Monthly Archives: March 2016

Kixeye, What are you smoking?

A few days ago, Kixeye rolled out the first part of “The Great Re-balance”, (See forum posts Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Discussion), a set of changes to Vega Conflict aimed at making the game more fair, more fun and more fabulous. It says here.

So far, it has been an absolute bloody disaster. Why do I say that? Because since they made the changes I have pretty much stopped playing the game. I log in once or twice a day to keep upgrades and refits rolling along, but I have not taken my fleets into battle. The latest RIOT (currently ongoing) is the quietest one I have ever seen. Definitely not a good sign.

Not all of the changes have been bad, some have been quite useful, but on balance there is more bad than good.

  • Damage model changes: Before the rebalance, every item on the ship contributed to the repair time. Better thrusters, specials, armor and shields all pushed up repair time. This meant that a properly-configured Genesis Cruiser could be repaired in under five minutes, which made it a “free repair”. this led to the widespread use of “Insta-Gens” in farming fleets and spam fleets (players harassing other players with cheap insta-Gen fleets). After the rebalance, only hull, armor and shields matter. The first two made perfect sense, but shields? Those recharge between battles; why should they need “repairing”? As a result of this change, the repair time of insta-Gens went from five minutes to over half an hour. While it was good to get rid of Insta-Gens, thirty minutes is excessive.
  • Reduction of Shield Effectiveness: In particular, The Shockwave shield and the Metaphase Shield – two of the best shields in the game – are to have their shield capacities reduced significantly. This is a kick in the face for those who worked through an Event or a RIOT in order to unlock the Metaphase Shield, only to have  it “nerfed” (reduced in effectiveness).
  • Speed Normalization: One of the upcoming changes in the rebalance is that all ships of a certain class have now been “standardized” to the same speed. All Battleships will have the same speed. All Cruisers will have the same speed. All Frigates will have the same speed. Given that many ships (Destiny, Apocrypha and Rapture Cruisers spring to mind) were unlocked and built specifically because of their additional speed, this makes no sense, and it robs the game of much of its diversity. Without the extra speed, there is no point in unlocking and building those ships.
  • Faction Tiering: One new development is that there is now going to be a hierarchy among the factions. In the past, Different ships from different factions had different strengths and weaknesses. Now, the Rebel Ships will be the least-powerful, VEGA will be better, Vega Security (VSec) better still, and the Iron Star Company (ISC) ships will be the best of all. In the past, very few people built ISC hulls, as mark-upgrades for them have not yet been made available. Now those who built other ships will find that they have been left out in the cold. Gee, thanks, Kixeye!
  • Ship Mass Changes: The maximum mass of some ships is being reduced. In particular, the Dread Battleship – which I spent an entire weekend farming to unlock, and nearly two months building four of them – will have its maximum mass, and therefore its firepower, reduced by about a third, thus rendering it useless for the purpose for which it was built.
  • Fleet Bay XI: The Fleet Bay will now be upgradable to level XI. This is the only part of the rebalance that has my unequivocal support… though it would have been better if they had left things as they were and just increased the maximum fleet mass for level X.

Here’s what I would have done.

  • Damage to Hull+Armor ONLY. “charging” us repair time for shielding is ridiculous. Failing that, reduce the shielding “repair cost” to a fraction (a quarter or a fifth) of its current value.
  • Reduce Insta-Gen repair times to 10 minutes. That would be enough to put those annoying spam fleets out of business while still allowing their use for farming.
  • Do not Nerf the Dread Battleship, instead, buff the Zeal and Vigilante. they take longer to build, so they should be better ships.
  • If you are going to nerf a ship, offer an upgrade to a better one. For instance, If you nerf the Dread, offer players a free upgrade to a Zeal or Vigilante battleship. Failing that, at the very least, offer a Free refit for *every* ship whos behavior has been changed by the rebalance.
  • Change Ship Factory to build naked hulls and add Refit Bay. It is ridiculous to be unable to change the hull plating on a ship for two weeks because you just started building a big ship. Adjust ship build times upwards if necessary.
  • Increase Fleet Mass limit for Fleet Bay X. There is no need to make us wait for weeks for the Fleet Bay XI upgrade… unless you are hoping that some players will coin it.
  • Do something about the idiotic and unproductive Crafting System. I would get rid of it entirely and replace it with Black Market Upgrades like we used to have, but that’s not going to happen. Failing that, re-enabling conversion of patterns into cores would be a start. Then implement some way to turn unwanted parts into useful ones.
  • Speaking of the Black Market, can we have some useful stuff? For instance Generic Patterns or cores that can be used in the crafting of *any* ship.
  • Extend the five-level handicapping system all the way. Having your level-35 fleet or base flattened by a level-54 fleet is no fun at all.
  • Fix the game so that flagship (“Carrier”) fleets cannot engage non-flagship fleets.

Above all else, find new and innovative ways to delight the players – not piss them off!

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When Security Isn’t

Windows Update is Microsoft’s mechanism for keeping Windows secure. Each month, they release a bunch of patches that plug newly-identified holes that they have found. But from time to time they sneak in updates that are not related to security. One famous example is when they introduce a new version of Internet Explorer (“The best browser… for downloading a better browser”). It is perfectly fine to introduce these under “Optional Updates”or even “Recommended Updates”, but to present them as “Important” is disingenuous at best.

But wait! There’s more!

In the middle of last year, users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 started getting pop-ups urging them to “reserve your copy of Windows 10”. This was so odd and unexpected that many suspected that it was some form of malware, particularly when you realize that Windows 7 is supported my Microsoft until 2020, and Windows 8 even later than that. Which begs the question: So why is Microsoft pushing a free upgrade on its users so hard? But that is another story for another time… here’s what you need to know: Windows Update KB3035583 is the “update” that makes this happen. . remove this update and prevent it from reinstalling if you don’t need Windows 10 (here a hint: you don’t). Also download and install GWX Control Panel to remove the gigabytes of disk space Microsoft has stolen for the Windows 10 upgrade files.

But it gets even better. One of the biggest objections to the “free” Windows 10 upgrade is that it trades away your privacy, but that was not enough for Microsoft. The data-gathering “telemetry” functionality in Windows 10 was subsequently retro-fitted into Windows 7 and 8.1 (See KB3068708, KB3022345, KB3075249, and KB3080149).

So… if are running Windows 7 or 8 and you don’t want Microsoft snooping around in your computer and gathering information about your activities, all you have to do is to remove these updates. The following text in a batch file (run as administrator) will remove the “telemetry” updates along with the Windows 10 update mechanism from your computer:

start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:3075249 /quiet /norestart
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:3080149 /quiet /norestart
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:3021917  /quiet /norestart
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:3022345 /quiet /norestart
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:3068708 /quiet /norestart
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:3035583 /quiet /norestart
pause

Once that is done, you will have to go into Windows Update and “Hide” these updates so they don’t get “accidentally” reinstalled. If you are not sure, you can always re-run the batch file as a preemptive measure.

Microsoft: quit abusing “Windows Updates” as an underhanded mechanism to get us to install stuff that isn’t security-related.