Monthly Archives: January 2017

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.

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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!

If men *really* ruled the world

With tongue only partly in cheek…

  • Most of the world’s shopping malls would go out of business.
  • Hallmark wouldn’t exist.
  • Every girl between sixteen and twenty-two would be required to wear miniskirts in public.
  • From twenty-two to twenty-eight, they would be required to wear dresses.
  • Throw pillows and cushions would be made illegal.
  • Cats would be an endangered species.
  • Dogs would be doubly tax-deductible, since they are both home Security devices and dependents.
  • As a public health measure, overweight women would not be allowed in restaurants unless they worked there.
  • They would also be banned from wearing yoga pants.
  • She won’t stop talking” would be grounds for divorce.
  • So would a fractious mother-in-law.
  • The 14th of February would be just another day.
  • Superbowl Sunday and the 14th of March would be national holidays.
  • Nagging would be considered as a form of domestic violence.
  • No laundry hamper would ever have a lid.