The Drone Wars

Power supply probably charged, captain! Engines possibly functional, sir! Shields presumably operational! Time to set about saving the bloody universe!

Or hang around for hours, waiting for someone to die. Bah. As night falls, I hear sporadic bursts of laser fire, and head over to a nondescript area where a couple of flyers are engaged in a close firefight.

Before long they’re both heavily damaged and unable to maneouvre, so I’m able to target them. Tark Rinfist and Iris Hawkorgan are their names. I can’t tell if there’s any cargo involved, but I suspect Iris is a bounty hunter. I would prefer that she wins, as she’s unlikely to attack me if I nip in and take any windfall. Pirates tend to ignore scrap metal as it’s so cheap, but there’s no guarantee in Hardwar; I once saw a guy killed over a unit of water. Not pretty.

Ultimately, it’s Iris who buys it, her wreckage tumbling inelegantly down the craterside. That’s some great bounty hunting there, Iris. I’m able to hoover it up before anyone else, and the presumed pirate, Rinfist, putters away to fix up his battered moth.

I haven’t really explained the drone thing, have I? Right, well any moth with a cargo pod can fit a salvage drone. To use it, you must target an item (it ignores moths) and tap the ‘release’ button twice. If the target is within about 300 feet, the drone will zoom off after it, then attract it with magnets or by reading it a poem or whatever. It’ll then come back and tuck itself back inside your cargo pod.

All this means that you have to stay in range, or the drone will succumb to its deep-seated abandonment issues and suffer a total existence failure. You also need to stay still for a few seconds to let the drone dock, so deploying a drone makes you rather vulnerable – you can still fight, but can hardly move, so will be at a great disadvantage.

Competition can be fierce. Well-equipped pirates will have the firepower to chase people off, but a scavenger has only their flying skills to make their claim. Getting to the scene first isn’t enough – your drone has to get to the target first. It’s possible to snatch a cargo even after another drone has come for it, particularly if you ‘throw’ the drone (release it while powering in at full throttle). If you’re good, and have a fast moth, you can poach a pirate’s bounty and be gone before they can retrieve their drone and attack you. This is highly amusing, and therefore a sound tactic.

Note that in the picture above, my drone (with the yellow lights) is already closing in on the scrap (the grey thing that looks like a miniature vacuum cleaner). The two nearby Hawks are already too late, although a very skilled pilot could still blast in and drop their drone directly onto the cargo.

Guess not. With two bits of metal on board, I cash in at Alpha’s trading post.

Most craters have a generic trading post that will pay for common goods, however as they don’t produce or consume anything, their prices tend to flatten over time. Their real use is in their postings – Misop’s many factories and shops regularly send prices and delivery orders to the local trading post, allowing an inexperienced trader to make a bit of money before learning how the production chains work. They’re also handy for scavengers or pirates who’ve found a precious cargo and want rid of it quickly.

The downside is that they’re first come first served, not contractual. If a munitions factory needs 10 units of explosives, they’ll take whatever comes until they have enough, regardless of the source. Much like my ex-wife, etc.

In any case, I can’t make use of them yet, as without radar or navigation, I’m unable to target the sender of any deals or messages. I sell the metal I have directly, leaving me with 669 dolla.

Next up, I arrive a little late to a fight to find the remains of (I think) another scavenger just next to the lake, as well as some more metal and cargo nearby. Though I’m able to grab a piece of scrap, his attackers take the rest.

Best let them get on with it. I don’t think even my most abusive language would be a good substitute for a gun, although obviously I let loose a barrage anyway.

Pickings are slim for most of the morning, and the next action I see is right next to a lightwell. A trader is attempting to reach it to charge up their shields, but it’s a hopeless gambit. He’s blown up and his cargo taken, while I nab the scrap, pipping another scavenger to the post. Should’ve bought an afterburner, son.

Much later in the day, the scene repeats itself, with someone going down over a pretty tasty cargo of ore.

His ship, and presumably his viscera, are scattered all over the lightwell, and several moths hovering nearby swoop in with me. I leave the ore well alone – it’d just get me shot down.

Another fight breaks out just minutes later, this time with a tempting cargo of gems that I have to watch disappear into a pirate’s cargo pod. I console myself with a little more metal and an obscene gesture at the pirate.

Encounters like this are not uncommon around lightwells. It’s here that the poor and rich, the aggressive and timid alike rub elbows and politely ignore each other. A bit like London buses, except with less violence. It’s also here where anyone who’s come under serious fire and/or been hit by an energy-depleting missile will congregate, making them a sitting duck for anyone with an eye on their cargo.

This is harsh, but that’s the world we live in. It works in my favour too – I could conceivably sit here all week and still make money just by collecting from the wrecks. But where’s the fun in that? No, I’ll have a more interesting time following people round as they look for a fight, letting the bully boys do their thing while I pathetically cling to their tail, hoping to make some money and win their approval. I shall be the Blair to their Bush. Except with less violence.

Later that afternoon, I pick up a wrecked pirate who crossed the Lazarus group somehow – a turret on their moth shop blew him up, and I kindly tidied up the resulting litter from their roof. I’m a good citizen!

After dropping today’s scrap off at the Trading Post, I head to the Downtown Crater – I don’t think anyone in Alpha sells software, and need to turn my little stash into some practical goodies.

It’s night-time when I get there. I have about 1,600 Rupees to my name, and a lot of options.

I will eschew weapons and pay for some basic radar and shield software. It takes most of my money, but as long as I’m keeping a low profile, weapons can wait. Shields, however, I might need, in case anyone fires a warning shot at me, or I simply have a collision. The radar will help me target and stay out of trouble. I still won’t know what state my equipment is in until I shell out for power software, but it should be alright as long as I spend a few hours in a lightwell when I see one.

Speaking of which, it’s about time my moth and I caught up on sleep. Won’t be long before we have weapons at this rate, and then the stupid risktaking begins!


1 Comment

Filed under Hardwar, It's a Hardlife

One response to “The Drone Wars

  1. Moe

    Was that a Toy Story reference I saw? Nice.

    Enjoying this tale already. Never heard of this game but it seems pretty cool. I’m glad you chose it because it is a refreshing change from the Bethesda mold.

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