Monthly Archives: January 2016

Time’s up. You were wrong.

Ten years ago, Al Gore warned us that “We’ve got ten years left to save the planet from a scorching“.

Time’s up Al. You were wrong. Ready to apologize?

I thought not.

Vega Conflict: To Coin or Not to Coin?

“Coining” is the term used to describe the practice of using in-game “coins” to speed up repairs, builds, research, etc. Since these coins are purchased with real-world money, which not every player can afford to do, it is a divisive subject. Some frown upon the practice and use the term as an insult (“don’t worry about him; he’s just a coiner”), while others see no problem with coining (“no need to worry, I’ll just coin it back”). Here are some thoughts on the subject to help you, dear reader, to make up your own mind on the subject:

  • Coining is economically necessary for large-scale software development: While some people may rant and rave and rail at the “freemium” business model of software development (free to play, cash required to unlock advanced content), it is ultimately fair to all parties; players get to enjoy the game for free (remember the days of spending $50 on a game only to find that you didn’t like it and cannot return it?), with the rich and well-to-do effectively subsidize the game for the rest of us who are either unable or unwilling to buy coins.
  • Coining is not necessarily cheating…: Large-scale coiners are often accused of cheating. It is easy to understand why: you just survived an epic battle and have vanquished your enemy… and suddenly there he is again, his fleet fully-repaired and ready for battle. It just doesn’t seem fair!
  • …but sometimes it is: From time to time you will see folks in chat discussing “coin generators” or “coin hacks”, ways to get coins without paying for them. Just say “no”. If you have to cheat to win, it is not much of a victory.
  • Coining is often a refuge for the rich, the impatient and the incompetent: It is often said that Coining is a tax on the impatient. Don’t want to wait? Spend some money. But it also allows less competent players to rule over better, but more penurious ones – at least until the money runs out. If a coiner attracts the ire of a powerful alliance, he will be forced to run through a huge number of coins in order to stay in the fight. I have heard tell of players who spent hundreds of dollars over a few days in order to play this game. Hope it was worth it for them.

For those who really hate coining, or choose not to do so, it is eminently possible to play the game without ever spending a single coin. But spare a thought for those who do; they make the game possible.?

A personal opinion:

I am a low-volume coiner. When I first started, I purchased the $2 one-time introductory offer. I recommend this, as 500 coins plus three ships for $2 is an exceptional value – normally the coins alone cost $5.

Buy Coins

After that, I purchased couple of $5 tranches of coins at monthly intervals. But Kixeye made it too easy to accidentally spend large quantities of coins – by design – and as a result I stopped buying coins… until, many months later, they made me an offer that I could not refuse…

On Black Friday, Kixeye offered 3600 Coins for the price of 2000, plus a free Apocrypha cruiser, all for $20. To coin the cruiser by itself would have cost over $30, so I made the purchase. Nearly two months later, I still have those coins.

As a rule, I try to live within the means generated by my Level X Commerce center, which produces 20 coins per day. I rarely, if ever, use coins, which is strange, as a value my time highly in most respects, but I will waste three minutes of my time rather than spending a coin that costs less than one cent. Economically speaking, that makes no sense at all, but for me, it is a matter of pride.

Coining is a shortcut, nothing more. But it is a shortcut that allows the developers to get paid. We don’t have to like it, but it is the reason that this game can exist.

This article is an excerpt from my Game Guide, over a hundred 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 $2.99. However, if you use this link, you can get it for $1 off. Make me smile – buy my book!

The Farce A-weakens

I finally got around to seeing the latest episode of the Star Wars saga, Episode VII, The Force Awakens. Frankly, I  left feeling disappointed and underwhelmed.

To start with, the plot. Let me explain:

Kid from backwater desert world meets cute little droid containing secret plans, teams up with older man, and together they go looking for adventure, pursued by bad guy wearing a black mask (who betrayed his master and murdered the Jedi), who is obsessed with capturing said plans. Kid becomes aware of the Force, and inherits a lightsabre. Meanwhile, bad guys have completed a super-weapon capable of destroying a planet, and demonstrate it in action doing exactly that. Good guys attack said super-weapon with X-Wings, damage its weak point – some thermal wossname – and blow it to smithereens. The End.

Sound familiar? It should – it’s a straight ripoff of Episode IV!

The thing that bothered me most was Rey’s sudden mastery at all things: She was able to pick up the knack of flying the Millennium Falcon in just a few moments. To put this into perspective, Lando Calrissian, who had owned the Falcon before Han Solo, required a support crew during the attack on the second Death Star in Episode 6. Yes, Anakin Skywalker had superhuman reflexes and was the only human to podrace – but let us not forget that he *built* his podracer (along with C3PO), so one can safely assume that he was familiar with the mechanics of flying one – and even he made some massive screw-ups in Episode I that almost cost him the race.

But Rey’s expertise didn’t just end with flying; oh no…she was also able to master using a lightsabre in a matter of minutes, a task that took Luke Skywalker three whole movies – and the loss of his hand. But Rey not only fought like a dervish, but just the mention of the Force suddenly and mysteriously gave her the upper hand in the final climactic battle. I have read some accounts that there was a hidden feminist message here; that excellence takes diligence, discipline, duty and devotion – but only if you are a guy. If you are a girl, all you have to do is show up and be awesome. At the time, I was skeptical of this claim – I don’t like conspiracy theories – but now I’m not so sure…

And so to the actors:

  • To her credit, Daisy Ridley was excellent as Rey, but the victim of poor scripting and directing.
  • The black dude, however, was seriously unconvincing as the cowardly lion… er… stormtrooper, and it didn’t help that his nostrils reminded me of the wheel arches of a ’78 Trans Am.
  • The Bad Guy General/Admiral looked like a kid trying on Daddy’s Uniform, and his “Hitler moment” (you’ll know it when you see it) is eye-rollingly pathetic.
  • Han Solo stole the show, but the chain of coincidences that the screenwriters used to bring him into it was too bizarre to be believable.
  • Leia did not look like Leia; Carrie Fisher has not aged well at all: her voice was an octave lower than it needed to be, and she reminded me more of Kate Mulgrew as Kathryn Janeway than General Leia Organa Solo.
  • Kylo Ren was unconvincing. when he took off the mask, his voice went up an octave, and I almost laughed out loud at that ridiculous hair (was I the only one who thought he was Severus Snape’s younger brother?).

The Plot simply does not makes sense, and raises more questions than it answers. At the very beginning, we are told that Luke Skywalker has vanished. Why would he need to do that? Why would he hide from his own sister? And having done all that, why the heck would he then leave behind a map? And why are Jedi masters always running away? Both Yoda and Obi-Wan did it in earlier episodes, now Luke is doing it as well. It is beginning to look like some kind of Jedi tradition…

Why would his protege who turned to the Dark Side revere Darth Vader, when Luke – and therefore, presumably, the protege – must have known for a fact that he turned back to the Good side before he died. If Luke was supposed to bring balance to the force, why is the Dark Side still so tempting and terrifying? And if he was familiar with both sides of the force, why would his protege’s defection cause him to run away?

Why did Kylo Ren need to change his name – and if so, why not Darth Something? The need for a name change never really made sense. And while we’re on the subject of names, what fool came up with a stupid name like “Supreme Leader Snoke”? Sounds like a teddy-bear or an Ewok princeling than the most evil creature in the universe. And when did X-Wings acquire Hyperspace capability? I always thought that they were supposed to be “short-range snub fighters”.

The Force Awakens

Yes, the special effects were awesome, Yes, the scenery was stunning. Yes, the space/air battles were heart-stopping. Yes, the aliens were convincing – particularly those tentacled man-eating horrors that get loose aboard Han’s ship. And yes, there were a good few “AHA!” moments. But for sheer nonsensicality, this one ranks down there with Attack of the Clones. After seeing that one in the theater, I said “that was the best film that I have ever seen”, to which my wife sagely replied “No it wasn’t”. And she was right; my mind had been so thoroughly blown by the last thirty minutes that I had forgotten the glacial pace of the first half of the movie. And this one made me want to see Episode 2 again, cos it was better.

Finally, like “The Phantom Menace”, “The Force Awakens” is an exceptionally poor title. Here are some of my suggestions.

  • The Force Hits Snooze
  • Luke Skywalker Runs Away for No Adequately Explored Reason
  • Oh No Another Bad Guy in a Black Mask
  • Disney Does It Again
  • J. J Abrams Has Fallen Over and Can’t Get Up.

Coming up in mid -2017: Star Wars VIII: The Quest For More Dollars.

Vega Conflict – One year on

A year ago today I discovered a game called “Vega Conflict”.

It’s a space combat game, but with elements of base-building, farming, diplomacy and tower defence. So impressed was I about the game that I wrote a book about it.

I have been thinking of all of the changes that have occurred in the game, both good and bad, over the course of that year – and thought I would put my thoughts out here for my loyal (and not-so-loyal) followers to see.

The Rise, Fall and Retirement of the Nexus Destroyer: This Tier-2.5 hull was the lowest-level destroyer with a shield slot. It was introduced as a special hull for Android players. Kixeye (the publishers) didn’t seem to know what to do with this one; during the time that I have been in the game, they first made it impossible to build unless you had unlocked the tech in the Android version of the game, then they withdrew the ability to research the hull, them they briefly provided Black Market Broadsword-to-Nexus upgrades, then made it impossible to build them even if you *had* unlocked the ship. They subsequently reversed their earlier decision, presumably because of complaints, so it is now possible to build one if you unlocked the tech way back when it was available… though most players who have it have unlocked better destroyers, such as (in order of awesomeness) the Trident, the Scythe, the Machete and the Lance. This leaves the Nexus destroyer as an orphaned hull, along with the Rapture (see below).

The Commerce Module: one of the first major changes that I encountered in the game was the Commerce Module; an add-on module for your base that costs 300 gold to build, and produces three coins a day for the base model, but can be upgraded all the way to Level X, which produces an impressive 25 coins a day – more than one per hour.

Daily Missions and Blood Amber: When I started the game, Daily Missions earned resources, but that changed with the advent of “Blood Amber” (BA), a mysterious and highly-prized contraband item which effectively became another currency in the game, though a very limited one.

The birth of the Black Market: With the rescue of Larus from the clutches of the Vega Corporation came the rise of the Black Market (BM), which makes an occasional appearance around one planet in each sector about once every week to ten days. It stays there for one or two days, and offers goodies in exchange for your hard-earned BA.These goodies include instant upgrades to useful and not-so-useful tech, along with ship upgrade credits.that can be used to upgrade a single ship to a “Mark II” version. These were highly sought-after as the MkII ships were substantial improvements overt the base model.

Carriers: The introduction of the Flagship Class was huge, and separated the players into two groups: those with Carriers and those without. In my opinion, this has been the biggest game-changer — literally — in the past year. Though I do wish that Carrier fleets were not able to pick on non-carrier fleets.

Cutters: The game originally consisted of three classes of ships: Frigates (fast, lightly-armed, small engagement envelope), Cruisers (medium speed, medium-heavy, large small engagement envelope) and Battleships (slow, heavily-armed). The three classes represented a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, where each class had it’s own strengths and weakness. The introduction of Carriers did not upset this — Carriers were weak if not escorted and protected — but this balance was, in my opinion, broken by the introduction of Cutters — Very fast, heavily-armed and armored, with no readily-discernible weaknesses (besides its lousy turn rate). This is not to say that Cutters were invincible – a poorly-flown Cutter fleet could still be beaten, but a single cutter could outrun anything and run out the clock.

The Iron Star Company: To this point, the game had consisted of two-and-a-half factions: The Miner Rebellion (the players), Vega Mining Corporation and Vega Security (VSec). Enter stage right the Iron Star Company (ISC), a mysterious faction that bought us new event tech including the Python Cutter, the Vigilante Battleship, The Machete Destroyer and the Hurricane Frigate over the following months.

The Crafting System: This was a complicated (overly so, in my opinion) system of upgrading ships all the way to Mk V. To avoid confusion, the original MkII upgrades were renamed “Enhanced” or “Mk E”. Previously, you did daily missions to get Blood Amber, exchanged BA for upgrade credits in the BM, then upgrade your ships. Now you have to:

  • Build a workshop (one-time)
  • Research Hull Upgrades in the Ship Lab (once per Ship/Mark)
  • Collect patterns (1 per ship), Cores (1-4 per ship), parts and armaments from special  “Crafting fleets”
  • Craft the upgrade credit in the workshop
  • Apply the credit to the appropriate ship

This was a whole lot more complicated than the original Black Market Mk II Upgrades. To make matters worse, the Crafting fleets turned out to be a complete waste of time. The drops from these fleets is so poor that the sheer amount of grinding required is prohibitive, necessitating the introduction of Supply Run Fleets below.

Fleet Bay Wings: Just as the addition of Squadrons to a carrier gave it a massive offensive capability, someone came up with the bright idea of adding “Wings” of fighters, bombers or interceptors to the Fleet Bay. This had the effect of turning a big fat liability of a target into a formidable defense installation capable of reducing enemy ships to shreds in short order..

Resistance Technology. Most mark-upgraded ships have a resistance slot; that accepts a “Resistor” that makes the ship’s armor tougher against certain types of enemy fire. Resistors are only available from the Black Market in nine different types; three different flavors (projectile, explosive and energy) and three different strengths (10%, 20% and 30% damage reduction).

The Deprecation of the Rapture Cruiser. The Mark-upgrade system allowed upgrades to Miner, Vega and VSec fleets, but not ISC ships (yet!) or certain “orphaned” hulls like the Nexus Destroyer (see above) and the Rapture Cruiser. the latter was an event hull that was released before I started playing and was never made available during the time that I was in the game. It was one of the most sought-after ships in the game, as it was both fast and powerful — “too powerful”, accordnig to Kixeye. The introduction of Cutters, along with mark-upgrades for the Apocrypha Cruiser, have left the once-awesome Rapture Cruiser so far behind that it is often referred to as the “Crapture”.

The senescence of the Black Market: The BM is still around, but besides resistance tech, it has become almost totally useless. The fact that many BM items are now available for coins shows that Kixeye are really after your money after all (surprise, surprise).

Sector activities and Supply Run Fleets: Killing Crafting fleets for mark-upgrade materiel was initially successful, but Kixeye soon dialed back the drop rate to the point where folks were farming hundreds of fleets to get a single core. So Kixeye created one-hour mini-events in which “Supply Run Fleets” could be killed for guaranteed drops of boxes relevant to a specific ship. This worked so well to the point where I don’t know why they bother with crafting fleets anymore.

The increasing irrelevance of a story-line: Nobody cares about it anymore.

Of Locomotives and Tenders


Only a century ago, steam engines criss-crossed nations, making travel easy and shrinking the globe.

Behind every coal-fired locomotive was a tender, a wheeled box that held all of the fuel that the locomotive would need to reach its destination. The tender was not particularly glamorous, nor did it get the attention and the admiration that the Locomotive did, but it was just as necessary.

The same is true in life: Too many western women seem to desire the power and prestige that comes with being the locomotive. They crave the power, the freedom, the independence that comes with being self-powered. And if that is truly what they are looking for, good luck to them. But too many women find out, too late, that after successfully transforming themselves into locomotives, that what they really wanted all along was to be a tender. And having done so, they now require an exceptionally powerful locomotive; an ordinary one is no longer enough, and they never find what they are looking for. And it is always men’s fault; never the media, the culture or third-wave feminism that persuaded her that she could “have it all”.

As I mature and acquire confidence, competence, and charisma, I find myself the subject of much unwarranted admiration from such women; women who have wasted their best years chasing what they thought they wanted, only to find out that what they really wanted all along is something that they cannot get anymore. But I am not interested in them; their best and sweetest gifts have been wasted on the undeserving, and no good man wants leftovers.

My lady and I have been “hitched” for nearly three decades; she is the tender to my locomotive, and she is bloody good at it. Our connection is strong. She provides me with that which I need to excel in life. And she never puts herself first. And for that she has my everlasting gratitude.

Thank you My Dear.

And here’s to the tenders of the world. You know who you are.

Vega Conflict – Carrier Command

Carrier Ragnarok Loaded

Of all the ship types in the game, the carrier is perhaps the biggest game-changer.

Once you have unlocked and built a carrier, the way you play the game changes dramatically. In fact it may be said that the biggest divide among players is between those who have carriers and those who do not – the Haves and Have-nots, if you like.

Nowhere is this more readily apparent than in events and Riots. Before I built my carrier, events were completed by auto-farming level-27 planetary fleets, with some manual sector-level farming of bigger fleets with Revelation Cruisers and Battleships. While these were usually insta-rep (instant-repair), this approach was brutally time-consuming and usually required 20-plus hours of farming over three or four days to get the top prize. With a carrier, however, the nature of these events changed; instead of hitting a fleet every minute or so for 1000 loot apiece all the live-long day, it was now possible to hit a few 50, 55 or even 60 VSec fleets for 100,000 loot, with 1-2 hours of repairs before the next round of attacks. This means that while the overall earning rate did not change, it became far less time-consuming and hence easier.

The carrier is the longest-ranged ship in the game, but that enormous reach comes at a price Carriers are relatively fragile and can be taken out easily by a determined opponent. Fortunately the enemy AI is easy to fool computer-controlled opponents always home in on the closest ship, and so a decoy ship can be used to draw fast-moving opponents away from the carrier. Decoys can also be used to draw enemy ships away so that the carrier is not overwhelmed by multiple enemies at once.

Slower-moving enemies such as Battleships can be fooled relatively easily – use a decoy to turn enemy Battleships so that they are heading straight at the carrier, This will allow the carriers squadrons to approach the battleship through its forward blind spot without  being hit by the Battleship’s weapons.

  • Keep your carrier moving! A stopped carrier is a dead carrier
  • When pursued by multiple enemies, angle your carrier off to one side so it engages opponents one at a time.
  • When faced with multiple targets, select a priority target (long-press on mobile, right-click on PC) so all carrier squadrons will engage that target and kill it as fast as possible. Remember that a near-dead ship does as much damage as a fresh one, so the faster you kill it the better.
  • A carrier costs about the same time to repair as a High-end battleship (Fury/Dread/Zeal/Vigilante), so it is actually a good idea to sacrifice a carrier to save a bunch of Battleships.

This article is an excerpt from my Game Guide, over a hundred 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 $2.99. However, if you use this link, you can get it for $1 off. Make me smile – buy my book!