Rat Style


The Fuel Rats are continuing their galaxy-conquering glorious romp in the limelight!

I haven’t been able to get into game for months (I’m playing World of Warcraft again, O Noes!) but the folks at Frontier are still working to build new content and wonders into the game. A recent addition is lighted signage on some outpost landing pads. (“Yay, marketing!” grumbles the badger)

We have fuel! Oh, yes we do! In game-scale that sign is at least a mile on the long side.

The Fuel Rats are up over 50,000 rescues. Every one of those represents a positive experience for a gamer – one more person who has a chance to realize that when you encounter another player in a game, you do not immediately have to fight for your life. The Fuel Rats are anti-griefers, hauling sunny smiles and cans of highly explosive fuel to those who haven’t got them.

Any questions?

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One of the current trends in gaming is “Battle Royale” games. Basically, Hobbes’ Playground 3D – every player trying to kill every other player. In fact, the game is constructed to make cooperation a disadvantage. It’s as if our rulers are trying to get us accustomed to the future that they are planning for us.

Comments

  1. felicis says

    I have started playing (as of a couple of weeks ago), and am largely enjoying my experience.

    I’m still in my original ship (although with some upgraded equipment.

    I cannot fight for shit – the NPCs that occasionally chase me down dispatch me before I can even target them… Perhaps they could consider a graded difficulty (e.g. if I am ‘harmeless’ and am killed in every encounter, maybe ease up on the difficulty until I am able to at least damage the other ship?)

    Oh well – I didn’t join the game for combat – but because of the idea of the Fuel Rats – who I would like to one-day join (should I ever become a decent enough pilot… I am not good at video games).

    I have decided that there is one area in which I would like to learn and go into combat for – weirdly, slavery is a thing in game. You can make money by trading imperial slaves. Once I am good enough, I would like to form an anti-slavery group (assuming one does not yet exist) that tracks and kills any players trading in slaves. It might not stop them from existing in game – but I want to stop seeing the recommendation to make money by trading imperial slaves because you can get the best profit from them.

  2. felicis says

    Oh- side note, having described the Fuel Rats to others has gotten some friends interested in the game as well – I love my friends!

  3. says

    felicis@#1:
    I have decided that there is one area in which I would like to learn and go into combat for – weirdly, slavery is a thing in game.

    Yeah, so much for an enlightened future.
    What’s even weirder is the number of apologists for slavery on the Frontier forums. They offer the same excuses as American southerners; i.e.: bad ones.

    Surly Badger made a lot of money in-game mining and smugging drugs, but I never took a slave on my ship. I always thought you ought to be able to free them.

    The game’s AI is ridiculously good, and Frontier gave in to the ‘grinder’ mentality and created random-scaled weapons so the PVP crowd could try to get the most powerful whatevers for their fights. The unrealism of that really damaged my feelings for the game; I had to play around it by just sticking to exploration.

  4. says

    felicis@#1:
    because of the idea of the Fuel Rats – who I would like to one-day join (should I ever become a decent enough pilot…

    The Fuel Rats always need good dispatchers.

    As a friend of mine said, “…. wait: you guys go out of your way to create a stressful situation so that you can put yourself in the middle of it?”

  5. Dunc says

    weirdly, slavery is a thing in game.

    Yeah, so much for an enlightened future.

    You didn’t buy that bullshit about the universe having a moral arc, did you? There is no relationship between technology and morality, and slavery is historically pretty common. (By which I mean “almost universal”.) Why wouldn’t there be slavery?

  6. Dunc says

    Because, if one has interstellar travel, one should be able to do a bit better than crude coercion.
    cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excession

    Interesting that you reference Excession to support that assertion… Are you forgetting that the Affront had both interstellar travel and really quite a lot of slavery? (Along with various other forms of “crude coercion” which they’d applied their technology to enhancing, apparently largely for the sheer hell of it.)

  7. says

    Dunc@#5:
    You didn’t buy that bullshit about the universe having a moral arc, did you? There is no relationship between technology and morality, and slavery is historically pretty common.

    No, I’m too cynical to fall for that.

    However, I don’t think the slavery in the game is at all realistic. Weapons are far too easy to come by, and you have the ability to hyperspace between stars. It would be boring (but it would beat being a slave) to simply get in a ship and leave, then camp out as an asteroid-miner for the rest of your life.

  8. John Morales says

    Dunc.

    Are you forgetting that the Affront had both interstellar travel and really quite a lot of slavery?

    Um, that’s my very point — it’s for pleasure, not for need.

    (http://theculture.wikia.com/wiki/Affront , my emphasis)

    Affront society is described as being “a never-ending, self-perpetuating holocaust of pain and misery”, where the strong prey upon weaker species and individuals. Among the Affront’s technological accomplishments is an aptitude for genetic engineering, which they developed long before spaceflight. They use this skill almost exclusively on ‘prey species’, which tend to be changed so as to provide greater sport (and opportunity for sadism) during the communal hunts forming a major part of the Affront culture. Some examples of these changes include altering game animals to experience heightened levels of fear when recognizing the silhouette of an Affronter, or altering beasts of burden to panic when their masters are excited and thus induce them to pull vehicles faster. One of the few changes to their own species was the redesign of their females to make sex painful for them, a choice exemplary of the reasons they are considered abhorrent by the Culture.¹ “Progress through Pain” is a common Affront slogan.

    (Or, in a post-scarcity society, hedonism is no harder than virtue)

    ¹ remind you of anything?

    Also, “assertion”? Right.

    (So weird that I imagine starfaring cultures should be expected to exceed ours not merely technologically!)

    And, since I feel allusive: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Hitchhiker%27s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy

    Waiter: Would you all like to see the menu? Or would you care to meet the main dish of the day?
    Arthur: Meet?
    Trillian: What is it?
    Waiter: It’s an Ameglian Major Cow. I’ll bring him over.
    Zaphod: Ok, we’ll meet the meat. that’s cool. [a large Pig-like creature is wheeled in on a trolley]
    Dish of the Day: Bweeeh… [clears throat] Good evening, Madam and Gentlemen. I am the main Dish of the Day. May I interest you in parts of my body? [Arthur and Trillian go “Huh?”]
    Ford: Oh, well.
    Dish of the Day: Something off my shoulder, perhaps, brazed in a little White Wine sauce?
    Arthur: Your shoulder?
    Dish of the Day: Well, naturally mine, sir. Nobody else’s is mine to offer. [clears throat] The, uh, rump is very good, sir. I have been exercising and eating plenty of grain so there’s a lot of good meat there. [moos] Or a casserole of me, perhaps?
    Trillian: You mean this animal actually wants us to eat it?
    Ford: Me, I don’t mean anything.

  9. Dunc says

    Um, that’s my very point

    How the hell was I supposed to divine what your point was from just the link to the page for the book? I’m not psychic, and it’s a big, complicated book with a lot of different ideas in it. I thought your point was about the way that the Minds influence and manipulate people without resorting to outright coercion.

    it’s for pleasure, not for need

    So? It’s still slavery. There are arguments about whether slavery has ever actually been economically efficient, but none of that matters to the slaves. They’re still slaves, regardless of the motivations of their enslavers.

    So weird that I imagine starfaring cultures should be expected to exceed ours not merely technologically!

    My point, as I explicitly stated, is that “[t]here is no relationship between technology and morality”. I’d also argue that that was one of Banks’ key themes in Excession (indeed, it’s a theme that features heavily in most of the Culture novels), and (I believe) the main reason why he made the Affront such a bunch of horrible bastards. Hence my confusion at your reference to it.

  10. Dunc says

    However, I don’t think the slavery in the game is at all realistic. Weapons are far too easy to come by, and you have the ability to hyperspace between stars. It would be boring (but it would beat being a slave) to simply get in a ship and leave, then camp out as an asteroid-miner for the rest of your life.

    I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to imagine that slaver societies would be able to apply that level of technology to finding effective means to control their slaves. That’s another of Banks’ key themes – that technology is a double-edged sword, and can be used to oppress just as effectively as it can be used to liberate.

  11. says

    Dunc@#11:
    That’s another of Banks’ key themes – that technology is a double-edged sword, and can be used to oppress just as effectively as it can be used to liberate.

    Somehow Banks managed to project a shred of optimism while simultaneously appearing to be condensed out of pure cynicism.

  12. Kevin Dugan says

    Fuel Rats FTW. Was playing Elite for a while and enjoyed it, but never joined any social groups. At the end, I’d gotten my Anaconda, Orca and other large ships.
     
    Felicis@#1
    Started out trying to mine, but kept getting pirated and it was so VERY slow.
    Combat likewise has a steep learning curve to it. Biggest learning was to pick your belt security level, then follow the local police and attack what they attack. If you draw agro, cease fire and evade until they get it back.
     
    By far the easiest way to make money turned out to be running passengers. Started out doing it in an ASP Explorer, which I really like because of it’s versatility. Find yourself a system with a single major station a LONG way from the gate as this makes for better price per run, then base out of a nearby system’s station that’s close to the gate.. Rig your ship for fast engines and Cabins with light shields. You usually have 60+ minutes to get fares onboard and make the run before the passengers timers run out.Then make the run at max throttle to the station and drop them off. Interdiction will occasionally occur, but usually only in the last 2 minutes approaching the station. Avoiding interdiction is easy if you remember to throttle for maximum maneuverability and stear to the blue exit circle. Ignore side quests. At the last, when I was running with my Orca, making 40m per 45 min cycle was not unusual.

  13. says

    Kevin Dugan@#13:
    By far the easiest way to make money turned out to be running passengers. Started out doing it in an ASP Explorer, which I really like because of it’s versatility.

    I hear they now have quest-lines; if I ever get back in-game I’m looking forward to trying those. The passenger missions were cool but we Fuel Rat’s’ll fly 20,000ly just for pizza and most of the deliveries are local. I did get offered “take a tourist to a black hole.” Holding out for “Take Elon Musk to a black hole.”

    Asp Explorers are the original rat ship. Rat0 is pretty much the only ship of my massive fleet that I ever fly – mostly because I am always midway between somewhere and somewhere else.

    I found a record-setting blue giant early in the game. I keep meaning to go back for better screenshots. They didn’t even have the roaming camera in-game back then.

  14. John Morales says

    Dunc:

    I thought your point was about the way that the Minds influence and manipulate people without resorting to outright coercion.

    That’s there, too. My aspiration, but then I’m nowhere that smart.

    “Oh, they never lie. They dissemble, evade, prevaricate, confound, confuse, distract, obscure, subtly misrepresent and willfully misunderstand with what often appears to be a positively gleeful relish and are generally perfectly capable of contriving to give one an utterly unambiguous impression of their future course of action while in fact intending to do exactly the opposite, but they never lie. Perish the thought.”

  15. John Morales says

    re the OP;

    since graphics are but chrome, my gaming interest is not excited by such games.

    I’d recommend dwarf fortress, but unless one has sufficient time (I’m a self-funded retiree), one won’t get much out of them.

    I keep meaning to go back for better screenshots.

    I’ve no doubt the graphics are great.

  16. John Morales says

    [Just checked, search engines apparently are bemused Google’s shitty browser called Chrome, so my intent may be as obscure as my idiom is dated. Though not to Marcus, I suspect, who was there at the time.

    Back in the day, ‘chrome’ referred to prettying-up the interface without adding no functionality]

  17. felicis says

    Marcus @#4

    Dispatcher? I will look into that!

    I too am enjoying the exploration side of things – as well as not caring too much about having the biggest ship (nor biggest guns), I am just wandering around where missions take me so far…

    Dunc @#5: “You didn’t buy that bullshit about the universe having a moral arc, did you? There is no relationship between technology and morality, and slavery is historically pretty common.”

    Well no – there isn’t. However this is a work of fiction – just why should slavery play a role at all? If realism is the goal, why allow a technological arc that includes ridiculously inexpensive travel at faster than light speeds? If realism is not the goal, why is slavery in the game? Is there a story arc that requires slavery? No – they’re just there in the background.

  18. says

    felicis@#19:
    Fuel Rat dispatchers run the board, allocate and assign who’s going to do what rescue, coordinate and un-cluster all fucks, keep tempers from flaring, and present a front of cool professionalism to the ignorant and terrified rubes we are rescuing.

    I used to run the board sometimes back before there was any automation at all. It was an exercise in juggling 3 things at once while typing 120wpm. Now it’s not so bad but it still gets exciting. I remember one night pirates were holding a Fuel Rat hostage and I had a client in deep space running out of air. It was gloriously intense.

    The Fuel Rat, CMDR Domaq, was advised to complain about requiring urinary relief, and otherwise annoying the pirates, while I insisted that Domaq was not our favorite Rat and they would have to pay us a substantial amount to take him off their hands. Domaq and the rest of The Mischief proceeded to squabble loudly while we got the CASE RED emergency done, then Domaq provoked the pirates into shooting him, and our P.R. arm made the pirates look like a bunch of meanie-pants and every decent commander in-game helped hound them to extinction. It was a glorious victory, as usual) If you google about you can find accounts of the incident – but all of them spun from the Fuel Rats propaganda perspective. It doesn’t hurt that I sent game journalists Fuel Rats mugs and loot and several journalists were Fuel Rats at some point.

    We’ve had some amazing people run the board, including ex- corporate CEOs (plural!) teachers and reserve non-commissioned officers. It’s fun when an ex-sergeant is running the board…

    One of our dispatchers got a good job at Twitch on the strength of a letter of recommendation I wrote – basically “If he can run our board as well as he does, he can handle your customers easily.” That was the most interesting letter of recommendation it has ever been my privilege to write. I’d have hired DerryBear myself in a heartbeat but I no longer take jobs where I have staff responsibility. I’m not a good boss.

  19. Dunc says

    However this is a work of fiction – just why should slavery play a role at all? If realism is the goal, why allow a technological arc that includes ridiculously inexpensive travel at faster than light speeds? If realism is not the goal, why is slavery in the game? Is there a story arc that requires slavery? No – they’re just there in the background.

    Well, this is a perennial problem in genre fiction generally, and this type of sci-fi in particular: how do you make it believable when it’s fundamentally based on one or more unrealistic premises? You have to have “ridiculously inexpensive travel at faster than light speeds” in order for the game to exist at all, so that’s not negotiable… The usual answers to the question are (a) keep your unrealistic premises to a reasonable minimum, and (b) make it “gritty”. In particular, it’s generally a bad idea to change the fundamental nature of people too much – and a lot of people just aren’t very nice.

    Sci-fi of this type has a further problem: how do you generate conflict when your fundamental premises mean that it’s almost always easier to bugger off somewhere else to do whatever the hell you want rather than fight about it, and that it’s very impractical to stop people from doing exactly that? To which the usual answer is “don’t think about it too hard and hope nobody starts picking at this”.

    But still, the question of why include this specific bit of grittiness is a valid one… In the case of Elite: Dangerous, the answer is probably simple: it was in the original. But that just punts the question back to why Bell and Braben included it in the original… You’d have to ask them to know for sure, but I think I can make a pretty reasonable guess: they were more concerned with game design than the ethical implications of their imaginary world (which was not nearly as detailed or well-realised then), and the inclusion of slavery flows fairly naturally from a couple of other design decisions.

    Firstly, they wanted to enable different playstyles, and two of the playstyles they wanted were “pirate” and “smuggler”. In order to have smugglers, you have to have contraband for them to smuggle, and pirates have to decide what to do with the people on the ships they raid. Slavery neatly ticks both of those boxes.

    Secondly there’s the “blow stuff up and scoop up what falls out” game mechanic necessary for both piracy and asteroid mining: scoop up bit of asteroid, you get minerals; scoop up cargo containers, you get cargo. What do you get if you scoop up an escape pod? Slaves. Again, this was probably motivated more by the practicalities of game design than any ethical considerations – remember, they were cramming the whole game in to 32 KB.

    But yeah, the question of “why include this bit of realism in a fundamentally unrealistic world?” is always a problem, and almost always results in the whole scenario falling apart if pull on it too hard. Don’t get me started on the ludicrous impracticality of interstellar warfare… At the end of the day, these decisions are all driven by what sort of stories you want to enable, and slavery fits well with some of the stories Bell and Braben wanted to enable in the original game.

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