Games

Elite Dangerous: A Burro drones on about drones (arf arf, see what I did there?)

Now bear with me as I take you on another wee flight of fancy to illustrate a point but imagine you walked into a computer game shop to buy a new game and the conversation went something like this…

You: Hello shopkeep, I would like to purchase a copy of GTA X, please!

SK: Of course, that’ll be £1,000, sir.

You: *splutter* What the chuff? A grand! A GRAND!

SK: Yup, £1,000 for the game computer. And another £40 for the game source data.

You: Oh! Ah, the computer… No, I just want the game.

SK: Yup, the game computer. You buy the game computer and the data.

You: What?

SK: It’s simple. All games now use the same resources and therefore come on a single data source but the computer is what decides exactly what game will be played.

You: But… that’s insane!

SK: You’ll need a new table too…

You: Fu…

Erm, I’ll leave it there but suffice to say if that happened you’d think the world has gone mad and yet that’s exactly how drones work in Elite Dangerous – you buy multi-use drones that each take up exactly 1 ton of relatively valuable cargo space and then use up a far more valuable module slot with a use-specific controller unit and that means if you want to use two types of drone (why have two? ohhh I don’t know, if say you’re prospecting and also want to collect maybe) you’re going to have to sacrifice two module slots. Why? Why does a drone need a new controller? It’s madness! The controller should be universal and it should be the drones that are specialised – not only does that make logical sense (why would a fuel drone be the same machine as a prospecting drone? And what if they ever introduce repair drones?) but it makes better play-sense too as it frees up module slots allowing greater flexibility of ship use.

If you ask me (let’s all pretend you did) I think the decision taken is possibly due to Frontier needing cash sinks in the game (due to a flawed economic model, but that’s got another post) and also to give players a path through the shipyard. The problem is I don’t want a path through the shipyard. I want to play in a sandbox and I want as much flexibility as possible which means I want to make better use of the (arbitrary) module slots on each ship I fly so I can play the way I want to.

So, in summary, the number of controllers is too damn high. Thank you.

image

Too many damn controllers!

Advertisements

A Burro further muses on his future in a post Power Play Elite Dangerous

We all have ‘tells’, the give away signs that show people what we are thinking. I, for example, am an extremely fiery person and you can tell exactly what I’m thinking from my face and so I am terrible at poker (although, on the plus side, people always know where they stand with me). And my tells don’t stop at my oh-so-open mug – they extend into my gaming too. I’ve just had two weeks off work and whilst they have been busy and insane in equal measures I’m sure I could have put some time into playing had I wanted to but instead I spent the time watching TV and, as of yesterday, playing Left 4 Dead 2 and there’s the tell: Left 4 Dead.

I first heard of Left 4 Dead a tweet from Graham Linehan waaaaaay back in 2008 and from the moment I bought it (from a real shop – I still remember the patient  young lady trying to explain I’d need ‘always on internet’ because of something called Steam) I have been in love with it in a way that only the original Doom has ever come close to. Most games burn bright and short for me, but L4D1 & 2 have been my go to games ever since I first played them and when I tire of an obsession they are the games I find myself playing until a new obsession begins.

And I’ve started playing Left 4 Dead 2 again.

So that’s it for me and Elite Dangerous. Yet Elite Dangerous offers many years of play so why am I backing off? Well that’s simple – boredom. I need more to do in the game and with both the Power Play update failing to deliver anything but mindless grind and the *still* dull, cookie-cutter mission system, I find I need to back away until the devs add the stuff I am looking for. The popular steamer John “Kerrash Landing” Virgo has hinted in his latest steam that the things players are crying out for are being developed for release in August for Gamescon. In my mind this will be the first phase of planetary landings and a first person mode, but like everything Frontier Developments puts out these days it’s impossible to know. I understand their desire not to raise expectations and face player backlash but to provide nothing is, in my view, worse. Still, I have a lot of faith in FD and I’m sure they will have Elite whipped into shape by the end of this year.

Until then I’m planning on shooting lots and lots and lots of zombies and waiting for the release of No Man’s Sky. You know it makes sense.

Hell yes...

Hell yes…

Not just a Burro is musing on their future with Elite Dangerous…

In my post yesterday I explained how I had grown bored of Elite Dangerous and was taking a long break. It seems I’m not the only one as Kate Russell had blogged about similar feelings of needing a break until more (taste appropriate) content is added. Like me she also still loves the game as a whole and plans to go back.

http://katerussell.co.uk/opinion-i-have-absolute-confidence-well-still-be-playing-elitedangerous-a-year-from-now/

What a Burro’s playing – June 2015 update

It’s been over a year since I last wrote one of these posts and in that year my gaming life has really shrunk, both in terms of time and scope. You see, my work has been horribly busy over the last twelve months (continuing the trend of the last four years, if I’m honest, and I can’t see it getting any better) and most of my free time is taken up with family time, very important when you have little kids. In that time I bought into the premium beta of Elite Dangerous and that became the all encompassing obsession I knew it would, although I did find time to play a few other games and a year after first piloting a Sidewinder my love of Elite is on the decline. So, what am I playing?

Elite Dangerous: After a year of playing and finding myself taking short breaks throughout I think I’m finally at a point where I’m not going to go back for quite some time. It was the recent Powerplay update that broke me because it showed me that the kind of gameplay I’d like to see isn’t likely to be implemented anytime soon. Of course I’ll probably go back but only once Frontier add multiple character slots (so I can experience different types of gameplay without locking myself into one form for extended periods), planetary landings (I want to explore alien worlds, not just take screen shots of them from orbit), and a more immersive mission structure (to give me a sense of purpose in the galaxy without drinking the Koolaid of Powerplay). It’s still a good game but just one still awaiting many key features that will raise it to a great one. Hopefully ED will flesh out enough in 2015 for me to go back, but for now… meh.

Guild Wars 2: I started Elite just as the Festival of The Winds came to an end and Living World season 2 started. I logged in enough to get each of the season 2 episodes but I have yet to play a single one of them. Now there is an expansion, Great of Thorns, and I’ve not read a thing that makes me want to play it, let alone play it.

MCPE: Update 0.11.0 came out at the start of June and it continued the run of strong, feature packed updates released in the last couple of years. Mojang have taken on three more devs devoted to the pocket edition and the pace of updates is likely to increase dramatically, especially if the additional features they added to 0.11.0 in just a few weeks of being hired is anything to go by! This continues to be the most fun when playing alongside my kids on tablets 🙂

Transmission and Hook: Both of these are mobile logic puzzle games (I use Android but it’s a fair assumption they will be available for iOS too) and both are totally recommended as they are both beautiful and fiendish in equal measure.

These are the games that are available now but there is at least one other upcoming game I’m now pinning my hopes on…

No Man’s Sky: If Elite Dangerous is all hard sci fi and stark, uncaring beauty, the upcoming No Man’s Sky is a throw back to the eye-popping wonder of the 1970s sci fi heyday. Both offer an immense procedurally generated universe. Both offer open gameplay and the freedom to explore and play in whatever way you choose. But NMS seems to offer a more complete offering of fun over ED’s patchwork of genius and boredom. NMS may also prove to be a big but dull game too, but until it does I’ll be keeping a hopeful eye on it…

Unfortunately that’s it for games and me. A combination of little time and even less interest means I’m facing a bleak few months on the gaming front. What about you? What are you playing, enjoying, not enjoying, waiting for? Leave a comment below.

Elite Dangerous: A Burro muses on space missions (AKA “Death by 1,000 procedurally generated yawns!”)

Another mission, you say…

There is a place in Guild Wars 2, a small human outpost near the front line of the war between Man and Centaur, where something wonderful and exciting can happen to you if you are lucky to be there at the right time. The first time this happened to me I had no idea it was in the game and therefore no idea it was going to happen and by the time it had finished it had changed the game for me forever. Before I tell you more about that place and what happens there, I should give you a little background. Guild Wars 2 borrowed an underdeveloped idea from Rift which had in turn borrowed it from War Hammer but it was only GW2 that came close to getting it right. The idea was Dynamic Events and it allowed the game to react to your presence, kicking off a pre-scripted event as you passed through an area. On the surface that wouldn’t be anything worth writing about but Dynamic Events were more than just triggered events because a player’s actions could influence their outcome and then that outcome could trigger a new event which in turn could trigger further new events, all chaining together to form an unfolding storyline that you became caught up in until it was played out. Now in this human town, the name of which escapes me, you might be lucky enough to hear NPCs chatting about a patrol about to set off and if you did you could volunteer to join the patrol and help out. Once you (and your follow players – these quests scaled up and down as players came and went at any point in their narrative) had set out with the patrol you were part of what was to become one of the most ambitious Dynamic Events ever put into the game. The patrol was to check on various camps and way points, each deeper into the Centaur territory and each bringing a fresh assault. The attacks had to be defeated and camps set up before pressing on, all the time being driven on by a charismatic NPC captain until the patrol, swollen by players and NPCs alike, decided to take on the Centaur main camp. This led to an all-out, multi-phase assault on the stronghold that ended up with the patrol fighting the main Centaur boss. All of this was in the open world, not a closed off instanced dungeon, and it was exciting as hell every single time I took part. The feeling of daring do at the outset, of desperate struggle during the patrol and of emboldened heroism throughout the assault was palpable, yet the devs managed to make me feel like that without ever crossing the line into making me feel like a dull untouchable superhero. My choices and decisions mattered, both to myself and to the other players and NPCs of the patrol because at any point we could fail. It was breathtaking.

Now in Guild Wars 2 I played an engineer called Jurak Gearwright in GW2 and with a quick fast forward of a few thousand years to Elite Dangerous I’m piloting Jurak’s direct descendent, William, around the Milky Way and something seems to have been lost in the intervening millennia because the missions in ED suck like a turbo charged Dyson. Waaaaay back in beta the devs introduced ‘Branching Missions’ and I wondered if they would become like the Dynamic Events of GW2 but despite my best efforts I could never find any missions that went past the initial ‘hand in’ point. It’s been a recurring dev claim throughout several updates that the missions were being altered to add more variety and branching and I’ve yet to see any that don’t fall into the following categories: trade, smuggle, steal, kill and locate. And apart from the always annoying NPC trying to get you to swap sides I’ve seen no branching at all. You get a mission, do a mission, hand it in and you’re done. Missions do not seem to branch and do not seem to lead on to other missions – I say ‘seem’ because I could be wrong as my game time is not stratospheric and I am bored.

I’m bored of my bulletin board missions having no impact or effect. I’m bored of my gameplay not leading into areas I haven’t dreamt up in my wee brain. I’m bored of cut and paste missions from cut and paste stations found in cut and paste systems everyfriggingwhere the game. A friend of mine has posted about a conversation we had today and it’s a really good read that at first seems to be at odds with my views but in reality shows, I think at least, that we are both coming at the same point in different ways. Both of us are lovers of the Elite universe and are glad that Elite Dangerous has been made. Both of us enjoy RPing in and out of the game about our in game experiences. Both of us love the size and scope of the universe crated by Frontier Developments. Where we do split, I think, is on the matter of depth versus breadth. It would seem at first glance that I’m calling for a deeper game offering stronger, linear story telling and that just isn’t what ED is about – ED is an open sandbox where you make your own reason for existing or you just don’t play. But I don’t agree.

What I want isn’t exactly a hand-crafted narrative designed to drive me along a storyline not of my making but rather the introduction of a system that can chain missions together to lead to some kind of meaningful change in the game state. Let me explain by way of an example.

Current mission: I pick up a mission to recover military plans from a system following a never specified incident (why the military can’t get their own effin’ plans is beside me but hey, they’re paying). I fly to the system and start the boring and repetitive task of signal source hunting. Eventually I drop into a signal source where the RNG engine in the game decides I’ll find the wreck of a ship with cans of military plans floating around. Quite often the wreckage of the ship raises questions I’d like to look into, as does the fact that whoever destroyed it left the plans floating about in bleeping cans, but there is nothing more complicated I can do than scoop the plans up and fly back to the mission’s starting station to hand them in. The biggest threat at this point is being scanned and fined and even then that[‘s just because the mission becomes a net Credit loss as opposed to anything approaching dangerous. This is dull after a short number of identical missions, trust me.

Better Idea (1 of many): I pick up the mission and fly to the system. For a start the location should be a system with active war zones or some other type of conflict that would explain the presence of military ships and plans. The mission brief should contain last known coords so I can head, using the compass, to the right location but this should be a race against time as other agents are also after the same things. Getting the plans should involve hacking the ship’s computer – only tech and supplies should be in cans, not bloody data! At some point I’d have to escape as other forces come in *or* when I get there I see other forces leaving and they have the data. The mission is then chained to a chase and interdict mission. At the point of interdiction other missions could chain – the ‘enemy’ could pay me off to not only leave them alone but to even take false data back to the initial client *or* I am congratulated by the first client and informed this was a test and they would like to use my skills on a far more dangerous mission. This could even be a recruitment exercise for one of the new Powers in Powerplay and further missions could be chained here.

You see, that wouldn’t need a hand-crafted storyline, just a far richer mission generator that can link missions together to give them a sense of narrative greater than that of your average Yodel driver. As it is the game is just like my 9 year old son with his homework – doing the bare minimum to get by whilst promising me that the absolute best is being done *and* that that more effort is coming at some point in the future. I have to put up with that from him, I don’t from my game.

Elite Dangerous: A Burro muses on crime and punishment (aka “Won’t somebody think of the children?!”)

When I was a student I lived on a borderland street in Cheetham Hill in Manchester. For those of you who don’t know Cheetham Hill simply think of Coronation Street but real and more violent. For those of you who don’t know Coronation Street then imagine Cheetham Hill to be the place the Fresh Prince was sent away from rather than away to. Then add rain. And grim Northern poverty. And drugs. I’ll wait while you stitch it all together. Here’s some music while we wait…

So, there I was, 21 and living on my own for the first time and in Cheetham Hill, a place where all of the following happened in my two years there:

  • The road behind me had a huge police drugs bust with more cops than you’d see at a football match swarming all over an entire row of houses.
  • The local hard man had his freshly macheted attack-dog’s presented to him on the pool table of the local where I’d taken my parents for a drink after I moved in. This resulted in many beatings and stabbings. The dog’s head, not my mum & dad having a drink there.
  • A house across from me was burgled and had everything including the cooper water pipes and water heating tank stolen, seemingly to order.
  • A sweet old lady down the road baked me a hash cake without telling me it was a hash cake and I spent a large part of a weekend off my tits.
  • I took a fancy to a young lady of the neighbourhood and when I got back to her house I found the entire bathroom, bar the sink and toilet bowl, covered in rat cages with many a squeaking vermin beadily looking out at me. It smelt very, very bad.
  • A long running neighbourly internecine war flared up again resulting in the house two doors away being repeated rammed by a transit van until the said van died and the driver staggered off.
  • A young lady of the neighbourhood (she of the rats) decided to tell me at what I considered to be a rather inopportune moment that her brother was currently serving a lengthy prison sentence for deliberately burning someone’s face off with acid.
  • I tried to get the whole house to visit a pub a few streets away in order to get drunk and watch what I shall call here ‘exotic dancers’. Unsurprisingly enough no one wanted to go which turned out to be a rather good thing as two people were shot dead at the pub that night.
  • Another pub we were in was surrounded by a local youth/drug gang who had been banned by the landlord and the whole thing became like a rain-sodden recreation of “Straw dogs” until the police arrived to save us.

And yet, despite all this violence and misery, only three streets away was a sweet little park, more like a communal garden really, that remained untouched by vandals and drunks. It was in the middle of an oasis of houses owned by a tight-knit orthodox Jewish community and the transition from unkempt, often boarded up houses in some streets to mirror images of the same houses but loved and treasured the crossing of a street was profoundly moving for the 21 year old me. I’d come from surburbia where everything was more or less nice for miles around, and to find places where the delineation between lawful and lawless ways of life was so clearly marked that crossing from one street to another seemed like moving from one country to another was one of the most shocking things I’d come across*.

What, dear Burro face, has this got to do with Elite Dangerous? It had better have some connection otherwise I shall read no further and instead email you a slap! (I assume this is what you are thinking at this point as opposed to “I wonder what old Burro is wearing?”. Weirdos.**). Well let me tell you…

Frontier Development’s new Powerplay update (1.3 if you are counting) is going to bring in some serious changes to how miscreants are punished and to say I’ve been struggling to understand how is to say that I was missing the point of banning public nudity***. But then Lave Radio #61 came to my rescue! At about 20mins in (give or give a couple of minutes) they start discussing it and it all becomes clear and it now seems like genius to me! So here’s what I think will happen, although the final details have not been released and of course can change after release based on player feedback/goat bombardment.

  • You do something naughty and receive a fine – you will have 7 days to pay that fine off. Pay it off and all is well with your world. Don’t pay it off and…
  • The fine becomes a bounty and you can not pay that off for 7 days (a counter that resets to 7 days with each bounty).
  • In these 7 days you are fair-game for bounty hunters so you may well want to keep your head down.
  • After these 7 days you can pay off the bounty and you’ll no longer be wanted BUUUUT…
  • The paid bounties are the added to the re-buy cost of your ship in the system you accrued them in therefore making any death in that system more expensive than somewhere else.

The sum total of this is:

  1. If you are law abiding but get a small fine, pay it off and all will be well.
  2. If you are RPing a pirate, using hatch poppers and letting both NPCs and players live, you will accrue fines and bounties but this will be on a (hopefully) manageable risk-reward basis and gently move you out to less risky systems such as anarchies, which is where pirates should be operating because the risk of punishment, and therefore the cost of re-buying your ship in that lawless system will be less.
  3. If you are saying you are a pirate but really you’re a dickhead just shooting NPCs and players because you have poor social skills, low empathy for others and are too lazy to play in any other way than negatively then you’ll soon find that racking up huge bounties across many systems will mean you simply can’t afford to re-buy your ship and you’ll be back in the starter Sidewinder. Hopefully you will then modify your playstyle to consider the feelings of others or, and this is my preferred option for you, fuck off out of the game forever.

All of this, plus the inevitable tweaks and expansions (possibly to include bounties that stretch across the whole of human space rather than local systems) should mean that the ridiculous spectacle of a few players driving off a capital ship in Earth orbit never happens again because the core systems should be the equivalent of that wee park in Cheetham Hill, peaceful and safe, whereas the frontier systems should be like the road I lived on, exciting and dangerous.

You see, I don’t want to get rid of the player groups currently roaming the game making a name for themselves by alternating between generating gameplay opportunities and just out-and-out griefing people. No, I actually now see these as being central to the Elite Dangerous game as they do drive forward interesting storylines and system-wide changes, but I do not want to see them running things in system where a huge, powerful, organised security force would be in place to stop them. They should be ‘driven’ back to the fringes of society, the strip clubs and boozers where shootings and severed dog heads are the norm, and there they should be the ultimate powers. Until a power-mad, expansionist head of a Faction decides otherwise of course…

Cmdr Gearwright out.
************************

* I’m older and wiser now and have visited Darwen so such things no longer hold any shock for me.

** This, of course!

*** Yes you can pretend it’s to maintain public decency but really it’s to avoid fielding awkward questions from your kids, you can’t fool me!

Elite Dangerous: A Burro muses on employment in 3300 (aka “Will Merc For Food!”)

It struck me today that most employment opportunities in Elite Dangerous currently boil down to being a mercenary and this, to me at least, is a shame because it of limits the potential of the ‘open’ part of the open world of ED.

Now by mercenary I don’t just mean a hired gun, although if you look at almost any bulletin boards you’ll find no end of kill missions ranging from the more-or-less morally agreeable “Kill pirate scum to increase system security & prosperity” type all the way to the border-line-psycho “kill civilian ships to see the system descend into civil war” type. No, what I also mean is that unless you are the type of Cmdr who is happy to lock their beliefs to one system faction and work to benefit them at the expense of their rivals then you will no doubt find yourself whoring yourself out to multiple factions of opposing views and stances. In effect, whether you are fighting, trading, exploring or even mining, unless you are bound to one faction you are a merc pure and simple and that seems like a shame to me because binding to one faction limits just what you can currently do in the game and the effect that work can have on the universe.

Now maybe the upcoming “Power Play” update will fix these issues but as FD aren’t giving anything away about it no one knows, but what I’d like to see added at some point are the following:

  • A deeper way of working with and for a faction and for that work to actually have an impact in the system and therefore the universe. At the moment I don’t get a feel that what I’m doing is having any benefit at all and so is there any need to concern myself with doing it at all?
  • Companies and Corporations players can set up and bring other players into work with and for – I have my own RP version in Antfarm Consolidated but it’s just more RP vapour right now. Still, I would love it to be actually in the game and working to influence factions in a system (or systems!).
  • Navy jobs to be more than just merc jobs – the navy would want to recruit the best of the best and not have these chosen few working for the enemy as we all can do now with little to no upset. To be honest I couldn’t care less about a military career in the game but damn the RP that would come from those that do would be amazing!
  • Missions to be more… more… well, just more of everything really. Currently they are dull, repetitive, dead-end grinding and I want them to be interesting, expansive and dynamically altering to actually make them seem like they are branching and evolving. I don’t think words can express how much I hate the current missions structures in ED but some of those words would be swear words that rhymed with duck.
  • Wars to be more war-like with actual changes to a system rather than just a few scattered combat zones and check points because right now a system in conflict is system with a split personality disorder.
  • Expansion to be dynamic and… expansive. I want to move with companies and factions as they expand rather than just be stuck in my chosen system supporting my chosen faction by means of taking their dull as ditch water missions forever.

Most of all, and what underpins these rough, quick ideas, is that I don’t want to be a mercenary. I don’t want to spend the rest of my time in ED just selling my cargo hold or my guns to whoever can pay the most. No, I want my participation to be driven by more than money in my account – I want it to be driven by me and my choices. I want Power Play to give me the opportunity to shape the universe instead of the universe just shaping me.

UPDATE (09/04/15): Not long after I posted this the FD main Dev posted this about missions in the Power Play update: https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=135952