Thursday, 22 December 2016

Gateway - Early Missions

Written by Reiko

Broadhead Journal #3: "I got lucky so far. I stepped on a planet that no human has ever visited before, and I didn't die. Dare I hope I will be as lucky next time? I haven't earned nearly enough to get out of here yet. The Orion Program is my only hope, so I'd better go on at least one more mission. Otherwise, will I be stuck here forever like Thom and Nubar?"

I can't sleep until 12:30 in the morning (it's all so exciting, right?), but after sleeping, I gather up my things and go straight to the hangar. I show my blue badge to the agent, who finds a ship that's ready and programs in my codes. I close the hatch, look around the ship a little, then sit down and take a look at the control panel.

Is there any food on this ship? What if I get stuck?

The ship's control panel is another graphical device screen, quite intuitive. I don't even have to scroll through the alien numbers; I can just click on a code and it will automatically be entered as the active destination. I can pick any of the six codes, but I'll just go through them in order, assuming I survive, of course. It's all rather anticlimactic, really. I select a code and hit GO, and then I see a brief cut-scene where the ship leaves the station and warps somewhere else.

The Heechee ship's control panel.

My first destination ends up being the seventh planet of the Sigma Dayan system. There's no atmosphere, so just a barren rock, with 80% Earth gravity and a small concentration of Heechee metal. I land, put on the suit, and step out onto my first extraterrestrial world. Unfortunately, it's rather boring since it's so barren.

Could this place be any more boring?

Gray cliffs and plains extend in all directions. The only things of interest are a cave in the cliff, too high to reach, and a rockslide that allows me to climb to the top of the cliff. Part of the way along the cliff, I find a boulder right at the edge. Naturally, I push it off [5].

Is it just me, or… doesn't this look like a giant eye?

I go back around to the cliff area with the hole to find that the rockslide I created allows me to climb up and into the chamber [5]...which turns out to be a glowing blue Heechee room. There are no visible exits except one that disappears almost right away. Each turn, the exit reappears in a different place, but not for long enough for me to pass through it. It's moving around the room clockwise, though, so after a couple of turns, I anticipate where it will be and pass through it as it opens.

That's an awfully tiny box.

Now I'm in a strange blue ovoid room [15] containing an intriguing metal box, which I can't open. I take it [25] and nothing stops me. Does this seem too easy to you? Well, it's a good start, anyway. I return to the ship and hit Orbit, then Return to go back to Gateway. When I get back, I get a mission bangle [25] and a $25k royalty advance for the box artifact, which is taken away for study.

It's also the next day. It seems like each Tau-space transit takes twelve hours. Oddly enough, while the status-line time has been in 24-hour time since the beginning of the game, it's in 12-hour time while I'm on the mission, and then reverts once I'm back on the station. Probably it's an indication of how military the station is.

Ooh, pretty!

Well, I might as well go on another mission. I've earned enough to be able to live on the station for awhile, but not enough to return or do anything else. I repeat the steps to initiate a mission and this time choose the second code. The ship departs, only to reappear at the edge of a huge black hole! I automatically hit Return and escape back to the station before any damage is done to the ship. Nothing gained, nothing lost on this one. This trip only took twelve hours total. I suppose the time only advances when I manually hit the Go or Return buttons, not when the plot assumes I've done so.

Technically I've met Terri's requirements now. I've gone on two missions and I've found that box, whatever it was. But am I content to do the minimum? Nope, I want to know where the other four codes go! (Plus I love the space art in this game.)

A beautiful nebula.

A red giant at the end of its lifecycle, with six destroyed worlds around it.

A shattered planet around a blue-white B-class star.

A point in intergalactic space with an excellent view of the Andromeda Galaxy.

There's nothing to find at any of the other codes, unfortunately. Each time I return automatically. So it takes two additional days to check those four codes. There really isn't much point to doing this except for the sake of curiosity and to fill out the destinations on the ship's list of codes.

Calling Terri.

When I call Terri, which is presented more like a text chat, she checks my record and matter-of-factly says she'll sponsor me. I have to meet her in half an hour in the bar. I go right over there. When she shows up, she congratulates me, trades me a green badge for the blue badge [30], and tells me to go to the next Orion Program briefing at 9 in the morning so I can get a code. That was pretty simple.

Terri's already out the door after giving me the badge.

Easy enough. I go to the briefing, and some exec called Leonard Worden gives a speech about how these codes are super-secret, and we'll each get one code to start. He runs each badge through a device to assign a code and then says that the master list of "better" codes will be released to all prospectors after another year, so the Orion Program is just a head start, apparently. Then the meeting is over, and I've got myself a new code [15].

Ouch, quite a sacrifice for the research.

I'm not sure I quite follow the explanation of the high-quality codes. He says that there was a breakthrough in understanding the guidance system, and as a result, they could start to predict which codes would go to useful places. Since each location is only coded with a four-digit numerical code, I find it hard to believe that anything meaningful could be encoded in that number except on the most basic level. For instance, if all codes starting with the equivalent of 1 go to interstellar space, all codes starting with 2 go to M-class planets, all codes starting with 3 go to nebulas... That sort of pattern would be very easy to detect, though, so I doubt that's what they had in mind.

Next time, we'll go on another mission to somewhere more exciting.

Score: 207 of 1600
Balance: $26,450
Status: Orion Program (green badge)
Missions: 6 (or 2, if you do the minimum of trash missions)

Session Time: 1 hr
Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!


  1. "Since each location is only coded with a four-digit numerical code, I find it hard to believe that anything meaningful could be encoded in that number except on the most basic level."

    Could the code be simply some form of coordinates? One digit to pick the origin from some preordained set and three others to fix the x-, y- and z-coordinates in reference to the origin. Then the good codes could be detected by consulting astronomical information sources (is there a star with potential planets around it in these coordinates).

    1. The resolution on such a coordinate system would not be fine enough to select a particular planet or satellite, though. Each axis would only have ten options! The scale would have to be on the order of light-years. Far too cumbersome for actual travel. Anyway, stars and planets change locations over time, too.

      No, I think it makes more sense if the codes describe a mostly arbitrary list of places of importance to the Heechee, whose actual locations can be calculated by the control system of the ships but are otherwise unrelated to the codes. The codes would be an autonumbered ID, in database terms, or a speed dial list, in phone terms. Analyzing which codes are more likely to be useful could be a matter of noticing that useful codes form clusters in the list without having any numerical meaning.

    2. You are probably right. But it's interesting that the Heechee also have a decimal system, considering we humans use it mainly because we happen to have ten fingers. Or then the symbols are the equivalent of Heechee alphabets and they have only ten phonemes in their language.

  2. Protip: don't put your hand inside the Heechee device in the museum. You may never retrieve it again (I haven't found the proper command at least yet - "get hand" only results in a dumb default message), although you can just leave it there and walk around the station as if nothing's different about you.

  3. I just completed the game, whoohoo! Got 1584 out of 1600 points.