Exploring ESO

So I’ve been playing The Elder Scrolls Online. I think there’s a fair bit to like in there, although as someone who ate Skyrim up, to me it also lacks a lot of the same feel. In a single-player Elder Scrolls game there’s a main story — that you can basically totally ignore if you want, in favor of unstructred adventuring and exploration. There’s room for some of that in ESO, but as far as I have seen thus far (and bear in mind, I’m still early on at about level 12) not nearly as much. It favors structured questing instead, which given the brand is disappointing.

Perhaps most annoyingly, I have a favored play style in Elder Scrolls games: the stealth archer, which is a character type that I really don’t play in any other game. This is effectively an invalid play style in ESO due to the combat mechanics, which are largely a reflection of its nature as an MMO.

On the upside, there is a lot to do in the game, the world has a lot of space, and you’ll in time get to see parts of the world that have been left out since Morrowind. There’s also solid, regular support and expansion, which Bethesda/Zenimax has probably done better with than anyone else.

ESO is also a lot better than it was back in beta, which is when I played it last. For now I’m still playing, and that’s a good sign.

100 Water Worlds Initiative, Day Seven: New Space Ahead

  • Newly Discovered Water Worlds: 20
  • Virgin Systems Fully Explored: 10

Zheng He and I are still trekking towards Scutum-Centaurus. Every jump now takes me farther from settled space. At the end of the day I was 2500 light-years out of Hilary, and over 4,000 light-years from Sol.

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It was a long day of jumping and scooping, and I’m still not yet where I want to be. But on the way I found a lot. A double Water World system, and then another big multiple-star system with no less than three Water Worlds. And later, and Earthlike.

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A few scattered other Water Worlds were found along the route. I also found my first Ammonia World on this trip; I’m not sure I have the knack for spotting them yet. This one had a set of rings and seas of liquid hydrocarbons.

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For a day of jumping 2500 light-years, I did very well: the current Water Worlds tally stands at 20. I didn’t do much additional scouting, so I didn’t fully explore any new systems, save for a few that only had a couple of bodies in them. But things are really moving now.

100 Water Worlds Initiative, Day Six: A New Trajectory

  • Newly Discovered Water Worlds: 10
  • Virgin Systems Fully Explored: 10

The day was mostly consumed by heading outward from Hilary Depot. I took, more or less, a straight shot out to Antispinward, driving just away from the inhabited bubble. Needless to say I kept my eyes open for any interesting worlds.

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Mostly, though, the region around the refueling route to Colonia is pretty thoroughly picked over. I did find a new interesting sights, but only two Water Worlds, both of them previously charted.

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I stopped for the day about halfway to my goal; I’m aiming to go further out than ever before on this run. Not all the way to the Core this time around… but I want to hit the next spiral arm in from Sol this time. That’s Scutum-Centaurus, according to my possibly-outdated charts.

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100 Water Worlds Initiative, Day Five: The Pitstop

  • Newly Discovered Water Worlds: 10
  • Virgin Systems Fully Explored: 9

The trip in to Hilary Depot was close to 900 light-years. So of course I explored as I went. It’s a good thing, too. I camE across a system. Not a new system; someone had buzzed through and scanned the primary but ignored the orbiting bodies. Co-orbiting with a small gas giant I found an Earthlike with metal-rich rings. A literal jackpot, and quite a sight.

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Hilary Depot is named, of course, for a legendary explorer of old Earth, who climbed Mount Olympus with his faithful Grizzly Bear, Ben. I remember seeing a holofilm about him when I was a kid.

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Another fifty light-years or so later, I found another Earthlike. I am counting these towards my 100, of course. They are quite rare, though perhaps not so rare as Ammonia Worlds… of which I have found none so far on this expedition.

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And then the Pitstop at Hilary. Some clown tried to interdict me on the way in, but eluding him wasn’t much trouble. I increased by previous record of max distance from home, and my data was worth close to 6 million credits. Word is, by the way, that Lakon is making some upgrades to the Diamondback Explorer some time soon, shedding some weight but still putting in an extra internal slot. It’ll be nice to have.

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.

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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.