Back in June when I moved over to Truck Simulator my intention was to return to Elite after a short break. That I needed a break was clear. I had reached a sort of crossroads and could not decide what I should do next. Then I broke a couple of buttons om my joystick whilst driving a truck – critical buttons for ship management so going back to Elite with that piece of hardware was out of the question. On the horizon was a new Joystick and Throttle combination from Thrustmaster which was going to be designed to work with Elite. That was originally due for September – so I thought “I’ll wait for that to come out” and in the interim I continued driving my trucks and bought the steering wheel and pedals that I wrote a review of.

Time passes quickly when you’re enjoying yourself and sometimes there are delays to release dates in computing hardware/software. The new Thrustmaster T.16000M Hotas FCS finally came out close to Christmas. By that time I was heavily into SCS’s ‘Help Santa’ challenge and discovering the newly released roads of France. The American Rescale was released mid December too with all the wonderful new vistas to see there. Small wonder that I wasn’t back playing Elite!

I finally bought the new joystick 2 weeks ago and fired up Elite for the first time in 8 months! My first task has been to get used to the ship handling again, so I spent the first couple of hours playing the tutorials. I was surprised how slow the sidewinder seems compared with a Peterbilt 389! But thinking about it, that’s all a question of scale and relative proximity to other objects.

Once back in the actual game I had to take the ship I had last flown back to HR783 from SPOCS-103. My memory proved to be correct when I found it was Nyati – my Lakon T6 freighter. I was lucky enough to get a well-paying mission part of the way to Gliese 9073 and I was on my way. I think the main lift for the take-off was provided by the butterflies in my stomach! I needn’t have worried as I didn’t see a single soul on the trip – human or ai – until I was in the no-fire zone of Gresley Orbital. Huge sigh of relief – the T6 is not a combat vessel so I’ve configured her for defence. The home run from there to HR783 and Roth Hub was similarly quiet and I quickly got back in the swing of dropping into systems and punching out again efficiently.

At Roth Hub I swapped ships to the Imperial Courier – God Speed. The Courier is a responsive ship to fly and I felt a good one for some general handling within my home system. Whilst dropping into Stiles Ring to practise landing on an outpost station I was hailed by another ship – my friend Bertrand had flown over to see me and say Hi! He was in his Eagle – an excellent fighter that he has upgraded significantly. We rubbed shields in greeting and chatted about the changes in the game. Bertrand warned me that the ai has significantly improved and I should be very wary of the higher ranked ones! Message received and understood – I shall be operating in ‘chicken’ mode until I can get to visit engineers to upgrade my vessels 😉

After some general handling it was time to get back in the business of making money. I did a few missions in God Speed and then swapped back to Nyati to make as much money as possible with her larger load capacity. Apart from one mission when I had an assassin sent against me it has been relatively peaceful. Fortunately the assassin struck in Tlapana which is a High Security system. I was able to evade and stay in one piece long enough for the Security forces to engage them and then make my escape with 34% damage to the ship. Although Nyati’s weapons are defensive, she can get the occasional kill. Last night in HIP 10818 I was interdicted and submitted with the intention of running. Only the attacker took a while to appear on my scanner so I concluded that this ‘ai’ wasn’t a hot-shot. Sure enough he turned out to be in an Eagle with missiles and multi-cannons – not strong enough to get through my shields quickly. So I targeted him and then began running away whilst lobbing mines back at him. One of them hit and took out his shields and probably did some damage to his hull at which point security turned up and completed the kill – I got 14670cr’s as a bounty for assisting in terminating a criminal 🙂 I think that’s Nyati’s third kill!

Face-off - Friendly meeting with Bertrand du Guesclin.
Face-off – Friendly meeting with Bertrand du Guesclin.

Nyati sets out on another mission.
Nyati sets out on another mission.

I will be back in Truck Sim sometime tomorrow and I shall be swapping between Elite and Truck Simulator every Sunday so you can expect posts from both!

When I started playing the Truck Simulator titles (for a second time) I didn’t really understand where it would take me. Many of my games are aimed at the ‘realistic’ end of the spectrum, from Railworks to Elite. The latter may rely on many assumptions about the future but it is still very much a trading/flight simulation game. It says much that PvP players of Elite like to refer to traders as playing Euro Truck Simulator in space 😉

I’ve just had a break from Elite and put in some time with Euro Truck and American Truck Simulator. One thing that became very apparent, much more so than in Elite, was the advantage of having some software that allowed you to look right and left. There is nothing worse than having to take your hand off the joystick to use the mouse to turn your view along the road to see oncoming traffic. Thank god we don’t have to do this in real life… (although it sometimes seems that other drivers may be doing just that!).

I have watched quite a few videos by other players and it is very clear that having head-tracking technology gives a clear advantage in simulation style games. So I went away and did some research. There are a number of options out there, most using a webcam of some sort with head-tracking software. In many cases webcam is a standard type and carries the risk of being hacked so your activities can be seen over the internet. I decided that the TrackIR solution best suited me. It’s not a cheap option but one of the things that swung my decision was that my favourite games are linked into TrackIR. It also uses its own infrared detection camera rather than an off the shelf webcam. I chose the pro-clip bundle because of issues that I read about regards lighting causing mis-tracking. That means that I have the pro-clip that fits on the side of a pair of headphones and the standard clip that fits on the peak of a baseball cap. Both work ok for me – so if I want to wear my headphones it’s time for the pro-clip and if I need to listen for the postie, it’s the standard clip.

It’s amazing that this purchase has been driven by American Truck Simulator! I was happy in Elite and Railworks just using the mouse to alter my view angle. Now I’ve been back to both those games to see whether the head-tracking improves the game experience. In Railworks it definitely does… Very much improved experience! I did a stopping run from Denmark Hill to Orpington and nailed the 8 coach stopping points every time – that’s a sign of a clearer understanding of the available visual cues brought by the head-tracking. Elite is a different case – gonna have to try out some combat where I expect to see real improvements but on a first test run  I find that I can at least keep a good eye on the stations as I approach. Videos on YouTube certainly suggest that head tracking makes Flight Simulator much more realistic – flying a continuous curve approach as approved by the RAF should be a lot easier 🙂

I called this post ‘Driving Change’ and my Peterbilt has seen some changes. To summarize.. Bull bars (too many jobs in farmyards!), upgraded wheel hubs with blue paint finish. And a more distinguished door handle. Hidden from view, she now has a Paccar MX13 engine rated at 455HP and an Eaton Fuller 13 speed box with Retarder. Very pleased with her. I’ve also cleared my bank-loan, so it’s currently high profit on all jobs. It will soon be time for a garage upgrade and then we hire a driver! Business is good :-)
My Peterbilt 579 in her current colors…

New Blue Hubs catch the attention and there’s now 455 Horses under the bonnetChisum Trucking_New Boots and Bars

Doing some work for one of America’s largest groups – TV’s from Page to Primm.TV Delivery, Page to Primm

An addition to stock for my Elite: Dangerous fleet – The Imperial Courier…

I had been contemplating one of these vessels since I achieved the required rank in the Empire but there were always challenges that I set myself that called for different ships at the time. Now, finally, I need again a fast ship to carry messages and light cargoes on behalf of the Empire. That ship has to also be good in the field of battle as befits a ship of the empire… And she is! I have named her ‘God Speed’ for, as any Imperial Citizen will tell you, the Emperor is God and it is right that I request that our Emperor grant my ship speed as she goes about her duties on behalf of the Imperial Society and in the Emperor’s service.
God Speed departing Rich Orbital

All Hail to our Emperor, Arissa Lavigny Duval – Bask in Her Glory!