It’s been a busy old week for me at Astra Station, between the Space Engineers updates for June 12 and 19… Although I’d been pleased with the actual mining performance of my ship, Scarab III, I was far from happy about the amount of mess I’d been leaving behind (no collector attached, you see). And even though we still have many millions of tonnes of rock to chew through, I’d very much prefer to reduce my wastage!
But when I came to look at the size of a small-ship collector, I was stunned… It’s bloody huge! I thought it was going to take a single block space… so I decided that I was going to have to start again from scratch, and make Scarab IV. And because I didn’t just want to channel the collector into a drill’s storage compartment, I chose to go with a large cargo container, and slam everything into that. I figured I might as well go with a large reactor, too, to cover any potential power problems.
And then, just as I got IV up and running, and collecting nicely… the June 12 update happened, adding large-ship drills, and my eyes grew wide with wonder (*cough*… and greed, I suppose, even though all resources are always shared with my fellow engineers). So IV was abandoned, and I got to work on making a large ship, which I chose to call Bear, since it was going to be too damn big to be a Scarab :)
The large-ship drills have eight times the capacity of their smaller counterparts… but this is only because the smaller drills, since June 12, now have a quarter of the capacity of what they had before the update. I guess this is what comes of players demanding tools for both ship types… And, since I had lots of room to spare on the front, I stuck on three collectors. Gotta be better, right?
After getting it all completed (and also bearing a large reactor and large cargo container, like a humongous version of Scarab IV), I flew off up to the Csteroid and got to mining. It didn’t take long for the front two landing legs to be ripped off, along with the three front-mounted thrusters, so I couldn’t reverse away from the asteroid. But then it was a pretty dumb idea to mount the thrusters there anyway. I know my therapist and I agreed that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, but this really was taking the cake. Besides, she hadn’t seen this particular ship design ;)
So I hobbled back to base, figuring that I’d just stick the ship in the grinder and make Scarab IV again. When I first started with Space Engineers, I’d quickly found that me and large ships do not get along, so I figured I’d made a mistake.
But I probably didn’t help myself, calling it Bear… I’d become a little attached to the big guy, and so I added reverse thrusters in better positions, and left off the front two legs, figuring that they’d get ripped off again if I wasn’t careful. Off I went to mine again!
And I forgot all about the fact that I was piloting a big ship, with all the inertia that comes as standard on these models. Let me give you some figures:
- Scarab III: 13 tonnes
- Scarab IV: 40 (approx)
- Bear: 400 tonnes
So it’ll come as no surprise to you that I released the W key way too late, and smacked into the asteroid, drills thrumming away, at about 30 metres per second. The drills didn’t just break off – they were vaporised. The large cargo container went the same way, losing the few tonnes of materials I’d mined on the previous outing. Amazingly, the cockpit simply detached, with me inside it, so I survived. The reactor made it, too – here, take a look:
That was it for me, as far as a large mining ship was concerned. I got busy with the grinder and tidied up the mess, reattached the cockpit at the other end, and flew the shattered, tattered remains of poor Bear into the grinder. Back to a small mining ship for me!
Unfortunately, the new Scarab IV (and yes, it probably should have been called Scarab V by now) isn’t faring so well under the current design. The drills are too high up from the collectors, the collectors themselves keep being vaporised, and I smashed a landing leg on… well, landing. So I’ve settled IV next to III on our launch pad for the time being – because of decoys!
Since the update which activated the pesky turrets, being able to capture cargo ships has been bugging me, so I decided to turn my attention to the use of decoys (especially since there’s no EMP cannon as yet). It would have been nice to be able to launch them from missile tubes, but at the moment, they can only be placed as blocks. Time to make lemonade, as it were.
My first effort was a rather brute-force approach, so to speak. Rather than make a ship and add decoys, I made a ship of decoys:
The plan, such as it was, was:
- Fly into the range of the turrets;
- Eject myself from the cockpit;
- While the turrets were busy targeting the decoys (which the turrets prioritise higher than everything else), I’d jetpack to the ship and disable all the nasty weaponry.
As I flew over to the target ship, I quickly learned that there were turrets on the other side of the ship which hadn’t been occupied with blasting the (unnamed!) decoy ship into smithereens. Naturally, they became occupied with blasting me into smithereens1.
OK, maybe I needed to spread the turrets’ fire pattern. Cue decoy ship 2:
Eighty-one decoys this time, but with an actual frame on the thing, made of heavy armour, so it’d hopefully take more dents after the decoys were shot off, even though it was a small ship (so 30x fewer materials per armour block than large-ship blocks).
I can’t actually remember if I even used this ship, because it was around this time that Kristal was online. When I told her what I was up to, she told me that she’d seen a ship with decoys on rotor arms, like a turboprop. She added that she didn’t have a link or picture to send me, but I figured I could work something out, even though I couldn’t understand why that particular engineer had gone with a rotor.
Regardless of my lack of understanding, I built a test ship:
Despite my considerable reservations about large ships, I decided to make one; I felt that using the bigger parts would provide more resilience against the onslaught of bullets and missiles. I’d taken a look on a Space Engineers wiki, to check out the armaments of each cargo ship, and decided I’d start off steadily, by waiting for a Mining Carriage to come along – only one Gatling turret on those things.
You’ll note there’s a beacon on there, because I had high hopes of bringing this one back. Maybe it’d be bloodied and bruised by the time it returned to Astra Station, but it’d be intact. I broke with the animal-names convention this time around, and called it Windy Miller. At this point, British readers over the age of 40 will either be smiling or rolling their eyes – Windy Miller is the name of a character from an old stop-motion children’s series called Camberwick Green, and he’s (surprise!) a miller! This link has a clip :)
Anyway, off I flew… and Windy Miller did come back – because I had enough caution to stop when things got hairy. But he held up well on the rotor side of things, thanks to the large armour blocks. During the encounter, I realised the obvious reason for the use of rotor arms – to decrease the chance of them being hit – and also realised I was most likely turning the rotor too slowly. I think I was initially using 1-2 rpm (out of concern that the rotor’s mass might tear it apart at higher speeds), and cranked it up to 15, out of a maximum of 30. On the way back to base, I further tested the strength of the rotor, and only stopped at 30 rpm @ 60 m/s because I needed to avoid crashing into the station!
But what the ship did need was more mass overall in the body – just thrusting, without the rotor turning, dragged the ship downwards horribly, though it was pretty easy to overcome. Still, anything I could do to counteract that would be welcome.
I took Windy out again, after putting on a load of armour blocks, and this time, I went up against a Commercial Freighter (four Gatling turrets). I didn’t make it as far as exhausting the freighter’s ammo supply, because I had the cockpit exposed at the top, so it was targeted when there were only three decoys left. But again, the rotor held up well – here it is after getting back to the station:
The only real problem I had was getting the rotor to stop turning – which didn’t happen before! I eventually realised that I didn’t have any braking torque… and when that didn’t work, I also realised that if your turning torque is 33,600,000 Nm, trying to stop it with a braking torque of ONE Nm ain’t gonna do shit ;)
I became bolder, doubling up the thickness of the rotor arms, got myself into pursuit of another craft, and tested the structural integrity of the rotors: worked fine at full 30 rpm, and 104.4 m/s – lovely! On Kristal’s recommendation via Twitter, I also moved the cockpit smack-dab in the middle of the body, for safety. But I was too bold: I’d gone up against a Mining Hauler, which has 4 Gatlings and 2 missile turrets. BIG mistake. It was quite probably the missiles which caused the bodywork to collapse so badly that it popped me out of the cockpit, and quite probably the Gatlings’ bullets which took me out as I was squirted out of the back of the ship like… well, never mind.
Luckily, despite Windy’s beacon being taken out in the encounter, I pointed myself in the direction of the hauler, and spotted twinkling of sunlight on body parts. This is what I found:
Foolishly, I’d gone out to the site by jetpacking, instead of taking St. Bernard the rescue ship – so I wasn’t able to reclaim much in the way of materials. I was forced to leave Windy’s corpse behind, clipping along at about 25 m/s – and I actually felt bad for doing so. OK, so it doesn’t even remotely compare to losing an actual human being (I do have some sense of proportion, folks), but in the brief time that Windy and I had worked together, he had served me well, taken a lot of punishment, and my hubris cost him dearly. Maybe it was because I’d named him (and referred to him as “him”), but there was a sense of loss.
But Windy shall rise again, and this time, I think he shall have teeth… I’m planning to equip him with automated missile turrets; between Kristal, Deamon and I, we’ve mined enough materials to make a few thousand missiles (OK, OK, we’ve got the assemblers on 10x as well, so that helps – under Realistic, we could still have made several hundred, which is awesome in itself). And I promise the ghost of Windy Miller, and the nascent Windy Miller II, that I shall be more careful. I’ll stay away from ships with missile turrets for the time being, and try not to run before I can walk!
So, onto the June 19 update! Although it doesn’t have much in the way of new content, what it does have is pretty damn useful! First of all, it’s now possible to set the world’s size, from unlimited all the way down to 10 km. Beyond that world border, you will die – but you get a warning before this happens, so it’ll only really take you by surprise if you’re zooming along at full speed.
Other great news is that there’s now automated trash collection, so it’ll remove ships drifting in space without a pilot – the feature can be toggled, so you’re not obliged to have it in place. But potentially, it could help a lot with reducing lag…
Landing gear can now be set to auto-lock, and you can also set a break force, so that when that force is exceeded, the gear auto-unlocks. This is set on a per-gear basis, so you can have everything set up just as you like it.
Oh, and if you’re on a dedicated server, rather than doing “host & play”, you can now ban players! Very handy for if you’re suffering from griefers…
Happy space engineering!
1 And that’s led me to look up the etymology of “smithereens”. Wiktionary says it comes “from Irish smidiríní, diminutive form of smiodar (‘fragment’).” Cool!