Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Elite Dangerous Space Bar - starting a second account.

Hey Space Cadets, what is going on?
I'm Cmdr TwingTwang and welcome to the space bar. In today's article I'll be reflecting on the undersung sidewinder. This is a story all about how my life got flipped - turned upside down. And I'd like to take a minute, sit right there, to tell you how I got my second space plane in the air.

I'll make no excuse, I didn't fly the infamous sidey for very long.  I traded up and got into a little ZP, where I could load sixteen tonnes and start turning a profit. I ran freight for a while and that set me on a long path as a Lakon owner. I used the wealth to buy a number of vipers, and I love taking my vulture out for a spin in a conflict zone but I've never been a "combat pilot".

The decision to start a second account has been a slow one, and on my mind for a while. I was disappointed that I couldn't start a second pilot on a normal account and the entitlement to play it my way was pretty strong. I haven't gone exploring yet because I play regular games with my crew and don't want to be gone for weeks unable to play socially.
At first, not having a second account was a relief - the huge time I put into grinding profits for just one ship was enough and the thought of doing that again wasn't attractive. But after a discussion with other pilots, I was ready to go.

So I started a new account so I've still got a way to fly with the fleet my main ship is off exploring the galaxy. And found myself at LHS 3447 in a stock sidewinder with a thousand credits to my new name.

Economy of Scale
The stock sidewinder mentality is very different to a high-tonnage hauler, and I went from rounding credits to the nearest million to counting hundreds, tens, and units. Every decision I make in this journey is going to affect my profit bottom line. A repair bill is now a big deal, however with no capacity to carry cargo and no currency to buy it there could be quicker profits to be had as a bounty hunter.
I've written posts about using a cheap sidewinder or ZP to start earning serious money running rare cargo across the galaxy, so I just need to spec that ship and claim some bounties.
The entry level rare runner ship needs a good range and a little cargo space.  I talked about entry level ships in my original Rare Runs article - and I'll be picking one of these and trying to follow my own advice on a simple straight route. I priced up the cheapest one around a little over 100K, which is my initial earnings target so I can get on my way.

Classy Class-E
After everything I've done, the starting sidewinder is long forgotten and its Class-E stylings and duracell laser pointers are barely even a memory now, and getting into it feels dis-empowering. But I screwed my balls on tight and plotted a course for the neighbouring conflict zone.

I've got to say the stock sidewinder doesn't fly very well, but I learnt a lot from its shortcomings and I'm armed with a little experience at outfitting ships.  The Class-E sidewinder is not not quick enough on the turn to stay safe and not fast enough on the boost to get out of trouble. You put all your chips in on every hand with this ship. When you commit to a fight you have to know - not fear - that it's going to be a fight to the death.

Play to your strengths
The sidewinder has to play to its strengths, few and far between as they may be.  In a rough and tumble fight there is only room for the quick and the dead, so you have to get in close to make your mark without getting tagged, and then spiral out to mid range to angle in for a new attack run. The sidewinder is a constant juggle of throttle and turn to stay out of fire arcs, and it keeps you on your toes. While this the same mechanical motions of flying a vulture, doing it as the underdog has a different feel entirely and even the slightest mistakes can really put you out of position.

Laser pointers
The next thing you notice in a Class-E ship is that the laser banks deplete straight away. Now my accuracy wasn't actually that bad. I didn't land every shot on target but did better than I expected with its pair of fixed forward E1 Pulse lasers, and the banks draining were a testament to me keeping my crosshair filled for decent durations.
But humble bragging aside, the laser banks will drain to nothing - hit or miss - and require a four-pip top up.  The most difficult moment in a sidey is when your enemies shields come back online - it feels like so much hard work down the drain and signifies another roll of the dice.  This I found a real problem with fixed-forward - The gimbals I've grown used to make it easier to finish off wounded ships, or to target modules like the shield generator or power plant.

Eggshell Shields
The tiny Class-E shields and tinfoil hull of the sidewinder don't do you any favours and both will be reduced to nothing after even a shot burst from a larger ship. A larger power coupling is a must to keep the shields and lasers topped up and once but even then not getting hit is your best strategy.

As long as you hug close to the ship shooting at you, you've got a good chance of being able to keep out of its fire arcs and keep those shields topped up. As soon as your shields get tickled, you've got to give them more pips before they flash and the constant energy management typifies the wing and a prayer combat feel of the sidewinder.

After a couple of trips to the conflict zone, I've upgraded my Power Distributor which felt like the most wanted component, and I've upped the shields too. I never had enough power for my shields, the weapons ran dry and I couldn't boost frequently.

The power distributor and shields are likely to take more upgrades too, followed by thrusters and weapons. I'd like gimbals and boosters for the shields too. One more trip out will fund a rare run, so my time in the sidewinder has all but come to an end.  Its been an educating time and I can claim with some confidence that I've played the underdog card. Not having the safety net of a hundred million credits has made this more real that I'd expected

I didn't have sidewinder nostalgia before today, and while I'll be very happy to get into a ship with a bit more punch, I won't take my vulture for granted having flown toe-to-toe against ships several times my size.

Until next time, fly casual.