Interstellar Pilot: Getting Started

Before starting a game proper, it is highly recommended that you do the tutorials. While woefully inadequate, they are a good starting point to learn the basics.

The next port of call is to do some combat missions. Even if you are conflict-averse, it is inevitable that you will encounter unfriendlies from time to time, so it is good to know how to handle your ship and weapons. These can be found in “Instant Action”, but a better choice is “New Game/Battles”, which will give you a progression of battles against increasingly stronger opponents, with better ships and weapons.

Once you has mastered the basics, It is finally time to enter the game proper.

Selecting “Universe”, then selecting one of the two options, gives you a bunch of options:

If you want to make some money,”Merchant” is the best start, as it gives you a Hauler-A with a 65-ton Cargo Hold and the largest possible amount of money – 10,000 credits. But to get you started, it is a good idea to raise as much extra cash as you can by selling the extras on your ship that you can do without:

  • You begin outside of Gatopea Station. Dock there, select “Equipment”, and sell your Countermeasures, Mines, and all your weapons.
  • Select “Trade” and sell any mines and ECM that you may have in the hold (this is a peaceful sector, and you’ll be upgrading soon enough).
  • Select “Sector Intel, on the right hand menu. This will give you information on every station in the sector, including those all-important commodity prices.

Trading is not difficult to do manually, but It is easiest if you do it on autopilot.

  • Select Orders/Special/Trade and allow your ship to trade on autopilot until your fortune rises to about 20,000 at it’s lowest (when your hold is full). This should take about fifteen minutes.
  • Dock at a nearby Military Outpost, and install the best engine you can afford (Frigate Engine 16.0). This will raise your max speed from 24 to 31, speeding up your trading operations markedly.  The engine upgrade does not cost all that much, but you will need money in the bank to finance your trading operations.
  • Set your ship to trading again. Once you have enough money, dock at a military outpost and buy a Cloaking Device – the Mk I will do; the only real difference between the cloaking devices is the amount of time they take to cloak and decloak.
  • Select Orders/Fleet Settings/prefer to cloak. This will cause your ship to cloak while in flight between stations. Then select Stance, and uncheck both checkboxes and set the slider to zero. Now your ship will avoid engaging enemy ships.
  • Select “Orders/Special/Trade” to send it on its way.

Let it trade for a while, and watch your fortune grow…

In. Equality

Hot on the heels of April Fools’ Day, apparently today is “Equal Pay Day”. It is not to be confused with “Equality Day”, which is in August. How many more of these feel-good political-BS Hallmark™-Holidays do we need? But I digress…

According to USA today, “Women make up roughly half the workforce. But in 2015, female full-time, year-round workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20%… Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, a symbolic day for advocates in the U.S. to show support for women in the workforce and draw attention to the gender pay gap.”

Close but no cigar

It is my contention that we don’t have a gender pay gap, we have a gender work gap. While it is true that the *average* man earns more than the *average* woman, this is a misleading fact: Think about it: the average schoolteacher/nurse/clerical government worker (mostly women) earns less than the average roofer/plumber/truck driver/oil rig worker (mostly men)… which is why the pay gap is bogus. Women choose jobs and careers that are less stressful, more convenient and provide better benefits. Men do most of the dirty/difficult/dangerous jobs, which, naturally pay more. And what thanks do they get? “Waaaah!

Even within the same professions, men and women make different choices, in the medical profession, most dermatologists (9-5, low risk, predictable workload, no emergencies) are female, while most ER Trauma surgeons (blood, guts, bullets and screams at 3AM) are male. Women tend to gravitate toward comfortable, air-conditioned, predictable office jobs. They do not generally want to work in hazardous environments, out in the elements or at night. Men to be drawn to high-paying jobs, often in unsanitary or triple-D (Dirty/Difficult/Dangerous).

Do not misunderstand me here: If a man and a woman do the same job with equal effort and competence, they should receive the same rewards. But there is a saying in the financial markets: “It’s all in the price“. What this means is that the price of a stock reflects all that is know about the performance of the underlying company, its values and its reputation.

Let’s take a look at the sporting world: Among professional tennis players, the men move faster, hit harder and have more stamina than the women. A men’s match is best of five sets, a women’s match is best of three. Men attract bigger crowds and bigger sponsorship deals. And yet there are some who think that women tennis players should be paid the same as men. But competitive sports are a meritocracy – the fact that the women players may “work harder” than men is irrelevant; it’s all in the price. It’s not all one-sided though; as an extreme example females in the porn industry get paid five times more than their male counterparts.

Once you control for the same job, the “pay gap” drops to less than 5%, and in some cities (Atlanta and Chicago, among others) women actually out-earn their male counterparts. Is there a pay gap? Perhaps, but it is not as bad as people like to think that it is, and government intervention won’t fix it, in the same way that they couldn’t fix poverty or drugs. But even when two people do the same job, there are differences: For one thing, women are less likely to ask for a raise; sorry girls, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

For another thing, men tend to work longer hours than women. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2014

“…even among full-time workers (those usually working 35 hours or more per week), men worked longer than women—8.4 hours compared with 7.8 hours.”.

That’s three hours a week, or 7.5% more hours. So if the men are working 7.5% more hours and getting paid 5% more, who is really getting the sharp end of the stick here? This can be seen in most office buildings: take a walk around the floor at 6PM. How many men are working late? How many women?

Even Forbes magazine admits what most of us already know: Men work longer hours than women. Of course, those who insist that women do the same work as men for 20% less forget about one crucial point: If profit-driven, greedy corporations know that women are cheaper and just as good, why don’t they replace their men with cheaper women? That’s a question that the pay-gap-advocates cannot answer and continually avoid. Indeed, one female CEO has gone on record to say that she will not hire women. Why? Short answer: Men get things done, women create drama. If a man had the temerity to say such a thing in public, he would be ostracized, disgraced and probably jailed. Equality. Yeah, right.

It seems that women have plenty of advantages as it is; there are almost twice as many female students in the US as male (great for guys who like chasing girls, lousy for girls looking for a M.R.S. to go with her B.A.). Women get more grants, loans and government help than men, who are beginning to look more and more disadvantaged. But the majority of less-useful degrees are pursued my women.

Why are so many women taking Psychology  and Sociology, and so few are studying Philosophy and Physics? This is reason why there is a dearth of women taking STEM subjects; for precisely the same reason that only 2% of Chess Grand Masters are female; not because of some vast conspiracy to keep them out of the winner’s circle, but simply because they don’t want to.

And let us not forget that married men make more money than single men – for precisely the same reason; they will work longer, less convenient hours, and put in extra time and effort. Yet you never hear single men complain that they are “victims” need government-level “help” and “encouragement” in order to achieve “equality”; they’re probably too busy drinking beer, watching games, chasing girls and enjoying life – and good luck to them.

Bottom line: Life isn’t fair. But it is not as systematically unfair as you would like to wish it were. So make your choices, and live with them. It’s all in the price.

Interstellar Pilot

Those of me who have been following my blog for any length of time will know that I am a big fan of Space games. Two of my All-time-favorite games were Elite and Freelancer. Elite was billed (rightly) as the first MegaGame, featured wire frame graphics, and ran on the BBC Model B in only 32k of memory. The second was a Windows PC game. Both of those games allow the player to interact with the universe in various ways instead of just fighting and shooting. You could be a trader, a miner, a bounty hunter, a mercenary.

I recently discovered a new game that is a magnificent addition to this genre. And unlike the previous two, it is available for the Android platform (but not IOS – ha-ha!). A game so surprising and delightful, that I have all but ceased playing two other games (Star Trek: Timelines and Astronest: The Beginning), and, following one bone-headed decision after another, Vega Conflict ison life-support.

The game is called “Interstellar Pilot“. It takes place in a “Universe” that consists of eight “Sectors” linked by wormholes.Each sector has stations (trading stations, shipyards, outposts, factories etc), asteroids (of several different types that can be mined for free resources), and lots of ships zipping about. All ships and stations belong to one of a number of factions; some are friendly, others, not so much.

There are only two in-game purchases currently available: $2.49 to unlock the Capital ships (Destroyers, Cruisers and Battleships) and $1.49 to unlock the Thunder Frigate. This means that you can unlock ever ship in the game for four bucks! I would advise that you purchase at least the first one as soon as possible, as I suspect that the price will go up once word gets out and the game becomes more popular.

This is a beautiful, beautiful game. I will write more on it later.

Vega Conflict: Rebalance this!

I’ve been playing VC for more than two years. I have been a lone wolf, an alliance leader, officer and soldier. To some, that makes me one of the ancients, to others, a rank Newbie. But it is long enough to say that I know my way around the game. So here are a few suggestions for improvements.
  • Ship construction times are unbalanced: A Tier-4 Corinthian Cruiser hull takes longer to build than a Tier-6 Punisher Cruiser, for Heaven’s sake!
  • Give us a damn refit bay! It is bad enough having to wait a week or more for a ship, but having to wait another week or more to put special weapons on it is a joke. A refit bay would solve this problem – or giving a big (50%) discount on all stuff built with the ship.
  • Revise crafting times. One ridiculous side-effect of the recent introduction of Tier-5 and -6 ships is that crafting a mark-upgrade for a lower-level ship may actually take longer than the same mark-upgrade for a higher-level ship. For instance, a Valkyrie Carrier takes 39 hours per mark upgrade, compared to 13 for Freyja and 26 for a Dominion. Similarly, the Zeal Battleship is 33 hours, Vigilante 32, Hellfire 25. Hellfire is the cheapest, Zeal is the most expensive.
  • Gold Spend confirmation – “Are you sure?” when spending more than 100 credits. This one has been done to death on the forums, and Kix have made it clear that they absolutely refuse to do it. But this is the reason why I generally buy $5 tranches at a time instead of $50. It is also the reason that I haven’t spent serious money on this game — about $37 in total over two years, though I would be happy to throw $20/month into the pot if it wasn’t too easy to accidentally spend it all. I know you want us to coin, but this is costing you money, at least in my case. And no, a “one-off courtesy” and an admonition to “be careful out there” does not cut it. Put in a confirmation screen and give your Customer Service peeps a rest.
  • Meaningful notice – from time to time there are discounted refits, builds and repairs. Most of us are sick and tired of seeing a six-hour warning for “20% discount for refit/rebuild” when they are in the middle of a fourteen-day build. This is the only online game I have ever played where the players have no in-game advance notice of when important stuff is happening. Give us a week’s notice. It’s. Not. That. Hard.
  • Earn or Wait – pick one. A credit that was earned in an event should be immediately usable without having to wait hours or days. Adding 7x Infernal Wave Driver III to a Hellfire battleship should not take three weeks! Having farmed for parts to buy a\n improved Javelin Jump Drive, you should not have to wait for two weeks to have it fitted. The principle is this: if you bought or unlocked the blueprint, it is reasonable that you should have to wait for it to be fitted; if you bought, won or earned the item it is not.
  • Resistors should be reusable. The new ones introduced for Xeno Division are re-usable. Make the older ones re-usable as well.
  • Omni. Bus. Your Javelin should be able to carry all of your fleets, not just those within five levels of theirs.
  • Design a Black Market that doesn’t suck: I would like to congratulate Kixeye for reducing the Black Market from “the coolest part of the game” to “almost useless”, in a matter of months. Replacing quick-and-easy Mk II Black Market Credits with the endless and tedious Crafting system was not a smart move. Make the BM cool again. You know you want to…

Strike! And be damned.

This just in from the Trump-got-elected-and-I-can’t-stop-crying department.

I recently ran across the announcement for a “women’s strike”, scheduled for March 8th. I must confess that I found this highly amusing for several reasons.

  • The strike was organized by the same folks who organized the women’s marches.
  • As best I understand, the women’s marches were originally supposed to be a global celebration of Queen Hillary’s Coronation Inauguration. Once the unthinkable happened and – shock horror –Donald Trump won, the organizers were unable to get their money back, so like sore losers, they organized the women’s march.
  • If those marches had any effect, I have yet to notice it. The joke that Trump got more fat women walking in a week than Michell Obama could do in eight years is just delicious schadenfreude.
  • A large number of white women voted for Trump? Why? Because is a man. In a world where masculinity is denigrated and maligned by feminism, the culture and the media, a strong, confident, powerful man who works hard, goes after what he wants, and has wooed and wedded some of the most beautiful women in the world is a rare and desirable man.
  • Non-college-educated folks turned out to vote for Trump. Some people (i.e., the Media) trumpet this as “only rednecks who live in flyover states would be so stupid as to vote for Trump” (also known as the “you-must-be-stupid” theory). Perhaps this is true, but it is also true that America’s colleges have become hotbeds of Socialists thinking and, in some cases, indoctrination. It would be interesting to slice this by age; how did college-educated people over 40 vote?

This got me to thinking: what would happen if all of the women simply failed to show up for work?

The first thought that came to mind was a quote from Deep Thought: “And whom would that inconvenience?” What are the commonest career choices for women?

According to the Department of Labor, the commonest choices are secretarial, teaching and nursing.

  • Of those three, the lack of nurses would hurt the most. no doubt about it, people would die… until the hospitals were able to replace them with junior doctors, orderlies and other volunteers.
  • The lack of teachers would not hurt all that much. After all, mommy would be home, and the kids would no doubt be disconsolate to not have to go to school.
  • I’m not sure about the loss of secretaries and clerical assistants. A significant number of those are in Government, and a significant number of those are paper-pushing functionaries. I suspect that in the short run, nobody would notice their absence. In the long term, their employers will either discover new efficiencies that get the job done, or discover that they can get along just fine without you. And fewer Government Employees means lower taxes – double-win!

I then followed that train of thought to its logical conclusion: “what would happen if the men went on strike?

  • No police/military/National Guard: No law enforcement or military? Every man for himself? The thugs would have a field day. If you want to know that they would look like, look no further than the Louisiana Superdome in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: “Inside the Superdome, things were descending further into hell. The air smelled toxic. People had broken up into factions by race, separating into small groups throughout the building… A few of these groups wandered the concourse, stealing food and attacking anyone who stood up to them….A man had been caught sexually assaulting a young girl. Reports of other rapes were widespread.”  Without law enforcement, women lacking the protection of a man would be at risk.
  • No fire services: If your house burns down, tough.
  • No engineers: Remember those pencil-necked Geeks you made fun of in school? They are now the guys who keep our society running. And the overwhelming majority of the engineers who keep our water, power, communication and sanitation systems operational are male. How long would it be before the power went out? How would all of those smart-phone-addicted women survive when their iPhones ran out of power?
  • No plumbers/heating/Air-conditioning/electricians/mechanics: Good luck when your stuff breaks down.
  • No roofers/builders.construction workers: Nothing gets built either.
  • No truck drivers: Think about this: no food deliveries to our major cities. Stores would run out of food in about three days (the normal gap between deliveries), and then the food riots will start.

Basically, without men, nothing gets built, fixed, designed, manufactured, shipped, transported or defended. And they get no recognition for this.

So go ahead with your “women’s strike” Personally, I doubt that you will get anywhere near the turnout that you expect – the women’s protesters are looking even more deranged than the Tea Party at it’s worst moments. I doubt that anyone besides the media will even notice. Life will go on without you. And some of you will likely get fired. But will that be enough for you to realized that you might be wrong? I doubt it.

I will end with the words of Churchill:

“Do your worst, and we will do our best“.

How not to end up on Judge Judy

I don’t watch much TV, but once in a while I blunder into an episode of Judge Judy. I find this program both amusing and somewhat saddening; almost all of the “cases” that come before the judge seem to fall into one of several common categories. It seems to me that most of those folks would have avoided this unfortunate predicament by following the following rules.

  1. Do not live with someone without being married to them.
  2. Do not get pregnant outside of wedlock.
  3. Do not lend money. Shakespeare was right: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be”. If you can afford it, give it to them – but do not lend.
  4. Clear Communication: If you are lending or selling something to someone, communicate that clearly and get it in writing that they understand this. If you don’t have it in writing, you gave it to them.
  5. You are not her ATM! Guys, do not spend money on a girl you are not in a serious relationship with. Most girls *will* string you along with vague promises of future delights, and will drop you like a hot brick as soon as the money runs out. Because. They. Can. If you are already in this situation, test her with a financial crisis that removes your ability to give her money and see what she does.
  6. Guys, stay away from single mothers. There are all kinds of very good and sensible reasons for this, which I am not going to go into here. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

Agree? Disagree? Did I miss anything?

TAXI!!

This morning, I got this email from Lyft, a company with whom I have an account that I have had for over a year but never actively used:

lyft

Let’s disassemble that, shall we?

“We created Lyft to be a model for the type of community we want our world to be.”
And there was me thinking that you created Lyft to make money. How altruistic of you. And what’s with the “community” talk? I thought you were a business.

“…diverse…”
We already have enough diversity. How about some unity?

“…inclusive…”
Inclusive of whom? Inclusive of illegals who have no business being here? Inclusive of Islamic Jihadists who want us converted or dead? Inclusive of Muslim Moderates who resolve their confusion and turmoil by shooting up scores of homosexuals in a club? Tell me more about this “inclusivity” thing; I’m not sure I understand.

“…and safe.”
Benjamin Franklin once said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” America is not, and was never intended to be, a safe space.

“This weekend, Trump closed the country’s borders to refugees, immigrants, and even documented residents from around the world based on their country of origin.”
You obviously haven’t read the executive order. It does no such thing. Here are some of the highlights:

  • “The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.”
  • The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall immediately conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.
  • The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall submit to the President a report on the results of the review described in subsection (a) of this section, including the Secretary of Homeland Security’s determination of the information needed for adjudications and a list of countries that do not provide adequate information, within 30 days of the date of this order. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide a copy of the report to the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence.
  • Immediately upon receipt of the report… the Secretary of State shall request all foreign governments that do not supply such information to start providing such information regarding their nationals within 60 days of notification.
  • After the 60-day period… expires, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall submit to the President a list of countries recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of foreign nationals (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas) from countries that do not provide the information requested pursuant to subsection (d) of this section until compliance occurs.
  • “…the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may, on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked.”

As you can see, it is by no means a blanket ban; it is an invitation for other nations to either help us, or be counted among the enemy. It is a “put-up-or-shut-up” challenge. But let’s continue:

  • I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.
  • I hereby proclaim that the entry of more than 50,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017 would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I determine that additional admissions would be in the national interest.
  • Notwithstanding the temporary suspension… the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may jointly determine to admit individuals to the United States as refugees on a case-by-case basis, in their discretion, but only so long as they determine that the admission of such individuals as refugees is in the national interest — including when the person is a religious minority in his country of nationality facing religious persecution, when admitting the person would enable the United States to conform its conduct to a preexisting international agreement, or when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship — and it would not pose a risk to the security or welfare of the United States.

AS you can see, there are specifically crafted exceptions. Nothing to see here folks, move along. Now back to the good people at Lyft…

“Banning people of a particular faith or creed, race or identity, sexuality or ethnicity, from entering the U.S. is antithetical to both Lyft’s and our nation’s core values.”
And accepting mass immigration from nations who hate us is not exactly smart. Oh, and “our nation’s core” values are binding on American Citizens and Legal Residents and no one else.

“We stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community.”
That’s nice. And there is that lovely word “Community” again. Even nicer. But where were you when Hillary was calling me and half of the country “a basket of deplorables“? Where was your “Community Spirit” then? Were you standing firmly then? No, all we heard from you lot was *crickets*.

“We know this directly impacts many of our community members, their families, and friends.”
There is your favorite word again. You’re not a social club, you are a business. Start acting like one.

“We stand with you, and are donating $1,000,000 over the next four years to the ACLU to defend our constitution. We ask that you continue to be there for each other – and together, continue proving the power of community.”
You really love that word, don’t you? Can’t you come up with at least one synonym for “Community“?

There is a fine line between loyal opposition and insurrection. When a person does that, it is called protest, and is the right of any individual. When a publicly-traded corporation does it, it looks a lot like treason.

What you do with your personal share of the profits is entirely up to you (as long as you don’t donate money to the wrong causes). Whether your company gets any of that money from me is up to me.

Rough Justice

A few weeks ago, a local woman tweeted this:heather-lowr-assassin-tweetI saw the tweet when it came went viral, but I didn’t think anything about it at the time. As far as I was concerned, it was just another mean tweet from a disaffected liberal who “can’t stop crying” now that Donald Trump is president.

It did not come as a surprise when the Secret Service investigated; that is their job, and they have to take all threats seriously, no matter how specious they appear to be.

That part is fair and reasonable. She said something that looked like a threat against the president. I believed it to be a joke at the time, and still do, though one in exceptionally poor taste. As an aside, if Hillary had been elected, and someone had tweeted the same thing about her, I would expect the Secret Service to treat it just as seriously.

This is not about politics

The rest of the story was not so pleasant. Predictably, all of her business associates dropped her like the proverbial hot potato. Her revenue stream has quickly dried up. And now that her name is out there, she is well-nigh unemployable. The moment she applies for a job, someone will google her name and her resume will go straight into the circular file.

There are some out there who would say that she got her just desserts. I’m not sure that I agree.

We live in an age when a man’s reputation can be trashed, and he can be jailed on the basis of a single fake rape accusation. Or he can be fired and rendered unemployable for committing the unpardonable sin of telling a female work colleague that he finds her attractive (incidentally, I have always maintained that all of the anti-harassment rules could be rendered moot with one simple “no-fraternization-at-work” policy, but that is not what most of the ladies want; what they really want they want is to be approached by Christian Gray, but the mail-boy is required to avert his gaze, because she “deserves” the billionaire; but I digress…). None of that has ever been fair. But we live in an age of political correctness, an era where someone can be fired for having the “wrong” opinion; the same political correctness that our new president has railed against time and time again.

For this woman to be rendered unemployed and unemployable based on one stupid tweet is Just. Plain. Wrong.

  • It would be wrong if it happened to a man.
  • It would be wrong if if it happened to a Conservative.
  • It would be wrong if if it happened to a White Supremacist.
  • And it would be wrong if if it happened to you or me.

Vega Conflict – Two Years On

January 16th is a special day for me.

Two years ago today I discovered Vega Conflict. To some of you, that makes me a rank newcomer. To others, I am one of the Old Great Ones™. Today is a day for me to stop and reflect on how far the game has come in those two years.

When I started, the pre-eminent ship in the game was the Dread Battleship; a powerful and feared beast that lived up to its name, took two weeks to build, and was well-nigh unstoppable. Now it is merely average; the middle of a line-up of seven battleships that range from the humble Rancor to the mighty Hellfire, and it takes only five days to build one. Since then we have seen the introduction of Carriers, Blood Amber, Cutters, The Black Market, Iron Star Company, Demon Corps, and Strange Green Creatures from Alpha Centauri… ohhh, the screams, the screams..!

Where was I? Oh yes… once upon a time, projectile weapons were the bees knees. Then, with the introduction of Impulse Beam and Aurora Ray, Beam weapons came to the fore. Current Flavor of the month are explosive weapons, with the Manifold Missile occupying the top spot. But watch this space…

One would think that I am wildly happy with the way that things have turned out, but I am not. I love this game. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t still be here. I love it enough to have written a book about it. But a combination of bad decisions by Kixeye – and good ones deliberately not made – have turned this wonderful game into something that more and more resembles an abusive relationship with a capricious partner who punishes swiftly, rewards rarely, vanishes unpredictably, appears unexpectedly, promises much, but never seems to quite deliver the joy that the relationship once had.

My biggest gripe is that the game has become totally pay-to-win. Coiners can steamroll the opposition with two-hundred-dollar fleets of Mk V ships that take the rest of us mere mortals weeks or months to build. The idea that people will spend what is essentially a modest car payment for what is essentially a box of bits is, to me, laughable. I say this not as an envious kid who wishes he had a Credit Card, but as a middle-aged IT professional with a higher-than-average income. I have spent about $50 on this game over the past two years – mostly in the first six months. I do not begrudge Kixeye the money; good work deserves money. But these coin offers are ridiculous.

There are numerous other gripes that come to mind:

  • The decline and fall of the Black Market: The Space Station-in-orbit-of-a-random-planet thing was a lot of fun before that Scar-faced-Barstud crash-landed on a planet near you and set up shop in what is now more of a “Coin Market” then a “Black Market”.
  • The devaluing of Blood Amber: Want a Valkyrie Pattern Box? You will need some Blood Amber, some VSec Parts… oh, and Twelve incredibly-hard to get T4 Carrier Cores. Or… hey! You could just COIN IT!
  • The absolute refusal to implement a Coin confirm button (this is the reason that I will not purchase large amounts of coins; too easy to accidentally spend them).
  • The lack of a Refit Bay: I remember LXC saying that a refit bay would “unbalance the game”… right before Kixeye rebalanced/unbalanced the crap out of the game, robbing ships like the Rapture, Nexus and Eagle of their unique and enjoyable idiosyncrasies… and still no Refit Bay. Bah.
  • Crappy support: When a supply run that ended with the enemy dying with the clock at 0:00 resulted in no strongbox being dropped, I shot off a message to support. They asked for proof, lectured me, and generally made it clear that I wasn’t getting anything off of them. Willingness to lose a customer over a single strongbox: Zero out of ten.
  • Power Creep: If I was starting the game now, I would look at the year-plus building curve that a non-coiner would have to endure to reach Tier 5… and quit.#I could go on, but you’ve heard it all before; when faced with the choice between making things right and putting the fun back into the game or introducing a new hundred-dollar coin offer. Kixeye would apparently prefer to get to work on the latter.
  • Kixeye has also had a nasty habit of changing the behavior of enemy fleets in the middle of an event – and never to the players’ advantage. Contrast this with Star Trek: Timelines, which routinely apologizes by giving out tranches of resources to players when things go wrong.
screenshot_2016-12-30-20-50-00We messed up. We’re sorry. Here’s free stuff.

The fact is that the game is no longer as fun as it once was, and it’s not a game that I can recommend to others. Since the Great Rebalance, I have been:

  • Doing events and grabbing all of the tech that I can
  • Killing aliens (perhaps the only truly fun part left in the game)
  • Killing supply run fleets (or you could wait for the appropriate “Materials” market event and COIN IT!).
  • Avoiding Civil Wars (the prizes are crap and I have never used any of the “extended” weapons).
  • The odd fight: Five minutes of combat, five hours of repair… or hey, you can COIN IT!

At this point, I’m holding on, hanging in there, farming and grinding, hoping for things to change, but too many disappointments have made me cynical. But in the interest of helpfulness, I have a few suggestions for Kixeye to continue ignoring:

  • Create an exchange to convert useless parts (Scythe parts, anyone?) into useful stuff.
  • Offer something worthwhile for Blood Amber that isn’t bloody useless or bloody expensive.
  • Coin Confirmation Button (unless you really don’t want my money).
  • Quit putting lower-class cores in Strongboxes! There are few bigger annoyances in the game than engaging a 65 Demon Corps Contingent or Harasser Supply Run fleet, bringing home a damaged or half-dead fleet, opening the strongbox and finding a Tier-4 core for your trouble. The same core that you can get from an Artillery 37 using an insta-rep fleet. As Dilbert would put it: “Gaaaah”.
screenshot_2017-01-16-21-57-50An hour’s work. Six battles. 1xT4 Core. 5xT3 Cores. No Patterns. Gaaah.
  • Either equalize pattern drop chances (so the likelihood of a Mk II pattern is the same as the Mk V), or provide a mechanism to fuse patterns into better ones. Or drop generic upgrade patterns that can be used to mark-upgrade any level of that ship. Anything is better than seventeen Mk II tokens and no Mk IV or V. (Or hey, you can coin it!!)
  • Concentrate on $5/$10/$20 coin deals that actually offer something worth having; I believe that it is easier to get $10 out of fifty players than to get $200 out of one high-roller.
  • Design a monthly subscription arrangement that offers bonuses every month.

I understand that Kixeye needs to make money, but one life lesson that I have learned is that when you pursue joy, money often follows. But when you pursue money, joy is rare.

Bottom Line: Concentrate on delighting the players, and they will bring their friends. Concentrate on coins and they will join their friends.

Pay-To-Win will kill this game

Vega Conflict – Blueprints Redux

Recently, the brains behind Vega Conflict revised the blueprint system. As a result, many items that were previously available only available in events were moved into blueprints. This included much of the must-have tech items, such as Fusion Thrusters, Gladius Drivers and Siege Drivers. The new Blueprint layout is as follows:

Vega Cargo 20/25

  • Blast Shield I
  • Repulsor Shield
  • Convoy Formation
  • Diffuser Shield I
  • Thermal Beam I
  • Hydra Missile I
  • Capacitive Plates I
  • Tachyon Beam Turret I
  • Metaphase Field I
  • Gladius Driver I
  • Blast Shield II
  • Diffuser Shield II
  • Destiny Cruiser

Vega Cargo 27/30/33

  • Thermal Beam II
  • Hydra Missile II
  • Chicane Formation
  • Capacitive Plates II
  • Metaphase Field II*
  • Repulsor Shield II
  • Taipan Cutter
  • Arrestor Beam Turret I*
  • Siege Driver I*
  • Metaphase Shield I*+
  • Armored Hold I*
  • Fusion Thrusters I*
  • Creeper Torpedo I
  • Condor Frigate*

Vega Cargo 35/37

  • Tachyon Bean Turret II
  • Gladius Driver II
  • Diffuser Shield III
  • Blast Shield III
  • Hydra Missile III
  • Siege Driver I*+
  • Siege Driver II*
  • Metaphase Shield I
  • Metaphase Shield II
  • Armored Hold I*
  • Armored Hold II*
  • Fusion Thrusters I*
  • Fusion Thrusters II*
  • Creeper Torpedo I
  • Creeper Torpedo II
  • Condor Frigate
  • Gharial Cutter*

Vega Cargo 40/45

  • Repulsor Shield III
  • Tachyon Beam Turret III
  • Capacitive Plates III
  • Scythe Destroyer
  • Metaphase Field III
  • Thermal Beam III
  • Gladius Driver III
  • Apocrypha Cruiser III
  • Siege Driver II*+
  • Siege Driver III*
  • Arrestor Beam Turret II
  • Arrestor Beam Turret III
  • Metaphase Shield II*
  • Metaphase Shield III*
  • Armored Hold II*+
  • Armored Hold III*
  • Fusion Thrusters II*
  • Fusion Thrusters III*
  • Creeper Torpedo II
  • Creeper Torpedo III+
  • Gharial Cutter*+
  • Dread Battleship*

Vega Elite Cargo 50/53/55

  • Siege Driver III*+
  • Arrestor Beam Turret III+
  • Metaphase Shield III+
  • Armored Hold III
  • Fusion Thrusters III+
  • Creeper Torpedo III+
  • Dread Battleship*+

VSec 27

  • Pentagon Formation*
  • Creeper Torpedo Turret I*
  • Gladius Driver Turret I*
  • SICO Missile I
  • Creeper Torpedo Turret II*
  • Gladius Driver Turret II*
  • SICO Missile II*
  • Eagle Frigate

VSec 30/33/35

  • Creeper Torpedo Turret III*
  • AP Driver II*
  • NET Torpedo II*
  • Midgard Carrier
  • Gladius Driver III*
  • Echo Ray II*
  • SICO Missile III*
  • Echo Ray Turret I*
  • Echo Ray Turret II*
  • Burst Ray I*
  • Burst Ray II*
  • SICO Missile Turret I*
  • SICO Missile Turret II*
  • Wave Driver I*
  • Wave Driver II*
  • AP Driver Turret I*
  • AP Driver Turret II*
  • Vector Torpedo I*
  • Vector Torpedo II*

VSec 37/40/45

  • Echo Ray III*
  • AP Driver III*
  • Echo Ray Turret II*+
  • Echo Ray Turret III*
  • Burst Ray II*+
  • Burst Ray III*
  • SICO Missile Turret II*+
  • SICO Missile Turret III*
  • Wave Driver II*+
  • Wave Driver III*
  • AP Driver Turret II*+
  • AP Driver Turret III*
  • Vector Torpedo II*+
  • Vector Torpedo III*
  • Komodo Cutter*

VSec 50/53/55

  • Echo Ray Turret III*+
  • Burst Ray III*+
  • SICO Missile Turret III*+
  • Wave Driver III*+
  • Zeal Battleship*
  • AP Driver Turret III*+
  • Vector Torpedo III*+
  • Lance Destroyer*

* This blueprint item was previously an event item.
+ This blueprint is also available at a lower tier, which may be easier to farm.

This article is an excerpt from my recently-updated Game Guide, over a hundred and seventy pages of hints, tips, tricks and tactics that will help you get to grips with the finer points of the game, all for a paltry $3.99. However, if you use this link, you can get it for $1 off. Make me smile – buy my book!