Wednesday, 6 March 2013

FTL FTW Chapter 1

Greetings Humans, allow me to introduce (or reintroduce) one of my favorite games from last year: FTL.

For those that don't know FTL is a space ship game where you command the inner workings of your vessel rather than steer/shoot/avoid manually. You take your ship through a number of sectors, in which there are a number of jumps and a vast number of encounter possibilities where you decide what to do and, quite often end up in a dogfight against another ship. In short - it's awesome.

Recently a Total Computer Crash led to me needing to re-install this gem of a game and I immediately fell back into my obsession with its unique permadeath and rogue-like charms. Unfortunately I can't just play FTL, I have to live it, take it personally and feel every action I take.

I know there are a few diaries of FTL games out there but I've only seen a couple that I thought were engaging and kept my interest up until the end, so I thought maybe I should have a go.

So here goes, I hope you'll join me on the maiden voyage of the Kewinator (named after my friend and fellow blogger +Simon Kewin ).

A couple of other things I've done are to choose the Osprey hull layout. If you've not played with this ship design then you should know its special features are that you get 4 crew rather than the standard 3 and that you only start with a standard burst laser. Oh, but you do get a rather massive hull laser inbuilt into the ship. Coolness.

The difficulty level is Normal rather than Easy. It was tempting to go Easy because it's more likely I'll get to the end of the game and have a chance to win, but Normal is (usually) more threatening and exciting overall.

Finally I've renamed the crew after people I know, but their personalities are (mostly) different from how they are in this story, so I'm sure they won't mind (heh).

Right, so lets get started.

The Beginning

The Kewinator sat in its dock as the final diagnostics on its experimental weapon systems began. Richard sat with me in the cockpit as I checked our flight-plan for what must have been the 30th time.

Richard coughed tactfully, and because he was of the Mantis race, this caused a great torrent of snot to land on the flight monitor. I sighed and wiped it clean with my sleeve, making a mental note to burn my clothes later.

"Yes?" I asked.

"Well Captain", he started "We've been ready to leave for the last 30 minutes or so. Why haven't we departed yet?"

It was a good question. Was it nerves? Was it to prolong the anticipation? Was it that some unforseen force was taking screengrabs for a blog entry? Who knew, but he was right. It was time to engage the engines.

I engaged the intercom "Simon?" I said through the mic.

After a few moments the mechanical tones of the Engi filtered through the speaker. "Yes sir. All Systems Are Ready. Engines at optimal, Weapons at optimal, Shields at optimal, Doors at-"

"Shush you!" I said quickly "I don't need to know about the doors right now. How does Clive feel about the shields?"

I could only just make out the rumbling voice of Clive as he droned on for a few seconds but managed to make out his last word: "crappy." Awesome.

"Okay I've got it." I said, "So we need to upgrade as we go. We'll lookout for some merchants...if they're still in business I guess."

"Right, well strap yourselves in chaps. Richard, get yourself down to Weapons, Clive you get to shields. Simon, stay where you are in the engine room. Time to go..."

And with that we left the relative safety of the station and into the vastness of Sector 1.

Jump 1

I'd decided to take us on a round journey of the sector in order to visit as many locations as possible early on. This way we might find some easy pickings before we got to the later, more dangerous theory at least.

When we arrived at our first location the alarms went off immediately.

"What the dickins..." I started "Simon, what is that? Another ship?"

"No. A signal from the planet. It appears to be a single life form in distress. Should we investigate?"

"Yeah! Lets do it!" Said another voice over the comms. I could tell Richard was jumping up and down in excitement already. This meant that the weapons station would need sterilizing later. I instinctively didn't want to do whatever the battle ready Mantis would do so I decided for us not to go down to the planet.

"Not this time, " I said. "We'll leave the poor bugger down there for the next ship that's passing."

And with that I kicked the FTL drive back into action and jumped to the next beacon.

Jump 2

This beacon had absolutely nothing of interest. Simon introduced us to the world of Engi singing which he personally demonstrated via the intercom. During the performance I could hear a regular "thump, thump, thump" from the shield room which meant that Clive was either dancing to the music or bashing his head against the shield relays in order to drown out the music. If my head were made of stone I would have done the same.

Afterwards we all lied to him about how lovely his singing was. It's hard to know if he appreciated it.

We pushed onto the next beacon.

Jump 3

The sensors screamed at me again after this jump, but it turned out to just be an abandoned mining station on the nearby moon that had some residual power. Clive volunteered to go take a look, probably to avoid more of the singing.

Simon spent a few minutes under the pilot's console trying to fix the sensors. I went for a short walk and found Richard in the camera room, apparently doing "nothing".

Clive came back from the moon with some scrap and the designs for an anti-personnel drone. We don't have a drone module yet so we'll probably sell that when we can.

Jump 4

When we finished this jump the sensors were silent and I was about to breath a sigh of relief until I looked at the monitor and spotted a great hulking rockman scout right in front of us.

They hailed us.

"...Hello?" I asked tentatively.

"Hello, I hope it's not a bother..." they started. "But I'm looking for an escort to a nearby system. This region is quite dangerous and our ship is not well-armed."

I was contemplating the merits of telling a potential enemy that you were not well-armed when Clive suddenly joined in on the discussion.

"Steve? Steve, is that you?!" He said excitedly.

"...Clive?'s IS! Hey Pete, get a load of this. You'll never guess who's on that ship..."

Eventually we agreed to give them an escort because Clive was best man at Steve's brothers wedding a few cycles ago and apparently that's a bond you can't ignore. It earned us 3 fuel at least...

Jump 5

We hit a shop on our next jump. They had plenty to sell, including a drone control module. Simon was especially keen on this but we just didn't have the cash. I promised to buy one next time just to shut him up.

Steve and his crew bought some supplies. I'm not quite sure what rockmen eat but I swear the crates they gave Clive was shaking. I've decided not to follow it up just in case it becomes one of those things you can never un-learn.

I returned to the cockpit and started the next jump.

Jump 6

By now the sensors were working ok and I was able to scan an asteroid field nearby. At least it was only a small one and we hadn't jumped straight into the middle of it.

But someone else had!

"Naff Piloting skills" I muttered before hailing them

"Need any help?" I asked politely.

"Our Shields are down and I don't know how much longer we can last!"

"Ok, ok, calm down. We'll try and help." I said, hoping that it wouldn't take long and there'd be a decent reward for doing so.

I moved the ship slightly into the field and got Clive to keep track of the shields. Richard tried a few pot shots at the asteroids, but only managed to turn them into more, smaller asteroids to avoid. Some of them hit us but we managed to get the other ship out.

It turned out they were mining the asteroid field to which I said

"Mining an asteroid field?" I said incredulously.

They shrugged. "We'll be going back in soon, but we'll be fine this time" I was about to disagree when they pushed 22 scrap into my hands and 4 fuel. I blinked a few times as I took all that in.

"Yes, I'm sure you will be." I lied and got us out of there before we got into any more trouble.

Jump 7

We finally got to where Steve and Co. wanted to get to. They were suitably grateful for the help.

"Thanks." Steve said to me before turning back to Clive and showering him with all the praise as if he'd single-handedly pulled their ship with his teeth to the beacon.

I let them get on with it and visited the nearby shop instead. We couldn't afford any upgrades or new crew or anything. It hurt to be so poor still, but I wasn't sad that we'd avoided trouble so far.

Later we went to the rock ship for a party to say goodbye, except for Simon who doesn't like parties.

Jump 8

Despite our hurting heads from the earlier party we pressed on to our next beacon jump.

There was another store here. I mused that perhaps the reason the galaxy was in recession right now was because there where too many stores and not enough jobs to earn any scrap.

Without even consulting the crew I started the next jump.

Jump 9

The sensors really did go nuts this time and for good reason. A Mantis scout ship! What on earth was it doing here?

"Richard, get up here now!" I barked into the intercom. He quickly arrived and I pointed a shaking finger at the monitor "friends of yours?" I asked

"Pah, no ways." He said trying to be cool, but I could tell he was scared because his many eyes were blinking rapidly "probably just some punks looking for a fun kill. Just ignore them." I think he was suggesting we make a run for it.

"We can't ignore them Richard, they have a ship with guns. GUNS, you know?"

"Okay, okay, let me get back to weapons control and we'll aim for those guns you're so concerned about." he said and rushed out of the room

I could see the burst laser charging and I was itching to get the first shot off. As it was we both let off shots at the same time, Richard did a great job of knocking out their shields. They had aimed for our sensors instead which, in a nebular was a bit of an odd thing to do. We put it down to overconfidence.

Our next shots disabled their missile launcher and we cheered as they missed us with most of their shots.

We weren't in any immediate danger, but I couldn't wait for our main weapon to activate, it seemed to be taking years to warm up. Simon offered to go and look at it but the last thing we needed right now was one of his "ideas" in the middle of a battle!

Suddenly Richard was on the intercom "I've got fire. A FIRE people! Help!"

Where had that come from? Then I realized that when the sensor room had been knocked out it may have caught fire but we couldn't see because the sensors had been knocked out! Also our doors were very basic and wouldn't stop fire from spreading between rooms so we'd need to sort that out ASAP. I sent Clive in there to stomp it all out. He was strangely cheerful about it, he always enjoys a good fire. I then started opening doors everywhere in an attempt to purge oxygen and extinguish the fire.

While we were panicking about all of this the Kewinator itself decided we were doing a rubbish job and fired its beam-like siege weapon at the enemy, ripping it apart with unsettling ease. The sections of the Mantis ship gently drifted apart from each other, the crew floating out from between the tears, their silent screams sounding only in our minds.

We watched in silent amazement, admiration and fear from our monitors. The fires burned around Clive as he cleared his throat.

"That was...ok." He said gulping.

We made our repairs in silence, except for the occasional whine from Richard. I think the beam weapon may have overexcited him.

Jump 10

We'd made it to the edge of the sector. The Kewinator had proved its worth, its battle hardedness, its ability to look rude but still allow us to make friends with other ships but above all its ability to visit 3 shops and make no purchases.

Clive made an unusual visit to the bridge.

"Ullo" he said, "I've just head from Steve. He says the alliance fleet is only one jump behind us."

"That's the only lead we need." I said "In fact, I think we have time for a cuppa."

After a lovely cup of tea (Clive had Mexican coffee, the usual preference for Rockmen) I made final checks and jumped us to the next sector

Tune in next week for part 2 of FTL FTW!

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