100 Water Worlds Initiative, Day Four: The Neutron Highway

  • Newly Discovered Water Worlds: 6
  • Virgin Systems Fully Explored: 5

Another poor starting day. But I did find a handful of Neutron Stars, clustered within 50 light-years or so of each other. All had already been discovered, but their jets allow you to “supercharge” your FSD for a one-time long-distance jump that’s roughly three times the normal maximum distance.

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This kickstart, while I’m skipping over potentially promising systems, saves me time; getting me out to virgin space quicker.

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Now I’m going to hop back in to Hilary Depot for a quick repair and data dump. Then back out in a slightly different direction.

100 Water Worlds Initiative, Day Three: Expanding the Mini-Bubble

  • Newly Discovered Water Worlds: 6
  • Virgin Systems Fully Explored: 5

 

The day began inauspiciously, with a string of empty or otherwise barren systems that I elected not to explore fully. Sticking to my current area of exploration the pickings had slimmed considerably.

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But not all was wasted; I explored a number of new systems, many not fully. And in one I found an earth-mass Water World orbiting a larger Water World. Not quite twins, but close.

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I will now drive my efforts along a single axis of exploration for the next day or two.

100 Water Worlds Initiative, Day Two: First Findings

  • Newly Discovered Water Worlds: 4
  • Virgin Systems Fully Explored: 4

 
Now we’re talking. New Water Worlds have been found, four in all. Two of them in one system. And I found some terraformable planets as well. The mission is actually happening now.

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The most interesting discovery was a Water Moon, in orbit around a Terraformable High Metal Content world. I’ve named the metal world Batman and its ocean moon Robin. I’m sure Universal Cartographics won’t agree.

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I have explored four completely uncharted systems so far. I’m enjoying the pace of it even though it means flying a long way between widely dispersed bodies sometimes.

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I have not set a “destination.” I am just making short hops from star to star, exploring the area as I go. As this is probably 98% unexplored space this tactic is working out well.

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It’s possible that I will come back out here someday, maybe to explore the entire sector. It’s a thought — there are other places I want to go, after all. Right now this place is all mine.

100 Water Worlds Initiative, Day One: The Journey Out

  • Newly Discovered Water Worlds: 0
  • Virgin Systems Fully Explored: 0

I tried to get footage of Zheng He leaving Unity Station, but the external camera was on the fritz at the time. Took me a bit of time and a couple of Neutron Star-boosted jumps to hit unexplored space out past New Yembo, but I’m there now.

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I did scan some Water Worlds on the way out, of course. But probably the most interesting thing I found was a Gas Giant hosting ammonia-based life.

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I’m taking time to explore each system in detail out here. I do know I’m not the first to pass through these parts, but it’s pretty clear that no dedicated explorers have been here.

Good for today. Let’s see what tomorrow brings now that I’m in uncharted space.

100 Waterworlds Initiative Announced

ww3 (2)EDGEWORTH ENTERPRISE, SENONES (Crimson Dynamic News Services) – Crimson Dynanic affliliate and Senones native CMDR Ardwulf has reported back from deep space to announce the 100 Water Worlds Initiative. Citing non-disclosure agreements, Ardwulf declined to reveal his current location but states that he is roughly 2,000 light-years from Sol in his Diamondback Explorer the Zheng He. He was last seen departing known space to Spinward.

Video footage of his findings his not available as of press time, however CMDR Ardwulf has announced that his goal for this voyage (Voyage 3) is to locate one hundred new Water Worlds for future human habitation and to expand the frontiers of explored space.

The goals of the Initiative are as follows:

  • Locate and scan one hundred new Water World planets.
  • Previously discovered Water Worlds will not count against the goal.
  • Water Worlds which are not yet reported as explored on the exploration date do count.
  • Each new Water World discovered will be logged and images and/or video will be obtained, for posterity and for use in future reports.
  • Return to inhabited space only when the goal has been met.
  • Upon his return Ardwulf promises that a video and/or photographic report will be released to the public.

As of his last transmission, CMDR Ardwulf reports that he is 20170312172215_1 (2)approximately 1900 light-years out of Sol and that eight Water Worlds have been located thus far, four of them previously uncharted. Further, Ardwulf also confided in this reporter that Yeti is the pinnacle achievement of Terran “Kraut and Roll” performers Amon Düül II, but that their LP “Made in Germany” is “weak sauce.” As of this writing members of the band were unavailable for comment.

Starting to Dig Into Elite: Dangerous

I haven’t really done much with Massively Multiplayer games in quite a while. Three years or so, really. The closure of Vanguard was a loss that subtracted from my enjoyment of the whole genre, and the lack of vision shown by then-current developers was further discouraging. While I stayed mostly in the news loop and occasionally checked in on Guild Wars 2 or EverQuest II, I never stayed for more than a matter of hours. I made a crack at getting back into WoW that lasted for maybe two weeks and maybe a dozen hours played.

The MMO genre moved back, not forward, as big money remained involved and risks ceased to be taken. Those heavily invested in extant titles presumably stayed happy, of course, but I was never that even with WoW, which I played regularly for something like a year. My lack of enthusiasm for MMOs in general is really the reason for the paucity of posts on this blog for the last couple of years. Trying to write here about other stuff never felt quite right and I never achieved a rhythm for it.

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But it’s not like I’d sworn off the genre or anything. And thankfully there were interesting-looking things in the pipeline: Shroud of the Avatar and Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen but more so Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous. I said at the time that the last sounded like the game that fit me best. I still think I’m right. Moreover, I am not only playing Elite: Dangerous, I am excited enough about it to write stuff.

I’m not going to say that Elite: Dangerous is the game for you. It’s certainly got problems and deficiencies and things it desperately needs and goofiness here and there and weird tangents taken by the development team that don’t interest anybody. Its multiplayer is still kind of rudimentary, but that’s… maybe not as much a problem as one might suppose.

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I was for a long while a big booster of EVE Online, respecting its achievements even while only playing it intermittently. The biggest issue was that there was a whole end of the game that was only open to people in big nullsec alliances, and I get to be a tiny cog in a very big machine every day. There’s no romance in doing that in a game. Plus, a dependence on interaction with the community when that community is filled with pustulent fuckholes is really not a selling point.

What drew me to EVE in the first place was not empire-building, which I think there are better platforms for (see any 4X game,) but the dream of Traveller, of taking a spaceship out into the black and writing my own destiny with it, of seeing sights never seen before and sometimes getting into trouble. It took comparing the two games to get me to realize that Elite: Dangerous the MMO Spaceflight Sim was what I wanted, where EVE the MMORPG wasn’t.

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The difference is significant; Elite: Dangerous isn’t an RPG in the video game sense, because it lacks clear, mechanical character progression. I love RPGs both on the tabletop and (when well-done) on the PC, but I find the absence of progression absolutely liberating. No longer was I years behind other players and with the best and most interesting gameplay locked behind a pseudo-social wall manned by misanthropes. In Elite: Dangerous even the uttermost end of the galaxy is within reach; if not today, then someday soon. Which is not a meaningful knock on EVE, by the way. It’s just the reason, I now think, why it never took ahold of me like I felt it should.

Like I said, Elite: Dangerous has its issues, and its stupid title is only one of them. It’s not as deep as it could be in a lot of places. But it’s the biggest canvas of all, and if I am only a tiny, tiny speck on that canvas then I’m not all that much smaller than anybody else. And this speck is out there doing what it wants to do — voyaging far from Sol, seeing things no one has ever seen before.

Elite: Dangerous Rigging and Starting Out

I mentioned in the last post how important immersion is for me as a player of video games. It’s why I spent as much time as I did in EVE Online and why I loved Vanguard so much despite its many problems. So when I start talking about Elite: Dangerous it’s worth starting to break down why it works so well in this capacity. Also I want to yammer a bit about approaching the game.

To start, though, I should probably talk about my setup, because that can make a huge difference to a game like this. I am not playing in VR, nor with head-tracking, a fancy projector setup or a cool custom cockpit. All that stuff would be awesome, to be sure. But I am playing using Voice Attack along with one of the HCS Voice Packs, and I have a HOTAS. This last is the relatively affordable Thrustmaster T-Flight X model rather than any of the Saitek rigs or the crazy-expensive Warthog. While I would like more buttons and maybe some switches, the T-Flight X is quite decent and has served me well so far. I also just have the one monitor, which is a 31.5″ 1080p television. And my rig itself is nothing special, an $800 off-the-shelf Asus running Windows 10 (as I recall, you need at least Windows 8 to run Voice Attack.) Elite: Dangerous runs on it with no performance issues.

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Not counting the PC all this cost maybe $125, including the game itself and the Horizons expansion pass. If you wait for a sale through Steam you can get both for something like $30, although to be honest I would recommend that a newbie grab the base game first and feel it out for a bit before dropping the extra dough on the expansion. Horizons does add a great deal to the game, even three-fifths finished as it is, but some of that (in the form of improved missions, more ships and the passenger stuff) is available to everybody anyway.

Probably the single biggest addition to immersion is the HOTAS. The game is playable with the mouse and keyboard, is improved by the addition of a flight stick but is better still after adding a throttle. There is a significant learning curve to the HOTAS controls, mind, and you may also be fussing with your bindings for a while. But the conceit of Elite: Dangerous, that you are a pilot flying a spaceship, is immeasurably enhanced by the addition of actual flight controls. Skilled FPS folks might say that they get better performance using the keyboard and mouse, and they may be right. But the experience is vastly superior with the HOTAS.

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I also preferentially play in a dark room. And when I’m making trade runs I have the game’s music off and my own tunes in the background. I installed the lightweight mp3 player AIMP3 for this. It handles playlists so I have put together a few containing suitable music; Blue Öyster Cult, Hawkwind, Tangerine Dream, Ozric Tentacles and Amon Düül II have featured prominently. Last night was Yes.

My in-game activities have been mostly non-combat ones. I did do some early bounty hunting, but of late have been trading and running missions. My eventual goal is exploration; the rig that I’m shooting for will cost another 4 million credits or so, but I’m earning pretty well right now. A single mission can net me over 100k, and I found a single-hop trade run carting medical supplied to an Outbreak system that was pulling in about 70k per round trip. But that did dry up after a few days.

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As a starting player some will have you believe that bounty hunting is the way to go. And indeed you can make a good amount of money at it even in the starter ship. But you need to find good places to hunt in (look for resource extraction sites in systems with ringed planets,) you run the risk of getting in over your head and relying on the authorities for help, and there’s a fair bit of waiting around for hostiles in the low-intensity areas that are suitable for newbie bounty hunters. Right out of the gate, though, you can add to this income with some low-volume cargo runs and running your Discovery Scanner in every system you visit. And I strongly recommend doing some travel, just to see the sights.

I should caution that Elite: Dangerous can be grindy. It’s not the grindiest thing I’ve played by a long shot; you can do a lot with 200K, and unlike in EVE Online you’re never all that far behind anybody else except in credits. But comparing ED to EVE is a something that really warrants a whole series of posts, and here I am just trying to get back into the routine of having something for the blog once a week. If nothing else Elite: Dangerous has rekindled my interest in online games again.