience what the other games out there truly have to offer.
Bar EVE. Sorry, just…not a fan. It ain’t a fit.
Recent stories have piqued my interest on Elite: Dangerous, though there are more than a few numerous reports that the game is a boring, grindy mess. I suppose there is every potential that Star Citizen could very well end up the same way, to be fair…but at least maybe the activities would be engaging enough. The sense of being personally in the ship and in the universe could be enough.
Maybe Elite can offer that as well? It’s hard to really say, and I’m not sure I wan to buy in full on a “maybe”.
There is, of course, Ascent. This game is just…it is a darling. It is pretty damn near feature-complete and is totally serviceable as an internet spaceship title. I had puttered around in it about four or five months ago, and while I found the game to be cute, that was about it. It was cute. Not really a world I could immerse myself in. Which is sort of what I want. Though perhaps some time has been kinder to it…
And then there’s the option of wait and see. Enjoy the modules that are out there now, keep eyes on the actual project and try like hell to ignore the glowing mushroom cloud just a bit in my field of peripheral vision. More and more, that is becoming a challenge.
A challenge I just do NOT want.
….egh, I dunno. Maybe I’ll just fire up Kerbal Space Program instead.
TL/DR in front:
If you grind in E:D, you either have no idea of what you are doing, or you have set your priorities wrong. (Most common example, the biggest and most expensive ship in very many cases is not the best ship for the job. Often, especially in combat, a cheap and agile ship does the same task much better.)
Now with the TL/DR over, here comes the huge wall of text:
Elite Dangerous is exactly as grindy as you want it to be. Without a full coverage of the games aspects, activities roughly split into:
1. Flying missions from the bulletin board. While they cover many aspects (e.g. transportation, smuggling, piracy, theft, bounty hunting and murder) they indeed turn stale after a while if this is the only activity you pursue. At the same time it’s a very good method of making money with a lower tier ship. They are a good thing for beginner pilots but you should realize when you basically grow out of them and turn your head towards other activities.
2. Trading. This just means using the market to make money by finding lucrative trade routes. Due to the economy shifting, the routes sometimes slightly change, but there are many established routes out there, which bring reliable income. If your goal is to make money to get a big ship and trading is just the means to an end, then this definitely is a grind. At the same time, i dare to say that if you grind money for a big ship, you have not understood the game at all. (Example given at point 4. )
In contrast, there are people around who have billions of credits on their accounts by now. They could afford the biggest ship, fully upgraded, many times over, but they continue trading as they consider the activity to be fun. So if it’s fun for them, it obviously is not grind for them.
3. Smuggling. This is just a variation of point 2, but it usually is done in slightly slower but faster ships, either with good silent running capability or with good agility to avoid police scans. I did plenty of smuggling from missions since smuggling missions can be very lucrative, but i never found freelance smuggling to be lucrative enough to outshine legal trade.
Of course, my refusal to smuggle slaves connects into that, i hear that players smuggling slaves make big money.
4. Bounty Hunting. This is one of my favorite activities and if well done earns you good money. I made almost all of my money that way and by now have a collection of ships. I indeed do not have a Type 9 or Anaconda, the two most expensive ships in the game, but i could afford either by selling several of the ships i have parked and switch to when i feel like using them.
At the same time, Bounty Hunting required limited founds to start. I don’t consider the non-upgraded beginner Sidewinder to be suitable for the task, but after flying a few missions (see point 1) which you should do to get a feeling for things anyway, you have the money to at least upgrade this ship to be an acceptable beginner bounty hunter. Unless you are a godlike pilot you won’t go killing Pythons and Anacondas left and right, but you can earn the money for a better ship, e.g. Viper, Cobra or Diamondback Scout, in just a few hours. (Or go even more cost efficient and use an Eagle after even shorter time. )
The most common bounty hunter ship is the Vulture, which costs 4.5 million empty and about 20 million fully upgraded. The Anaconda costs almost 150 million without any upgrades, but i recently switched to the Diamondback Scout, which costs half a million and even fully upgraded is below 10 million for bounty hunting activities and performs very well there.
A big ship and expensive ship just drives up operating costs. It brings more armor and firepower but pays for that in agility, so in the hands of a halfway competent pilot a smaller (and thus cheaper) ship often even is the superior choice.
5. Exploration. The galaxy is huge and only a small fraction of all star systems ever were visited by a player yet. You can leave your name on the map by being the first to explore some systems out there. The financial payout generally is low compared to the time invested.
There recently was the news on GalNet, the in-game news, that the first player made it to the center of the galaxy and back in an Eagle, the second smallest ship in the game. The value of the exploration data gathered was well over a hundred million credits, but considering that he was on way for over six months, he could’ve made many times more by other activities.
At the same time there are many people who very much enjoy exploration and don’t care that it’s financially not the best option. So it certainly has its place in the game.
(Also, if you think that because it’s proedurally created it’ll be “always all the same”, you might want to check out the youtube channel of ObsidianAnt ( https://www.youtube.com/user/ObsidianAnt ), he currently is on the trip to the other side of the galaxy and keeps uploading gorgeous videos of what he encountered on his way.
6. Power Play. This is about joining and supporting one of currently 10 factions available in the game. While you can reap some benefits (including access to equipment which you can only get when supporting your faction enough) it generally is considered a bad way of earning money. (And the unique equipment is more fluff, too, most of them are considered “as good” as the non-limited equivalent, some are seems as inferior and not a single one is considered to be generally better than its normal counterpart. )
I personally consider this to be the grindiest part of the game; you can run supplies, propaganda or whatever for your faction for hours and make very little profit. Even worse, you can burn a lot of money to speed up the progress of your faction. Your weekly faction reward can stage up with that, but in total you make a loss.
So for many players Power Play is a pure grind, as well as a way of wasting hard earned money. But there’s also those who already have plenty of money spare and don’t need it, for them it seems to be a welcome way to compete with others by supporting and growing their faction.
7. CQC. If you are all about action, you might want to focus on the close quarters combat part. This is played outside of the game world. Instead of logging in to your regular ship into the big galaxy, you can select (and slightly modify) predefined ships and go for lobby-based arena combat, where you can deathmatch, capture the flag and the likes.
You also earn money for your in-world character with it, but you can earn a lot more by other activities. On the other hand, you don’t have to care for missions, trading, bounties or anything; you enter CQC and fight against other players for fame and (limited) fortune.
If all of the given options (i am certain i still missed one or another activity) are too grindy, then the game has to be skipped. Still i think the game by now offers enough options so nobody is forced to grind.
My gripes are in other aspects, mostly in terms of group activity. It boils down to this:
– When i started out with a friend, we were at different starting systems. It took us two evenings to finally be together in the same system. By now we have ships with better traveling abilities and the knowledge on how to properly navigate the galaxy, but at that time just meeting each other felt like a huge effort.
So if you start with friends, expect to play alone for the first few evenings. (My advice: make some money to buy a hauler with a fuel scoop, which allows you to travel easily, then switch to whatever you like to use with your friends once you are together. )
– The net code is bad. Seriously. This already starts with the chat, when contacting a friend in game, i sometimes see him online, but get the message that he can’t be found. It even can happen that he sends me messages but when i use the reply function, the game tells me that he is not online.
While this can be avoided by using skype or TeamSpeak, similar problems also happen in game. I just recently was judge at a small dueling event. (A judge was needed as the rule was that the first one below 50% hull loses. This saves money by not destroying ships but an outside observer is necessary to decide the winner in a close fight. ) During just a few hours of fighting, we had several occurrences that some people lost “sight” of each other. The rest of the people still were able to see both of them, but the two were not seeing each other anymore. I even during two of the fights did not see one of the fighters anymore and in one of the fights i participated i my enemy and me didn’t see each other anymore, resulting in a “technical draw”. (Lucky me, i was at like 53% hull at that time and would’ve lost by just taking a glancing hit. )
Interestingly enough, i haven’t experienced anything like that in CQC yet, i suspect that they use some other net architecture there than in the open world games P2P system. I very much hope that they’ll get these problems under control soon.
– There are few PvE activities worth doing in group from a financial point of view. When escorting a trader, you get 5% of the transporters profit as free money, which is nice but not a lot. When bounty hunting, the payout is shared and when running missions, each mission is unique, can only picked up by one player and there are no group missions. So only piracy (against player), power play (which is a struggle against other powers driven by players) and CQC (arena PvP) are viable group activities.
Time will tell if/when the game will be adjusted to better support groups in PvE. Don’t get me wrong, activities in group are fun, but due to the additional effort to coordinate you can generally make more money per hour alone than together with a friend. While money earned should not be the highest criteria, our western culture (not only the gamers culture) pushes us towards more efficiency and thus away from less efficient group play. 😦
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Correction on point 3: I wrote “slightly slower but faster ships”, which is kind of…uh… not fully logical.
I meant smaller but faster ships. Getting past the police unnoticed is very hard in slow and lumbering high-profile freighter, but can easily be done in a fast scout ship with low energy signature.
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