Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Thorax: It Ain't Just Any Old Ship

Sometimes, you never know how good it can be until you actually see it for yourself.

A couple of days ago, a friend upgraded my computer for me. In doing so, I went from a 1 gigabyte processor to a 2.5 gig and substantially more RAM. Last night, I took EvE for a test run with it for the first time. When I upgraded from a 660 mhz to a 1 gig about a year ago, I thought it was a major improvement. I had no idea.

Not only is flying through space an altogether smoother, less jittery experience overall now, but things like making choices from right-click menus and, most importantly, targeting are now lightning-fast. It might seem like a minor thing in theory, but in practice it can make all the difference in the world, and, as I discovered last night, quite literally the difference between life and death.

I was doing a few Level 2 missions in the Thorax just to test out the new processor. I drew one of those missions where you fly toward a target and at some point as you approach it NPCs pop out of nowhere and start pounding on you. Usually, I get to the point where the NPCs appear, warp out, and then warp back in at a range that enables me to take them out from a longer range than I usually find myself at when they appear. This time, with my enhanced targeting ability and responsiveness, I felt I could stay and take them out on the first try, so I targeted some ships, released my drones and went after them.

After the first few ships were gone, I decided that I was taking too much damage and it was time to warp out and regroup. I didn't think I'd have enough time to call back my Hammerheads and I knew I had a decent supply of them back at my staging station, so I tried to warp out immediately, but found myself with an unanticipated problem.

I was too close to the ruined starbase that had been my original fly-to target and the Thorax was swinging back and forth, trying to align itself to warp out as I continued to get tagged by nearby ships. It quickly became apparent that I was going nowhere fast. My shield was just about gone, but my drones were still popping ships at a fairly decent rate. At this point, I concluded that this was going to probably be the last flight of my Thorax no matter what I did, so I figured I might as well take out as many NPCs as I could, that if I were going to go down anyway, I was going to go down fighting.

I turned on my hardeners, targeted some more ships, and then my armor repper and cap recharger as the damage level started to get into my armor. By this time, the Thorax had somehow shimmied its way into the body of the starbase itself, and I was certain I was a goner. Yet, I was managing to keep my armor up enough that I felt it was worth trying to manually maneuver the ship toward the one area around me where open space was still visible, assuming I had nothing to lose by trying.

The Thorax began to realign and slowly made its way toward the opening as I continued targeting, my guns and drones continuing to take out NPCs. My armor was now almost gone, but I was still doing plenty of damage, and for the first time since I'd gotten into trouble, I had the slightest glimmer of hope that I might actually survive this. Then, just as my armor was no more and I was beginning to take hull damage, I suddenly broke free and found myself in open space.

A check of my overview told me that I'd taken out all of the NPC ships and only a few stationary guns remained, but they were still hitting, taking small chunks out of my hull each time. While getting myself to a safe distance away from the starbase in order to ensure that I wouldn't get entrapped in it again, I called back my drones. A few seconds later, my drones safely aboard, I again tried warping out. Just as my hull integrity fell below a third, the warp drive kicked in and I found myself streaking out of the area, ship and drones intact.

Whew. A narrow escape to be sure, but my adventure wasn't over just yet.

I arrived at my staging station with smoke and fire streaming, docked, fit a hull repper, and undocked again. Just after I finished repairing my armor and was still orbiting the station, waiting for the hull repper to finish, I noticed that the hull repair seemed to be taking an unusually long time to do its job. I was sitting there trying to figure out what the problem might be when all of a sudden, my screen went black.

At first, I thought it might just be that some other program on my computer which might have caused it, as has happened many times in the past, but this was different. The screen stayed black for far longer than usual when this kind of thing happens, and when it came back to my desktop, the icon for the client wasn't there. It had been a while since I'd had EvE completely crash to desktop on me, but even before the client automatically rebooted itself I knew that was what had happened. When I took a look at the client, though, I saw something I'd never seen before.

The server status message said "PROXY NOT CONNECTED". I'd never seen this before, so I tried to log in anyway. When I did, a message popup window appeared, saying "Proxy not connected to sol server.". I had no idea what this meant, other than that I was unable to log back in, so I immediately went to the E-O forums and found a thread already going, in which players who seem to have far more experience in this particular variety of server issue had written that we'd been the victims of a node crash.

Of course, I was not happy. My Thorax was still circling a starbase with a fiery trail behind it with its hull repper going. Anyone who came upon it before the repper had almost finished would instantly know that it would be easy pickings. As we waited for the server to be restarted, several of us who'd been in-game at that very late (or very early) hour continued posting in the thread, really doing little more than keeping each other entertained while we waited to get back in-game. Finally, at about a quarter after three AM eastern, the server came back up, and I logged back in to discover that my fears hadn't been entirely unfounded.

When I got back in-game, the first thing I noticed was that the Thorax wasn't orbiting the station where I left it, but was simply floating in space, about 45 AU from where I'd last seen it. The second thing I noticed was that a chunk of my armor, which I'd already finished repping before the node crash, was gone. While I didn't see it and chances are I'll never know for sure, the evidence seems to indicate that the Thorax was, in fact, attacked while I was unable to log in and had automatically warped itself out of the area to avoid being destroyed.

In all honesty, I wasn't really all that worried about losing the Thorax in monetary terms. Chances are, I'd have about broken even with the insurance payment. It was really more of an emotional thing. I'd just successfully piloted that ship through one of the narrowest escapes I've ever had in this game and losing it because of a node crash would have felt like an especially cheap and unfair end for a ship I've been through so much with. Of all the ships I've flown in EvE thus far, it's the one that's survived the longest by far, has the most battle scars, and been the one I've flown during some of my most memorable in-game moments.

So many firsts for me in this game have come while flying the Thorax, it would probably be impossible to try to list or even remember them all, but I think of that ship with the same kind of fondness you might have for a favorite car or pair of jeans. It's certainly not the most powerful ship I've ever flown, nor has it made me anywhere near the amount of ISK I made flying all those Myrmidons, but it's still a viable, useful ship, and I have such an intimate familiarity with it and its capabilities that sometimes it seems that if that Thorax is capable of doing something, I'm able to squeeze every erg of potential power out of it to get the job done. There's a reason why I went back to using the name of that ship in the title of this blog and kept it even though I've had several other ships since, and it's not just because I like the way it sounds.

For those wondering when I'll get back into a Dommie again and what's taking so long, the answer is "soon". There's a good reason, but it's not one I really feel comfortable talking about here just yet. In the meantime, I'm happy taking the Thorax out on some Level 2 missions, getting more familiar with how the game runs with this new, much faster processor, and training up some skills I've needed to get done for a while now.

One thing that was especially nice to see in the Alliance Tournament was being able to watch Star Fraction defeat the formerly undefeatable BoB...with ten Thoraxes! From my perspective, seeing BoB suffer its very first-ever Alliance Tournament loss at the hands of an underdog team of SF pilots was truly great to see. Seeing it happen at the hands of a fleet of Thoraxes...well, after that I can believe that just about anything's possible when you're flying one of these babies.

Til next time, fly safe.

9 comments:

Trigger64 said...

When you're currently piloting a ship, your Mechanic skill affects the raw amount of armor hit points that you have, and when you disconnect, you're technically not *IN* the ship anymore, your skill bonuses stop applying to it. This is why if you're able to fit certain modules on an almost maxed grid or CPU, and you eject, some modules will be offline when you reboard the ship.

Same thing with armor, when you (so rudely) disconnected, your skills stopped applying to your raw hitpoints and you "took damage".

Hope that clarifies things for you a bit. :)

Bekka Jae said...

Trig,

I didn't know that and it makes a lot of sense as far as the missing armor is concerned, but it doesn't explain why my Thorax was just floating in space when I'd left it orbiting a station about 45 AU away.

Any ideas on that?

Bekka

scout said...

As far as I know it mwas HUN who won the tournament, though Star Fraction did fielded the 10 Thoraxes HUN won vs BoB. HUN used their 2 Basilisk 1 Curse combined capacitor warfare/remote shieldboosting setup according to my sources.

Bekka Jae said...

Scout,

Yes, HUN Reloaded won the tourney, but I was just referring to the SF vs. BoB match in my post.

Votrian said...

I loved seeing the Wave of thoraxes in the final and yes, I was cheering myself hoarse when they started to pound into BoB. Beautiful. I too fly a thorax and it's variant: vigilant and deimos. However, the original Rax with blasters and drones, rock.

An upgrade to RAM and video card sure makes a difference - next upgrade should be a BIG monitor or two!

Votrian

Bekka Jae said...

Votrian,

I totally agree, though I use rails on my own 'Rax. One of these days, I'll have to buy and fit one with blasters and see how that is. The main reason why I have mine set up with rails is that I'm more skilled and more experienced in long-range than short-range combat, and for the most part I've used frigs when I do need something short-range until now. Once I get another BS in space, though, I suspect I'll be once again thinking in that direction.

Bekka

Trigger64 said...

"doesn't explain why my Thorax was just floating in space when I'd left it orbiting a station about 45 AU away."

45au I have no idea, the standard "Emergency Warp" (disconnected, extreme lag jumping through gates, etc) is 1,000,000km

The only bug I know thats somewhat close to that was when a Carrier with Fighters deployed crashed or lost connection, each Fighter would warp off 99.99 AU from it's last position, resulting in some very handy safe spots for the Covert Ops pilot that had to probe them down (me :D)

Then again, that was only after CCP implemented the whole "able to probe for drones" thing. Used to be when you'd CTD or lose connection with fighters out, you'd file a stuck petition and a GM would come teleport you around the system to your fighters.

Other than that.. I have no idea. Just chalk it up to one of those undocumented "features" of EVE.

Sakura Nihil <-SF-> said...

Glad you enjoyed the fight. The blaster-rax is a beast of a ship and always should be treated with a fair degree of caution when confronted :).

Bekka Jae said...

Trig,

Given how screwy the game has been in the last few days that's as good an explanation as any.

Sakura,

I totally agree and I'm going to build myself a blaster-'Rax very soon. You guys have shown me that rails are only one way to use this ship, and some experimenting is definitely in order.

Great battle...you guys rock!

Bekka