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Xbox One Gaming: Borderlands 3 – The Handsome Jackpot DLC

I’ve been playing “catch up” with this game to get all created characters to the same level and as I was working on my lowest level character through the game’s main story items (that character was below level 30 while all others are in the high 60s), it was time to take a break from the main story to hit Handsome Jack’s casino for some loot and mayhem.

Okay, so… Handsome Jack. We didn’t see him in Borderlands 1 and I don’t readily remember if there were even whispers of his presence at this point. We do get introduced to him in Borderlands 2 and, wow: What an evil asshole he turned out to be! Gearbox and 2K kinda “backtracked” to point out some stuff that Jack may have been involved in where Borderlands 1 went but the “man in the mask” really made his presence felt throughout Borderlands 2 and to the point where the guy who “played” and voiced the character won an Emmy. It was a stellar performance and to the point where the only other character you wanted dead more than Handsome Jack was… Claptrap, who is, hands down, the most annoying character I’ve ever had to deal with in any video game I’ve ever played.

The Pre-Sequel backs up big time to tell the story of how Handsome Jack got to be the power-mad lunatic we met in Borderlands 2. This game, strangely, wasn’t entitled as “Borderlands 3” and there were a lot of players who didn’t like the great departure from the first two games but, yeah, I liked it a lot even though Jack wasn’t the antagonist, well, not until the game’s really big boss gets defeated and, okay, now you know why Handsome Jack is the most feared entity we saw in Borderlands 2.

Good to know. Things get a little weird, though: To beat Borderlands 2, you gotta kill the shit out of Handsome Jack and I don’t know about anyone else who played the game but I took a great deal of pleasure killing the shit out him time and time again in both playable modes and with every character I could do it with and true to how the games are played, often with inadequate weaponry which just makes you get creative and tasks your ability to be that creative trying to off Jack first and then defeat The Destroyer… but you want to blow his ass away since while you’re battling him in the final phase of the game, he’s talking more trash and as he does throughout the game and you just want to make him go away.

Good fun. So Borderlands 3 comes out and during its development, a lot of players were wondering if we’d get to see Handsome Jack get reincarnated but there are a lot of references to Lilith ending Jack (and she didn’t, actually) but, okay, Jack’s gone and you don’t see a whole lot of Hyperion’s presence in the game, either – that’s the company Jack worked for then eventually took over. So Gearbox and 2K figured out how to get the handsome bastard back in the game by introducing the Handsome Jackpot DLC and kinda reintroducing Timothy, a poor slob who got conscripted to be one of Jack’s doubles who got trapped on the space-borne casino when it went into lockdown mode upon Jack’s demise and now the mission is to get in there and do what you gotta do so that Mad Moxxi can take over the dilapidated casino and because Jack stole it from her to begin with.

The Borderlands franchise has always been… gritty. Dirty. Many locations have seen better times and the first time I played the Handsome Jackpot DLC, it gave me the creeps because it was. well, trashed to be nice about it. It still gives me the creeps and as i played yesterday, I could feel how running around the place was making me feel at a subliminal level while feeling a certain kind of “joy” and irritation to be dealing with the ghost of Handsome Jack and how, even in death, he’s still being the ultimate asshole by reminding me that he took great joy fleecing those who came there to seek fortune only to find themselves buried under tons of unpayable debt to the handsome bastard. I like the storyline of the DLC but one of the reasons why I like playing it so much is that it’s one of the opportunities in the game to make money and more so when, in true Borderlands fashion, early into initial gameplay, you don’t have a lot of money to play with but, yeah, you kinda get used to this but the other games provided a way to “farm” money (and other loot) and this DLC, I supposed, was the answer to this since there’s no places in the main story where you can keep coming back to clean the place out of whatever money is lying around.

As I do whenever I play the game, I slipped into “stone cold killer mode” and methodically went through the main story as differently as I could; different tactics and approaches and, to my surprise, finding places that I’d never been in or even knew existed… and I’ve been playing this game for a long time. I got through the early main story items and particularly the ones I don’t care much for; every Borderlands game has parts, missions, etc., that I just hate doing but since they’re main story items, ya can’t progress through the game without doing them. I’d just defeated the one boss – Graveward – who, at least for me, is the toughest boss to defeat and I needed a break and… money. My character wasn’t even at level 30 at this point and I had so little money that I was basically in the Borderlands poor house but I knew how to take care of that: Do the Heist on the casino. I knew that by the time I got to the end and defeated the final boss, I’d have a million dollars or so and enough so that I wouldn’t have to worry about buying improved weapons or paying the stupidly high prices attached to respawning when you get killed.

I anticipated leveling up my character closer to level 40 which is in the neighborhood I want to be in as I continue on with the main story stuff… but after I do my best to clean out the casino for as much money as I can get my hands on. Almost every ammo case in the casino has money in it; in some areas, there are busted up slot machines that you can get money from… including the ones who come to life and tries to blow you away. You’d think that with as many times as I’ve played this DLC, the animated killer slot machines wouldn’t surprise me since I know they’re there but, yeah, they still do and, besides, the Borderlands franchise never fails to be able to keep players on their toes in some way and even when you know what’s going to happen.

Other than my low cash levels, I had an even bigger problem and one the game just throws at you. I’d gotten my hands on a legendary corrosive assault rifle made by Vladof (one of the many manufacturers in the game) but one that, normally, I don’t play with but the games are good at making each character an expert with a certain type of weapon and legendaries are, well, they’re the shit and often quite powerful. The one I had found was a level 18 weapon which, if it hadn’t been a legendary one, would have – should have – stopped being effective, oh, maybe somewhere around level 23 or 24. I get past level 30… and I’m still using this particular weapon because none of the other ones I have are doing that good of a job of taking out the bad guys and, well, I’m “worried” because at some point, this level 18 weapon will stop being effective and, as it tends to be my bad luck, during a battle where I need it to be effective. I’m running around the casino killing shit and I’ve never been so aware of my weapon deficiency like I am now and I’m cursing Gearbox and 2K – and not for the first time – because I know that, again, at some point, this low-level legendary will become as useless as the other 30 or so items I’m carrying in my backpack.

Those of you who have played Borderlands knows exactly what I’m talking about and those of you who haven’t, well, you don’t have to take my word for it – play any of the games and find out for yourself. Then, if I didn’t have enough to worry about as far as my weaponry was concerned, I’m making rookie mistakes and of the kind no seasoned Borderlands veteran should be making like how I somehow managed to walk right off the edge of a platform and went out of bounds and died and, yep, taking a good chunk out of my limited funds; it had me laughing to myself to be reminded that while you can respawn in the game, it’s never without putting a dent in your wallet. I remembered trying to figure out how the game decides how much money it costs… and gave up trying to figure it out and, well, I never liked doing math to begin with. Stepping off that platform – and something I had never done before playing the DLC – cost me about twenty grand that I couldn’t afford at the time all that much… but I guess it was okay because I was having an unusually hard time finding weapons that were effective and making me rely on that level 18 legendary that, at this point, had pretty much outlived its usefulness.

The main thing, though, is that I’m having fun dealing with this. This particular DLC isn’t exactly hard or difficult, not like much of the main story stuff can be or like some of the other DLCs really are, well, at least for me. I’m going from place to place, shooting bad guys, blowing shit up, etc., and I’m constantly being reminded that the weaponry is character specific and that some of the weapons aren’t ones that I would normally use or prefer… but that’s the beauty of any of the Borderlands games and DLCs: Being able to do more with less. Finding the right combination of items even when some of them aren’t the “best weapon” available in the game. Or that weird thing where I actually found a weapon that one of my other characters just kicks major ass with but for the current character? Not even close. In one of those rare moments, this DLC is pissing me off because I’m making progress… and not making progress… and I’m still relying on a weapon that, as I got down to the final moments of the DLC, wasn’t doing a whole lot of good or damage.

I defeated the final boss of the DLC… with a pistol. I don’t particularly like the Jakobs weapons. They’re “antiquated” items that often require a lot of trigger pulls or don’t hold a lot of ammo and other things that I’ve learned just annoys the shit out of me but, yep, I defeated the final boss of the DLC with a Jakobs pistol. A six-shooter. Not even a legendary one. I’m running around the final battle area switching weapons as fast as I can and came close to dying way too many times which, given the level of the character and the mode it was in, shouldn’t have happened, well, not the way it was. Nothing is working against the final boss; my grenades are pretty much useless, the legendary that had, up to that point, served me well wasn’t doing shit and I was more than glad that I could hit the button to look at my inventory without getting killed but frustrated because of the thirty or so weapons I had on hand, I’d tried them all… except for this Jakobs pistol that, normally, I would have sold for cash given my dislike of them.

I equip it and I’m already thinking about what else I can do to defeat the final boss and knowing that I don’t have a damned thing in my backpack that’s gonna get the job done once and for all; I’m going to get killed and respawn… and start the level all over again… with a bunch of weapons that have been proven to be woefully inadequate. I hate this game… and I love the shit out of it. I take a deep breath, make myself comfortable, and resume the battle with this “crappy” six-shot pistol that has the saving grace of reloading very quickly and the next thing I know, the final boss is defeated, the gun in my hand is trailing smoke out of its barrel and all I could do was shake my head over how things can wind up working and when, “normally,” they usually don’t.

Those of you who’ve played Borderlands knows how… improbable it is to take out a boss with a pistol. During my main story play, I took out a boss… with a shotgun. I shouldn’t have been surprised that a Jakobs pistol offed the final DLC boss but, yep, I was. It’s stuff like this that, to me, makes playing Borderlands so much fun while being pretty annoying at the same time. So I finished the DLC and went back to the next main story task facing me, got to one of the remaining “big bosses…” and took him out… with that same Jakobs pistol because despite getting more weapons and nice legendary ones, they didn’t do shit against this particular boss but yet another weapon I’m not fond of got the job done. Again.

 
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Posted by on 20 October 2021 in Xbox One Gaming

 

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Xbox One Gaming: Borderlands 3

I’ve stepped away from playing Elite Dangerous for the moment and went back to a game that gives me both fits and a lot of… pleasure. I remember the resistance I had about playing this game because I’d tried to play first-person shooters before and I sucked badly at them so when my son-in-law and daughter kept leaning on me to play this game – and made sure I’d play it because they bought it for me – I was like, well, shit – might as well see what all the fuss is about and they did spend their money so I could play it with them.

And I found that, um, I like killing shit and blowing shit up. A lot. So I was playing yesterday and caught myself thinking about how much fun I was having methodically and efficiently killing and destroying everything that was getting between me and the goal of taking on the boss… and then doing a number on it. I could have activated one of my established profiles/characters and it would have been fun… but not as fun as starting a new game and, well, there’s something… gratifying about having to start from scratch and turning the new character into a stone-cold killer and, um, reflecting the way playing this game makes me feel.

Not that I’d really go out and start a killing spree but those of you who play games like this knows what I’m talking about and the harder the game makes it to kill shit, the more satisfying it is to do some very serious killing. The Borderlands games go out of their way to not make playing them all that easy by not making it easy to find the weapons and other stuff that would make it easy. Like, yesterday, my character got to level 60 and I got there primarily using a level 45 weapon which you’d think wouldn’t work against higher level bad guys… but that’s the thing about Borderlands because it can work… and not so much. Ah, but the thrill of playing this game is also learning to make the best of the stuff you have because there’s no telling if you’ll ever get your hands on the stuff you really need.

And while this can be frustrating at times, oh, yeah – just being able to kill shit and blow shit up is so… relaxing even if, um, even if I wind up having to respawn because they managed to kill the shit out of me, which was happening at the moment my character got to level 60. I was mowing them down with my “usual” methodical way, clearing section after section and even differently as I’ve done with the other established characters when the level 45 weapon that had served me surprisingly well all this time failed me and, ultimately, got me killed.

Oh, I was “pissed” – and I always get “pissed” when I get killed and more so when I know I did something stupid… which is pretty much what I did to get offed at that point in the game. On the real, I chided myself because I know better; it’s not like way back when I was learning how to play Borderlands 3 and I have to give it to Gearbox because the game plays almost in the same way across all four of the games – no one counts the pre-sequel game as “Borderlands 3” even though it came out before Borderlands 3. There is a bit of a learning curve to go from playing Borderlands 2 and 3 but, yeah, you learn that there’s some shit you shouldn’t do because it’s gonna get you killed.

Ah, but the fun part is getting killed, respawning, and coming back with a vengeance and as I went about exacting that vengeance, oh, man, was I feeling all nice as I did it! There’s a critter in this game called “Tinks” and, well, they’re midgets – and I do not use that word to offend anyone – that are fun to kill… and a pain in the ass because they’re not only small but those fuckers are fast, too. I’d gone into an area that I knew would be chock full of these annoying motherfuckers and with the thought that since I’d been leaving a high body count of bandits, this wasn’t going to be any different so I dived right on in… and the game picked that moment for the weapon that had served me so well to stop serving me well and when I got surrounded by no less than eight Tinks, well, I got offed. And I was pissed because I knew better; again, it’s not like I’ve never played any iteration of this game before.

But, okay – my bad and my mistake… and one they were going to pay for once I respawned… and the devastation I wreaked upon them was… glorious and close to making my dick hard to be so focused and methodically about making them have to respawn and the messier I made that for them, the better it felt. Yeah, I had to switch to another weapon in my backpack but, man, I really did like the one that decided to “quit” on me! It delivered brutal deaths to the bandits that dared to face me even when they were a level higher than I was or had weaponry that shouldn’t have depleted my shields but, yeah, they did… and it meant nothing as I shrugged off their attempts to make me have to respawn again and just killed the shit out of them and no quarter given.

Those of you who have played the game – or any game like it – knows what I’m talking about. You know the game is going to do everything possible to defeat you… and you’re not having any of that even when you accept that, yep, it’s gonna hand your ass to you and not because you screwed up. And that’s okay… because paybacks is a bitch and revenge is a motherfucker when you can come back and perform a wholesale slaughter with every means at your disposal to do so.

I was having such a hell of time slaughtering bandits that I actually got tired of slaughtering them and had to put the game on pause for a few to catch my breath, as it were… and went on to that level’s boss… and killed the shit out of it and in near record time for me. And, yeah… it felt good. So relaxing. If you could have watched me playing, you might have thought that I wasn’t really into the game and that I might have been… somewhat bored but looks can be deceiving because I was having a fun good time being a cold-blooded, stone-cold killer of bandits.

It’s just that every now and then, I actually catch myself having fun; I’ve played this game so many times that I no longer have to think about how to play it and to the point where I’m pretty much on autopilot and thinking about other stuff but, yeah, sometimes, I become rather aware of my… killing sprees. That “thrill” of selecting a sniper rifle and placing a perfect headshot on a bandit or knowing that I jumped into the middle of mess and got to spraying and praying and when the dust cleared, I’m the only one standing there and looking for more bandits to kill. Or getting in the midst of them without them knowing I’m there… and raining death and devastation upon them and knowing that there’s nothing they can do about it…

Well, until they actually do and usually because whatever weapon I’ve been using just stops getting the job done. It always gives me one of those “oh, shit” moments to empty a whole clip of ammo on a bad guy… and he’s still standing there shooting back and now I gotta think if there’s something in my backpack that’s gonna make him – and his friends – go away. Sometimes there is and sometimes I just gotta work with what I have and I’m often very thankful that I made it through the situation and have it firmly in mind that I need better shit to kill these fuckers with. I took out one boss… with a pistol. If you’ve played Borderlands 3, you probably now how… unlikely it is to take out any of the bosses with… a pistol. Why? Because nothing else I had at the time did shit against the boss and the only gun I hadn’t tried was… a pistol. Once I switched to it, yeah, I was… amazed that it even worked… but the game can be like that because, when playing with a different character, I took that same boss out… with a shotgun. And another time… with a sniper rifle.

And besides all that killing and destruction, this is what makes playing Borderlands 3 so much fun to play because you never know what’s going to work even when you know what should work. My weapon of choice is any flavor of submachine guns… but I’ve played where the weapon that works is an assault rifle and, yeah, even the less favored pistol or shotgun. The game has grenades… but you can’t count on them working once you get past whatever level the grenade happens to be but it’s so much fun to carpet bomb their asses by using every grenade I’m carrying… because it’s so much fun to blow shit up and so very relaxing even if, say, unloading all 14 grenades at my disposal doesn’t kill many bandit. Shit… if throwing one doesn’t work, throw all of them… and let’s see what happen. I’m currently using the Firestorm grenade and, man, talk about raining fire down? Throwing one and seeing the devastation can get me to giggling… but throwing all 14 of them all at once?

Oh, hell, yeah! What a rush! And to think that I once resisted playing this game way back when it first came out!

 
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Posted by on 15 September 2021 in Xbox One Gaming

 

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Xbox One Gaming: Hitting the Gaming Wall

I have over 100 games that I own and thanks to GamePass Unlimited, access to many more games. I’d gotten hooked on Elite Dangerous and playing it for hours on end until, one day, eh, I wasn’t feeling it. Unlike the majority of players, I don’t wanna be bothered with PvP stuff (player versus player) and being attacked, pirated, and dealing with the many asshole players I’ve been hearing about. I play in Solo mode so it’s me against whatever computerized NPCs the game decides to throw at me as I operate my ships as freighters or break out my passenger liner to go on long trips. But the last time I actually played, “business” was bad; there weren’t enough high paying jobs to justify taking a ship out; fuel and repair costs for the ships I normally use are quite high and while I do have enough credits on hand to offset those costs, if a job isn’t paying at least a half-million credits, it’s not worth it.

That aside, I just wasn’t feeling the game and I knew it was because I had hit the gaming wall more than anything else. I went to play Minecraft and to test out the new (and for now, experimental) features the game has added and, okay, wow, they were pretty cool… but instead of starting a new world and going through my start-up process, which is usually the best part of the game, bleh – it was a bit of a bother and another symptom of hitting the gaming wall.

I went to a game I hadn’t played in a while: Prey. I picked up where I had left off only to realize that I had seriously fucked up because I didn’t make sure I was fully stocked up before tackling a situation in the game that can be hard to get through if you’re not fully stocked and loaded for bear. So I said, “Fuck it; lemme start a new game!” I could have literally fought my way through the existing game but when you hit the gaming wall, it’s just too much work. In the new game, I blew right past the part where I got stuck in the existing game but as I progressed, the dulling effect of the gaming wall hit me and… I stopped playing.

Another of my go-to games is Borderlands. I’m pissed that my console’s DVD drive died (and they always seem to do that for unknown reasons) so I couldn’t play the games I have discs for but I have Borderlands 1 and 3 digitally and decided to play Borderlands 3 to see what new stuff had been added to the game. I picked my favorite character to continue what I’d been doing with her and got into it but, wow, that character is very powerful and with equally powerful weaponry to match so while I usually take “pleasure” in going on wholesale slaughtering binges, bleh, it wasn’t fun because the gaming wall was really falling down on me. I decided to start a new game, which is usually fun to do as I build up the character and easily so since I’ve defeated this game more times than I can remember and I do love slaughtering the bad guys. But I got to a point in the game and, ugh, I was more aggravated than anything else and while I haven’t quit playing, I’m not eager to get back at it so much.

This is nothing new; ever since I started gaming, I’ve had many moments where I just don’t feel like playing and to the point where I wouldn’t even bother to turn the console on and, at the time, making my son-in-law call me to find out if I was okay because he wasn’t seeing me online. As a bit of an aside, I’m still very much troubled by his sudden and unexpected death almost three months ago now and even after all this time has passed, it feels very weird to be playing a game and knowing that he’s never going to jump in or call me to tell me about certain games. His passing still bothers me but as the show must go on, so must the gaming… but the gaming wall still showed up anyway and becomes more of a pain because while I could watch TV or read, ugh – not much worth looking at on TV and some of the books I’ve been reading are “hard” to read and the wall is so bad that I don’t really feel like playing any of the games on my iPad but since gaming is part of my daily routine, I can fight through the wall’s effects but, yeah, ugh.

You’d think that because I’ve been gaming for as long as I have – and that I’ve hit the wall at times along the way – that I’d be used to it and would have figured out why I hit it and why it even happens at all… and I haven’t even come close to figuring it out. It’s not that any of the games I have are boring because it a game doesn’t interest me, I don’t acquire it. It’s not that I don’t have access to a lot of potentially exciting games because I sure as hell do; Xbox has, through acquisitions and other deals, has more games than I can shake a controller at from major players like Bethesda, EA, and Ubisoft and I have games from all three companies that I love playing… until I faceplant the gaming wall, that is.

It always comes out of nowhere and without the slightest hint that it’s going to appear in front of me. I was in the middle of doing a cargo run in Elite Dangerous and I just wanted to quit before I even delivered the cargo. I did complete the job and there were other jobs to be done… just didn’t feel like doing them so I took my ship back to my home station and parked it and it’s been there for over a week now as I’ve been playing other games in an attempt to break through the wall. It’s just weird; the only way I can break through the wall is to keep playing even though I don’t feel like playing but long experience with running face first into the wall has taught me that if I wanna get through this, I gotta keep playing.

I used to think it was just me but my now-late son-in-law, along with my daughter and their children who I often play with and the other games I often play with, would tell me the same thing and it’s not unlike the ongoing complaint about TV: Hundreds of channels to watch, not a damned thing on any of them worth watching. You can be gaming your ass off and even across multiple games and at some point, the wall appears and just stops you dead in your tracks… and I’ll be damned if I know why.

So I’m off to do some gaming and chipping away at the gaming wall. The “bad” part is that I also feel a very bad case of writer’s block coming on so if you don’t see anything from me, you know what happened.

 
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Posted by on 26 August 2021 in Xbox One Gaming

 

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Xbox One Gaming: Elite Dangerous Progress Report

It’s been a while since I wrote about playing this game and the first thing to report is how addictive I’m finding it. There’s so much to think about in this game and so many things that can be done that there are days when I tell myself, “I’m not gonna play it today; I’ll play Minecraft or one of other games I have…”

Then crank up the console, check for updates… and open Elite Dangerous. Because I play in Solo mode – and that’s because I’m just not into the cut-throat way a lot of people play the game – I get to do whatever I’m doing without being bothered with other humans – the game’s NPCs – non-playable characters – give me enough grief at times when they decide to attack me during a cargo or passenger run and the passengers sometimes get on my last good nerve wanting to get taken all around the place and often complaining when they “think” I’m not getting there fast enough.

Not my fault that they chose to take a trip than can be, combined, hundreds of jumps long. I have the best ship for this: The Beluga. I’ve learned to arm it to the teeth and the ship includes a fighter and pilot who can join me in defending the ship from the NPC bad guys. And speaking of ships…

The best ships cost a lot of credits and a few times, I’ve amassed over one hundred million credits and this is a good point to either upgrade ships in my fleet or to buy the next best one and by the time I get finished purchasing and outfitting a new ship, I’m usually “broke” but that’s okay; I’m used to grinding in a game. Grinding is just doing mission after mission after mission and in my selected “profession” as a Trader and Explorer, it can get pretty boring but if you wanna make the credits, you learn to stick to it rather than to take “the easy way” to make credits by attacking and destroying other players or doing the one thing I’ve yet to wrap my head around, which is mining. I’ve done the tutorial for this several times and I can fire my mining laser at an asteroid and break a piece off easily enough but when it comes to capturing it and putting it in my cargo hold? I suck at it and that bothers me something fierce because I just can’t seem to catch up with the errant piece and, to date, I’ve only managed to successfully mine something once.

My everyday ship is the one called a Python and it’s a favored multipurpose ship for a lot of players. It can carry 200 pieces of cargo which, for most jobs, is pretty decent but its main attraction is its firepower and ability to dogfight when outfitted with the right mix of weaponry. I had bought the next level ship: An Anaconda and another ship that is favored among other players. It has decent cargo capacity when outfitted properly and you can pack in a lot of firepower but it’s downside is that the base configuration is slow; its thrusters leave a lot to be desired and its ability to maneuver at slower speeds just drove me crazy and especially when I’m trying to line up and deorbit to make a planetary landing. The game has Engineers, specialists who, upon meeting their criteria, can provide stuff to pump up many aspects of ship.

At first, I wasn’t all that interested in this aspect of the game but when I bought the Anaconda and, um, gotten my ass shot off a few times because of its poor maneuverability, okay, let’s do some engineering but even then there’s a problem I can’t get around: Some of the best improvements require a payment in, say, iron or sulphur… which you cannot buy at any station… you have to mine it and I suck at that. There are other modifications available and getting the components needed is often easy enough since many jobs pay in those materials and you can always go to a Materials Trader and wave your fingers over stuff to get what you might need.

It took me a bit of time to get the Anaconda engineered to the point where it moves better but I’ve still had some interesting moments trying to deorbit and once – and only for the second time since I’ve been playing – crashed into the planet and got destroyed. Bummer. But one of the things I get a kick out of when buying a new ship is learning how to fly and fight it and once I outfitted it with a fighter, well, when I couldn’t get away from being interdicted and had to fight, asses got kicked and names were taken and most of the time the attacker realizes they’re overmatched and run away; sometimes they come back and continue the fight, though. While both the Python and Anaconda have decent cargo space, I found I needed more; when you advance through the Trader ranks, you get access to the higher paying (and riskier) jobs and having credits is just as important as having good ships.

So I bought the Type-10 Defender which is a beast of a ship. More than decent cargo capacity but more slots available for weapons and a fighter bay. The downside? It’s like driving a fully loaded tractor trailer without power steering and it’s stuck in mud. It is so slow to move that trying to evade an interdiction is a lot of work… but the good part is that if I gotta fight, yeah, buddy, let’s do this! I had to engineer the shit out of this ship just to make it move better and even after doing that, it’s still kinda slow when maneuvering. Mine is outfitted to carry 408 pieces of cargo and, yeah, fully loaded? Still maddeningly slow but I’ve learned to fly and fight it well enough.

One of the decisions I have to make every time I start the game is what am I going to do and which ship am I going to use and while the Type-10 is a beast of a “warrior,” it’s ponderous movement is a liability that I’ll say I don’t want to deal with… but I’ll take it out anyway and a few days ago, that decision cost me dearly when I got blown away and “respawned” and by the time my insurance payment came out, I had gone from having just over 50 million credits to… just over a million. I hate when this happens; the grind is bad enough and now it gets worst to get as many credits as possible just to cover the insurance payoff in case I get my ass shot off again.

But I worked through it and while I’ve not gotten my credits back to a place where being able to pay for stuff isn’t a problem, I did the one thing I didn’t want to do: Traded in my Anaconda for one of the best ships in the game: The Federation Cutter. It is a beast of a warship with respectable cargo capacity and other players have said time and time again that the “FC” is that ship you do not want to fuck with unless getting blown up is something you enjoy. I didn’t want to get rid of my Anaconda but the good thing is that at some point, I will be able to buy another one – and I will.

So today, I’ll be in the FC and taking a trip to a couple of engineers to apply what modifications I can. I’m still kinda/sorta outfitting it and the thing I already like about it is that I equipped it with a fighter bay that can carry, at this time, two fighters and will eventually upgrade it to carry four of these puppies. I’ll be out there learning how to fly and fight it which is actually a lot of fun if not a bit nerve-wracking at times. I took it out briefly last night, leaving my home base and going just outside the No-Fire Zone so I could deploy its weapons to make sure the ship didn’t shut itself down and a mistake I’ve made a couple of times. Today, as I journey to the Engineers, I’ll be testing every aspect I can think of including landing on a planet which, for me, is “harder” than fighting any of the ships I have except the Python – it can turn and burn really well for such a large ship.

I just can’t seem to stop playing this game. It often gives me fits and doing some stuff is so boring that there are a lot of times when I’m flying along and not paying attention – and watching TV on my tablet or playing another game or reading on my iPad. I recently reached Elite status as a Trader, which is a big deal; I’m close to reaching Elite status as an Explorer and currently at 96% and it’s a bitch progressing because even when I find unexplored systems and sell the data to the folks who buy it, I’m just not selling enough to get that last 4% in – yet. But the grind will help with this, too.

Time to get to grinding. There’s work to be done and bad guys to kill and credits to make…

 
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Posted by on 2 July 2021 in Xbox One Gaming

 

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Xbox One Gaming: Elite Dangerous Community Goals

This game has a lot of stuff to do and one of them is the community goals (CG) that appear kinda regularly that’s pretty cool. The recent one is a call to all Commanders to take part in a two-part goal to build five new starports in currently uninhabited space but close to existing shipping lanes and, I guess, to expand those lanes. One part of this CG is to obtain and deliver certain materials to a central location and the other is to provide protection at the central location.

Since I’m not a player who gets into PvP battles of any kind – and because I managed to get in on the tail end of the last CG mission, I decided to jump in right at the start and use my Python – named Magellan II – to deliver my share of the materials required. I started out at my home starport, Galileo, in the Sol system by using the Inara website to, first, mark my position and then to locate the materials. I’ll add at this point that if you’re playing the game but you don’t have a profile on Inara, get one – it’s a huge help and in a lot of ways.

I located the materials I wanted to start delivering and jumped to get them and, actually, made a lot of trips from the source location to the collection point and, oops, totally wiped the source out of the required material and requiring me to not only locate a good source for something else but plotting a course to go get it. As luck would have it, the item I chose – water purifiers – was in the next system and I was happy about that because it lessened the number of jumps and, as I’ve been learning, the more jumps you make, the greater the chance of getting jumped, your cargo hijacked, and/or your ship destroyed.

And now begins The Grind which some players either complain about or try to avoid but The Grind is what it is in that if there’s something you want or need, you’re gonna have to do some work to get it. I don’t mind grinding because in some of the other games I play, well, you gotta grind to get stuff but in Elite Dangerous, yeah, I found that grinding for a CG can be even more boring that what I normally do when I play the game. Leave the collection point; jump to the source location; load up 200 water purifiers; jump back to the collection point; dock at the indicated starport, sell the water purifiers, refuel, do any repairs, and do it again.

And again. And again. I found myself wishing that an NPC bad guy would show up and try to jack me just to break up the monotony of the grinding but that never happened so I was pretty much on autopilot and, at times, nodding off. The first day of the CG, I did pretty good and my contributions qualified me to get a decent payday for my efforts. In this CG, there were five tiers involved and differing levels of rewards from getting nothing to getting paid big time if you were in the top 10% of contributors. After making my last delivery I thought, “Okay, cool – I’m gonna get something!” and also with the thought that I’d go back to doing what I normally do… but the next day, I was of a different mind about it and kept on grinding for the CG.

I wasn’t satisfied with doing the minimum work to get the minimum reward; I wanted to see how far I could go and I was grinding like crazy. At one point and while I was taking a real-life bathroom break, I got to thinking about how my Python, which is currently configured to carry 200 items, kinda/sorta wasn’t enough cargo space and debated on whether or not I wanted to get, say, a Type-9 cargo hauler which can carry a hell of a lot more cargo. I could afford it but I also got to thinking that, for one, the Type-9 hauler – and like the Type-7, isn’t so easily outfitted to fend off pirates and they handle like a brick in mud and, for the other, it would be my luck to get one, load it to the rafters… and get jumped and destroyed. So I didn’t buy a new ship and resolved to do my part in the CG 200 items at a time.

I was making around 700,000 CR (credits) every time I sold my water purifiers and I was happy about that and kept on grinding and grinding until it was time for me to shut it down and get some sleep. I awoke yesterday ready and eager to get back to the CG and The Grind to boost my contribution but when I got into the game and checked the CG status, well, damn – that part of the CG had been fulfilled and was now over with. All I could do was click on the “Complete” button and watched my credits jump to over 100 million credits – and I got an achievement for completing my first CG.

One of the the “highlights” of my participation wasn’t how easy it was for me to find a place that had what I needed; it was me paying attention to what I was doing and, sometimes, I just wasn’t. I was so into The Grind that a couple of times I left the source location… and forgot to set my destination. Indeed, in one moment, I’d undocked from the source, cleared the safe zone, went to get line up with the destination and kick in supercruise… but couldn’t figure out why all I could actually see was the starport I’d just left and not the indicator marking my destination. Oh, it was a bad moment! I’m rotating along all three axis trying to find the destination marker and, oh, somewhere around the third time spent making myself dizzy, it finally hit me that I hadn’t plotted the course back to the collection point.

Yeah… I felt pretty stupid about that. The Grind calls for a certain level of focus but because this one was so repetitive and monotonous, I was so focused that I lost focus. But wait – it gets worse! At another point, I’d forgotten where I was for a moment and that wasn’t pretty since, um, when you’re sitting in the dock somewhere, your location is right there in front of you on the cockpit panel. Then I had dropped off a load at the collection point and headed out to pick up more water purifiers… and kinda forget where I was going and then realized that, nope – didn’t plot the course to get there and making it even worse was that fact that I had bookmarked both the collection and source locations so that I wouldn’t have to keep looking them up.

I wasn’t having so much of a senior moment but, sometimes, The Grind just fucks with you like that and more so when the game isn’t doing anything to provide some kind of distraction like getting interdicted which will most certainly get your attention. A few days ago now, I was having the “interdiction day from hell” and having to fight and/or evade more than what I’d call normal when playing in Solo mode. So as I shuttled back and forth between locations, I was keeping a very close eye on my scanner’s scope and checking out every and any ship that appeared to identify them and, because this grind was so monotonous, kinda hoping they’d want to pick a fight with me just to give me something different to do.

But, yeah, I completed my part in the CG without any real problems other than the loss of focus I mentioned… but now it gets funny. With the job done, I made my way back to my home starport so I could get back to hauling cargo here and there and the first job I took once I got back home was a nice paying job of delivering an internal report to a nearby starport. One of the things I’ve learned about this game is that if a “simple” job is paying a whole lot of credits, it’s not that simple. Sometimes it’s paying so much because the destination will literally and in real time take an hour or more to get there but for this job, nah, not only did I just have to make two jumps, the destination was “only” about 300,000 light seconds from the system’s star which, in my Python and its powerful engines, meant a trip in real time of about three minutes. As I’m preparing to start the trip, I’m wondering why this routine kind of job to a system not that far away and that close to its parent star, is paying over a million credits.

And it didn’t take me long to find out why. I left home, made the first jump and while going through the process of lining up for the next jump, I see a message pop up that said, “Don’t try to run! I have you now!” Oh, shit! I’m not really worried but, as I’ve learned, if I’m going to be interdicted, I do not want to be anywhere near the star when it happens. Now I’m doing several things at once with my controller: Hitting the right buttons so that my sensors are locked on the ship that might be the one who sent the message; reconfiguring my power distribution settings to give more power to my engines; switching from Analysis Mode to Combat Mode; lining up with the next jump point while accelerating toward it and while keeping an eye on where I am in relation to the star and just as I clear the star, I hear the sound I don’t like hearing; I see things turning blue and the message all up in my face that I’m being interdicted and now my whole focus is on locating the Escape Vector indicator and sparing a glance to see the type of ship trying to shut me down and still chasing the Escape Vector all over the damned place.

I take a look and, oh, fuck me: The ship trying to interdict me is an Anaconda and I know that there aren’t too many ships that are more badass than an Anaconda. I know that if I get interdicted, that ship is going to chew me up and spit me out with ease so it’s in my best interest to not get interdicted. I’m ducking and dodging and chasing the EV and the NPC in the Anaconda is sending me all kinds of threatening messages and demanding that I just give up and maybe because it’s an Anaconda and likely equipped with a very powerful interdictor, it’s taking me a long time to escape the attempt… but it’s either stick with it or give up and get caught… and probably destroyed before I can being to fight back, not that my weapons would be able to do the Anaconda any damage.

As I’m trying to get away, I’m also thinking about how much fun this is. I know the specifications for an Anaconda since it’s the next ship I’ve been grinding to be able to buy – about 150 million credits. What I don’t know and because (1) I’m playing in Solo mode and (2) this is an NPC, is whether or not its really outfitted to do maximum damage and in a hurry. I’m thinking that it is possible that I have better weapons than the Anaconda chasing me does but, as I continue to chase the EV, yeah, I’m not really of a mind to find out. The interdiction is now into its second minute and it feels like I’ve been doing this for much longer than that. I have one eye on the EV and the other on my scope; I’m looking to see where the Anaconda is and also looking for the pretty green icon that represents the Federation Security Service or the local security service that, if present, will attack the Anaconda and give me a chance to escape…

But it’s just me and the Anaconda. I’m aware of how my thumbs are working the controller’s joysticks and that I’m not really paying attention to what my thumbs are doing – that is just so cool! I finally get the EV lined up and in an area that will either end the interdiction… or get me interdicted – and hear the sound – and see the message – that the interdicted has been evaded. Yes! I quickly realign myself with the next jump point, activate my FSD drive and, four seconds later, I’m in the wind… but I know I’m not safe because of something that can happen in the game:

The Anaconda can follow my FSD wake and that means that the moment I arrive where I jumped to, that fucking asshole will be right behind me. I arrive and quickly do a few things: Scan the local area; open the navigation panel to locate my destination and lock it in (or make sure it’s locked in – sometimes, it isn’t); get the fuck away from the star and in the direction I need to go in; searching the scope for any signs that the Anaconda did follow my FSD wake. Power up to get out of the star’s area and gravity; for this run, hit the nav panel to activate supercruise and to orbit the planet I’m headed to and activate my FSD. So far so good – I’m on my way but I still have my eyes glued to the scope and switching between whatever contacts are in the area. No Anaconda but just when I think I can relax just a bit, I see the Anaconda appear on my scope – marked in red – and, yep, it’s interdiction time.

Son of a bitch! The NPC sends me a message: “You thought you had gotten away, didn’t you – I have you now!” Like hell you do, bitch! I’m still in Combat mode and still have all available power routed to my engines and the chase for the EV is on again… but this time, I see the green icons for the FSS and there’s three of them headed my way and as I have one eye on the EV, I see the green icons converge on the red icon of the Anaconda – and the interdiction ends. I breathe a sigh of relieft, reestablish my lock on the destination and, a minute later, I’m orbiting the planet and waiting for the moment to deorbit and reach my destination… but keeping in mind that I’m still not safe because I’ve been in orbit around a planet and have gotten jumped. But I make a perfect approach to the planetary base and land. I refuel, do some minor repairs, complete the job and get paid a million-plus credits. Ka-ching! I’m looking through the available missions and find one paying a half-million credits but when checking the destination, I know it’s paying that much because once I get there, it’s going to take almost a half hour in real time to get there.

Course plotted and laid in. I launch and begin the rather slow process of getting out of the planet’s gravity well and clearing the base’s no-fire zone. Make it out of there, hit supercruise to gain altitude and once away from the planet, line up with the destination icon, activate my FSD and I’m off and running and happy that where I’m going is only one jump from where I was. I pop out of hyperspace at the star – that just never gets old and you’d have to see it to understand why it doesn’t – and I’m getting lined up but I get a system message about an incoming enemy alert. I clear the message while checking the scope and there’s no other ship in that space other than mine; sometimes, the game just fucks with you and gets you keyed up for an attack and it never appears… and I’ve learned not to trust the game at all.

I get lined up, do a bit of fuel scooping, but before I can clear the star and activate supercruise to the destination… interdiction! I’m still in Combat mode and with all power to the engines; I do the thing to lock onto the red icon I can now see… and it’s not only an Anaconda… it’s the same fucking Anaconda that had been trying to get me! Where the fuck did he come from and how did he get away from the FSS? I’m not all that worried about the Anaconda as I am being so close to the star itself; I know that if I get too close, my proximity to the star will either shut my ship down or destroy me and I’m a bit worried about that because the EV is running all over the surface of the star and I very much need it to point to open space if I’m going to survive this. As I’m evading like crazy, I have a moment to think about grinding in the CG and how boring and monotonous it was… and now I’m missing that boredom and monotony something fierce.

And it is very exciting. I note that help is on the way but I can’t count on that seeing as how that asshole in the Anaconda got away from them before but I’m really very cool and calm as I defeat the interdiction and supercruise to my destination and arrive in one piece. Once there and I complete the job and collect my half million credits, I’m really kinda mentally worn out from battling interdiction and by the same damned ship so I get out of the game and opt to watch TV until it’s time to go to bed.

And I can’t wait to see what the game will have in store for me today!

 
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Posted by on 18 April 2021 in Xbox One Gaming

 

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Xbox One Gaming: Elite Dangerous Update

This has become one of the rare games I own that drives me crazy but not so much to make me stop playing it. There are a lot of players who are very much into the mode of playing known as PVP, or, Player Versus Player. They go around attacking each other, pirating cargoes, and other such combative things while others, like myself, are well into the PVE – Player Versus Environment – aspects of the game and aren’t all that interested in fighting and “killing” other players.

There is still so much to learn about the game and so very much to see since we’re playing in a pretty good representation of the known Milky Way Galaxy and the parts that are unknown to us are very nicely “stuck in there” and creating one hell of a playground for anyone who can take to the game to just do their thing.

Mine is being a courier; taking important data from one place to another; I’m also a “space trucker,” taking goods from place to place; I’m also a kind of space-borne cruise ship, ferrying passengers from one location to another or taking them on sightseeing tours and while doing all of these things, I’m also an explorer; as I travel, I scan every system I arrive in and, more often than not, discover new systems that, at the very least, I haven’t seen before. While the PVP players are all about collecting bounties on each other, stealing whatever they happen to be carrying in their cargo hold, fighting an alien presence that I’ve not seen for myself yet – and I’m sure I don’t want to if what other players are saying is accurate – and even taking jobs to assassinate NPC – non-playable character – criminals and are getting paid huge sums of credits to do so, I prefer to take a more non-violent approach to getting paid…

And one that isn’t without its own set of risks even though I play in Solo mode; it allows me to run around the galaxy without running into those playing in the more popular Open mode. Grinding is, well, doing whatever you’re doing in order to make credits, like mining… which I suck at something fierce. While a lot of players are keen to get the biggest and best ships the game has to offer and as quickly as possible, grinding is all about slowly but surely doing your thing to amass credits and not really deviating from it all that much. It’s pretty much the same thing being done every time you play the game and, hopefully, with some goals in mind. And while a lot of players have collected a lot of ships, I only have two; one of the things about this game is to acquire the best ships you can buy and outfit them to do the jobs you need them to do whether it’s fighting or moving cargo from place to place or just roaming around the galaxy to see the sights.

The day before yesterday, I was playing and grinding and with a bit of “urgency” to rebuild my credits after dishing out 55 million credits to buy a ship known as the Python, which is designed to carry a lot of freight while also being very capable of fighting. I was making good progress building up my credits and roaming around my local neighborhood – that would be our real-life solar system and where my home base is – and, well, it gets pretty boring because while every job is different, I don’t get to go to many different places and I feel that when I take a job and both the system and delivery location are things I know about, it tends to make me not pay a lot of attention to what’s going on around me a whole lot… and now, enter the NPCs.

The game designers had to have figured that it would be way too easy to play in Solo mode and totally escape the dangers one can face playing in Open mode and, early on in my play, I found out the hard way that the game will throw an NPC at me that’ll try to shut me down and rob me – and even if I’m not carrying anything – or just do their best to destroy me and just because. I’ve gotten to the point where I can look at a job and tell that, yep, I’m going to get attacked along the line and I’ve gotten to be very good at escaping being interdicted – that’s when someone forces you out of “warp” and tries to do you harm. But the day before yesterday?

I’d been doing job after job and, at that point, hadn’t been attacked and interdicted until I had taken a really high paying job – around two million credits – to deliver ten items to a planetary base and one I could get to in just one jump. I knew before I even took the job that, yep, I’m going to get attacked and, holy shit, did I ever get attacked! Usually, an NPC will try to interdict me once and if I escape, well, that’s it. Sometimes – and depending on whether I’m in friendly space, Federation Security forces will show up to take out the bad guy NPC which allows me to escape unharmed but when in hostile space, eh, maybe they show up, maybe they don’t.

I got attacked three times. The first time, I used my Python’s firepower to fight back but since I seem to suck at fighting other ships, my Python took a lot of damage while dealing out some damage. This part really fucks with me because I can’t seem to get the attacker in front of me where I can see them and have a better chance of fending off an attack… which is why my ship is outfitted with weapons that will track an attacker without me having to really be face to face with them… theoretically. The NPC pain in my ass gave me a beating but I put some serious hurt on it as well, got my engines back on line, and hauled ass to my destination. Whew! At least I didn’t get blown up, which would have been very expensive and would have badly affected my reputation. But the NPC wasn’t done; I was, oh, about halfway to my destination when the motherfucker tried to interdict me again and making this even worst is the attacking NPC always talking shit about how they’re gonna destroy me if I don’t give up whatever I’m carrying, something I find funny.

It was of great import for me to not get interdicted again; my ship had suffered 50% damage so taking more wouldn’t have been a good thing. I’m dipping and diving trying to catch the Escape Point that’ll set me free – and trying to catch it isn’t all that easy; I got interdicted the first time because the asshole attacked while I was sitting in front of the local star and so close to it that when I started to evade, I got too close and the proximity caused my ship to shut down and I got caught. Federation Security arrived and engaged my attacker and I’d caught the Escape Point and back to hauling ass to my destination. Now, this wasn’t the first time I’ve been attacked twice but I was breathing a sigh of relief to have escaped again; I looked at my panel to see – confirm – that I wasn’t too far from my destination so I could get into its safe zone and couldn’t be attacked. But just as I almost go to the distance where my ship would “drop out of warp,” I got attacked again!

Getting jumped once? Expect that. Getting jumped twice? Didn’t expect that but it happens. A third time? I’m actually laughing about this – and as I’m back to dipping and diving to catch the Escape Point – and more so when a quick peek at my scanner showed a slew of security ships surrounding my attacker and the cool part was that because I had “locked on” to my attacker (necessary for my weapons to be effective), my ship’s computer was telling me that the target’s shields had failed and, seconds later, that it had been destroyed. Yeah, take that, bitch! I caught the Escape Point… but overshot my destination so I had to turn around and reacquire it and gratefully activated the Auto-Dock feature and docked, safe but pretty beaten up and in need of repair.

But the destination port was one of those that didn’t have the repair facilities I needed and, after completing my delivery, getting paid, and even upping my reputation, I was “forced” to return to Galileo, my home station in our real-life Sol system to get the repairs I needed. I could have checked out any of the places in the system I had made my delivery to… but the triple attack kinda left me rattled and after I got home safely – and it wasn’t a given that I would – I repaired my ship and shut down the game.

Grinding can be boring and monotonous but if you want to succeed at whatever you’re doing, there’s no escaping it. Other players complain about having to grind and as if they feel they don’t have to put in the work that the game requires in order to make credits, gain reputation and achieve naval ranking in the three navies that one can be ranked in. Most of the time, the distances involved are daunting, like one sightseeing gig I took that took over 150 total jumps and a couple of real-time hours to complete just to get the passenger to the places they wanted to see… and with a very cranky passenger onboard who kept giving me shit about the trip taking too long and then making over 150 jumps to take them back to where I picked them up. Grinding in this game can wear you out and while you can “take a break” to get up, move around, use the bathroom, whatever, you’re never really safe to take your eyes off of what’s going on because even in Solo mode, an NPC can appear out of nowhere and attack the shit out of you. I’ve learned to take my controller with me if I’m going to the kitchen because I can still see what’s going on from there or just standing up and stretching with it in my hand because you just never really know.

I tell myself that, today, I’m not going to play the game and grind; I remind myself that I have almost 100 other games I can play instead, like No Man’s Sky, for instance. There’s grinding in that game as well and it comes with its own risks and dangers since most of the planets you can be on are trying to kill you. Or Minecraft which is all about grinding in order to keep your stock of materials and food as full as needed. But Elite Dangerous has proven to be rather addictive. On the game’s Facebook group, a player asked what everyone does when they’re not playing Elite Dangerous and I responded by saying, “I think about what I have to do when I do play…” because grinding requires a purpose, a goal, a plan. I only have two ships; my Python and a recent purchase, a passenger ship called an Orca, a big step up from the Dolphin I used to own. My goal is to eventually either replace my Python with an Anaconda – a seriously badass ship and the only thing better than an Anaconda is a Fleet Carrier – or just buy one and keep the Python and to do the same thing to acquire a Beluga, the best passenger carrier the game has.

It’s going to take a lot of credits to buy these ships and to get those credits, I have to grind and be committed to grinding to achieve my goals. I want to up my reputation with those I do business with and while I’m not a fighter so much, I want to keep advancing my Federal Navy rank – which is currently Lieutenant Commander – because doing so gets me better and higher paying jobs as well as access to other kinds of ships that are, admittedly, more for fighting than anything else. Grinding allows me to explore the many other things the game has to offer and that can be seen and it’s often a nice break to go check out something marked as “Unexplored” even if to break up the monotony of going from point A to point B over and over. Grinding also includes keeping my two ships up to date with the things I can get to improve them and some of those things aren’t cheap and, yep, still have to keep whatever ship I’m using to grind fueled and repaired.

Grinding in this game is a pain in the ass… but since I’ve embraced the grind, it’s really a lot of fun. It’s still not an easy game to learn and there are many things that you wind up having to learn as you grind to do whatever it is you’re doing. The grind just never stops until you turn the game off.

 
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Posted by on 13 April 2021 in Xbox One Gaming

 

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Xbox One Gaming: Minecraft: Digging a Mineshaft

One of the things my daughter and son-in-law get in my case about is how I dig mine shafts. I learned to just step down one block at a time… after having to figure it out but it left a narrow kind of shaft that even I the game, can feel claustrophobic and I realized that digging a one block wide shaft meant I could be missing out on coal and iron and other good stuff.

I experimented with both three and five block wide one shafts after understanding the odd number symmetry of the game; a 6x6x6x6 cube for a building doesn’t “look right” when doing a door and Windows but a 9x9x9x9 base offers a pleasing symmetry… but for my mine shafts, a 4 block wide thing just works – it gives room to move around, maybe lay down tracks for a mine car, and exposes more areas and some of which can lead to caverns and ravines or a spot to mine coal and iron.

I like my mine shafts nice and neat and “sloppy” shaft digging just drives me insane although I’ve often dug into large open areas and now it’s about “ignoring” them for later exploration so I can keep digging down to the bedrock level. My son-in-law, well, I make him a little,cray-cray because I developed a way to carve out an area to mine; “slice by slice” and over time, I can carve out a very large space that keeps the symmetry I find comforting and easy to work with… and makes my son-in-law want to disrupt the symmetry by digging long shafts where I don’t want them or, worse, digging up the floor and leaving gaping holes all over the place…

Which I wind up filling in or now I’m trying to regain my preferred symmetry around those long shafts he like to dig. Sometimes he’s nice and fills in whatever holes he’s made and puts stuff back the way I had it – or not – but he never fails to remind me that he, as well as my daughter, doesn’t like the way I mine while acknowledging that it works for me. I like being able to peel it away, working from left to right, top to bottom and in a manner that can be mind-numbingly repetitive and boring but I find it to be rather relaxing and, sometimes, it’s safer because you never know when removing a block will reveal water or, yikes, lava!

Once in the rhythm and unless I run into something, I can spend an hour or more carving out my “mine room” and often without realizing that I’ve been at it for that long. Digging a mine is high on my list of things to do in a new world because one of the things I know I’m gonna need is cobblestone to build a place to stay, create more durable tools, and craft a furnace and I’m going to need coal and iron – lots of it – in the initial going…

And digging a mineshaft the way I do it will eventually supply me with enough material to do what I need to do and I just might be able to find some diamonds along the way. I even have a preferred “starting level;” I always start digging a mine at level 64 which, in most places, is ground level. While there are no rules for starting a mineshaft, I just learned that staring at level 64 or lower makes digging a shaft faster than, say, starting at level 75.

There’s method to my mine digging madness and I might even be a bit OCD about it which makes me laugh at myself at times. As I’m digging the shaft down to bedrock – usually at level 6 – if I dig coal or iron out of the sidewalls, I use cobblestone to fill in the area I’ve dug out so it’ll look neat but it keeps me on track with how I’m progressing. Sometimes I’ll dig into a side wall and find huge areas that can be explored and exploited for iron, coal, and the most important thing when digging, gravel which is almost always needed for the great oceans of lava such a “side hole” can reveal or lead to and as much daughter instructed and taught me, where there’s lava, there also can be diamonds.

Diamonds are always good. In some places, water and lava have gotten together to form obsidian – and that reaction is a damned good reason to always have a bucket of water on you at all times since you never know when you might have to keep from burning up and dying. You need obsidian to build a nether gate and to make an enchantment table that, along with bookcases, can creat a room that you can use to give your armor, tools, and weapons some extra powers and abilities.

I’ve learned to leave a “doorway” for those areas so that it’s easy to leave the shaft proper – and after I’ve installed proper steps in the shaft – and get in there to explore… and I know my son-in-law happens to like areas like that because he can dig like a demented gopher without wrecking the symmetry of my mine shaft and mining room.

Madness and method. And the biggest perk is, when I finish digging my way down, there will be more than enough cobblestone and other materials for use to build pretty much anything I might feel like building and, oh, yeah, if run short, I can always spend some time in the mining room to get more. It is never if I’m gonna dig a mine – it’s always where I’m going to dig it because it’s just a big deal thing to do in a brand new world and, later, just to have something to do.

I even learned how to dig two separate mines and, using the game’s coordinate system, connect them and no matter how far apart they are… and you never know what you’re gonna come across or run into. The other day, my daughter called me a pussy because when I’m in building mode, I play in the game’s Peaceful mode until I’ve set things up the way I want to before switching to Normal mode and lets the various mobs loose.

I just don’t like trying to establish an area while having creepers creeping up on me and blowing me up or having to fight off hoards of zombies and skeleton archers when the sun goes down and my house isn’t quite ready yet and/or food is scarce in the area and “starving to death” is a real thing in this game. I ain’t got the patience to deal with that crap and prefer to work undisturbed. Yeah, I might be a pussy… but I don’t set myself up to get killed and running the risk of losing my inventory should I die and can’t get back to it in the time allotted – about five minutes.

I learned a costly lesson about this when digging my mineshaft, I fell through a gap and down quite a way into a ravine and died on impact. I lost everything and I wouldn’t have had I been in Peaceful mode and I couldn’t get back to where I died to collect my stuff without dying again. So, okay – I just might be a pussy but I’m an alive one with an intact inventory and XP points.

And besides, it’s my game and my world and I run this bitch so it’s my rules, too! Baby girl called me a pussy and her hubby agreed with that assessment so I put the game into Normal difficulty and a few seconds later near my son-in-law shout, “Oh, shit! Fuck me! I ran right into a bumch of skeletons!” And I just asked him if he was okay. I got your “pussy” right here…

It’s not that I don’t know how to play with all the things that will kill you running around all over the place – I do. But why do it when I don’t have to? And if you’re wondering, had my son-in-law died after the switch to Normal, yes – I would have laughed at him and with no real compassion or sympathy – call me a pussy, will you?

 
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Posted by on 13 March 2021 in Xbox One Gaming

 

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Xbox One Gaming: Elite Dangerous Update

The first part of this gaming update is that Elite Dangerous is now free of charge on Xbox’s GamePass, which is a good thing but there are a lot of players who, like myself, shelled out the price of the game to be able to own it… and I guess we should have known that Xbox would eventually make it free for all GamePass members.

Next, my progress in the game so far. While there are a slew of players running around the galaxy fighting each other, blowing up shit and getting jacked up by an alien presence that one doesn’t see that often, there are folks like me who are enjoying the non-violent aspects of the game also one of the things I learned early on is that even when playing in Solo mode and a mode where you’re never going to run into any of the others playing the game, the game isn’t beyond having an NPC – non-playable character – come along and try to hijack you or blow you out of the sky: I guess the game wants to occasionally remind Solo players that the galaxy is still a very dangerous place and keeps you on your toes and well-versed in escaping interdiction attempts.

I’m still in the Lesser Orion Arm of the galaxy but I’ve slowly but surely managed to work my way, well, back home: The Sol system which is home to Earth. You need a special permit to go to Sol and when I got my permit, I wasn’t – and still aren’t – all that sure exactly what I did to finally get it other than to have my Federation rank go up (this is the galactic government/faction I’ve aligned myself with). I’ve been buzzing around delivering stuff and/or taking passengers either to other systems or outrageous tours of the stellar neighborhood to see the sights; there are a lot of sightseeing places that travelers are willing to pay millions of credits to go see.

The game is a grind if you’re not running around shooting up the place; you need credits for a lot of things, from buying new ships to taking care of ship refueling and repairs and updates to paying fines and, yeah, if you get blown up, you gotta pay a chunk of change in order to get your ship back and go on about your business. I’ve learned to pick and choose the jobs I want to take on and I have a “goal” right now to get the next size passenger carrier – the Orca – so that I can ferry those who want to travel in business or first class comfort… and for a lot of credits… but that heifer is expensive at somewhere around 45 million credits, give or take a hundred thousand.

I have four ships. The one the game gave me when I started it (a Sidewinder); I have a passenger ship (a Dolphin), a heavy hauler (a Type 7) and the ship that I use to explore and carry stuff (an Asp Explorer). I’ve bought – and gotten rid of – some of the fighter/military craft because, um, I very much suck at dogfighting in space, that and I can’t properly configure the ship in the most efficient way it can be done. I’ve bought such a ship, outfitted it the best I can, and when I’ve taken it out for a spin, it’s all good… until I deploy its weapons systems… and the whole damned ship shuts down and I’ve got about five minutes to get it up and running before I run out of air and die. Which kinda leads into the other thing I suck at: Mining.

I did the tutorial for mining and shooting an asteroid, well, that’s easy but catching up with the material blasted free? Yeah, um, shit… I totally failed that part of the tutorial. The good part is that in the game mode, there are things called limpets I can get that will go get the material I’ve blasted from an asteroid and I have a mental note to get some… but that’s not all there is to it. I had a ship configured with a mining laser, took a short trip to an asteroid field to see what I could mine; deployed the weapons to bring the mining laser to bear… and the ship shut down and right in the middle of NPCs buzzing around and, I guess, waiting for me to collect something so they could take it from me. I went to reboot the ship and it rebooted its systems… kinda. My shields were still offline, I’m not sure what my engine was doing and, oh, yeah, I was still running out of air and the clock was quickly counting down so I did the only thing I could do: Exited the game.

Shit. I don’t really need to mine anything but I kinda have to since in order to get certain upgrades for my ships’ systems, I have to mine stuff instead of going to a station and buying them from the “store” many of them have available. I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong and as I continued to grind doing passenger trips and delivering goods, I was still thinking about how I managed to fuck it up. At one point during my play last night, I was about to dock at a station and had engaged auto-landing and as I marveled at how my ship was moving in order to get lined up, I had noticed that the auto-landing feature had re-tasked my weapon systems power to the engines… and in that instance, I knew how I fucked up my attempt to do some simple mining: I needed to shunt power from somewhere else to the weapon systems… and the mining laser is part of the weapons system.

Well, fuck me. I’ll test this later when I play (after I finish writing this).

Buzzing around the place, for a “space junkie” like me, is fun and especially when I see stars and systems that are not only real but I’ve read about in the many science fiction books I love reading. I’ve collected more permits to other systems, like Sirius; I’ve advanced in Federation military rank to be a Chief Petty Officer, which not only gives me access to the better fighting craft – which I have no plans on buying – but more lucrative Federal jobs. I’ve learned that taking passengers on sightseeing tours, while profitable, can be a pain in the ass. The one “complaint” I keep running into is my passengers bitching about how long it’s taking to get somewhere and them saying that they’d love to get there before they die. It’s not my fault that they’ve picked locations that are, sometimes, hundreds of multiple jumps away from where I picked them up and my Dolphin can only jump so far and cruise so fast… which is why I need to upgrade to the Orca and, eventually, the Beluga – it’s literally one whale of a ship.

I had one passenger get totally pissed off and cancelled the contract mid-trip and, as such, I didn’t get paid and had my reputation get reduced, too. I don’t mind when, in mid-trip, a passenger decides they want to take a side trip to some other place or that they need something like consumer electronics… and now I have to look for a station that may or may not have whatever they’re looking for. Or, lately, some have wanted to go into areas of conflict and I’ve learned to not get too close to whatever fighting is going on since, um, getting blown up with your passengers on board isn’t a good thing and I don’t wanna find out how bad that’s gonna be.

I don’t do that many sightseeing trips because it takes a lot of time… in real time. The last one I did took me three hours to complete and, jeez, even thought the trip went without anything going wrong, it was boring as fuck and to the point where I was watching TV shows on my tablet and iPad while grinding from one star system to the next. I’d occasionally check to see how many more jumps I had left, shake my head, mutter an obscenity to myself, and keep it moving. I tend to take on trips to deliver passengers from Point A to Point B which aren’t that time consuming and, often, doesn’t pay a whole lot… but that’s part of the grinding one can find themselves doing.

At one point last night, I’d earned about 25 million credits and while checking out the job postings, I saw a lucrative job to ferry a lot of items to a system that was one jump away… and I was in the wrong ship. I looked to see what ships the station had to offer and saw that they had a Type 7 bulk carrier, a step up from the Type 6 I had sitting at my home station… which was five jumps away and I knew it wasn’t available at my home station. I had a decision to make being halfway to being able to buy an Orca; do I pass on the Type 7 and the two million credit job… or do I spend the credits, get the Type 7 and take the job?

I decided to get the Type 7 and the job. After completing it, I immediately went home – and I kinda don’t like being empty but I couldn’t find anything I could haul back to my base in the Sol system – so I could sell the Type 6 I had and to have my Asp Explorer shipped back home to me, which is a pretty cool feature in the game if not a bit pricey. My problem is still that I’m not good at configuring ships. The Type 7 is like flying a brick; it’s slow and ponderous and while I can upgrade its engines, eh, there’s some tradeoffs to be considered. I upgraded its engines and power distribution systems but when I went to upgrade its stock laser weapons, well, that’s a problem because where I happen to be, they don’t have the type of laser weapon I need. The stock lasers are fixed in place… and pointing forward which makes sense… except when NPCs start shooting at me, they’re never in front of me and no matter how hard I try to point my weapons at them and shoot back, well, it just ain’t happening so I need the type of laser that isn’t fixed and can move as necessary to target the asshole behind me and eliminate them.

And this is part of the grind as well. I’m slowly but surely learning about configuring ships so that, say, when I take off from somewhere, the damned thing doesn’t shut down or I go to scan an area and, oops, I haven’t properly assigned things to the right areas. I’m not a fan of landing at locations that are based on a planet… but I kinda like it, too, because every landing presents a challenge that’s just too enticing to ignore and, of course, the goal is to “stick the landing” which means deorbiting at the right time and doing things in just the right way so that, if I do it right, I’ll be landing in a couple of real time minutes but if I get it wrong – and I do screw it up – it’s gonna take a long time for me to get to where I’m going.

The fun part is that while I’m in the middle of making planetfall, I catch myself flying the ship; I’m aware of the minute corrections I’m making with the joysticks and corrections I’m no longer and really paying that much attention to while keeping an eye on my speed, how much distance I have left and even how high I am relative to the surface… and all without really thinking about doing those things. Last night I made four planetary landings; I stuck three of them and totally screwed up one of them; instead of having a couple of minutes of flying to land, I was twiddling my thumbs and waiting out the 30 minutes or so it was going to take. Now, there is a way around such a screwup; all I have to do is engage my frame shift engines, aim at the escape point, and time the moment when I can lock back onto the landing spot… except, um, sometimes, I screw that up, too, and in this one, I actually wound up kinda crashing into the planet, not enough to seriously damage my ship but enough to have me cussing at myself.

This game is just so much fun to play.

 
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Posted by on 28 February 2021 in Xbox One Gaming

 

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Xbox One Gaming: Elite Dangerous: Horizons Part 3

First, I’ve changed my theme… for now – lemme know what you think of the Ryu theme!

I’ve pretty much “forgotten” about my other favorite games, including Watch Dogs: Legion, which I had gotten before I got Elite Dangerous; it was so bad that when I went to play my other favorites, I had to remember how to play them but this isn’t unusual for me because once I have a game that I can really get into, well, all I have is time to play it.

I’ve made great progress considering I haven’t been playing that long and compared to other players, I have a very long way to go. I haven’t bothered with playing alongside others because I haven’t worked toward any missions that I’d have to shoot stuff – yet. I have six ships now and one of them is a fighter and I guess once I build up my credits again, it might be time to go kill some shit. Until then, I’m continuing to do decent paying jobs using the different craft I have… but I gotta tell you what happened yesterday and during my third mission using my brand new Dolphin-class passenger ship.

The second trip was a bitch; I took a passenger to a planet in a system that I thought had a station but instead, there was a… device there that I had to scan for them. What made it a bitch was there was nowhere for me to land close to it and I’m surprised my ship didn’t take any damage because I was bouncing around all over the surface, slamming into the ground at times while trying to get the ship under control. I finally got into a bit of a hover and it occurred to me that I was supposed to scan it – so I did. My passenger was happy and I took them back where I picked them up and got paid 150,000+ credits.

It was worth the hassle and my ineptitude doing stuff like that. I was debating on changing ships to do other jobs and decided, what the hell – let’s take another passenger somewhere. I saw a job that was gonna pay a million credits and I was qualified to do it; I loaded them up, and selected Auto Launch to get underway. Auto Launch is a blessing; I’ve learned to fly my ships fairly well and I could manually fly out of the space-based stations even though they all rotate: Think about that scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey and the PanAm clipper and as I might have mentioned, the game uses the same music as the movie. I could do it… but if I don’t have to, that works.

The ship lifts off and stops because other ships are in a queue to leave or enter the station when I look to my right and see, in bright red letters, “Illegal Passenger Onboard” and I thought, “Oh, shit!” That’s when I discovered that once you engage Auto Launch, you can’t cancel it or if there’s a way to do it, I didn’t know anything about it. I’m “panicking” because I see a green icon cross my screen and the identifier is for a Federal warship and I knew my ass was in trouble and more so when, in the many times I’ve left a station, this particular event never happened. I’m still furiously going through my options and trying to find a way to abort the launch but it’s too late: My ship leaves the station and I know that it’s going to be about a minute before the Auto Launch procedure releases me… but I’m already thinking about turning around and ditching my illegal passenger. I abort the job and I get a message from the pissed off passenger that says if I’m not gonna take them where they want to go, just drop them off at another station.

My plan was to take them back inside but just as I was free and clear to navigate, my onboard computer calmly says, “We’re under attack.” And before I could see even where the attack was coming from – and even though I knew it was the Federal warship – I got my ass blown out of the sky. As you can imagine, I was pissy about that because the game didn’t see fit to warn me about the illegal passenger until after I had launched and, again, I couldn’t stop it.

Because I had gotten myself blown up one time before – way back when I was still trying to figure out some stuff, I knew I was going to wind up at a detention facility and I had to laugh because I’m in jail even though y’all just blew my ass up and killed me and to make it worse, I had to pay in order to get my ship back, too. I could afford it and I do like that the game doesn’t make you lose anything in this situation but, yeah, I wasn’t happy about how that all went down. Now I have to fly back to my home base and hoping that the authorities hadn’t put a bounty on me or hit me with some fines. Neither thing happened but, yeah, I was still pissy about it and kinda mad with myself although, again, there was nothing I could do or knew about to stop the Auto Launch process.

I kept playing, safely ferrying passengers and as I went on about playing, I was thinking that despite my very rough start, I’m glad that I bought this game and accepted its challenges. As I was on my way back from one place and super cruising to the station, I was looking at my iPad and Facebook and saw a post from one of my other game’s group… and that’s when it hit me that I’d been playing the game before I got this one and, well, yeah – this one is so good that I just didn’t have any thoughts about playing that game… or any other game.

Because I have three Microsoft accounts, I can have three profiles on my Xbox and, per my habit and when I have a game I can really get into, I started a new game on my second profile because now it was time for me to use what I’d learned from my main profile – along with the gazillion mistakes – and apply them. I decided for this profile that I was going to delay having to leave the starting area for as long as I can since, once you leave there, if there’s a way to go back, I don’t know about it. I found that I could plot a course back to the starting point but since my leaving made them revoke my license and permit to be there, well, shit. So, for my second profile, I’m just gonna hang out there and do jobs and make lots of credits and for as long as I can.

One “mistake” I corrected was to buy a Hauler as my second ship; at the point where I get invited to an Engineer’s location so I can get fancy updates for my ships, a YouTube guide for this mission specifically says to get a Hauler to make the trip because it carries more fuel – and even though I can refuel at a star – but they also are able to travel greater distances. When I did this job, I ignored the advice and thought that the ship I was in – an Adder-class kind of freighter – would do just fine. Um, yeah, shit, I should have listened to that advice! At one point during the very long trip, I almost ran out of fuel a few times and I was thinking about what could be done if I did run out of fuel. I learned, after the fact, that there’s a way to have someone bring you some fuel but since I didn’t know that, all I could do was, upon arriving at a Fuel Star, was to keep diving in until I had enough fuel to continue.

I’m like two jumps away from my destination; my fuel status is beyond questionable… and the game let’s me know that where I am is the last main sequence star that I can refuel at and I’m having yet another, “Oh, shit!” moment. I know that if I get too close to the star, the least thing that can happen is my drive shuts down and the worst is I get burnt the fuck up. As I’m carefully skimming the corona of the star, I’m wondering which one of the game’s developers thought it was a great idea to emerge from light speed and the first thing you see is a fucking star but for now, I’m very happy that they put this into the game. I successfully completed the mission… but for my second profile – and knowing that, again, at some point, I’m gonna have to do this job – I went ahead and bought a Hauler as my second ship; I am not going to make the same mistake twice.

Finally, my son-in-law. I convince him to buy the game. He’s always recommending games to me, some of them to my liking, some of them not so much. I’ve been telling him about the game and how challenging it is because when it comes to playing games, he’s like me in that if it’s challenging, we just gotta go for it. I was telling him what I had experienced early on and after he watched a YouTube video about the game, he decided to get it but I had offered to get it for him because I really want him to play this game because it’s gonna test his skills. He made it through the tutorial which, uh, by the way, I technically didn’t and he was able to kill the one ship that had to be killed that I just couldn’t manage to do so he’s got one up on me in that regard. When we play together – and as we do for a lot of games – it’s never a contest to see who’s better or anything like that and I appreciate and respect his gaming knowledge in some games, like Borderlands, for example.

I can’t wait to see how he makes out with Elite Dangerous and I hope he gets the hang of it enough so that we can play this one together.

 
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Posted by on 19 January 2021 in Xbox One Gaming

 

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Xbox One Gaming: Elite Dangerous: Horizons Part Two

This will be a much shorter scribble than yesterday’s offering.

I left y’all to tackle the game yesterday and I actually had a great day playing it. I’ve been taking jobs to many systems and even managed to make enough loot to buy another ship that’s suited for exploring; apparently, there’s money in this area. I haven’t tried tackling any of the jobs that calls for assassinating anyone – yet – I’m using the courier and other delivery jobs to not only make credits but to get better at playing the game and as even I expected, I screwed the pooch on something important.

Planetary landings. The very first one I did was actually done incorrectly, according to the game’s quick start guide and what the Facebook group membership told me when I screwed up another landing. Okay, the actual procedure is kinda technical and has some shit to do with orbital mechanics and glide slopes/angles but let’s just say that when I was attempting planetfall to deliver some goods, my deorbit burn and glide left me well over three hours away from my target and the situation was made worst by said target being on the other side of the planet. I got lined up – the ship is now pretty much on cruise control and maintaining direction and altitude without me doing anything – and I found some other stuff to do while making the 3+ hour trip while occasionally waking my controller and console; I found out that if my console goes into sleep mode while the game is running, it stops my ship dead in its tracks which is a good thing (I guess).

One of the things I did while waiting to arrive was ask the Facebook group what I did wrong – and I knew that I had even if I didn’t exactly what I did. So, to keep it as uncomplicated as I can, what I should have done was super cruise close to the planet but not let it put me into orbit by shutting it down and if my objective is on the other side of the planet, well, now I have to glide in, which was the second thing I was doing wrong. I looked in the quick start guide and I’ll be damned: They had an entire section on how to land on a planet including how to glide correctly and the “bad” part is that I saw the indicators on my HUD (heads up display) that was trying to tell me what to do and I didn’t know what it was telling me.

But now I know. Three or four trips later found me heading toward another station that was planet-side: Time to do it right! Well, that’s what I had in mind, anyway. I shut down super cruise and didn’t wind up just circling the planet while keeping an eye on the compass as well as the location’s marker; I pushed the stick forward to break out of my mini-orbit and started my descent; the ship went into glide mode and as anticipated… except instead of the pretty blue indicator, it was red: I done gone and fucked up again and so bad that I managed to run into the the damned planet because I had also managed to lose control of the ship. The good part was that my ship suffered some damage and my shields got knocked out until they rebooted and didn’t get destroyed and the second good thing was that once I got some altitude and flying right, I was only three minutes away from the ground station!

Much better than being three hours away! Once I docked, I had a rather big repair bill to pay but I had the credits to handle it easily and without putting a dent in my funds. The new bad news was there are no easy to do jobs where I’m at currently so I decided that since the ship I’m currently in is good for exploring, I’m going to try to do some exploring.

Stay tuned…

 
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Posted by on 15 January 2021 in Xbox One Gaming

 

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