Proactive Shield Management

Oftentimes, the time-to-kill in ship combat can feel fast in Star Citizen. I’m not worried. I’ve experienced faster and slower.  Plus we know that combat mechanics are still evolving, with adjustments coming down the pike. However, there’s something that we should all be doing now, that I rarely see pilots doing when watching their videos. It’s relatively easy and can mean the difference in surviving an encounter. I’m talking about shield management.

In the video below  you can see me adjusting shields as necessary.  Keep an eye on the left side of my cockpit. The shield management window will appear very quickly when adjustments are being made. If I’m flying head on into a cluster of enemy ships, I increase the strength of the front shield.  If I’m being sniped in the back while taking on foes in the front, I increase my rear shield and so on.

To learn about proactive and reactive shield management check out my article on REDACTED.


Mining Profession

Show Transcript

As this will be one of the professions many new players gravitate toward, here’s a quick overview of the mining profession.  It was one of the first career design documents published and is supposedly representative of their philosophy for all careers.  Which is that career associated tasks contain activities that require skill, dext, rity and intelligence, where mindless repetition or idle monitoring are explicitly avoided.

This is after all, deep space and although a career isn’t combat oriented there’s danger present.  In the case of mining, the more valuable materials will reside in dense asteroid fields that must be piloted through without suffering serious damage to your ship.  While mining, you can encounter compressed pockets of gas and other volatile materials that can explode in the presence of excessive energy or detonate from seismic activity.  In other words, this isn’t an auto-pilot profession and careless players can die.

 IN THE BEGINNING

Visiting your local Trade and Development Division (TDD), which serves as the marketplace for commodities, can provide a sense of what’s in demand, at what price and where.  Once you’ve decided on what you want to attempt to mine, it’s time to decide between going freelance or acquiring a contract for those materials from a NPC run corporation.

There are benefits and risks of working freelance.  On the good, you are your own master.  You set your mining schedule and pace.  You may be able to sell your cargo for a higher than average price based on market changes.  However, the opposite is also a risk.  By the time you return with your cargo and list it for auction, the prices may have decreased.

If a committed payout is preferred, working on contract is the better option.  You know exactly how much you will be paid for your cargo.  However, this isn’t completely without risk.  If during the excursion your ship suffers damage OR unforeseen setbacks delay your return or reduce your cargo, your reputation will take a hit. In the end, you are paid less than you expected because of your performance and that performance has a lasting impact on future employment.

LOCATING THE RIGHT ASTEROID FIELDS

After deciding between freelance and contract, it’s time to locate asteroids that contain the materials you seek.  Every solar system will contain a variety of public information on major asteroid fields. It’s probably best to head into the known when you’re starting.  However, don’t expect to find the more lucrative materials there.  If they existed in that location, they’re likely long gone.  However, it’s still a good place to start mining common materials.

Freelancers wanting to maximize their profits can opt to spend money on an Information Broker.  This is someone who has knowledge about asteroid fields which aren’t public.  They either bought the information from someone else or obtained the coordinates through exploration and are using that information to provide a service.

Lastly, you can explore the galaxy yourself.  This will be the most time-consuming approach and not likely to be feasible for contract work that contains deadlines.  However, combined with an emphasis on exploration, a freelancer could turn an excellent profit by harvesting from isolated/unknown locations and/or selling the information to an Information Broker. You could also be an explorer and information broker yourself but we’re here to talk about mining. *Smile*

GETTING THE JOB DONE

Mining consists of multiple roles, and is done using a ship configured for mining, such as the Orion.  The more proficiency you have with performing a role the more efficient the results, which ultimately impacts effort versus profit.  Note that any or all of these roles can be performed by NPCs.  The NPC’s proficiency will be commensurate with their fee.

As for solo play as a miner, the design document leads me to believe that it’s not possible to mine completely solo – without players or NPCs. Roles that happen sequentially can be carried out by the same person.  However, there are activities that take place simultaneously and as such, require multiple bodies.

The pilot is responsible for safely navigating the ship to and within targeted asteroid fields.  This may not be as simple as it sounds.  Rarer materials will be located in dense fields which require nimble navigation skills to avoid costly ship damage.

A scan operator is responsible for identifying an asteroid’s composition.  This is accomplished by injecting remote material analysis packages (RMAPs) into nearby asteroids. The telemetry data is sent to the pilot and scan operator. Once a site is selected, the optimal injection orientation is displayed.  The scan operator launches and manually controls RMAP-equipped missiles used to impact the asteroid at the correct location to expose the materials you want to mine.  Actual mining efficiency is impacted by the accuracy of the scan operator’s efforts to expose the asteroid’s components.

Next up is the beam operator who is responsible for wielding the mining beam affixed to the ship’s robotic arms.  They have direct control over beam output and if they’re good, are able to precisely extract materials.  Their control of the beam is also critical to safety, as an injection of surplus energy into volatile materials can cause explosive chain reactions.  The result of such a mistake can range from ship damage to the loss of the ship and its crew.

The cargo operator is the sifting and pick-up role.  Mined materials are NOT automagically deposited into your vessel.  The cargo operator monitors the fragments being excavated by the mining beam and interrogates them using an integrated Fragment Scanner. Fragments of interest are directed into a ship’s input port.  The input port houses a crusher that pulverizes the fragments into rubble and stores the contents into cargo modules.  The skill of this person also impacts the value of your payload. They can miss important fragments or be so slow that they impact your efficiency, putting you behind schedule for contract deliveries.

If your ship is equipped with a refinery, the refinery operator will process raw ore into its purified forms, ejecting waste elements out into space.  Purified materials consume considerably less storage space which allows your operation to continue for extended periods of time before it becomes necessary to dock and unload.

Whew, that’s more involved than the mining I’ve done in other games such as EVE Online. I have no intention of mining in Star Citizen.  Even in this interactive model, there are other things I’d rather do to earn a living.  However, I’m sure this is going to appeal to a lot of people which is why I wanted to provide a short overview of the mechanics involved. Here’s a link to the design document for a more detailed look at the profession.

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Passenger Transport & Genesis Starliner

Show Transcript

OH MY GAWD, they had me at profession…

For a long time now, I’ve had a vision of the role I wanted to play in Star Citizen. I saw myself playing out a female version of Mal from Firefly. My love for FF is undeniable.  I create and sell FF inspired jewelry. On some level, this role would also mirror my career in EVE Online, which existed long before there were salvage specific ships available.

In EVE, salvage appealed to me because I liked the freedom to engage random rats and salvage their ships while exploring, salvage kills from riding shotgun during mining ops, leech cleaning around AFK miners and cleaning up after my own PVE missions.  It certainly didn’t hurt that salvage was lucrative, even for freshies, which is what I was when I started.  I suddenly had a license to print ISK in EVE, after a long suffering stint of poverty. As such, my vision for SC was a more RP and environmentally lush version of this.  I knew there would be piracy/PVP, FPS pew-pew, industry/mining, etc., none of which excited me as a primary focus.  I was content and excited about the vision I held.

To cement my vision, I purchased a Freelancer, now upgraded to Freelancer MAX before they announced the salvage specific ship, the Reclaimer. Even so, the FM would be good enough until I upgraded in the future to the Reclaimer. La la la, all was settled in my SC world.

That was until I saw a YouTube video discussing the recently unveiled Genesis Starliner and the accompanying transport career.  My mouth fell open, hit the floor and remained there.  I watched the video multiple times. I went to the RSI website and read the content for myself.  Why oh why, did RSI include interactive content allowing you to see the travel brochures someone might read when planning a vacation and then choose a destination from an airport departures board, which tied to a short RP story of a passenger aboard the ship. It was a sucker punch to my gut that excited me for a SC experience that was very different from the one I had planned in my head.

I could pilot and manage a civilian transport business. I COULD PILOT AND MANAGE A CIVILIAN TRANSPORT BUSINESS. I could do this with friends. I could do this with guildmates! WhatchootalkinboutWillis??

SHIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • Mid-range luxury civilian transport ship.
  • Modular design seating up to 100 economy passengers, or less as a mixture of economy, business class and luxury.
  • Versatile interior design can also used to transport and repair race ships, military troops transport or fitted out as private luxury liner.
  • Is same ship-class used for the SC equivalent of Air Force One, The UEE Imperator’s transport ship.
  • Is big. Is beautiful. Is WOW.
  • Comes with Lifetime Insurance (LTI)

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • Formal career and mechanics being designed around civilian transport.
  • Requires obtaining licenses to operate out of your desired travel hubs.
  • Requires clean criminal record to obtain and maintain licenses.
  • Incorporates a reputation systems based on passenger satisfaction.
  • May require actual crew depending on configuration/passenger count.
  • On-board mini games provide customer service tasks such as food and beverage service, entertainment centers, in-flight mechanical and medical emergencies, etc..
  • Crew roles can be fulfilled by other players or you can hire NPC flight attendants.

WHY I’M ENTHRALLED

  • I prefer when there are mechanics in MMOs that allow me to take on a role that feels as though I have an on-going existence in the world beyond showing up to do quests and craft.  The EQ2 crafting and housing system allowed me to establish and run a decorating service. ArcheAge for all its other faults, had a detailed crafting and economy which served the same, that I really enjoyed.
  • I play and enjoy task based / time management games such as the various Dash games and the survival but heavily time management slanted, Don’t Starve / Don’t Starve Together.
  • I’m a long time The Sims fan who is brimming with ideas of how you can really RP this ship and career, not to mention the modularity of the ship itself, which will lend to all sorts of personalized and flavorful transport services.
  • Get tired of transporting civilians, carry race ships.  Get tired of trucking race ships, it can be outfitted for military operations for your corporation and allies.  Over that, setup for search and rescue.  Lots of options to choose from to change up your game play or help your friends and corp.
  • It’s a completely new and unique gaming experience/profession!
  • I’m like a cat.  When I enjoy an activity in game, I can do it routinely without becoming board.  Just ask my ArcheAge guildmates about me a running trade packs. LOL Who I would also transport goods for using my farm wagon, for the modest price of one free trade pack for me to turn in too and some boosted fuel.

I shouldn’t have but I COULD NOT HELP MYSELF.  I pledged / purchased the Genesis Starliner.  As I said, they had me at profession.

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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.