Category Archives: Fun & Games

Astronest Review

While playing Vega Conflict, I saw an ad for another game – the oddly-named “Astronest: The Beginning“. That was before the brains behind Vega Conflict stopped offering coins in return for watching ads.. but that is another story.

I gave the game a whirl, and was delightfully surprised. While the initial concept looks similar to Vega Conflict, the execution is far different. For one thing, building ships and research are instantaneous, but use up a number of turns (called Access Points or AP), which accumulate over time. The player’s AP limit depends on the level of their “nation”.

Your Nation is a collection of colonized planets, Heroes (people that you recruit) and fleets. Each planet has facilities that generate Gold, Minerals, Research, Energy, Fleet Production and Cosments. Each facility can be upgraded for the requisite amounts of AP, Gold and Minerals. Upgrades are instantaneous, but AP takes time to accumulate, which amounts to the same thing. There is also one other currency – crystals – that cannot be mined, but may be received as a reward for missions or purchased.

Each planet may have a Minister – one of your heroes whose Governing skill gives the planet a bonus. Other heroes can be assigned to fleets (Destroyers, Cruisers, Battleships or Motherships). A planet can be operated without a Minister, but a fleet cannot go into battle without a commander. All heroes level up with experience.

The Good: Compliments

  • Boots fast – under twenty seconds, far quicker than Vega Conflict or Star trek timelines.
  • Runs on lower-end hardware than VC, and does not require a persistent internet connection.

The Bad: Criticisms

  • The game does a good job of explaining the basics of combat, but leaves the player floundering when it comes to Trons, training, LDs, cosments, colonizing other planets and lots of other stuff.
  • All of the female heroes (heroines?) are slim and pretty. I am not sure how I feel about this. I despise political correctness as much as anyone, but when you say “female head of a planetary government”, I think Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel or Madelaine Albright, not some gorgeous Blonde babe. Having said that, I do not want to see old, unattractive women introduced to the game for the sake of political correctness, but at the same time I don’t want to see people who don’t look the part. There are some who may consider that attitude sexist; I don’t care – and that will be reflected in my purchasing decisions.
screenshot_2016-12-29-07-34-07Hi. I’m Kayla. You can like, take me to bed, or, like, put me in charge of your planet. Like.
  • On a similar note, half of the men look effeminate or gay. These are the less experienced officers. The other half, the most experienced S-class heroes – have the mature, grizzled look that one would normally associate with experienced fleet commanders.
screenshot_2016-12-29-09-51-04My Gaydar is going off. And the guy in the middle looks like George Lucas.

The Ugly: Errors, mistakes, and Bugs

  • Poor Grammar: e.g.: when fitting out a fleet, it says “Equipping” instead of “Equipped”.
  • Spelling errors: Nuff said:

 

screenshot_2016-12-29-11-59-28This. Should. Not. Happen.
  • In the Heroes screen, a Planetary Governor is erroneously described as a Fleet Commander.

Bottom line: A highly enjoyable game that I will continue playing, at least for the foreseeable future. Whether it will supplant Vega Conflict is yet to be seen.

Vega Conflict – Alien Invasion

No folks, this is not yet another screed about Illegals crossing our southern border, rather a new quasi-faction in the game. They are not a true faction, as you cannot build any alien ships, nor is this expected at the current time.

  • The Aliens first appeared in the “Incursion” event in September 2016. They were a total surprise, and were completely unexpected.
  • Unstable (one-way) wormholes appeared in every sector, and started disgorging alien fleets at regular intervals. These fleets would then head to regular wormholes and disappear.
  • Initially they would aggressively pursue and attack rebel fleets within ten levels of their own.
  • They initially came in Level 50, 55, 60, 65 and 70 variants.
  • After a couple of months, they modified their attack strategy to only pursue fleets in extra-solar space (i.e., they would not attack within solar systems).
  • Soon after that, Level 40 and 45 variants started to appear, and it became possible for two players to engage one alien fleet
  • Only alliance members and players you have designated as “friendly” may assist in engaging an alien fleet.
  • As well as loot or intel, destroying an alien fleet yields “unknown objects”, which remain in the player’s inventory. Nobody knows what they are or what they are for.
alien-hunting

Hunting for Aliens with my good buddy Crescent Wind

Rules of engagement

  • An alien fleet typically consists of three carriers known as hives; usually one heavy and two light.
  • They launch waves of drones at the player fleet. Originally armed with beam weapons, these drones are currently a mixture of beam and explosive weapons.
  • Originally, the three carriers would spawn in different corners of the battlefield. Later variants spawned together, and later still they arrived in a tight formation, which made is difficult to engage them individually.
aliens2

When the going gets tough…

Battle tactics

  • Initially, Aurora rays did high damage to the aliens, but as they modified their weapons and tactics, explosive weapons, such as Creeper torpedoes with Volatile Fuel, became more effective. Currently the most effective weapon is the Manifold missile.
  • Current combat wisdom is to use a heavy carrier such as Ragnarok, Valkyrie or Valhalla. Freyja works too, but has lower range.
  • The carrier has to be protected. Heavy cruisers work well, but battleships appear to be best. Battleships in line formation protect each other and have the double-broadside ability to engage enemies on both sides simultaneously.
  • When using battleships, they may be arranged in a line in front of the carrier, or the carrier may be in the middle of the line.
  • Keep your ships in tight formation for mutual support; any ship that gets out of formation will be targeted and swiftly killed by the alien drones. “the nail that sticks out gets hammered”.
  • If you group them together they will all move and turn at the same rate.
  • When playing co-up, keep carriers together to double the damage.
  • The initial maneuver should be diagonally off to one side, in order to engage one of the hives while minimizing exposure to the other two.
  • You get the same number of points whether you engage a fleet solo or co-op with another player. However, two fleets deal out more damage than one, and take less damage. So co-op is generally better.
  • Successful co-op engagements yield two “corpses” of resources, each of which may be freed up by one of the players.

This article is an excerpt from my recently-updated Game Guide, over a hundred and sixty 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!

Boldly Going… Nowhere.

I recently stumbled across a game called “Star Trek: Timelines:

Thanks to Q’s intervention, you have access to characters from all Star Trek series, from Kirk, Spock and McCoy in the original series, to Archer, Tucker, Reed and Maywether of “Enterprise”. It is an RPG, which means you have to equip and upgrade characters, as well as upgrading your ship. Upgrades and items can be earned by performing different types of missions, or they can be purchased at the time portal.

Unfortunately, this excellent idea was killed by a nasty, ugly little problem.

Star Trek Timelines Error
This error message makes it impossible to progress beyond “The Mad Vedek”, so my Captain is stuck at Level 9.

When I reported this problem to support, I got the following reply:

I’m sorry for this inconvenience in your gaming experience. We are aware of this issue and our technical team is working on a resolution.

In the meantime, I have added 100 Chronitons to your account to replay lost mission.

Again, thank you for reporting this and appreciate your patience as we resolve the issue.

That was two weeks ago. In spite of an upgrade of the client, There has been no resolution of this matter. This is unacceptable.

I’m done with this game

Vega Conflict – What’s Wrong, and How to Fix it

Five things Kixeye can do to fix the game

  1. Quit playing silly buggers with Core Boxes. I just defeated a Level 45 fleet, and the Tier-4 Core box that it dropped contained a Tier-2 Core. We are sick of hitting powerful fleets and getting pitiful cores. It is bad enough not knowing whether you will be getting a Carrier, Battleship, Destroyer, Frigate, Cruiser or Cutter Core without also having to deal with the frustration of three difference tiers as well.
  2. Add a Refit Bay. Currently, all ship fittings and refits are handled by the Ship Factory, which also builds ships. So once you have started building a carrier you cannot refit any ship for a week, This is ridiculous. Allow users to add a Refit bay that does refits only. Kixeye’s excuse is that this would change the balance of the game. I say BULL — you had no problem rebalancing up the game when it served your purposes. Adjust build and refit times if you can, but do this. Most of us would pay 1000 coins to build and refit separately, do this and consider it a bargain.
  3. Pick on someone your own size. The game was originally designed so that you could only engage fleets whose level is within five fleets within yours, with the gloves coming off at 35. Since then we have seen Carriers, Cutters, Iron Star, Marked-up ships and player fleets approaching level 60. It is no fun watching your Level-35 farming fleet cut to pieces by a vastly superior enemy fleet of Cutters (pun intended). This artificial limitation has resulted in players finding creative ways to keep their fleets under level 35. Simply extending fleet handicapping all the way up will solve this problem at a stroke.
  4. Are you sure? When I asked Kixeye to add a confirmation before a big coin spend, I was sent away with a flea in my ear. Since then, in spite of many promotions and offers, I have not put a penny into this game, even though I would like to. This is the main reason why I will not spend money on this game; it is too easy to waste it accidentally — and no, Kixeye, a “one-time courtesy” along with an exhortation to be cautious is simply not good enough.
  5. What about ship parts? Patterns can be converted into cores in the scrapyard, Cores can be fused into higher cores, Armaments can be used on any ship of that faction, but parts for ships you aren’t interested in building are useless. Give us some way to convert ship parts into something that we can use.

Every one of these changes is easier than the still-ongoing “Great Rebalance” that has caused so much consternation and heartache among the players.

Vega Conflict – More Changes

The (build) times, they are a-changin’

Not content with having ruined a beautiful game, The good folks at Kixeye are making more changes; this time to ship build times. In this case, however, the change is both necessary and good.

It is necessary because the recent changes have made some ships (Such as the Taipan cutter and marked-up ISC hulls) more useful and others (Such as the Nexus Destroyer) less, and this usefulness should be reflected in build times. In addition, there is a new Faction – Vega Demon Corps – coming in  to the game, and room must be made for them.

It is good because the vast majority of the build times are coming down. These are shown in green in the table below.

VC New Build Times

Those in red are the ones whose build times will be getting longer. The biggest loser is the Heretic Cruiser, which will take about 55 hours longer to build once this change rolls in. Other losers include Taipan and Python Cutters, Genesis and Exodus Cruisers, and the Hurricane Frigate (whose figure is wrong, but you get the picture).

Note that Fitment installation times are not changing, so my advice is to build as many naked hulls of the ships shown in red as you can. I am building as many Heretics as I can before this change takes effect (probably at the beginning of July).

Vega Conflict: Flying in Formation

Every fleet has a variety of formations that can be employed. These formations can make the difference between victory and defeat in battle. Three are available at the start of the game:

BoxWedgeLine

  • Box – Useful in situations where you are protecting three “heavy hitters” (usually destroyers or battleships).
  • Wedge – This is the original, and for some years, the only – formation available. Best used when doing a straight-in charge at a specific objective, such as a carrier. For best results, put your heaviest-shielded – and most expendable – ship in front.
  • Line – Used when basing using destroyers, anti-carrier assaults using cutters, and also when using battleships may then be turned to form a wall.

In addition, there are three additional formations that can be unlocked by obtaining blueprints:

ChicaneConvoyPentagon

  • Chicane – This formation is unlocked with blueprints gained from Vega 27, 30 and 33 fleets. It is comprised of one ship (#1) front and center with a line of five ships behind. This is useful mainly against AI-controlled fleets. The #1 ship acts as a decoy, drawing enemy fire. Its forward position will attract the attention (“aggro”) of all enemies. The others are lined up in a wall to engage the enemy simultaneously, to draw fire. This formation is particularly useful with Cutter fleets; when engaging a Carrier, the cutters in the back will protect the front-runner, which absorbs the vast majority of the Carrier’s drone firepower; the #1 ship will take most of the damage, while the rest will arrive at the carrier largely unscathed.
  • Convoy – This formation, which is unlocked by getting blueprints from Vega 20, 23 and 25 fleets, effectively divides your fleet into two squads of three each.
  • Pentagon – This formation is unlocked by farming VSec 30, 33 and 35 fleets, and places your most important asset – usually a Flagship – in a protective circle. This is most useful if you have one high-value ship that must be protected from attack from any direction. So far, it has proved to be of limited usefulness.

Finally, there are a few additional formations that can be purchased from Larus in the Black Market using Blood Amber or coins.

Double EchelonIron BlockadeEnclavePrism

  • Loyal Battalion – This formation is an inversion of Chicane, with a line of five ships in front, with one ship – usually a Flagship – In the back, safely out of harm’s way.
  • Double Echelon – This V-shaped formation is used mainly by battleships, to bring maximum firepower with the potential for flanking maneuvers.
  • Iron Blockade – This inverted wedge formation is incredibly useful with Carrier/Battleship fleets. Put the Carrier in the #6 position and arrange the Battleships in front. At the beginning of the battle, move the #4 battleship forward so it is between #1 and #2, and move #5 forward between #2 and #3. The result is a closely-clustered line of Battleships that can lay down some seriously concentrated fire. Recommended for farming high-level VEGA and VSec fleets, but not recommended when going up with enemies equipped with ECHO Rays, as the proximity of your ships will then become a liability.Enclave – Similar to Double Echelon, but with a wider stance.
  • Prism – This is a new formation that has not been extensively battle-tested.

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!

 

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!

Vega Conflict Game Guide Updated!

The Long-awaited new version for Feb 2016 is done!

New sections include:

  • How Shields Work
  • Blueprint Weapons and Event Weapons
  • Tag and Find
  • Carrier Command
  • To Coin or Not to Coin?
  • Crafting Fleets and Supply Run Fleets
  • Resistance Tech.

New Ships Added:

  • Zeal Battleship
  • Lance Destroyer
  • Komodo Cutter
  • Hurricane Frigate
  • Taipan Cutter
  • Condor Frigate

Now 137 pages! Click  here to purchase it for $2.99.

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!

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.