Exploring the Big Black: All that was left…

If you recall from my last post, I accidentally blew a ship up and not my ship either. Well here is a snap I quickly took of the wreckage… poor sod.

All that was left of the ship I unwittingly mass locked as it tried to jump to hyperspace...

All that was left of the ship I unwittingly mass locked as it tried to jump to hyperspace…

Just zoom in on the wreckage to see the detail given to even that part of the game. God I love this game!

I’ve uploaded all of my screenshots so far to here: https://plus.google.com/u/1/photos/+HeadBurroAntfarm/albums/6040051050572248497

Exploring the Big Black: Mystery ship explodes, Cmdr Gearwright scratches head.

So there I was, flitting between stations on the usual low-profit, low-risk trade runs when I saw a hauler lift off from a landing pad away up the curve to my right. I watched as it rose above the pad control tower and into the middle of the station’s traffic lane before slowly moving towards the exit. As I had been musing about what other ships looked like close up as they flew about and entered supercruise and hyperspace I decided to follow & shadow him.

This may have been a mistake.

Now I’m not saying that what eventually happened to this poor sod was my fault because I got the distinct impression from the way he/she smashed into the lip of the docking port and cart-wheeled arse-over-tit out of the station, through the entry ‘toast rack’ and into the docking lanes that basic piloting skills were still being practised. Although quite how they came to afford a hauler if they were that green is beyond me. Maybe it was a trainee pilot at the helm, in which case the owner was about to realise they had chosen a very costly training method indeed…

Once out of the station and away from the docking lanes leading into its (now dented) maw the pilot regained control and shot off at top speed in what I have come to recognise as the typical dash away from the mass-locking effect of the station to get to a point where the hyper drive could be engaged. He was faster than my wee Sidewinder and seemed to be getting away from me until I caught him up a few clicks away after he suddenly came to a full stop. I had a suspicion he’d noticed me following him and was panicking slightly but I figured if I kept my moves non-aggressive and stuck to plain ‘odd & nosey’ then he’d get the message I wasn’t trouble and everything would be ok. After all, all I really wanted was a ring-side seat for the moment he hyper-jumped out to see what it looked like from the outside.

I manoeuvred my ship close to his and spun it around so the top of my cockpit canopy was facing him and I could look out of the bubble free of distracting metal struts and holo-displays and it was at this point his shields went suddenly offline, their protective energy rippling back over the ship like rapidly melting ice. I had a second or two to wonder what the meaning of such a strange command decision was before the ship exploded right in front of me. Just plain exploded. Went *poof* right there as I was watching, wreckage of the hull and cockpit whooshing past me and cargo canisters tumbling away into the big black.

What the bloody hell? I mean, really. What. The. Bloody. Hell.

Did smashing into the station damage some subsystem leading to a catastrophic drive failure? Did he try to enter supercruise but tarry too long and allow his ship to fatally overheat? What he smuggling something nasty that proved prone to going *poof* without warning? I have absolutely no idea but the shocking display helped remind me just how dangerous space travel can be and I can promise you I made damn sure I repaired my hull and systems the very next time I docked in a station!

I mean… bloody hell, he just exploded.

UPDATE: After posting this on the Elite Dangerous Google+ fan community, one of the members pointed me to this Reddit thread. It looks like by being nosey I mass-locked the hauler as it tried to spin up its hyperdrive and his ship overheated and exploded as a result. I honestly feel really bad about this 😦

Exploring the Big Black: First Impressions to First Profits to First Death in Elite Dangerous.

I’m enjoying Elite Dangerous a lot but it’s both harder than I imagined/remembered and quite obviously a beta.

Anyone with half a desire to buy it right now should know that whilst the gameplay is fun and the delivery stable (not one crash, freeze or disconnect so far) it’s limited and far from fully implemented. Whilst it’s true that most of the core elements of the game are represented so that you can fight for or against the military, hunt traders or pirates, buy and sell between worlds or simply explore and map the universe, it’s also true that the area allowed for this is a tiny walled-off bubble and as such begins to feel like a fishbowl quite quickly. Still, the gameplay is solid and doesn’t feel like a rushed ‘work in progress’ affair which is what I think is the biggest criticism of Star Citizen’s dogfighting release, so if you are wavering on the edge of buying it I would certainly recommend you jump in. As long, that is, as you don’t expect to be playing the finished game and if you don’t then you’ll enjoy it a lot. One last word of warning, please for the love of all that is holy don’t burn out playing a beta to death – that’s just not a smart thing to do.

With that mini (micro?) review and PSA out of the way what have I been doing in my time exploring the Big Black? Well, trading a fair bit, running away from players whenever I can and discovering the deep, deep joys of talking to my spaceship. Let me explain…

I’ve installed VoiceAttack and for the low, low price of $8 (sub £5 for me) and I can honestly say it’s the best fiver I’ve ever spent. I am now chatting away to my ship like it was an old friend! Well, not really but I am barking orders at it and it’s obeying like the good ship it is and I honestly can not imagine the game without it now – I mean if you’re not meant to talk to a spaceship in the year 3300 then when the hell are you? I hope Frontier Developments builds it into the game at some point, along with appropriate and maybe even editable replies. Ahhh, I can but dream.

Using VA and my Hotas X joystick I’ve been trying to beat the Solar Fluke in the training missions and having some success – it’s going to take a lot of practice but I’m sure I’ll get there eventually. When I get tired of combat training I pop into the multiplayer where I’ve been finding out how trading works. At first I was losing money hand over fist but then a few days ago I had a break through and began to see my profits and savings creep up, nothing grand but I was making my way up the ladder without having to fight anyone.

And then it all went wrong. I was doing ok, I had traded up to 5,500 Credits and keeping my nose clean when I suddenly had a run of bad luck. It started with being shunted back into a station by a player docking in a hauler. By the time I managed to get myself free of his shields and facing back towards the exit my docking window had expired and I was suddenly a wanted criminal. I was fired on inside the station by the station authorities and then again outside (by the station *and* players I think). I escaped and managed to pay off the fine to clear my reputation at the next port but at a cost, wiping out all profit from my last two runs. I congratulated myself on clearing my name, mentally noted down a ‘lesson learnt’ and headed off with a hold full of expensive stock to sell. And that’s when I decided to get clever. Long story short I tried to do a loop the loop through some station super-structure and I hit it hard. Hard and fast. My shields couldn’t cope and my ship exploded. I lost it, the cargo and all my money in one fiery fireballs of fire. Boom. Start again time.

There is a time and a place for hotdogging and work is neither the time nor the place.

I’m in no hurry to get back in and do it all again as I don’t want to burn out in beta and then not want to play the full game in a few months time, but I will start again soon and see if I can get my sidewinder kitted out with some weapons and armour so I can have a go at fighting in the conflict zones that have flared up between the Federation and the Eranin Defence Force.

What a Burro’s playing – March 2014 update

It’s been a few months since I last wrote one of these posts but the last couple of weeks have seen a surprising change in my gaming that has awoken an old worry of mine that I’m going to poke at again and see if I can’t answer it once and for all in my next post (spoilers: I don’t think I can).

Right now:

Guild Wars 2: As amazing as it seems, I’ve become slightly, but only slightly, addicted to this again. I only really got into it after I agreed to download it again for my son who, like me, has grown a little bored of nothing but Minecraft to play. True I have also had Left 4 Dead, but that’s a little on the mature side for him so I re-installed GW2 and watched him play for a bit and suddenly I felt the old familiar urge to run about brutally solving the often minor issues of total strangers for pretty much worthless rewards and BANG! I was hooked again. This re-start coincidentally happened to coincide with the total destruction of Lion’s Arch and man alive was that fun! True it’s a zerg-fest but I don’t mind zerging too much – at least I can hide my incompetence in the crowd 😀


MCPE: Update 0.8.0 was great! Minecarts were added along with some nice farming changes & graphical updates and the whole thing felt brilliantly fresh and fun again. I had a blast in Termite Canyon and really only stopped because I played the arse out of it. I’m waiting for 0.9,0 which will, if the tweets coming out of Mojang are right, be another great update that adds even more fun. We are while off Realms yet I think and that’s a shame because that’s exactly what I’d need to make this my ‘go to’ game again

Pioneer Spacesim: In my desperation to play Elite Dangerous I downloaded this free Elite Frontier mod and tried it out with my new Hotas X flight stick & throttle. The results were, to say the least, underwhelming and I shan’t be playing it again. Ever.

Left 4 Dead 2: Ahhhhh, what can I say about this game that I haven’t already said. It’s just amazing fun. I’m not as good as I was 5 years ago when I could do the levels on Expert (with the right team, of course) but I can hold my own in Advanced even with a basic PUG. Cold Stream is still a bloody nightmare though ;-D


Second Life: Nope. I didn’t even make it back for the memorial of my mate Os. I thought I would but missed it and then found, whilst sad I missed seeing Sal, Ilia, Enjah, Holo, Mari, Tak and my other friends that I was relived I didn’t have to struggle with the experience of logging in, lagging out and seeing nothing but grey blocks. Lately (by which I mean the last couple of days or so) I have found myself missing this world a little but I don’t think it’s been enough of a pull to tempt me back. Not yet, anyway.

LOTRO: It must be the GW2 effect but I’ve been missing this world too. Not enough to actually go back into the nasty grind-fest that it is, but still missing it a little. Maybe one day someone will make a less grindy, more explorable Middle Earth and then I can finally be the Gondorian explorer I’ve always wanted to be.

Survivalcraft: Christ no! No way! The last few updates have moved further and further away from fun game play and more into the realms of boring twaddle. There is now a bow you have to load each time to fire by dragging an arrow from your inventory to the bow. This is a game with limited inventory space, non-stacking arrows and a ranged combat system that is, in a word, shit. My life is too short too waste it on non-fun things. 

Borderlands 2: This is a strange one. I just stopped. Don’t really know why. I just stopped and I don’t think I even noticed. I do that a lot with long story driven games. Thief (all of them). Walking Dead. LA Noire. Never finished any of them. What a waste.

Ingress: Nah, I’ve totally lost the plot here. I’m not a social gamer and you reallllly need to be for this to work. Oh, and I need the app space too much 🙂

Carmageddon: Not even the boy is playing this one now – it’s ok but just limited.


Elite Dangerous: Still the big dawg on the horizon, I’m looking forward to this more and more with each Alpha update I watch on youtube. It just looks amazing! The flight is smooth, the combat challenging, the visuals drop dead gorgeous. Oh man this is the game I want right now! This is the game I’d turn the shed into a cockpit for and end up on the local news in the “And finally…” humorous nutjob section.

What are you playing right now? let me know in the comments below.

Elite Dangerous: And the obsession begins…

It’s been a slow build up, but I’m now officially knee-deep in an obsessive relationship with Elite: Dangerous.

I don’t know if I’ve written about this before, but I have a repeating pattern when it come to games that stretches all the way back to the first computer games I played in the 80s. I become obsessed by them. Not by playing them, you understand, although that does come later on for some games, but rather by the anticipation of playing them. Once I fall for the premiss of a game I can’t get it out of my head. Every waking moment is governed by thoughts of it, dreams become haunted by it, conversations hijacked by it, family & friends bored with it.

Now in the dim and distant past I had to work hard to desperately try and sate this ultimately insatiable beast but, as with many things, the internet has made this so much easier, providing me with podcasts, previews, developer dairies, youtube footage and even, if I’m really desperate, forums (shudder). And, dear reader, it is in precisely this state you now find me in relation to Frontier Developments upcoming release of the much anticipated Elite 4, or Elite Dangerous (I still hate that bloody name! It’s meaningless! Elite Forever would have been far better, or Elite Eternal, but not Elite Dangerous!).

Ever since they released the Capital Shop Battle video I knew the beast inside was going to rise again but it really wasn’t until I caught up on the podcasts and youtube videos covering the first Alpha release that I felt it wake up and sharpen its claws – thank Cthulhu I didn’t do this until after the Xmas and New Year break otherwise the good lady Antfarm would have divorced me!

So, here I am, eating, sleeping, dreaming ED and do you know what? I bloody love it! If only the games I become obsessed about could live up to and match the perfect image I create for them. Most don’t but I have a sneaky feeling that ED may come the closest so far 😀

Elite Dangerous: What a Burro wants from the next Elite game, part four. Hell is (certain) other people…

So Elite Dangerous is going to be a multiplayer game and I’m fine with that. So long as I don’t have to play with certain other people, that is.

Let me explain with an example of exactly why I don’t want to play with what I hope is a small minority of other people. Head over to the Lave Radio podcast and take a listen to the opening minutes of the second Backers’ Views episode. Go on, I’ll wait here.

So. There you go. The interviewee sounded like a perfectly normal and reasonable chap, didn’t he? But the views he expressed are so at odds with my own that I seriously found myself doubting this would be a game I’d want to pay for & play. Let me explain.

To me, griefing and ganking are obnoxious activities undertaken by obnoxious people for obnoxious reasons. The interviewee said that the world, the universe, is a dog-eat-dog place and whilst he is right, to me that’s the ugly face of life and not the facet I want to embrace. He gave the example of someone coming home after a bad day and relieving the stress by gathering with mates to gank other players. This to me is a serviceable definition of bullying and again that is not something I would ever want to be involved or associated with.

Now before you accuse me of being a ‘care bear’ or any other pejorative epithet that is nothing but a salve to your ego, let me put something to you.

A group of teenagers have a bad day and decide to alleviate their sense of unhappiness by making someone even unhappier. To this end they find a man sat on a bench and beat the shit out of him in a vicious gang attack. They move on feeling justified in their actions because they have transferred their unhappiness borne of perceived powerlessness to another. Far fetched? Unfortunately not.

Now you might balk at my use of a terrible real life example to make a point about a video game, you might think my inclusion of it trivialises the death of David Morley and the crime of the people who killed him, but I disagree. The cruelty and absence of humanity displayed by the killers of David Morley find an strong parallel in the inability of in-game griefers to empathise with the other players they seek out to harm in order to gain enjoyment from, and a sense of control over, them. This is why I hate griefers so much – their inhumanity to others, be it over the internet or in the street.

In deliberating ganking what they know to be avatars owned and operated by real people rather than those controlled by the computer, griefers are deliberating setting out to hurt these other people and that is bullying and it is fucking shameful. They can dress it up any way they want, they can delude themselves it’s just a game, that no one really gets hurt, that everyone has agreed to play by the same rules, but that’s all they are doing, deluding themselves. If they want to pretend they are the apex of maturity by bringing ‘real world’ motivations into the game then they should at least have the fucking balls to admit why they are doing it and not go passing the blame onto their victims. They are bullies, pure and simple and they bully other people for reasons they themselves know and recognise all too well but are too chicken-shit to face up to. They are cowards.

They are the reason I want to pay multiplayer games as a single player, not because I can’t take the fact they could blow my make-believe spaceship up, but rather that I don’t enjoy being in the same same universe as someone who can only find enjoyment in hurting others. I can always get another make-believe spaceship and forget about the ganking but the unpleasant feeling of needing a shower that their presence leaves behind lingers for a long time, and not for the reason they would like to imagine. It’s not them that coats me like oil because they are just people after all, stupid, selfish moronic people, but just people. No, what offends me is what they exhibit: the self-deluding desire to embrace the worst, base aspects of humanity. They are a tumour that imagines itself not killing its host but freeing it. They are idiots. They are scum.

Near the top of this post I said that the views expressed in the interview gave me cause to doubt whether this game is for me or not and if, when released in 2014, it does turn out to be an Eve-like place full of talking tumors then I won’t be playing it.

But I don’t think the game will be like this. I’m essentially an optimist and therefore think there will be enough decent people involved in its creation to  balance out the lead designer’s self-confessed desire to make it all PvP with perma-death and give it heart. I’m also a realist and think that Frontier Developments will want to cater to as many players as possible and these days that means casual players who don’t want to see their thirty minutes gaming slot wasted by being the target of a gang of roaming idiots.

Still, I could be wrong. The game could be a haven for the type of myopic pricks that I detest in and out of games so if nothing else the interview has convinced me not only not to back the game but not even to buy it until I’ve read reviews. I’ll keep my money in my wallet until I know I’m not going to waste it on a stinking pile of sewage full of annoying turds.

Frak me!

No, really… frak me… if this is actual game play then I may just have squeed in a crowded office with excitement.

This suddenly looks like a totally amazing game again 😀

Elite Dangerous: What a Burro wants from the next Elite game, part two…

In my last post I talked about how I wanted to see an Earth-centric universe in Elite Dangerous and I was really pleased to hear I will be getting just that when the game is released in early 2014. If you pop over to the official YT channel, this fourth fiction diary video mentions it just at over six minutes in and to know that the Federation HQ is on Mars is just amazing. All in all, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be a Fed now 🙂

And my desire to play a Fed leads me nicely on to my next ‘what I want to see in the game’ post. Realistic humans, that’s what. What do I mean be that? Well, simple really. Too often in sci-fi the humans are abstracted to the point where they are pretty much aliens. Their motivations, actions and reactions are so far removed, usually due to the nature of evolving societies and advancing technology, as to bear little resemblance to what I recognise as human. At that point I lose interest in them because I can no longer connect to them and unlike fantasy I read sci-fi precisely to connect to a concept of own potential future.

So when it comes to the humans in Elite Dangerous I want them to be more like us with the same drives and fears, the same desires and goals but I still want them to be more exotic. I want them to be transhuman, altered by tech and by genetic engineering, but fundamentally still human at their core.

Both The Federation & the Alliance sound like my kind of people. a union of utilitarian capitalists on one hand and a loose collective of trading partners on the other – these are people I can understand. But then you come to the Imperials well then those fellas suddenly start looking more like aliens than they do humans, but given that there are only three intelligent races in Elite one of which is humans, another is extinct and the third may not be in the game at release, it makes sense to have something of the ‘other’ in the mix.

Still, no matter how cool Imperial ships are, there is no way I’m handling slaves so it’s the Fed for me 🙂

Elite Dangerous: What a Burro wants from the next Elite game, part one…

I’m pretty excited about the new Elite game due in early 2014, partly for nostalgic reasons but also because I am pretty bored of fantasy right now as the last three years have been very Tolkien and Guild Wars heavy in both my gaming and reading. But for the past six months I’ve been reading nothing but sci-fi (mainly hard sci-fi with a little opera thrown in to remind me why I get bored with space opera so easily*) and now I’m craving a play experience akin to the brilliant Transhuman Space role playing universe. I think Elite 4 (given the piss-poor name of Elite: Dangerous, what were they thinking?) will be my best hope of finding it.

So what exactly do I want from Elite (that’s what I’m calling Elite 4 now – it’s always going to be just Elite to me). Well that’s simple… but complicated too. Let me explain.

Firstly I want a human-centric universe with Earth at its heart. Of course I want human colonies, I want humans to have spread out for light years in all directions, but Earth should still be special to them. This might be unrealistic given how difficult it might be for one planet to stay relevant in such a diaspora but I’m not asking for Sol 3 to be a galactic capital yet neither do I want to see it a nuclear ravaged wasteland or forgotten back-water. Earth may diminish in political power as we take to the stars, but it’s where we crawled out of the oceans and up into trees, where we founded the notion of civilisation and fought again and again to impose and defend it. How can humans take to the stars and forget the wondrous beauty & ingenuity of everything we have built and created here? And what about all the amazing things we will make here by 3300? Are we to assume that the planet becomes denuded of its artists, its humanitarians, its creative geniuses? No, if we are to build on what I firmly believe is the obvious fact that, taken as a racial planet-wide whole, the human species is continually improving and working hard on making sure we don’t blow ourselves back into the stone-age then there is every reason to suspect that by 3300 Earth will be a target amazing planet indeed and I want to see that. I want to explore the wonders not only of the human universe, but of the human home world. I want to fly around the whole world and land in the cities that have grown and spread with another millennia of human ingenuity. I want to skim the clouds above Britain and swoop down to land in London and Manchester and Edinburgh. I want to visit home.

I know Elite won’t have planetary landings at launch, but as long as the Earth hasn’t been forgotten and confined to the rubbish dump of history, I’ll be a happy Burro.

In my next post on what I hope to see in Elite, I want to look at human behaviour and motivations. I think I’ll use the phrase “keeping it real” at some point 😉

* Rainbows End & Embassy Town were brilliant, Consider Phlebas less so and The Human Division a fun ride somewhere between those two poles.

Games… What’s in and what’s out in the Burro household.

This is a filler post, I’ll not lie to you. I have a post about Elite half done and I can’t seem to finish it and that led me to thinking about what I’m playing, and not playing, at the moment.


Second Life: Nope, I can honestly say that I never even think about this game now. Sometimes I wonder what kept me in there for so long but then I remember all the fun I had in Murray and with the TSMGO guys and in Kahruvel and the answer is obvious 🙂

LOTRO: Holy crap no! This game I don’t mids in the slightest. Nasty grindy thing.

Guild Wars 2: I haven’t played this since November now and I don’t really miss it which is still a source of some surprise to me.

Minecraft Pocket Edition: The last update (0.7.0) didn’t really do it for me so I haven’t picked this up again. I might do once Realms goes active but that rather depends on how much server access costs.

Survivalcraft: Nothing is really grabbing me about this any more. The last update didn’t float my boat and the upcoming one isn’t making me tingle either. Maybe it’s something I’ll come back to, but I’m not so sure given my track record for leaving games and not looking back.


Borderlands 2: Oh boy, I’m loving this game. Nuff said. Apart from Handsome Jack is amazing and Claptrap’s bistro dubstep is brilliant. wub wub wub wub.

Ingress: Silly escapist fun, I’m enjoying this more than I thought I would ever have done but it really makes me wish for a fuel cell battery in my phone 😉

Carmageddon: I bloody loved this on the PC many moons ago and now I have a version of it on my tablet. A riot of bad taste 😀


Elite Dangerous: Now this is the biggie I’m looking forward to, but more of that in a future post…

What are you playing right now? Leave a comment below. Or don’t, it’s OK either way, I’ll still love ya 😉