Monday, February 28, 2011


Despite it being a review of a simple travelling story mission, my post on ‘To The Mizar System’ has gotten me into hot water. The official Pirate galaxy forum believes that my post promotes or condones retaking the mission over and over again in order to boost your war score. Based on that view they have banned Cryonite Cove and any links to it from the forum.

I of course have my own opinion on this, but before I share it I’ll give you a link to the official word from the forum here. [Update 03/03/11: The original post has disappeared, so I've linked to a secondary thread covering the same point.] If you want to re-read my post then you can read it here. By reading both, you have all the facts and can form your own opinion.

Now then, I’ve read back through my post and I do not believe that I said the exploit in question is okay. I called it “poor form” and “gamesmanship”. Of course I also say that “it isn’t cheating and it is cunning,” which could be interpreted as condoning this tactic. I also describe it as “a risk free, quick and easy method of ramping up your war score”, which it is, or at least was until this loop hole was closed. The latest update means that you do not get a score for repeat attempts of a story mission. I also linked directly to the Forum’s post warning against this exploit so I made sure to give SplitScreen their say.

I summarise my comments as ‘here’s this exploit, this is what some people have allegedly being doing, and this is why they do it. SplitScreen has this to say on the subject. I think the perpetrators have been clever to find this. It isn’t cheating but it isn’t fair.’ Of course this may be exactly what the forum interprets from my post, and they consider that a breach of their rules. If they do then they are correct to take the action they have.

They did give me the option of deleting the post, or at least some of it, so that Cryonite Cove could be linked to again from the forum and the Wiki. As I don’t believe I have done anything wrong, and say right at the top of this blog that I will ‘give my honest opinion about the game and the players’, I will not change what I posted.

I will also not pretend that I don’t care about this. I enjoy the community side of the game and was very pleased when Facebook and the Wiki linked to Cryonite Cove. The site also benefitted from many visitors directed here from there and the forum, who will now be lost. I’ve put my arguments to the Lead Forum Moderator but we may have to agree to disagree.

There we are then. I’ve had my say, the forum have had theirs. You can read what I said and make your own mind up. I’d appreciate your opinion in the comments below. Otherwise I'll be carrying on as before. Thanks for reading.

Monday, February 21, 2011

‘To The Mizar System’

This is a gorgeous game
The preceding story mission was: ‘Imminent Detonation’

The following story mission is: ‘Explosive Information’

If you’ve read my post on ‘Imminent Detonation’ then you’ll know that this is one of the story missions I described as undesired orphans, specifically the plain older sister, and a mission that no one wants. Or is it? The official Pirate Galaxy forum has this post.

Completing story missions gives you a war score. One of the recent(ish) updates to Pirate Galaxy gives you the ability to reselect an already completed mission. Previously you could only redo by joining the squad of someone yet to complete it. Apparently if you repeat a mission you get the war score again, which is strange because that doesn’t happen with the Cryonite reward. Some enterprising souls have discovered this and allegedly kept taking this mission, and other travel story missions such as ‘Antares System’, again and again. This is a risk free, quick and easy method of ramping up your war score. So, far from the plain older sister that no one wants, this mission is the quiet girl who turns out to be a real raver and the favourite of everyone ‘in the know.’ I hope that’s put it delicately enough.

SplitScreen has responded to this discovery with this post, which is why I haven’t tested the war score exploit. In summary it says don’t do it or else. I would imagine that this is an easy thing for SplitScreen to fix so expect this loop hole to be closed soon. If anyone has been taking advantage of this exploit to the level suggested then I think its poor form and definite gamesmanship, but it isn’t cheating and it is cunning. I’m not going to be holier than thou because I pointed out and took advantage of a small exploit in ‘Imminent Detonation’ relating to selecting the freighter.

Now I’ve kicked that point about, on to the mission. Natassia Ivanova tells you to pursue the Mantis to the Mizar system and try to find the remaining pieces of the artifact before they do. She also gives you a big pat on the back on behalf of the human survivors in the Gemini system. All you have to do is fly to the Gemini Stargate and from there go to the Mizar system. For that you get 200 crystals, even if you’ve been there before. When you get to Mizar, Natassia advises you to find Dr Valto Copernicus if he’s still alive. He may be able to help you find the next fragment of the artifact.

Friday, February 18, 2011

‘Mantis Exterminator’

Cryonite, a Blueprint and Mantis to kill - I love this game
The preceding story mission was: ‘Facilitating Corruption’

The following story mission is: ‘Intel Delivery’

This could be the most significant mission of your career so far. Bill Darius wants to introduce you to Bruno Paine. You’ll get to know this chap well.

Bruno is an enigmatic pilot, face partially hidden by his helmet visor. He tells you that he hates Mantis and can’t accept that the Colonial Administration agreed to a truce with them. He comes close to letting slip details of some personal loss at the hands of the Mantis. Whatever his motivation, Bruno is prepared to pay cold hard crystals in return for killing Mantis.

When you reach the surface Bruno updates your map with the location of some Mantis Eliminators. If you kill 10 of them within the time limit then he’ll pay you 20 crystals. The timer starts when you land and you have 13 minutes.

It will take you 30 seconds or so to get to the area, but the location switches between a few different spots on the map each time you take the mission. Once at the designated spot you will find a swarm of Eliminators who will do their best to pod you. Get in there and start killing. So much fun, it’s better than cake.

Once you kill the first one you get a % completed message. This is useful because it’s easy to lose track in the middle of the action, particularly if you’re in a squad. If you’ve only got 30 seconds left and are at 90% then you need to go all out to get one more. If you’re still only at 50% then you’re probably not going to do it, so cut your losses and try again.

You should be able to complete this mission fairly comfortably in the time given. If you are getting badly damaged then Afterburn away and wait for your R2 unit (repair droid) to cool down and be ready for action again. You have time for one and perhaps two strategic withdrawals in this particular mission.

During this mission I collected a Blueprint (BP) for the Enhanced Ion Blaster. There’s no guarantee you will too, but I did also get promoted to level 5 and you should be close to that by now, or even higher.

Once you have completed the mission you can return to orbit, or stay and keep killing as I did. The Eliminators will keep spawning so there’s hours of fun to be had. When you do get to orbit take a look in the mission tab. You should now see two missions in a white font (hence the name ‘White Missions’), namely ‘Kill Scouts’ and ‘Steal Repair Droid Tech’. You now have the option of taking either of these missions, the next yellow story mission which is ‘Intel Delivery’, or going to the hangar and upgrading your ship if you have a new BP. You could go back to the surface to find Energy and enemies, or even fly to another planet and see what you find there.

I’m not going to advise you what to do next. Try what you fancy and do what you like. The tutorial is over and I declare the game open. Welcome to Pirate Galaxy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Which ship for each system?

The other night Ukiller, the new admiral of my clan The Ghost Warriors, was helping me to clear a white tech hunting mission. I'd tried 'Swipe Advance Protector' on Prosperous several times but just couldn't get the Custodian Commanders to drop a Blue Print (BP).

I'd convinced myself that the mission was bugged and even raised a ticket. The response was quick but just said that one of the SGMs, Rainion, had tried and completed it, so the mission was okay. Luckily the next time I logged on, Ukiller was on Prosperous and came to my aid. He killed the escorts while I blasted the Commanders, so that the drop chance was based on my tech level not his. It still took forever just to get the two BPs I needed.

While we were there the boss (Ukiller) must have checked my profile and ships. Seeing that I had a brand new Mizar tank, the MST-FF2 Fusion Armour, he advised me that I should swap it for a Storm. Apparently I'll have more need of firepower than armour in Mizar. He then went on to explain that all systems had X ships, and that you should get the same class of ship as the X type. The Mizar system has a MST-X Fusion Storm so you should get a Storm.

Very interesting. I've almost finished with Gemini, whose X ship is a GC-X Fusion Engineer, so according to Ukiller's coaching that should have been the ship to go with. Now it just so happens that I started Gemini with a Storm, but later on got myself an Engineer as many of the missions involve protecting other ships.

So if the theory is true, you should have a Shock in Antares, an Engineer in Gemini, and a Storm in Mizar. Vega has an X Storm, Tank and Shock so just make sure you don't pick an Engineer. In Sol the only X is the Sniper and in Draconis the Defender so presumably you should be okay with any class, or at least equally handicapped.

So I think I'll take my boss's advice and get another Storm for Mizar, which will help with white missions anyway. The Tank in my hangar will probably get armoured up and equipped eventually. I've a lot of grinding to do.

Now don't go scrapping half your fleet just on the basis of this post. While I would not dream of doubting my Admiral's counsel, I've got through Antares in a Storm so it's obviously possible to go against this advice and succeed.

Disagreement already on which ship to go for, I love a healthy debate/good argument. I've just added a poll to the site (top right) so you can have your own say. I reserve the right to ignore the results completely and do what ever the hell I want.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

‘Imminent Detonation’

'Old man' - Well it's a descriptive name if nothing else
The preceding story mission was: ‘Operation Liberation’

The following story mission is: ‘To the Mizar System’

These are the orphans of story missions, the ugly child ‘Imminent Detonation’ gripping the hand of its unattractive older sister ‘To the Mizar System’. They stand unnoticed as pirates surround the younger ‘Operation Liberation’, shaking their heads in frustrated affection. Others fawn over the older and glamorous ‘Explosive Information’ as they compete for attention in Pirate Galaxy’s fourth system. The orphans are the missions that no body bothers with.

Once you’ve blasted Lord Fam Doom (LFD) in ‘Operation Liberation’ you get the astrogation chip that takes you to Mizar. Once you’ve done that why bother with ‘Imminent Detonation’ when you can jump straight to 'Explosive Information'? Okay there’s Cryonite to win, but there’s more over the rainbow. Why hang about in boring old Gemini now you’ve got Mizar to raid? It doesn’t help that this one can be a bit of a challenge. Well it is, until you realise there’s an easier route through the mission.

You learn that LFD, the Balrog of the Gemini system, is planning to cleanse the remains of Technatoria. Your task is to get down there and rescue those that have been left behind. On the surface Isaac advises you to look in the core. As you travel you come across some un-scannable pods. Presumably they are LFD’s cleansing bombs. In my first attempt I blew them all up but there didn’t seem to be any benefit in doing so. Looking on the wiki there is an explanation that these will emit Gamma rays on detonation that will kill humans but not Mantis. You’re advised to destroy all you can but concentrate on getting the slaves to orbit. This information didn’t show when I played this mission so not sure what’s happened there, but you can complete without blasting them.

You go through the core without finding any survivors, but try all the nooks and crannies and you’ll find what you’re looking for. You’ll come across a freighter being attacked by Mantis. Go to their rescue but don’t select the freighter straight away, because as soon as you do the Mantis weapons start to cause damage. The freighter is effectively invulnerable until you select it. Shhhhh! Don’t tell Split Screen.

The freighter is piloted by an old man, presumably with a cargo of other refugees. The old coot in the freighter is wittering on about something being transferred to the Mizar system before Technatoria was destroyed. The task is to escort them to an area free of Technatoria’s gravitational pull so they can get to orbit. Now the mission gets tasty, you have 7 minutes to get there.

The freighter is tough and has shields, and may be more durable than you are. Just like with the Vendetta, keep yourself alive, and the freighter will probably stay in one piece too. I tried and failed this mission 8 times, trying my engineer and my storm. At first it’s easy enough, but when you get near the centre of the core you are ambushed by a large squad of Mantis. You can Afterburn through and hope the freighter keeps up with you, but as you leave the core you are jumped again. I failed to fight them all off in the storm and the engineer had no chance. When podded I did manage to get back to Technatoria from the hangar and to the surface but only just, failing to reach the take-off point.

After 8 failures I was thinking of asking for help but no one is interested in this mission, as I said at the start. Then I tried something different. Once I had the freighter I took it the back way around the core, so that you approach the take-off zone through the
Hidden Route
and get much closer. When I reached the main channel I was ambushed by both Mantis squadrons at once. I was immediately podded, but thanks to the new higher Energy cap I still had enough power to resurrect and make a dash for the take-off zone. The freighter was still intact and it followed me into the zone just as I was down to my last bar of hull integrity. The mission was complete and the Mantis flew off in a sulk, even though a slight nudge would have been enough to pod me again.

So there we are. You may not bother trying this mission but you should. You can get through it with care and lateral thinking, and you’ll be a better pirate for it. Besides, spare a thought for the orphans.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

As seen on Facebook

A few weeks ago the Cryonite Cove hit counter went through the roof without warning. A little detective work revealed that the Pirate Galaxy page had posted a link to this blog and bigged it up somewhat. I’m very flattered so thank you to PG facebook, and hello to all the new visitors that the link sent this way.

The Pirate Galaxy facebook page isn’t exactly buzzing with activity, which I suppose does help keep my link at the top of the page. Split Screen should make more use of it. Many would be more likely to visit facebook than the forums and they need to improve their communication. Perhaps they don’t want constant postings about patches and changes. Facebook is more of a shop window. It might also open the Pandora’s Box of negativity that floods the English forum.

Split Screen also has a company facebook page which I find more interesting. It has pictures of the team and some (though not enough) insight into the creative process. They also have info on their next game releases. For example, they have just announced that they are looking for Beta testers for Steel Legions. This seems to be a Steampunk game of tank battles, again an in-browser MMO. Reading the blurb it sounds as if it will be a close relation to Pirate Galaxy using the same game engine etc, but with factions to fight for and a different approach to PvP that may make it more attractive than it is in Pirate Galaxy. I think I’ll be signing up for a taster.

Oh Baby!
The idea of driving a steam powered tank around the countryside blasting the you-know-what out of opponents may be attractive, but it sounds very meh! compared to the other game they’re working on, Dino Storm. The little they say sounds good, but the best advert for the concept is the comment from one Philipp Arlt “Cowboy Outlaws shooting laser guns while riding dinosaurs? How awesome is that!?!” Sign me up, I want a Triceratops!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

‘Facilitating Corruption’

A Redhead, that can only mean trouble
The preceding story mission was: ‘Interplanetary Travel’

The following story mission is: ‘Mantis Exterminator’

You’re sitting in orbit around Axiom for the first time, and once again there’s only a single yellow mission available to select. You can drop down to the surface and fly around looking for trouble, but you should stick with the story. The missions so far have spoon-fed you all the stuff you need to see in a logical order. Plus this would be a dull game without the story so you may as well enjoy it.

Jake Rattenbury wants you to deliver the cargo of Cryonite ore that you collected from Kalabesh in ‘Ore Smuggling’ to a customer on the surface of Axiom. This customer is Jessica Silverton, the daughter of the Colonial Army General Walter Victory. Get down to the surface and fly to a marked area. It’s enough of a journey that you are likely to have to defend yourself along the way. There are Eliminators which are the first Mantis to actually shoot back. On top of that are the Colonial Guard who probably have a wanted poster of you up in their canteen since you podded poor Officer Rosebud. You should be able to beat both of these opponents at as long as you don’t get yourself too outnumbered. If you do then don’t forget the Afterburner. If you refuse to run from a fight then you are going to have a remarkably unsuccessful career.

Once you meet up with Jessica Silverton the trade is done. You give her the ore and she gives you some data on the Colonial Army. How treasonous. Now just get to orbit and collect your reward. Jake has plans to trade the data for more Cryonite, so it’ll be interesting to see who wants it.

Your next mission is called ‘Mantis Exterminator’ and you will be introduced to one Bruno Paine. Bruno! Can it be? Am I about to get access to white missions at last? I can’t wait.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

January Update

As long as you’ve logged onto Pirate Galaxy in the last week you can’t have helped but notice there’s been an update. In fact if you listen very carefully right now, you can hear the screams of pilots as they career out of control into buildings, asteroids and mountains. Yes the steering system has been changed and we’re all like drunks in dodgems. 
A now common sight on Prosperous
Stolen from

Let’s look at the changes in the order they present themselves to you.

On log in there is now the option to ‘Autoselect Pilot.’ Presumably this means that you log on as the same pilot as you did last time. Fair enough. Many players probably just use one pilot so this makes it quicker to get playing. ü

If you don’t autoselect pilot then you get a pilot selection screen. I was relieved to see that you also get the server identified behind the pilot name as most of my pilots are named Serig. (I do have a few secret identities.)  It’s also good to see that the server status is displayed so you don’t waste your time logging in if it’s crashed. I think this is an improvement especially for newbies. ü

The game news that you could previously only see during log in can now be accessed in game via the old probe status button. This is a big improvement in communication channels and I hope Split Screen take full advantage of it, because they need to. ü

As mentioned the steering system is changed. Now you can hover in place which is good, but manoeuvring via the WASD keys alone is now a completely different experience. Better? No. Maybe if you’re new then it is an improvement. I remember that the steering made no sense to me back in Beta test days. Why did the camera move first, then the ship follow afterwards? Now the ship moves, followed by the camera. Yes that does sound sensible doesn’t it. I am prepared to learn to fly all over again, but there is another problem. The WASD steering is too coarse. You used to be able to dab the A key and so steer slightly left, now if you dab, nothing happens. You have to hold the key down. Fine steering is impossible using the keys alone. If in the old system you were able to change heading by as little as 1°, then now you can’t change it by less than 10°. Of course you can use the mouse and fine tune your direction as much as you want. In fact that is the only way I can fly down the hidden passage on Technatoria. Try it using just the keys and see how far you get. If Split Screen reduces the coarseness of the WASD steering then okay, but for now it’s an X.

The Energy cap has been increased. I went from a cap of 3,900 to 4,625. Why? I’m not complaining as who likes collecting E, but what’s the thinking? Maybe it’s game rebalancing, maybe it’s a bribe to soften the expected complaints with the new steering and loot system. At the same time Split Screen adjusted things so that despite the increased Energy cap Resurrecting still costs about the same amount. That is a help. I recently got within touching distance of the end of the Story Mission ‘Imminent Detonation’ before being podded, but still had enough E to resurrect without buying a booster and managed to finish the mission. With the old cost then I would have been too low after 80% of the story. ü

There’s an unexpected but pleasant change in the star map. Now when you click on possible destinations in the system you can see the time it would take to fly there before you start. A very obvious improvement that never occurred to me, that’s why I’m a blogger and not a games designer. ü

Now then, the new Loot system. I posted about this before it went live, here. I agree completely with the aim of the change, to reduce the variation between players. I also like that the drop rate now depends on your tech level. For example if you use a Gemini ship in Vega then you’ll get less Cryonite and less chance of a Blue Print. That should encourage those big bullies in their Draconis ships to stick to their own system, and put me off flying my Gemini storm back to Vega. What’s the in game logic? None at all.

Now you need multiple BPs to gain a new piece of equipment. No problem. I’m not surprised many people don’t like this as it probably feels very unfair at first try, especially if you get into a dry spell. As long as Split Screen gets the drop rate right then it should balance out evenly and more fairly. I’ll need a lot longer playing to have a proper opinion.

I did have an annoying session trying to complete a Repair Target white mission. I had a full tank of E and after blasting I don’t know how many Menders I still hadn’t got one of the correct BPs. I went to refuel but when I came back one of those Draconis bullies I mentioned had taken my place. He was not in the mood to move so I slunk off with my afterburner between my jets. After the hotfix I tried the same mission and completed it before I was too low on E. The one issue was that I already had the BP in question so every time I collected the right BP I was told had been discarded. I was wondering if I would be able to complete it but after 2 or 3 repair target BPs I was told I had completed the mission. What’s needed is a % completed message if you already have the BP in question. Overall assessment for the loot system, provisional ü, depending on the drop rate over a decent period.

Where Split Screen has gone wrong is in their communication. If you don’t visit the forums or bother to read the log in news then you would have no idea why the BP and steering systems are suddenly different. It would be nice to assume that everyone visits the forums and reads the news bulletins thoroughly but many don’t, maybe even most. You have to communicate, communicate and communicate. The recent Q&A session in orbit around Kalabesh was a good idea. I couldn’t make it, so don’t know if it was well managed or a disaster. The chat system wasn’t meant for that sort of application. Perhaps the GMs need to have better information, a press release or just be encouraged to say more than ‘visit the forum and read what’s posted there.’

They posted a very good commentary on the new release, here. It’s a pity they posted it after the release and not before.