Friday, October 16, 2015

X3: Terran Conflict - 10/20 hours

The thing about a trading sim that revolves around freight is that when the time comes to summarize it, there's not much you can do but talk about an undifferentiated blur of moving from one place to another, often carrying goods, sometimes not. I ran into an asteroid once, it wrecked the hell out of my ship and I had to reload (technically, I had 3% hull left, but there was no way I was going to recover from that accident). The weird thing was that the collision took place while I was running on autopilot, which I didn't think was possible. Apparently you can go nine hours, using the autopilot with scarcely a problem, and then BAM, out of nowhere, disaster. I'll have to be more careful in the future.

The other thing I remember is having a hull full of beef for an unreasonably long time. I bought it at a discount, and thought I was getting a good deal, but when the time came to try and sell it, everywhere I turned had a massive surplus, so that the demand was low enough to make even my discounted acquisition unprofitable. It was so bad that I became willing to sell off my cargo at the break-even price, just to free up hull space and capital, but as I was approaching the dock, and NPC ship swooped in, sold a whole shit load of beef, and halved the price out from under me. Grrr.

Luckily, I was eventually able to unload my beef after about an hour or so, for only a modest loss, and then right afterwards, I caught a couple of lucky breaks with some ore mines, and was able to double my money after only a few short trips. Then I lucked into a random mission where someone offered to sell a used freighter at a third the normal retail price, so now I have two ships with which to trade.

Unfortunately, the software upgrade that would allow my second ship to be an autonomous drone trade is way out of my price range at the moment, so I have to painstakingly micromanage both ships, but hopefully with two hulls worth of trade goods, my wealth will increase rapidly enough to make this a purely temporary issue.

The thing I'm finding about X3: Terran Conflict is that it is much like Mount & Blade: Warband in that it feels like the sort of game where the first twenty hours are a tutorial. I can feel my power ratcheting upward slowly, but I have not yet reached the tipping point where the game transforms into a different level of strategy. It's frustrating, because I can sort of see the shape of what that new strategic level would be like, and it's intriguing, but I simply do not have the skill or experience to move beyond the kid's table.

Will that change in the next 10 hours? Possibly. It depends a lot on X3's pattern of growth. In theory, now that I have two ships, that will allow me to acquire wealth twice as fast, and that will let me acquire more ships, to gain more wealth, faster, and so on in a geometric progression, and when the change comes, it will happen rapidly. That's what I'm hoping, because I'm really stoked about building bases and factories and mines and managing an interstellar trade empire. However, it's entirely possible that the growth pattern might be broken by difficult logistical challenges, or even deliberate arbitrary balancing factors. It may well be that, even after 20 hours, I'll be a small-time trader with a couple of poor freighters, cleaving tightly to a few known systems that will provide adequate profit.

I hope not, and seeing as how I've played nearly 10 hours as a humble trader, and have seen only two pirates (neither of which attacked me), I'm not super worried about a sudden, unwinnable trade war, but I also have to worry about asteroids ruining my AI controlled ships, and I may simply not have enough time to get this trading thing down to a science.

Ah well, it's perhaps too soon to worry, but then again, when you are neck deep in the fascinating world of space arbitrage, a mere 10 hours is likely to vanish before you know it.

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