Banu Merchantman

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The Banu

Our first encounter with the Banu occurred in the Davien system. In 2438 an independent nav-jumper named Vernon Tar, opened fire on what he thought was another privateer trying to steal his meager claim in the system.  The pilot of the other ship turned out to be Banu. Luckily, the incident didn’t lead to any deaths and became humanity’s first introduction to the Banu Protectorate.

Baachus is believed to be the Banu’s home world.  We say “believe” because the they haven’t been forthcoming on the subject. The Banu Political System is a Republic of Planet-States, each run under its own policies. The representatives of each planet gather for a quorum to debate legal and trade issues that affect the entire species. Otherwise, each planet is left to their own devices.

The Banu do not maintain a standing army.  Local militia keep the peace within their systems and they’re not especially selective. Even criminals can and do serve.  However, don’t be fooled into thinking this makes the Banu worlds an easy target.  On the contrary, they have the means to muster a formidable fighting force if necessary.

In comes the Merchantman

The Banu are the traders and culture-hounds of the universe. There are a lot of things they’re willing to overlook in pursuit of commerce.  They trade with the  Vanduul and if you’re looking for shady, check the back alleys of any Banu city.

Their planets are varied and colorful and they take pride in being unique in their culture and traditions.  However, their pursuit of wealth through trading is their one true ring. And why the ship designed to support that lifestyle, The Merchantman,  is prized above all others.

The BMM is categorized as a trade vessel within the cargo ship classification. As far as available cargo size units, it’s carries more than the Hull C, coming in at 5018.  It’s 100 meters in length and supports a maximum of 8 crew stations.  Compared to the other cargo ships, the BMM on paper has more defensive and offensive technical capabilities – wolf in sheep’s clothing.  However, remember this is still concept ships and such, things are subject to change.

Why is the Banu Merchantman a lifestyle?

One of the things that sets the BMM apart from other cargo ships is that it’s designed for sustainable deep space travel.  A traveling business with residential accommodations. Instead of bunks stashed conveniently in a passageway or galley-like area, there the BBM contains dedicated living quarters a short distance from the cockpit. It also boasts an observation room where business negotiations take place and allows customers to view a portion of the cargo hold. The BMM is designed for you to go to your customers and reside at that location for a time while conducting business.  When you’re done, you close up shop and move on.

The BMM Can’t be an Island

While the features and lifestyle of owning a Banu Merchantman may instantly sound appealing, having one is only part of the equation.  Unlike a pure cargo hauler whose primary role is transport goods, not sell them, the BBM needs merchandise to sell.  I doubt you’ll be running NPC cargo hauling missions with your BMM.  That’s doesn’t sound like an efficient use of the vessel.  Therefore you need a consistent means of filling up your cargo bay.

Pairing the BMM up with a resource acquisition ship like the Orion, Reclaimer or Endeavor could be an option.  Like an airplane segregates seating into economy, business and 1st class, you might consider the same strategy with the Merchantman.  Commonly needed  ore, food supplies, industrial materials, etc., could be your economy merchandise. While the more exotic lower quantity higher margin cargo.  For your planning, you’ll need to know which systems produce luxury items that are in demand elsewhere.  For a headstart in ideas, you may want to start reading the Galactic Guides and taking a look at where those locations are in relationship to each other on the Starmap.

CIG has said that not all merchandise is available in every system.   Therefore savvy merchants will need to stay informed on pockets of consumer demand for merchandise versus where the items can  be acquired.  In that scenario it doesn’t have to be exotic or luxury to be profitable.  I wonder if we’ll be able to purchase wholesale quantities of goods from NPC managed businesses?

Nefarious Intentions

Although pirating and unlawful conduct isn’t my cup of tea, I recognize it’s a valid play style and the BMM can play a role in such activities.  CIG has suggested that the capabilities of the Banu Merchantman make it viable as an armored smuggling ship or blockage runner.  I wasn’t a pirate in EVE Online but I owned a blockade runner for transporting salvage and low level manufactured goods into hostile territories, where listing them on the auction house was considerably more profitable. I also used it to transport my own ships and equipment to whatever system our organization was defending during Faction Warfare –  a form of territorial PVP in EVE.

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MISC Reliant Series

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Musashi Industrial & Starlight Concern
Musashi Industrial & Starlight Concern, commonly called MISC,  is based on Saisei in Centauri.  As a manufacturer, they’re known for the ergonomics of their factories, where spacecraft are robotically assembled with precision.  Centauri was one of the first systems settled during Humanity’s expansion among the stars.  It was discovered in 2365 by a dedicated survey ship. Centauri III was quickly offered up at a premium to private concerns. The result was Saisei, one of the most beautiful and well-constructed Human worlds in the UEE.

The majority of MISC’s business comes from the production of their heavy industrial division. One of MISC’s claims to fame is their technology partnership with the Xi’an, which came about due to the popularity of MISC ships within their culture.  That popularity led to MISC becoming the only Human spacecraft corporation to sign a lend-lease agreement with the Xi’an.  The details of which, are a closely guarded secret.

In recent years, MISC has turned its attention to advancing its two ship lines marked for personal use – the Freelancer and Starfarer.  They’ve funneled profit from their corporate revenue to break into this crowded segment, battling against giants such as Roberts Space Industries and Drake Interplanetary

I own the Reliant Kore, specifically to zip around the galaxy doing small cargo runs solo or with a younger family member. If I didn’t already have the Drake Herald, I might have opted for the Mako news van variant instead.

RELIANT KORE – The MINI HAULER

The Reliant Kore considered the base ship in this series, is an introductory cargo hauling vessel.  However, unlike the smaller hauler in the MISC Hull series, the Reliant also equipped with moderate offensive and defensive capabilities.  It also supports two crew stations, which is rare at this price point. Compared to other introductory cargo ships, the Reliant Kore at $50 USD, 30 cargo units of space and combination of S1 and S3 hard points, make it a good value against its competitors.

The Aurora CL which is a mercantile ship costs $45 USD, holds fewer cargo units with its 23 and is also moderately equipped for combat with S2 hardpoints. The MISC Hull A transports 48 cargo units, is equipped exclusively with S1 hardpoints but costs $60 USD. So depending on your intent and playstyle, the Reliant Kore can be a very good fit.

If your intent is similar to mine, opportunistic small-scale cargo hauling with a friend or family member, only the Reliant will fit that bill. If you’re a dedicated hauler and this will be your primary method for earning money in the game, the single seat Hull A is a better value because of it’s larger cargo hold.  If you want to transport cargo AND do combat missions right from the start, the Aurora CL is likely a better choice.  Outside of combat, I want to share my experiences with others, which makes having multiple crew stations a priority, hence I opted for the Reliant Kore.

RELIANT SEN – The RESEARCHER

The Reliant Sen is starter ship focused on exploration with advanced sensor capabilities.  It’s not clear to me what calling it a “mobile science platform” means, as we’ve yet to see the science profession design document.  But I would assume it will support components that allow the Sen to perform some of the less intensive tasks from the science career.

if you’re in the market for a starter exploration ship, the Reliant Sen price and hardpoints configuration, pit it against the Aurora ES.  Here again, for someone wanting a dedicated exploration vessel that is the primary method for initially earning money in the game, the ES is a good value.  However, with 10 cargo units of space, exploration equipped, mobile science capabilities, decent combat abilities and two crew stations, I think the Reliant Sen is the better overall value.

RELIANT MAKO – The NEWS VAN

Are you an information hound? Do you want to capture what’s happening in the verse and relay events as they unfold, to civilians and citizens alike?  Then a career in news and entertainment, alongside being the owner of a Reliant Mako, might be for you.

The Reliant Mako utilizes a state of the art Image Enhancement suite and turret-mounted optics, to capture every moment as it happens, allowing you to deliver the clarity and accuracy needed to make headlines.  It’s a baby Herald of sorts, letting you do recon and information relay.  Owners will be able to obtain the best picture and footage from the safest distance possible and spread the word. It’s scanning and broadcast capabilities won’t be as powerful as a Herald, being a starter ship, but it will get the job done.  And like the Herald, it supports two crew stations.

RELIANT TANA – The SKIRMISHER

Pew-pew incoming…  What would a series of starter ships be without a combat option? The Reliant Tana enters the ring as the only two-person combat ship, classified as a starter vessel. Categorized as a lightweight fighter, it brings with it high custom high-yield power plant and stronger shields due to its Xi’an technology.  It possesses additional weapon mounts AND a wider coverage arc owed to its design.

Entering the game as a static duo? Want to bring someone along who’s not adept enough to fly their own combat ship? Planning to take off with one of your children? I think the Tana is an excellent choice.

Here are other factors to consider about the Reliant Series in general, that I’ve gleaned from the Concept Sale Q&A Posts.

  • CIG considers the Reliant a utility ship. It was designed as a starter that provides multiple player profession opportunities in a single ship series and is more persistent universe game-play focused.
  • The secondary station is to control turrets. When flying solo, you can slave the turrets to the pilot.  However, you’ll lose the benefit of the ship’s unique large coverage arc. This impacts combat, scanning, and news-reporter related activities.  It is strongly suggested the ship be manned by two players.
  • The two flight orientation modes each have their own benefits.  Vertical is a better profile for combat, as it adds increased maneuverability and better spread of the thrusters.  When locked in the vertical position, the pilot seat is on top.  Horizontal is less agile but has a higher top speed.  It should also be noted that transition between the two orientations will take a few seconds and isn’t something we should expect to do quickly, while engaged in combat.  Additionally, players can only exit their seats while in the horizontal orientation.
  • Definitive plans about including jump drives as default configuration in the variants haven’t been determined.  They will, however, all be capable of having one installed.
  • The Tractor Beam mounted on the Wing-Tip can be replaced with size 2 weapon.  This would be useful for flying the ships in Arena Commander or in circumstances where combat is highly anticipated. Note that the Tractor Beam isn’t a default component in the base variant, the Reliant Kore.
  • The planned speed for the Reliant will fall between Aurora’s 150 MS and the Mustang’s 200. From the Q&A response, it’s not clear if that includes the increased speed received from being in the horizontal orientation.
  • While each ship in the series will support component flexibility, within the variants themselves, not all components are interchangeable.  It’s not a simple matter of taking a component out of the Mako and putting in the Kore.  The Kore and Tana are kindred and can cross change components.  As are the Sen wit the Mako.

That’s a run down of the information available for the MISC Reliant series. I hope it’s been helpful to anyone considering a pledge for it.  It’s likely to go on sale when 2.4 hits the Live Server.

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Casual Citizen Episode 18 – MISC Reliant Series


What's All This Voice Attack Stuff?

WHAT’S ALL THIS VOICE ATTACK STUFF?

With the interest in Voice Packs seemingly on the rise, while Cloud Imperium Games is continuing to refine Star Citizen’s control schemes, I thought it would be a good time to discuss Voice Attack in general and why some players have elected to use it.

If you’re like me, a HOTAS user, I simply don’t have enough buttons on my device to support even the minimum set of commands I want at the ready. My current setup also doesn’t support having the keyboard within a reach that’s effective to be used during combat. So I was elated to come across the idea of using a program to carry out a few basic commands.  This article will help you differentiate between VoiceAttack, Profiles and Voice Packs, and where to find additional information if interested.

WHAT IS VOICE ATTACK

As an ability, voice attack is a method of using your voice to initiate keystrokes.  The name is a bit of a misnomer. The capabilities are not tied to attacking / damage. It’s any set of keystrokes. You can launch a game. Establish your starting setup in an application. I use it to start and stop Fraps recordings so I can stay in the thick of combat and capture video using my voice.

VoiceAttack (VA) the program,  is a popular software application used to execute by voice, commands that would normally be a series of keystrokes and/or mouse interactions. Therefore, if you’re interested in playing around with using voice initiated commands, your first step is to acquire the software.  You can purchase VA from here. The object that VA uses to know what to DO when you SAY certain words or phrases is a Profile.

WHAT IS A VOICE ATTACK PROFILE

The Profile is a separate file with a .VAP extension.  The profile itself contains a series of commands you want executed, mapped to what you’ll say, when you want those commands to be carried out. Oftentimes, people want the successful execution of command followed to be up by an auditory confirmation.  This is achieved by using your computer’s operating system to turn text into speech. This allows your PC to say, “Done.” when a task is completed.  

Using the Text-to-Speech engine is achieved by using the Say command in a profile, followed by the word or phrase to be spoken. Your operating system’s Text-to-Speech engine interprets the text into an auditory response using its default voice. If you don’t like your computer’s default voice, you can purchase additional ones from companies such as Ivona. However, auditory responses are not required for a Profile to work. And you shouldn’t invest in one until you’ve determined you like using voice attack commands in the first place.

Simply having a profile of commands that match the keybinds in the target game, is all you need, after installing voice attack software. You can download Profiles for free! There are members of the community who have shared their profiles.  Of course, mileage will vary on how well they work or suit your tastes.  Search the official RSI Forums, Star Citizen section on Reddit and the internet in general.

WHAT IS A VOICE PACK

A Voice Pack is a Profile that enhances the execution of commands by adding a significant amount of voice over / audio work. This is often done using professional voice actors or celebrities and may include additional narration that is not directly tied to executing commands, such as role-play conversations. HCS offers multiple Voice Packs for Star Citizen, as well as other games.  Many players enjoy having this more elaborate version of a Profile.  It’s fun and can be more immersive. However, it’s not a required component. You don’t have to own or purchase a Voice Pack in order to use voice attack commands.

CREATING AND EDITING A VOICE ATTACK PROFILE IS EASY

To be perfectly honest, Star Citizen has more keyboard commands and uses modifier keys more than any other game I’ve played. I can barely fly in Star Citizen without using VoiceAttack.  My HOTAS doesn’t have nearly enough buttons to accommodate the bare minimum of what’s needed. Trying to reach over to a keyboard in the middle of combat isn’t something I want to juggle.  Therefore, it’s essential for me to keep my profile updated with changes CIG makes to control schemes, as they’ve done in patch 2.4.  This type of large scale change is another reason why I’ve opted for a small profile during alpha.

The steps for creating and/or editing a Profile is very straight forward. You must have Voice Attack and you must know your current keybind settings in the game, in order to tie them to a voice command.  With those two in hand, you can create a basic profile from scratch or edit one you download for free or may have purchased. I wrote an article last year detailing the steps and they  haven’t changed since that time.

I hope this helps clarify voice attack as an ability vs. VoiceAttack the software vs. Voice Packs. I use VA religiously and own a Voice Pack from HCS. During the SC Alpha however, I’m sticking to a small one I created myself that’s easy to manage and only contains the dozen or so commands I can’t live without during combat.

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Ballistic versus Laser Weapons

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BALLISTIC AND LASER WEAPONS

Star Citizen Alpha 2.4’s Item Port System simplifies customizing your ship’s configuration, making it very intuitive to experiment with varying ship loadouts. As mentioned in a previous article, one of the first things I did was change the weapons on my Sabre. That said, how did I decide on the type of weapons I wanted to use? To begin, you need to understand the difference between ballistic and laser weapons.

BALLISTIC WEAPONS

Ballistic weapons fire physical ammunition at a target. As this is a physical object with mass, it’s slowed down by the targeted ship’s shield but is able to penetrate it to do damage to the ship’s hull. The amount of damage that passes through the shield to hit the hull is based on the class of shield being penetrated. For example, an inexpensive civilian class shield may have a 40/60 split. This means 40% of the incoming damage is absorbed by the shield. The other 60% of the damage hits the hull.

Additionally, as a mechanized device, ballistic weapons do not utilize your ship’s energy to fire and generate a minimal amount of heat. If enough energy exists for the weapon itself to be brought online, that’s all that’s required. This allows you to sustain other ship components that require energy better. And ballistic don’t contribute greatly to your ship’s overall heat signature. Here’s a summary of the advantages and disadvantages for ballistic weapons.

Advantages

  • Hitting the target always delivers some damage to the targeted ship
  • Doesn’t consume energy
  • Emits minimal heat signature
  • Supports longer targeting distance

Disadvantages

  • Requires ammunition – which is a finite amount in the chamber
  • Ammunition costs credits and must be continually replenished
  • Slower rate of fire and velocity, causing increased difficulty in hitting highly agile targets

LASER WEAPONS

Let’s get the part where Star Citizen’s laser weapons are more akin to plasma weapons out of the way up front. I agree with the portion of the player base that prefers calling them energy weapons. A true laser beam travels at the speed of light and is therefore invisible to the naked eye. This is an energy based weapon and as such, it utilizes energy from your ship’s available pool to function. They also generate heat. How much heat tends to be directly proportional to the quality of the laser weapon, speed and damage output.

Unlike ballistic weapons, 100% of a laser weapon’s damage is absorbed by a ship’s shield. This means that before you can start damaging the targeted ship, you must do enough damage to deplete its shield first. Yes, there’s a reason why you can see where your shields are depleted and adjust, as well as see the same information for the targeted ship. Good news is that once the shield is depleted, direct laser weapon damage tends to be higher damage than a ballistic weapon of the same calibre. This is part of the design balancing act between ballistic and laser weapons. Here’s a summary of the advantages and disadvantages for laser weapons.

Advantages

  • Doesn’t require ammunition
  • Faster weapon speed compared to same calibre ballistic weapon
  • Hits harder against exposed target (depleted shield) than same class ballistic weapon

Disadvantages

  • Must deplete the shield before you can damage targeted ship
  • Consumes ship energy from your ship’s available pool
  • Easier to overheat and can’t overheat be used until they cool down
  • Generating heat increases your ship’s overall heat signature

IN SUMMARY

Now that we’ve discussed the basic differences, you can make a more informed decision about which type or combination you want to configure on your ships. Overall time to kill is relatively fast at this stage of the Star Citizen alpha, such that you can go all ballistic or all laser and be fine – for now.

However, as larger ships are introduced and the component system enables upgrading shields, you’ll want to balance your weapons selection against things like:

  • Most likely or planned targets – agility, likely shield strength, etc.
  • Your ship’s role in an engagement – hit fast and fluid vs. less mobile brawler
  • Your ship’s component configuration – ability to regenerate energy, effectiveness of cooling components
  • Your playstyle – how you prefer to size up and dismantle targets

In everyday situations, it may be wise to have a mixture of ballistic and energy weapons. However, if you’re a scout or doing infiltration work, using weapons that increase your overall heat signature is probably counterproductive. These are the types of circumstances we’ll have to consider as larger ships are made flight ready and the game’s mechanics mature.


Search and Rescue

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To provide a gaming experience that is more tactical and varied, Star Citizen has devised a limb-based injury system which includes varying degrees of damage severity and permanence.  It’s not going to be the more common scenario where after sustaining damage, a player runs and hides until his health magically regenerates to full.

In Star Citizen, various areas of the body go through damage states from Normal (no injury) to Ruined (not usable or gone).  To recover from a state below normal, player intervention is necessary. A detailed overview of the health system can be found here.

WHAT WE KNOW

If a player is incapacitated in proximity to his allies, they can be dragged to safety. Some assistance can be provided on the spot using field tech, such as the ability to stem bleeding.  However, field tech cannot be used to heal a player back to full capacity.

Beyond moderate injury or to be returned to a normal 100% health state, a player must undergo more intense treatments, such as those provided by Medbays and Medstations.  This is where Search and Rescue (SAR) comes into play. Given that Star Citizen has a permadeath mechanic, I expect SAR services to be in high demand.

Based on the Healing your Spacemen article, we know for certain that a robust SAR system is being designed. Requests to rescue players and NPCs is one of the major mission types being planned. Players will be able to send distress calls if they’re shot down or otherwise stranded in space.  A fellow player, whose ship is SAR equipped, can retrieve them and provide medical services aboard their ship.  If the injuries are beyond what they can provide, the responder can stabilize the patient and transport them to a dedicated medical facility.

Beyond what CIG has published on the topic, we know that providing SAR will range from small operations to larger player run medical services, based on the ships being developed.  They’ve talked about a large medical treatment ship being delivered in the 4th wave of Persistent Universe ships.  I have no idea what wave we’re on now but SAR capable ships are already in the line-up.

Here are the small to mid-tier SAR capable ships that have already been announced:

PLAYER SPECULATION

If MMOs have taught me anything, it’s that the vast majority of players like to pew-pew at every opportunity and even a cautious PVE carebear dies.  There will be no shortage of players needing medical attention.  Even if you die in space, there’s a possibility that your body can be healed if you receive intensive medical attention in time, which will save you a tick on your permadeath life counter. Yup, medical services will be in demand.

Even with the little, we have to go on beyond the ships announced thus far, player run organizations are forming around this career. One such group is Corporate Search and Rescue, which is 325 members strong at this point.  And there’s a SAR association for players who are in the medical/SAR career – even though the career itself hasn’t been announced.

SC backers are not short on imagination or enthusiasm for carving out their personal niche in space. Here’s a player made video illustrating what he thinks the SAR/medic role will be like in Star Citizen.  And a thread where players are discussing which ships can be used as space ambulances – no real treatment, has gotten traction.

As for me, I think SAR will be an interesting and diverse career that will also provide a lot of social interaction with the community.  I’ve already decided on commercial civilian transport as my primary career.  However, there’s always room to play multiple roles in MMOs.  I’ve picked SAR as a secondary.

I think SAR is a support role I can provide for guild/corp PVP operations or any endeavor where one of us might get hurt.  It’s also a service you can provide after the fact!  A friend is hurt while out mining, exploring, doing PVE, etc., and makes it back alive but with long term injuries. I can bring them aboard my ship to take care of their injuries, likely saving them some coin and hassle. I can also do sporadic rescue services while exploring.

DRAKE INTERPLANETARY CUTLASS RED

My decision to purchase the Genesis Starliner to accompany my goal of obtaining a commercial pilot license left me with redundant ships based on their roles.  I had a Freelancer MAX with the idea of doing salvage and hauling cargo but I missed the concept sale for the dedicated salvage ship and am not sure when/if I’ll pursue it at all now.

Lacking an exploration focused ship, I exchanged the MAX for the DUR variant, which left me with a store credit.  I also had the Aurora LN which is a combat ship but one that’s inferior to the Origin 325A I purchased.  I decided to melt the LN, which gave me full credit for the original purchase price.  Using my store credits plus $50, I bought the Cutlass Red, a dedicated SAR vessel.

It’s the smallest of the SAR ships announced thus far which is all I need.  I’m big on PVE in MMOs.  Although not typically a completionist, I like to do as much of the PVE content as possible, assuming that it’s decent.  Knowing that there will be missions specific to SAR, I decided that owning one was a something I wanted up front.  I also plan to team up with my guild from ArcheAge which contains a LOT of PVP/FPS gamers.  I think I’ll have a plenty of bodies to mend.