Commander’s Log [Cmdr William Gearwright] : [ISDV Vestigial Echo : [Zaonce/Zaonce A 1/Ridley Scott Station] : [3301/05/04]

[Report Summary] Sub-contracted to Silver United Solutions based out of Ridley Scott and providing local Police with back-up in the RES sites.

[Manifest] n/a.

[Incidents] Multiple conflicts due to heavy police action against the local ‘Jet gang’ pirates.

[Signed] Cmdr William Gearwright of the ISDV Vestigial Echo (Faulcon DeLacy Cobra Mk3), Antfarm Consolidated of Dulos.

[Private Entry/Decrypted/frelp40062-Wilt441] [embeds enabled] After LTT9494 I found things a little hot in Dulos so the contract from the Old Man to escort Cmdr Paws back in from his epic journey to Sag A* was welcome distraction. I had to fly 250lys out to meet him but it was a profitable trip as I picked of a UC surveyor contract on the side and so more than covered my expenses with a wee bit of stellar cartography (the UC woman said they would pay more for reliable data on Ts which makes me think the Imps are looking at some form of expansion, but who know with them?). The journey back in with Paws was quiet (and profitable!) but once back in Dulos I could feel eyes on me again. Small things such as ship-system intrusion atteempt warnings, random hails from untraceable routers and bogus job offers clogging up my inbox. In the end I asked the Old Man to get me out – maybe memories in Dulos are longer than I thought – and he got me a stint to Zaonce, the banking capital of the entire galaxy and home to those frak-ugly leathery eggs people pay so much for, Odd thing was that instead of requesting I fill up the Pharos he had the Echo made ready and fitted out to take, and give, a beating. The Old Man said it was because Zaonce is undergoing a push back against some nasty local pirates and even though the local SysSec require the usual military & medical supplies they are not beyond popping anyone who looks at them funny, but I wasn’t so sure and I was right to be sceptical because the old swine has subbed me out to the local corp under a general ‘do anything’ contract that has me patrolling the RES near Ridley protecting miners and backing up the 5-0. Still, it’s low risk, high pay and mostly quiet. Well, apart from the Python…

I was checking in with a mining Asp out of Ovid when the pilot started squawking about a wing closing fast. I was 15ks away but I was the nearest ship in a good 60k bubble so I hit burn and screamed in weapons hot. So far I’d come up against ‘Winders, Cobras, Adders, and the occasional Viper but from 6k I could see the arrowhead of a Python silhouetted against the milky light of the ring and I knew this was going to get messy, especially as he had two Eagles with him. I told the miner to throw out some cans and run like hell away from me and head for the cops. Sure enough the Python turned its fat behind to me and slowed to scoop the cans whilst the Eagles chased the Asp deeper into the ring. I boiled the first one quick, peeling shields away and shoving both ‘seekers up his exhaust, it happened so fast I doubt he knew what hit him. The second wheeled around to see what the frak just happened to his buddy but by then I’d FA flipped and boosted back to put some distance between me and the Python. The Eagle fell for it and chased me like a furious wasp. I waited until I was 6k out from the Python before I FA flipped again and hit boost, effectively stopping dead for a second. The Eagle screamed past me and I flipped again, targeting and firing in the same motion. His shields melted and he hit boost to escape but by then it was too late for him as both my ‘seekers were closing on him. Not that I had chance to pat myself on the back as the Echo bucked like a mule beneath me and she began screaming – the Python had a rail gun and had done a good job of introducing its payload to my rectum in a wholly unfriendly manner. I hit boost and pulled some high-G jinxing but the freller had me in his sights so I hoofed power to engines, hit the shield cell and boosted right at him. My shield lit up like a firework party on Six but held together as I screamed under his belly. Another FA flip and I was heating up his shields from behind – the urge to pop off a missile or two was enormous but would have been a waste so instead I held my nerve and selected the power plant location to concentrate my fire on. The freller must have spent his life savings on turrets because even from high behind I was being riddled with tracer fire and depleted tip ammo – I hit my chaff but mistimed a cell boost so caught a line of rounds across the nose – I heard my canopy crack in dozens of places and as my suit began cycling up its risk responses I hoped for a miracle. Which is when the front of the Python’s shields erupted in blue fire and the whole ship swayed and rocked. I checked the Echo’s sensors and saw it was another of sub-conned Cmdrs in an FDL and it appeared he’d brought a lovely big plasma cannon to a knife fight! The Python didn’t know what to do – I was hardly doing any real damage whilst the new guest was causing him some real headaches. In the end he went after the ‘Lance and that was his last mistake. Another plasma bolt dropped his shields and so I began to let his plant have my missiles, all of them because I’m generous like that. The ‘Lance switched to a seriously big pair of rails and it was all over for the Python bar the expected, desperate, far-too-late attempt to jump out, and just like that 100 million credits worth of cutting edge technology became a salvage hog’s wet dream. The 5-0 rocked up just in time to avoid any actual danger and managed to locate a single escape pod – I wasn’t actually sure they were going to pick it up for a while but they did, although I suspect the occupant might wish they had just popped him by now.

So I’m back in Ridley, my rolling contract update just came in and I need to decide if I sign on for another 48 hours or take the Old Man’s new contract, it seems he has a ‘travel opportunity’ for me in an Indie system called Quivira and it does sound rather interesting…


To: William Gearwright

From: Antfarm Consolidated (Dulos)

Date: 3301/05/03

Subject: Travel Opportunity

Message: Dear Boy! Sterling work for the Silver chaps, good reports all round so keep it up. Things here are much the same, I’ve held off on arranging the school reunion until we know more about dietary requirements. In the meantime you can decide if you renew your sub-contract with the Silvers or if you would like to broaden your horizons with a trip to a currently hot locale, a place very much of the moment you might say. Quivira is a small system deep in the most glorious of glorious space but ever so independent in its quaint ways. I can’t help but think you’d enjoy the night-life there, as well as the weather, both of which can be described as hot, although the locals are rightly defensive about such things. There is a tourist guide on Godel Dock you should meet, he’ll be fully accredited and carry the usual insurance documents so you’ll know you are in the hands of a true independent businessman. If you go I’m sure you’ll find the chance to shore up your system’s defences will do you the world of good.

All the best regards,



Maybe I should drop Charybdis a line, I’m sure he’d find something to pique his interest there.


To: Charybdis

From: William Gearwright

Date: 3301/05/04

Subject: A tourist trap of note

Message: Hello friend, I hope this short note finds you well. I just wanted to let you know about a small hotspot I’ve become aware of called Quivira. It seems there is a blossoming tourist market opening up right now with special rewards for the more independent-minded traveller. I hear Godel dock is the place to meet up with like-minded vacationers and share the extremely lively night-life. If you decide to go, plan your route ahead of time based on the advice of others – empirical evidence would deem it prudent.

Safe travels,

William Gearwright.


Exploring the Universe with Elite Dangerous: Not all kills are equal…

I have spent very little time in the cockpit of my Sidewinder “Phase Looped Anomaly” lately as I’ve been far too busy with work. Damn that RL. Still, I have managed to film a few kills in the training missions and was hoping to edit them together in the next few weeks. Somehow, though, I don’t think any of them will be a good as this one from Tim Wheatley, one of the active members in the Elite Dangerous Google+ community. At first I thought he was about to be handed a surprising ass-kicking, but after the first few spins and wheels he manages to get a bead on the AI pilot and it’s all over bar the shouting. Gods I love the flight model in this game.

MMO Combat – Fighting The Good Fight…

I remember way back when I started playing LOTRO I found the combat system totally alien. I come from an almost pure FPS background stretching back to Doom and death-matching in Quake. I’ve been trained to keep moving, heal often and use cover. You chase your enemy down but you keep out of their reach. You hit them with everything you have but never let them hit you. It was fast, flexible, dirty & dynamic and I bloody loved it!

And then I came into LOTRO and it was nothing like that. Combat no longer relied on positioning (apart from being in or out of range to execute an attack skill, that is) and cover didn’t matter a jot. Hell, if I tried to dodge out of a bow or javelin attack the damn thing kicked the laws of physics out of the window and followed me like a bloody heat-seeking missile! I soon realised that combat in an MMO was less combat and more… statistics. Don’t get me wrong, it could be as exciting as a fight in Max Payne, but more occasionally than I ever found interesting. It seemed all I needed to do was learn which keys to press in which order and hope the enemy’s health bar went down before mine.

I guess the enjoyment I was feeling at learning a new system coupled with the love I had of Tolkien’s world and the pure joy I was experiencing from walking about in it all combined to blind me to the weaknesses of the central mechanic of the game I was becoming addicted to. In short, combat sucked.

I’m sure there is some skill to it. No, I *know* there is it’s just not the kind of blood-pumping skill that hooks me. I want Left 4 Dead immediacy and LOTRO (and from what I can tell, many other MMOs) offered me a spreadsheet and dice roll. As long as I didn’t pick a fight with some hug, tough bastard and I managed to remember all my skill rotations, well then all I had to do was hit my number keys in more or less the right order & at the right time and I would be OK. Some fights just became watching two health bars with no movement on the screen and only the tap tap tap of the 1, 2 & 3 keys to remind you that something is happening. If this description puts you in mind of my complaint about healing then you’d be right. Automatic pilot gaming is just not my thing. I find it uninteresting and plain dull.

And again I find Guild Wars 2 coming to my rescue. Possibly. You see it is still a skill clicky combat system with number magic crunching going on behind the scenes, but there is a major difference – you have to dodge. That’s right, dodge. When someone shoots a gun at you or fires an arrow or cracks off a lighting bolt it travels in a straight line meaning you can, if you are fast enough, get out of its way. When someone swings a ruddy great sword at you or charges at you like an enraged bull, you can get the hell out of the way. Wow! Suddenly, with the simple addition of this mechanic combat once more becomes a fight. No matter how good my enemy is at button mashing and how lucky their stat rolls are, a well timed roll or a sudden duck behind cover means I can escape being hit. True it’s not a full on FPS system, but after my failure to launch with CoD last year I’m not that fussed about hardcore combat – a mix between MMO & FPS sounds like it will be fun and after grinding myself into a coma in LOTRO, fun is exactly what I’m after 🙂

Roll on (hur hur) next weekend’s beta!

LOTRO: Kill it daddy!

That’s what my son says whenever he sees me galloping near anything as I ride through the countryside around Bree. He’s a blood-thirsty little bugger and no mistake, but his future predilection towards a career in serial killing is not what this post is about. No, rather I have gathered you all here today to discuss the complex art of combat in LOTRO and boy is it complex!

Complex, you say with a look that clearly indicates you consider the old Burro to be one Goblin short of an Orc. Yes I reply with the sort of stern look that fools no one, complex. Now shush up and let me get on with it.

Complex but not complicated. It’s how I’d describe most of what I’ve found in LOTRO so far, but especially the combat. At its heart it’s a very simple system in which you click on a baddie, click on an icon depicting an attack type, the computer works out who has the best chance of hitting, animations are played to represent the action, damage is handed out to the warring parties before the whole sheebang starts again and continues in that vein until someone wins, hopefully you.

Of course this bring a MMO you’d imagine there would have to be more to it than just that and you’d be right. Well done. Here’s a cigar. Save it ’til later as we have a lot to get through.

Now, before we begin and by way of a qualification, I should point out that I can only tell you about combat for a Champion as that’s the only role I’ve played so far – magic users, archers and thieves will, I imagine, have very different experiences in a ding dong and if I ever get around to playing one I’ll let you know all about those differences in blistering 3D surround sound, I promise.

For a start you never, never EVER run headlong into a scrap – that’s a sure-fire way of increasing your chances of getting a pasting, take it from me. No, take your time to scout the location – if you can wait until the target moves away from any of his mates then do so. Similarly try and take out the archers first as they really hurt if you are bogged down with a grunt or two.

The next step is consider any benefits you have (buffs as they are known in game). If you have a potion that increases your health regeneration in combat, or a scroll that increases you chance of hitting a target or doing critical damage then now might be the time to take them. Also other players can cast spells or use their various buffs on you too (the Captain’s rallying call boosts his teams morale score, for example). All these things have a limited period of effectiveness (1 min to 1 hour or more) after which they must cool down for a certain time before they can be used again – and as they often use valuable energy (energy you must generate in various time consuming ways) as well as cost you cold hard cash it should be obvious that you don’t want to go clicking on each and every one of them every 30 seconds in a blind panic. Each fight must be carefully weighed up and various important choices made.

Once those choices have been made it’s clobbering time, to borrow a phrase. Only it’s not that simple is it? No, it’s not. You click on an icon that represents a particular move – these are gathered via training in the game with a master and cover a whole heap of moves such as a plain simple hit the guy in front of you hard, through ones that see you doing several blows in one move, to ones that have an effect on more than bad guy at once in the area around you. Still others do less damage but add an increased chance to avoiding the next blow from your enemy. And so on and so on – the list is probably pretty near endless, or at least very long, whichever comes first. Or last. The key outcome is that you should arrange these icons to allow you to click on them and activate your moves in as near an unbroken sequence of high speed, high damage hits as possible. If you get it right then as you are performing one move, another has been selected and a third is cooling down ready to be used with a fourth waiting in the wings, all of which should render you a whirling Dervish of slicey, smashy death. Get it wrong and your enemy will take any and every pause you offer as a chance to twat you squarely in the skull and bollocks. Especially the bollocks. Hell, I know I would.

Once you get the hang of it, it’s not too difficult – the hard bit isn’t the clicking on icons but rather clicking on the right icons in the right order at the right time and with the right preparation and assistance working in the background. Even then you can still get your arse handed to you in a helmet every now and again and find you have to change up to stay ahead. Keep training, keep trying out new move combos, keep thinking two or three sword slices ahead. Do all that, and more, and you too could end up hacking seven shades of shit out of an Orc like I did here 🙂
Combat Screen Shot 004

Combat Screen Shot 003

And I’m no friend to bears, either!
Combat Screen Shot 002

EDIT: I’ve found this really great guide to laying out your screen & icons to help you in battle – a great blog too, have a read 🙂

DOUBLE EDIT: I also found this great piece on a Champion’s mindset over on A Casual Stroll to Mordor and it help make a lot of sense of my game play – “With a Champion there is no defence, only more offence” is exactly how I play him. Just keep hitting the bad guys faster & harder than they hit you.