Flieger, grüß' mir die Sonne, grüß' mir die Sterne und grüß' mir den Mond. Dein Leben, das ist ein Schweben, durch die Ferne, die keiner bewohnt! - Hans Albers, F.P.1 antwortet nicht (Adaptation in the 80s: Extrabreit)

Monday, 21 December 2015

Alderaan

While Tatooine had a maximum level of 30, Alderaan ups it to 34; needless to say that my heroine is by far overqualified with level 46.

Famous tragic planet, here and 3000 years earlier an epitome of feudal governance. Apparently, the queen of Alderaan died and there was no successor. As a consequence Alderaan fell into civil war, fueled by the different noble families who all vie for the throne, and withdrew from the Old Republic. House Organa, venerable family of then Princess Leia, is faithful to the Old Republic, but faces its worst enemy in House Thul, which not-so-secretly allied with the Empire.

Alderaan is a bit coldish - prompting my heroine to change dress code.


We arrive in the middle of a terminal attack of Thul on Organa´s main estate and, of course, thwart it. Some more missions, and we make the allied Thul/Empire forces withdraw. In desperation Wolf Thul takes 300 hostages and exchanges them versus the Jedi Knight who single-handedly turned the odds against him. But the imprisonment of my heroine does not last long, as the very same hostages race to free her. Shortly later, House Thul has withdrawn, my heroine named Paladine of House Organa and free to roam and try to rally all nobles again behind House Organa, for the Republic.

However, still no clue so far about Master Orgus, who went after the Deathmark, a satelite weapon which can pinpoint and eliminate specific individuals once they were invisibly tagged. Soon, I find clues, in form of a desperate survivor of the deathmark research facility. Apparently, Master Orgus got killed by a Sith who had Killiks, indigenious highly evolved insects, as allies. Promptly, the death mark starts its work within the palace. Since I know the mark can only be placed from close range, there should be a prime suspect right now: The survivor from the research station, Aleyna Hark. However, the story does not give me an option to confront her.

First victim of the Deathmark

And another noble family joins, House Ulgo. Some more side missions, involving getting back the home of House Teral vom Killiks, and halting the advances of the Ulgo vanguard. We find out that Ulgo is torturing Killiks at places near House Organa, which makes them agressive and swarm against the alleged agressor. Of course, my heroine finds the "pain factory", along with Master Orgus, who was left to die by the Killik swarm. Also, my hunch was right, and the survivor of the research station was indeed a traitor, death marking liberally people in the meanwhile.

My heroine attempts to slow down the death satelite´s work by disrupting power stations, but it is only temporary. With renewed support from House Organa after the Killiks have ceased their swarming, we find out that our traitor went for house Thul, of all! So, grudingly, my heroine goes to save that new leader so that the Republic is not framed for his murder by the deathmark. Gratefully, the Duke, who was until then allied to the Empire, gives me the location of Lord Nefarid´s hideout. Showdown. But before a few more side missions, involving the preparation of an air strike on an Ulgo vanguard, and saving the corporals daughter who turns out to be a quite capable spy in House Rist, leading to another mission which saves a supply convoy from an ambush by House Rist.

In the meanwhile, Master Ordnin has pinpointed Darth Angal´s ship at the edge of the solar system and goes for him. My heroine has been tagged by the death mark, so both master and padawan say their goodbye on a desperate race to each ones mission. My heroine enters the territory of former House Panteer, which has been taken over by House Ulgo. I understand now that House Ulgo was the cause for the civil war, invading and slaugtering House Panteer, who had the throne for centuries since.

The missions here are no surprise: Push House Ulgo´s forces back, make contact with the survivors of House Panteer, go get Ulgo. As a sideline, some Sith need to be repelled from the local ruins of a Jedi temple. Also, in Ulgo´s palace, my heroine is tasked with recovering proof that the last queen was in fact assassinated by House Ulgo.

The hideout of Lord Nefarin is surprisingly close. Sadly, this time for real I have to witness Master Orgus´ death at the hands of Darth Angal via holocomm, which the sadistic Lord Nefarious displays. A one-man commando, even if Master Jedi, was a bit too foolhardish. My heroine has been death-marked, and of course right now the satelite´s power supply is back online. However, as a true Jedi, my heroine can dodge the deathmark´s laserblast. How cool is this! The ensuing battle with Lord Nefarius is very short. A quick combination of stun attacks and my trusty T7 droid specialised on damage dealing end the fight so fast that even the deathmark has no chance to fire a second time. Normally the combat would have alterated between fighting the Sith and dodging the deathmark attack while the former was stealthed. As such, a pretty satisfying revenge for Master Orgus´ death.


Instead of returning to the ship to bring Admiral Var Suthra the good and also the bad news, the last parts of the generic mission arc has to be finished: The Ulgo king is dead, long live the Organa king (or will it be Panteer? not sure). Interesting side not, King Ulgo seemed to be a former republic war hero who decided to take matters into his own hands. Well, friend, this was a bit too far into the dark side, I am afraid.

The end fight with the self proclaimed Ulgo King is also bit more interesting. He hides behind a shield, so I have to destroy four generators, by means of special ordonance (which conveniently rests right next to it...). Victory achieved, there is a lot commending and congratulations. I guess the new alliance between House Panteer and House Organa also marks the rise of the latter house, until far in the future, a Princess Leia will emerge from it.

Red lightsaber for revenge.

Back at the ship, the news of Master Orgus have already arrived via public execution holocomm. However, as it turns out, Master Orgus wasn´t as foolish as he led me and Darth Angral believe. His true mission apparently was to plant a tracking device. Like this, the Republic gets its first real chance to find and destroy the ship.

Incoming data suggest that Darth Angral headed for Uphrades, a rich agricultural world...

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Star Wars: Force Awakens review

It is a good movie, nothing to contest about this. The pacing is right, the humor is measured, the characters are largely on spot, spacecrafts and lasers. I was especially looking forwards to Rey, a female heroine with a somewhat obscure background, and a black person as a main character Jedi Knight.

It was glorious action. The Millenium Falcon and all the air/space fights were well done. The laser sword duels seemed to be a good mix of old and new movie, their clumsiness well explained by having not yet perfectly trained combatants.

The old actors do a good job, but the movie does very well in establishing the new actors as the main focus. Well done! I am looking much more forward towards seeing the new actors in action than the old ones. Han got a well served and well timed exit. It is hinted at in his first scene already: Nobody believes you anymore Han, we already know all your tricks. He seems like an old man who starts to understand that his time is over. Some well meant advise to the youngers, and of course I wouldn´t have minded a less "forceful" exit for a well-deserved retirement, but, ah well, some drama was necessary, was it?


Well, some hopes of course got disappointed. Key words are: Maybe still a little too much of everything?

In the end, Rey has become Luke Skywalker and Han Solo in one person. Whereas Finn seems to be useless and just the nice guy, but a big looser. For one thing is clear: He cannot wield a lightsaber! This seems a bit unbalanced. The old movies, not just Star Wars, but also Star Trek, lived by a clear balance of character. The newer ones do not have this anymore, and thus miss a vital part.

New Hope was all in all still a bright movie about hope. Force Awakens seems to lean much more towards dark themes. We have two family tragedies in the center, and they hit hard from the start instead of slowly building up. Concerning Han and Leia, I would have been happy to see a less sad constellation. Han could have just been on a undercover mission, both still a happily bickering couple after all this time. Instead we are presented with esentially a third family tragedy here.


New Hope had the plans about a death star as its plot, and they were the cause of its destruction in the end. Force Awakens has the search for Luke Skywalker as main theme. The new super death planet going on a rampage comes across just as a side theme, its destruction too easily invented, not even a triumphant ceremony takes place after its destruction.

Why R2D2 reboots just at the end of the movie as a veritable deus ex machina, escapes me. Little unexplainable inattentions like this annoy me. It would have been much better if BB-8 would have managed to activate him, like R2D2 did so famously on the Millenium Falcon´s hyperdrive in Empire Strikes Back.

The scenes of travelling to Luke Skywalker are almost anti-climatic compared to all the fireworks before. I would have preferred an ending like Empire Strikes Back: Rey and Chewie launch on their search for Luke. And then I would have been content to see a much more engrossing encounter with Luke, later on. Not that open mouthed, staring fat old man.

That super death planet. Now that we have CGI, and there are still a pittance of a dozen space fighters racing around, what is this? In my imagination, the Republik should already have knowledge about a thing that big. The new actors should have stumbled in between that climaxing conflict where the Republic sends all of its fleet versus the super death planet, the sky should have been crammed with spacecrafts in a huge battle. It would then have been much more explainable how a small ship like the Millenium Falcon could have gotten through a possibly already battered planetary shield.

The invention of another rebel organisation called Resistance was unnecessary. We have a Republic, which rose from the ashes of the Empire. The victory of the Rebellion must have not been ignored by the plot! Leia´s and Han´s position as heroes of the Republic should have shown at a much higher level, as high ranking officers of a huge republic fleet. This wouldn´t have hurt the plot at all. Too much fan service here, I guess.
 
Ah, and the Millenium Falcon: I feel so sorry for it. Excellent flight scenes! But the poor thing gets hit and kicked around all the time, does not complain, and still work fine until the end. No single repair in between! In my opinion, any space craft should have disassembled forcefully ten times over.


But, you know, I am ready to forgive, but just because of one thing: Rey is so damn hot! And of course, she will have to receive a lightsaber staff once she is fully trained! My best hopes go to Finn, may he find his place and some usefulness! And I bet my arse on one thing: That overly large Snoog evil main guy is nothing but the twin of that Maz Kanata kobolt; this is just too obvious already. Boring; a real giant life form as dark overlord would have been a refreshing counterpoint to all this Yoda-ism.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Tatooine 2

Having left Anchorhead, things seem to pick up speed. The Czerka employee sent us into an abandoned factory plant, now being taken by Gamorrean raiders. My heroine just joins the club when the person behind them is having a nice conversation, some sort of Czerka exec with lots of cyborg implants. No more nowledge gained, but I am sure my heroine will be briefed soon.



 - iconic from the first Star Wars movie










The shock drum facility ist overrun by sandraiders. Inside, locked in, the surviving crew of Javas with an adopted human scientist. A Sith invaded and took the shock drum and Master Kiwiks, the teacher of my crew member Kira, with him. One reactivation of the power supply later, it becomes clear that I have to triangulate the now activated shock drum by placing scanners around the desert. Time is running out for Tatooine.

What, just one side mission in between? A Java wants me to reprogramm his droids gone berserk. Done. And some Geonosians, humanoid grasshoppers, have crawled out from somewhere; I am sure there was a mission connected to this, but I do not find it this time.

After triangulation, the local Sith Lord Praven slices himself into my holocomm. Of course, Lord Angal sent him, but he turns out to be a fanatic duelist; he will exchange the shock drum versus a chance for a duel. How many seconds this will last? Five?

I need some longer backtracking to Anchorhead, just to continue the Czerka plot. An old farmer has the next clue to Czerka´s secret weapon location. In between: Some heroic S&R where some pirates raided a farm and took slaves. Another rescue of a robin hood kind of guy´s loved ones, which turn out to be droid toys...  A governor wants me to sabotage their mining op. Lots of bonus goals, my heroine single handedly lays waste to another crime cartel.

Then it is time to face Lord Praven. In order to have a fair duel for this very untypical Sith, I switch my companion to passive. Such indeed, the duel lasts about 30 seconds, and the Sith has the occasion to use some more nifty dark forces.



- Lord Praven, and my heroine turns another soul to the light side










Czerka quest moves along, more readings to do, taking out a Czerka listening post on the way. Then on to what should be the final map, the Dune Seas. The plot outdoes itself: I have two planet destroying weaponry to disable on one map. How can it get any better!




 - being sent from mission goal to mission goal...









I think this is the moment where all these missions on the side start to not make sense anymore. Supposedly time is pressing, after all, the shock drum is already close to its destructive burst, but I am clobbered with four more side missions. Rescue three ambassadors from slavery, cut down some Mandalorians who threaten to attack (they are pretty one-sided that way), save some sand people tribe from poisoning from the Empire. And a very sad one: Kill Republic sodiers who had been thrown into a Sarlacc mouth; it´s that beast from episode 7 which supposedly digests victims alive fro 1000 years (I wonder how anyone could know, but yeah it is Star Wars).

Oh, and yes, the Jawa family who adopted the Repulic scientists tried to find the shock drum themselves and of course are now in need of help. There is a sand demon in the way, some beast which has a lot of offspring and they look like giant crabs. However, as usual, the bossfights are pretty unimpressive these days. 4 seconds. My heroine then finds Master Kiwiks and can shut down the shock drum. However, she does not let it collapse but rather gives it to general Var Suthras. It makes no sense trying to hide such a weapon, it will fall in false hands. And maybe one day, the Republic will actually need it...

The quest for the Czerka weapon clarifies. Some more readins taken across the map, and the communications of scientist make clear, it is not a weapon, but an old artefact of the Infinite Empire; thus, again a nod to KOTOR where it played a pivotal role. I like these connected ideas and wonder how good a true single player game would have explored all those wonderful ideas. Even though this particular one I also seem to remember from KOTOR; a Rakata criminal imprisoned, of course trying to take over the galaxy. I imagine how with just a slight trust of the light saber, this thing goes boom while that Letheles guy from Czerka screams in rage. Four seconds later, he is dust, too.



- I wonder why I forgot to do a screenshot of the shock drum; but this artefact here was much more dangerous for the galaxy, anyways





This ends the adventures on Tatooine, except for the two heroic missions which I tick off quickly. Mandalorians, and the Sarlacc. I do not even need healing from my companion until I intentionally attack two and three groups at once.

After this, I fast travel back to the ship for a debrief. It seems the Republic is happy to have the shock drummer and are going to develop it into an aerial assault weapon. Not so fast, the general relativates. I wonder if there are different outcomes if my heroine destroyed all those weapons compared to saving them for the Republic. It would be cool, but I doubt it.




- this thing in the distance must be the ship of the Mandalorian raiders; you can get close but sadly not enter it

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Tatooine 1

Yes, yes, I get it, Elite: Horizons is out. However, dear Mr. Braben, this is definitely Star Wars time, and nothing else! You let me wait over two years for a game which is finally starting to flesh out, so your game can wait for me just a little while longer!



- Tatooine











This is where my heroine is headed for, next. Master Kiwik, the former teacher of my crew member Kira Carson, is in dire need here. Kira feels her presence, but cannot locate her. The Republic admiral informs me that the superweapon here is a shock drummer, which can destabilize and destruct a planet (what else!?) and points me towards the according facility.

However, first things first.

There is a little interlude which unveils a bit of Kira´s past. It turns out that she was a former Sith trainee as a kid, but managed to escape. Interesting! Of course I completely trust her that she has indeed come over to the light side.



 - that girl behind me is Kira, a little pimped out because, skirts are sooo out










Anchorhead is the city with the spaceport, which thus survives 3000 years until the aera of Luke Skywalker. A bit far fetched? In any case, unnecessary, because nothing here is even close to the mood which the movie created for this backwater place.

Anyways, some missions on the side before my heroine inches forward towards her own storie´s goal.

Slave Trading Operation from Twin Suns in Achorhead. -> freed slaves in starport
Czerka corporate scandal about a type 7 device. -> take that mission along
Body guard vs assassins, all about vaporators? -> yep
Stolen equipment -> rampage through astromech droids. -> Javas are the thieves
Heroic: Mandalorians "infection" -> standard heroic romp through the parc

It it wasn´t for me completionist streak, I would say, overall totally uninspiring un-moodish generic quest levels. At least the Czerca plot seems interesting, even though I again get the impression that doomsday weapons are on a black friday sale.




- talking about pimping, this would be my heroine´s dress if I hadn´t triggered the "costume" option; I hate brown robes...








These are not the droids you are looking for.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Nar Shaddaa

Where Taris glowed in a bright, almost eye hurting greenish bright yellow, Nar Shaddaa´s colour sceme is dark red, with some purple and yellow in the mix. It tries to imitate those clichée neon signed streets anyone imagines in Hong Kong (and for what it´s worth, that city might even be full clichée, never was there!).



 - I wish there were more open skies











Again, spoilers ahead, because this somewhat is my heroine´s diary.

The goal in this particular chapter is to find one of the three secreat weapon projects of the Old Republic. Agent Galen had gone ahead to warn and secure the project against Darth Angral, who had received all the secret files from his son on Coruscant before. As usual, some general Republic missions accompany this task in parallel, and some mission requests from locals are sprinkled-in between.

First, my heroine gets pitted against another crime cartel who rules another district, which of course is against vital Republic interests. In the middle of that district, there are vital clues in dropboxes as to where Agent Galen might have gone; the secret project is so secret that nobody knew about it even in the local Republic´s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). Which, foreshadow, foreshadow, has more and more agents missing in the field. The local ambassador allied with a Hutt, who turns out to have been the previous head of the Kintan Kings. Some rescues from slavery, some cutting of local swoop bike gangs who went overboard versus citizens, a drying out another wanna be powerplayer gang which supported Republic dissidents, and we have to realize that the Empire already stormed the facility who would take "voluntaries" for the secret superweapon project, which is not a single superweapon this time, but about augmenting voluntaries into super cyborg soldiers.



 - Jedi in action; notice the glowing eyes; subtle effect which I still cannot link to which skill it belongs

 





My heroine is sent into the red light district, of course an even more criminal place, but behind the curtains. A gang war rages, and my heroine is employed by a do-gooder private detective to look after abducted Republic fleet officers, and by a local police chief to rescue people from slavery and pit fights, to cut down the "Bleeders", a gang who steals organs and genetics like other gangs steal money. A local drug fighter wants to destroy some drug stores to dry out supply. No deal, all along the way, at the game designers discetion.

In order to find the main lab where the super soldiers are created, my heroine has to cause power distrubtions in the local grid, thereby indentifying the lab which is supposed to have its own independent power supply. They are conveniently placed all over the map, to be disrupted on the side while doing the tour of tasks from all those other missions.




- moody places, but it could have been captured a bit better, as the elements when no looking up seem a bit too generic






I find out that those hijacked soldiers were mostly killed and their skins were used to disguise empire sleeper agents. Yuck. And this was just a mission on the sideline. Talk about getting insensitive to cruelties. Of course, the that particular holocaust doctor who was pressed into service by the Nazis/Empire gets sent to prison and not to shift flags to the Republic.

The main lab for the supersoldiers has of course also been taken over by the Empire, led by Sith Lord Sadic. He gives the usual evil man exposition and lets his cronies, along with the first version of created super soldiers, attack. The fight is over within four seconds. An encrypted file is supposed to have data on where the Empire removed the volunteers and the production arrays for the supersoldiers. SIS says they can decrrypt the file, but when I arrive, all that foreshadowing is reveiled and the base has been obliterated by mark 2 supersoldiers. Of course, all guys are annoyed with my heroine, even though she had advised in the beginning to evacuate because SIS was likely compromised. Instead of force-persuading, one well meaning remaining SIS agent decrypts the data and my heroine can finally move on to what should be the showdown with Lord Sadic.

In between, I take breaks and finally start to level up my crafting. I took artifice, in order to be able to construct my own lightsabers and portable shield systems, and I realize that also some dye modules for dressing up something different than the omnipresent brown or black robes are in the list. A very cool crew skill guide is here. In the end, I realize that a level 16 crafted lightsaber already is stronger than what my heroine currently wields. And the game was already easy as is. However, the temptation to use a more powerful item is stronger than my wish for more challenge!



 - crafting is much more easy going than in the past










On my way through the industrial complex, again I am contacted to end some abductions to slavery, destroy an Empire factory which produces bioweapons and help out an Evoci agent (humanoids with flat big noses) of the Republic to look after a Empire prison where they capture and experiment on aliens. It turns out that the latter once more is about a holocaust, specifically on Evocii. In the end my heroine again gets to decide what to do with the depraved commander of the facility, and sends him to prison. A heroic mission about some Mandalorians (kind of futuristic barbarians) wanting a challenge complements the mission setup, until I finally reach the lab where the supersoldiers are supposed to be, along with Darth Sadic.

Unfortunately, it is just Agent Galen, transformed himself into a mark 3 supersoldier and remotely commaned to attack my heroine. She is careful in disabling the former republic agent and can thus turn him again "to the light side" in order to fight Lord Sadic together. Another trip to another quarter in Nar Shadaa´s bowels, the shadow town.

Things are grim down there. This quarter houses another Empire prison which holds war heroes and other former strong enemies of the Empire. Getting in there is a difficult task and requires some preparatory missions, coordinated from the local SIS hideout. A heroic mission to capture some of the cranial bombs which all prisoners wear, is offered by a mission terminal as a sideline. I still remember from the past that getting those access keys to drop from the Empireal guards took me hours. This time, however, they almost drop instantly; finally a useful change of the former random mechanic.

In the meanwhile, my heroine has reached level 38; she is cut down to level 26 on Nar Shadaa, but as usual and anyways, she tears through the enemies like a hot knife through butter. Good, because the sheer numbers of enemy groups would make anything else rather tedious. SWTOR has defnitely become a hack&slay type of game. I don´t mind, it just seems that the original MMO combat mechanics seem not very suited for hack&slay, which would imo require more fluid combat control than meshing and coordinating about a dozen buttons on a cooldown cycle.




 - a dozen buttons on deadly rotation

 




 

 
The generic Republic mission wanted me to save a war hero from the prison, a Jedi. This guy unfortunately has turned dark side after years of torture. My heroine dispatches him, and can conveniently convince the beaten former Jedi to turn himself in for healing and atonement. The Jedi Knights class mission ends the whole adventure on Nar Shaddaa, taking about 10 seconds of a fight versus Lord Sadic and his cronies. Well, they could make the boss fights again a bit more difficult, no? Lord Sadic was so ugly that my screenshot camera refused service (well, I need an excuse for constantly confusing the sceenshot button "printscreen" with the one used in Elite: Dangerousm namely "F10" ...)

Also, I guess repetition seems to be unavoidable. How many guys has my heroine by now turned back to the light side, stomped how many prisons and slavery markets, saved civillians from certain doom? I lost count, but at least the tale is summarily retold here.



- bye, Nar Shaddaa

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Taris

Taris was and still is one of the most ambivalent experiences in Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). The third chapter of any hero´s story takes place on a planet which has had a thriving republican life 300 years ago, destroyed by a dark Jedi during the evens from the previous game, Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR). The Old Republic finally came back and tries to re-settle this world, which still is a post-apocalyptic jungle scenery.

This is a very spoilery retelling of my heroine accounts, but the goal of this blog is for me to remember my virtual adventures, so... this was my warning to any reader.

 

- at least the colour sceme fits to my heroine...









I can take back part of what I complained about in my last post: Here, my heroine "dies" her first time. This is during a so called "heroic 2+ mission", so it was made for two players minimum. So far, I did not have problems with these kind of sprinkled in-between missions. However, this time, there are groups of four, I might have overlooked one or the other area effect, and my companion Kira was specialised on damage dealing instead of healing. Whoops. Once Kira got switched to healing, my Guardian Jedi Knight of course was unstoppable again. Tank+healer combo always wins, because the game must accomodate all those nifty damage dealer players who are much squisher even when accompanied by a healer.

And also to take back about making it "too easy": The sheer numbers of enemies on your way to your next goal, it would indeed be tedious to fight them more than a few seconds. As much as I like tactical challenging combat, please not so without meaning on trash mobs who just seem to be placed there to slow you down... I better take that easy-going combat, then!

The missions there were in my past games, four years ago, exhausting. The landscape is huge, you are sent back and forth, up and down in the labyrinthian sceleton of former mega cities. It always seemed hard to keep track what you are doing why right now. This time, I am resolved to keep focus. But even still, after I am mostly through, I still might remember not all of what transpired down there:

Helped routing Rhakgouls around Republic base.
Rescued items for evacuated settlers.
Saved SIS agent and imprisoned "Locust".
Hunted clues about the former former lead scientist on the Old Republic´s weapons of mass destruction. Encountered Empire head of intelligence "Watcher One".
Solved dispute of alien refuges vs human "invaders".
Helped arrest a criminal mercenary, "The Locust". 
Found ancient antidote versus Rhakgoul bite.
Let myself infect by Rhakghouls in order to help develop a new antidote.
Erased sensitive data in the middle of a pirate hideout.
Prevented a bad chemistry mix in a factory from blowing up.
Got again deceived by Watcher One.
Found deserters and let them, well, desert.
Found some more clues about the former former lead scientist on the Old Republic´s weapons of mass destruction. Raced to save a settlement from a Sith instead of catching Watcher One.
Supported a military research team in the Endar Spire (wink to KOTOR).
Helped a doctor find a cure versus a specific Tarisian cancer.
Found out about "the lost ones" (emotionally shattering nod to KOTOR).
Finally caught Watcher One in his lair, rescued the scientist.

My most annoying back-and-forth mission ever, is the one involving the lost ones. Imagine a game designer. And the player. The player will efficiently solve all missions before moving on, so he does not have to walk back long distances for something left behind and loose time with boredom. The game designer usually knows this and places the mission tasks accordingly. Now, this particular game designer decided to be a bit too helpful. Instead of following the long path of video messages from the lost ones, I go for some more near missions first, because they require less backtracking (short path). However, after being through with the long track, the game designer sends me exactly where I went first, making me back-track that long path plus the shorter path.

This made me already upset when I had played this part on my first time, four years ago. And I still freaking remembered this nuisance, tried to avoid it but did not remember anymore how the proper order was, and promptly did it the unefficient, backtracking way again... I think this was also in the past the point where the whole Taris chapter shifted from a relaxing to a tedious experience. And so, again.


Also still shaken from that "the lost ones" experience (played it already three times in the past, and it still is depressing to follow their downfall from civilisation to primitive and then to extinction), I can finally leave Taris, but the Governor stops me once more, for an emergency once more. I feel somehow reminded of real life; there is always something to do, right? The completionist within me obeys.




- behind my heroine, Taris´ derelict swoop tracks; another nod to KOTOR










It takes a while to leave Taris. Bonus missions lured my completionist side. It turns out that the Rhakghoul have evolved, so far as even having force sensitive speciment. An entire Jedi platoon gets wiped out by one of them (yeah, another heroic mission here). Sentient Rhakghoul means, the prime directive takes effect... erm... means that Jedi should not take life of indigenious life forms who basically only repel invaders. A Jedi holocron, kind of an AI-construct, is found and it promises to try to teach the savages the light side of the force. Of course, despite the losses of life, my heroine leaves it at that and hopes that this new race does not become like Sith...

Little tourist hops to Bejik´s hideout are another nod to the places and events of the precedessor game KOTOR. Some humorous episodes with scientists trying to preserve animals which want to eat them and the usual tragic losses of peaceful settlers round the picture.

After I am through with all those additional missions, I almost feel at home on Taris. One of the last codex entries talks about how Taris was already severely harmed before the obliterative bombing by environmental pollution, and that nevertheless nature has adapted and reclaimed the planet after so called civilisation had left. Yes, I think I can feel the force flowing freely on Taris, now.

Anyways, there was a call for a flashpoint mission in between, and after Taris, it is time to go into this one. So I think. Since the game is too easy otherwise, I choose the four-player version of that particular flashpoint mission. What can I say; I get my ass handed to me after the first few trashmobs. Somehow, my companion does not heal as effectively as she could, preferring to swing her staff lightsaber instead. How annoying, but I am sure the game designers implemented this intentionally, to keep a player-only challenge in the game!

Which leads me onwards to the next chapter of the story missions, Nar Shaddaa.

Friday, 11 December 2015

A new attempt on Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR)

With the new Star Wars movie so close, the temptation to fire up this almost venerable MMORPG finally got to me. A new expansion, The Eternal Empire, promises a storytelling game experience, and I still have a Jedi Knight somewhere around level 30 of whom I wanted to experience his class storyline.

The game has evolved. Or should I say, devolved? For casuals and some short game sessions, it has become perfect. There is almost no difficulty anymore. It does not matter which of the (all too)  numerous buttons on your skill bar you have to press; you will survive, anyways. And even if you are called away in the middle of combat; no problem, your companion will take care of it even without you.

Despite my disappointment about this no-tactics-required style of combat, the game prooves to be quite relaxing. I am very tired again these days from real life challenges, and SWTOR just serves to give me that ounce of relaxation which I need before falling to sleep. (If it not even being itself the cause of me falling asleep asap...)

Of course, as always when I try to take up a long left old save file, I cannot get back into this particular story. Also, the missions have been cut down by the game designers, cut out all that useless filler-missions, focus on a few main story-threads. But, alas, I already have forgotten what had happened before and why I am doing this and that. Especially with the Jedi Knight class, every missions seems to revolve around another freaking superweapon to be disabled. And, how on earth, could I ever just sustain that slimy do-gooder character voice set of the Jedi Knight? It is torment!

After a while, I realized that there was just one sollution to my predicament: Restart a Jedi Knight from scratch. This time, a female one. And indeed. This voice set was much less nerve grating, and the imagined female counterpart to a Luke Skywalker made things interesting enough again.

You want to feel as an uber hero: Play the Jedi Knight story! This lass already arrives like a top class student who has jumped three semesters, and she only gets better from then on. If you accept and can suspend your disbelief and actually enjoy being a Jedi super hero, the story might be even a bit enjoyable.

SPOILERS

It starts on planet Tython, where the indigenious flesh raider race suddenly attack aggresively, very apparently being riled up by some player behind the scenes. Of course, my newly arrived elite student-heroine dispatches the dangers easy handedly and quickly rises to the padawan of one of the most venerable Jedi Masters of the Jedi Council. She helps out some Twilek-Settlers and of course uncovers the true master behind the scenes, who turns out to be a former student of your same master. On the sideline, she also enters the ruins of the infamous Rakatha race (nobody knows that race, it is not denominated yet, but you know them when you played the precedessor single player game Knights of the Old Republic - KOTOR). Of course, the crowning achievement as a padawan is that you actually save your master from his former student and are finally knighted to a full Jedi, receiving your first own lightsaber.

The second chapter sends my heroine off to Coruscant, captial of the Old Republic. Frankly, I totally do not understand how and why the Empire let the Old Republic keep it, after they essentially defeated that same Old Republic in the trailer. Oh well, plot device in order to have to warring factions and enable players to play either as Empire or Old Republic citizens.
Of course, my heroine also prooves to be pivotal to save Coruscant from certain doom by a super weapon, which ironically the Old Republic developed by itself and got itself stolen. The "planet prison", once fired, would encapsulate all inhabitants on the planet in a damaging super shield without any chance to get into space ever again. One of the lead scientists is reveiled to be Sith, and the son of a Sith on the Empire´s Dark Council, to boot. On her way to dispose of this nuisance, Sith and super weapon alike, my heroine has the occassion to meddle and foil the claims of three mafia like gangs in the underbelly of the capital (Merchant Guild, Black Sun, Justicars) and earn friendship with the mysterious Gree race, along with saving upper Coruscant from multiple and lethal system failures of their life and health sustaining machinery, down there in huge industrial cavernous metallic sub levels.

As I said, these plotlines provoke yawns if you are not willing to totally enter a kind of "super hero-white-knight" mode. Despite the innumerable fully voiced over dialogues, character interaction is scarce, focused on a padawan who will at the end of the chapter become a crew member of yours. Some nagging feeling tells me, less could probably have been more in this case. Anyways, the crowning achievement of this chapter is the ownership of a nice, proper and of course overpowered spacecraft. Which tempts me to enter some of the sideline space shooter aspects of this game. But I sense danger of loosing focus again, so, no thanks. By then I also discovered how to turn back on all those numerous filler missions; hey, I am a completionist, it is a compulsive thing!

The storyline can be followed in different orders from there on. Planet Taris invites with its post-apocalyptic jungles (and frequent, often very chilling, references to the past events from KOTOR). Or, a visit to the crook´s paradise Nar Shadaa would be in order. The goal is to catch up with that Dark Council member´s spy network and get back the knowledge about several of the Old Republic´s own designs of super weapons. Ah, what compelling gey-lined story line could that have been; the supposedly good guys, and not the evel Empire, having conceived and being ready to use deadly super weapons! But no, we are reduced to chasing the even more evil Empire and getting back that stuff. Already, a second super weapon is being armed by Sith Darth Angral, a kind of planet climate killer, working similar to the planet prison, but this one lets no more heat off the planet, therefore quickly turning it into an inhabitable rocky lava planet. Off we go to hunt after it!

By now, my heroine has reached level 25, and is supposed to to the story-line´s game content which originally was designed for level 10 to 16 (Taris). And this despite me being a free-gamer with a supposed slowed down advancement! Something is wrong here. And all the game designers did so far to mitigate this predicament is to cut down your level to the maximum allowed level for the particular story chapter. I.e. landing on taris reduces my heroine´s strength back to level 22; which still is more than over powered for the game content there, anyways.

Despite my discontent about the game´s imbalance and that super trashy, B-movie like story line for the Jedi Knight, I am resolved to at least once have a complete play-through with the Jedi Knight. The net whispers that in the end, my heroine will enter deadly combat with the dark emperor himself. I want that coolness-factor, just for being able to say, hey Luke, you´re lamer, been there done that myself! (The famous child in the man.)

I write my progress down here just in case I am loosing steam again (not very improbable, of course) and want to pick it up later again, in order to get back into the main story so far.

My motivation to continue lies largely in my own imagination. The trashy parts of the story get ignored or replaced in my imagination with more interesting, personal motivations and some imagined additional interaction with the encountered characters. Besides this, firing up a light saber and smashing your enemies, while looking cool by means of one the myriad equipment available, never gets old!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

From before Hiatus

Some leftover screenshots from before my hiatus, Kerbal Space Program.


Tinkering with a Mk-3 sized cargo-or-fuel spaceplane.

It is big enoug to bring a whole Münbus-class spacecraft into orbit. Or alternatively, a big fuel tank. Untested yet.

My biggest spacecraft design so far. Behold the "Candlekeep", a modular designed interplanetary spacecraft. Top level, here, an evolution of the old Scientia-class ship design. Used for orbital explorations and low-gravity landings. Untested yet.

Bottom level of the Candlekeep. Quadruple Poodle engines, lots of fuel tanks and an ISRU-unit to mine fuel out there for independent and indefinite operation. Used for interplanetary transfer and as a fueling station in orbit.

The middle level, visible on both last screenshots, is the habitat and docking ring, with luxury apartments for 8 tourists, or cram in 36 kerbonauts!
Trying to capture the Candlekeep as a whole is difficult; it really is big.

Another project, a maximum deltaV vessel for this stupid tourist contract to enter a low orbit on the sun. Untested yet.
After these rather construction focused screenshots, back to some action. My Moon-Buggy design was not tested yet, so I gave it a spin.

Descending near the north pole of Mün.

Almost down... it IS steep slopes there!

Very disappointing to realize that the rover wheels don´t give more push for this lighter design, compared to the Yawl, which I had quite extensively tested before this Mun Buggy.

My planned itinerary led me from the Mün polar highlands to the polar crater. Catching some biomes also in between, I realize later that most of them were already recorded from previous landings. It might have been the steep slopes, but I found it hellish difficult to keep the Buggy from not sommersaulting. High speeds, like with the Yawl, were simply not possible. This was probably due to the higher center of mass, making the thing less table on a bump. On top, the wheels blew up rather quickly, even though I tried to use the indestructible landing gear as often as possible.


Test unsuccesful. Product line discontinued.
This all was done during two or three rather short and unispired game sessions. It is interesting for me to note; when I am not sure how to continue the "big picture" ventures, I become rather unfocused on the smaller ventures in between.

The big question, which I am still pondering even during/after my hiatus, is, whether the new Candlekeep design should travel to Duna in place of my existing Omniscient-class vessels. And, which dinghy´s/landers should I bring along. The Yawl was a success on Mün, but will it be on Duna, too?

I really hope this blockade of what to do how does not keep me from just going on. After all, the Kerbal way is "just do it, goddamnit!"

Since three monthes have passed already since my last blog entry, some interesting game opportunities and unfinished "want to plays" await:

- The upcoming Star Wars movie and the seeming excellent new expansion for the online-game Star Wars: The Old Republic make me want to fire up the latter again, after three years not touching it anymore.

- A game of the year edition of Dragon Age: Inquisition includes all expansions which I haven´t played yet. A good time to do a second playthrough, again an elf mage, or trying a different character? Same problem as with Kerbal Space Programme: Blocked by not being able to decide which way to go. I am weird sometimes.

- I never finished Pillars of Eternity, which is a shame. There is also an expansion in the meanwhile, tempting me.

- There is this nice retro-style Shadowrun: Hongkong. I had played the precedessors and liked them a lot. I really should keep up here, too!

- Coming out in January 2016 is Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. A must to play!

- And last, but not least: Elite: Horizons is very near. Landing on planets in my favourite galaxy simulation! It might be tempting to leave it be until the Oculus Rift VR goggles are finally out in Q1 2016. Frankly, ever since I played that game at the Premiere Event back in October 2014 with those VR goggles on, I am so spoiled and don´t want to play it anymore any other way!

Sigh. And there is this "little issue" of my wife having jumped the ship. Would be nice to find somebody new to continue my now shattered little family, maybe even being able to understand and share this weird passion my blog here is about. However, life is probably too fast and too short in order to have everything, right?

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Review on Rebel Galaxy

With still little time and other things preoccupying me, I tend these days to rare game sessions and only smallish ones, which require only little immersion into the game rules and systems. E.g. Sid Meier´s Starships, for a few turns in between. And then I found Rebel Galaxy.

I just finished the main story line, which really is not the main attraction of the game. It rather is a nice little distracting game when you don´t have the time or the mindset to involve yourself with deeper, more complex games like Elite: Dangerous (ED) is.

It is a similar combat system to StarTrek Online, but also brings in some Homeworld and Eve Online feelings, by virtue of commanding a big ship and destroying small fighter vessels like annoying flies. It is watered down to a mere two dimensional maneuvering on a plane (just the NPC fighter and gunships are allowed to zip around above and below you) and spiced with the broadside-style ship combat which hails from Assassins Creed: Black Flag, which I never played. But it for sure is quite a difference to the classic cockpit style of ED. Add to this the ability to pause and to have a pure offline game experience, resulting a much more "family friendly" game than ED ever can be.

The little lively universe, with constantly changing market prices and faction presence, makes your actions do show up some consequence there. The ships all look gorgeous, just the right mix between practical and exotic. ED ships look bland, in comparison.

Also, Rebel Galaxy demonstrates how some sprinkled-in NPCs with dialogue can make a game world suddenly seem much more personal and alive. This is certainly something which Frontier should really start working on for ED, hopefully after Horizons. I also read some guy´s post about an idea to make NPCs as procedural as the environment, mentioning Shadow of Mordor´s Nemesis system, where NPCs would also level up and adapt, according to how successfully they managed to harass (read: kill) the player avatar. Yes, please!

In the end, though, I did not expect much depth from Rebel Galaxy and thus could not get disappointed. It is indeed very easy to construct yourself an overpowered ship, as any kind of scissor-stone-paper balance between weapon and defense systems is missing. Also, defense system strength is independent from ship size, so a small frigate with Mk 5 shields is almost as sturdy as a dreadnought with the same system (just the hull strength is supposedly different, but your shields should never get whittled down firsthand).

My op-ship is a Barracuda, which has insane and totally unbalanced speed and maneuverability for its considerable medium size. Mining lasers are, opposed to in ED, actually the strongest turret weapons available (which probably makes sense, but not so in combination with a deadly instant targeting capability). Also, there is hardly a space craft which allows for more than four turrets aimed at the same target, so any bigger ship just has too little advantages compared to the increased vulnerability due to loss of speed and agility, it seems. As broadside weapon, I chose the tachyon cannon. A ramming deflector completes the setup. For combat, I fist lure the annoying fighters and gun ships a bit away from the big pots and let my turrets take care of them. Then I boost in, ram the big ships and make use of the tachyon cannon´s fastest firing cycle, by buttong mashing from close up so that I do not need to aim the broadsides at all. Add in the high-damage dumbfire missiles as secondary weapon, and, together with the turrents, this obliterates even the largest enemy vessel in a blink of the eye.

Really, it is a child´s play, since the NPC ships only do fire at a much slower pace than the cannons actually would allow for. This is why this game is more for your mood when you just want to quickly blow up something on a short relaxing evening or just want to relish in some mini game of trading, doing missions or some mining. For this, Rebel Galaxy is indeed perfect.



Friday, 23 October 2015

Repost: That Star Wars Trailer

From this website:
"It's amazing. Enjoy this feeling for the next two months, because if this movie turns out to suck, a lot of us will never love again. We will be husks, dead inside, shells of our former selves, hollow-eyed and pale, huddled together for warmth, not because we care to be warm or social, but because our instinctual lizard-brain tells us that was something our former selves used to care about back when we were human and "hope" was a word with any meaning."


Indeed, a perfectly executed trailer. I think it is the music, mixed in perfect timing with sound and speech. Just close your eyes and follow how it develops from that single crystal drop reassambling back to that incredible and famous old symphonic theme of Star Wars, changed and throbbing with a new power. If the film industry will not show its very best with this movie, it will be a dissappointment.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Just a link in between

Stumbled upon this article in The Guardian. Would be nice if mainstream would get there one day, understanding the place of computergames in society.

Will hopefully soon be able to continue flight.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Bye, Mün

Here I am, spending almost two game sessions designing a new smaller plane, dedicated for quickly and efficiently rescuing a Kerbonaut in LKO. This kind of mission contract pops up quite frequently. It takes so long because somehow I cannot accept that a deltaV of 1400m/s for the second stage rocket should not be enough to reach LKO. I mean, the "Whiplash" turbo jet engines catapult the plane already to 24km altitude and 1200m/s speed. The altogether 2600m/s deltaV are enough to get me into orbit, but there is not enough left for course correction and re-entry.

The final version has to dump the excess liquid fuel for more oxidiser, and I finally can conclude my rescue business with a small, fast and easier to fly spaceplane. Just for the landing, I have to experience again that a too narrow landing gear can easily topple the plane when braking and not moving exact straight.



- just single-serving, because construction is fun









Other news, my Mün patrol now has established routine, the Yawl can cross the entire Farside Crater without a single crash. I wonder if a rover with just landing gear and an ion drive would make for an even better racing machine? Just a bit more punch for going upwards slopes would be really nice. I do a short stop to commemorate the Omniscient´s old landing area; it seems so long ago that it has landed on Mün so daringly, but in truth, the Omniscient hasn´t even returned yet from its virgin flight and "Grand Tour de Kerbin"!



- visiting a historical site










A game session later, I still find myself driving across Mün, on my last planned and very difficult leg. Upwards, out of the Farside Crater, onto the Highlands and then to a close by Highland Crater. I cannot avoid to have an accident, driving dully straight fowards numbs awareness and, suddenly, that crater opens up without a warning. I can hastily lower the Yawl´s landing gear and mitigate and survive the downfall, but my achingly slow route back upwards and out of the crater, over the rim, makes a rover wheel finally blow up. Since the Mün patrol is really not finished and the engineer on board is missing the experience level to repair it, I reload my last 15 minutes. Oh well.

The very steep slopes suck out the Yawl´s electricity charge and, as it is midday, my solar panels have almost no sun exposition, forcing long breaks for re-charging. Then, thanks to having two reaction wheels installed, I discover this little trick here to increase the sun exposition area for my solar panels;



- rest&recover in Praying Mantis style











After a while, I have conquered the worst cliffs and finally reach highlands. My scientist goes on EVA, slips and has to discover that the Yawl oviously has some more grip than the astronauts´ boots. She tumbles down for about 400 meters before I can regain control over her. Each bumb resembles more an impact and I feared the worst, but Kerbals are tough. This accident reminds me of the upcoming cinema movie "The Martian".



- she is my Mün-ian











Some time later, I reach my final goal, a very impressive looking highland crater.




- it´s like in real life; photos do not seem to do justice









For the Yawl´s launch, I travel some more miles back to the equatorial plane. Like this, I hope to get an immediate rendez-vous with the Kerbonaut which I have the rescue contract for. Getting sloppy, I drive with rover wheels at about 14 m/s over a steeper inclining rim, a rover wheel blows again. Since it is only going downwards from here on, the damage is not debilitating my movement anymore.



- hurrah for landing gear!











The Yawl´s launch is timed a bit too late and it requires to orbital revolvements before it has caught up with the Kerbonaut in need. Then it is time to burn for Kerbin and bring back a lot of valuable scientific data. Can´t wait for it! I will land the Yawl instead of keeping it in orbit and fetching the data via a spaceplane; it is not only the destroyed rover wheel but I also plan for some improvements for its next version. Overall I am rather content now how it worked out. Maybe I can access the tech node with the "ruggedized" rover wheels, which sound like they would not blow up? Should I dare to omit the landing gear once I have them? I will decide this later.




- a long and very successful expedition is heading for home










I have taken over all two full game session for just driving around Mün, so I say a heart-felt "Bye, Mün!". I have done about half of Mün´s biomes, but for the rest, there is still the Crab Lander ready. Not sure though if I really want and need all science from there, but the completionist within me is already tugging all my inner sleeves...

The final leg of Mün Patrol has also taken about one more Kerbal day and brought up the maneuver node for the Scientia 2, which is entering Minmus SOI. On board are tourists for a suborbit and a landing. For the latter, I choose the Greater Flats, because I already know how difficult it is to touch down this vessel; it could benefit from one more reaction wheel. And indeed, the last meters become a bit fiddly and I have to emergency burn upwards again for two times until the horizontal velocity is really low enough to not make the heavyhanded rocket-tower which the Scientia 2 is, topple over.



 - nice to meet again











I use the occasion to also bunker some more scientific data for the Scientia 2 Mobile Lab. There is now enough data to refill it twice. Until then, I shouldn´t overall have any open tech nodes anymore. The next stop should be Mün, where over my demanding little tourist buggers expect the same stuff. This should originally then have been done by the Yawl, but I am sure I will find another way once the Scientia 2 has arrived there. The insertion into Mün orbit takes a bit of fiddling with the maneuver node, and, due to a crappy transfer window, eleven travel days. But I have all the time in the world for this particular expedition; it is not vital for the upcoming big Duna expedition.

There is quite some time again until my next maneuver is due on the Kerbal Alarm Clock. I fulfill one older mission contract by sending scientific data to Kerbin, one of the still stored crew reports in the Yawl. Immediately, a new contract is available, another satelite insertion into Mün orbit. Which is a job for the Firebird.



 - always fantastic to behold











Sharpened by experience I notice that the required Mün orbit is a retrograde one. Once the satelite leaves the cargo hold, it gets plotted for a proper burn to arrive the "right way around".

After all this tight action since the start of the "busy days" a few weeks back and, in particular, driving around so long on Mün, it feels strange to suddenly have 5 Kerbal days with nothing to do. Even all my numerous contracts have nothing in there which requires another new expedition to be launched. Instead of pushing time warp, I decide on a little experimentation. The accumulated 1400 science points on my account get used to unlock Mk3 parts, all the advanced cockpits and docking ports, multi connectors. It is design and construction time! (I did not open yet the tech node with the claw equipment; I suspect it would introduce new types of missions, which I do not want and need yet; need to keep interesting stuff for later!)

Unfortunately, a game session spent on designing, trying to find a new iteration of my Omniscient-class motherships, is not something exciting to write about in this blog. Short version: Disappointing, because the Mk3-parts provide not really for an own ship line, but need to be combined with Mk2 parts, like the Mobile Lab or the ISRU and drills. As such, they just mean more mass but not better functionality. Basically, my current Omniscient class, the Navitas, already seems to have everything you can get and need for space travels, barring nuclear engines.

Well, we will see if I can still come up with something new and nice. In between my game sessions, three since my last blog entrys, I found an awesome album which contains a lot of inspiration.

In the meanwhile, over and out.



Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Tumbling on the edge of failure

This game session is indeed properly themed; almost every action is very close to a failure, this time.

As a little break from my Mün patrol activity, I have to attend to some maneuver nodes. As it turns out, I misplaced two of them, behind the periapsis instead of before the periapsis, both for the Fuel Ship, as well as the Tripol on their return trip to Kerbin. Thank god I routinely check for every vessel at the start of each game session; I know that I get sloppy sometimes. If I hadn´t realized in time, both ships would have entered Kerbin´s atmosphere way too low, causing re-entry and, consequently, as both were not constructed for this, their destruction. The reason why I misplaced those two maneuver nodes is that the elliptic orbit usually lets my spacecrafts return on the retrograde side, relative to Minmus´ orbit around Kerbin. Somehow, my last two ejections from Minmus with said ships made them return on the prograde side of said elliptic orbit.

After the errors are corrected, the satelite for my mission contract "Mün polar orbit" gets inserted. Then, switch again, I plot the final rendez-vous vector for the Firebird, which still is in orbit, racing to rescue a Kerbonaut. Flipping the spaceplane over for prograde and retrograde correction burns is tedious and slow. I really have to remember to put a large reaction wheel on it!

This last maneuver slightly overlaps with the first aerobraking pass of the Fuel Ship. To my annoyance, I again have to realize that aerobraking does not take place when the game is not focused on the according vessel. So, one more long elliptic orbit has to pass with its according longer travel time. Since there is no urgent need to refuel any expedition, this mishap is no big deal. But trouble is just about to start.

After the Firebird finally reaches the Kerbonaut, another quick switch to the Mün satelite is required for its last correction burn. Bing, +80,000 credits. Due to another overlap, the re-entry of the Firebird is delayed by another orbital round. During this one, I realize that I haven´t payed attention to the periapsis during its last maneuver, which had dropped to suborbit. I need another burn so that the re-entry point gets not skewed. Awfully slow to flip, the Firebird manages just in time.

Finally at the correct point for re-entry, the Firebird adopts a +10 degree descend angle, like I have come to use also for the White Goose. This causes am increased slow down in the upper atmosphere and does not drop the point of touchdown too much from the initial plot, as it usually does when the spaceplane flies straight its way through the atmosphere and just relies on its airbrakes.

Unfortunately, at 45km, the Firebird suddenly flips over, despite its airbrakes being deployed as a counter balance. I fear the worst; normally, a plane at still 2000+ m/s should get ripped apart in no time, and it already happened to it some time ago while in the lower atmosphere. To my astonishment, though, the plane holds together here in the upper atmosphere, doing the major part of its re-entry in sommersault modus. Squad probably nerfed the game´s harsh physics model by a bit too much? But right now, I don´t look a gift horse into the mouth.

Once low enough for the jet enginges to kick in, I desperately try to re-align, unsuccessfully. Flipping, altitude dropping, dropping, ...




- mayday, mayday, mayday!
At some point, I finally manage, just to loose forward alignment again. WTF!? Then, my error dawns on me. I have forgotten to re-balance the remaining fuel to the front; the Firebird currently has a center of lift far in front of the center of mass! Desperately pumping fuel in the again violently sommersaulting plane, howver, there is not much fuel left, and only by also activating the airbrakes as surplus control surfaces, at about 3 km altidude, the Firebird finally passes over into a stabilized flight pattern.

At what cost, though. The fuel reserves are nearly used up, and the Firebird is still far away from the space center, above a wrong continent. An emergency landing is in order. I quickly raise back up to about 10km altitude and then glide the Firebird, with just some 200 units of fuel left, to the coastline.





- initiate emergency landing
Unfortunately, the coast line is littered with steep slopes. On the last kilometers before touchdown, I manage to do a counter approach, turn 180 degrees and set down undamaged on the beach, in parallel to the coast line. Whew. I sure have very sweaty hands by now!

Recovering the spaceplane that far from the Kerbal Space Center makes me loose 25% of its value. This roughly reduces the profit from the rescue mission (50k credits) to one third and thus manifests as a mere efficiency drop, but not a real economic loss.

Considering all my errors during this session, considering how little I could advance my expeditions overall, I nevertheless consider myself very lucky, and strangely, leave this game session with a feeling of tremendous success.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Mün Patrol

Another short holiday has passed, another yearly faery market, but the magic for my little daughter has already waned. Where last year, I could still see the sense of wonder in her eyes, taking in everything unfiltered, uncomprehending, but taking in, her eyes now are focused on more immediate matters of interest, and interest is built upon and limited by past experiences of those three already long years of living an earthly life. Here the sweets, here the carussell, carry me please, I want a cola. Sigh. Human is taking over, I guess, as it must be.

And as often after holiday, matters of real life are prominent, had their wait, want to be ackknowledged and clarified and acted upon. There is no peace to indulge in virtual worlds but during some splinters of pause, and while "in", I just barely have time follow the matters at hand.

Re-reading my last blog entries, I am a bit uncontent about their quality. Instead of just "vomiting out" every instance of my game session, relying on advanced insider game vocabulary, I should better wait and extract the essence of my exploits and summarize it in normal, understandable vocabulary. For example, there is no need to philosophize about reasons which game mechanics cause my plane to veer off; this is no tutorial or guide, after all. This blog should rather convey the sense of wonder of exploring new (virtual) worlds. So, here is a try to do better.

My exploration of Minmus is finished. Instead of just sending the Tripol into orbit and awaiting the Scientia 2 for taking over all that scientific data, I prioritise a fast transport of the data back to Kerbin. Since all my Mobile Labs on all my various spacecrafts are still tanked up with data, I can dock and upload the Tripol´s redundant datasets from the other two pods ("Triple Pod Lander") at a later point.



- bye, Minmus, it was a pleasure to measure you!










Launching the Tripol one last time from Minmus, there is enough time until the suborbital apoapsis, in order to plot a direct transfer into Kerbin´s sphere of influence (SOI). It is interesting to see how I could use a brief pass through Mün´s SOI to efficiently lower the periapsis to Kerbin and thus get close to it with less fuel use. But the Tripol still has plenty of fuel to burn, and time is an issue, so I go for a more direct and faster path.




- lots of busy conics











And now it´s time to do ...

                       .. the MOON PATROL! 



Because this is how a big chunk of my last few game sessions felt like (minus the shooting).

 

 - hop!











In my last entry, I described and complained about my rover experience, being entirely uncontent with the Yawl´s design. But, as usual, it takes some time to get the hang of it. And I did spend indeed some time driving around!

After a while, a strong déjà vu emerged, to the time when I had played Mass Effect, having to learn how to properly drive the Mako and explore every planet there. I always regretted that Bioware had dropped this element in the sequels. Thankfully, announcements are that the upcoming Mass Effect 4 is going to sport rover explorations, again.



 - familiar unfamiliar









All the while, the distance covered by the Yawl was only a small fraction of Mün. But since I chose my landing spot well, I nevertheless was able to log data from five biomes; Midlands, Midland Crater, Canyon, Farside Crater. The Northwest Crater came in unexpected, at the crossing from Midland to Canyon; I suspect it is a bug, but it thankfully saves me a lot of time driving or hopping to its real location.

So, in the end, it turned out that the Yawl was not so bad designed at all. Some valuable experiences from my expedition are:

- Slopes upwards can become too steep for the rover wheels´ power. In most cases, it helped to criss-cross upwards instead of a direct approach. But in general, I avoided to cross any crater due to this issue considerably delaying travel time.

- Using landing gear in alteration with rover wheels was a dead right decision. Slopes downwards can accelerate the Yawl to up to 45m/s, causing the occasional bumps and high jumps (which reminded me of that good old Moon Patrol arcade game). I am sure my rover wheels would have blown up multiple times. Also, the landing gears have a much better, and sometimes dearly needed, brake power. Besides, they include free light sources, to boot!

- I had about three or four crashes, which cost me some game time to redo the track, but halting the Yawl about every 15 minutes or so in order to do a quicksave makes the time punishment a tolerable one.

- I have to rearrange the science experiments so that I can better reach the Lab JR without having to demount the vehicle.



- quite some "booms" during moments of inattention










- Concerning those crashes, the Yawl´s two reaction wheels are both bane and blessing. On slopes upwards, they would cause the rover to veer off track. But when I would deactivate them, I would also incur some crashes, in particular during those bumps on the uneven terrain. On slopes dowwards, at high speeds, the reaction wheels are absolutely needed to keep the rover from toppling over. So I did switch them on and off, according to need. In the meanwhile, I learned from the game forum that you can remap the rover steering controls, so that "forward" does not at the same time signal "downwards" to the reaction wheels, thus causing an instability from the reaction wheel´s impulse to topple the vessel over.

Having reached the Farside Crater, the Kerbal Alarm Clock urges me to attend to my other expeditions, so the Yawl gets parked. On the far distance, I can see a nav marker of the spot where the Omniscient landed some time ago.



- touchdown was somewhere at the upper right, then going south until the canyon (blue flag marker), then west until the Yawl reached the huge Farside Crater



I think I will pay it a drive-by, on my way to the last close biomes, Highland and Highland Crater. From then on, I think it will be consuming too much game time to reach other biomes on wheels. I therefore would launch the Yawl again into orbit, an aequatorial one this time, because there it can reach a Kerbonaut from one of my open rescue mission contracts. The other biomes can be done with a bit more hopping, and thus with the more fuel efficient Crab Lander, which is still docked with the Scientia and waiting for its turn to test drive.





- serene landscapes; this is from within a midland crater










Tired, but very content to have followed through some entire non-flying game sessions in the Kerbal Space Programme, I log out.


Saturday, 8 August 2015

Mün rover racer

With renewed energy, I tackle the construction error of the White Goose spaceplane. And lo and behold, just about 15 minutes later, it is solved. The tips from the forums which I copied&pasted in my last blog entry were not entirely applicable, though. But the theory behind was.



- this is the struts how I had them at the end of last session










The theory is that the plane must have its lift applied evenly accross all sections. With my plane, I found out that the aft landing gear was the culprit; it was placed too much frontal. My earlier versions had it placed more in the back, close to the engines. Indeed, it was because of those forum tips that I had placed the landing gear more forward, in order for them to be closer to the center of mass, for an easier and faster liftoff. It turned out that this closeness to the center of mass made the wings bow upwards from the weight. That, or, the wobblyness of the middle part of the engine nascelle was the culprit; only the back part is strutted. But I have had enough of test launches and want to get on with my missions.

As a conclusion, I will pay attention that the triangle of the position of the landing gears must always have the center of mass in its center. If not, there is too much weight imbalance, which eventually will cause the plane to veer off at higher roll speeds. And struts, always.




- this is how it works fine now










Just to be sure, I also added one more strut at the front, and some small ones connecting the engines in the aft to each other. Presto! But what a fight to finally get back to a working plane. I guess this also proves the saying, never touch a running system.

I also added a small experimental detail: A heatshield in the front of the cargo bay. Even though I only can install it as a packed version, it seems to work, heat gauges still show, but non anymore throughout the ascend and only green heat gauges during re-entry!




- much better heat tolerance










I still have to reload once, but this is because I forgot to put the test equipment from that mission contract not into an extra stage, so it fires off too early. Then, finally, I can check off two tourist contracts and a test contract.

They get immideately replaced by new contract offers in the mission control center. Two satelite missions and a rescue mission, an ideal combination for which the Firebird (former labelled as Cargo Shuttle) was made for.



- not again please...











This mission launches fine, even though the Firebird has a similar wing construction problem, but this bird does not misbehave, so I leave it at that. One satelite is for a polar Mün orbit, one for an escape trajectory out of Minmus (I don´t ask what purpose this could have). The last maneuver for the rescue mission will take a bit, since I was too lazy to time the launch for a proper close intercept position.

Since my Minmus missions are basically finished, with the Navitas digging for ore/fuel in the meanwhile, I can now turn towards my Mün expedition. I want to first use and test the Yawl. Right at that moment, there is an area with some closer-neighbouring biomes below, so I make a hasty undock.




- no time to admire the skyline










For the landing, I watch the KER figure for the suicide burn, but again, like during my first Mün landing, the figure is wrong, so I am burning too late and crash horribly. Reload. Crash again. Apparently, the landing gear is not really up to compensate an impact with 50m/s, even though its description says so. Two crashes later, I found the sweet line at about 20m/s. After all, I wanted the landing gear instead of landing struts in order to save deltaV by having not to decelarate so much.

Eventually, the Yawl has a touchdown on Midlands, short before dawn. Starting all science experiments, the JR lab is not reachable from top. Dismounting via the ladder is also a problem, I attached it too low, causing my Kerbonaut to fall off.



 - going through all engineering errors










Then I start to drive around. The wheel motors do have some trouble accelerating the boat on upward slopes. At about 20 m/s, the rover becomes unstable and hops on slight bumps. And the distances, they are really huge. 20 minutes of driving, and I haven´t yet arrived at another biome, which seemed to be so close by as seen from above. As I have to climb down a steep slope into a crater, a moment of inattention at max speed and the rover topples.




- quite overdone for a simple sommerault, no?









Sigh. And reload, loosing the last hour of gameplay or so. I shudder to think how many Yawls I would have had to bring here if I played "iron man" style...

This time, I try to land even closer to a spot which is close to three biomes. A Mün map download from the kerbalwiki helps me to do so.


- I choose a spot south of the polar crater






After some more driving around, I get a bit frustrated by the weak motorpower; steep slopes get the Yawl down to a crawl of 4m/s at most. Also annoying is the fact that rover wheels, even thought they are rated to have a braking power of 30, cannot stop the Yawl at a steep slope from going backwards down. The landing gear, with its nominal torque of 17, do manage, on the other hand. Since it is still not dawn and the batteries are almost depleted, I park the vessel.

Some maneuvers concerning my two satelites mission serve as a diversion and help me to finish the game session on a lighter mood; after all, the rover test so far was more on the disappointing side.
 



- test contract for spider engines, which make for good satelite engines, and an occasion for witnessing a nice scenery