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.

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