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A Spiral Arm And 4272 ly From Sol

A month a go I spent four days 4272 ly away from Sol so I could play around with exploring for a change. I’ve learned a number of things from this, which was the point of the whole exercise.

It is apparent, when you’re exploring, you have to be very careful. Damage to the ships hull isn’t really a big deal when you’re flying around in a relatively inexpensive ship and a repair is only a single hop away. When you’re 4000+ ly from the nearest planet that can offer repair facilities this changes the game significantly. Every percentage point of hull damage is a small step towards having to turn back. It’s the simple things that do you in, such as watching an episode of Sense8 at the same time and forgetting to turn your throttle off so you’re thrown out of frame shift when you try and ‘ram’ a star. Hull damage. Playing with the repair module as you’ve not used one before and accidentally turning your frame shift drive off causing another violent drop out of frame shift. Hull damage. Avoid silly mistakes. Concentrate.

I’ve also had to become a bit more organised, as it’s become immediately apparent I should record the systems I’ve explored. One reason being so I can attempt to match them up to the discovered by status when I file the results back in explored space. This has also allowed me to notice systems follow some sort of numbering and naming scheme that I’ve not figured out yet, but it is driving how I explore. The systems seem to be in some sort of naming clusters and I’m exploring all the systems in such a ‘cluster name’ and then moving onto another name.

As I’ve learned more about the planet types and what a system can generally contain (it’s all there when you’re trading but it’s not front and centre important) I should only be surface scanning a proportion of the planets. Leaving low value ones. Not necessarily flying out to those way on the outside of the system. If you’re purely looking at it from the point of view on a credit to time ration you’re best moving on. Hit the high value. Hope for an Earth-like planet. I think they are quite rare compared to the number of systems in the galaxy. If I do this again I may adopt a set of guiding rules for my scanning.

The tracking what I’ve explored thing didn’t really work as when I handed in the data there seemed to be a whole lot more stuff listed than I remember scanning. Not sure what was going on there. I did get quite a few first discoveries, which I did start to write down, and then decided I couldn’t be bothered. It’s suffice to say I have intrepidly been the first to explore a number of systems.

You also become intimately more aware of the galaxy at large and the problems it throws at you. This doesn’t really happen when you’re in explored space trading. You’re more worried about being interdicted than you are planetary density, galactic planes and coordinate systems. It’s like the difference between navigating around on a motorway system and hiking in the country. As an example, I found it harder to get back to known space then it was to travel away from it. I traversed the gap between spiral arms easily when going out, it proved really hard coming back. After some discussion and investigation I learned the frequency of stars is radically reduced the further you travel away from the galactic plane. This is a reduction in system density in an area already relatively sparse. I needed to travel ‘down’ and the journey got much easier. I didn’t shift the galaxy map up and down the planes when travelling out and my origin planet was +50 and I initially tried to find a route back 700 measures (no idea what the measures are) difference.

In short, once you’re off on your own you start to become aware the galaxy exists in three dimensions, a bit like Khan off of Star Trek I was forgetting this fact.

I think this is why I am finding Elite interesting. It doesn’t hold your hand. You have to solve problems but they’re not gaming minutia problems, they’re ‘how the world works problems’. I admit some of these problems have been solved for me so there is substantially less figuring out then some people had to do. I also suspect a lot of this figuring out was done during the Beta before the game was even released. When is it best to do rare trading or commodities? What are the routes in either case? When it comes to combat how do you make money? How do you hunt a bounty (still not figured that one out)? What are the best systems to scan? How to efficiently use the galaxy map? Understanding the galaxy in terms of its spacial issues, the common factors with systems and what that means for habitable worlds? The list no doubt goes on.

One thing I do no for sure: if you want the credits, you don’t go exploring. There is a lot I can learn about efficiency in terms of which bodies that are worth scanning either due to composition or distance, but I suspect you’ll still make a lot more from trading then you will spending months out looking at distance stars.

Still, I think I will do it again. It was odd being so far out that you knew you would never say another ship unless the Gods of astronomical odds looked down upon you. It was also good seeing how far I could go. Yes, it wasn’t that far compared to some, but it was ten times the journey most make as their first. If I go next time I may try for something further out and try and be more careful and stay out longer. I am going to generate some ‘faster’ credits by trading again for a while.

About Ian O'Rourke

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