Tuesday, August 10, 2021

First Person Beats No Person

~or "When Inside is as Amazing as Outside"

As I wake & work, fly & die, eat & sleep through the days of my life in Stanton, I find I am drawn in more and more, deeper and deeper into the immersion, captivated by the detail and the scale of what Star Citizen actually IS...

A true Virtuality.

Burning hard towards the rising sun

I'm serious. My relationship with Turamarth in EVE was... a bit removed. Not just the your Avatar is a Ship third person aspect, but it more like someone you read about, or hear about, and yet I was him, sortof...

When I tried to imagine Tur inside his ships I always went through a certain discord, a certain 'disquiet' in my soul over the "lore" of the Capsuleers (a name for us in EVE that I truly dislike and very rarely used).

That we are clones and we do the whole "wavy-hands-instantaneous-consciousness-ego-mind-soul-etc.-transfer-across-lightyears-in-seconds (without data loss or corruption)(riiiiight) thing" is actually ok with me, I don't wanna actually be dead.

No, it's the whole you are naked, drugged & defenseless with cables and umbilicals plugged into ports all over your body, which is then cocooned away in a lightless, pressurized, goo filled "POD"... which is plugged into the ship... meaning YOU are plugged into the ship... meaning YOU are the ship.

I know this is a re-occurring theme in SciFi and I even truly love some of the stories set in this particular sub-genre, but I don't wanna BE ONE. I want to be ME, I want to be Tur... me in the world, my boots on the ground, wind in my hair, rain on my face, gun in my hand.

So I always dreamed, inside my mind, that Tur actually eschewed the POD, that he preferred to stay in the Real World, to be "in" his ships and "with" his crew (and yes, in EVE we do have crew, we just don't talk about them as we kill them off by the millions).

As long as Tur was in his Captain's Chair on the bridge, all was good. Upon hull breach, the ship's AI would raise and slam the clamshell halves of his modified POD around him and eject the POD all in an instant (...so I could have my cake and eat it too).

But this is not Lore, it is not Cannon and therefore it was... wrong. I mean the lore is The Lore, right? Anything Else is just wishy thinking, even in a game. Because History is History, and Facts are Facts, even in a game world, especially in one you really care about, as I do the Lore of EVE and now, the Lore of Star Citizen.

But in Star Citizen I AM Me/Tur and I always will be... well, until Death of a Spaceman that is, but that's a whole 'nother blog post.

So In Star Citizen, I am finally me. First Person, my POV, my view of the verse. And I am as happy as a man can be with this virtual version of Me as Spaceman Spiff in Wonderland!

========== BREAK ==========

OK, that was written back in April 2021 and never got posted.

Some Real Life Stuff Happened...
My lady came to quarantine with me down here in Virginia from Chicagoland back when the World Caught Fire and Lost It's Mind. She then retired from a 30 year career teaching HS Spanish in June of The Year That Shall Not Be Named.

In due course in April of 2021, I retired from a 30 year career as an IT Consultant.

And most recently we just returned home after spending all of July up in Chicago prepping her Townhouse for sale and so we are starting the hunt for our liveaboard bluewater sailboat in earnest now... please wish us luck!

As for Star Citizen... well, I do still play fear not, though just not nearly as much as before cause I'm just busier IRL now is all.

Star Citizen Alpha 3.13 went live August 6, 2021.

Bringing us a new Space Port... This time floating in the strange and wonderful skies of the gas giant Crusader, comes The City in the Clouds, Orison.

Another very long awaited, age old Sci-Fi standard, brought beautifully and incredibly to virtual life by CR & CIG. Space whales man... we got SPACE WHALES!!!

Anyhoo... I'm still around, just livin' my best life, well, lives actually... both Real and Virtual.

Fly, and Live, like there is no tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Calm After the Storm

~or "All quiet in Stanton."
A remote location on Hurston...  (OK, no, I did not know where I was)
Just an update. All is well, just been busy is all really and, well... I'm comfortable in Stanton. Not a lot of drama lately. Oh there are 30Ks' and client crashes and just the plain ol weirdness one comes to expect when the game itself is out to get you. You get kinda used to it and in the doing you learn a certain perspective, a certain calm regard for your fate in the verse.

We went through the XenoThreat event. It was really quite a thing. I only joined in once, put my DPS on the Idris and watched it explode... simply the BEST Space SciFi SpaceWar immersive simulation I have ever seen, much less experienced directly. I did not get involved in the cargo/logistics aspect... I desired to but I was late getting off my ass and making the effort to get into an instance, my bad, no one's fault but my own.
The moment the Idris Warp Core goes Critcal
But I have had a feeling ever since the Event closed that all of Stanton was, sortof, taking a communal deep breath and exhale. We all do hope for more events if they can equal or top this one. But it's been nice, for me at least, to settle down and get back to the peacetime grind... Scanning for Quantanium, mining, hopefully not dying... hauling and refining and then off the the bright lights of the Big Cities to sell our wares.

I have been finally getting into running Combat Contracts. Not doing anything shady (yet), I am civic-mindedly focusing on supporting the Law-n-Order types for the 'nonce. I am also finally getting some practice in with all forms of combat in SC (which is a FAR CRY from combat in EVE). For Fighters, I have acquired a Hawk and a Buccaneer. I am very pleased with both. Still have not used my Cutty Black for Combat, though I do hear from everyone that the Black holds her own in combat.

So far in my time in Stanton, The Quest for Quant is still the best solo creditprinter IMHO. Plus I like it. That is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO weird to me after 10 years of intense dislike of everything mining related in EVE Online. But I DO like it in SC. I really do.

The mechanics are interesting and consequential and I feel the risk/reward is balanced, well... maybe it's a little safer than it should be when you go out deep in The Belt. But that's more a function of server cap, IE lack of players than any lack of players with the desire to search out, scan down and mess with miners.
Two runs of Refined Quant, 2748cSCU and 3131cSCU worth ~500,000aUEC
I have also been getting involved in Cobra's Twitch streams. Not in a big way, but I'm there and involved and it is...  very interesting, to say the least. But the biggest thing is actually out here in The Real...

I have finally really completed my Gaming Rig.

When I switched over to SC I had to massively upgrade my gear. I got a Dell G7 7700 Gaming Laptop, since then I have added:

R.A.T. 6+ Gaming Mouse
Ipad running GameGlass
Tobii v5 Eye and Head Tracker

And finally I got a HOTAS set (Hands On Throttle And Stick)... and it is a set I had never even heard of before. The Cobra V5 HOTAS by FlashFire.
It is a budget HOTAS set, not a Warthog (those who know, know... those who don't... don't) but for a plastic budget priced (~$150 US) gaming HOTAS it is quite good. Just don't treat it like it's made of steel and you will be fine.

I did have one issue and it was a deal breaker... the joystick "Twist", the "rotational-axis" in the stick itself, was not recognized in SC as the "YAW" axis... it wasn't recognized at all. And, well, without "Twist" in the stick, I do not have "YAW" in flight... and that is that, refundme.

However, I am a geek. So I fixed it.

Actually I did as we all do, I Made My Offerings to The Gods and I Sent My Prayers On High and Awaited The Answers... for all of 0.01 ms... ie I googled it... a lot.

So I found the fix is complex, interesting and actually kinda geeky fun. You download 2 small programs. "vJoy" and "UCR". vJoy is a Programmable Virtual Joystick Driver and UCR is a Universal Controller Remapper.

With vJoy you create and configure a Virtual Joystick, or in my case a "Virtual HOTAS" actually, and make it a button for button copy of the Stick (or HOTAS or HOSAS) you have. Then you Map that "vJoy" as a button for button copy of your Stick/Set/etc.
vJoy                                      Cobra V5 HOTAS
Configure all vJoy controls to mimic your Stick, HOTAS, HOSAS, etc.
MAP ALL vJoy controls to mimic your Stick, HOTAS, HOSAS, etc.
The UCR did recognize the stick's "Twist" (rot-axis) and I was able to map it to a rot-axis the game sees. So the HOTAS send it's inputs to the vJoy... and the vJoy sends it's inputs to the game... and you cannot tell the difference. See: "Stick2_A2_(Twist)_to_YAW" above.

So, I am finding in SC at least, unless you are saving up for that next big shiney ship... and I'm not, I have my little fleet and it does what I want and need, but unless you are grinding and saving... it looks like keeping your wallet balance between 1 and 2 mil aUEC is just about right.

You see at this time in the game, your daily operating, or running costs are... Food & Water for you, Hydro, Quant, Ammo, Missiles and Mining Consumables for the ship and the Occasional and far too common Insurance Claim "Expidite" fees.

On an avg. day I spend something like a low of 2,000 to a high of maybe 10,000 aUEC. With 1 mil in the bank you are actually good for a couple of hundred days of (no-income or ship purchases) game play.

With the ability to net upwards of 1 mil aUEC with as few as 4 "really good" to 6 or so "decent" Quant runs... I lazily hunt Quant out in th' Belt a few nights a week or two... or three. Rinse & repeat until I break 2 mil and then I put the Prospy away, take some time off to run with the Cobros... and lose ships... and lose equipment... and go to prison... sigh.

Those are the over 10,000 aUEC nights...   =\

That said, it is a wonder in this age to me to sit in my ship, knowing I am actually millions of miles deep inside the Aaron Halo Asteroid Belt, aka, The Belt... As cut off from the rest of Stanton's population as one can be. Safe in the deep endless black of interplanetary space.

I split my off-watch hours and sleep cycles between my Mercury Star Runner, SV SERENITATEM (we can name our ships in v3.13!!) and my Drake Herald (not nameable yet)... running silent and on the float deep in Th' Belt... and I am happy.

Will update here as and if things happen worth writing about. Hang in there, I fly with Cobra, stuff ALWAYS happens.

Fly safe my friends

Friday, February 12, 2021


~or "How the Frak am I Enjoying This?"

Limping into station, burnt up and smoking but still flyin'
In this post I am gonna start with an assumption or two...

1. That you, gentle reader, know something of and are interested in online gaming in general and
2. and that you know about and are interested in Star Citizen (SC), a SciFi Space Flight/FPS MMO(RP)G as envisioned by Chris Roberts (CR) and currently (for the last 9 years) in development by Cloud Imperium Games (CIG).

If the above two points are correct then you probably know that there is a truly EPIC amount of rhetoric, discussion, trolling, reasoned argument and some downright vitriolic hate surrounding SC and CIG over how SC has been developed and where it is going in it’s development. Most of the disagreement is over...

1. Money, IE: the crowdfunded business model and accountability, or lack thereof… and
2. That the game is still in active development for 9 years at this writing, with no definitive “publish” date set.

The main point I want to address in this post is the assertion that SC is a scam because it is not finished and polished, that it has not reached “Gold” standard and been published as Completed and Ready to Play for the masses. Specifically that there is no real “playable content”… and the assertion it is a scam because that there won’t ever be any.

I am NOT gonna get into any details and any long drawn out arguments, it’s simply not worth it to me when I can personally and completely honestly say these two things…

First, I have been a serious, devoted and dedicated player of EVE Online for almost exactly 10 years. EVE is indisputably one of the hardest, most beloved, and also among the most reviled MMO’s out there.

EVE holds all kinds of records, some recorded with simple numerical facts such as recently being awarded with two new Guinness World Records bringing the total to four.

After the 14 hour “The Massacre at M2-XFE” on Dec 30 & 31 2020, EVE Online was awarded with the following GWR’s. One for the Most Costly Video Game Battle and another for the Most Titans Lost in a Battle of EVE Online.

From "Titan Massacre at M2-XFE" by Wilhelm Arcturus

These were awarded in the wake of two world records earned in Oct of 2020 for the largest multiplayer video game PvP battle, with 8,825 players, and the most concurrent participants in a multiplayer video game PvP battle, with 6,557 active participants.

My point is that I spent 9 and ½ of my 10 years in EVE living, flying and dying in Anoikis, wormhole space, the harshest and hardest of EVE’s 4 levels of security… Hisec, Losec, Nullsec and what I call Negsec (Negative Security Space).

I consider the above, and ALL of this blog’s content from my first post back in Apr. of 2011 to my Goodbye EVE post in Dec of 2020 as my bona fides, my SciFi Sandbox MMO Resume, my Gaming Curriculum Vitae as twere.

That said, I’d like to address the one argument against SC that I consistently see over and over and over…

“Scam Citizen”. The primary argument that Star Citizen has no real content and never will because it’s a money making scam and that the proof is in the fact that it is still under development after 9 years.

I initially financially backed SC back in May of 2015. I started playing SC actively in mid Nov of 2020. I canceled my EVE account in Jan of 2021. I now exclusively play a game that, it is heatedly argued, has no content... and yet I login and play Star Citizen nearly every night and twice on weekends instead of playing EVE, which I think we can all agree does have a pretty rich history of developed and player created content.

So my second point is… I find it fascinating that after 2 months I still have yet to find this “lack of content” the detractors go on about. I’m just too busy playing the game to see it I guess.

Now... how do I boot up SC on this thing?
So, how is it that I am able to logon to SC, spawn into my character in whatever Hab or ship I logged out in last, and spend 2, 4, 6 HOURS doing “things and stuff” in a game without content? Am I making this up? Am I just what, hanging out in space or in a hangar? Just walking around my ship and I guess sucking my thumb?

NO… oh hell no I’m not.

Yesterday I logged on to SC in the afternoon… I am a member of a large org, so I joined the Org Discord, glad to see some of the 2000+ org members playing this no-content game with me. I decided I needed to make some credits because I had spent myself down under 1M aUEC by going on a bit of a buying spree last week.

I seriously gotta stay away from New Babbage, and TBH thank the gods Loreville is gone now… I spend wayyyyy too much in those places!! In just the past two weeks I have bought 2 ships (with aUEC I made IN GAME), a Drake “Herald” and an Anvil “Hawk”...

my Anvil Aerospace Hawk,  =]ISABEAU[=
I bought crap-ton of clothing and weapons & ammo and then ate too much at Whammer's...

Whammer's Burgers, Shakes & Fires

and drank way too much at Wally’s…

Wally's Bar
Nope, no “content” here.

I decided to spend my day lazily mining up some Quantanium. I know, silly me, there is no playable content here but… I did somehow fly out to HUR-L3 and burn hard for the edges of the rock garden that surrounds the station. 120km out I started scanning for ores… I get a hit and off I go!

Rock after rock, scanning, scanning, approach to within 1km, run a detail scan, decide go or no-go? More often it’s a no-go, but then you hit a 27% or a 39% rock and OH YEAH!  Oh, sorry, I know, I must be imagining all of this…

40.32% Quantanium... MMM MMm Mmm
So I settle down and start mining… Heating up the rock, carefully, oh so carefully to get it to that critical stage when it breaks just enough… and it doesn’t always go well. I’m so glad it’s only imaginary content… or the two times my ship was damaged by a too energetic split it would have been… um, uh damaged?

Anyway, so I pop the big rock, then carefully, oh so carefully pop the chunks and voilĂ ... several nice fat 100% Quantanium rocks ready to be nom-nom’ed up and so I do… well, I guess I imagine I do anyway.

I work my way through the purple rocks (rocks small enough to have their ores “extracted” have a purple outline) filling my ore bags with 100% Quantanium, 3,200cSCU (32SCU = EVE 32m3) and I IMMEDIATELY warp back to the CRU-L1 refinery before the Quant EXPLODES… Good thing there is actually no content like that huh?

Nom nom nom nom nom...
I get back to the station and land just like a leaf-on-the-wind… and yup, BOOM… seconds after touch down, as I’m leaving the pilot’s seat… no flashing Yellow and alarm, nope, straight to Fast Flashing RED… and BOOM…  <sigh>. Again, good thing there is actually no content like that huh?

So I sit a moment, take a breath then select repair & refuel and head back to HUR-L3’s rock garden with it’s amazing lack of stuff to do.

Burning out to the Rock Garden
By the end of the session, I had mined up four loads of Quant, one I lost on the landing pad (see above) and delivered three safely to the Refinery. And just FYI, I lost that load not to a 30K nor a glitch or bug and not to PVE or even PVP… nope I lost that load to the intended consequences of the Quantanium mining mechanics… you know, if they existed that is.

I mined and started 3 batches today, so now I have a total of 6 runs of Quant in the cookers. From ~1,000 to ~2,000cSCU per batch, with one at 3,131cSCU which is the highest amount of “Q” you can mine, deliver and process, with a Prospector, in a single batch.

Oh and just FYI… that 3,131 batch is worth ~275,000aUEC before refining costs, so call it something north of 250,000aUEC profit for just that one batch. How’s them apples huh? Four batches can potentially reap 1 Million aUEC if you do it right and Bob is smiling on you… Oh, sorry, you know IF it was actually realized content that is.

Starting a batch, 3131sCSU (32CSU) of raw Quantanium ore
So, here’s my point.

Take Point One at the top of this post, that I was a dedicated EVE Online player for 10 years speaks clearly that I have some understanding of what content is in a SciFi Space based MMO… Add to that the detailed description of the gameplay in SC that I personally experienced in the last 24 hours.

There is fully realized, deeply engaging and enjoyable content in Star Citizen right now, and is it amazing in it’s depth, breadth and detail.

IMHO Mining in SC alone far surpasses what EVE offers in this particular arena of gameplay. The Mechanics of Mining in SC are deeply visually and logically satisfying not just as compared to EVE, but as compared to ANY other similar gameplay I have ever personally experienced… and that is JUST mining.

So, I don’t know about you but I think I’m just gonna ignore the naysayers, the butthurt, the Smart, but not-so-smart… and those just piling on cause being an anonasshat online is easy and fun for some poor sad people.

Me? I’m just too busy just enjoying the amazing sandbox that is Star Citizen right now to care what they say, especially in the face of the proof of content I experience every single day.

Fly it like it’s actually there…   =]

Monday, February 1, 2021

Sleeping With The Stars

 ~or "Home Schweet Home"

My Drake "Herald" Data Runner, =]SNOOPY[=

One of the things that I felt the strongest about in my years in EVE Online was the feeling of Home. I wrote on this specifically a number of times.

One of the things I loved most in EVE was when we, our small corp headed by my two sons and myself, decided to move and live full time, into Anoikis… wormhole space, or as I call, it… Negative Sec.

You see in EVE, Anoikis is the Wild West, the Outback, the Wildlands, the Deep Desert… on maps, Anoikis is that place where it simply says, “Here be Dragons”.

There are NO NPC Police, NO NPC Navy, NO gates and NO “local”… IE what happens in Anoikis, stays in Anoikis. You can podkill 10 players and immediately jump a wormhole directly into Amarr and the po-po just wave as you fly by…

Also, there are NO NPC stations in Anoikis. I do not count Thera as Anoikis, Thera is it’s own thing (which I never really liked or bought into). So for you to “live” in Anoikis you had to anchor, fuel, arm, support and maintain a POS, a Planetary Orbital Station. I know they are now called Citadels and those are different in some ways, but I’m vastly more familiar with the old, simpler yet similar POS system.

A POS is, well, was a Space Station you anchored in space near a moon, you had to keep it fueled and, well, you lived in it. In EVE of course this means effectively that your ships, modules, etc. were stored there in relative safety.

Serenity Station, HBHI's Home in Anoikis  (the forcefield is 30km wide)

Once the POS was anchored and the forcefield powered up, and the Warp Interdiction Bubble Wall was anchored, then you could anchor a wide variety of structures inside the forcefield. Ship Maintenance Arrays, Ship Factory Arrays, Refineries, Manufacturing and Research Arrays. And that was where your corpmates & allies could work and live together in “relative” safety.

And that safety was very “relative”… POSes are, of course as are ALL player owned/created things in EVE, not actually “safe”. They had a whole system of passive and active defenses but in the end, if a group wanted your POS dead… it would die. But it wasn’t “easy” and therein lay your security.

In EVE “perfect safety” is found ONLY in NPC stations in highsec, lowsec and nullsec… but there are NO NPC stations in Anoikis. Think about that. We lived in the Wildlands, we lived in the Deep Desert, we lived “Where there be Dragons”. And we loved it. Every second of it.

NPC stations in Star Citizen are pretty much the same. Your Ships are stored “somewhere” inside the variety of ports and stations and NO ONE can get to them (or any cargo or installed modules etc.) until YOU retrieve one to a Landing Pad or Hangar Bay, at that point are they “at risk”, but not until then.

Burning hard for the "safety" of a Lagrange Point Refinery Station

At this time in the game, ALL of the “things you own”, your weapons, armor, ship modules, etc. are not physicalized into the world while stored. Until retrieved and/or equipped they exist only in your “personal inventory”, not as an object in the verse that can be manipulated… and therefore stolen or destroyed.

So how does all this relate to my gameplay and desire for a Home in the UEE?

So the mechanics of being in First Person, in a physicalized human form all the time, changes how you go about things like logging off. In EVE, you either docked in an NPC or Player Owned Station or you “parked” your ship inside the Forcefield of a POS and, well, just logged off.

One thing I used to do in my early days in Anoikis, was to warp out to a deep bookmark and log off there. I mean your “body” was packed away inside a pressurized goo filled sardine can… you couldn’t “go to bed” if you wanted to… ever.  Meh.

But you may have heard or seen how we in SC “wake up” on login. Meaning on login the first screen you get is a view from your “head” down to your feet as you lie in a bed in the last place you landed or logged in at.

Wakee, wakee, eggs and bakey... a Suite at The Nest in ArcCorp

IE you wake up in a bed, schweet! How immersive, how real-lifelike right?. So I’d like very much to “go to bed” when I’m ready to log off, it just makes sense right? But in the stations and cities and Habs and such, we can’t. At least not yet.

So as I understand it, in the future we are supposed to be able to have our own place in the verse. We will be able to rent a Hab unit in New Babbage, or one in Loreville, maybe one day BUY a penthouse in Arcorp! And the one I want most, one day we will be able to buy a piece of land and BUILD our own pioneer settlement!!

But today? Well, we do wake up in a Hab as a standard thing, but once you leave the Hab and that door closes behind you, the door locks. ALL the doors are locked because the rental/purchase mechanics are still to be implemented.

So where does one log off? I mean do you sit your character down on a random bench in the food court and just crap out like a homeless person? I mean you OWN A SPACESHIP FFS!! But we can’t go back to the Hab we woke up in, or ANY Hab…

Just ignore the sleeping Homeless Millionaire Spaceship Captain

But we can bed-log (lie down on and log off in a bed) in any ship that has beds! I immediately tried this and you wake up in the same bed in the same ship and at the same place you logged off in. This holds true even out on a landing pad (I have not tried this in a Hangar yet)... Except that so far in my testing when you login on a landing pad you have no more than 1 to 2 minutes until your ship is auto-stored, if that long. And that transports "you" instantly to the ASOP Terminals in whatever port or station you are at, awkward if you sleep in your skivvies...  =]

But... if you log off at some random place in space, when you log back in, you find yourself and your ship exactly where you logged off and NO Scotty the Snotty Traffic Controller to hassle you! The only thing that can mess with you is the inactivity timer, and that's not a bad thing.

I LOVE THIS. I have bought several ships now and ALL have beds and a few have wet heads (toilet/sink/shower combo) and food processing units… IE if it was REAL, you could LIVE in these ships as long as you had food & water.

On a related aside… I am a sailor. I crew on racing and cruising sailing yachts in the southern Chesapeake Bay during the regatta season. I grew up on the bay boating and sailing and it is one of my great lifelong passions. My lady and I are planning and working to buy and move aboard and travel on a 40’ bluewater capable (meaning it can safely cross oceans) sailboat.

So, I am very familiar with living in a small space in a vessel designed to travel far and wide, one that is designed for that very purpose.

And in Star Citizen… I get to do just that.

As I said I own several ships all of which have beds and most of which have at least minimal bathroom and galley facilities. I have tested a theory and found it excellent.

One other thing we do not have in SC (and I do not know if we will) is Bookmarking in Space. IE the ability to create a “bookmark” or an exact X/Y/Z coordinate location anywhere in space that you can warp to as one would a Sun, a world, a moon, an Orbital Marker or a city etc. So we cannot make bookmarks in space… and, as I understand it right now, there is no ability/mechanic for scanning down and finding ships in space… Hmmmm.

So at the end of a long day of mining Quant and getting it safely into the cookers, I put away my Prospector, and retrieve my Herald, I then take an elevator up to the landing pad and walk out, enter the ship and take off...

Done for the day...

…I set a warp to a random distant warpable, anything I can warp to will do, but it has to be more than 5 minutes out from where I am, and I then head out. I usually pick a random number (between 1 and 5) and manually drop out of warp after that many minutes of travel, then I pick a warpable as close to right angles from my last Rhumb Line (line of travel), I pick another random number and “Engage”… again dropping out after the requisite number of minutes has passed.

This drops me in a fairly random place in space. I am well off of the main spacelanes… and therefore… I am as safe as if I was not even logged in, as safe as in any NPC Station. I am in my own place, beholden and responsible only to myself for my safety and well-being and here… out here in the deep black, I am at peace.

My Home is in Space… where is yours?

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Mining TNT With a Blowtorch

~or "The Quest for Quant"

Heading out to the Rock Garden

I am getting settled down in Stanton system. Since my last post two important things have happened... I have found my first real niche in StarCitizen, and strangely enough it's mining, and... I have a home.

I know, I know... I HATE mining. I mean in EVE I really did. Seriously, I did. It was IMHO the worst gameplay ever. That is, if you prefer "active gameplay" over passive, and in EVE mining was mind numbingly passive, at least to me. I honestly felt PI was more active than mining.

Please keep in mind that I believe this was as it should be. All PVE in EVE is just a job. A way to make ISK in order to afford to PVP. PVE was never supposed to be The Point of EVE, the Endgame, the Reason to Play. Player Interaction, PVP, whether consensual or non, was and is THE Point of EVE, and so PVE was designed as a mostly grindy “job”. I got that then, and I get it now, it IS the EVE Meta… it is, The Way of EVE.

"Yeah, mining is ok, it's easy and relaxing."   (Nullsec Industry Player)

Not so in StarCitizen. We mine TNT, well, more accurately, we mine a highly volatile and explosive resource, actually more powerful than TNT considering what it refines into. There is a resource called Quantanium, this is refined into Quantum Fuel for the Quantum Drives that give us the ability to travel faster than light speed in normal space.

In case yer curious, all the rest of the resources that can be mined are pretty much the standard stuff... Gold, Diamonds, Aluminum, Titanium, This and Thatium... with a few 'new' resources but none are “dangerous” in and of themselves to mine. Not so Quantanium.

Quant is unstable once mined and becomes more unstable over time. Very unstable… like ~15 minutes unstable. As in “more or less” 15 minutes after the first mSCU (milliSCU) hits the inside of your ore bay… BOOM. Yup… BOOM. It explodes. Oh and it’s touchy too… get attacked, bounce off a rock, hell just LAND a little too hard and… BOOM.

Add that to the fact that in order to mine Quant, or anything in SC, you have to DO it. It is NOT mining in EVE, that goes something like this:
> Fly to an Asteroid Belt
> target rock(s)
> engage mining lasers/mining drones
> wait as ore bay fills until rock “pops”
> move to to next rock
> engage mining lasers/mining drones
> as ore bay fills, transfer to Orca/Rorqual or when full fly to station and unload
> continue mining/fly back to Asteroid Belt and continue mining
> “rinse & repeat” while you  struggle to stay awake or chat on comms or watch TV or… well or anything except actually play EVE.

In StarCitizen mining is Active Gameplay with Consequences. That goes more like this:
> Fly to Asteroid Field
> scan for asteroids in range
> narrow scan to pinpoint rocks with ores
> Fly to and detail scan/decide yes-no
engage mining laser and carefully & constantly, increase/decrease power input and use consumables as needed to safely crack the rock into lrg. chunks
> detail scan all chunks/
decide yes-no
engage mining laser and carefully & constantly, increase/decrease power input and use consumables as needed to safely crack lrg. chunks into sm. chunks
> repeat on all lrg. chunks worth cracking
> switch to extraction mode and scan/selectivly extract all worthwhile ores until all have been collected or Ore Cannisters are full
> fly IMMEDIATELY to refinery station
> land (VERY carefully), exit ship and go directly to Refinery, start up refining process ASAP
> “rinse & repeat” while you try to keep your head on a swivel watching for Bad Guys (NPC or PVP)...

Now THAT is Active Mining with Consequences.

In EVE you have “local” a list always onscreen that tells you immediately if anyone jumps into the same SYSTEM you are in, IE “perfect intel”...  none such in SC, your safety is ALL on you, or your friends.

Bad enough that Quant is a damn touchy explosive once freed from the rocks it is locked up in, but the very nature of just the basic mining process alone is, in and of itself, dangerous to ship and crew.

You see we scan down the rocks that have desired resources, then we “charge” the rocks with heat via mining lasers. This process has to be applied very carefully and takes focus and concentration. You charge the rock until it breaks up… just enough to safely crack it into several pieces but gently… oh so gently, so that the chunks remain close together.

Careful.... careful... easy does it...  (OK, not Quant but still)

But if you do it wrong, if you heat it up too fast, the rock will break up more and more energetically throwing the chunks apart faster and faster, just like a grenade. Best case is you might have to chase the chunks down… worst case they can actually explode… not to the degree that Quant does, but forcefully enough to damage or even destroy your ship… oh, and kill you too.

It’s like using a torch to take apart a landmine while trying not to get killed in the doing.

Like I said this is ACTIVE, Consequential Gameplay of the First Order and it is DAMN good PVE. Oh, and it is very lucrative too as all Risk Equals Rewards PVE should be, hell as all aspect of actual LIFE should be.

Now let’s add to all of that, the ever present risk of non-consensual PVP.

I was attacked twice while mining this past weekend. Once I was quite simply blown out of the sky by a guy who (in SC’s version of “local”) later said, “I was just trying something.” (I think I kinda pissed him off when I didn’t get upset…) LOL

The other guy did a flyby, strafed me then turned and stopped about 5 klicks away from me. We sat staring at each other for about a minute then he burned in and opened fire… I evaded and burned hard towards the station, then warped out to a nearby warpable. I waited a little bit then came back to find him gone.

THIS is good damn gameplay!! GOOD PVE with the risk of PVP. THIS is the game I had been waiting for.

EVE players all know one of the ongoing problems with EVE is how easy it is to make ISK. Not for real noobs, but EVE is The Game for Large Group Gameplay and once you are in any of the Big Groups in EVE ISK is the least of your issues.

Trillionaires are not rare in EVE. To have less than several billion in your wallet as a line grunt is rare in EVE. I was a wormholer and preferred small corps (though we were once part of a large wormhole Alliance) and was considered poor most all those years, even though I normally had a few billion in my wallet.

I am new enough in StarCitizen that I don’t know what the norm is as regards how much players make or can make in the game. I talk to orgmates in Discord who are quite “gamerich”, but they still talk in the low millions, not billions.

What I do know is I am finally on track to make my first million. And it’s all due to Quant and an orgmate. I started hand mining… loved the gameplay but I simply died too much, I tried ROC and surface mining, interesting but I wanted to see what mining looked like in space so I got a Prospector.

The MISC Prospector and your humble reporter

Initially I was not having much success credit-wise, but it was OK, I was new and learning and I was banking “some” credits (aUEC), just not a lot. I was making in the 10 to 30K CR range per sales trip at one to two sales trips a day. As I was at the time renting a Cutty Black as my cargo ship that rents for approx. 95K CR for 3 days… well, I actually lost CR over the three days I had the rental. Partly that was on me being a noob and oooohing and ahhhing over everything (IE “wasting time” enjoying the game, LOL), partly it was lost to client crashes and 30Ks and PVP… sigh. Life in Alpha.

But I had a late night chat with an orgmate and he put me onto his “secret spot” for really fat Quant rocks AND talked me into trying it.

You see I was so bad at hand mining and such that I was seriously scared of Quantanium. I mean it goes BOOM all on it’s own FFS… and I was dying way too much from just being a noob to feel any confidence that I could mine the single most dangerous resource in Stanton… until I thought, wait… I didn’t get settled down in EVE until I moved into Anoikis (wormhole space)… I didn’t find My Game there until I was living in the most dangerous space in EVE, so what the hell huh?

So I tried it… and it turns out I am good at mining Quant. I get it. I understand the time pressures and can work with them. I have only had two bad trips. The first, I over-charged the rock just a little and when it cracked it damaged my ship, but we survived to fly back, repair and return.

Rock popped a little early... blew the ore containers right off

Yup, took some damage to the cockpit too, but she's a tough little lady

The second was, enlightening to say the least. You see, part of the mining process for Quant is a neat little additional display in the cockpit… the Volatiles Warning Panel. It shows a Flashing Yellow Light the moment the Quant begins to decay, ~8 mins. in… after approx. ~6 minutes it should go to Flashing Orange… after approx. ~4 minutes it should go to Fast Flashing Red… after approx. ~2 minutes it should go to VERY Fast Flashing Red in which case… BOOM is in approx. ~30 seconds. There is an “Eject Cargo” button on the Volatiles Warning Panel… at Flashing Red, you should use it…  I did.

That was the second incident. I had just filled my ore hold when Yellow started flashing… cool, I had ~6 mins till Orange and another ~2 minutes until Red, right? Nope. I landed at CRU-L1 about 5 minutes after Yellow started but as I was shutting down to hop out, it went straight to Fast Flashing RED…

I sat frozen for a second, then reached up and punched the Eject Cargo button… it literally exploded as I was moving the mouse off the button… I ejected the Quant while I was on the landing Pad, thankfully without any damage to ship or station. All in all you are supposed to have approximately 15 minutes from the Yellow to BOOM,… the operative word here is “approximately”… on that trip I had ~6 maybe 7 minutes from first extraction to BOOM… go figure.

Other than those two incidents I have been able to mine, return and kick off refining processes for about 6 batches so far. I am using the Low cost, High yield, Long duration Dynex Solventation method, I ALWAYS use the DynSolv method, why spend more for less return? Screw how long it takes, waiting costs me nothing and it’s worth the investment to me.

Very first refining runs of Quantanium

So, where am I now? Well I’ll know when I log back in to the most amazing and immersive game I have ever played… 30Ks, client crashes and “10 years In Alpha” not withstanding.  =]

OK, so you may have forgot but up top I said two things had happened... I had found "my" gameplay, or at least very satisfying and lucrative gameplay that will keep me busy and happy (and flush with Space Bucks!) for a while yet and... a home.

A very favorite dimension of SC, if you have not noticed, is the First Person aspects. As I have said before, this is not for role play so much as being ME in the game. And I found it uncomfortable that I did not have a way to, well, put Tur to bed each night when I usually went to bed. I mean, we "wake up" in bed but we can't "rent" the Hab we are in, if we leave, the door locks, all the doors are locked.. So, where does one log off?

In EVE we didn't have First Person so you just logged off in your ships. And that was easy, I mean in EVE the Fabled Immortal Capsuleer is really just a Glorified Cyborg Sardine anyway, eeeeew.

But I really wanted a place to put Tur to bed so when I "woke up" the next "day" it made fukkin sense. I have that now.

For the last 3 nights I have set course, gone to warp then I manually drop out of warp at appox 1 M/KM from my starting point. I then set a new course, in this case I was lucky and my second "leg" was very close to being at a right angle from my original course.... again go to warp and drop out approx 1 M/KM from start... So I end up in a randomish Safe Spot.

For three days I have logged out in space and for three days on loggin in... I am back in the same spot. This means that 30Ks and Bob allowing, I can actually live in my ship. I have a home.  =]

And no... this is not where I am NOW... (I know better than that...)

As far as I know we do not have the ability to scan player's ships down, Yet(TM)... So I believe, at least until then, I am safe as houses out here deep in the black.

I ask you, gentle reader, to ponder this… I have played EVE Online for 10 years, highly active for 6 of those. I was so deeply involved that 6 months ingame I started blogging about it… yet here I am playing StarCitizen EVEN with (as stated right upfront) daily, even multiple daily server crashes (30Ks) and client crashes which are a bit less frequent but by no means rare, the glitches and weirdness in a game that's being created as we play... AND of course the age old Surprise Buttsex! (non consensual PVP)

All of which can and does cause lost ships, lost cargoes, lost fights, lost tempers, lost minds and the attendant loss of credits… and of course the whole “10 Years Still In Alpha” that generates so much rage and hate…

The peace and freedom of the eternal sky...

And yet, here I am. One cannot help but wonder why.  Yea… maybe you should ask yourself that.

 Kiss each ship goodbye on take off, and FLY!