Sunday, December 26, 2010

‘Speedy Escape Strategy’

The preceding story mission was: 'Ore Smuggling'
The following story mission is: 'Interplanetary Travel'
Still in tutorial mode, cuddly Uncle Bill takes you on a Blueprint hunting trip. You've upgraded before but then the Hangar had the gear all ready and you were buying off the shelf. This time you have to kill and loot if you want to step up a division.

Discovered - Another reason to kill Mantis

You follow Bill Darius down to the surface of Kalabesh and he leads you to an area where he looted an Afterburner blueprint a few weeks earlier. All you have to do is kill a few Mantis Scouts and wait for a Blueprint to drop. After 3 or 4 kills the Blueprint appears and you collect it. Then you just have to fly to orbit, enter the Starbase Hangar and have it fitted. The cost is 32 crystals and you earn 35 crystals by completing the mission. Why anyone would give you cryonite for doing this is beyond me, but smile nicely and take it.

We must be near the end of these tutorials by now surely? Next we learn to fly between planets, or at least explore the route. Lead on McDuff.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Highest Graphics - Merry Christmas

I was going to put Laura Croft here but girls read this too
For Christmas I have a new PC to play Pirate Galaxy on.

My old machine was only 5 or 6 years old but just had onboard graphics. When I played this game for the first time the graphics had a real wow! factor, the best I'd had on my desktop. My new computer has an ATI 1 Gig video card and is fresh out of the box. To simulate how I used to experience PG, change the graphics setting to lowest and check it out.

Now I've fallen in love with Pirate Galaxy all over again. Looks aren't everything but I'm as shallow as anyone when it comes to in-game graphics. I've sat and stared at a rock wall in Technatoria impressed by the texture and colour, it actually looks like blasted rock now. The paint jobs on my ships Marie II and Kara III look like they've been applied by an artist rather than an enthusiastic 6-year-old. Best of all, no crashes.

My old system crashed regularly, especially if I was in the middle of a Harvester cull. Any more then three Interceptors and my PC screamed in anguish. It would flee the field taking me with it, leaving Kara III drifting as the Mantis kicked her all the way to pod town. Tragic.

Well no more. I feel a serious killing session at Prosperous coming on. Time to bring the pain and enjoy the spectacle. May your own presents be just as satisfying. Merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

‘Ore Smuggling’

The preceding story mission was: 'Mine Mystery.
The following story mission is: ‘Speedy Escape Strategy’
Serves him right for having such a girly name

Jake Rattenbury gets in touch and tells you Bill Darius has recommended you for a proper smuggling mission. It's time to decide which side of the law you're on. If you decide to be an upstanding, law-abiding citizen then you'd better find another game. This is called Pirate Galaxy after all. Besides this is still the only option open so take it on or be doomed to fly the surface of Kalabesh, beating up Mantis drones for all eternity.

When you get to the surface you're told to watch out for Colonial Guards who are enforcing a strict rationing policy. Then you're given the location of the first of three ore cannistyers which you have to collect. After the first you're into territory unexplored in the previous missions and so might find yourself having to double back on yourself here or there.

(Idea! Why not have a planet where the surface rearranges itself every now and then? Maybe when the system reaches full planetary alignment the gravitational pull causes earthquakes on the central planet. Maybe the planet surface is made of ice drifts which move over time. That would keep things fresh. )

Anyway after collecting the second cannister look out for the fearsomely named Officer Rosebud of the Colonial Guard. He swoops in riding a mean looking Harrier-style ship ordering you to surrender. Don't worry, despite being level 10 against your (probable) level 3 it's a fairly simple kill. Just keep blasting and he'll soon be whimpering in his pod that you're now an enemy of the Colonial Administration. Cool!

After that just collect the last of the ore pods and get into orbit. Piece of cake.

It would be nice if there were an option to not return fire, but join the Guards and work for them undercover in the smuggling community. That could take you down a different set of adventures. Still PG has never claimed to be a Role Playing Game so you can't blame them for being so linear.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I’ve had a moan about one aspect of the new Pirate Galaxy release, so time to talk about something that I like.

Each pilot now has an ‘Achievements’ tab, which tracks how you’re doing against pre-set targets. These targets are split into categories such as PVP (player versus player), PVE (player versus enemy), Economy or Clan. The game keeps track of how you’re doing and updates your progress. For example if you kill 4 Parasites on Commerce Central then your Commerce Central Parasite Slayer entry goes up by a count of 4. Get 250 and you’re a slayer. Completing an achievement gives you a score, measured in what looks like gold coins but are probably medals. These range from 10 to 25. This score helps you move up the Hall of Fame, another new feature.

When you start the game, many of the achievements are locked out so you can’t even see what they are. There are still plenty to keep you occupied, and make you wonder how the hell you’re going to collect 10,000 crystals, let alone 100,000. When I first logged on after this feature had been introduced I had 30 achievement points. 10 for Vega story complete, 10 for the Antares story and 10 for collecting all of the blueprints in Vega. Although I had long ago gained access to the Antares and Gemini Stargates those explorer achievements didn’t show up. As soon as I visited these Stargates then they were awarded.

There have been a few other bugs. My crystals were not being tracked in the economy Achievements for example but that has been fixed along with others.

Achievements suit my style of play perfectly and I think they’re a good addition to the game. I like to finish all of the white missions and have a full compliment of Blueprints. Now I get a little badge as a reward for being so anal. If you have no interest in ticking every box or killing a certain number of Avengers on Terasa then you can just ignore Achievements. I can’t see an argument as to how they are detrimental.

There’s another good thing about Achievements. It shows that Split Screen sees what its players like and is prepared to carry out significant game changes in response. V1-Hyper came up with the True System Finaliser which is the ancestor of Achievements. Now Split Screen has built it into the game. All credit to them and V1-Hyper, the creator of the excellent The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Pirate Galaxy.

If you're interested in filling out your achievement tab then you can adjust your game to suit. If you need to grind for crystal in the Gemini system then you may as well go to Technatoria and kill Rocketeers. While doing this you're progressing towards 'No Longer Poor' and 'Rich Pirate', 'Technatoria Rocketeer Slayer', and you may of course find a Rare Blue Print which would help towards several of the Ship achievements.

The wiki is building a page on these so click here to have a look. It wasn't complete at the time of posting but I'm sure those sterling chaps and chapesses will complete it soon.

Friday, December 10, 2010

'Project Detonation'

The preceding story mission was: 'Turret Threat'
The following story mission is: 'Operation Liberation'

This one's a real sod. It took me 15 attempts to beat this blighter. Of course I hated it while I was failing, but now I look back with fondness.

First the story. Isaak is waiting at the landing zone on Technatoria in his battle ship The Vendetta. He's keen to start breaking open the cages and rescue the prisoners within, believing that his beloved Sara is among them. However the Mantis have 12 turrets spread across the shattered remains of Technatoria which need to be destroyed first. You located them in 'Turret Threat', but they're not easy to get rid of. Luckily our favourite scavenger has constructed just enough Anti-Matter bombs to blow them all to kingdom-come. All you've got to do is fly up to a turret, place the bomb, and then scan it to make it detonate.

There are a few difficulties to overcome
  1. The turrets have reasonable rocket fire power and defend themselves.
  2. Each turret has a group of tough sentry ships, mostly level 33 Marauders.
  3. You have to get very close to the turret to place the A.M. bombs.
  4. Apart from at the first turret you get no notification that the A.M. Bomb is placed.
  5. You've only got 25 minutes to blow them all.
  6. All the usual Technatoria hazards still exist, such as Death Squads (DSs).
The first time I tried this I was in a squadron, with players I didn't know. We got 5 of the turrets but ran out of time and got podded a lot along the way. After that I tried it solo, as it isn't a squad mission and Technatoria is probably the most deserted planet in the game Pirate-wise.

I tried my Storm ship Kara III at first, but after a few attempts I realised that I just wasn't strong enough to fight off the sentries with the turrets' providing supporting fire. Even if you can survive the fight it eats up both time and energy. So I switched to Marie II my Engineer and changed tactics.

The way I finally succeeded was to use hit and run. I'd fly towards the turrets (watching out for DSs) and turn on my Protector at the last minute. I'd stop virtually on top of the turret, wait for about three seconds soaking up the fire while the bomb is placed, then turn and Afterburn away. Once I'd got clear of any pursuit and hid myself in an empty area, I'd use the 'End' key to cycle through targets. You have to keep changing heading while you're doing this of course or you'll end up flying into trouble. Eventually the A.M bomb is selected, at which point you scan it. The bomb goes Ka-Blooey and takes the turret with it. One down.

The key things with this tactic are timing and planning. Stay at the turret too long and you're toast, leave too soon and the bomb won't drop. You also have to plan your escape route and hiding place after the bomb drop. It's easy to burn away and end up in the middle of a spawning ground by mistake.

A tank would be the best ship for this one, at least when using my tactics. Don't get podded as you can't afford the time or resurrect energy.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pink Cryonite

So Draconis is unlocked, and the ultimate pirates have poured into the latest playground of battle, blasters and frustration. It all seems very quiet in the backwaters of Gemini now the big boys and girls have somewhere new to play. I’m a country mile away from Draconis, but have heard that it’s tougher than tough. My clan Admiral, Chaosrising, is getting intimately reacquainted with the interior of his pod. The new system had to be difficult otherwise the top pilots would complete it in 24 hours and be complaining that it was too easy. If it challenges them and keeps them playing then Splipstream SplitScreen has done a good job. I’ll probably be able to pass an opinion in about two years time.

More important to me and many other players are the game changes and additions that came along with Draconis. Most of them I like or haven’t even noticed, but there was one I did not appreciate at all. The increase in the amount of Cryonite I lost when podded. At first I didn’t notice, not really paying much attention to my crystal total at the time. I’d get podded in the story mission I was wrestling with, but as usual not get stressed about collecting the crystals I’d left behind. It was only ever a small amount and hardly worth the diversion. However the next time I got blasted I noticed that I hadn’t dropped any crystals at all, because I hadn’t got any left. Now I started paying attention and realised that I was losing 300 crystals per podding. 300? WTF? That’s almost half the reward for completing a story mission, and far more than any of the white missions paid. At that rate I’d be spending half my career harvesting Interceptors, certainly not chancing my arm on a tough mission if I had a reasonable chance of being destroyed.

The change that created my impoverished state was the fact that your Cryonite drop is now dependant on pilot level rather than ship level. The thinking behind it was to discourage higher level players taking part in low system conquests and avoid exploitation of the new pirate mode 2.0. However this penalises those of us who like to take their time and enjoy the journey, rather than race through the story as quickly as possible. If you like to complete all white missions, collect all Blue Prints, and attempt story missions solo again and again rather than rely on others to fast track you, then you will be high level compared to the system and your ship. Why should you be penalised for a completist style of play?

Luckily Slipstream SplitScreen has listened to the anguished cries of potless pirates and has modified their formula. I’ve gone from losing 300 cryonite to just 150. That’s still a hit to the pocket but I can work with it. I suppose if I was not bothering to fly back and pick up half of what I’d dropped then you could argue it probably wasn’t enough.

The new system penalises you for gaining a level and encourages you to race through the game rather than explore and persevere on your own. Slipsteam’s SplitScreen's concerns over the old system could be addressed by implementing the new pilot level method when you are in pirate mode only. If you’re not red then you should lose Cryonite based upon the ship level.

I’m all for change and improvement, game balancing and keeping things fresh. Overall the Draconis release has made the game better and given me even more to get my teeth into. However the Cryonite drop by pilot level is a mistake and I hope Slipstream SplitScreen think again.